A Goodbye Letter to a Kind Soul

I was very young when I separated from my (now) ex-husband in 1996. I was only 22 years old. That summer, I lived in Florida, and I finally started dating, after being married for 5 years. I went out with my girl friends to the salsa clubs to dance, drink, and enjoy my youth. Many days, however, I felt worn, as I worked full-time (and then some) and I was raising my three girls on my own.  My escape from the weariness of life was my ability to get out, dance, meet new friends.

That summer, in 1996, I met some wonderful people. I danced with beautiful young men, sharing drink, laughter, and conversation. I was carefree, but I was also lonely. I was searching. Searching for someone to validate my existence as a young, vibrant woman – not just as an employee or a mother.

And that is when I met David.

In all my years, I have never met someone who struck me as sincerely kind and sweet, yet rakish. David was only 20 years old when we met at a salsa club. He was Puerto Rican, but he spoke in that Spanish-accented New England accent that, to this day, I find so attractive and endearing.

We started “talking” – that ambiguous term used when a couple is testing the waters to see what type of relationship will develop between them. But, other than many nights of long conversation, we went no further than friends. See, David had a long time girlfriend and he was planning on joining the Army Reserves.

Today, I pulled out my old journals and searched for what I wrote about him.

August 5, 1998 entry excerpt:

“…He was so sweet and innocent and cute. So young. So beautiful.”

August 12, 1998 entry excerpt: 

“…What a f***ing coincidence. Thinking of David last week and the following day I come into work and what do I need to do? Create a user account for none other than L. Armando Monroig…David’s brother! I freaked out!….See, David made me feel pretty and feminine….”

August 24, 1998 entry excerpt: 

“David called me today! I couldn’t believe it! We even went to lunch at Amigo’s….we talked the entire time. I hope he never suffers any hardships. He seems more mature and very sincere, sweet, considerate…(written in journal to David) Think of me fondly! Please, care for me somewhere in your heart. I’ll let you know…one day…how much you affected me……”

September 20, 1998 entry excerpt: 

” Someone called me tonight: David! We talked for four hours and it was just like old times. I don’t think he wanted to hang up. We talked about everything and anything. He’s still funny and cute and a little asshole. I’ve always like him…and it was so nice to talk to him again. The way we used to: flirtatious and silly. There are few people who I hold dear…but he’s one of them.”

I never saw or heard from David again. We went our separate ways, even though I would occasionally ask his brother after him. Then, I moved back to Michigan and, other than learning that he had joined the local Naples police force, I knew nothing about him, his family, his life.

Until the morning of July 9, 2014. The morning David died.

This post is my goodbye. Sometimes, there are people that cross your path, that enter life just for a fleeting moment. To open your eyes to something about yourself, or something about this world and this life. Sometimes to build you up, other times to break you down. They come in like a whisper on a breeze, or like lightening during a storm, and just as quickly as they came, they are gone. But, they leave their mark on your life forever, just by virtue of who they are.

I wish I could have said these things to you before you left us. Rest in peace, L. David Monroig.

Naples officer L. David Monroig

Estero Shooting

 

Officer Luis David Monroig

(from Naples Daily News)

 

The Birth of a Nickname

About 23 years ago, I was a senior in high school, ready to take on the world.

SeniorYearbookPicME

I’m the one on the left

Being raised in a Cuban household, I was speaking Spanish before I could walk. I think the only way I learned English was because my older siblings all spoke it, otherwise I probably would have ended up in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Either way, I still ended up in speech therapy for about 2 years, because I could not properly say “S” sounds or words. But, that was many years prior.

Anyway, I was very friendly with just about everyone in my class. That’s not saying too much, as we were a class of only 144 students. But, I envisioned myself a social butterfly and I liked everyone.

Kalamazoo Christian Comets

Kalamazoo Christian Comets

During my  four years in high school, as I spoke fluent Spanish, I opted to take Spanish classes to improve my grammatical usage of the language. I could read it, I could speak it, I could even write it, but I wanted to be able to write it WELL. So, I took 3 years of Spanish class with Mr. Vera – or Señor Vera.

