Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Holidays and Gratitude

I haven't posted in a while, with the craziness of work and the holidays it's taken its toll on me.  There's a lot going on for us -- not just the upcoming holidays.  We're getting geared up for our annual pilgrimage to Puerto Rico in a few weeks;  we have some work changes; and we're trying to get the house ready to sell in the spring.

I'm also not a big fan of Christmas.  I HATE shopping and the crowds and the pressure of finding the right gift for people.  The materialism of the season really gets to me.  I prefer Thanksgiving.  You get to spend time with family and don't have to deal with the gift giving frenzy.  But now Thanksgiving has been over shadowed by Christmas.  I love this cartoon, it says it all:

I enjoy being with family and friends.  And being thankful. 

People forget how fortunate they are.  We live in a country where no one goes hungry (a missed meal isn't starvation) and where we don't see the level of poverty that exists in other countries.  We also have a level of freedom unheard of in other places.  Which gives people the ability to whine and complain in public about how terrible things are currently.  People need some perspective.

Back to my point.  Its been a busy and a lot is going on.  Much of it is looking forward to the new year and some of the stress we're about to endure. 

I need to take my own advice and shift gears to the present. I need to focus on things like the funny moments I have with Wil.  Just now he came over and asked me to give him 5, he stuck his hand out and we slapped hands a few times.  The other day he asked for a hug and told me he loved me too after I had given him a kiss and told him that I loved him.  I need to reshift my focus back to the central ring in my life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Summer Day Trip

I wrote this poem as an undergrad.  When I was a kid we used to make a yearly church trip to Sunken Meadow beach in Long Island.  We used to look forward to it all summer.

for the next day to begin,
for the morning to break.
The hum of the floor fan,
with the swish of the cars outside
make the sheets offer to much warmth in this summer day,
but they are my protection.

I barely get any sleep.
I see the sky get clear
as the sun begins to rise
and mom wakes us up.
It's time to get ready, eat breakfast, pack up our things 
and begin our walk to church.

The warm air smells sweet
mixed with the smell of fried chicken
that I carry in the grocery bag.
My new jelly sandals squish on the pavement.
Brother complains about the weight of the thermos,
its ice clatters against the plastic.

There's the bus!
Large in the narrow street.
I don't remember the ride.
Lost sleep is found.
Bright sunshine warms us,
and the hymns are my lullaby.
The patter of the rain--barely audible.

Picnic is set half a mile from the beach,
and there is no rain here
like the weatherman said.

Late afternoon, after hours of playing
I sit on the wooden bench
and eat my fried chicken sandwich.

The baptism is now!
Someone calls.

They all rush to the shore
to see the purified.

People are cleansed
just like John baptized Jesus.

Afterwards we eat dinner
and celebrate.

The new souls.

We go home.

Late afternoon sunshine and
the sun is dipping behind buildings.
We walk home.
My jelly sandals squish with water.
Brother swings the empty thermos
while I carry nothing.

I get home and shower
and lie in front of the TV.

CHiPs is on.
Mom sits besides me
and strokes my freshly washed hair.
I feel the ocean in my chest--
rising and falling waves,
rising and falling.
The yellow sunshine fills the living room
but it's almost gone.
As Lavern and Shirley 
sing their song
I fall asleep.

--Joanna Milanes
December 28, 1996


This story is based on a dream.  Not sure what before bedtime meal caused it or maybe it was some cold medicine.  I was in grad school at the time I wrote it and had a lot on my mind regarding what the heck I was going to do with my life.


I sat on the sand and waited for him. It was dark early morning. The moon sat on the horizon and began its descent.

By the shore and secluded beach, they danced around the fires near the line of coconut trees that was behind me.

The moon was large as it dipped into the black ocean. It seemed that he would come. I left everything behind to wait: the bonfire dances, the warmth of the songs and grandmother's hum when she prepared the stew.

The moon beckoned me, and asked why I was so far. I told her I was waiting. "Swim to me and find him here," she said. I stood and walked into the cool water. The soft waves lapped against my ankles. The light foam rippled between my toes. I entered slowly. I didn't look back but could feel the heat of the rising bon fires against my bare back as I dropped my robe into the sand. The coolness of the water wasn't strong until it reached my belly. I gasped.

