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THEY'RE GR-R-REAT! (BEING AN AMERICAN)
July 4, 2018
Do you remember how old you were when you grasped that the United States was powerful? I was little, still living in the Dominican Republic (the DR). A new classmate at my elementary school was a “Dominican York” kid—the son of Dominicans living in New York. Another classmate whispered in my ear. “See how big he is? Americans are stronger and smarter than us, Dominicans, because we grow up eating plantains and they grow up eating cornflakes.”
(Of course, in a hunger-stricken, food-obsessed country the explanation for the US success had to be dietary.)
Back then in the DR, cornflakes were cost-prohibitive except for rich families; and plantains, rice and beans were the base of our diets. Everybody “knew” that plantains contained a substance that made you dumb—yet people claiming that about plantains would not stop eating them. Yet you just had to glimpse at the side of a Frosted Flakes box to see the extensive list of vitamins it contained—subtypes of B vitamins I didn’t even know existed back then. And if the list of nutrients didn’t convince you, you just had to watch the ads with the Tiger. If you wanted your sports team to win, you had to eat Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.
(That must also explain why people in the US always won the Olympics while the DR rarely ever won anything!—they had Frosted Flakes for breakfast!)
So, I tease my American-born-husband all the time about it. “Of course you are taller and stronger than me (he’s over six-foot tall and I’m 5’4 in a good day). But that is because you grew up eating cornflakes.”
April 14, 2018
“Either my libido is dead for good…or I’m a lesbian and I still don’t know it.”
The conversation with myself had been ongoing for a couple of days. It was my attempt to find a logical explanation for the fact that I’d been celibate for almost two years and the thought of having sex with a man didn’t turn me on and instead was vaguely unpleasant.
In the past months, since my divorce finalized, my friend Rosa had taken me under her wing to teach me the secrets of Single Life, and kept encouraging me to sign up for online dating. But I was dragging my feet. I vaguely remembered saying once that I wanted a man in my life—but currently I couldn’t remember what for. Was it for company? For that, I had my children. Was it for emotional support? I had my friends.
Wait. For sex?
IS IT EASTER OR SPRING BREAK?
March 31, 2018
The Easter Bunny can be a freaky concept when you didn’t grow up with it.
I mean, does the Easter Bunny lay the eggs? Rabbits aren’t even oviparous! And for what I gather, he’s a boy. Are you sure those are eggs and not something else? After all, they are brown in the inside.
Growing up in the Dominican Republic (the DR) Easter didn’t include treats for kids. It was called “Semana Santa” (Holy Week) and there were only two acceptable ways to celebrate it: Either you spent it on your knees in church, or you spent it flat-on-your-face drunk at the beach.
Spring-Break Girls-Gone-Wild back off! Do you think flashing a camera is daring? Take risking your life. In the DR Spring Break (Semana Santa), was the holiday for “thinning the herd,” and “natural selection.” We all knew that not everyone who left home would return alive.
ROSA'S GUIDE TO SINGLE LIFE (SAVORING THE WAIT)
February 3, 2018
In a sea of long-faced doctors with not even time to brush their teeth—let alone their hair—my friend Rosa stuck out. When she entered the doctor’s lounge, a technicolor character blew into a black-and-white movie.
Compare this, for example: Have you noticed how actresses in telenovelas wear red lipstick to bed, and chunky necklaces in the kitchen? Have you noticed how women newscasters look fine on the screen, but if you put them next to any other woman, their hairstyles and make up look abnormally perfect?
Rosa was like that. When she passed by, you had to give her a second look—you could’ve sworn she was someone famous.
THE MAGICAL POWER OF DELUSIONAL THINKING
January 6, 2018.
Have you ever believed something even when all evidence was against you?
I do that every year. It’s called my New Year’s resolutions. “Sure, I never before stuck to this exercise program (or diet, or study routine), but this time it will be different. All because one day, long ago, Julius Cesar decided that January 1st was ‘New Year.’” (The truth? The Earth rotates endlessly around the sun, and doesn’t care about calendars).
