In the blind

3468497c4b892688d0571a36dd82f30a“Houston, in the blind…Houston, in the blind…”

Sandra Bullock – or her character I should say – desperately looks for a signal back to earth in the middle of nowhere in space. Gravity. She’s looking for gravity.

I’ve been looking for gravity. Floating out in space like a lost satellite. No signal. I got on a bus and forgot to get off on the last stop. I’m roaming, constantly moving somewhere but don’t know where to.

Gravity. I lost my gravity. Houston, in the blind.

A message comes through and I sit, for days at a time analyzing every word, every letter. And nothing makes sense. I make a list of all possible reasons why this message arrived. But I never answer. I dissect it into small segments. Read it. Read it again. No answer.

Houston, in the blind.

If we are all bound to be attracted to something, the way gravity pulls us to earth, why are we still so lost? Floating, roaming, spacing out and not getting any signal. Sending messages out in the blind? Receiving them. Not answering. Not listening.

Houston, in the blind. This is the Ugly Duckling.

I keep moving. Constantly moving, going somewhere. I don’t know when and if I’ll make it there. But the bus never stop. The satellite continuously transmits a signal that nobody receives.

Houston, in the blind. This is the Ugly Duckling. Houston, in the blind, searching for gravity.

*Photo credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/34/68/49/3468497c4b892688d0571a36dd82f30a.jpg

Unapologetic 

un·a·pol·o·get·ic
ˌənəˌpäləˈjedik/
adjective
adjective: unapologetic
  1. not acknowledging or expressing regret.
    “he remained unapologetic about his decision”

13912638_491113847762179_5759191534147855225_nA few weeks ago, in the midst of one of the toughest heartbreaks of my life – not that I’ve had many, although one is enough – I decided to tattoo the word “unapologetic” on my right arm. As it is customary for me, I simmer on the idea of a tattoo for a long time before I actually decide to mark my skin permanently with something that could potentially be a temporary emotion.

Therefore, I must clarify – although I don’t need to offer explanations to anyone but myself – that even though this tattoo occurred in the midst of emotional turmoil, I had actually given plenty of thought to this one single 12 letter word for a long time, before branding it on my skin.

Unapologetic is a harsh word. It’s often misunderstood and thought of as that person who point blank does not care about the damage or pain that his/her actions may cause to others. I do what I want and I will not apologize for it.

Far from it.

In this journey called life, more often than not, we become this mixture of who we want to be with what we think others want us to be. We abide by society rules, follow the teachings of our families and we end up being very, very…unhappy. I was an unhappy human. I still am. I struggle daily with the choices that will either make me or break me. But I have a strong desire, above all, to be ME. I want to look back in life at 87 – if I make it there – and say: I became the human I wanted to be.

At some point in the past two years, I began changing the human I was for the human I long to be. I stopped caring about others’ opinions of me. No,  I did not turn into a rebel, I just don’t allow myself to make decisions based on the opinions of others. I put me and my own first. I prioritize my life and my needs not only in the order where it makes sense, but in the order where it makes ME HAPPY. I started what I called the project All-About-Me.

Oftentimes I found myself apologizing for my feelings, as if, my feelings were germs. I’m sorry if I’m asking you to give me what I deserve. I’m sorry I feel frustrated. I’m sorry I feel insecure. I’m sorry I’m disappointed.

Enough.

I am not sorry at all. Feelings are a consequence of an action, and yes, although they occur on a very cellular and personal level, feelings are also an external responsibility. Some feelings, are inevitably provoqued. And no one, and I mean NO ONE, can make you apologize for something they caused. As you are responsible for the way you feel, you are also responsible for what you have made others feel. Let’s start wearing our big girls and boys pants, and realize, you are responsible for the way you treat others. Period. No excuses.

When you start putting yourself first, you also realize that there is a level of freedom out there that you have not fully reached, but you are well on your way. The freedom of not letting anyone dictate your life. I won’t say the process has been easy. I’ve found myself questioning everything I do, and asking people for their opinion, more than I care to ask. But there is an immense field of potential when you realize that no matter what you do, the world will continue turning.

So I gave myself this set of rules/questions to live by and those I use everytime I find the inevitable fork in the road:

  1. Does it add positively to your life?
  2. Does it harm you or anyone in the process?
  3. Is it legal, moral or ethical? (Note, morals are purely a personal concept. Use yours, not your neighbors’)
  4. Is your child, or family, fed, cared for and in a comfortable position?
  5. Does it make you feel happy?

