and then there was nothing

I’ve been trying to write about my uncle’s death without much success. He died in June and I made notes, things I wanted to say and couldn’t at the time. But, for some reason, I can’t put myself in that place again. It’s not because of the grief, I must confess that I don’t feel grief and didn’t at the time. There was a sense of loss, but no real pain or ache at his death. It sounds so cruel and heartless to put these words out there, but it is the truth. Tío Pablo was not my favorite person. He took advantage of my father’s illness to take the family business from us. He lied to my father and cheated him and used him in ways that no family member should. He took by father’s fear of his disease, and his loyalty and trust in him and used it to his advantage. And when the dust settled, my father was alone in a nursing home, with no income and a $20K debt to the IRS, and my uncle was the man in charge, owner of 2 houses and no debts. And so, when I think of him, that’s where I stumble.

And now there comes the judgment from the world. I know all the words about forgive and forget, I should let it go, that he’s dead now and God will take care of it, that it’s not right to hold a grudge, that it’s not healthy, etc., etc., etc. They’re just words. And they don’t take into account the time he accused my mother of stealing from the cash drawer at the little store he and my Dad used to own. Or the time he told me that I would never amount to anything because I was just like my mother. Or the time he told my mother, because he happened to be in a weird mood, that my Dad went to strip clubs because she was fat now. Or all the times my father slighted us in favor of him, chose him, preferred him, supported him and left us to fend for ourselves.

I wanted to write about his funeral, how his widow has already picked his replacement and what the world is like without him. I wanted to go on about my mother’s behavior during the funeral and Linda’s apparent need to vent and Arianna’s desire to pretend that we were a happy family. And I mostly wanted to write about Juan’s reaction to the death. This is the second death in our immediate family he’s survived, and I don’t know how he’s taking it.

But I can’t. I don’t want to get wrapped up in the family politics again. I don’t want to be that person. So I’m going to let his death go and not write about it again. At least for now.


In my version of Hell, the world collapses around me because I made a wrong choice.

I’m not talking about a bad choice, something obvious or self-destructive, just the wrong choice. And I’m left standing there, wondering how to undo something that can’t be undone; trying to make things right.

That’s _my_ version of Hell.

This image of the worst possible scenario has become very clear in my mind. So clear, in fact, that I am left paralyzed, unable and unwilling to make big decisions. So strong that the very idea that I’ll be in a situation where I’ll have to make decisions that directly or indirectly affect others is frightening. I just can’t do it. I don’t want to deal with it.

I can’t make you understand this fear if you don’t understand where it comes from. I am the head of household in so many ways. It’s not just the money. I am the anchor, the central point, the responsible party, the adult. {{When did I get to be the adult?}} I provide for others. It’s just the way it is.

If I make a wrong turn, I take the others with me. I don’t have the luxury of being able to shrug it off and start again. I have to get it right because I have no margin for error. No parents to bail me out. No siblings to help in case of emergency. I help them, not the other way around. What would I do if I allowed myself to get into a situation where I needed them? That fiasco early this year when I was forced to buy the first car I could get my hands on proves that I can’t count on my sisters for long.

Arianna spent some of the summer being very generous. But then, spending money was always her thing. It makes her happy to spend money. It makes her happier to spend money when no one else has any. I knew, however, that it wouldn’t last. And now she’s broke, earning a substitute teacher’s salary as a last-year student teacher and bitching and moaning about the workload. She’s quitting her weekend job, after just 8 weeks of enduring it. I worked there for more than a year and a half, giving up my weekends for financial security (being able to pay the rent) and she can’t handle a few months. And I don’t really disagree with her on how hard it is to work 7 days a week, it’s just that without that extra money I worry that she’s not going to be able to pay for her portion of the rent. _That_ worries me a lot.