So, here I was, this mulatto Cubana, in a class full of English-speaking kids who were fulfilling their foreign language requirement. Now, the older I became, the more I tended to speak my mind. As a young child, I was introverted and shy. As a young adult, not so much. I loved (and still do love) school and fully enjoyed the classroom, learning, and participating. I’m sure you can imagine what type of student I was/am.

 

Now, when Señor Vera would call on you in class, he would always say “digame”, which means “tell me”. Thus, day in and day out, I would shoot my hand into the air, and Señor Vera would say “digame” and I would answer. Being that I like to talk and perpetually have words running out of my mouth (I really enjoy the sound of my own voice), “digame” followed me from the classroom into the high school hallways. One day, my friend Laura was behind me as we walked to class and she yells “Hey, digame!”. That was the day “Digame” was born.

design1heart2

Thanks for reading!

 

-Lisa “Digame”

 

El Cubanismo – Cubanisms

I am American by virtue of where I was born, but Cuban by virtue of who I was born to. As I try to explain to my less cultured friends (Hi Zach!), my being Cuban is my ethnicity and culture, and has nothing to do with my race.

A few years back, when I was in between jobs, I decided to take the saucier side of being Cuban and bring that to the American forefront. (So much for bright ideas!) The best I could come up with was what I like to call my “Cubanisms”, and then I set up a Zazzle.com site.

Here are a few samples of the product designs that I created, based on some of the things I know about Cubanismo.

cuban american_A cuban american2_A little havana club_A loco_A mono_A no jodas_A rana_A tuerto_A

My best seller, by far, has been the mocked up logo for the “Little Havana Club”.  Seems to be a fan favorite!

My next blog I’ll tell you why my nickname is Digame. 😉

Picture Activity Schedules Aren’t Just for Kids With Autism

When I was only 25 years old, I was a young, divorced mother of three beautiful girls, attempting to manage my own home, career, and life. My kids were my life (and they still are), but at the time, it was straight HELL trying to manage all the multiple issues of life, work, and parenting that come with having a young family.  For the most part, I didn’t do too horribly (a quick survey of my children will either corroborate or contest that), and at that time, I had some “tricks and tips” that I came up with to help manage my busy life and busy schedule.

My girls and I in 1999

This past year, in my college classes, I participated in an Honors Thesis program for the Psychology department. During two full semesters, I was paired with a wonderful mentor, Jenny Ward, who was working on a project regarding children with autism and picture activity schedules.

Jenny and I

What the heck are picture activity schedules and what the heck does that have to do with your kids, Lisa?

Well, it’s funny you should ask. Picture activity schedules are graphic representations of different steps in an activity that help a child with autism perform that activity with little to no prompting. The great thing about picture activity schedules is that you do not need to have autism to use them, and, unbeknownst to me, when I was a young 25 year old mother of three, I created and used a version of picture activity schedules with my own children, without realizing that is what they were.

Here’s how it went down: I began using them around 1999. I had a 7 year old, a 5 year old, and a 4 year old. I worked a (more than) full time job, which typically had me working from home, even after I had finished my day at the office. Every week day morning, I would get up at approximately 4:30 am to get my children’s clothes ready for the day and get myself ready. By 6:45 am, everyone had to dressed, washed, teeth brushed, hair combed, and waiting by the door with bags and lunches, to get where we needed to be on time. Wow! I’m sure you are exclaiming. That’s really early! Yes, yes, it was. Thankfully, I was a very energetic 25 year old and could get up that early without too many aches and pains. However, it did not seem very logical to me to get up so early, only to turn around and go to bed by midnight, sleep four and a half hours, wake and do it all again. Besides, it was extremely tedious and eventually grew very exhausting. So, what did I do? I created picture activity schedules for my children.

Here is a sample of what one looked like:

Tooth brushing Picture Activity Schedule

I had something similar to this posted in the bathroom. There was another one for getting dressed in their bedrooms, along with one for making the bed.

These little posters were such time savers for me and my girls. If they had any question as to what they needed to do, I directed them to the posters littered throughout the house.

Now, these are different from the picture activity schedules used with children with autism today. As many of these children, especially the more severe cases, have trouble reading, writing, and even speaking, the picture activity schedules they use are typically only pictures, with little to no words written on them. Such as this sample here:

Picture Activity Schedule for a boy with autism – tooth brushing

 

But, my point is that it works in much the same fashion.

