In Dog We Trust

I once read a meme that said, “I question people who do not like dogs. But, I always trust dogs when they don’t like a person.”

In our country pets, specifically dogs, are given elevated status. I did not understand why people felt this way. Then, I became a dog parent. In a short period of time, I acquired three mutts- Baxter, Chewbacca, and Shaggy.

Chewbacca

Chewbacca or Chewie was our first puppy. My husband and stepson had been talking about a dog for a couple of years before we got him. But, once we decided to obtain a dog, the boys were on a mad dash to find the right one. We met Chewie during a trip to PETCO. Unbeknownst to me, they hosted shelters on Saturdays to encourage pet adoption.

The minute my husband saw Chewie, he knew. “Go fill out the paperwork because I will not put him down.” My husband said. Within an hour, eight week old Chewie was on our way to our home. Immediately, he endeared himself to us.

Chewie is the most emotionally needy of my pups. He whines if I do not pay enough attention to him. And, if I am on my phone and he is sitting next to me, he will swat my hand. It’s as if he means to say, “Pay attention to me. I am more important than that silly box.” He reminds me that the world is not in my phone or computer.

In sum, Chewie has proven that he is incredibly smart and emotionally attuned to all the people and pups that live in our home.

Baxter

Baxter is the youngest and smallest of our brood. Like Chewie, he was about eight weeks old when we got him. We have been the only family he knows. He is a seven pound blonde terrier. As his hair grows out from the latest haircut his look evolves from little gentleman to old man/mad scientist. I cannot help but laugh just looking at him.

He is independent, stubborn, and completely cute. Baxter has perfected his side-eyed look. You can practically feel his tiny glare upon you when he does it. When I get the side-eye, I know what he wants; a scratch behind the ear or a gentle belly rub.

Baxter wants to be touching me. But, he does not necessarily want me touching him. As I sit here writing this essay, Baxter is curled up next to my outer left left. He just takes what he wants. He does not whine like Chewie. Instead, he asserts himself whenever he requires attention.

Shaggy

We got Shaggy second. He is our middle dog-son. He was fully grown by the time that we adopted him. My son and I met him out front of a Orange Leaf yogurt store. The same rescue shelter, Four Paws, was hosting a dog event there. As soon as we got into the store, my son said, “Mama, he needs to come home with us.”

Shaggy is a mystery to us. What kind of life did he lead before he came to us? Did he suffer? This may sound like a weird thing to ask about a dog. But, Shaggy behaves in ways that make us wonder about his life prior to our home.

Shaggy is a gentleman dog. He waits until you invite him outside. He does not start eating until given permission. The other two will begin running towards a bowl the minute I put it down. But, Shaggy only comes forward when released.

Shaggy has been a bit of a wild card too. He likes to bully the other pups occasionally. He can also be gruff with children. He growls if you pet him too long or you get too close to his face. Still his good qualities outweigh the bad. He wants to be loved but gets scared when he receives attention.

The pack

Over the course of my dog-owning life, I have become incredibly connected to my three pups. I am the person that primarily feeds and walks them. As a result, I have become their alpha. It’s funny, before I owned dogs, I assumed that an alpha met the “strongest” person in a group. But, the truth I have learned is that an alpha is the person or pup that protects and provides for others. I have learned that leadership is about protecting the group’s best interest and providing for all the opportunity to be fed- physically, mentally, and spiritually. I have learned this from dogs.

They have also taught me other things. They have taught me that you cannot give in to pack mentality. You see, the three of them can be big bullies.

The minute I have a snack they become little mafia bosses. They will sit and stare at me in stony silence.

“Feed me.” Growls Shaggy. “How ‘bout you pass me one of them snacks.” Says Chewie. “I don’t want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak.” Says Baxter. He’s a Coppola fan.

But, I must resist the cuteness and Godfather references. I must be the strong one that says. “No, chocolate is bad for you but oh so good for me.”

What value lessons have you learned from pet ownership?

Fun Movies for the Familia

Family Fun Night. Those three words bring images of Friday nights filled with board games, movies, and pizza to mind. If you try to find movies that you can enjoy with your family, I have curated a good list for you. I recently found some good movies that I hope you will like. This list features movies in Spanish or, if the story is in English, features Latinx actors.

