todaynottomorrow

What’s so special about tomorrow, when today’s already here? [video]

Moments

Chances are that right now, at this very moment you have something in mind that you want to do; something you want to accomplish in your life. But you’re busy or not ready, or whatever today’s excuse is, and so, you are deciding that tomorrow will be the day, because there are all these tomorrows to choose from in that future you envision in your head.

I’m not ready to be in or get out of a  relationship, I’ll do it in some tomorrow.

I’m not ready to leave my job, I’ll do it in some tomorrow.

I’m not ready to start anew, I’ll do it some tomorrow.

I’m not ready to (insert your dream here), I’ll do it some tomorrow.

Have you thought about what’s special about tomorrow? Will tomorrow bring magical courage or discipline that, for whatever reason, you don’t possess today? Think about it, since today was yesterday’s tomorrow, why isn’t today special?

If you don’t know the answers and/or think that somehow, tomorrow will be different, then I recommend that you take 20 minutes to watch the video below. Zach Sobiech will remind you of just how special and unique today is, and maybe you’ll understand it’s not to be taken for granted.

*Warning, may NSFW if you don’t have a lot of tissue, a private office, and understanding co-workers.

Clouds

Well I fell down, down, down
Into this dark and lonely hole
There was no one there to care about me anymore
And I needed a way to climb and grab a hold of the edge
You were sitting there holding a rope

And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear
It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now

When I get back on land
Well I’ll never get my chance
Be ready to live and it’ll be ripped right out of my hands
Maybe someday we’ll take a little ride
We’ll go up, up, up and everything will be just fine

And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear

It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now
If only I had a little bit more time
If only I had a little bit more time with you

We could go up, up, up
And take that little ride
And sit there holding hands
And everything would be just right
And maybe someday I’ll see you again
We’ll float up in the clouds and we’ll never see the end

And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear
It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now

Watch the “Clouds” Celebrity music video here. YouTube

libby

Dreams of a familiar stranger

Moments

When I close my eyes to dream
I don’t recognize the woman I see.

Her long hair flows softly with the breeze,
as she stands barefoot on the beach.
Not a bikini-clad, sun goddess
but a free-spirited bohemian princess.

Her crooked, gap-toothed smile lights up her face
as she warmly greets passersby.
Not with a simple hello,
but a sincere, “How are you today?”

Her golden brown eyes reflect the light of the sun,
as though the depth of her mind did not exist.
Not a reflection of no cares in the world,
but freedom from the prison of her thoughts.

Her round hips sway as she strolls,
as if she’s dancing to a private song.
Not quite a salsa, not quite a samba,
but a rhythm all her own.

She is a familiar stranger that I’d like to know;
she is the me, I want to be.

human

Becoming human [guest post]

Moments

The fifth in the “Defining Moments: Search for Identity Series.” This one comes to us from writer, Hector Luis Alamo, Jr. Read more of his personal blog, On the Contrary and follow him on Twitter, @HectorLuisAlamo

As a mixed-race, mixed-nationality, second-generation Latino American, my identity has been in constant flux for much of my young life.Born in Humboldt Park, and surrounded by my dad’s side of the family, who seemed to end every other word with “-ao,” I was sure I was 100-percent boricua — albeit, a dark one with a lot of indigenous blood coursing through my capillaries. My grandfather Ines, whom everyone called “Papi Two,” was a short, bald old man whose dark skin made him look like a coffee bean wearing a golf cap and a white mustache. My grandmother, Doña Ana, whom everyone naturally called “Mami Two,” was an equally diminutive old white lady with red hair that made her look like a much aged Lucille Ball.

Now, here’s where things started to get confusing for me.

When I was younger, I thought Papi Two was an indigenous Puerto Rican, because I didn’t know Puerto Rican could be black, too. I also thought – and have no choice but to believe to this day – that Mami Two was Sicilian, because that’s what someone told me once upon a time.

It was not until I learned that people like Pedro Albizu Campos and Roberto Clemente were something called “Afro-Latinos,” and that very few indigenous Puerto Ricans have survived to the present day, that I began to suspect Papi Two wasn’t indigenous at all. Having inherited my grandfather’s coffee-bean complexion, I should’ve been tipped off sooner when the lighter-skinned members of my mother’s family began loving referring to me as “El Negrito” (which reminds me of something Orwell wrote: “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle”).