If the answer is Yes, by all means, DO THE THING! Whether is a tattoo, a new car, a piece of clothing, food, ending a relationship, letting go of a friend. Whatever it is. If it’s not adding constructively and positively to your life, DON’T DO IT or LET IT GO.

I have made myself the promise to live unapologetically. What does that mean to me? Easy. If I lived a truthful, loyal and caring life for me and mine, I’m simply not sorry about anything.

I am and will be Unapologetically Me.

The Ugly Duckling Can’t Run

image1.JPG“You have a stress fracture in one of your vertebrae.”

I’m staring at the X-rays of my back hanging from a lighted metal box on the wall. My ears are buzzing. What did he just say? A stress fracture? What does that even mean? I look back and forth from the wall to the doctor’s face and back again. My bones are so pretty. All lined up in a perfect row. And broken.

-“So, can I run?”

-“No. No running of any kind. No high impact sports. No jumping. No pounding of any kind.”

Gulp. No running. Now you’ve done it Ugly Duckling. How did you fracture your spine anyway?

For a few months now, I’ve been having all kinds of back pain, headaches and hip pain. Every time I ran during training, I was in a lot of pain. Subsequently, I would limp for about a week or two because I couldn’t bear putting any weight on my hip, or else pain would inevitably follow. So I decided it was time to reach out to an expert and find out what was wrong with me.

As I sat in the doctors office, occasionally walking back and forth from the x-ray room – they took at least 7 images from my back – I couldn’t imagine he would say something was wrong. I was already envisioning starting my training for the two races I’ve signed up and paid for in October. I even heard him say in my head “you’re fine, you have nothing to worry about”. But when he blurted out the words fracture and vertebrae in one sentence, something hit me in the gut.

I can’t run. I can’t do the only thing I’ve been fighting so hard for. What else are they going to take away from me? Doughnuts?

So, now I’m looking at – at least – three weeks of therapy, an MRI, a possible herniated disc and God only knows what else. So what? Therapy? Bring it. I don’t care what it takes, I want to lace up my shoes again, safety pin the bib to my shirt, wrap my bandana around my head and pound that pavement. I will look at the Finish line in the face again, and tell it: You’re mine bitch!

Finka – Table and Tap

Note to self: Next time you decide to write a post about a restaurant, bring your camera!

First of all, I’d like to begin this post apologizing – which is, I know, a horrible way to start a post about anything – about the mediocre quality of my pictures. Thing is, you see, I’m an idiot. I completely forgot to bring my camera to the restaurant, that I, beforehand, intended to write a post about. But since I’m an apprentice in this business, I think y’all can forgive me this time. Right? No biggie. Bad pictures. Who cares?!

Well, I do. So, promise – no wait – pinky promise! next time I’ll take better pictures.

That being said, let’s get down to business.

logoI’ve lived in Miami for 21 years now, and it is fairly known among the Miamian population that there are some parts of Miami that are, well…boring. I live right in the middle of, you guess it: boring town. Southwest Miami has barely a few things to do for fun. Other than the occasional big chain restaurant or scattered – also corporate – coffee shop, there isn’t really much to do. No theaters, no big cultural movement spot, no art gallery strip, no…fun. We are all a whole bunch of middle-class, suburban lawn mowers, van driving families. (That was too stereotyping. My bad!)

Except me.

And a whole other generation that travels aaaaaallllll the way to Midtown Miami for a little bit of fresh air and good eats. But times are changing folks! Times are changing! I say in the next 5 years, boring town is going to get some action! Maybe I’m being a little too positive, but I like to dream big. Why do I think so? Because Finka Table and Tap, that’s why!

Finka Table and Tap sits right in the middle of boring town, aka: Southwest Miami. The moment you drive by it, you can’t miss it. It’s homey looks, and refined country hipster decorations, are something out of this city. As I sat there on a Sunday afternoon, my best friend said something that struck me: “Right now, this feels like we could be anywhere in the world. Somewhere in Europe, or New York. It’s a mixture of both worlds.”

And she hit the nail in the head.

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Finka Table and Tap is a fusion restaurant, that brings good food, beer on tap and a full stocked bar, all in one. The good-looking waiters are also included in the experience, but sorry, you can’t take them home. With a full menu of Cuban-Korean-Peruvian dishes, your palate is sure to have a delightful experience. If you’re a beer lover don’t forget to try their selection of craft beers. Delish.

