Author Archives: cindylu

Second Quarter Bookishness

Early in the year I zipped through a couple of books a week. By March I was way ahead of my overall goal for the year (75) and thought I might even get to 100. Then I discovered a jigsaw puzzle app which was quite relaxing but cut in to reading time unless I was listening to an audiobook. Then I found out I got a new job and we started the moving process. Rather than read in the evening I was looking for a place to live, packing and all that fun stuff.

That’s all to say I’m really slowing down, but still making decent progress toward my goal.

Anyway, on to the mini reviews.

FIVE STAR BOOKS

5 Stars 2nd Quarter

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

I was a huge fan of the Veronica Mars TV series. I’m bummed we only got a few seasons before the series was cancelled. You can imagine my excitement when I saw someone mention the Veronica Mars book as one they were reading to fulfill a challenge (book basked on or turned in to a TV show). I downloaded the audiobook narrated by Kristen Bell and loved it. It picks up where the movie leaves off and takes us back to solve the case of some young women who go missing in Neptune during spring break.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I listened to the audiobook for this outlandish story of a Singaporean family and the wealth that I can’t even begin to imagine. The plot centers around Rachel Chu and her boyfriend, Nick Young, two professors living in New York. Rachel knows little about Nick’s family and doesn’t come to find out that he’s part of a secretive old money family in Singapore.

The story is fun even if it’s tough trying to remember who is who in the Young-T’Sien-Cheng family trees. I listened to the audiobook so I didn’t see the family tree until much later.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

It’s easy to see why Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming has earned her so much praise and earned her the 2014 National Book Award. The book is written in autobiographical short poems that all can stand on their own but go well together. It reminded me of The House on Mango Street in that sense. We follow young Jacqueline as her family moves from the South Carolina in a segregated part of town to Brooklyn. The poems are about things like her little brother getting lead poisoning, enjoying summer days in South Carolina and going to Jehova’s Witnesses church services. My only complaint is that I feel the book ended too soon, when Jacqueline is entering her teen years and both the South and North are feeling the affect of the Civil Rights Movement.

FOUR STAR BOOKS

4 Stars 2nd Quarter

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn is an excellent satirical novel following some heroes from the early days of the war in Iraq. Bravo Squad is home for a “Victory Tour”. Most of the action occurs in one day as the men attend a Thanksgiving Day game at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas. While they’re simultaneously treated like heroes, they also know that soon they’ll be sent back to Iraq. It’s billed as the Catch 22 of the Iraq War, but I think it’s much funnier. Granted, I don’t think I finished reading Catch 22.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

I’ve heard parts of Jim Gaffigan’s stand up about being a father. Thus, some sections were repetitive. However, I overall really enjoyed it as someone who currently has a small child. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Gaffigan.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I’m ashamed to admit that Roxane Gay wasn’t really on my social media radar before I started seeing her 2014 books, An Untamed State and Bad Feminist on my radar. Nevertheless, I’m glad I’ve read both her recent fiction and nonfiction. My favorite essays tended to be about pop culture (Sweet Valley High series) and the intersection with issues of race and class. Gay also made me think twice about unlikable main characters and why likability shouldn’t really matter in literature.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro tackles loss in a new way through The Buried Giant set in the England of King Arthur’s time. While I enjoyed the book overall, it was a little bit of a slog. I actually liked it more after hearing the Ishiguro on the Bookworm podcast where he discussed his motivations for writing the novel. I had that “aha, now I see what you were doing there” moment I was too dense to figure out earlier.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July

I didn’t anything about The First Bad Man before reading it, I just expected it to be odd and a bit funny like other Miranda July stories. I liked where the novel went and how it made me think about my own identity shifting in recent years as I became a mother.

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

I never read A Wrinkle In Time as a kid and it was on the list of must reads for 9-14 year-olds. I liked it, but it overall felt too short. Not sure I want to read the whole series.

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty

I’m glad I gave Lianne Moriarty another try after What Alice Forgot which I complained was too long and trying to do too much, even if the premise was interesting. Big Little Lies takes us back to the suburbs of Sydney and focuses on the lives of three women whose children attend the same school. Madeline is aggressive and likes to start fights. She’s fiercely loyal to her best friend, Celeste, and takes Jane, a new, young single mom, under her wing. Everything gets pretty dramatic rather quickly. Considering that it’s about murder and domestic violence, the book is actually rather entertaining.

