Learn A Thing Or Two From The Tourist

If you’re a New Yorker like myself, or really any city dweller will do, you’ll notice that your friendly neighborhood tourists all have something in common. Other than cladding themselves in the usual fanny pack, sun visor and DSLR camera, they seem to have a propensity to come to a full stop and..well, LOOK UP. They look up. They are always looking up. Regardless of the usual annoyance, eye roll, or sidewalk rage this causes to the speedy pedestrian, it will certainly never deter or discourage any tourist to feast their eyes upon the glory that is our high-rises. They tune out the hustle and bustle surrounding them all but for a chance to take it all in. Rubbernecking along every street and avenue admiring these impressive pillars of brick and mortar.

But what happens when your every Monday through Friday is congested with concrete and scaffolding? When you have every architectural detail already burnt in to your memory? Sadly, many of us stop looking up after the acclimation and admiration period has come and gone. I’m 45 years old, traveling in to the city on a daily basis since I was 18, and well, you do the math (in case you hate receiving random math challenges like myself, that’s 27 years).

In our busy, focused lives we forget the spectacle that may be hovering just above us. My husband is an architect and he has passionately pointed out how most people will never feel the need to admire the beauty of a ceiling when sitting at a restaurant. Many modern-day designers even forgo the importance of this forgotten “wall”; a lost opportunity to express creative beauty. What if the Romans neglected this blank space for additional expression? The Sistine Chapel or The Pantheon would not be the completed masterpieces as we know them to be.

For the past six years I have lived in the suburbs of central New Jersey and still traveling in and out of NYC. I don’t think it’s possible to completely wean yourself from city behavior when you are there for most part of the day, the week, the month, oh boy, for most part of the year.

But when I stepped off the bus on Friday ready for the weekend, on my schlep to the car I was greeted with the most amazing view ever. Although I have trekked this same path for six years, Friday’s sky was hard to miss. And just like that! I became a tourist in my own town. I came to a full stop and….. I LOOKED UP! Up and out across the wide open space. There was poetry and art in the sky. The layers and layers of clouds climbing over each other for front row presentation to its viewer below. The sun they were trying to conceal beamed light so intense it created depth and alternating shadows between them. There were details and curves and movement. The sky was powerful and yet cottony soft. It declared an upcoming storm, and yet whispered beautiful nothings to me.

I was compelled to share the moment. After I peeled my eyes from the canvas above, I texted my son.

“When you step off that bus…make sure to look up at the sky and see how beautiful the clouds look. See how artistically fascinating they can be. Notice the details, how the light behind them is creating depth and layers. Yeah, that’s it. I looked up and I don’t want you to miss out.”

I then picked up the two younger boys and before they jumped in to the car I made them stop. I pointed up and asked them as many questions about the sky that evening that would force them to see as much of what I was seeing and hopefully feel a bit of what I was feeling.

I wish I had texted you too. I didn’t take a picture because the phone lens would not have done it any justice. Wish I had that DSLR though. Just remember to stop and always look up. You’ll thank me later.

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

 

At 58 Madonna Is Still My Material Girl

Have you ever experienced a moment that slapped you straight in to reality? A moment of self-awareness so sudden that you didn’t realize you had even stopped breathing? A jaw-dropping run-of-the-mill fact that sent you in to momentary denial? I’m sure you have quite the story to tell and I would love to hear all about it over some coffee someday.

But mine was at 6:30 this morning and I’m still feeling the effects. I was in the car driving the hubby and myself to the bus stop. Of course I was driving. When am I NOT driving? Either way, I had the radio tuned in to the Z-Morning Zoo show with Elvis Duran and the gang. Love them. And then IT happened. They read off their routine daily celebrity birthday list. Who cares, right? And I normally wouldn’t care. No big deal. We all have one of those.

But today, TODAY, this year… Madonna turned 58. 58! Fifty-eight!!! My reaction? If you didn’t already guess, I hope I’ve captured the essence of the moment here… First, an instantaneous gasp. Next, with my mouth still open I furrow my brows in disbelief. Then I let out the following… “What? What?! No way! Noooo! She can’t be 58. No! She’s 58? No! Ughhh! Damn it honey! (As I look at the hubby and I hit the steering wheel and laugh. He’s also laughing. I continue, as I’m somewhat pouting in the process) My goodness (as I shake my head side to side and my shoulders drop and my posture slumps), she’s f’ing 58! You know what this means Hun? (as I resume a high pitch) Do you?! I’m going to be 58 soon. Yeah, it’s coming and it’s coming quick. That’s going to be me. Arghhhh!!! It just got real here. Damn it!”.

A comical moment for sure. And even more comical for the spectator of this mini morning breakdown. Here’s the thing…she was my Virgin and Material Girl. She nudged me to Express Yourself. I’d daydream of being someone’s Lucky Star. I pictured myself on La Isla Bonita. My heartstrings tugged for Papa Don’t Preach. I crossed the Borderline. Felt like everyday was a Holiday. I’d fall to my knees and bellow out Like A Prayer and practiced in front of a mirror how to Vogue.

For 30 years her music made me dance like no one was watching. For 30 years her continuous transformations proved that we can always change in to better versions of our prior selves. She was never afraid to say what was on her mind. She fought for what she believed in and she took risks to reach her goals. And during all this time, she seemed to embrace a youthful spirit despite the years darting by.