The darkness of the salt ocean embraced me. I dove in completely and found comfort in its coolness. I hesitated. "You won't find the truth on the shore," the moon said. "You'll find it here." And so I swam in backstrokes to her on the horizon. Her largness covered the ocean. The yellow light illuminated my floating nakedness. Her warmth in contrast to the cool water. Soon, I was so close that all that was left in the sky was the moon. "Hug me," she said. I stretched my arms around her swollen body. "Yes, is the answer," she whispered in my ear, though there was no one else around to hear us.

I swam back knowing the truth. The answer was already in myself. When I returned to shore I waited no longer, I put on my robe and headed to the warm bon fire. I danced new dances no one had ever dreamt of dancing before and taught the others this new joy. We still danced when the sky became purple and light rose through the mountains. He arrived on the shore.

I saw him in the distance as I still danced and wondered if the sun would call to him as the moon did I. Did they--the sun and moon-- meet briefly right after he came out of his slumber and as she was going to bed? But, the sun did not call him.
He turned to the bon-fires that were dying from the lack of fuel. When he saw me he walked over the shells that had been pushed near the end of the sand by the evening tide.

"Why were you not waiting?" He asked. I embraced the moon last night, but he did not need to know. I asked, "what joy is there in waiting?"
Copyright 1999, Joanna Milanes

Posting some fiction...

I've decided to dust off (really dust off) some fiction I used to have in my old web site.  These were written back when I was in college, so be gentle.

You'll see these over the next few posts.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Finding your "bees"

I've had this song from Blind Melon in my head all week.  I think it has more to do with the video associated with it.  If you've never seen it, it's the story of a tap dancing honey-bee dressed girl as she's trying to find people that appreciate her for herself. 

She's odd looking.  She has a freckled face and wears glasses.  Her bee outfit doesn't seem to fit quite right.

She gets laughed off a stage, gets strange looks in the street, and finally finds her "bees" in a park that's brightly colored green and blue in contrast to the rest of the video.

Its a great message.  We all have our bees that we can fit in with.  Its just a matter of time when we find them.  These are the people that accept us unconditionally.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An honest discussion - racial identity (Part I)

I read an article the other day from a writer who's half Puerto Rican and Half Irish, and recently there was an entire series in the NY Times regarding the increase of multi-racial people in this country.  Bi-racial would no longer fit the hodgepodge background that some people have. 

It made me think of my son William.  He'll be among the statistics.  What will he consider himself to be?  I think that's a good question to ask.  To disregard it as, "he's American that's all that matters" is a little naive and overly simplistic. 

I'm already a mix since to be Puerto Rican is to be not a race, but an ethnicity.  It means to have roots from Spain, Africa and the indigenous people of the islands, the Tainos.  Actually the correct term would be Borinque~no, since Taino means "friend".  The Spanish confused the native wordfor the tribes name. 

I can just imagine the first encounter:  Spanish Conquistador, "Quienes son?" (Who are you?).  Natives look at each other and figure they don't want to start on the wrong foot with these guys with metal armor and swords.  Better to let them know they're good guys and here to extend a helping hand.  "Taino" (friend), they said.  Little did the poor natives know.  Maybe it was lost in translation, maybe if the Spanish only knew that they were being called friends things would have turned out differently?  (yeah right)

I digress.

Growing up I never really fit in anywhere.  I really didn't fall under the "New Yoriquen" crowd since I didn't talk like the kids around me with the slang and I was many times told I wasn't dark enough.  Sometimes even told I "talked white".  Thanks for making proper English an exclusive thing of "white people".  I wasn't accepted by the black kids in my JHS for some of the same reasons and because black racism exists as well (yes I said it).  Oddly-- well maybe not so oddly -- the group that accepted me most readily were the white and Asian kids.

Over the years I've been asked if I'm pretty much every race or ethnicity in the book, except Asian or Caucasian.  I've been asked if I'm Greek, Italian, Jewish, Israeli, Arab, Turkish, Black (I can pass for light skinned when I'm really tanned), and of course Hispanic.  Notice the heavy Mediterranean confusion.  Wrong sea.