For an appetizer we ordered the Korean Style Brussel Sprouts, a combination of bacon, Brussel sprouts and fried wonton, in a sauce that transports you to the middle of Asia, even if you’ve never been there. For the main dish I ordered the Spicy Kimchee Fried Rice. Let me tell you: you know that feeling you get when you see the person you love walk right to you? Well, better. When Mr. Fried Rice showed up at my table, I almost died. The mixture of kimchee, vegetables, water chestnuts and scallions, top with a gorgeously looking fried egg was simply, heavenly. Anything fried egg related is heavenly.

I highly suggest you go with an appetite, because the portions are generous. I had to take half of both dishes home, which I eagerly devoured for lunch the next day.

The atmosphere and the decoration are the icing on the cake, adding up to a great experience. Make sure to check out their webpage for more information and of course – *cough, cough* – better pictures.

So if you live in boring town, or even if you don’t and are visiting the area, make sure to check out this mouth-watering and lovely place. Us boring-towners are feeling a wealth of luckiness to have this treasure close by.

*Restaurant logo taken from Finka Tap and Table.

The Ugly Duckling Eats

SKU0759_WebYesterday afternoon as I am driving home from work, my high school best friend and the only soul from that era whom I still keep in contact with, sends me a text message. After we exchanged a couple of greetings, formalities and pleasantries, girlfriend gets right down to business and the reason why she texted me. Her words ran along the lines of how much she looks forward to reading my posts and how she loves my creativity in writing. So far so good. I’m feeling good about myself. Shit, my best friend from high school thinks I can write! I’ve accomplished something. But then she said something that hit me right in the face. She said: “lately I feel like I am reading a novel that is a page turner!”

Hold up.

Did she just say novel? Did my best friend from high school just took 10 minutes from her life to tell me I’ve been writing up a storm of a novel? That’s it Ugly Duckling! You’ve crossed the line. This is not what we came here for, ya know? You gotta stop girlfriend, and you gotta stop now.

As for my bestie, girl: THANK YOU! You gave me a dose of reality in just two lines. Thank you. No, really, I mean it.

The Ugly Duckling was not conceived for drama. Well, maybe some, a healthy dose. But not full-blown-novel-drama?! Nope. Negative ghost rider. Go on and find your way back. You came here to talk about life. And that constitutes far more than just that inevitable part of life we call heartbreak. It’s much more than that.

That’s why today we will start off a new section called The Ugly Duckling Eats. Yup. She eats. And she loves it. In this section we will share mouthwatering recipes, our review of some local and/or international eats as they occur, and also how to balance fitness and healthy eating.

The Ugly Duckling gets down to business, or shall we say eating? And while yes, we may sulk on our broken hearts every now and then, we will stop boring you with our…uhum…novel.  After all, it’s really difficult to cry with a full mouth…of food. *wink*

*Photo credit: http://i0.wp.com/blog.marleyspoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/SKU0759_Web.jpg?resize=750%2C500

 

We will never.

408ff47d74fcc970fe38551e2c26543fYou’ll never see my daughter grow up. I’ll never see your son grow up. They will never be a family. And one day, the universe will put them together in the same room, and they won’t know how much their parents loved each other. How much future was in our eyes at one point. They’ll never experience coming home to a happy family, to a pair of tired adults from working all day, but with full hearts of happiness and warmth to give them both.

We will never know what it takes to build a home together, cook together, fix the kids room together. The joy of building their beds and painting the walls to their favorite colors, and decorating the rooms for a girl and a boy who, despite being born in different worlds, would have grown up in one whole, loving family.

I will never know the feel of your kiss at the end of a long day at work, when you would get home and wrap your hands around my waist and whisper in my ear while I prepare dinner: I love you so much. You will never feel the breeze of the night, as we would sit out in the balcony, sharing that so desired glass of wine, while you’d tell me how your day was at work.

I will never hear your lips call me bonita one more time, or feel the weight of your arms crushing my ribs while you sleep, deeply, snoring away. We will never feel the sunshine peeking through the window in a Sunday morning, poking our lazy bodies, tired from a night of love making, laugh inducing silliness and deep long stares.

We will never.

You should have opened your eyes. I was crazy about you. And that, you will never find again.

Photo credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/40/8f/f4/408ff47d74fcc970fe38551e2c26543f.jpg

Good

  
Why do you love me?Because you’re a good woman.
My ex husband used to tell me he loved me because I was good. Not because I was pretty or smart, or because I was fun. He loved me because I was good.

Good.

I used to ask myself if it was better to be someone’s impossible love or to be someone’s “let-me-settle-with-this-girl” love. The latter seems to lack passion. The unmistakable definition of it is what it is and I take what I can get.

I was good. So I decided to be bad. And bad I’ve been.