But this number, 58, was just a reminder that I have to get moving. I have to hustle to enjoy and experience all that I could. That I have goals I still want to reach. I will not waste my time on other people’s drama or expectations of what I should be. That I can’t waste time thinking there is always enough time. Because time rushes by, and my 45 today will be my 58 tomorrow. I will continue to be strong, fearless and fight for what I want until then. I will continue to enjoy even the little things.  I will both laugh and cry with unparalleled emotion. I will enjoy life, people and what this earth has to offer. I will live, sing and dance like no one AND everyone is watching, shouldn’t matter.

And I will always remember that “Poor is the man (or woman) whose pleasures depend on the permission of another” — Justify My Love.

— The Pretty Platform

It’s Getting Loud Up Here In My Head!


My thoughts are like unplanned and uninvited guests.  They usually pop in when I’m on my own during a relaxing drive. For some people it’s a stroll through the park as they contemplate the sights and sounds of nature. For others it may be a long soak in the tub as the lit wick of a candle dances in the dimness of the room. Sure, those seem to be an open door policy as well, but given that I find myself driving everyday to and fro from the daycare, during that daily hour it can get very busy and noisy up in my head. Personally, I dread the To-Do list thoughts like home repairs or shopping for back to school supplies. I prefer to shove those out and jot them down on paper to keep them from pacing around in my head. Then there are the thoughts that if allowed to put its feet up and stay awhile can be quite enlightening. On Friday, during my usual drive, a humorous and somewhat questionable bit of advice handed to me way back in my 20’s opened the door and walked right in. It caused not only a chuckle to escape, but it seemed to be an open call to many other pieces of advice I’ve received in my lifetime. From the profound to the useless. People will gratuitously provide us with information that we can consider either genius or just plain stupid, having acquired it from either tradition or experience. Many have stayed with me throughout the years. Some I’ll keep alive, while others I’ll make sure to keep buried forever.

Here are some I’m willing to share with the world. Some may be equally helpful to you as they were for me, while others just provide simple entertainment. Please share some of your lifetime favorites at the end of this post. My door is always open to good, weird, funny but effective advice.

From my Mother…

 

  1. At the young age of 20, I was about to be married and I was a virgin. The night before my wedding, my mother who had never spoken to me about sex which means I never received “The Talk”, had now offered up the following…. (original advice was given in Spanish) … “Make sure to have either tissues, wet wipes or a hand towel on your nightstand since having sex can get messy and you may be too tired to go wash up”. She told me to trust her. Yuck! Was this my “Talk”? Unfortunately I had nowhere to hide.
  2. “A sincere smile is the best beauty tool you’ll ever own”.
  3. “Don’t accept anything anyone tells you as truth. Always ask for proof”. I wish I had taken this bit of advice early on in my life.
  4. “Let go of the negative stuff and hold on tight to the positive”.
  5. “Don’t wash your hair everyday. It’ll dry it out”.
  6. “Sit up straight”.
  7. “Beware of men that feel a need to sell themselves like a used car salesman. Beware of men that remind you how great they are or how lucky you are to be with them. Let their actions speak for their true nature”.

 

From my Aunt…

 

  1. “Never lend out money to family or friends without a written and signed contract”.
  2. “Never invest in a brand new car. A used car does the job just fine”.
  3. “Forget the rainy day. Save, save, save, for when the storm comes”.
  4. “Hire a lawyer to settle your ownership of your house”. This one proved to be my saving grace.
  5. “Don’t judge others if you want to be accepted as you are”.
  6. “Take care of yourself first so you can then take care of others”.

 

From my Boss…

 

  1. “If you want something done immediately make sure to NEVER use the term ASAP”.
  2. “Go home. You can finish this tomorrow”.

 

From my Husband…

 

  1. “Who cares what others think. Be yourself. To the hell with everyone else”.
  2. “Find what you love to do and do it”. This replayed in my head a million times, then this blog was born.
  3. “Stop cleaning and relax”. Yeah right!
  4. To an article I asked him to critique before I posted it up… “It’s good, but not great”. This always pushes me to strive for great.
  5. “These shoes would look great on you”. I bought the shoes.
  6. “Never stop learning”.

 

From an ex-boyfriend…

 

  1. “Let him speak first. Wait your turn without interruption. Then you can go in for the kill with all information in hand”. His advice to me when I had to go to a child custody court hearing.

 

From a total stranger…

 

  1.  “I can tell by looking at you that you are NOT completely Puerto Rican. Go research your ancestry”. I’ll be doing a DNA test soon for my ancestry percentages, but this stranger was right after I did some digging. I’ll share the results after I complete the test.

 

From a friend…

 

  1. “Keep writing”. So simple but exactly what I needed to hear.
  2. “Rub the steering wheel twice around to the left, once around to the right and ask the Parking God to guide us to a spot, and now go straight. Trust me.”. I laughed but humored her. Then screamed when there was a spot waiting for us instantly. Take note we were driving around for quite some time and just wanted to get on the beach. Hysterical, eerie and weird!

 

From my seven-year old…

 

  1.  “Mommy, you need to brush your teeth. Your breath smells bad”. I had coffee breath. Kids are brutally honest.

 

Now how can I go on after THAT?! Share some of yours below.

