Archive | July, 2012

Happiness Project Update 7: Enjoying The Now, Enjoying The Later Much Better, and Ripley

21 Jul

In truth this part of my Happiness Project hasn’t been very happy. It’s been frustrating. There’s just not enough time during the day, every day, in my motherhood existence to carve out a 90-minute interval to work on my novel. If I had a maid, a chef, a personal assistant, and some sort of genuine support to help me raise two kids in a less stressful way I might have a couple of extra hours.

Image via

But realistically that’s not gonna happen. I’d have a better chance if I lived on some random planet where a 26-hour day exists. So until then I’ll have to take the  small crappy increments of writing time I can get. A lonely 45 minute or hour-long session is better than nothing. So I kept chugging along. I may not make quick progress, but I’ll make progress eventually.

I’ve mentioned this before and for some reason I feel the person who said this knew me … maybe they’re hiding in my closet.

“The elevator to success is broken, you’re going to have to take the stairs.”

In any case I was feeling pretty down about the whole lack of reaching my daily goal of 90 minutes of fiction writing. And then I read the last section in Rubin’s work/career chapter. “Enjoy Now” she says. In this section she talks about the “arrival fallacy”. The times when people say I’ll be happy when X happens, or I’ll be happy when I reach X goal. In other words when you arrive to a certain destination on your career path you’ll be happy or happier.

Rubin states that the arrival rarely makes you happy because you anticipate it. Apparently arriving at that point brings you more work and responsibility. Once you get to your goal, another one, a more challenging one surfaces. So she talks about “enjoying the now.”

I get it.  I get that some people are just jackasses and don’t truly enjoy what they have once they get there. Their ideas are running amok and their ambition sometimes gets the best of them, so they forget to enjoy it. This would not happen to me. I come from a dysfunctional Latino family and these people keep you in check. There is no threat of getting a big head or a crazy out-of-control ambition. My family will definitely see to that. Enjoying the now is not really a problem for me. I’d enjoy the later much better. The later being finally published. However some writers even have a problem with that.

With writers sometimes they fear what critics would say and anxiety kicks in, so they don’t enjoy the fact that their publishing goals have been reached. But again, seeing how I live in a dysfunctional Latino family, criticism was a constant in my upbringing. So the fact that strangers would be doing it, wouldn’t effect my happiness factor at all.

I agree with Rubin about enjoying the now, I’m all for that. I’m working on that every day. As I finish a blog post and hit that publish button. I enjoy that. I enjoy that satisfaction of finishing my post-a-day challenge and having it be genuine and coming straight from The Guat, no matter the topic. If I’m feeling it. I’m feeling it. But I agree to disagree on her idea of the “arrival fallacy”. For some people yes, that doesn’t work. For The Guat enjoying the later will definitely be awesome, because I’ve never been there.

And it’s funny, as I was thinking about this happiness project post this week I watched something on the USA Network. I know what you’re thinking, when haven’t you, right?

Anyway, I saw Sigourney Weaver‘s new show, Political Animals. Her character sort of reminds me of Hilary Rodham Clinton. But that’s not why I watched it. I had no idea that it would loosely be based on Hilary. I checked it out, because Weaver was coming out in it. You know Ripley. I love Ripley.

Anyhow, she said something that sort of applied to me, my life path, my career path, my Happiness Project path. A reporter tells Weaver’s character how much she admires her resolve, but how does she do it? And Weaver responds:

“Most of life is hell, it’s filled with failure and loss, people disappoint you, dreams don’t work out, hearts get broken, innocent journalists die, and the best moments in life, when everything comes together, are few and fleeting, but you’ll never get to the next great moment if you don’t keep going. So that’s what I do. I keep going.”

Ripley is badass. I’m gonna have to take her advice and keep going.




I Was Surrounded By ‘The Fruit of The Sea’

20 Jul

Most days I have only one good moment, not great, but good. Great, spectacular, mind-blowing happens maybe once or twice a year if I’m lucky. So when the good comes, I try to savor it as much as possible because I’ve learned that a whole lot of crap is just around the corner waiting to drop. This is it. This is the Guat existence. So when multiple good things happened in one day I had to do a double-take.

I had to take a wait-a-minute-one-second moment to make sure it was happening to me, and I just wasn’t imagining it.

This is what happened yesterday on my son’s birthday. Now if you tuned in yesterday, you’re aware of the awesome day that took place at The Aquarium and how my nerd factor kept escalating throughout the day. I also briefly mentioned our lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

But I was so in love with the vibe of this joint and the easy family, or lunch date, atmosphere that I decided to go beyond the mention, beyond the casual comment, beyond the footnote. I went into full post for this one.

