Oh, Lucy

My husband speaks English fluently. (Though, when we started dating a good friend of mine thought he didn’t, that he was a maintenance guy in my building or something. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! That friend shall remain nameless, to protect the guilty. Plus it’s probably my fault for ceaselessly calling him my Latin Lover.) Nevertheless, he sometimes has endearing ESL mishaps, the most famous of which is referring to “the bloody nose seats” instead of the nosebleed section.

Mexico City, 2008

Certainly more humorous are my forays into Spanish. And even more, my dad’s, who when visiting our Spanish-speaking church and is welcomed in front of the congregation says “Vaya con Dios!” (go with God)—which according to him is preferable to the other Spanish phrases that come quickly to his mind: curses picked up on the soccer field. Even more preferable would be a simple smile and head nod or wave. (Love you, Dad!)

So while language confusion and lost-in-translation hijinx have always been a recipe for laughs (much like cross-dressing), I find these situations even funnier now. And I cringe more, because I understand the humiliation.

I’m not alone. This recap of an I Love Lucy episode, by another gringa married to a latino, made me smile! Surely Israel and I aren’t as bad as Lucy and Ricky. He doesn’t resort to calling me names in Spanish during an argument. He did laugh at me though, when I practiced my Spanish by asking a waiter on our honeymoon whether Shakira had actually stayed at that same hotel.

Me, with terrible accent: ¿Es verdad que Shakira vino aquí?

Waiter: Sí.

Me: [Silence. Red face.]

No help or intervention from Israel. Laughter. Total immersion is his policy.

Ay yay yay.

Back to Lucy: at the National Portrait Gallery in DC, you can see Lucy (and others you’re accustomed to viewing in black and white) in color. Click for the slideshow of the exhibit “In Vibrant Color: Vintage Celebrity Portraits From the Harry Warnecke Studio.” When you see Warnecke’s color photos from an era before the technology was widely used, you realize that your mind has been operating on the belief that people such as baseball great Ted Williams lived in a black and white world. They seem fake to me in color. And this reviewer believes I Love Lucy wouldn’t have been as funny in color. Would you agree? Do you love Lucy?

“Lucy, you cannot be in the show.”

“But Ricky…!”

Ésta pelirroja está loca.”

“And don’t jabber at me in a foreign tongue!”


Habit Forming

I recently learned, thanks to a somewhat failed party game, that my friend Anna Kate drinks half a cup of tea during the course of her morning routine, takes her dog Finn out for a walk, then returns to reheat and finish the second half of her tea.

Aren’t routines and habits fascinating?

There’s a new book out called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessI’m not going to buy it, but these reviews were entertaining in themselves, and somewhat instructional:“A Matter of Course” on The Paris Review and “Kicking the Dessert Habit” on Dinner: A Love Story.

Though I love talking and reading about this subject, in practice I’m intimidated, especially as a new parent wanting to establish positive routines and associations. Because even when you’re not doing something on purpose, you’re forming habits whether you like it or not.

It’s the greatest when you realize you’ve formed a nice little routine without consciously deciding to do so. (I’ve been singing with Mary Tobin–usually “This is the day”–when I get her up from a nap. Sweet moments.)

It’s not so great when you realize you’ve fallen into bad patterns (she says, sitting on her couch with glazed eyes staring at the commercial breaks during today’s broadcast of TMZ).

Do you ever realize that your mind associates an unrelated subject with a certain activity? Like you get in the shower, and you’re thinking about the conversation you need to have with your boss, and suddenly you remember that you thought about that yesterday while you were in the shower. The best thinking happens in the shower, I believe.

[Wait. Just learned from this week’s 30 Rock that the phenomenon I just described has less to do with habits, and more to do with the Shower Principle, wherein one part of your brain being occupied with a mundane or “mindless” activity allows the critical thinking part of your brain to have breakthroughs. I have not verified this information, but I trust Tina Fey.]

So, what about you? Any habits you’re cultivating, or trying to break? Do you hang up your jacket as soon as you walk in the door? Did you wait til this morning to rinse out yesterday’s coffee pot? (I did!)