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Son’s Open-Heart Surgical Scar Reminds Me Of…

Would you say that you are one of the many people today that lean heavily on the statement… “everything happens for a reason”, especially after an emotional event? Attaching a meaning to a traumatic moment seems to help many cope with the shock that trickles in quickly thereafter. Although I could empathize with this very “protective” behavior, I do not believe the mainstream superstition behind this claim. But I will admit that I have an ability to work out a lesson nonetheless; a “what’s the moral to this story” from almost anything that has occurred in my life. We can all thank our favorite childhood fables like The Boy that Cried Wolf or Little Red Riding Hood for instilling that useful habit. After each relationship, I’ve learned how to make better partner options. After each uncomfortable call with a debt collector, I’ve learned better budgeting skills. After each medical scare I’ve learned how to take better care of myself. Even after burning toast a few times, I get to “know the settings” of each new toaster allowing me to achieve a perfectly golden brown slice. Aside from the toast, these experiences have provided very valuable lessons that have changed my life … although my oldest toast-lovin’ son will beg to differ on the latter. He says I make the best buttered toast. Now there’s an accolade you don’t often come across.

I’m very comforted by the fact that I personally bear the control to draw out the lesson (or lessons) from all that happens, and NOT that every event was set, destined or allowed to happen to provide me with a lesson or test.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine IF for just one second I was wrong.

My youngest son who is to turn 4 in a few months comes to mind. Some know my experience with him, but I’ll fill you in. When I was about 6 months pregnant, my munchkin was diagnosed with TGA (Transposition of the Great Arteries). In a nutshell, a fluke in his arteries. They were flipped from their normal position. Simply put… he could survive “normally” inside of me since I was breathing for him, but he would not survive in the real world without having to undergo open heart surgery for an arterial switch immediately after being born.  We had already gone through 2 rounds of IVF to create him, now we had to keep him alive.

When I look back at the moment I shared the medical news with others, an outpouring of emotional suggestions came with it. Pray to god was the most popular. Pray to Jehovah for strength and comfort. Some even went as far to assure me that “everything will be alright”. There were other reminders sent my way… “Jehovah doesn’t abandon those that serve him” and “God does not test us beyond what we can handle”.

We set out for the best surgeon for this procedure. We carried on until the memorable day that my son came in to this world. I couldn’t even touch his newborn skin since they had to rush him away to get him hooked up to a breathing tube and stabilize him. I saw him for only 2 seconds then I was left in that room, alone, to contemplate all that had happened to lead up to this moment and to meditate on all that we would about to experience.

Fast forward … my son survived it, and so did we. So, does that mean that everyone was right? Everything WAS going to be alright? God did not abandon us? He gave us the strength needed?

What lessons did I make sure to pull from this experience?

  1. If what others or what the bible teaches is correct, I would have to rest on the fact that God had tested us. He tested us with the life of an unborn child. An innocent baby. A human life. Sure, it wasn’t beyond what I could handle, but it does not minimize the lack of moral standing of testing someone with the life of another.
  2. I gained strength in the love I had for my son. I gained strength as all parents do when it means having to protect their young. We had insisted on creating him, no way we were giving up now.
  3. Prayer did not help save my son. A cardiologist that detected the condition early on did. A team of doctors that came together. A surgeon did. His skill and experience in this procedure gave my son a chance of survival. And a blood transfusion is what sealed that deal. Even though the surgery itself was a success, a child that small and new could not generate enough blood on his own to bring up his levels. And according to the religious organization I once belonged to, that action in itself is going against god, so obviously, god did not save my son, nor was god with us.
  4. That morality and a sense to do good and what’s right comes from within and from logical thought. Not through the hundreds of different teachings and beliefs in the world.

Seeing my son’s scar is a constant reminder to live, to explore, to learn and to grow. And saving my son’s life was the moral thing to do, the right thing to do, the human and loving thing to do. And how dare anyone try to tell me or guilt me in to thinking otherwise.

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

I Questioned my fear… and I learned from it

I’ve made many changes this year. Due to that, as of late, I’ve been taking advantage of every moment of silence to pull apart the inner depths of who I am, what I want and how to reach my goals. On the bus to and fro from the NY office, there are days I never get around to opening the book I’m reading. As I drive to the daycare, I rather listen to my own thoughts than blast the radio to the sounds of Adele. And say what you’d like, but on our way back home, to allow for my moments of meditation, I equip the boys with their own tablets and headphones. Everyone is happy and to cover my parental bases, I make sure to ask them about their day as I’m tucking them in to bed at night.

These moments when I’m deep inside my head, despite the amount of people and commotion that surround me can be enlightening or filled with anxiety, many times both. I have not yet found a way to take up residence in the confines of my mind and not have an emotion emerge from the experience. Positive or negative though, it’s quite educational.

One emotion that had surfaced some time ago was fear.  Traveling in to your own head and heart can be a scary thing.  I had to quickly sort out exactly where it was stemming from and learn how to combat it. This required more thought, more meditation, and it was time to use my analytical skills.  I had to walk down that stereotypical path of “facing my fears”. I made sure to question everything to help understand everything. I summoned up the basics I learned back when I was in school and found that using the five W’s was useful at a moment like this.

Below are a few of the questions I found needed resolution (not all are included since this brain was on constant overload). Personally, I found it helpful to write these down in a journal for the occasional reference.