Many people have loved me because I was good to them. Because I go out of my way to please them. Because there isn’t an action in this world full of good intentions, that would amount to being the greatest person they’ve ever met. So I was good to them.

I was good to them because I don’t know how to say no. Because I rather deprive myself of something than to fail their expectations of my “good” self.

And in turn, they’ve paid me with bad. I’ve kept them company, so they leave me alone. I’ve supported them, they pay me with neglect. And it has never failed, as that of a bible excerpt, that they will deny me three times before the rooster crows.

Last year a friend sent me a book called: Men love bitches.

I laughed as I read it because I find it ridiculous to fathom the idea that evil can be repaid with kindness. But it does. My upbringing has brought me many a disappointment. Lead a life of servitude they taught me. Find pleasure in serving others. And pleasure I find.

But as hard as it is to realize, I am alone, sitting at the end of the strip of street that runs behind my house, right at the dead end that looks upon a highway. I am sitting here alone, looking at and endless stream of cars traveling God knows where to. I am entirely alone. A life of service for a destiny of loneliness.

We are forever responsible for the monsters we create. And those monsters will never understand how much I needed them. No amount of bad will ever fill my emptiness.

Photo credit: http://agirlikeme.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/tumblr_m29kmhnspx1roht0ro1_500_large1.jpg

The Box

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Inside my closet, on the first shelf of the door to the left, there’s a black box. It’s a cardboard box with black and brown stripes and a solid black top. I bought it at Ikea, for no particular purpose, but it ended up being your box. When I speak to people about your box I call it the black box, like the ones on the airplanes. It serves the same purpose. It contains memories.

Every time I open my closet door, and that is several times a day, I look at it. It’s there, sitting on the shelf, not saying much. Not saying anything at all. It’s just a box. But to me, it’s always whispering. It wants to be noticed. It sits there looking at me, and saying: Look at me, I’m that big pink elephant in the middle of the room. I’m here!

But I tell myself that it’s just a black box.

Every so often, I take it out, and I climb onto my bed with it. I caress the top, and slowly whisper to it, like taming a wild animal that it’s about to burst open. I tame it. I speak to it, and we have a long silent dialog for a while. And then I open it. And so does my heart.

I make a careful inventory of its contents. It’s a ritual. The box knows it and so do I. We take everything out. It lets me. We take every single item out. Every memory. And every tear. There’s an order to everything inside the box. There’s an order to every emotion that comes with it. First comes the envelope with your graduation picture. It’s a CVS photo envelope with two copies of your cap and gown picture. The one that post office bent, although the envelope clearly said “Do Not Bend”. That one. The one I got to keep. Then comes a small notebook, a diary, where I wrote a note the day you left the office when you got the job in IT. It ends like this: “…and half my life is walking out the door with him.”

Then comes the t-shirt and the bib for the 5K we ran together. I don’t know why I placed it inside the box, but I guess it reminds me of so many times we’ve wanted to do races together, and only this time we did. Then come the sunglasses. The ones you gave me because you thought I would like them. I never told you I hated them. They’re ugly, they look ugly on me. But I wouldn’t tell you, because I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings. But now you know, they’re ugly as funk.

The second layer of the contents becomes harder to take out. Is a thick mess of memories, each tangled up with the other, so deeply connected. Here is when I start crying. Here is why I never want to open the black box. There’s another tiny black box, containing the glass picture of yourself you gave me for Christmas last year. It’s so vivid I want to break it every time I see it, because maybe if I do, you will come out of your cage. You’re frozen inside the glass. Breaking it won’t free you. Breaking it only breaks me.

The heels. Those heels have never set foot on the ground. There isn’t a single scratch on their soles, not a spec of dust. But those heels have traveled many miles with us. Many beds. Many…

Your boxers and briefs. The tie. The silver tie and the silk scarf are together. They belong together. There’s no way on earth they can ever be apart. They have a mind of their own, even if I place them neatly next to each other, the next time I open the box they have manage to tangle themselves together. Like we did, at some point.

Then there’s a towel that you left in my car. Or in yours and I took it. Or at my old apartment. I can’t remember. It’s a towel, thick and soft. I keep it because it creates a nice soft mattress for the rest of the items in the box. As if it’d protect them from any damage.

The last three items I keep in a bundle. They also belong together like the tie and the scarf. But on a level so deep that nothing could tear them apart. Nothing. It’s the shirt you wore the night we went to Blue Martini. The night I told you I loved you. The night before the morning when, having realized I hadn’t said that out of being drunk, you told me you loved me. Wrapped inside it are two of the most valuable things I keep in this box. Your dog tags. And a necklace you gave me of dark purple beads and a feather.