Meanwhile, I was entirely oblivious to my mother’s family’s race and nationality. My maternal grandmother, Doña Blanca, owned a house just a few block from the park, and since my mom and younger aunt seemed to speak fluent boricua, I figured they were just light-skinned Puerto Ricans. The one anomaly was my grandma – whom I referred to as “Baca” when I was too young to pronounce her name. “Ita,” as I later called her, spoke a clear and enunciated Spanish, and my mom and her two sisters addressed each other as “vos” – though I first thought they were saying “boss” with an accent.

As you can tell, there were a lot of things I didn’t know growing up. No one bothers to tell a Latino kid anything. Los niños are treated like latecomers to a party that’s already in full swing.

It was only sometime after my mom gave up on trying to fix my dad and our family fled to the Northwest Suburbs that I learned my mom had been born in a faraway land called “Santa Lucía.” Whenever my mother’s family would get together – which was often, after the exodus – they would recount stories from the village they’d left behind more than a decade before I was even born. It was during these gatherings that I learned Santa Lucía was in a country called “Honduras,” which was in a place called “Central America,” which was south of Mexico but north of South America.

Ita’s maiden name was Lopez-Brooks. Her father was a civil servant in the capital city of mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry. Her mother was the daughter of a well-to-do English capitalist by way of New York City — George W. Brooks was an engineer who came to Honduras before the turn of the century during the silver rush.

Much to my dismay, not much is known about my maternal grandfather, however. The two things I have of him are his name – Nikolai Silacci – and where he was from – the former Yugoslavia. I once worked as server in a restaurant that hired a lot of South Slavs, and when I asked them about the name I’d been given, they told me it was probably Croatian.

Anyway, back to the story.

As it turned out, my family had moved to a suburb with a strong Mexican enclave. I’m not sure I’d met a Mexican person before we moved there in the third grade, but my contact with Mexicans brought me to the realization that, not only were Honduras not like Puerto Ricans, they weren’t like Mexicans either. Mexicans spoke a Spanish I had trouble understanding – nothing like my grandma’s easy Spanish – and they ate strange foods, like mole and chilaquiles.

I remember being reprimanded by Ita for using my tortillas to make tacos from the meal she’d prepared. “We don’t do that,” she instructed. “We roll them in one hand and eat with the other.” (Ita later went on to become president of the Honduran Society of Chicago.)

And so, just as my mom had done in Humboldt Park decades earlier, I became a cultural mutt. But while my mom was a Honduran parading around as a Puerto Rican, I became a Honduran-Puerto Rican in Mexican clothing – quite literally. (I was, at one time, a full-blown cholo.)

Life carried on that way through high school, living like a chameleon, never fully belonging. A chameleon, after all, may be able to blend in with the leaves, but that doesn’t make it a leaf.

My true identity began to emerge during my late teens and early twenties. It was then that I discovered the power of ideas and recognized my ability to comprehend them. I’d always been a closeted nerd, embarrassed of my inner brainiac as something could spell social death for me if it were ever revealed.

But it was while reading the great thinkers of the past that I found a community where I felt I truly belonged – a community of thought. Here were a group of people connecting to me through the centuries that divided us. I bonded with them immediately, more than I had with my own friends and the people in my family. I understood them. We shared the same worries and the same hopes. I wanted to live in the world Rousseau and Paine had championed. I was as depressingly sanguine and driven to know as Adams and Lincoln. I was vexed by and compelled to explain the same things that vexed and compelled Clemens, Mencken and Baldwin.My mixed background made it easy for me to reject all racial, ethnic or nationalistic loyalties. If I’m going to claim pride for being black, white and indigenous, I might as well claim pride for being a human being — and who isn’t proud to be human? (PETA, maybe.) Likewise, if I’m going to claim pride for being an American, a Honduran, a Puerto Rican, a Brit, a Spaniard, a Croatian and an Italian, I might as well declare myself a citizen of the world.

And that’s how I’ve come to define myself, as a human being with a passion for people and their good ideas, no matter where they may exist.