COMO CAIDO DEL CIELO

For those that do not know, Pedro Infante is the cultural icon in Mexican history that defined for generations what it meant to be a man in the 19th century. He was handsome, charismatic, and a womanizer. This movie centers on the idea that Pedro Infante has been living in purgatory because his womanizing ways brought much pain to his family and the women that he pursued.

In this movie, Pedro Infante is sent back down to earth. This movies poses the question, could a womanizing former cultural icon return to earth, fix problems for his biggest fan, and earn entry into heaven? If you think that you have seen this before, you have. This movie is a Spanish version of Heaven Can Wait (starring Warren Beatty) and Down to Earth (starring Chris Rock.)

This movie features some excellent music. It is a fun, sad, and sweet film. It was enjoyable and I would recommend it for a family.

EAST SIDE SUSHI

This is a 2014 movie whose storyline features a Mexican-American woman who endeavors to break into a career that is plagued with racism and sexism. Sushi chef. Juana Martinez is a young woman raising a daughter and helping her elderly father in his later years. She embarks on a unique opportunity at a Japanese sushi restaurant.

A passionate cook herself, Juana begins to study the sushi chefs that work with her. One of her colleagues recognizes her potential and begins to teach her different sushi preparation techniques. This movie was excellent. It is a wonderful movie to watch with your children. It highlights the importance of hard work, perseverance, and self-worth.

LOWRIDER

This movie relies on the visual appeal of the California lowrider culture to tell a strong story. A father punishing himself for his past mistakes brought on by alcoholism. A son forgotten in prison and a brother trying to remember his mother while learning to define himself. It stars Eva Longoria, Demian Bichir, Gabriel Chavarria, and Theo Rossi.

The mother of the two young men has died. The father remarries. The oldest son is getting out of prison and the younger is trying to connect with his mother through his street art (graffiti.) The oldest son is angry at the father for never having visited him in prison. The youngest son is angry at the father because they never talk or remember the mother.

This movie does rely on the use of stereotypes, older son is gang affiliated, but there are some ways that it breaks from the mold. There are critical moments when each of these protagonist must face truths and accept responsibilities. But, overall, this is a good movie. It is a story about forgiveness and family. I enjoyed watching it. This movie does have some sexual content so you probably will not want to watch it with children younger than fourteen.

SUPER LOPEZ

Are you a fan of superhero movies? Are you interested in watching a Spanish language superhero movie? If so, I think you will like this film. This movies takes the Superman trope and makes it funny. Super Lopez is sent to Earth by his father and mother to prevent him falling in the hands of a villain. In this case, the super baby lands and is raised in Spain. Early on, Super Lopez wants to showcase his alien superhero skills. His father, a Spanish garage owner, explains to him that in Spain mediocrity is preferred. Super Lopez grows up to be a low level manager in a technology company.

Unfortunately, Super Lopez is chased to Earth by an alien supervillain who seeks to return him to the home planet for the purposes of turning him over to her father, the master villain. At age 30, he must achieve his super potential. Here, the story becomes extremely comical and endearing. I highly recommend this movie to all. This is a story that can be watched with children of all ages.

I hope this list of familia-friendly movies helps you find something to enjoy with your loved ones. Let me know what you think of these selections or recommend some movies for me to try!

Homemade pasta sauce

I like making food for family and friends. It is a type of nurturing. In a time when everyone feels busy and so many of us rely on fast or frozen food, cooking and sharing a meal with another person feels like a gift.

Most of the time the goal is to get a warm meal ready in 30 minutes or less. However, every once in a while I enjoy dedicating time to a meal. I especially like this because my husband and son get excited about the food that I make for them.

Food that takes time and patience has a special significance to me. It feels like a luxury to devote time to meals. So, on occasion, I make special foods. Recently, I took it upon myself to make a tomato-based sauce.

I was lucky enough to obtain a recipe from a friend (Ann S.) whose sauce I long admired. The recipe is simple, elegant and delicious. And it is the sauce that Ann’s Italian family has made forever. If you are ready to get started, here we go…

A good marinara sauce requires few ingredients and a lots of time. Here is the list of ingredients:

2 Cans of tomato puree

2 Cans of warm water

½ yellow onion

Olive Oil

Fresh basil

Fresh garlic

Dried oregano

Dried Italian seasoning

Kosher salt

I put my fresh garlic and yellow onion through my food processor so that I could get small sized pieces. Then, I placed the garlic & onion mixture in a stock pot and sautéed them in olive oil until they were translucent. I poured two cans of tomato puree and two cans of warm water in the stock pot and added the fresh basil. Then, I added 1 tablespoon of dried oregano and 1 tablespoon of Italian seasonings.

