Author: Amada Acosta Addair

Attorney. Amiga. Author. I am a proud Latina lawyer and aspiring author. My writing is Latinx-centered, fiction and nonfiction. I also write about the emerging Hemp industry. Check out my blog, it features nonfiction essays and short stories.

The Gift of Food

Confession time. I love to cook. The act of cooking itself gives me pleasure. I like being in the kitchen contemplating what I am going to make for dinner. I enjoy takings disconnected ingredients and turning them into a unified meal.

I also love the act of feeding people. I love how happy it makes them feel to know that someone took time to nurture their bodies. I enjoy the camaraderie that sharing a meal creates.   

It makes sense, I think. Sharing food is prevalent among Latinx communities, In fact, I have so many ideas about food that are tied to my Mexican upbringing. These ideas have helped in my growth as an adult. I offer three stories that highlight ways in which food sharing has taught me about the world.

Never eat in front of someone without sharing

My parents workday began at six o’clock in the morning at the meatpacking plant. By the time school got done in the afternoon, they were home to greet my brothers and I. We would open the front door to the smells of Mexican food and the sounds of music or Univision.

One particular occasion, a friend accompanied me home after school. Upon arriving, my stomach grumbled awake by the aroma of my mother’s home cooking. I said to my friend,

“I’m going to get something to eat.”

My mother immediately scolded me in Spanish, “do not say, I am going to get something to eat. Ask, would you like something to eat?”

After my friend left, she shared a story of experiencing hunger as a child and having to sit and watch others eat. It was a pain she would never allow anyone to experience in her presence. This lesson impacted me in a way few things ever have. It enabled me to see my mother, not as my mother, but as someone who had once been like me and whom I would someday be like. And, it impressed upon me the gift you give someone when you share a meal with them.

Sharing a meal can tell you a lot about a person

I sat across the table from my best friend and her new beau. We sipped our soft drinks as we waited for the waitress to bring out the appetizers. When our crab rangoon arrived at our table we all began to it.

“So, how long you chicas known each other?” He boyfriend asked as he chewed threw the half a rangoon he had stuffed in his mouth. His mouth widened as he laughed at his “clever” use of Spanish.

My eyes widened as I stared at my BFF in disbelief.

Has Molly had a meal with this man? My expression asked her. Molly, was her 60 year old mother whose favorite author was Emily Post.

Her head shook no and she looked down at the table. I sucked my teeth at her. After observing his table manners, I knew that he never would meet my friend’s mother. That was a relationship leading nowhere. I was right; it did not lead anywhere… for four years.

Memories happen when we share a meal

“Get the dessert.” My husband egged me on. “You are on vacation.”

I smiled at our waitress. “One chocolate flan, please.”

I was on my second cup of decaf when the two desserts we had ordered finally came out. My husband and son would be sharing one (my husband is not a big fan of sweets.) I would be enjoying my own.

The waitress put them down and left. When she was out of earshot, my son began to laugh hysterically.

“What’s so funny, honey?” I asked.

He shook his head and looked at his dad. “It looks like Shaggy poo.” He  pointed with his head at the flan sitting before me.

I  looked down at my plate. “Damnit!” I exclaimed. He was right. By then, the hysteria hit my husband. I shook my head at my crazy guys. I started to laugh along with them. I pulled my camera out and took a snapshot. They made my life interesting.

I have that photo hanging on the gallery wall on the stairs that lead to the basement. I remember that trip fondly and so do the guys. And, we have never looked at flan the same way.

 

Why Simple Isn’t Always Better

September, my birthday month, is always a time of analysis and reflection. It is the time I celebrate my own personal new year. One year older and, I hope, wiser. It is the time when I resolve to be a bit better, kinder, stronger, or smarter than the year prior.

This year my goal is to focus on ways to simplify my life.

This is not as easy as it may sound. Not for me. I am someone who has big ambitions. I want perfect health, a fulfilling career, and exciting personal projects to keep me busy. That is no small order. In fact, as I write down my heart’s desires, I realize how demanding I can be of myself.

I’m not going to apologize. Those desires arise from a strong self-belief. As such, I cannot be too disappointed in my inability to chill the fuck out. But that doesn’t mean that I have to stop finding all the ways to achieve my dreams. In contemplating my goals for the year, I have come to a realization. Simple is not always better.

