I was near my former elementary school this afternoon, and I was surprised to learn the Alapattah neighborhood of Miami is home to Little Santo Domingo. Miami has been a melting pot of Latin culture for over half a century, but I was not aware of exactly how pronounced of a Dominican community it possesses. Perhaps this is yet another wink from God to reinforce our call to serve.
The house in which I grew up in Miami was built in 1934. Cinder block construction with a flat roof. It’s the foundation of all my childhood memories, and so much “life” was experienced within its four walls.
This house is now old and decrepit, unfit to function as anyone’s abode, and should most likely be condemned and torn down. It’s cross beams under the floor have sunk and patches of the roof have caved in.
Yet despite its condition, there was still a good amount of stuff in several of the rooms. Most were old, wooden dressers and night tables, all mostly hollowed out by termites. But some boxes and containers had items – mostly from my dad who passed away in 2004 – that can be donated, repurposed, or kept for their sentimental value. So I spent my day clearing out a bunch of
sh crap and loading it onto a pickup to take to the dump.
The primary purpose of clearing out that house is to – hopefully – get my mom in the mindset to begin clearing out her house. My mother lives on the same lot as where my childhood home is, but it’s in the back in what used to be (at a time) a guest house. To say her house is cluttered is an understatement. To say she has a borderline hoarding problem is not an exaggeration.
I’ve watched my fair share of Hoarders and on more than one occasion (like every show) I’ve had the impulse to say, “that could be my mom.” And I don’t mean it in a bad or evil way. I simply recognize the tendency to keep useless stuff. It’s a behavior I see in myself as well, and one that is at the forefront of my personal life given that I will be moving soon.
My goal is to get rid of the junk (e.g. encyclopedias from 1979), make her living space more open and safe, and prevent her from being in a situation where she trips over a collection of TV Guides from the 80’s and ends up breaking a hip.
I hate to see my mom living the way she is, but it’s her life and it’s her choice to do so. There is also a world of truth to the fact you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The fact we had only one shouting match today is a victory in my eyes. I don’t think I will be so lucky on Tuesday as I invade her space.
Overall, however, this experience further strengthens the lessons of these past several weeks: don’t let yourself get caught up in stuff. Life is not measured by the number of porcelain dolls or VHS tapes you may have (yes, my mom still has a ridiculous amount of VHS tapes). Rather, life in the memories we make and the experiences we share. Having stuff is nice, but at the end of the day, it’ll just be stuff someone else will have to throw or give away.
Senses can be like a time machine. A picture can transport you back to that wonderful vacation from so many years ago. The feel of a warm blanket can make you long for those crisp evening’s at the mountain retreat. A song can tele-port you back to middle-school, and make you relive your first heartbreak. And the smell and taste of certain foods can make you a kid once again.
This past weekend was Lee’s and my first travel experience since transforming our lifestyle to one of clean eating and more healthful foods. We kicked off the Fast Metabolism Diet on January 6, and we’ve seen great results so far. Our 4-week program ended on February 2, and we’ve been in ‘maintenance’ mode since. Maintenance mode is where we gradually introduce food items back into our diet. For the most part this past week, we’ve stuck to FMD compliant and phase specific foods. However, wrapping up a weekend in South Florida and having breakfast with my mom as we prepared to drive back home, we kinda’ fell off the wagon.
You see, Cuban food and Fast Metabolism Diet don’t go well together. Versailles Restaurant and Fast Metabolism Diet REALLY don’t go well together. How can you possibly stay on plan with a breakfast buffet that includes a plethora of items that are not plan compliant? Bacon, fried eggs and scrambled eggs (both of which I am sure are prepared in butter or grease), sausage, picadillo, cod fish fritters (yes, for breakfast), and so much more. I think if nutritionist and FMD author Haylie Pomroy stepped into that restaurant, her heart would seize. Furthermore, the restaurant has it’s own bakery. I am proud to say that both Lee and I avoided all the baked goods …. with one little exception.
I believe in Heaven, and I believe that in Heaven, there’s an unlimited supply of Cuban toast. I have no idea how Cuban bread is made, but I am convinced it involved magic. Take that magical baked good, slice it in half, lather it with butter, and press it and you get one of the most divine breakfast foods ever. Couple it with traditional Cuban cafe con leche, and I’m instantly a kid again sitting at my grandmother’s house, watching the men of the family play dominoes while their wives talked about whatever it was they talked about. Having the Cuban toast with my breakfast this morning was a visceral experience, and although I knew full and well the food was not good for me physically, it was also a heartwarming and joyful experience. The fact I got to share it with my kids made it that much more special.