The mixture must cook on medium until it boils. While it is boiling, make certain that you are stirring consistently. Once your sauce has boiled, reduce the heat so that it simmers for two hours. Make certain to stir your sauce every 10-15 minutes. When you are done, your efforts will yield approximately fifteen (15) cups of sauce. Remove the fresh basil from the pot. It is only intended to flavor. Let your sauce cool down properly. Then, I recommend that you freeze some of your sauce for future recipes.

Tomato-based pasta sauce simmering.

Special recommendations

Of course, I do not need to tell you that this sauce can be used anywhere a marinara is needed. However, there are a few things you can do to take recipes to the next level. One thing that my friend does is to drop sausage and peppers into the mix while it is marinating during the two hour simmering process. She removes them from the sauce when it has finished cooking. She then uses them to create incredible sausage sandwiches. I like to use the sauce as a pizza sauce. But, in order to do that I recommend the you finely chop your onions and garlic. This will make a delicious pizza sauce.

What will you add to this recipe?

“Rosemary Does Time*”

Rosemary stepped onto the fourth floor of the courthouse. “Domestics & Civil,” a sign on the wall read. She looked around. A security guard stood near courtroom three. A man sat at a bench looking angry. People eyeballed one another. Didn’t look so civil. 

Rosemary spotted her attorney with another client. A hand-guided suggestion to sit near courtroom four, was the physical communication her attorney gave. Rosemary followed suit.

Thirty minutes, she noted on her diamond-encrusted Tag Hauer. She had come too early. That was just like Rosemary. So fucking eager. That had always been her weakness. The reason she had landed in the big house in the first place. Seven minutes in heaven? Seventeen years in hell.

“At least he was a good provider.” She heard a voice inside her say. She knew that voice. It was mother’s voice saying the thing Rosemary had once heard grandmother say to her mother.

When Rosemary realized that she was pregnant, Ronald was in his fifth year of college. He barely had enough credits to be considered a first semester junior. But, his parents owned the largest insurance company in the State. Ronald got a Director of Marketing title and a nice office. Rosemary got the M-R-S title and a white, two-story house.

Rosemary extended her left hand to look at the engagement ring. She still hadn’t taken off the two-carat diamond. It was a fine piece of jewelry. And it, along with a home filled with objects had pacified her during the marriage. Ronald was good at gifts; bad at surprises.

Like the time he surprised her during a party at their house. She went downstairs to get more paper products and found him fucking one of her friends in the storage room. 

Like the time he surprised her with an STD.

Liked the time he surprised her son with a fast car. Like the times he allowed her son to have a “drink with dad.” Like the times he taught her son to drive drunk. Like the time…

STOP!

She breathed in through her nose. Held her breath for a five count. Exhaled through her mouth.  

She would not grieve Charles. Not like this. Not. Like. This.  

She would grieve Charles by thinking of all the good times they shared together. The bike rides along Linear Trail. Sunday dinners with family and friends. The road trips Ronald planned for them.

Yes, she would even remember Ronald’s role in the good times. After all, he was part of the good times that she had with her son. A double-edged sword of happy memories and sad thoughts. She could see herself getting addicted to the pain.

“Adoption Day!” A family near courtroom three cheered. A pretty brunette started talking into a phone. “This is our Facebook live event.” 

Rosemary looked at the floor. Adoption day. Maybe she should have considered an adoption day. If she had Charles would still be…

No! She stopped herself. She would never have given Charles up. He was a beautiful baby. He was the perfect baby, her baby. She closed her eyes and saw his beautiful face. Dark bushy eyebrows, jet black hair, and full lips; those had been her gifts to him. Love of music and dancing. Zest for life. He had gained all the best of her Puerto Rican heritage.

And, he had gained some of the worst features of her heritage… Reckless, daring, and her father’s machista attitude. Those had been the other attributes he had gained from her side.

No. Ronald was a machista and he wasn’t Latino. “I’m the man, sweetheart.” He said when she requested he consult with her before making family decisions. It did not matter that her father was a machista and Latino. Ronald was a machista and white. Ethnicity didn’t matter to male dominance.

She looked around for Ronald. Of course, he wasn’t going to show up. He had never shown up for the marriage. Why would he show up for its end?