I was studying my family’s finances and realized that simple comes with a premium cost. How, you ask. Restaurants and dining out. You see, one way my family “simplifies” our home life is by eating out. It saves us preparation, clean up, and grocery shopping time.

The downside? We spent significantly on restaurants.

In addition to simplifying this year, another goal I have is to increase our family’s savings and investments. I want to take more steps to ensure that my husband and I will have comfortable retirements. And, I want to take a few special vacations with our son before he graduates high school (and it will happen in the blink of an eye.)

Of course, to save more money, I have to make more money. At least that’s what people, myself included, say. Not so.

After reviewing my family’s spending habits, I realized that we could save money if we eat out less. In other words, we don’t have to make more money, we need to redirect the money we already have.

I don’t think it will be simple like snapping your fingers. First, I know that to be successful I have to have agreement and buy in from my family. Then, I need a solid plan. I need to always have food options in the house. Finally, I need to have some money budgeted so that we can dine out occasionally.

So here’s the plan.

 

Family Buy In

I will disclose to my husband and son the amount we spend on dining out every month. I will explain and discuss how much we could save by eating at home more. I will share with them the goals I have for how to redirect those monies. Together, we will set a monthly budget for dining out. Next, we will work on standard menu ideas and discuss the foods they want to be picked up from the grocery store.

I am going to encourage my husband to help me get our son involved in this process.He is about to turn sixteen. He needs to understand how his purchasing choices will impact his disposable income. As a sophomore, we only have three more years to help him build adult skills. Grocery shopping, menu planning, and money management are all skills he will need as an adult.

Create a Plan

Once my husband, son, and I decide on dinner ideas and standing grocery list items we will create a plan for success. We will designate a grocery shopping night. Previously, I have used and liked Dillon’s online shopping and grocery pickup services. I will use those to simplify the food acquisition process.

I do enjoy cooking and I do it well. I know that I can create great meals for my family. Cleaning, well, that’s a different story. I will politely say that it is not my favorite. Luckily, my family has a standing policy that requires the people who did not cook to do the cleaning. Still, I will make sure that our dinner plans include quick cleanup menus to reduce the annoyance of this step.

One area that I see posing problems is in lunch ideas for my husband and I. Throughout the week, we go out to eat lunch. But, that is where the bulk of the spending occurs. To really see my plans for redirecting our finances to be successful, we must substantially decrease our lunches at restaurants. Figuring out lunch food options will be a key to our success. Finally, it is not a bad idea to have a few frozen meal options. We have plenty of surprise nights where we stay too late at the office. The best things to do for those days is to pop a frozen pizza in the oven and enjoy a sitcom.

Dining out budget

Last, but equally important, I need to figure out how to stay true to our “dining out budget.” It is entirely too easy to put a meal on a credit card and forget that you spent money.

I am thinking about using Dave Ramsey’s envelope method. If you are not familiar with this, I will explain. Simply put, your budgeted amount is converted to cash and placed in an envelope. Money is then taken from the envelope during for the planned activity. When the envelope is empty, you are no longer permitted to participate in that activity. You cannot use credit cards, you cannot go to the bank and get more money. It gives you a powerful visual indicator of that… an empty envelope. I like the idea of using this method because I want my son to understand and learn this lessons. Resources are finite. And, we must make good choices with the resources we have.

I will keep you posted about how this worked. Now, it’s your turn. Do you prefer to pay a premium for simple? Why or why not?

 

 

Six Spanish Movies that will make you feel…

I am an avid consumer of popular culture. I love movies and television. In fact, it was thanks to American television growing up that I learned some of the finer nuances of American culture.

As an adult, nothing makes me feel connected to my Latin roots like Spanish based movies and music. If you, like me, like to use your Spanish skills to enjoy this type of media then here is a list to inspire you. This list includes movies from the 1980s to 2000s.

Like Water for Chocolate

Como El Agua Para el Chocolate is a 1992 film based on the 1989 novel by Laura Esquivel. This is an arthouse movie that is set during the Mexican Civil War of 1910.

This story is complex and beautiful. It is a deeply symbolic movie is about star-crossed lovers. It also features a highly toxic relationship between mother and daughter. There is some nudity so don’t be alarmed by the front nudity featuring major 80s bush.

Under the Same Moon

Bajo la Misma Luna is a 2007 journey’s hero movie focusing on a young boy. After the death of his grandmother who is raising him in Mexico, he travels unaccompanied to Los Angeles where he hopes to find his mother played by Kate Del Castillo. You will cry. That is… if you have a soul.

