My Favorite Albums of All Time

Music has always been, for me, a time machine that enabled me to return to the most important moments in my life. In September 2020, Rolling Stone compiled a list of the 500 best albums of all time. And while they are the definitive guide to music, I thought that I would put my two cents in on the matter. Okay, so my list is not as comprehensive or properly cultivated as Rolling Stone’s. After all, they had the advantage of reaching out to music experts. Luckily, I am a kind of expert… in the things I like. So, because I have such strong opinions and emotions, I thought that I would put my own spin on this list.

AMOR PROHIBIDO

If you have never heard of this album you are either a millennial or non-Latinx. Perhaps a millennial, non-Latinx! This is the definitive album of Selena. No. Not Gomez. The OG Reina. Tejano queen, Selena Quintanilla.

This album was released in 1994. The songs in this album quickly became hits. The thing I like about this album is that it is a melange of Latino music sounds. The songs in this album include cumbia, ranchera, and even pop en Español beats. There are so many good songs on this album. “Amor Prohibido” which tells of a forbidden love, “Bidi Bidi Mom Mom” a fun song that perfectly explains the feelings of early love, and “El Chico del Apartment 512” a tale of a secret crush, are just a few of my favorites.

The best thing about this album is that, for me, it creates a nostalgic feeling of happiness. When this album first came out and became popular, the world felt one way. These songs would play at quinceañeras and family fiestas. I associated them with the most fun times of my teenage years. Unfortunately, things would quickly change. Only one year and thirteen days after the release of this album, the world would learn of the murder of Selena Quintanilla.

ENDLESS SUMMER

I first learned of The Beach Boys in the 90s thanks to the biopic “Summer Dreams” which I saw on network TV. This movie of the week introduced me some of the best of music I have ever heard. The movie highlighted the pressure imposed upon the band by parents and record executives. It reinforced the idea of the tortured artist for me.

I bought this album on CD. And, I began to enjoy magnificent pop music. I really liked this compilation album. In fact, it is the album that taught me that musicians make “Best of” albums and compile all their most popular music in one package. This album will not disappoint. It includes may of The Beach Boys’ best songs like “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “Good Vibrations.”

If you like “oldies,” listen to this album. After all, The Beach Boys are considered the architects of that California sound that is often associated with some of the best of 60s music.

THE IMMACULATE COLLECTION

I grew up in the Madonna heyday so it may not come as a shock to you that this album is on my favorite albums of all time list. Like Endless Summer above, is a greatest hits compilation album. On it, you will find Madonna’s most popular songs of the 80s. Many are modified in one way or another. But, they are excellently crafted. Thirteen of the fifteen songs on this album are the artist’s former hits. The two new tracks on this album- Justify My Love and Rescue Me- also received acclaim.

The first time I recall learning about this album was when I watched the video for “Justify My Love.” There’s some interesting S&M thing going on in that video that I did not quite understand as a fourteen year old living in small town USA! One cool thing I learned about this song while preparing this post was that Lenny Kravitz co-wrote it.

Although I have continued to be a fan of Madonna’s new music, I contend that this album contains all of her best music. Her 80s songs have energy and a good beat that, in my opinion showcase what Madonna was best at- over the top energy.

FANMAIL

TLC’s Fanmail is the soundtrack of my twenties. In fact, FANMAIL is my favorite album of all time. I find myself listening to this album at least twice every year. That may not seem like much. But, I do think that is something. After all, thanks to the internet we have a world of entertainment available with the click of a finger. Yet, I still go back to this album often. More importantly, every time I hear this album I am blown away by how fresh and current it still sounds. I contend that it sounds as fresh as the music that people like Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat are releasing today. As such, I feel confident declaring this album a timeless classic.

This fourteen song album is, in my opinion, the definitive compilation of songs for young women. The tracks speak to the struggles of women entering adulthood often find themselves facing. From learning about standing up for oneself with the track “My Life,” dealing with the shitty dudes that call a woman a “Silly Ho,” realizing the type of man worthy of your affections with “No Scrubs,” identifying those feelings of insecurity with “Unpretty,” or claiming one’s sexuality with “I’m Good at Being Bad” or “Don’t Pull Out on Me Yet,” this album speaks to all of the struggles of modern-day mujeres.

The reason I like this album more than any other is that I honestly cannot pick a favorite song from this album. They are all that solid. Plus, it would be the last album from TLC that I really focused on as one of the group’s singers, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, would be dead less than two years after the release of this album.

Any of your favorite albums on my list? If not, which albums am I missing?

Master of My Multiverse

As a POC child growing up in America, I straddled two universes.

On one hand, I was a part of the America where being on the cheerleading squad, listening to pop, rock, or rap, and watching the latest episode of 90210 were important. On the other, I was a part of an America where being invited to be a dama in a quinceañera, listening to Banda Machos, and watching Muchachitas were equally important.

I think this is often the case for people who immigrate to this country, though I do believe that it can be a part of the lives of people whose family stretches in America for generations. The home life links you to your family’s past and culture while the professional or school life tethers you to mainstream (Anglo) America. When I was younger, this felt like a lot of work, straddling two cultures.