THREE STAR BOOKS (and one 2)

3 Stars 2nd Quarter

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas Marie-Helene Bertino

All the action in 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas occurs on December 23rd, Christmas Eve Eve. I liked it, but should have probably read the book. There are a number of characters and plots to follow that all come together without feeling forced. Madeleine is a little girl who recently lost her mother to cancer. The neighbors and local business owners look out for her as her father seems too grief stricken to really parent. She has trouble at her Catholic school where her teacher, Sarina Greene, takes pity on her. Then there’s the owner of the club, Lorca, and his group of musicians and family. Overall, it’s an enjoyable story but I was thrown off by the magical realism elements.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

It’s easy to see why The Girl on the Train is on bestseller lists. Read it if you really liked Gone Girl and psychological thrillers with unreliable narrators and characters you find it tough to cheer for.

Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Mr. Kiss and Tell is the second book in the Veronica Mars series. Veronica is hired once again by the owner of the Neptune Grand to find out if the woman who said she was raped by an employee of the hotel is actually telling the truth. Veronica quickly finds that this isn’t just about the rape of one young woman and uncovers a bigger crime. I think I would’ve liked this more if Kristen Bell narrated the audiobook once again.

Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

I really liked the other recent books I’ve read by Ann Patchett, but didn’t love The Patron Saint of Liars. I’ve a read a few books recently about reluctant and absent mothers. Rose Clinton isn’t absent, but she’s definitely got a complicated relationship. The novels begins when she simply drives away from San Diego where she lived with her husband. All she leaves is a note. She goes to St. Elizabeth’s, a home for unwed mothers run by nuns, in a small Kentucky town. While the other women leave St. Elizabeth’s after having their children and giving them up for adoption, Rose stays and continues to work as the cook.

Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins [2 stars]

I needed to read a romance novel for the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. I picked a book that featured protagonists of color. As a plus, it’s set in 1800s California. Mariah Cooper is a young seamstress living with her mom in an east coast city (Philadelphia? I can’t remember). She answers and add asking for a housekeeper placed by the widowed mistress of a ranch in northern California. She quickly gets to work and clashes with Logan Yates, her new boss who also happens to be a very handsome and eligible bachelor. It was okay, but I’m not intrigued enough to read the rest of the books in the series.

On Muerto Mouse, Coco and Haters

Sunday morning political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz joyfully announced via Facebook that he was working on the new Disney Pixar Day of the Dead-themed animated film, Coco.

ESPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I have been sitting on this news, but it’s finally time to let you know that I am on the team creating the new Pixar Day of the Dead movie titled “Coco”. [link]

I responded “Firme,” which is Mexican slang that loosely translates to “cool.”

What I didn’t write was that I was kinda surprised and may have raised an eyebrow or two. I’ve been following Lalo’s art since the ’90s and when I met him him years ago at the Pocho Hour of Power event  I asked him to sign the calendar I bought and took a picture with him. I don’t want to say I’m a fangirl, but I’ve cut out and saved my share of La Cucaracha cartoons over the years.

Lalo’s political cartoons first made me laugh when I saw them in the LA Weekly. He critiqued mainstream Hollywood and racist/xenophobic practices alike.

While some people brought up Muerto Mouse, — more on that — I thought way earlier to Migra Mouse. From Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons on Immigration, a collection of Lalo’s political cartoons:

“Migra Mouse represents the corporate interest of the Walt Disney company, which donated money to then California Governor Pete Wilson’s re-election campaign. Wilson was exploiting the illegal immigration issue in the most divisive way, so I felt it was necessary to point out that wholesome Disney was affiliating itself with Wislon and Proposition 187, a xenophobic state ballot.”

A lot changes in 20 years… or even two years.

In May 2013, Disney made the epic blunder of trying to trademark “Día de los Muertos” in anticipation of the movie. Rightfully, this pissed off Chicanos and Latinos everywhere who were tired of seeing the appropriation of DDLM without respect for its roots. Lalo made Muerto Mouse, a mock poster for the movie, that was quite popular.

With this history, there were some people who were understandably scratching their heads. Like, what gives, man? Lalo explained himself when questioned. The patent attempts were dropped because of the pressure, Disney listened. Isn’t this what we want, greater representation and diversity in mainstream Hollywood? With him as part of the creative team he could to his best to ensure the culture was respected. And, I thought, he’s an artist who has the right to make the best decisions for his career and his family. I’d be a hypocrite if criticized Lalo for making a move to advance his career after just doing that myself by going from a public university of an elite private university. I can’t deny that compensation and career advancement were not part of my decision. Bills don’t pay themselves.

Later that day I saw this come up in my feed.

screengrab3

On Monday morning, Lalo posted this:

screengrab2

Something bothered me about Lalo and others’, namely Gustavo Arellano, response to the critics. It was the abject dismissal of the haters and tying it to an ethnic trait, even if jokingly. Being critical is hardly exclusive to Mexicans. Furthermore, it begs the question. If I share the same background as you, do I have to always approve or like the work you’re doing be it in politics or art? Do white people get accused of crab mentality if they say anything other than “Awesome! Congratulations!”? Perhaps “You are not expected to support culture produced by someone of same race” should be added to Peggy McIntosh’s invisible backpack of white privilege.