What will William's experience be like?  Well, he's medium skinned, has some of my olive tones, and will be ridiculously tall.  Physically, people would have a hard time pinning his ethnicity down like they did with me.  His dad is "white" but we'll be exposing him to both cultures - his dad is Czech.  Maybe it won't matter as much as he grows.  It seems that within his age group there will be many more mixed kids than there have ever been before.  We have quite a few friends that are in mixed marriages. 

I hope that "what are you?" won't matter as much as who you are. We always say that he can decide his own identity.  As parents its our job to expose him to different aspects of his background so he can decide who he is and how he wants to identify himself.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Which ring do you want to focus on today?

My manager gave us a copy of the book "Juggling Elephants" during our last team meeting-- THANKS!

In the book, the writer equates managing our lives to being the ringmaster in a circus. The title comes from how we try to manage so mant large tasks all at once that it feels like we're juggling elephants. The reality is that it becomes an impossible task - and creates a poor performance.

As ringmasters we can only be in one ring at a time, be it work, family or self. Running from ring to ring only creates chaos. We also must decide, and this is REALLY important, on what acts we allow in our rings and which acts we must let go. Too many times we're guilty of taking too much on for fear of saying no. But the reality is that this can take away the focus from something else that's a lot more important. And, its not just about saying no. We can always say -- later. The option exists to always let that act in later in our lives.

After reading the book, I now ask myself at work-- what ring should I focus on? What act should be on now?

More to come.

Toastmasters Speech

One of the things that I recently did was join I don't already have a lot going on. But, sometimes I find the more I have scheduled the more I have done.

Last Wednesday was my first speech. My Icebreaker. Pretty much its a speech about yourself. Here was mine it its written form. Its verbal version of it was somewhat different, but maintained most of the context:

9 of 27
I come from a very large family. There are 27 first cousins, we have 9 aunts and uncles. Out of those 27 I was number 9. I’m at the bottom of the oldest group -- there were three phases of cousins.

Coming from such a large family I learned to talk fast, talk loud and shyness got thrown out the door. Especially with games like truth or dare – I tended to take the dares. There’s a little bit of brutality involved as well,  I developed a really thick skin to all the teasing from older cousins that hug grandma while proclaiming “Grandma’s mine!” just to make me cry.  After a while I just shrugged it off because I knew better. I was grandma’s favorite, at least that’s what she said to me when we were alone.

When I was four years old we moved to NYC, first The Bronx and then Brooklyn, NY. That left me with less exposure to my family that lived in the mountains in Puerto Rico on what was my grandfathers old farm. I only got to see them during summer vacations.  If I wasn’t toughened up already by having to battle it out with my cousins, Brooklyn finished off the last layer.

We grew up attending a large church where the kids became like my foster cousins. We played freeze tag and hand ball outside while the adults had their after church social hour.  And again like with my family, I was in an environment where you were expected to stand up and speak out. Church plays, special Sunday services led by the kids made for a very extroverted group of kids.

Right before tenth grade I had to move back to Puerto Rico. My mom had passed away and I had no family in New York that could take care of me so I was shipped off to live with numbers, 8, 11 and 16 of 27 and their parents.  I lived with my best friend, sister, cousin Michie, her brother and sister and my uncle and his wife in a small house on part of my grandfather’s old farm, across the street from one uncle, next door to an aunt and on the other side of the creek from my grandfather.

At that point my one and only goal became to get back to NY – no matter what. Waking up at 5 am to roosters crowing wasn’t what I wanted. I needed my city, I was tired of being number 9 of 27, I need to be me. I figured the way there was to be the 1st of 27 to go to college. When the time came I looked at college brochures and after a dizzying time I chose Syracuse University.  Little did I know that it was 5 hours and 20 degrees colder and away from NYC. Plus an extra 3 feet of snow deeper.

My first year of college I was really homesick, as much as I wanted to get away from those Roosters I really did miss them.