Rosemary thought about her time moving forward. She had been a child, a freshman in college, when she married at 19. She became a mother at 20. Now at 37, she was going to be single and childless. She had never learned who she was. Now, she was losing everything that she had ever been. 

Rosemary stood up. She did not need to be thinking like this. Not like this. She inhaled through her nose. She went to the nearest restroom. The lighting was horrible but at least there was a full-length mirror. Rosemary stood before it, examining her navy pants and matching jacket. She was going for professional and strong. A crisp white button-down shirt and her favorite scarf, the one she bought in Paris, completed her outfit of choice to commemorate the end of her past. 

She brushed her hands through the dark slanted bob. She had cut off over sixteen inches of hair last night. She applied a plum colored gloss on her lips. Rosemary was ready to get regain her freedom. She would do great things with it. And, she would never take her life, herself, for granted. 

Rosemary’s first order of business; take a road trip with her sister. She had never taken advantage of the liberal paid time off she received while working at her in-law’s insurance company. She had, for example, never gone on a girls’ trip. She would do that now.

Rosemary returned to the hall and found her attorney ready to go into the courtroom. They stood at one of the tables and waited for the judge to appear. “Answer the questions,” her lawyer said. Confirm the agreement.

“All rise.” 

Rosemary watched the judge sit on his bench. He was serious looking in his black robe. His black-framed glasses contrasted sharply with his white hair. He motioned her to the witness stand. 

Rosemary raised her right hand. “I do.” She responded when asked about telling the truth. But could she? Could she tell the truth about her relationship? Did she herself even know what the truth was? She knew what her mother had said, “you do the crime; you pay the time.” 

What had been her crime anyway? Giving her virginity up to a frat boy who did not believe in condoms. No. She would not beat herself up about that. No more. Rosemary knew it was time; time for her to get out. She would call it… early release for good behavior.

“I filed.” She looked at the judge’s face. She wondered if he was a parent. “Incompatibility.” She responded to her lawyer’s question. 

She took a breath and braced herself for the question that was about to come. “Yes. But he died. There are no other children under the age of majority. No other children period.”

The judge looked down at his hands. He was a parent. She recognized the discomfort he felt. It was the discomfort every parent now felt around her. 

“Yes, the agreement is fair, just, and equitable.” She responded. 

Rosemary had been surprised by that. She expected Ronald’s family to rally around him. Especially after Charles’s funeral where she had been poisoned by grief; “he’s dead and it’s on you.” She blamed Ronald; threw it in his face. 

“Thank you, your honor.” Rosemary said after the judge wished her luck. 

Out in the hallway, Rosemary thanked her lawyer and walked away. Her seventeen-year sentence commuted. Ready for a freedom she had not wanted, she walked out the courtroom a childless mother and an ex-wife. But, she walked out a woman ready to be focused on herself. Rosemary’s time was now her own.


*A story about love… or at least the end of it. Welcome to my blog. Today, I am excited to share a short story I wrote a few years ago. Copyright 2018 by Amada Acosta Addair (Gabriela Amada Vega Acosta.)

Book Review: The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria

If you enjoy the fast pace of a short story or are a fan of science fiction, I have the book for you. The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez.

This twelve story collection was a very different read for me. I am not a huge fan of sci-fi. But, I found the stories in this book to be fun, funny, and fundamentally interesting. You can read each in less than one hour. But, I do encourage you to give yourself one hour for each one. You see, after each story I found myself pondering the messages that lay beneath the surface of the story.

For example, in Hernandez’s short story, “Fantaisie Impromptu No. 4 in C#min, Op. 66” you find a journalist interviewing the wife of a piano virtuoso. The two protagonists, a journalist and the wife of a dead concert pianist, of the story are discussing the famous pianist’s soul, which the wife believes to be contained within a piano. The question, if technology could capture the souls of people, would the soul ever get respite? I thought about this after I spoke to my spouse about how the entertainment industry is using holographic imagery to perpetuate the careers of people like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Michael Jackson. This enables them to continue to reap profits from these dead musicians. And, this story actually made me wonder about the impact to the souls of these still loved artists. Alternately, is it better to be remembered and get no respite than to be forgotten?

All of the stories in this book have an interesting mix of science and faith, reality and magic. It is a good book. And because it is a compilation of short stories, even if you finish a story and do not pick the book back up for a month you will be fine. Your story recollection is not compromised because you go on to a new story. In sum, I highly recommend this book.

Have you read any other works by Carlos Hernandez?