And, if you’ve had success replacing bad habits with good, how did you do it?

Valentine’s Treats!

I enjoyed perusing each of these. I hope you’re feeling the love today! (I love you.)

Aaaand one last thing. Gratuitous pic of Mary Tobin:

You’re welcome. Told you I loved you!

Three Weeks with Mary Tobin

Mary Tobin arrived three weeks ago today (on our anniversary!). What a gift!

It’s been three weeks of cuddling, crying (hers and mine), sleeping and being awake at odd times, tiny clothes, family and friends keeping us sane. Walking to the coffee shop or Mancini’s for brunch, or taking a bath, has become our exciting adventure for the day. There’s a stack of parenting books, blowing my mind.

Mary Tobin’s an angel. She makes the best faces; her sneezes are miraculous.

Aside from staring at our daughter, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls (thanks to Mandy who loaned me the complete set!), and watching Israel settle in to being a papa.

[Bonus: 50 Rules for Dads of Daughters, hat tip Eliza Joy. My favorite: “Somewhere between the time she turns three and her sixth birthday, the odds are good that she will ask you to marry her. Let her down gently.”]

Despite the minor upheaval in our lives, Israel insists on Christmas as usual (a war time slogan from An Avonlea Christmas: Support our Boys; Christmas as Usual).

So let me know your Christmas movie recommendations for our queue. We’ve been getting desperate and watched an ABC Family original last night from the DVR. I won’t tell you the title because it’s too embarrassing.

Lots of love from all three Ortegas!

Email from Mom

To all her kids.

Subject: Important information for the future

Today is chilly and gray and damp, so we have just been hanging around here doing some odds and ends of paperwork and watching tv. We happened upon a marathon on the DIY Network about a newlywed couple in New York, Fred and Natasha,  building their dream cabin in the Catskills. We’ve watched about 6 episodes of it, and everything possible has gone wrong: burglary, floods, 27″ snowstorms, improper workmanship, confrontations with a neighbor, zoning problems, etc. We just watched our last episode which teased us about the impending disaster in the next episode: a visit from Natasha’s parents! Will they be horrified by the state of the cabin? They MUST finish it before Mom and Pops get there!

So Kyle and I looked at each other and said, “I hope none of our kids ever feels that way! We would just pitch in and help work on whatever needs to be worked on.” So I said, “I’m going to send an email and tell all of them so they’ll know.” So now you know. Except I would like a working toilet if at all possible. But if it isn’t…

Love you.


PS – If you noticed that Courtney is a new addition to the email list, hooray for you. Except that I’m not 100% sure that it’s correct, so you might want to hold off using until we’re sure.

Mom, you are the cutest.  I don’t know why you sign your emails to me with your initials.  But I love your emails.

Other readers, I know you like to hear from Mama Rote more than from me probably anyway.  I’m using material from her because it’ s entertaining and it’s easy!  And I’m stressed because we’re moving to a new apt. this weekend!  Yikes.  Maybe I’ll live-blog the move.  But don’t hold your breath.

Thoughts, redux

Mom generously shared with me responses to each of my thoughts in this post (via email because of length, even though she has learned to comment like a champ!).   I love all her input,  but I’ll just share part of her response.  It includes her own mini-review and makes interesting leaps from one subject (The Coach Blog) to another (Little Lights people saying “I see you”).  It’s amazing how the mind works.

In my mind, the Coach thought connects with the Little Lights thought.  Your dad and I have started to love watching Parenthood. Four adult children and their families live in close proximity to (and even with) their parents, the Bravermans, who are played by Bonnie Bedelia and Craig T. Nelson (Coach).  After we recovered from the distress of actors who are pretty much our contemporaries having teenage grandchildren, we really started to enjoy the show.  (The adult daughter who lives at home with Mom and Dad Braverman is Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls.)  In one story line, Mom and Dad go to counseling for a number of reasons – one of which is that Dad never really takes her and her needs seriously.  The counselor gives him the tool of saying, “Camille, I hear you.  I see you.”  Somehow, your dad got the idea that this might be a helpful tool for him, also.  Not really that helpful, but it does make me laugh a little.  Sometimes.