Forrest. Forrest Gump became part of the reason why I truly enjoyed the dining experience. I’m a big fan of the movie and I’ve watched it so many times that I lost count. So when I walked into a place where quotes, pictures and other fine details from the movie were posted everywhere, the cool factor sort of kicked in. As you can tell I had never been there.

Now what is it that you eat at Bubba Gump? Was I going to be the jackass that has a hamburger at a fish joint? A salad? Please. I mean don’t get me wrong, these items did look tasty, but c’mon now. I was a Bubba Gumps and according to Bubba “shrimp is the fruit of the sea.” And after all there was all kinds of shrimps … shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan-fried shrimp, deep-fried shrimp, stir-fried shrimp, pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, and shrimp sandwich.

What kept my kid entertained

I opted for something I hadn’t had before, nor cooked myself. The coconut shrimp. But in addition to all these choices, they had a great kid’s menu, which made the place even better. Not your average fish sticks. The fact that our waiter was awesome increased the enjoyability factor times ten. Not only did he take our order quickly but he brought out my son’s fish n’ chips in a miniature paper boat, a replica of The Jenny. I thought it was hilarious. My son thought it was awesome, so much so that our waiter noticed his enthusiasm and ended up bringing him another one. He had Jenny I and Jenny II and he was loving it.

Jenny I and Jenny II

Now just when I thought his birthday lunch couldn’t get any better, he experienced his first restaurant happy birthday waiter song. I was happy to say it wasn’t crazy obnoxious either. It was just the right level of genuine excitement. I think the waiters and waitresses were into it because my son’s giddiness and expressions were priceless. The fact that my camera’s battery died right before they sang to him burned me out. But one of the waitresses volunteered to take a picture of him and send it to me. Sundae devoured and the evidence all over his mouth and cheeks.

Awesome service, right? It’s no wonder it’s a household name.

I helped him finish the sundae, thanked our waiter for a great time, tipped him generously for the extras he went through to make my son happy, and then stopped by the Bubba Gump store to purchase some merchandise for myself. I didn’t want to forget all the good moments that took place that day. And incidentally, if you know The Guat you know there was no pink shirt for me. Instead a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Baseball Cap and a t-shirt resembling a Football Jersey. Forrest’s football Jersey.

Run Forrest, Run!


Dozens of Argentinean and Chilean Penguins. Eight Stamps. One Nerd. And One Bike.

19 Jul

Today brought together a motley crew of highlights that seemed to blend together at the end of the day and make me smile. It was a fun-filled day, officially my son’s fourth birthday, and an awesome adventure for the nerd in me at The Aquarium of The Pacific.

The Aquarium

I mean really Argentinean and Chilean Penguins? I had no idea that penguins existed outside of arctic, glacier-filled environments, and said stuff like “Oye, todo bien, Che?”

I mean who knew? The Aquarium people knew. They got skills. Mad penguin and ocean animal skills.

Stuff like that seemed to fascinate me, it’s the nerd in me. Apparently there are seventeen kinds of penguins on Earth and most of them live in temperate regions. The ones I got to hang out with today were the Magellanic Penguins, which sadly happen to be an endangered species. I’m glad I got a chance to hang out with the Oye Che penguins.

The Penguins

But this little fact wasn’t the top contributor to my escalating nerd factor of the day. It was the stamps. The eight stamps. White Sea Bass, Pacific Seahorse, Collard Aracari, Whitetip Reef Shark, Magellanic Penguins, Anchovy, Dragon Sea Moth, and the Bonnethead Shark. I mean even before I put my hands on the Map & Visitor Guide I was vaguely familiar with half of these creatures, but by the end of the day I happen to know certain Trivial Pursuit-Jeopardy! type of information. It happens when the nerd comes out. It happens when you get stamp crazy.

As soon as I got that Map & Visitor Guide it was on. I saw the empty circles hanging out on the top-right corner of the pages. I mean I wasn’t a middle-school student trying to finish an Earth Science assignment for my third period teacher. I wasn’t going to get a prize from the aquarium volunteers for getting all eight stamps. But I was still on a mission to get all of the embossing stamps on my map and visitor guide. My son found this scavenger hunt pretty enjoyable, but in truth it was the nerd in me that enjoyed it too. Maybe more than my son.