 

Who?

Who am I, for real, deep down, without filter, without guilt, without imposed expectations? Who do I want to be? Who’s supportive of my life and decisions? Who’s a true friend? Who can I count on, eyes closed and heart open? Who’s been there through it all without judgement?

What?

What do I expect of myself and others? What positive things do others bring in to my life? What drama and negativity do I need to avoid? What am I so concerned about? What purpose do I want to fulfill, not what others or an organization expect me to fulfill? What makes me happy? What have I learned from this experience?

When?

When did this all begin? Was the timing of my changes right for me and my family? When do I want to take a stand against negative folks and negative talk? When will I say “enough is enough”? When will I give everyone else that bring nothing to my table the finger?

Where?

Where do I place those that have turned their backs on me as far as importance in my life? Where do I see them in the future? Will their absence truly matter? Am I in a better place without them?

Why?

Why was this bothering me? Why are they behaving this way? Why does it matter? Why do others that claim to be good people find justification to treat others so poorly? Why did I need to make the changes in my life despite the risks?

How?

For journalistic integrity, I instinctively kept in the How as well. This part was definitely essential…. How do I move forward? How do I close the door on the ugly and open the door to a brighter me? How do I release the fear of losing some people, or being judged or shunned? How do I accept the inevitable?

 

After I answered all of the above honestly I realized that the people I was so concerned about were not in my life when I was at my happiest or when I was most in need. They were not there to contribute one iota to my goals, they were not there when I got married, they were not there when I was caring for my ailing mother. They either provided superficial support when my youngest son needed open heart surgery or they weren’t there at all. Plus they didn’t care to understand my changes by asking questions or showing interest.

I realized that the reason stepping deep in to my brain and heart was so scary was because they were taken hostage for so long by the organization I belonged to. My thoughts and heart needed to belong to their teachings. If I veered from that, even in the slightest I would lose everyone that was part of my social circle, my children would lose their so called friends, my religious family would easily turn their backs on us all. And in the process I had to forget who I was, who I truly was, forget who my children could be and mold in to their expectations. But we all grow up some time. Just as children need to leave the nest and find a great big wonderful world out there filled with adventure and information and make it on their own, at 44 I finally grew up and away from the trapped expectations of others.

What I once feared losing is what I now fear being a part of. May they too find their true selves one day.

 

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m No Makeup Artist but I Do Know Art When I See It

I love the artistic world and Big O and I do our best to immerse ourselves and the kids in it. I love expressing myself through my writing and painting. Big O also writes and plays the violin and is now teaching himself the guitar (electrical guitar and it’s driving me crazy). The 18-year-old developed a love for writing and is studying Graphic Design. The jury is out on the two little ones, but if I have to put money on it, they’ll follow suit.

The artistic culture is continuously expanding and comes in various forms, be it through painting, words, music or performance. Artists will use their imagination or skill to express their views of the world or to declare who they are through it. And if you practice any kind of art you will agree that it’s a consuming and thrilling thing to create AND feel, regardless of all the critics you may encounter.

And boy, is this world filled with critics!!! I’m not speaking of those that have mastered an artistry and qualify somewhat to apply their professional opinion, and at the end of the day, that’s all it is, an opinion. Why? Because art is SELF-expression. It might appeal to some but not to all, and for the artist this is absolutely acceptable.

One art form in particular has been under heavy artillery lately by practically…well, the whole world. All sorts of folks have been launching missiles and blasting out cannon sized comments with the intent to hurt, damage and put these artists out of business. These artists under fire are the new wave of Makeup Artists that have hit the ground running. When I was a kid in the 70’s/80’s, the only cosmetologist I knew was my mother. She studied it along with hair and the only running joke back then on this career choice was the Grease musical performance “Beauty School Dropout”. Makeup has definitely come a long, long way since then. With FB, IG and YT tutorials we find ourselves exposed to the many people out there that have found pleasure in this art form. From the beginner and self-taught to the seasoned and educated artist. From personal beauty to theatrical artistry, the videos I have come across are endless. They contour, enhance and coverup scars, these skilled individuals are like magicians. Some do it to help others, some for fun, and some for imaginative application. And yes, as with other mastery, there are those that are complete frauds and mislead by using insane and dangerous practices to achieve the unattainable. Go ahead an insult the obvious con-artist, but careful to not judge the others based on YOUR personal preference. 

Honestly, I don’t use much makeup, I don’t even own much of it. (Thanks to some girlfriends, I finally own a high-end red lip pencil). Today, it took me literally 3 minutes to apply my makeup on the bus on my way to work. (Yes, I timed it for the sake of this article). Just because I don’t like using the product much, doesn’t mean that the art is up for judgement. Everyone talks about accepting yourself as the reason to discourage this art form. And as much as some of you don’t want to agree or understand, makeup is something many people actually do love. THIS is who they are, and should we not accept that as well? So what if they look like someone else once they remove all their makeup. It’s JUST their face. Who they are in the inside is still the same. The same can be applied to clothing and shoes and jewelry. You wear it because you love it. And once you take it off, you’re still the same person.

And for you guys….please, if you can’t notice that a woman has makeup on, then the problem is you, not them.  