When I quit my weekend job I was counting on a lot of things going my way, which they haven’t, boys and girls, as I’ve already said over and over. The interview with the City of Houston office came out of nowhere. I knew that sometime this year I would have to start looking for a job, I just wasn’t ready yet. But here I was being summoned to an interview for a job that is several steps up the ladder, high profile and would probably do wonders for my career path. And all I can think about is how “unsafe” the job is. All I can think about are all the reasons why I shouldn’t even consider taking this job. All I can think about is every single way this could go wrong and how that would impact my family.

Look how boring I’ve become. {{frown}} I used to race my car down deserted highways against cute boys with lots to prove. I snuck into the house by climbing to the second-story porch in a dress and nylons more times than I can remember. I instigated a school walkout twice during my infamous high school career. I cut my teeth on rum and coke and bad boys while remembering to turn in my homework and show up for work and making sure that I never got into too much trouble because, quite frankly, I almost never got caught doing anything wrong. It was fun.

Today I strive for safe. I want money in my bank account, something that hasn’t happened yet. I want my family to be secure. I want to know that my little brother will be able to go to college without killing himself to pay for it. I want to make sure that my mother hasn’t been completely destroyed by my father. I want to make sure that my father doesn’t die alone and abandoned. I want to see Arianna settled with some nice guy so I can stop anticipating her bringing home another one of her fixer-upper losers. I want Linda and her husband to come to some sort of truce before they kill each other, mostly because I want to see the kids happy.

Notice that I didn’t ask for happy or successful or fun for myself. I do that a lot these days — forget about what I need and want. Five years ago I would have killed for this job with the City of Houston office. From a public relations standpoint, the job is a dream. Not so much media relations as marketing communications. And I know that I can do it. But I cannot get past the Maria stumbling block… you know, the desire to be a good daughter that makes everything else fade into nothing.

The university is going to counter-offer the city job. I still haven’t received my formal offer letter from the city, and that’s making me nervous. The university won’t talk about anything until I receive a formal offer. And I’ve been waiting since last Friday for my offer letter. The worst-case scenario is that the city doesn’t give me a formal offer and the university isn’t forced to pay me any more than I’m making now. (I don’t think that will happen because the Human Resources woman called me last Friday to tell me that I was selected for the position and she’d contact me this week to discuss salary and to make a formal offer.) The second worst scenario is that the city doesn’t meet my salary demands and I don’t go there. But it’s not a completely bad thing because I can take their lower-than-I’d-like salary offer and force the university to at least match it. That would give me a nice raise for the same job. Another scenario is that the city does meet my salary demands, but the university can’t come close. Then I’d be forced to leave no matter what. The best scenario I can come up with is that the city offers me something in the range I’m looking for and the university counters with at least the same.

Can you tell that I’m rooting for the university? Maybe I should be looking to leave no matter what the money, like Arianna told me. But I like it here, despite my frequent complaints. And I’d feel a lot safer working here than at the City of Houston office.

Safe. There’s that word again.

Well, anyway, I’ll let you know what happens.

Hasta la próxima!

keeping mother happy

I should have mentioned, I think, how happy my mother was yesterday when we went on our shopping spree. I never go shopping, as I mentioned before. So she never get to go with me. She always goes with Arianna, who loves to shop more than life itself. Arianna has a closet full of clothes with the store tags still on them. Clothes she buys for the sheer joy of buying, because she can, and she never goes shopping alone.

So my mother was very pleased to be able to hand me clothes over and under the dressing room door and watch me twirl around and show her what they looked like. She laughed at me because I was regretting buying so much, spending so much money. Buyer’s remorse is not a family trait. And she reassured me that I did the right thing in making the purchases.

I hope she’s right. Even though I wore my first outfit today, I’m still uncertain that I did the right thing. And with money that I shouldn’t have spent anyway.


I’ll move onto another topic when I have more money. I promise.


I should know better than to go shopping. I really should. Apparently I don’t, though.