Everybody I know has some crazy belief. Think about the delusion that a Louis Vuitton bag is worth $3000. Just because it has a logo on it! (Really? Is it going to carry my wallet and my make up any better than my twenty-dollar bag?).
The Art of Gifting
December 16, 2017
The worst two presents I ever got were a multi-carat diamond ring and a Mercedes Benz convertible car.
Before you slap me, hear this: The best presents I’ve gotten cost near to nothing.
My husband David is the best gift-giver in the world. He can bring me to tears of joy with a present that cost under ten dollars. What is his secret?
He pays attention.
Like a ninja of love, he sneaks into my thoughts through casual conversations and finds out something connected to my happiest childhood memories.
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO HAVE A HAPPY CHILDHOOD (GETTING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE)
November 25, 2017
“When we’ve finally learned the answers, God changes the questions.”
In the midst of my social rehab after my divorce, I’d gotten off my butt, got out of the house, and out to brunch with girlfriends.
I was proud.
But then, stretching me out of my comfort zone, my friend Mary invited me to join her group of hospital friends in their weekly Happy Hours.
(Sigh). Why is it that socializing with people has to mean drinking alcohol?
I have an embarrassing secret: I can’t drink to save my life. I’m a disgrace for all Dominicans.
THANK GOD FOR GIRLFRIENDS! (SOCIAL REHAB)
November 11, 2017
I’d had a massive stroke and was bedridden, and now I was expected to go run a mini-marathon.
Not literally. But that’s how overwhelming facing the world of dating––and even socializing–– felt after my divorce.
Like that stroke victim, when a patient is so debilitated that she’s become bedridden, the physical therapists start their treatment right in bed. Through passive exercises––doing the work for the patient by moving their limbs–– they slowly encourage the muscles to recover.
I’d started started my own passive rehab for my social skills months back.
It was called Facebook.
Halloween Special: have you ever jumped into a grave
October 28, 2017
One of my author groups sent me a challenge: to write a horror short story for Halloween.
I passed. Trust me; you don’t want me writing horror stories. Some scenes of my life beat anything you’ve seen in the most hair-raising movies.
One time, when I was only 18, I jumped six feet underground into a mass grave in the cemetery––yes, one full of dry skeletons. Like an amateur Indiana Jones, I landed inches away from a pile of bones.
I'm not normal (self-love 1)
October 14, 2017
The ink hadn’t dried on my divorce papers when people started asking me why I wasn’t dating. Their pitying eyes seemed to say, “So, you don’t have a man? Oh, there must be something wrong with you.”
Come on! I didn’t need people insinuating I wasn’t normal.
I already knew that!
I’ve always known I’m not normal. In fact, there’s a very good chance that I’m not an Earthling. Life on Earth has never come naturally to me. It’s as if everybody around me got a memo that I missed.
They're not evil, they're mentally challenged (changing perspective)
September 29, 2017
I used to enjoy messing around with the brains of racist people. That’s why I started lightening my hair. And I’m not proud of it – it’s not nice to make fun of people with mental challenges.
Wait, that didn’t come out right. It sounded like an attempt to insult racist people, but it’s not. My little girl, Lili, has autism. I have great respect for people with special needs and I’d never joke about mental challenges. But this is my scientific theory: Racism is a variant of autism.
Allow me to explain.
IN THE STORM's AFTERMATH (TAKING RISKS)
September 16, 2017
As I type these lines my neighborhood still doesn’t have power. Every street and yard is a mess. Branches of trees lie everywhere. Fences and railings have blown over, and almost everybody is dealing with something broken on their house – from lost sidings, to leaky roofs.
And if we dare to complain we deserve a whipping. Because that’s nothing compared to the losses so many people have suffered in the rest of Florida, in Cuba and the Minor Antilles Islands.
Do I wish to rewind time and change the moment when I moved to Florida?
Shopping is Good for you (Self awareness)
September 1, 2017
I owe much of my current happiness to the practice of the ancient art of Bargain Shopping.
I know what you’re thinking. Every woman loves shopping for new clothes and shoes and we’ll all find excuses to justify it. But I swear I’m serious. Bargain shopping was my brain-rehabilitation exercise for self-awareness. It lead me to reconnect with my lost inner voice.