For me, these things were a lifesaver. Rather than have to explain to my children every 5 minutes what I needed them to do, I would say “what does the tooth brushing picture say?”. Even the two younger ones were able to, if not read what was written, then at least reference the picture and deduce that it was time to brush their teeth.

I must have been doing something right, when it came to those rough mornings, because my kids are all still alive and kicking, and one of them even made me a grandmother!

My girls and I in 2012
 

Detachment: the 4th of July and Patriotism

I was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan. You know, that little town that was featured in a song back in 1942. It was written and performed by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. Here’s a great Youtube clip of it: 

Where was I? Ah, yes, Kalamazoo. I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 40 years ago. It’s a wonderful little town. It was even voted one of the best places to raise your child back in 2011.  I have always liked Kalamazoo, and not only for the fun things to do in town, but for the people that live here. However, I’ve always been so conflicted.

I am 2nd generation Cuban-American. My parents came from Cuba and emigrated here over 45 years ago. Funny story, that one. They came separately, from different ends of the island, and both settled in Kalamazoo. My mother worked as an au pair for a local family, helping to raise their two children. My father left the island with his then-wife and their six children. As you’ve probably figured out, that marriage didn’t last the trip from Cuba to a strange land, with its strange customs and predominately Dutch heritage.

My Mother In Cuba

My Mother In Cuba

 

My Father In Cuba

My Father In Cuba

My father came from The Isle of Pines (La Isla de Pinos, now called Isla de la Juventud) which is located off the western end of the island. My mother is from Manzanillo, Holguin, which is on the eastern end of the island.

Map of Cuba

Map of Cuba

Somehow, through serendipity or maybe it was just a couple of nosy, match-making friends, my parents met in Kalamazoo, Michigan and married. Through their union, they produced myself and my brother. We rounded out the already large family of six children and two adults, to an even eight. (My oldest brother was back in Cuba and did not come to the United States until he was in his 40’s.)

What does that have to do with the 4th of July, Lisa?

Well, the 4th of July is a celebration of the independence of our nation. The United States of America. However, as an American with a heritage rooted in both the U.S. and in Cuba, it has been difficult to reconcile the love I have for both countries. Cuba, a country that I’ve only visited once in my life, but which holds so much culture, heritage, and family for me. The U.S. of A., the country of my birth, that reluctantly accepted my family and that Cuban heritage, and which, to this day, holds animosity for someone such as myself. Animosity which is evident in the attitudes and treatment towards the young children that are escaping their native countries and crossing the border to find freedom, and hopefully, new lives.

Now, not to say that my situation was the same as what those kids are going through, because it wasn’t. What I’m alluding to is the fact that, growing up a bi-racial Latina in a predominantly white, protestant area of the Midwest, I didn’t always feel very accepted, which, in turn, affects how I view my country, in general. Now, I have a sibling who joined the Marines, and nephews who are currently serving in both the Army and the Navy. I think that the lack of melanin in their skin, however, has had an effect on how they are perceived and treated, which also affects how patriotic they feel towards the good ole U.S. of A.

It is difficult, in my opinion, to feel a high degree of love and patriotism for a country that makes immigrants and their children feel unwelcome. Thus, my detachment when it comes to celebrating the 4th of July. For me, it comes and goes as any other day, just a little bit louder than normal. Sometimes, I decide to barbecue. This year, I worked. Don’t get me wrong, however. I am heartily thankful that my parents were able to come to this country and escape the oppression of the Castro regime, which allowed me the opportunity to live in freedom, but, it is not an easy freedom that I have been privilege to. It has been a freedom laden with racism, lack of opportunity, criticism, prejudice, and sometimes, outright hatred. Is that better than the life my family in Cuba has had to endure? Most likely. But, my experience is uniquely my own, and I cannot say whether I would have been happier or better off, if my parents had birthed me in Cuba. I can only say that, although I am thankful for the opportunity to have been born an American, I feel detached from what that even means.

Thanks for reading,

 

Lisa

 

 

 

Digame’s Diary Has Moved!

Hi there! I used to blog on Blogger at digamesdiary.blogspot.com, however, I’ve moved to WordPress.

Stay tuned for more great posts! 

 

Thanks for reading,

Lisa