To all you makeup artists out there. I applaud your art, I am amazed by your skill, and I will continue to delight in watching the transformations created by your steady hands and keen eye. May you continue to practice and grow as the true artist that you are or are meant to be. 

Much love and respect… from one artist to another.

— The Pretty Platform

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Fear Life… Not GOD

When we’re kids, the norm is to be taught by our parents with regards to what’s right and wrong. Along with that, teachers seem to also have a hand in how our psyche evolves toward these two elements given how much time we spend under their influence. I’m no doctor, but I was definitely a kid, and as kids, we are vulnerable and modifiable to the standards by which we are raised.

Right or wrong. Yes or no. Stop or go. If you’re a kid, you hear these CONSTANTLY. As an adult, you hand these out like hotcakes to your own kids.

And with these standards come the dreaded consequences. A smack to the hand, a timeout, no gadget time, parental disappointment. Temporary stings that adults hope will be enough to teach these little people cause and effect.

What happens though when you’re all grown up?

In most cases knowing the difference between right and wrong can be simple. It can be logical, so as long as the adult, for argument sake is of sane mind and emotion. As for the scenarios where the line between the two get a little fuzzy, for the most part, it’s an ethical stand that begins to trump logic. But the logical aspect of even those blurred moments still hold the foundation of the argument in question. “Sure, it’s still wrong to (kill, cheat, steal)… although (A, B or C, fill in the blank with self-defense, true love, poverty)“.

And what is our punishment as adults for these infractions? Again, logic comes in to play here. If the offense is one against a set governmental law then we get court time to be then handed our sentence accordingly. Not difficult folks. Depending what that judge and jury dishes out, the “sting” can be either temporary or fatal.

Cause and effect.

Now take the two; childhood and adulthood and add the FEAR OF GOD to the equation. What happens then? Does it change anything? Does it change people? Without thinking it through, you may instantly say that it does, but I can tell you with all certainty that it does NOT change a thing. Don’t be too quick to get offended. My statement is not one of blasphemous or critical nature. That’s just reality.

Growing up, as many other kids, I was initially taught about a heaven and hell. An eternal hell-fire that waits for anyone, man or child if disobedient to god. A place of torture as the ramifications of going against his written rules. Other religions do not teach about this place of torture, but it does provide eternal death as the consequence. Long term punishment. From a higher being. Your creator gives you life and he can easily take it away or make you pay forever.

Cause and effect.

What I have noticed is that the knowledge of someone more powerful than yourself does NOT deter someone from taking a certain path. Knowing the possible consequence of a Hell or eternal death is not enough. Even those that are “god fearing” do not take this as their foundation of determination. I was raised in two different religious organizations, and although they are filled with some very spiritually righteous people, they are also filled with the spiritual inversion of that. Sure, you find that everywhere in the world, but my point though is that being closer to god, or neck-deep in religious activities, or truly believing in a god does not change your desire to act differently. People don’t truly fear god. If they did, they wouldn’t  “serve” god and sleep with someone before being married. If they truly feared god, they wouldn’t smoke. If they truly feared god, they wouldn’t gamble, or swear, or get inebriated or secretly celebrate events that are against their organization. They wouldn’t consult psychics, masturbate or watch porn. They wouldn’t allow women to teach (I understand your reaction to this last one, but hey, it’s actually in the bible). They wouldn’t try to justify their actions with their “imperfect” ideas. They wouldn’t minimize their god’s standards with human reasoning. They just don’t fear god.

What have I seen though? That many of these very same people (myself included) do actually fear, but it’s life and the consequence their actions have in ‘learned’ effects that they (we) fear. Smoking can equal cancer and other ugly and painful health issues. Constant inebriation can lead to alcoholism, blackouts, cheating. Sleeping around can lead to diminished dignity, disease, unplanned pregnancy. Cheating will most likely lead to a broken family, lost trust, and in many cases violence (a partner scorned is a dangerous thing). Drugs can lead to brain, heart and organ damage along with crime, violence and even death. The smaller stuff like swearing like a truck driver is usually perceived as unprofessional (although I occasionally curse too).

As a kid, I watched my nephew, who I adored make some very bad decisions in life. And with those decisions came a life that I definitely did NOT want anything to do with. So with each of his actions, I did the complete opposite. We used to joke around how he paved the path for me and my “better” life. He used to claim all the credit as to why I avoided the “expected” life of a young Hispanic girl being raised by a single mom in the hood. We joked about it… but it was entirely true. His life became unnecessarily difficult, lonely and dangerous. I FEARED his life although I was taught to fear god.

More kids today need to be exposed to this unwanted life, to the reality of a decisions outcome within their lifetime. Kids and teens alike need to understand, up front, in their face what can happen to people when they make the wrong decisions. Not through a TV screened commercial. Not through a FB article on their phone. Not through a YouTube video. And certainly not through a supposed “on paper” teaching of a torturous flamed destination.

Will this help with everyone? No, but it will up your chances as a parent to avoid heartache if your child feared real consequences. If they truly learn and grasp other people’s suffered consequences. If they see where they can land in life, and talk to the people best suited to tell them the truth. As a parent you can find the best way to do this for your child, but take it from this chick…. without that type of exposure, I’m not sure how much I would have truly feared.

And for THAT, although saddened for my nephew (who has passed away), I am still grateful for having SEEN his truth.