WE ARE ALL FAKING IT (AND IT'S OKAY!) (STEPPING OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE)
August 18, 2017
Sometimes a very small decision can change the course of your life. Especially if that decision requires stepping out of your comfort zone.
I was fifteen years old. I was afraid of needles and terrified of the sight of blood. Even the smell of isopropyl alcohol, which I associated with hospitals, made me shake. But I needed community service hours for high school graduation, and the fastest way to get them was signing up as a volunteer for the latest pediatric vaccination campaign.
Did I go crazy? (Finding Love Against All Prognoses)
August 4, 2017
“My poor friend Diely lost her mind. All that sleep deprivation and stress from Medicine and kids finally caught up with her and fried her brain”
I smile, imagining that’s what many of my friends and relatives must be thinking right now.
Seriously! Why is a Board-certified physician with a bunch of degrees in dead-serious matters (from Hematology-Oncology to Clinical Investigation) writing about all this crazy stuff?
Overcoming Fear (Genes and Memes)
July 22, 2017
One of the biggest psychological triumphs of my adult life – which I’m convinced helped propel me toward finding love – was learning to eat sushi.
All my life I had a love/hate, fascination/terror relationship with sushi.
In the pre-globalization Dominican Republic, where I grew up, sushi was a joke. It proved that people in rich countries who didn’t have to worry about hunger, water-borne epidemics, craters on the roads and lack of electricity eventually got so bored they lost their minds.
Amazons and Mermaids (Forgiving Men)
July 11, 2017
My grandmother Casilda once used her seamstress scissors to cut off a doll’s little penis. It was the first (and last) anatomically correct baby-boy doll my cousin Medry had. For a while, my sisters and I jokingly called our grandma “Lorena Bobbit.” (If you don’t get that reference, you’re way too young, or I’m getting too old. Please Google it).
Mamá Casilda’s excuse that day was that she tried to put a diaper on the doll and it kept falling down. But the truth is that for her the view of a penis —even if an innocent, four-millimeter-long, plastic one—was intolerably disturbing.
Getting married to America: A love letter to the USA
July 4, 2017
I’m not marrying you for your money, or your social position. I’m not marrying you because society is pushing me or because “it’s time.” I’m marrying you simply because I love you.
When I first started getting to know you, over a decade ago, I didn’t imagine I’d fall for you this way. I admit that you did impress me with your amazing skyscrapers and highways, your incredibly well-stocked grocery stores and your shopping centers — even the fact that electricity and water always worked amazed me. But back then, coming from a place where chaos and lawlessness are the daily bread, you felt too strict, so full of rules — so stiff.
Welcome to the boondocks!
June 15, 2017
Welcome to Melbourne, Florida! A charming town on the Space Coast, strategically located not-far-from-anything-yet-close-to-nothing. Melbourne is also known as “Melboring,” “Ten miles past where Jesus lost his sandals,” and, as they say in the DR, “Where The Devil howled three times and no one heard him.”
Moving to Melbourne implies becoming an expert in Florida geography – trying to explain to family and friends where home is. “It’s three hours north from Miami, two hours south from Daytona Beach. Have you ever heard of Cape Canaveral? Do you remember that old TV series I Dream of Jeannie, happening in the town of ‘Cocoa Beach?’ No, it’s not there, but not too far from there.” Eventually, I just gave up and simply said, “Close enough to Orlando.”
June 5, 2017
My mother used to say, “Daring the Devil isn’t the same as seeing him arrive.”
Her advice crossed my mind as I stood at the courthouse, pen in hand, staring at the still wet ink on the papers in front of me.
The documents had been signed. My divorce was official. I was single.
A single woman—in my thirties—living in the United States.
For a terrifying instant, I remembered watching Sex and the City for the first time, when I’d nearly died of embarrassment.
Was THAT what was expected of me?
Uh-oh. I was in deep trouble!
the naked man
The first naked man I saw in my life was a cadaver. I was sixteen and a precocious college freshman. Around that time I had second thoughts about the crazy idea of signing up for medical school and knew that, unless I could prove myself able to face the morgue without fainting, it was a lost cause.