And were people really that critical? No!

I went back to Lalo’s initial announcement to see if there was a backlash I missed. The first thing I noticed was that the news got a ton of likes and shares. There’s no way to know if these are all positive, so my rudimentary research focused on the comments. Of 450 comments, most were congratulatory. In fact, since I like making charts and playing with Excel, I looked up some common words to see their frequency.

responsechart

There are 323 total mentions of the words I searched; some of these were surely mentioned by the same commenter (“Congratulations! This is awesome news! Good luck!!!!”). I also searched for Muerto Mouse (<10 mentions; some by Lalo himself) and Migra Mouse (1 mention). The comment that garnered Lalo’s “so it begins screenshot” wasn’t representative by any means. And no one called him a tío Taco (sell out or Uncle Tom) except one lady. When he posted about his critics or haters, the vast majority of people responding to the critics sided with Lalo and lauded him with more praise. I doubt he deleted comments.

I favor constructive criticism and debate. In a medium like social media, everyone can share their opinion. Chicanos and Latinos do not, nor should they, all agree that Day of the Dead traditions need to be shared in mainstream entertainment. We are not a monolith. I have mixed feelings on DDLM going mainstream but have also purchased sugar skull patterned bags, clothing at the mall and stamps at the craft store. I’ve enjoyed Lalo’s art for many years and hope his humor will come through in inside jokes or Easter Eggs as is common with Pixar films. As for Disney/Pixar, I usually love Pixar movies and grew up watching lots of Disney movies in the ’90s. Toy Story is one of my favorites and the Lee Unkrich/Darla Anderson producer/director team made me cry last time I watched one of their animated movies, Toy Story 3. I go to Disneyland occasionally, wear Minnie Mouse ears, and sing Disney songs to my son. I like that Coco, which features a little boy named Miguel, may be one of his first moviegoing experiences.

What I’m not down with is exaggeration and blanket statements, but I’ll do one of my own. Maybe Jerezanos* like Lalo and Gustavo just attract more hate than others. And if that’s the case, then I’m wondering when I’ll get a share of that hate.

[*Jerezanos are people from Jerez a city in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Lalo, Gustavo and I all have roots there.]

Xavi is two

TMNT

Xavi is two years old*. That feels weird yet natural to write. It’s not the time that’s passed, but the way we measure it. We’re no longer saying his age in months when people ask.

My son has changed a lot since we first met him that sunny Thursday afternoon. He’s no longer the tiny newborn who nurses frequently and is swaddled to sleep. He’s a bright and silly toddler who says a lot without using many words. He’s obsessed with trains and freaks out when the train rolls by a block away.

And while he is bigger and more active, there is so much that doesn’t change. I still want to cuddle him even if he can wriggle free in two seconds flat. I stare at him while he sleeps amazed that Sean and I made such a beautiful creature. I still send poop emoji because dirty diapers are still an event. His hair still gets him lots of attention and comments and his smile and giggle are the best sounds ever. And he still loves my singing and listening to stories.

***

Ride On

We spent Xavi’s birthday at my in-laws’ house in Long Island. From a two-year-old’s standpoint, it might’ve been the best day ever as it was filled with his favorites and he was spoiled by 1.5 sets of grandparents (my mom was in town).

The word has spread that he’s a bit obsessed with Thomas and Friends and trains in general. My mother-in-law bought him a train he can ride on as well as an iPad. Xavi now officially has the newest iPad in the family. The big train and smaller trains joined Xavi’s collection of Thomases (Thomi?) that my mom helped grow by bringing some of the magnetic trains he left behind in LA and buying him new trains.

2nd birthday

After exploring the stairs at grandma’s we walked down the street for a block party. It was the perfect weather a neighborhood block party. Xavi had a good time trying to stay upright in the bouncy house and playing with water, two more favorites. I was a little squeamish about seeing him play with a water gun, but he’d rather just pour out water from a cup and splash water.

He also had a small birthday party. It was a low key affair compared to his first birthday bash. Eula invited over some friends from the neighborhood and church. She cooked up a bunch of delicious food and we played in the backyard and tried not to get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Xavi played bubbles and soccer with his grandpa. I don’t think he’s ready either for El Tri or the Reggae Boyz squads, but if there was a selección nacional team for chasing and popping bubbles Xavi would surely make the team.

And last there was cake! Who doesn’t love cake.

The perks of being a small toddler.