As a POC adult, I find myself with both feet squarely planted in white America and further away from the Latino-landia that surrounded me when I was younger. I pondered for a long time why that was. Here’s what I realized. As a young person, I was inculcated in the Latino world of my parents. My parents attended and sponsored weddings, baby showers, and quinceañeras. I participated in these activities because my parents did not hire babysitters to care for my brothers and I at home while they went out. No. We attended all of those activities. Everyone in our community did the same, it was standard. Result, I was around Spanish, food, friends, and familia.

Now, I live in a largely caucasian world. In my hometown, Latinos make up less than 5% of the population. The majority of my friends are non-Latinos and I have no extended family to lean on for Mexican-style fun. Spanish is spoken for business purposes or to converse with my family members by phone or social media. And, the only other Latina I interact with on a regular (daily) basis is my legal assistant. This means that my mom is not around daily to share the stories of our family, no friend to turn up the music when a good Banda song comes on, and no older aunt to remind me to prepare a family altar for Dia del Muerto. And I can forget about having a posada, who would I even invite?

This question stayed with me for a long while…

How do we, the Americanized children of immigrants, continue to connect to our cultures when we no longer live within our immigrant communities?

 I realized that the effort had to come from me. It was my responsibility to create opportunities for myself to connect to my culture. Here’s a list of the things that I started to do to help me reconnect:

Find organizations that can help you connect with your culture. Join a business or social organizations (check out MANA or your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) or participate in a faith-based communities (in my town, a local Catholic Church holds mass in Spanish every Sunday).

Get lost in the world of entertainment. Read books by POC authors. Find a movie or show on your favorite streaming services (bonus points if you watch it in your native language.) Play music from the artists your parents liked (this will give you a strong wave of nostalgia.)

Force yourself to cook recipes from your culture correctly. The yummy results will transport you to your past and give you a sense of appreciation for the love and work your parents put into meals.

Make it a point to visit your OG community for fun activities and events. When the covid-19 pandemic ends, my goal is to return to Garden City, KS for the 16th of September celebrations that occur annually.

Bring your culture into your own world. For example, if you are in a book club, select a book written by a POC author this way, you share your culture with your non-POC friends.

Finally, learn your native language or teach it to your children. According to a mentor I once had, older generations hesitated to teach their children the native languages because diversity was frowned upon before. My mentor recalled being punished in schools for speaking Spanish, even in a lunchroom setting. However, the tides have turned. Your kid will not be smacked with a ruler on the knuckles for speaking Spanish. Teaching yourself or your children the native language will provide a link to their past or enable them to communicate with family still in the old country. More importantly, in our increasingly multicultural country and ever-shrinking world, knowing more than one language is an asset.

What are the things you do to connect with your culture?

Are you in a relationship or relation shit?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made something evident, the trials and tribulations of life are dealt unevenly depending on your race, gender, and financial class. These trials and tribulations are made much worse if you have the wrong partner at your side. After all, relationships can be tough in the best of circumstances. But, during times of trouble a bad relationships can be taxing on your mental, emotional and even physical well-being.

If, during 2020, you questioned the value of your relationship, then 2021 is the year you should give yourself an answer. To obtain an answers to relationship questions I recommend that you do some self analysis and inventory. If you need help on how to start this process, read on…

Self analysis

Any relationship in which you are in must work for you. If the relationship feels like work, then it may not be the right relationship. But only you can determine whether you are in a relationship or a relation shit. Even your mom or best friend cannot tell you if you are in a relation shit because they do not experience it first hand.

If you want to find an answer to the title question, “are you in a relationship or relation shit”, you must ask hard questions. I propose you start with the following six questions. They have helped me in my past and current relationships. They may help you begin to find an answer to your relationship questions.

  1. Are you happy with the intimacy you share with your partner?
  2. Do you feel as strongly or stronger for your partner than you did at the beginning of the relationship?
  3. Do you trust your partner and does your partner trust you?
  4. Do you look forward to your future with your partner?
  5. Do you respect each other?
  6. Does your relationship make you feel good about yourself?

These are heavy questions, right? They are not meant to be simple yes or no questions, though they can be answered with a simple yes or no. Rather, they should be used as a springboard so you can inventory your relationship. The seventh question you should ask as a follow up to each question is “WHY?” The answers to your why’s will help you get clarity.

Do you have some answers yet? Once you have some answers, the stage is set for you to… contemplate your answers. I know. You probably expected me to tell you to ditch your relationship and enjoy the sun. No. The truth is that unless you are in a relationship where your physical life or mental health are at risk, you should think before pulling the trigger on a relationship decision.

Besides, your only choices are not just stay the same or go. In my opinion, there are three things you can do after analyzing your relationship. You can decide to “Stay”, “Stay with Changes” or “Go.”

STAY

If your relationship has shown small signs of crack and wear as a result of 2020, take a moment to recognize that we have all gone through a stressful year. It is a truth that the more time you spend with someone the more time you have to pick them apart and find something that annoys you. Hell, if you think about it long enough you could pick out things that annoy you about you. So, if during 2020 you have had some minor annoyances with your partner, relax. Minor annoyances are a part of any relationship. Stick with the relationship.