I eventually moved back to Puerto Rico and worked as a teacher – the fast talking, lack of shyness, and dealing with a ton of people worked well there. But, after a year of teaching and some heartache I realized it wasn’t for me.  I returned to the tundra of Syracuse – better the one you know than the one you don’t and went back to school for my master’s in information management – I was a computer nerd at heart.

I got a job in NYC as a computer programmer. The lonely job of a computer programmer; sitting in a cubicle all day in front of a computer while staring at four grey walls. Then heading home in the evening to an empty apartment – well my cat Midnight was there to greet me – and some Chinese takeout. I wasn’t happy in my job. It took some time and some major stumbles, including almost getting fired, but I finally landed at my current job. Managing Training and Support for our department.

All those years of being a part of such a large family have paid off. I have to deal with different personalities – some of them can be kid of brutal. Even on par with “Grandma’s mine!”, making the thick skin come in handy.  I have to work as part of a team, and learn how to share the spotlight with them.

Part of what I enjoy the most now is my vacation time, the time that I get to be 9 of 27 again. Now there’s another 30 or more counting my cousin’s kids and add the spouses and well…

You better learn how to talk faster and louder – with all the new competition that’s coming around!

Thank You!

Monday, August 8, 2011

ME Time

I realized that part of my procrastination had to do with lack of me time. Reading The Now Habit really opened me to that.

I find that over the last week its begun to sink in even more. I purchased a new zippy bells and whistles laptop which means I'm no longer using my work laptop for other stuff on my off time AND giving me the freedom to work on the many things that I'd been putting off for lack of having my personal work machine: Peter's web page, Wil's photo books, the blog.

Now here I am with no excuses and 1/3 of the way done with a new novel I'm reading -- as soon as I'm done with some web updates I'm off to go read in bed :-) and started on Wil's photo album again.

Next project is the baby videos to DVD, but one step at a time folks!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I've finished the book! Lot's of great information that I can now take with me in the next steps of my journey.

The meditation aspect in the book is key.

Now I need to put it into practice.

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Non-Procrastination Items...moving forward

I'm almost done with the book and started focusing on using some of what I've learned to make the time for couponing-- goal is to bring down that monthly grocery bill! Work on the house budget and start studying for the CPLP.

One of the hard things is that I have a toddler around which requires momma now! I can't just do the 30 minute blocks of time that "The Now Habit" calls to do when he's awake. I just can't say, "sorry honey, momma's got 15 more minutes of uninterrupted work to complete". Even writing in my blog is a feat. Currently we have "The Grouch Song" playing on Pandora as he plays with his "bolts" and tried telling me that his four bolts were "five!" And now Dada's home and they play fight for blankie.

Well time to manage the house...does running around after a toddler count in the 30 minutes???

Monday, June 6, 2011

Perfectionism causing procrastination? Fear of success?

The Now Habit has me thinking of why I'm such a procrastinator for certain things. 
The two biggies for me are:
"This project is big and important"
"I must be perfect"

He says that to be productive these need to be replaced with:
"I can take one small step"
"I can be perfectly human"

The need for perfection for me is the biggest one.  I almost freeze up at the thought of starting a project since in my head "it MUST be perfect".  Reading this book makes me realize that our well meaning teachers at PS 124 may have done us a disservice by repeating from K - 6th grade to us "Only your BEST is good enough".  Words that have been tattooed in my brain.

Telling a child to work hard is one thing, but it seems like asking for Only the BEST all the time was somehow twisted to mean absolute perfection.

And so we continue to the Guilt Free Play chapter...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Beggining the journey...

To working on my CPLP Certification - Certified Performance and Learning Professional.

I've been wanting to start on this for a while, but having a toddler around makes it no easy task.  I've also come to realize that I'm really good at procrastinating.  I've even bought the book "The Now Habit" to get myself out of the procrastination habit -- but even that's been hard to keep up with.

I need to separate it out in small pieces:
1. Read "The Now Habit"
2. Make a certification plan -- how much will I study per night and read.
3. Make a plan to maintain my certification

If I think too much about the big picture it becomes overwhelming.  For now I need to do small bite sized pieces.

I know I can be great at what I do and all it takes is some focus!  And I hope that by keeping a blog I can keep a track of my progress on what will probably be a year long journey!