We returned to Ithaca on Sunday. Xavi had one last awesome experience. He got to sit on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle during a rest stop. The very kind bikers kept calling him a little girl — he gets that a lot thanks to the long hair — but the only thing that bothered him was when I took him away.

Oops. Sorry little guy.

*And a couple of weeks. I’m a little late in posting this.

What a trip

Sunday: family leaves the LA apartment together and begins nomad life by staying with my parents in Hacienda Heights

Monday before sunrise: Sean and my dad begin the drive to Ithaca

Monday evening: I finish cleaning out our apartment and turn in the keys

Thursday 12:35 pm: LAX to JFK (flight 1)

Friday 1:00 am: Reunite with Sean and my dad in Syracuse

***

I was a jumble of nerves the last few days in California. First, I was nervous for Sean and my dad as they traveled a few thousand miles. They sent regular updates and photos of pretty sites in Utah and Colorado. Still I was worried as that is a lot of miles. Second, I was worried because Xavi was still a bit feverish and I didn’t now if we’d need to make a trip to urgent care part of our to-do before we fly out list. Luckily, baby Motrin helped and he was better by Tuesday. Third, I was nervous about trying to fit everything in our suitcases and backpacks. I realized as I cleaned out the apartment that we were too disorganized and should have made better use of the moving truck. Xavi and I really didn’t need all the clothes we hadn’t packed in boxes. Fourth, I was nervous about saying goodbye to Papá Chepe, my siblings and mom. It’s one thing to leave your able-bodied siblings and parents. I know I can call/Sykpe/FaceTime. I know they can visit. But it’s different with my 95-year old grandfather. Even before the stroke, the trip would’ve been rough for him. Plus, I knew that in recent weeks he’d been sad when my mom or siblings brought up our move. (Yes, I felt guilty.) Fifth, I was worried about the flights to New York. We’ve traveled to NY twice with Xavi. The first time was when he was 9 months old and not yet walking. The second time was in March. He was okay on both trips, but those were direct flights with two parents. Even if he was an angelic toddler, I’d still need to consider the logistics of lugging around our bags plus the bulky jogging stroller.

Last what if, for some reason, we arrived in Syracuse before Sean? Who would pick us up at the airport?

***

Xavi's first drum circle

Rather than sit around feeling my stomach tie in to knots and as I freaked out, I kept busy with chores like laundry, eating my mom and aunts’ delicious food and finishing packing. Xavi played with all the toys his grandparents have spoiled with and splashed around in his kiddie pool to stay cool. We also went to the library for a kids’ program about drums of the world. Xavi wasn’t really in to it until he got to try out the drums like the other kids.

Pool time

On Wednesday night, Danny cooked a gourmet meal for us. I was crabby, hungry and rather rude as Danny took a few hours to prepare everything (sorry, brother). I was annoyed because ordering out would’ve been just fine and less work for all involved. Now I’m thankful that he went through the trouble since it’ll be a while before I get one of his gourmet, professionally plated meals.

***

On Wednesday night I finished stuffing our suitcases. I decided we’d gate check the stroller which would help free up an arm and would check the roller bag I usually use as a carry on. I needed my hands free.

The next morning I tried to keep cool as I said my goodbyes to Papá Chepe, Lori and Adrian (he wore sunglasses to hide the dust getting in his eyes). Danny loaded up the Jeep and drove my mom, me and Xavi to LAX. I’m usually okay to be dropped off at the curb, but this time I needed them with me all the way up until we were separated at security. Plus, I just wanted to delay the goodbye and the inevitable tears.

Outbound...

It was bittersweet. I missed Sean and wanted to see him again, but at the same time I knew that our move was tough on both my nuclear and extended family. We are super close both figuratively and literally. I felt the benefit of their nearness as we prepped for the move and I could count on them to come by to bring a meal, paint or entertain Xavi. My mom gave me and Xavi a blessing before we went through security and I choked back the tears. I needed to keep it together.

Flying makes me hungry

As soon as we got to our gate we took care of business (diaper change and getting lunch) and then it was time to board. Xavi and I were sitting in JetBlue’s Even More Space seats. They’re pricey, but well worth the extra space for toddler who doesn’t want to sit still. Even though Xavi still qualified as a lap infant, I knew he needed his own seat just for the space (and not to bug out neighbor). He fell asleep for a little bit and then played calmly. He even got a compliment from the man who was sitting in our aisle. We arrived on time to JFK and then waited for our next flight to Syracuse. Our flight was delayed and the delay ultimately took longer than the actual flight. Xavi had a good time running around the seating area at the gate and up and down the concourse but got fussy when I made him stop. He needed to sleep and nodded off even before our flight took off.

Last people at baggage claim

We arrived in Syracuse and met up with Sean and my dad. It was so good to see them. We were reunited and it felt so, so good.