I’ve put on at least 15 pounds in the last year. Well, actually, it’s about 20. I know why, mostly because I’ve let myself use food for comfort and I’m sure that some psychologist somewhere can tell me all the psychobabble about why I do that and know to stop it. And if I could afford a therapist, I’m sure that I wold be cured or something. Since I can’t, I allow myself to cling to the idea that I’m going to… gasp!… diet and lose the weight. Which, of course, I haven’t. Which means that a lot of my clothes no longer fit. And since I haven’t had money, don’t have money, I haven’t gone shopping.

My mother and sisters gave me shopping money for my birthday. And I went, and I spent, and I overspent. I ended up footing about $300 of my own money on new clothes. Pants and skirts and blouses, oh my! It’s just my luck that when I have the least amount of money to spare, I find everything in my size. Isn’t that just the way it goes? So I bought it. Everything my heart desired. Everything I liked, everything that I thought I might have some use for, everything I tried on that fit (pretty much).

So now I have a nice wardrobe, but owe even more money.

When I quit my weekend job, I knew that I would be losing cash in the short-term, but I thought that my freelance business would pick up. And it hasn’t. Money isn’t coming in, and I’m spending it like there’s no tomorrow.

I really wish that I’d learned how to save money, be frugal, responsible with cash. But that’s one of those things that I just never conquered and still I try.

Any suggestions?

And worrying about money isn’t doing my food problem any good. The only good thing is that I gain weight evenly, so my bust size and waist size and hips increase at the same rate. So it still looks like I have a figure. (Yes, I am vain enough that that worries me.) And the other good thing is that there isn’t anybody to please right now. If I had to worry about what my significant other was thinking right now too, I don’t think I’d make it.

Hmmmm. At least I have all these nice clothes to keep me happy while I worry.

Image source: Andi_Graf / Pixabay

today is my birthday

The things I wanted for my birthday had nothing to do with presents. I wanted a dinner with my family that didn’t erupt into world war three. I wanted a day of peace and tranquility. I wanted some nice fuzzy warm memories.

Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

The day started out with Arianna treating me to breakfast. I’m a breakfast person. I prefer breakfast to any other meal in the day. Ironic, really, when I so seldom take the time to actually eat breakfast these days. More times than not I end up with two cups of coffee at work on an empty stomach. And when I do end up having the typical eggs-and-sausage breakfast, it’s usually for dinner or something. God bless IHOP and all those other 24-hour places that serve breakfast all the time.

Anyway… Arianna treated me to breakfast. Because this is her student teaching year, she had to take a weekend job to make ends meet. She was really lucky, she doesn’t have to do her student teaching for free the way most teachers do. She signed up through a program at Pasadena Independent School District that pays her the same rate as a substitute teacher; the district pays for her tuition and books, and she has a job ready and waiting when she graduates. She only has to commit to work for PISD for as many years as she was in the Teachers In Training program, and that’s going to be one year. Even so, it’s less money than she was making working as a fund-raiser for the American Heart Association – much less money – so money is tight. And little sister has a weekend job.

What all this means is that she wasn’t available all day Saturday and Sunday to make a big fuss over my birthday, as she would if she could’ve. Arianna is the one that loves celebrations, loves to make things bigger than they have to be, loves to orchestrate things to perfection. I’m kind of glad that she didn’t have the time to do that this year. It occasionally takes the fun out of the party. So she couldn’t celebrate with me all day, so she took me to breakfast before work.

It seems that the theme for my birthday this year is “See how much you can eat.” Breakfast was a buffet that tempted me into eating more than I should have, more than I thought I could after overindulging yesterday. Mother wasn’t feeling well, so she didn’t go with us. So it was just little sister, little brother and me. And lots and lots of food.

I’m always amazed at how food defines celebrations. The birthday cake was a tiramisu cake ordered from the local bakery. Arianna hates to get plain white or cream cake for birthdays, so we always end up with tres leches or Boston crème or white chocolate. The cake is important. The food is important. My birthday dinner consisted of takeout Italian food with all the trimmings: garlic bread, salad, hot seafood spread, lasagna, fettuccine, capellini and other stuff. Yummy.

Birthdays are fun, when you’re in the mood.