But, remember that stay does not mean stay stagnant. If you have determined that your relationship can use some tweaks, then work towards making those changes. For example, if you and your partner need more time together then romance your partner. Commit to a biweekly or weekly date night and take it upon yourself to plan a special night for you both. Ask your partner to plan the next one. If you need more cooperation from your partner at home, make that shit clear. Create a chores list and expect their cooperation. Make whatever tweaks you need to be made to keep your relationship moving in the right direction.

STAY WITH CHANGES

In the last year, you have seen more than simply slight cracks in your relationship. But, you are not exactly ready to call your relationship quits. If that is where your mindset is, remember that you can be committed to your relationship AND request that changes be made.

This situation differs from the one above because in this situation, you are required to bring your concerns to your partner. When you are leaning into this category, it is because there are significant concerns that you cannot ignore or make better with a small tweak. If you and your partner cannot work through this alone. Consider seeking joint counseling from a qualified couples’ therapist.

GO

After my six question inventory you may have determined that you do not wish to continue in this relationship. Under this scenario, you have come to the conclusion that the relationship is not worth the effort to try to make changes. And you know what, that is okay.

If this is how you are feeling then you need to do several things. First, you need to accept your decision and then keep your mouth shut. Probably not what you were expecting. But, by realizing that there is no way to repair this relationship, you are going to have to take some active steps to get out of it. If you start telling your partner about how you are leaving then, you lose the advantage of making the changes you need before they can get situated. For example, you may have to divide a joint checking account but by telling them, you give them the opportunity to remove money from the account first. See what I am saying.

Second, you need to decide how you will make the change. The reality is that your relationship may not be easy to undo. Sure, if you are simply dating and have your own respective homes the change should not be too hard. However, if you are in a marriage living in one abode, the change will require much more coordination. Planning your exit, no matter how big or small, will aid in smoothing out the transition.

Third, and this suggestion really applies more to the people in complex relationships (marriage, living together, or simply just having a child together but not living together), make sure that you have addressed the legal implications of making the changes. Legal actions such as divorce or paternity often have provisions known as “temporary” or “interlocutory” orders that help protect you in such a situation.

Fourth, seek individual counseling. Even if you are the one making the change to your relationship, you should seek individual counseling to process those emotions. Even when you know the relationship is not right, you will go through a grieving process. Working through the emotions is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.

Finally, pull the trigger. Implement your plan and execute it to completion. It will be painful and hard. Yes. There will be times when you second guess yourself. True. But, you can do it. You deserve to be in the relationship that you want. You do not have to settle for the relation shit.

How do you work through tough relationship decisions?

2020: Made to See

20/20 was previously associated in my mind with perfect vision. Prior to 2019, I longed for the clarity that the number brought.

But after the year that was last year, I know see 2020 as the Christmas Carol of years. The ghosts of America’s Christmas past (slavery/racism), present (pandemic), and future (climate change), came into the forefront.

And, much like Ebenezer in the well-known tale, we have an opportunity to turn this shit around. The forewarning should be heeded. This is the impetus for us engage in best practices.

Anti-racism

I am not trying to pretend that I am an expert in anything. So please do not take my tips as anything more than well-meaning suggestions. To work on your own thinking the best thing you can do is look for content from various mediums.

One of the things that I do to break my own stereotyped or unbalanced thinking is to read. So try it. Read books about how to combat racism or that re-educate prior thinking. I also seek out documentaries and positive films. Watch movies that highlight the potential of people of races other than your own. And most importantly, think before you speak. Force yourself to think differently. Be kind. Be sensitive. Don’t joke about people’s differences. Look at others as fully realized people. Don’t make assumptions about other people.

Pandemic

I don’t foresee my life returning to the “pre-pandemic” normal. No. I have learned too much. Instead, I see myself adopting new practices that were learned in 2020 to maintain my health. First, masks. It goes without saying that I will continue to wear masks and socially distance until I complete the round of vaccines. I encourage all to do so. But, even after that I will continue to incorporate them into daily life. I intend to wear masks out in public anytime I feel under the weather. I do not intend to return to the practice of shaking hands. Most importantly, I intend to maintain the practice of being grateful and kind to all front line workers.

Climate Change

Although climate change always feels monumentally large, remember that everyone must make changes in their behavior to improve our planet’s health. During the lockdown that started in March, the planet saw small improvements to the carbon emissions. This was a surprising benefit of the pandemic. But, it did encourage me to think more about the planet’s nonhuman inhabitants. I placed food receptacles out for squirrels and birds in my backyard. I have continued that practice into the winter. I have had the benefit of seeing bluejays and cardinals even into December.

Of course, feeding a few small creatures is not enough. Other things that I am trying to do are using my vehicle less and being less wasteful. Other opportunities that we can all take include: buying local products to reduce your carbon footprint, donating to worthwhile causes, and participating in waterway or roadside cleanups. Plus, the most important thing we can all do is encourage corporations whose products we buy to make more environmentally conscious choices. After all, it is corporations that are the biggest contributors to climate change.