Dad flew back to LA the next morning and then it was just me, Sean and Xavi hanging out in a hotel in Syracuse. On Sunday we drove south to Ithaca where we stayed in a new friend’s spare basement studio apartment. The next morning I started my new job.

We kept up the nomad/living out of a suitcase life for another week while we waited to move in to our new apartment (July 2nd) and have our things delivered by the moving company (July 4th).

A month later we’re pretty much moved in but still need to unpack some boxes of items we don’t use daily. I’ve settled in to my job and we’re getting to know our new town. More on that later.

Leaving Los Angeles

I’d lived in apartment 3 on the 31st block of my street for many years before I called it “home.” I can’t tell you how many years it was. Maybe 7. Could’ve been 10. All I know is that it was well before Sean proposed in my bedroom (10+ years in) right next to the closet. It was before wedding supplies and gifts took over our living room (12 years in). And it was definitely before we brought home a tiny newborn Xavi from the hospital less than two miles away.

I do know that on the day I left it felt like home even though Sean wasn’t there and neither was Xavi.

We spent most of our last two weeks in a clutter of boxes, packing paper and stress. The Mosqueda side of the family came over to help pack, remove furniture we weren’t moving to Ithaca and watch Xavi. Meanwhile Sean worked out the logistics of driving cross country and we confirmed everything for our new apartment. As mentioned before, the movers picked up most of our belongings on June 18th. Our last day at work was the 19th. Over the weekend we rushed to finish packing up the items that would go in the car with Sean and my dad and would go in suitcases with me and Xavi.

Mosqueda Family 2015

We left as a family for the last time on Sunday to attend the Father’s Day/Papá Chepe early 95th birthday party. Sean dropped me and a feverish Xavi off at my mom’s house (home for the next few days) and turned around to finish packing. He didn’t really get to enjoy the party, but we did have time for a big family photo.

But on the Monday I finished packing up the apartment, I felt like I was leaving home. I was by myself as Sean had left early that morning to begin the cross country drive. Xavi stayed at my mom’s house since he wouldn’t be much help cleaning up the apartment.

When I returned to the almost empty apartment I found Sean had left me a note written with Scrabble cards. It read, “I love you Cindy.” I left the cards there while I cleaned out everything we had left for the last minute. Soon a family friend and his kids came to pick up the refrigerator and the kitchen table. Other friends stopped by for wine (still leftover from our wedding, a bookshelf or just to say hi).

I took a break to eat and go to my neighborhood Trader Joe’s (for the last time — the nearest one is an hour away) for a snack and some plants/flowers for the neighbors I’d miss the most and Xavi’s former babysitter. In the many years I lived in the building, there were only three neighbors who lived there longer than me. They all became friendly especially after Xavi was born. The lady upstairs was especially sweet. I swept through the apartment one more time making sure I didn’t forget anything [I did, I left the comal sitting in it’s usual spot on the stove], locked up and then turned in the keys.

Leaving LA

I took pictures after loading up the last things in my dad’s Jeep. It was nice to see the sun setting in a lovely way and reminding me of how it would look on those summer evenings when I would go for a run or Sean and Xavi would walk out to meet me at the bus stop.

I managed not to cry as I left my LA apartment, but I sure felt like it. I knew I probably wouldn’t be going back there, even if I keep in touch with some of our neighbors. When I go back to LA, I’ll be visiting family or friends who mainly live 20-40 minutes away from my old neighborhood.

Leaving LA

I think the best way to write a tribute to my first/only apartment is a by the numbers:

1 marriage proposal
2 former residents who were teachers (1 became a teacher after living there)
3 days, Xavi’s age when he came home from the hospital
4 original inhabitants, aka the Roomies (all still good friends I saw either shortly before moving or earlier in the spring)
5 years the longest roommate (besides me) stayed
6 the number of neighbor kids who regularly played in the driveway
7 former roommates I got along with
8 total former roommates
9 races I trained for by starting my run down this street;
10 minute walk to Downtown Culver City for a movie or a beer
15 (well 14.8) years living there
249 the difference between the original and final rent

Moving questions

I’ve answered the questions below a lot over the past few weeks.

Are you driving?
No, but Sean is driving. We’ve never been on a short road trip with Xavi. I can’t imagine making him sit in his car seat for 3-5 hour stretches and keeping him entertained.

When do you leave?
Sean leaves on Sunday night or Monday morning. [We opted for the latter with my dad as a second driver.]

Last day in the office

I fly out on Thursday with Xavi. Sean will pick us up at the airport.

Are you all packed up?
No. Depending on the point in the week this was anywhere from 30% to 95%. Sean is already on the road and I’m staying with my mom but I still need to finish clearing our stuff out of the apartment. (Note: I finished Monday evening and said goodbye to my neighbors.)