The Motorcycle Diaries

This movie came out in 2004 and it features one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Garcia Bernal. If you do not already know him, you are missing out. Garcia Bernal portrays a young Ernesto “Che” Guevara in this dramatic biopic. The movie is based on the real life events that led to Guevara’s enlightenment and acknowledgment of social injustice.

Belle Epoque

1992 movie.  I watched this movie when I was entirely too young! Belle Epoque is about a young Spanish Army deserter who has sex with four sisters. As sexist and gross as that sounds, this movie was actually highly acclaimed and features a young Penelope Cruz as Luz, the youngest sister who ultimately marries the adorable, army-deserting loser.

Love is a Bitch

Amorres Perros or  (2000). This excellent movie stars Gabriel Garcia Bernal in a dramatic ensemble about a people linked together by a horrific car accident. It is Crash before Crash came out.

Ladron Que Roba Ladron (2007)

This movie is a Robin Hood-esque, heist comedy. In addition to having a premise that will help you justify cheering for the “bad guy” robbers, you will enjoying Gabriel Soto’s beautiful body as he sweats and digs a tunnel.

What is your favorite Spanish-language movie?

Monthly Motivational Mantra

Work towards progress, not PERFECTION.

In my younger years, I was not as wise. I wore the badge of “perfectionist” proudly. As time passed, I realized the absurdity of my self-assessment. I learned, through a much wiser friend, that perfectionism is a form of procrastination. Why? For perfectionist to get things perfect three things have to line up PERFECTLY: Time, Inspiration, Capacity. Impossible!

Now, I think about the ways in which I can move projects along to the next phase. I accomplish a large number of projects, goals and responsibilities when I move towards progress.

I don’t have to be perfect or inspired to get moving. I just need to progress forward.

American Me

 
Recently, I was having a conversation with my spouse about identity designations. The conversation went something like this,
 
“Why are people using Latinx? Why don’t you guys just use Latin instead and omit the need for X?” He assumed that Latin was gender neutral.
 
A brief history of Latin
 
According to Dictionary.com, Latin is a word with three meanings. First, it refers to the official language of the Roman Empire. Second, it identifies the forms of literary Latin- Medieval, Late, Biblical, Liturgical or Vulgar. Finally, it identifies natives or inhabitants of Latium or ancient Rome.
 
Napoleon III coined the term “Latin America” in the early 1900s. It aligned the countries of the American continent where Latin-based languages were spoken. This was important for the French. The goal? To align “Latin-Americans” with “Latin Europe” against “Slavic,” and “Teutonic Europe” as well as against “Anglo Saxon America.” More relevant, by changing the prior description of Hispanic America, it could increase France’s role in the region. This would enable France to invade Mexico and install Maximilian I as its emperor in 1861.
 
So back to my husband’s question, why don’t I call myself a Latin Because I do not connect myself to ancient Rome. But, I do identify myself as Latina, Latinx or Latino-Americana, so why distinguish?
 
In the US, Latinos were not identified differently from whites prior to this time period. This is not to say there was no discrimination against people of Latinx descent. In the US, social movements sought to increase the voices of minority groups in the 1960s and 1970s. To identify the needs of Spanish (here I use it to mean the language) people, a special designation was needed.
 
By the 1990s when I was growing up, Latino-Americano was part of the vernacular. I embrace it because it aligns me with women who have similar life experiences, even if their families aren’t from Mexico. And, I believe that hate reduces when we see ourselves in others. Can you imagine what it would mean for “White America” to realize that the term “American” is not exclusive to them? Imagine if they realized that the term includes all the people living between Denali and Del Fuego? Such a realization would change our society.
How do you identify? Why?
 

Mama Didn’t Mean That Honey…

Words matter. Words have the power to embolden and empower. They also have the power to destroy and denigrate. This is especially true with children. It is important to contemplate the words we say to children. And, people who want to be decent parents try. We stay away from language that will brow-beat, disregard, or mistreat our children. We forgo frustrated statements that will scar children in years to come.  

I pondered the hidden messages that children may hear in or between our words. Communication is a two person activity. It is not only the intention of the speaker that matters. Interpersonal communication requies listeners to interpret the message. I have contemplated the benign words we use that unintentionally impact children. I came up with three types I wish to explore.