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

A 40-Somethings “AHA!” Weekend Away

Many times we coast through life blinded to the lessons waiting at the end of each moment. Despite being slighted, they simmer there for as long as it takes us to collect them for later consumption. And it’s a good thing, since allowing a lesson to shift our thoughts for personal growth is only possible when we are good and ready. I’m at a point in my life that I make sure to meditate after each experience to pull as many lessons possible I can from it…you know…for safe keeping. By doing this, I ensure that my experience was both a memorable one as well as purposeful, no matter how small or insignificant the moment seemed.

This weekend was surely a purposeful one. The type of trip that I knew would be an “Eat, Pray, Love” revelation (except not alone) even before it started. So, as I sit here on the plane going through some heavy turbulence, I reflect back on the last couple of days.

This was a well deserved and long overdue trip with my girlfriend of 18 years. Just the two of us away from our respective lives, offices, and families.

  • Friendship: A time to bond, reminisce, uplift, gossip, vent, and laugh. One where we could remember who we were, how far we’ve come, discuss where we both missed the mark and help each other see where we hit the target. A time to catch up and ask questions and realize that sometimes you don’t always know someone as much as you thought. What a beautiful opportunity… to know you could keep learning things about those most important to you. That who you were and who they were 18 years ago, or 10 years ago or even 5 years ago is not the same person in it’s entirety, but that the essence of what has kept our relationship as strong as it has through all these years, is still unquestionably in tact, and we allow these new revelations to keep the friendship fresh and exciting. “How did I not know that” or “did you tell me that and I just forgot” can be common questions among all types of relationships, be it friends, lovers or family. I take what I know, or reminded, or recently learned and embrace the details as another little charm to our friendship bracelet. And who doesn’t love those cute little charms, that create such a sweet sound when mixed all together.

This trip also enlightened me toward…..well, ME!

  • Self: Spending most of your everyday life surrounded by work, husband, kids and home, you usually conclude that the life you lived prior to having all of these things can’t be enjoyed anymore. That going out for drinks in a dark crowded bar with strangers, staying out until “last call”, trying to have a conversation over the ear-splitting sounds of huge subwoofers, does not fit your “lifestyle” anymore. And hence pops up the adage “I’m just too old for that”, which is a stupidly depressing thought. But, it turns out, we weren’t too old for it after all. We pushed through it reminding each other to relive good old “28” again. We didn’t feel out-of-place. We didn’t feel awkward. We looked great, felt great and we had a blast. And despite feeling every achy bone in my body the next day I wouldn’t take back the night before. But…. I’m happy to say that the issues is not that I’m too old for that lifestyle, the enlightening moment is that I don’t WANT to party that way anymore. I don’t really yearn it or miss it. The realization is that I truly like being who I’ve evolved into now in my 40’s, not because I NEED to live this way, but because I enjoy my new self and along with it the interests that have flourished. I love sitting by the lake and taking in my surroundings, I relish in browsing through antique shops with my husband, I look forward to eating out at new restaurants trying different cuisines. I want to go to quaint art exhibits, and book readings, and exploring tucked away towns. I plan fruit picking outings. Search out winery tours.  And finding the perfect cafe that serves gourmet coffee, tea and pastries (none of that typical bakery stuff found on every corner) is like striking gold. And as for you 20-somethings…. just know that you’re never too young for my “lifestyle”.

If I have to pull yet another lesson it will be this…

  • Other folks: Sure, I was the only one that got away from the normal routine of the every day. And yet, Big O and the boys seemed to have benefited as well. I was excited for Big O to have the bed all to himself and allow the room to get as cold as he liked, without me complaining that I was turning in to an icicle and who could live like this. Not to mention the constant nagging I do for him to turn over in hopes to stop the unrelenting snoring that keeps me up all night. I was relieved that the kids had a chance to have an all-boys weekend without mom constantly reminding them to put their pants on, or that the sofa is NOT a trampoline. They all got to live as freely at home as I did in a hotel room. People (even kids) need time away from each other. They need to realize that life is not always about other people being there with you or for you. Another well-known adage “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” is unmistakably accurate. We all need a break from what we know and need time to miss each other (no, not in a Ross and Rachel kind of way). Time-away allows us all to feel connectedly refreshed and renewed. You just may find it heartwarming to be welcomed back home with the cheers, smiles and kisses as if you’d been away for months instead of just 4 days.

Now, on to plan the next getaway!

 

— The Pretty Platform.

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise, Surprise, I Didn’t See THAT Coming!

Things have been hectic lately. Between work, home renovations, the kids and all that they require to survive and thrive, daily chores, spending time with Big O (that’s my husband for those that don’t know) and just trying to be me, life has been a whirlwind of just….stuff….lots of stuff to do. It’s been like this for quite some time, so in the spirit of trying to keep my sanity, for my 45th birthday I treated myself to a trip. A trip away from everything I know to be my normal everyday life. A trip away from the home, away from the chores, away from work of all kinds. A trip away from the husband and kids. Did I forget to mention that there’s a dog too? Yeah, away from her as well. A long overdue trip with my Bestie for a Ladies Only weekend. (I really hate using the term “girls”. It’s a thing with me). In all my planning leading up to today, yes, I’m sitting here at the airport waiting for my flight to be called in about three hours (hey, better safe than sorry), all I could think about was how glorious it’s going to be to sleep in late. How awesome it’s going to be to wake up in the morning and not worry about getting breakfast done for the little ones even before I have time to brush my own teeth. What a treat it’ll be to just sip on some coffee and do whatever the hell I want in the morning, from reading the news to just staring at absolutely nothing while absorbing the peace and quite that surrounds me. And how nice it’ll be to fall asleep in a bed where, well, to put it simply, no one is snoring. This is all I’ve been thinking about for the past month. Daydreaming about these 3.5 days of re-energizing, in a Seven of Nine Borg kind of way.