Boxes!

All our stuff is on this truck

Most of our stuff went on this truck and is currently somewhere between LA and Ithaca.

If I move again, I won’t make my last week at work coincide with the craziness of packing. That was dumb.

Are you excited? Nervous? Scared?
Yes. I hope Sean and my dad to have a safe drive. I also am worried because Xavi’s been feverish since Saturday. It’s been high enough to bother him and affect his behavior but not scary must rush to the hospital high.

Does Xavi know what’s going on?

Something's different here...

I’m not sure, but he definitely knows something is different. As the apartment emptied out, he liked all the open space and the echo.

Ithaca, New York? You know it snows, right?
Really?! I had no clue.

Do you have a place to live?
Yes. We move in on July 1st. We will be hotel and AirBnb hopping from our arrival in upstate NY on the 25th until we can move in. We found a furnished apartment from a friend of a friend. A grad school friend introduced me to some of her fellow professors who teach at Ithaca College. One gave me his landlord’s info and I found out they had a vacancy that fit our needs and was within our price range. Plus it was furnished so we could leave some stuff behind and cut down moving costs. Although I didn’t visit before move in, I felt okay signing a lease since our contact was quite happy with his living situation and it’s <2 miles to my job.

When will you be back?
Not sure of the first date, but I know I’ll definitely be back for Adrian and Alexis’s wedding festivities. That’s in about 11 months.

You can’t take it with you

In my post announcing my new job and move to upstate New York I mentioned that I’ve never really moved. I’ve changed residences and gone from childhood home to dorm and then to an apartment with a few roommates. Then I didn’t leave because I was still working or going to school at  the same place. I even got an award highlighting my residency. 

Gag award from 2004 - kinda painfully true

That was only six years in Westwood. Eleven years later, I’m finally leaving and it’s not easy in any way, but I’ll focus on logistics.

Since I’ve been at apartment since 2000, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. I’ve done a couple of purges, the last being when Sean moved in and I wanted it to feel like our place rather than my place.

While I have lots of stuff, I don’t have much practical knowledge of how to move. I’ve been doing a lot of googling and bugging the company my job referred me to for relocation services. Sean did the cross country move once and he knew a couple of things:

1. It’s not cheap.

2. Purge, purge, purge. Because #1.

We are in the middle of #2 because we received our [discounted] move quote and had major sticker shock. I’m fairly certain our household goods cost less than the price of moving them.

We are discarding older furniture that isn’t worth moving and selling some of the stuff that is in better shape. Xavi gets to keep his furniture and is doing less purging.

Up for grabs

We are also trying to lighten our load by giving away or selling books. 

Up for grabs: mainly fiction. This list was longer but my teacher friends had first dibs.

Education and sociology: I bought a lot of books during grad school. I shudder to think of what was spent versus what I actually read. These aren’t all up for grabs as I’m keeping those focused on methodology and student development.

Chicana and Chicano Studies books: some of these are banned in Arizona schools!

Sean's up for grabs books

Sean pulled some books too, but they’re not on GoodReads.
If you’re local and want a couple of books or know of a good place to donate, let me know. 

Xavi gets baptized

Godparents and parents

Sean and I have a lot to do in before we leave LA. One of the things that seemed most urgent was getting Xavi baptized.

It was never a question that he would be baptized. Sean and I promised it a few times in preparation for a Catholic marriage. It’s customary to baptize children as infants. I was baptized before I was a month old. Mexicans throw big parties to celebrate this with food and “bolo.” The godparents throw out coins and there’s a mad scramble to pick them up. It’s like the piñata candy melee but more people join in because who doesn’t need some quarters to do laundry or to add to the piggy bank?

Proud grandparents

My mom kept bugging me about it and I shrugged off her exhortations because we hadn’t decided on godparents. It’s not an easy decision. Being a godparent means a lot of things, but I didn’t want it just to be an honorific. I wanted Xavi’s padrino and madrina to accept the responsibility to be co-guides of Xavi’s faith journey.

So, while I was helping a group of 17 teens prepare to be fully initiated Catholics – that’s when you’ve been baptized, and done the sacraments of Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation – I was delaying the first step of that process for my own child. Oh, irony.

When leaving LA became a reality in early May we needed to make a decision.

Baptism style

Sean and I picked Danny and Lori to be Xavi’s padrinos. Xavi asked them on Mother’s Day with little notes saying, “will you be my padrino/madrina?” Of course they said yes, and almost cried. They’re both ecstatic just being uncle and aunt to their first nephew, now they get to do a little more.