Unsaid Statements

Sometimes, we communicate positions and expectations to our children without even knowing. Most often these unsaid statements are due to defaulting to assuming the status quo. Contemplate the following example:

A young man embarking upon high school is nervous about dating. His parents tell him that he is a smart and handsome young man and any girl would be lucky to date him.

If the young man in question is gay then our affirming statement may create the wrong impression. He may now assume that his parents demand heterosexual behavior from him. The young man may feel rejection of who he is. Instead, his parents intended their words to be supportive of his likability.

This is tough because the parents may not have a problem with whom their son chooses to love. They may not expect him to default to a status quo relationship. But, he know assumes that; unnecessarily so. Language conventions need words have specific meanings which distinguish them from other words.

As my son has reached high school, I have tried to work outside of the status quo. When he has felt bad about himself, I remind him that any person would be lucky to date him. I have said, “once you meet a boy or girl you like.”

To which he replied, “oh mama.”

“I want to make sure you understand that who you like will not impact how much I like you.” I said and walked away.

Blanket Statements

Blanket statements, overgeneralization, stereotypes. All these words fall under the logical fallacy known as hasty generalizations. Hasty generalizations are statements without adequate supporting evidence. Hasty generalizations illicit assumption, stereotyping, unwarranted conclusion, overstatement, or exaggeration. I know all this because I took too many philosophy classes in college. And yet.. I find myself committing the fallacy of hasty generalization with my own child. Like, always. (see what I did there?)

When I make blanket statements to my son they usually have to do with house chores and begin like “You Never…” or “You always forget….”

It may feel like he never does X or always forgets to do Y. Those all or nothing words serve to undermine the impact of the message. Even if there were truth to such a statements, how does stating that truth help you get the result you want? I posit that it does not.

Young people justify actions when situations seem hopeless. And negative thinking can lead to future negative actions. Thus, we must prove that for every problem there is a solution.

“She never notices when I do things right anyway.”

As parents the key to raising children that think like you is to make them want to emulate or please you. When we act with good and maintain high self-expectations, children will rise to our level. To this end, I am going to change my words. When I want to say,

“You always forget to throw out the trash.”

Instead, I am going to try to say,

“I do not like it when you forget to throw out the trash.”

Regrettable Statements

The final type of statement to curb are the statements we make that we later regret. I have been guilty of it. I am horrified to think about the number of times that I may said something that I should not have said to my child. I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease because I am temperamental and impetuous. A dangerous combination.

I do not have any examples for statements in this section. Because I cannot think of any now. And, likely because it is too embarrassing to recall the ugly words I may have said to my sweet stepson. But, I have begun to develop a technique for lessening the number of time that “Amada Piranha” rears her ugly head. (And yes, my bite can be so sharp that my family’s nickname for me is in fact, “Amada Piranha.”)

When you feel those ugly words making their way out of your mouth. Bite down. Cover your lips with your hands and run away. Do not talk. Use a two to one ratio for this practice. In other words, “for every one minute of talking you are about to do, think for two minutes first.”

How do you prevent from making these types of statements with your children?

 

A Way With Words

A book review of Isabel Allende‘s, “In the Midst of Winter.” 
 
winter-en
I read this book at the end of 2018 in preparation for my first book club meeting of 2019. There are few things that can stir me in the way that a well written book can. Among the authors that I have read, there is but a handful that I can count on to meet this need. Isabel Allende is one such author.
 
This is a beautifullywritten story. In this book, Allende takes the lives of three individuals. She braids the stories of their past to help explain their present actions. To me, it felt contrived. The premise- two people help a stranger with illegal tasks- is far-fetched. Among the other members of my book club, the feeling was the same. Most were unable to overcome this issue and enjoy the book.  
 
I did. And, I am glad that I pushed past my initial reaction. Allende is an author who surprises me. She managed to do that in a few places in this book. Plus, I enjoy her way with words. And this skill remained present.
 
If you are an Allende fan, I recommend this book. You may like it. If you are reading Isabel Allende for the first time, don’t pick this book as your representation of her work. You may be disappointing. Rather, I recommend starting with the books Daughter of Fortune, Paula, and Eva Luna. A qualifier, I have not read the books Paula and Eva Luna. Those were recommendations by mi amiga Marta Alfonso Durruty.
 
Have you read In the Midst of Winter? What did you think about it?