Another case of life imitating art.  I also enjoy Parenthood, but I’m not consciously getting my relationship counseling from the show.  But hey,  Mom and Dad have been married for a long time, so I won’t question their methods.

[I must say, the mind reels.  Name that movie.]

Henry the eighth, he is.

My friends, last week’s snow-induced sporadic work schedule set the perfect scene for me to be caught up in Showtime’s series about Henry VIII, his wives, and intrigues: The Tudors.   I’m telling you, it’s burning up my Netflix queue.

I’m a big Anglophile anyway, who’s been known to watch some less than stellar shows (mini-series, movies, made-for-TV movies. . .) only because they feature some semblance of a British accent and period costumes.  The clothes in The Tudors could warrant a treatise in themselves. . . but it’s the drama, history, and earthiness that have me captured.

Henry VIII, remembered for his six wives (two beheaded, but who’s counting?), had to start somewhere.  In season one, the young king dreams of how he will achieve greatness; alliances are formed and just as quickly broken; lovers love and betray; letters written on parchment contain words of promise, hate, adoration, idealism, longing. . .  all sealed with red wax.

The seeds of the Reformation have been planted in Germany; church and state vie for power.  Dukes, knights, ladies, cardinals, and priests—not to mention the king and queen—maneuver to heighten or preserve their positions, each one with humanness portrayed in such a way that you aren’t loyal to a particular character at the expense of the others. . . at times I felt like rooting for them all (and many want to kill each other!).  As you might suspect, there’s quite a bit of bodice-ripping action as well, so don’t watch with your kids. [hey oh!]

The indulgent feeling of watching the sometimes soap-like drama (as when Henry desires to marry his erstwhile mistress’s younger sister, Anne Boleyn) isn’t accompanied by your usual too-much-Real-Housewives induced guilt.  Because it’s history, man!

It’s got me eating up Henry VIII’s wikipedia entry to see what’s not accurate (Henry’s sisters Mary and Margaret become a composite in the show), and what actually is (the stirring scene where the Queen, Catherine of Aragon, throws herself at Henry’s feet in front of the ecclesiastical court and places herself at his mercy).

As I mentioned, I’ve finished season one of four.  Still on wife number one.  Oh, number two is around, but not yet official.  And I can’t wait to see how this:

turns into this:

Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein

Check out the show. . . and pray for my husband.

Me?  I’m praying for more snow this week!

Reality TV

Today I watched my first episode of “Real Housewives of Atlanta”–a life-changing experience. It’s pretty awful.  I’d never claim to be above reality tv though.  This weekend at the Little Lights banquet, I was featured in a parody of MTV’s “Made.”  Check it out:

Little Lights – Ignite the Light Banquet 2010 (by PHOTORIA MEDIA).

The auctioneer in the video is the guy from Borat trying to explain NOT Jokes.


And none for Gretchen Wieners.

A little Mean Girls to kickoff your weekend. . . what could be better?  (Maybe heading out of the office early today, getting to a gorgeous beach with fun friends, drinking corona and eating rotel-cheese dip on one of the last viable warm weekends of the year?)  Anyway.

If you haven’t seen Mean Girls, you can skip this, but if you have, you’ll love it.  My hilarious and posh friend Mary (we studied abroad in Oxford together. . . free ducks, Monday shirts, cheese fries, MTT, cider, and all). . . well, she felt the need to rebut her sister’s blog post claiming “Everything I ever needed to know, I learned from Troop Beverly Hills” (I haven’t seen it, but I think I’m on Mary’s side).  Mary’s response:

Everything I need to know in life, I learned from Mean Girls.

Here’s a little snippet:

Fashion Advice: We only wear our hair up once a week, so I guess you picked today.  We only wear jeans or track pants on Fridays.  And on Wednesdays, we wear pink! // Whatever, those rules aren’t real—They were real that day I wore a vest— Because that vest was disgusting!  //  My nana takes her wig off when she’s drunk.  // Well, I mean you wouldn’t buy a skirt without asking your friends first if it looks good on you—I wouldn’t?—Right. // Oh my god I love that skirt, where did you get it?—It was my Mom’s in the 80s—Vintage!  So adorable—That’s the ugliest f-ing skirt I’ve ever seen.