We rushed through the process of selecting a church, picking a date and taking the preparation class. We were able to get in last minute at St. John Vianney in their parent and godparent preparation class. Sean and I go to mass at SJV about once a month and it still feels like home when I see lots of familiar faces. That happened during the class too. Two of the four couples leading small groups were friends’ parents.

Last Wednesday we took the course and I was reminded why I chose Danny and Lori and what I want Xavi to learn from them.

Trío Mosqueda Campbell

I was pretty shy as a kid but Danny was the opposite. He took on the trailblazer big brother role with gusto and I was grateful for it. I joined all the activities he did up through high school. I even chose trombone because Danny played trombone. Having him there made everything easier and less daunting, even if I was mainly known as Danny’s Little Sister. My big brother’s willingness to get involved extended to church activities like altar serving, choir and youth group (yup, did all three). He also made all the church ladies love him. So, from Padrino Danny I want Xavi to be willing to get involved and share his talents. I want him to get that first born sense of responsibility of being an example to your younger sibling(s) or cousins.

Madrina Lori and Padrino Danny

Xavi has three uncles, but only one tía, Lori. I know she relishes that role. As my only sister, we have a very close relationship and complement each other. Lori has a beautiful singing voice and we harmonize quite well together. We join dad and Danny in our small family choir at funerals for friends and family. Aside from offering up her voice, she also reminds me that prayer can take many forms. On her trail runs she prays for those who cannot run and reflects on the beauty in our surrounding environment. I want Xavi to learn from his Madrina Lori that it’s important to share your voice and other talents. Also, prayer can take many forms.

Xavi gets baptized

As for the actual baptism, Xavi didn’t behave as well as he usually does in church. He was squirmy, “talked” a lot (he says ma-ma now!), sat on the floor and cried at different parts. We’ve heard kids scream “nooooo!” in the middle of being baptized, so at least it wasn’t that bad considering he was teething and we cut his nap short.

Not up for picture time

He was definitely the loudest (and oldest) of the six babies being baptized. He also had the most hair and was the only one who didn’t do the traditional baptismal gown. Do they even make those in 2T?

Proud grandparents

Adrian and Alexis

We kept the celebration small since the day before my parents had already hosted a party. My cousin Angelina threw a party with a King Taco truck and mariachi to celebrate her daughter Star’s confirmation and son David’s First Holy Communion.

Kisses for Xavi

We’re thankful Xavi so many strong examples, hopefully that shines through in Skype and FaceTime.

Los Angeles, I’m yours (for now)

“You need to leave California, Cindy… I know you don’t want to, but you’re going to need to, especially when you start looking for a job. There are no jobs here.”

I wasn’t thinking of my former advisor’s words when I decided to apply to a job in New York. Nor was I thinking of them in the video conference interview or day-long interview on site. And it didn’t come to mind as I waited to hear back from the review committee and weighed the pros and cons of a potential move. They came back to me after making my decision.

Five years after my advisor told me I needed to leave California and I pouted about it, I am finally leaving, now it’s with my little family.

On May 1st I made up my mind — like a lot of high school seniors waiting until the last minute to choose a college. Rather than submit a statement of intent to register I would soon sign an offer letter accepting a position at a university in New York.


I bought the hoodie after my interview. I figured even if I didn’t get the job, Xavi could build up his collegiate wardrobe. No need to only wear blue and gold.

It’s a big change for me and my family. We’ll be going from LA to an area with about 6% Latino population. I’ll no longer be in the land of 70 degree January days. My parents, siblings and most of my extended family won’t be a short drive away. I know they’re happy for me, but if Xavi was my grandson/nephew I’d be sad about no longer seeing him every other week.

Career wise it’s also a big change. I’ll go from a very selective public university that I’ve been at for 16+ years as either a student or staff member to a more selective Ivy League university that I’ll need to learn a lot about. I see myself carrying a map as I walk around campus, just like the tiny freshmen.

I’ll still be in STEM education for underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students, but with greater emphasis on the E in that acronym. My position will also come with more responsibility.


His face when he heard about the cold and snow.

I’m excited about this new opportunity but also fretting over the move. I don’t know anyone in Ithaca except my future co-workers. Sean, Xavi and I will leave an awesome support network (read: free babysitting from grandparents), extended family, lots of friends, co-workers and jobs we really like, our neighborhood and comfy apartment, and a church I’ve begun to feel at home at thanks to getting involved with the confirmation program.

I’ve only moved twice but I don’t think going from home to dorm and then dorm to apartment shared with college roommates really counts. It’s certainly much less daunting than a cross country move. While I’ve spent a lot of time in New York, it’s been in NYC or Long Island. Ithaca is 4-5 hours away from our New York City/LI friends and family. Last, we’ve been lucky to have the transition to parenthood smoothed out by having family nearby. I joked about the free babysitting, but that’s just one perk. It’s even better to see Xavi playing with his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and bringing a smile to Papá Chepe’s face with his silliness. On the bright side, Xavi will get to see his NY family more often.