Counting down to today, last night I had to make sure that any loose ends at home were tended to if I wanted to leave worry free. Tidy up the house even though I knew all too well that the four men in my house will undo all that I’ve done, to just put it all back together right before I get back home. I needed to make a Target run to get the seven year-old an orange shirt since tomorrow the first graders are going to be the orange part of a human rainbow at school for a PBS event. How he didn’t already have an orange shirt in his closest is perplexing. Red, he has about 5 red shirts. Who needs that many red shirts? Iron two cute outfits for the two smallest ones to look presentable for their trip today with Dad for Take Your Kids To Work Day. Yes, Big O bravely ventured to take BOTH boys to the office. I needed to make sure they had snacks, their gadgets plus those life-giving chargers to make today a bit easier for him. I also needed to put together a nighttime routine mommy video for Big O to play for the kids at bedtime. Clearly you can understand why I need to get away for a few days. And wait, I still needed to finish packing.

Kids asleep, loose ends handled, teenager content in his room, dog oh so pleasantly plopped on the bed. Big O settling in to the dining room to do some writing. Then it happened. I didn’t know it was going to happen. It just did. I didn’t really think about it. It’s not like it was festering. But I was suddenly compelled to ask O if he minded to do his writing in the bedroom while I packed. He laughed and asked if I was lonely. No, no, I wasn’t lonely. I hesitated. Then I sheepishly explained that I was going to be gone for three days and although I didn’t think I was going to miss him in all the excitement of my trip, but, well, the thing was, that as crazy as it sounded, and believe you me, I was surprised as well, that I already, at that moment, started to miss him. Can you believe it? He too seemed surprised, pleasantly surprised, big grin on his face surprised, “But you haven’t even left yet”. I know, weird huh? Here’s the thing….Big O is a lot of fun to have around. He jokes around, loves to laugh and is skilled at almost any topic of conversation. He loves life just as much as I do. He’s my friend.

Moral of this story, I was humbled by this sweet, touching moment. Don’t get it twisted though; I’m still happy to be leaving for this short trip. I still look forward to the much-needed “me” time. I believe everyone needs time away. But it reminded me that in between all the chaos of errands and work and chores and kids and husband and dog, there are things that make me truly and deeply happy right there at home. I need to slow down and look past the dust cloud of errands and work and chores, to enjoy more time with the kids and husband and dog. More importantly, this moment reminded me that I don’t necessarily WANT to get away and that in itself is probably the most reassuring thing I NEEDED at this moment.

— The Pretty Platform

 

 

Clean Slate or Closure…Choose Wisely!

This year has been quite an interesting one. My only post of any significance before this one was a quick overview on how 2015 “Hulked” in strong, kicking my ass. At that point I believed, erroneously it seems, that I had met the peak of that figurative roller-coaster and was coming down back to the platform where I’d be able to exit, exhale and put my feet back on to solid ground. Talk about false expectations. Call me delusional. It is now October, and I look back rewinding my thoughts to all the valuable lessons I’ve learned.  I can properly bullet point all the lessons that have made their way in to my life, but I’ll leave that for my year-end review post. Today, I have an insatiable need to speak of one in particular.

Before I actually mention what that it, I refer back to a moment of clarity about ten years ago. I see it now…. my younger self standing at the bedroom closet, trying to calm down after yet another argument with the ex-husband, (I’m sure about something logical to me, but illogical to him, or the other way around. Who knows). I’m exhausted and pained that THIS, ALL OF THIS has become my life. “When will he change?”, are the words that were on a continuous loop in my head, like an annoyingly rooted jingle. “When will he change?”, are the words that I longed to have an answer for. “When will he change?, was the question I wrongly thought needed an answer. If HE changed, then MY life would be easier. If HE changed, then MY life would reap true happiness. And then, true to the word, I had an epiphany. More like I face planted in to what seemed like the solution, with…. another question. Why was I waiting for HIM to change? Why was I allowing MY happiness to be paved by such a negative force? So, I made the only change possible. ME! And so began Clean Slate Brain.

During our lives, many of us become conditioned to believe in the strength and power of a thing called ‘Closure’. I haven’t done the statistical research, but in retrospect many of the women I’ve come across in my lifetime, and lest not forget some men, have held on to this coined term as their key to a happy new start. They are waiting for answers. They are waiting for reasons. They are waiting for someone else to help them put it all behind them, for someone else to validate their next step Waiting for someone else to fix them or “it”.

The term, in the world of psychology, is the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event. I sit here thinking about that one powerful sentence. (Go ahead, reread it. I’ll wait). Doesn’t that make you as sad as it does me?… To think that so many people hold on to the unrealistic expectation that there is ever, ever an absolute emotional “conclusion”? I included an alternate definition below as well. Whether it’s divorce or death or unemployment, all these things mold us and become a part of us, but it’s never fair, and never without consequence. We can’t ever truly discard it. We need to accept and learn to make this so-called experience work FOR us, not against us. And as a determined, assertive, independent woman, I’m also done with the fairy tale ideal that other people or forces are to provide me with the emotional cure so I can move on.