Dieting: Do you wanna do something fun?  Wanna go to taco bell? — I can’t go to Taco Bell I’m on an all carb diet!   //  Is butter a carb?  //  I don’t hate you cuz you’re fat…you’re fat cuz I hate you!  // I’m only eating foods with less than 30 percent calories from fat….whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.

See the original blog post here, and be sure to scroll all the way down to Mary’s response in the comments.

Several of my srat sisters played Mean Girls on repeat my third year of college, but I didn’t fully appreciate it til fourth year.  Tina Fey, fellow UVa alum, I [heart] you.   (Did you like how I put myself in the same category with Tina Fey just now?  She cracked me up yesterday morning on the Today Show, by the way, in her preview clip immediately following an interview with a polygamist and his four wives, by pointing to her wedding ring and mouthing “Just one.”)

“30 Rock” was so great last night, even though I was a bit disturbed by a couple scenes.  Here’s Anna Kate’s take on several other shows that premiered this week, including “Modern Family” and “Parenthood,” which I’ve been watching also.  Feel free to weigh in.

Have a great weekend!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Fall is just about here, which means it’s time for your book reports!

Here are some recommendations from my summer:

  • Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough follows Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone (you may have seen him on an American Express commercial) in the fight to close the achievement gap.  As Little Lights moves in a more holistic direction with results-driven, comprehensive services, it’s both daunting and fascinating to watch Canada’s struggle to bear out the research in Harlem:

To change the trajectory of a poor child in an inner-city neighborhood, this research shows, you need to: intervene early in the child’s life; continue to intervene throughout adolescence; give him extra time in school and extra support out of school; involve his parents if possible but be prepared to compensate for their absence; focus on improving his cognitive skills but also nurture his noncognitive, social, and emotional skills.

Tough’s journalistic style isn’t as readable, for me, as my usual novel, though I give him kudos for deftly tying faces, personalities, and personal stories to the events and information he relates. . . I appreciate the macro/micro look at poverty and education.  Especially in DC, it’s too easy to be mired in one or the other–the policy or the pain–unable, or too tired, to see how they connect.

  • In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi reflects on her life as an English literature professor, and a female, in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  I read this one on some of our long plane rides and layovers this August.  History lesson, memoir, literary criticism in one.  I highly recommend it.
  • Contemplative poetry from Teresa of Avila. . . hat tip, Mary Stafford.
  • Lee Smith’s On Agate Hill is the fascinating historical fiction account of a girl orphaned by the Civil War.
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave tells the story of an African refugee and the London woman whose life she changes.  A bit of a downer, but it’s good.

Those last two were pass-downs from Mama Rote that she read for book club. To round things out, here’s a peek into her bookshelf these days:

I just started reading a novel by a writer named Josefina Lopez called Hungry Woman in Paris. I’m not sure yet if I like it, but I have picked up a few interesting cultural tidbits.  The narrator, Canela, is a Latina journalist in Los Angeles who has ended her engagement with Armando – a doctor – much to the dismay of her mama, to go to cooking school in Paris.  (Interesting tidbit #1:) Armando is an “M.A.P., a Mexican-American Prince – educated, accomplished, polished, cultured, and loved by his mother; but that was the problem.”  (Interesting tidbit #2:) “Of course a repressed and passionless Mexican-American family will look like a very passionate and enthusiastic WASP family. . . ”  I’ll just leave you to discuss amongst yourselves.

Interesting.  I won’t discuss here whether my in-laws are passionate or repressed, but I will say that perhaps Bachelorette Ali should’ve taken the potential pitfalls of dating a Latino into consideration when making her final choice.  Of course, I was still rooting for the hot hispanic southerner:

They could have a future that looks a little something like this:

(No need to fill you in on what I watched this summer.)

(If you’d like to see more wedding pictures, here’s the album on facebook.)

(Update on Mom’s reading: she opted not to finish Hungry Woman in Paris due to gratuitous F words.  Should’ve known.)