I guess the moral of the story is twofold. For starters, it’s okay to indulge a little every now and then. Being disciplined means knowing how to do things in moderation, and although I am proud of the changes I’ve made in my eating habits, having a moment of extravagance can be somewhat liberating. Secondly, there is something healthy and endearing about reminiscing on good times. It uplifts the soul and strengthens the heart. We learn from our mistakes and we build upon our experiences. Looking back on those happy building blocks reassures us of the strength we possess. So if you ever want to go back in time for a bit, find that special something that will set your senses on fire, and subsequently warm your heart.
There’s been a big hullabaloo surrounding the comments made by Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen in a recent Time Magazine piece . The article begins with a direct quote from Guillen. “I love Fidel.” The maelstrom of reaction that followed was to be expected.
In a market where political passion and hatred of Castro rages greater than a category 5 hurricane, Ozzie’s comments were incredibly careless and irresponsible. Add to that the fact Ozzie is a public sports figure who works in an environment of 24-hour news cycles and public relations management, his quote was downright stupid. Never mind the fact the Time Magazine article went on to explain how Guillen pondered his comment and amended it to, “I respect Fidel” (in the context of him still being alive after all these years), it was, in the end, the mother of all brain farts.
There is one aspect of me that applauds Ozzie for being – as he always has been – brutally honest. There was no malice intended with his comment. There was no hidden agenda or point to prove. He was asked a question about a topic and he answered it. That being said, Ozzie’s honesty pales in comparison to the sheer stupidity he displayed. Whereas most people in Miami want to file this under “Ozzie is a communist sympathizer” and want him gone as Marlins Manager, I think it more properly belongs in the category of “Ozzie is a moron who knows better.”
Of all the things to say and of all the markets in which to say it, that you love – or respect or admire or ANY other positive comment – Castro is categorically and undeniably the wrong thing to say. And given Ozzie’s contrite and public apology, one that was visibly different from other sports apologies we’ve become accustomed to seeing, it’s clear he understands how stupid he was, too.
In 2009, Bob Griese, of ABC Sports and Miami Dolphins fame, got into trouble for making a tongue-in-cheek comment about NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya. I said then as I say now; it was not a racist comment but rather a stupid comment. Ozzie Guillen’s faux pas falls under the same category. The difference, however, is that his verbal diarrhea has been amplified by a million because of his current role as Miami Marlins manager. The fan base of the Marlins is mostly Hispanic, and of those Hispanic fans, the largest percentage is Cuban or of Cuban decent. The stadium in which the Marlins play is situated in a part of Miami known as Little Havana, so the fact Ozzie didn’t catch himself as he was shedding praise to Fidel Castro is what I find truly shocking. To me, what makes me shake my head at all this is not the words he said, but the lack of filter he applied when saying them.
And that is what separates me from others, including family members of mine, who’ve been vocal during this fiasco. I respect their strong position against Ozzie and his comments. I don’t agree with some of their subsequent views as a result of this incident (Ozzie supports communist leaders, Ozzie’s apology was cowardly, Ozzie should be fired), but I understand why they feel that way. My uncle was incarcerated for non-violently protesting the Castro regime. My grandparents did not join the rest of their children in fleeing Cuba in the early 60’s so as to stay behind and wait for the release of my uncle. That pain and anger is still very real and very current to my family, and anything that even remotely smacks of support for the murderer that is Fidel Castro is unacceptable. I get that.
Yet at the end of the day, what made Ozzie Guillen qualified to be manager of the Marlins when he was hired last winter still makes him qualified to be their manager today. And at the end of the day, Ozzie Guillen being an employee of the Marlins – or not – will do nothing to change the fact Fidel and Rafael Castro are still in power in Cuba.
I am not of the mindset that public figures should lose their jobs for brain fart comments. People make mistakes and I think the punishment of public shame and ridicule should suffice when the idiot in all of us decides to make an appearance.
I like Ozzie. I think he’s a dynamic character that brings attention to both the Marlins and Major League Baseball in much the same way Earl Weaver did with the Orioles, Tommy Lasorda did with the Dodgers, and Lou Pinella did with the Yankees/Cubs/Devil Rays. He deserves the suspension he received from the Marlins as well as the pounding he’s taken (and will continue to take) from the media and fans. Still, I look forward to watching him manage this season, and as a fan, I am excited about having him as skipper of the new-look Marlins.
What he said was stupid, but when looked at through a prism of non-Miami cultural bias, what he said is really not that big of a deal.
Given tonight’s festivities surrounding the Opening Day for Major League Baseball, I am re-posting my blog from last year in which I predict every home game for the new look Marlins will be sold out, and I also explain why.
Heading down to Miami to help my mom with some house projects. It’s the least I can do for the woman who has always given me everything.