Your dog tags say that you are A+. Just like me. Blood of my blood.

After I’ve ripped my soul open, the ritual ends. I put everything back in the box, in the exact same order that it came out. I carefully fold every piece of clothing. Set the shoes in place. Your picture. Everything in a way that it doesn’t get disturbed by anything else. Every item in this box coexists with the others. They purposely belong to each other. In harmony.

Tonight I have done my black box ritual one more time. I have taken careful account of my inventory. I have recalled every memory. Shed every tear. But tonight there’s a new item inside.

I left my heart in the black box. Because my heart doesn’t want to be anywhere else, but where it one day, was very happy.

Photo credit: https://img1.etsystatic.com/043/0/6699511/il_340x270.600062037_fq17.jpg

Why did The Ugly Duckling start running?

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All the way through middle school and high school I despised my physical education class. During endurance runs I used to cheat and hide behind the bleachers until I could make my way back into the running crowd without the teacher noticing. I HATED running. Hate may be an understatement. Going to the gym was never a fun thing to do. It didn’t even exist in my head. It wasn’t until my early thirties, after my daughter was born that I started allowing the thoughts of running and exercising to take some sort of shape in my head.

So I gave it a try. I began running around my neighborhood in short increments. But I still hated it. It was a chore. But I kept trying every now and then, to end up quitting a few weeks after. I couldn’t find the will. It just wasn’t my thing. I lacked the commitment and furthermore, i lacked the inspiration. Years came and went, and I continued my life without entertaining running as a part of it. Until my life started crumbling into pieces.

A lot of people take up running because they enjoy the workout, or because they want a healthy lifestyle, or because they find it rewarding. For me, it was none of those reasons. I needed to run to save my life.

Through all those years I started reconnecting, thanks to the Internet and social networking, with some of my family and friends. I would see that some of them would share their fitness endeavors with pride, and I thought how wonderful it would be to feel so strongly about something in life. I wanted to be them. I envisioned myself living a life so full that I would be excited to tell everyone about it.

And along came Robin.

Robin is my cousin on my mother’s side. She, just like me, grew up on a total lack of physical activity. But one day she ran a race in college and was hooked. Ever since she’s become – as she calls herself – an ambassador of sweat. She’s the inspiration of thousands and my personal hero. She left a career in law to become an ultra marathoner, a sports writer and a fitness coach. And she sure hooked me.

So last year, inspired mainly by other reasons, but with one constant though in mind, I joined an interval workout class called Orange Theory. Talk about a wake up call! Orange Theory left me in shambles the first week. I slammed myself into the wall of reality. I was not fit AT ALL! I was a fitness loser. I couldn’t even keep up. I went to class week after week, to come out of there thinking: will I ever be able to do this without feeling like I’m going to die every time?

At the same time my life had been turned upside down. Let me rephrase that: I had chosen to turn my life upside down. Many nights I sat on the balcony in my new apartment wondering if I would ever make it through alone, as a single mom. I sat there for hours, drinking wine and smoking cigarette after cigarette. I drove myself mad.

But the desire to change it all kept hammering my brain day after day. I needed to break through all my barriers. I needed to do something I had never done before, and certainly it needed to be something that i wasn’t comfortable with doing. I needed to fly.

2015 came along and so did running. I started training slowly, inching my way to a short run here and there. I began walking around a nearby park. Then build myself up to a jog, and then one day, I started running. I signed up to my first race on April 2015. And all hell broke lose. I ran.

That day, heart broken, with the worst history of physical aptitude and an overwhelming desire to finish at all costs, I ran the Corporate Run. A mere 5k to the eyes of experienced runners, but I finished it. The satisfaction I felt when i held the finisher medal in my hand was beyond words. I was out of my mind.

Today, 4 days away from ringing in a new year, I can safely say I love running. I have run 6 races, and countless training hours. I am in no way, shape or form an expert. I still struggle through every run. I’m slow, very slow. I still stop and walk through each and everyone of them. My mantra is “one more minute”. But I run. I finish. I have created a version of myself I never dreamed of. I broke the mold.

Race medals have become my most coveted form of jewelry. Race bibs the most treasured pieces of paper. When I lace up, and put on that number, there’s only one thing in my mind: the next mile. And then, the next mile after that. And one day, when I’m really old, surrounded by my grandchildren I will proudly say: your grandmother was a runner. She learned how to fly.

Photo credit: http://race-for-freedom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/running-background-1920-1200.jpg