I’m making a list of all the things I need to do (and eat!) in LA before we leave in June. We’ll certainly be busy, but mainly I want to spend the last few weeks at work leaving my boss, coworkers and replacement in a good position. At home, I want to make sure Xavi gets plenty of quality time with his LA family.

Confirmation Sunday

Desert retreat

Written March 23, 2015

On my way home from work today I trudged along the sidewalk. I looked down at my feet. I felt a little queasy from the bus ride and was only half paying attention to the podcast playing on my phone. I heard someone call, “Cindy!”

I looked up at the line of cars waiting for the light to change to see Andi*, one of the students I got to know during the retreat in the desert. She was sitting in the back seat of a car driven by a woman with pink hair. She waved and I waved back. Then she was gone.

And I was left with warm fuzzies at the not-so-random encounter — figures that the students who go to the church live in the nearby community — and memories from the weekend.

***

Spanish language children's choir at St John Vianney

I grew up in a Catholic family. My parents met as part of the youth group at Assumption Church in Boyle Heights. When they moved to Hacienda Heights and began attending St. John Vianney (SJV), they continued to be involved in the church. I’ve written before about how every one of the six members of my family was involved in one way or another.

Then I went off to college and through my 20s/early 30s I stopped being so involved. I barely went to Mass. That changed when Sean and I got engaged and began to prepare for the sacrament of marriage. After SJV was burned down by an arsonist I reflected on how important being part of that community was for me growing up.

With our celebrant, Fr. Ricky

Then we met with Fr. Ricky and he reaffirmed that we needed to attend Mass weekly as we prepared for the wedding. After trying out different churches in my area, we chose St. Augustine. I liked that they had a 5 pm service. The music was great and the pastor encouraged interaction in Mass. But it didn’t really feel like home in the way SJV did. At SJV I can go to any service and bump in to a number of people I’ve known for 15-20 years.

Shortly after we got married the church sponsored an activities fair and encouraged parishioners to get involved. I signed up to do lector training and confirmation. I heard from the latter and then proceeded to flake on the actual training. I forgot I signed up for the former until summer when I got an email from the pastor.

I answered the call and went to a preliminary meeting. As I introduced myself I shared that I was a new parishioner and had been involved in youth ministry when I was younger. I added that I was influenced by my parents’ example. As I prepared to become a parent, I wanted to show my son that I wasn’t just going to church on Sunday, but also contributing in other ways.

Being a confirmation catechist shouldn’t be so tough, right? After all, I work with students just a few years older.

***

I met my group in September of 2013 as I was coming up from the fog of life with a newborn. The first class I attended was also the first time I was away from Xavi for more than 45 minutes. For the next nine months, I’d see my group about twice a month. I got to know them a little and did my best to be a good teacher. 

Being a catechist wasn’t easy. I had to give up some of my time with my family and deal with teens who oftentimes didn’t want to be in class or church. Sometimes it was impossible to get them to join the discussion or do an activity.

I got to know the other catechists, a mix of people fresh out of college, professionals, and couples tag-teaming on their catechist responsibilities. One couple was a pair of doctors with two children, one a toddler. If they could give their time, surely I could to. The other catechists became friends and the director of religious education (a former daycare provider) was great with Xavi when I brought him with me to meetings.

After a summer away, I came back in September to most of the same students. While most are sophomores, a few were applying to colleges and worried about the next phase in their lives. The catechist group changed slightly too, but there was still a core group. As part of the two-year process, the students attend a weekend retreat. I did this as a teen but don’t remember much from my experience except that it was intense.

Desert retreat

Like some of my teens, I didn’t really want to go away for a weekend. It would be the first time I’d be a way from Xavi overnight. When I decided to go on the second retreat weekend, I did it because it would give me more time to ensure Xavi was sleeping through the night and (if not) Sean could also get him back to sleep.

Andi (not her name) was one of the four students assigned to my small group during the confirmation retreat. I got to know her and the three others in my group and also spent the meals sitting with my usual group. They saved me a seat.

When I returned home on Sunday afternoon I opened my mail bag and found some kind notes from my group.

I heard great things about the retreat from my students. It was good for me too as I got some time to think and pray about some things on my mind. I even opened up to the youth about some of these concerns.

***

My confirmation with Bishop Gabino Zavala

My students will be confirmed this afternoon. While I’ll miss seeing them every other Sunday for class, I’m excited to see how much they’ve grown and proud that they’re making this next step. Making my confirmation was a big deal for me and led to more opportunities for involvement at SJV. I hope my students see it the same way.