 

closure

 

Back to October 2015. What’s this particular lesson learned? You see, I almost forgot myself, almost lost myself. I allotted others more power than merited. With each passing month, I hoped, prayed and hoped some more and well… nothing! That’s the problem. You can hope all you want, but nothing will come from it, when you put your eggs in to someone else’s basket. So… with that said, I’m once again taking a stance against the unrealistic need for closure and creating a clean slate. A clean slate gives me back the power to live my life to the fullest, without resentment or regret. It allows me to break free. A blank page; one where I get to write my own path, my own adventures and my own reactions to the outcome. No more waiting around for someone else to change or for the right words to be spoken, or for a dragged on discussion to be had. I decide what is in my best interest. I get to choose. Only like that can someone regain the power that was thought to be lost during a difficult time in one’s life.

Repeat after me… “To the hell with closure”.

And just in case you were interested, (and even if you’re not), I’m finally off that damned roller coaster. For now at least.

— Elke

 

2015 Kicked My Ass

Its been practically 3 months since I’ve figuratively put pencil to paper. That wasnt my plan; so far from my original plan. So what happened to my so-called plan?

I clearly remember December of 2014. At this very moment it seems like so long ago. I was in the middle of finishing up a hysterical post about a project my son had completed in one of his classes. At the same time I had all these ideas taking root in my head knowing that 2015 would be a great year for my writing. I felt happy knowing that it was all sorted out perfectly in my mind, both for my creative self as well as for my personal life.

Then… the midnight clock struck loud and hard, welcoming the year that kicked me, and my loved ones swiftly in the ass. While everyone else heard laughter and bells and exchanged kisses…2015 had other plans for me. You’ve heard the saying, “you make plans and god laughs”. Well… I may not be the type to apply that literally but Jeez, the concept of it is definitely on point. While others worked hard to keep to their new positive resolutions, I struggled to even care. All those seemingly rooted ideas wilted away, suffocated by darkness, by sadness, even anger. My brain was loaded, weighed down. 2015 was intent on molding me in to someone I no longer recognized. Into someone I didn’t want to be.

But how do you get away from your own self? Simple… you don’t. You just fake it. You fake it for others and you hope, that all this pretending would convince even your own mind that all is fine. That the ugly moments have passed. That you picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and all is whole again. Well, joke was on me, because that can last only for so long before your own self turns on you. Reminding you that those ugly moments have not been solved, that you truly haven’t picked yourself up, that you are still sitting there planted, ass to floor. Honestly, it felt like i was eternally pms’ing, every… single… day. And as any woman knows, that is the equivalent of….HELL!

So, it is now March 23rd and here I am, finally writing something. Why now? Did something change? An epiphany? A mood changer? I’m recalling a conversation I once had with my niece quite some time ago. Here’s a young woman who has encountered so many roller-coaster loops in her life that she’s developed these suction cups on her feet just so she can adjust regardless what direction life has her facing. When she was much younger though, after many disappointing decisions she asked me how would she know when she’d have to change things up. “When you get sick and tired of the life you have. When you get sick and tired of feeling the same pain. When you can no longer accept the same outcome. That’s when you decide to choose a different path, a different option”. Not sure at this moment how that applies, but it’s what came to mind and it’s a great story.

So, either way, I was ready with my lists, with my goals, my well devised thought out plans. So when 2015 came in like one giant maze with mirrored walls, trapping me in I felt lost. Any direction I faced, I was still staring at myself, and apparently that person in the mirror, nor I had a clue as to what was really wrong. Then recently, from within those walls, as I sat knees to chest in a corner defeated, I overheard an attack on a loved one. Forgetting myself for a moment, I apparently sprang to my feet and took both offense and defense. Instead of trying to find the way out, I just crashed and shattered each mirror as confronted. Sometimes, the way out is right THROUGH the problem. A well needed match under my ass.

Going back to the previous story about my niece, THAT’S the application. I found my other option. Meeting each problem head on, not worrying about the solution, just trying to defeat it regardless of the pieces that fell. I’m humbled to remember that life is more than the way we plan it. True success and achievement is how we adjust to the different paths that come our way and not allowing any of those changes to defeat us. A perfect plan does NOT exist for me.

Looking back at my life, I see that each perfect plan was shifted to force me to recreate myself. And although each of those “shifts” may have caused some sadness, I can say with confidence, that I LOVE how I’ve been able to recreate a new me, a better me, a stronger me, a more substantial open-minded me. It’s still a work in progress, I’m still a work in progress but I’ll take it. Better to progress than to be standing still.

So, here’s to the next 9 months left in 2015. I know with certainty that I’m about to encounter some huge, gravity defying nasty loops. But if love for my family and friends is what lights a match under my ass enough to go head on to it all; and if I’m being shifted to become stronger and more keen to it all, then I’m hopeful that I’ll see myself right in to 2016. And this blog post, being the first of this year, is proof that I just shattered down one of those mirrors. To the hell with bad luck, broken mirrors is just what I need.

— Elke