The late Christopher Hitchens wrote, “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” I, as a Latino of a multifarious background, have given up trying to pinpoint whether I’m mostly Honduran, mostly Puerto Rican or mostly whatever, because clearly I’m not mostly either of those things. If I discovered today that I was mostly Honduran, only to discover tomorrow that I was in fact mostly Puerto Rican, I doubt the news would alter me one bit. And the same goes for my Latino-ness and European-ness.

I couldn’t care less what flag a person waves or what food they eat at home. I care most about how a person thinks and lives.

While my origins have shaped my perception by compelling me not to place so much emphasis on another person’s origins, I’m not defined by my family’s past. Where you’re born in this world merely affects how you view the world, but the view should not distract you from the fact that we’re all human. No matter what racial lens you may see the world through, the human lens must be your primary one.

Thus, as I’ve learned and continually learning, we are less where we come from and more where we are going. We are not what we were, but what we are becoming.

I was given the name “Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.” at birth, in a place called “Chicago,” in a land called “America,” of parents called “Honduran” and “Puerto Rican.” Yet none of these labels fully capture who I am. In fact, they don’t even approach my true essence.

I am what I do each day, and what I dream in the meantime.

me-dancing1

The dance lesson [guest post]

Moments

The fourth in the “Defining Moments: Search for Identity Series.” This one comes to us from educator and writer, Cindy Tovar. Read more of her personal blog, Hispanecdotes and follow her on Facebook and Twitter, @Dagny32

The music is blasting, the lights are dim, and I’m in my element. My eyes search the crowd, looking for someone who can show me a good time. I look for the right signs: a man moving his hips rhythmically, a man whose eyes are searching the crowd with the same urgency as mine, or if I’m really desperate, at least a man who is taller than I am.

I find one standing alone across the bar, and move quickly. Wouldn’t want him to find someone else. Not for this song.

I smile and stretch out my hand. “Do you want to dance?” I ask, not worried about rejection. I’ve only been turned down once. (That jerk!)

But I wasn’t always so bold on the dance floor.

Oh, I’d always loved to dance, but I was about eleven years old when I realized that “dancing in your own way” was only cute in front of your parents.me-dancing1

So I stopped dancing. At least in public.

I wasn’t exactly popular as a child. I was more of a nerd, and extremely shy. My appearance, with crooked bangs that I insisted on cutting myself, large glasses, and a mouth full of metal, didn’t help my case either. Thankfully, over time, the glasses and braces came off and I finally realized that just because I cut Barbie’s hair, that didn’t qualify me as a hair stylist. But I was still shy and felt that, besides my good grades, I had nothing going for me.

pictureWhen I was fourteen, something happened during a family trip to Colombia that changed my life. I remember walking into my aunt’s living room where my older cousin was listening to music while working on a school project. My body started moving to the music, almost on its own as it always does, and I danced a few steps when my cousin looked up and said, “That’s not how you dance salsa.”

I stopped moving. He hadn’t said it in a mean way, but I was still embarrassed.  “No?”

He decided, right then and there, to give me a dance lesson. The first thing he did was show me the difference between salsa and merengue, which up until then I’d just lumped together under the category of “Spanish music.” The actual teaching part didn’t take long at all: I learned the basic salsa step in just a few minutes, and laughed at how simple it was to dance merengue. It seemed I had a knack for it.

He gave me one short lesson, but it was all I needed to get started. I returned from Colombia a changed person, with a new found appreciation for “Spanish music” and a renewed love of dancing. Suddenly, La Mega was my favorite radio station, and the small Latino music stores I’d always walked past became my paradise. Somehow, by practicing the steps and singing the songs, I felt a connection with my culture that I’d never felt before.

Through music and dance, I was slowly able to come out of my shell.  I met other people who loved dancing as much as I did, and partying with them made it bailandoeasier to meet other Latin-music lovers, as well as giving me a chance to learn new moves. I even joined a salsa dance group. And the best part for an introvert like me?  When you dance with a cute guy, you don’t have to say much. You know, because you’re too busy dancing!

It was only a few moments of someone’s time, but it made a huge difference in my life. Up until then, I had felt like a nobody. It turns out, I just needed to find something I was really good at to give me the confidence to feel like I could be a somebody.