At the end of the day I was missing just one: The Pacific Seahorse. It was past lunch time. Past nap time. But the nerd in me overpowered the mom in me and I took an extra five minutes to return to the Southern California Baja Gallery to look for the embossing station. And there it was hanging out by the exhibit, being used by elementary and middle school students. I was last in a line of three.

The Guide

As I finished getting the last stamp in my book, I felt a woo-hoo! resonate in my Pointdexter soul. I smiled, excited to tell my son who was hanging out by the Nemo tropical fish tank. As I turned to see other kids waiting to use the station I felt a little out-of-place. But then I noticed two adults holding onto their visitor guides. Page 11 sticking out, ready to get the stamp and then it was all good, because the visitor guide brought out the nerd in everybody.

And yes he was as excited. My son was as excited as I’d hoped he’d be. Maybe not as excited as when he got his miniature scuba diving guy for the bathtub, but nevertheless excited. Mission complete.

But his birthday wasn’t quite over yet we stopped by Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., which is awesome by the way. So awesome that I might have to write a separate post on this restaurant tomorrow. They sang him happy birthday and he dove into a hot fudge sundae.

But that wasn’t even the best part …

The Red Racer

We made our way through traffic, which sort of dazed the excitement factor, and finally made it home. And there it was sitting in the patio waiting for him.

A red Specialized super awesome bike, to replace the one they stole. No SpiderMan decals this time, just a clean read bike. And an ecstatic four-year old with his Lightning McQueen helmet.

Dozens of Argentinean and Chilean Penguins. Eight stamps. One nerd. And one bike. This is what my son got for his fourth birthday.

I’m Sticking With Josh Lucas and Ralph Waldo Emerson on This One

18 Jul

Josh Lucas … ohhhh … Josh Lucas. Well Josh Lucas and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Unlikely pairing?

Yes … yes it is.

Image via

But it was John Grisham. He was to blame. First for writing the book then for being the executive producer on the show. Yeah there was a movie, Tom Cruise, Ed Harris, and Holly Hunter come out in it, but the show is where Lucas and Emerson were paired up.

The Firm. I’m talking about The Firm.

Now you might think that I get most of my life lessons from television, but I don’t. I mean maybe I watch too much TV late at night. But in truth it’s the only time I get a chance to unwind and relax. It’s all quiet except for the drama I saved on the DVR and my dog’s snoring. It’s too bad you can’t get Breathe Right Strips for dogs, because she definitely snoozes it, come midnight.

In any case, it’s my time of peace during a day-long chaos. Even if I have to wait until midnight to get it. I wait. The under-eye circles that hide behind my sunglasses the next day are worth it.

So while I’m actually sitting still at midnight and the place is quiet, I enjoy getting lost in the drama and story of others, and The Firm happens to be one of the shows I check out. It’s not Breaking Bad, The Wire, or Sons of Anarchy, but it’s still pretty good. Plus it’s got Josh Lucas and I really can’t go wrong with that. Josh.

This week something that Lucas said resonated with me, but it wasn’t something his character came up with, it was Emerson.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else, is the greatest accomplishment. “

His character said something to that effect when talking to his brother. Then Lucas saw Emerson’s quote framed in a judge’s chambers. Had to be Grisham … had to be.

In any case it got me thinking about all the little comments people say to you, either just to get under your skin and be jackasses, or because that’s how they see you.  And it makes you angry, and then sad because the people closest to you are supposed to know you better than anyone. But sometimes that’s not the case.

They say stupid things, and what’s worse, sometimes they say it in Spanish and Spanish just intensifies the meaning of every word. Case in point…

I love you … te amo

Stupid … Estupido

You’re so kind to me … Eres tan carinosa conmigo

You’re so cold … Eres tan fria

Son of a bitch … Hija de la gran puta

See? Intense.

Well in any case after a couple of comments that I chose not to respond to, I thought about Emerson’s quote during my midnight quiet time. Some people may see you a certain way, no matter how wrong they may be and sometimes they know they’re wrong. But they still do it. Either way it’s good to remind yourself to ignore comments of that nature. Those comments probably have more to do with the other person’s issue other than how they see you.

In any case it’s best to continue being yourself, and fight off those comments with Wonder-Woman-like superpowers, unless you’re a jackass and you know it. In that case, the world is trying to tell you something.

But I’m not a jackass. So I’m going to stick with Lucas and Emerson on this one.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreaming

17 Jul

Dreaming …


I stand there at Barnes & Noble … dreaming.

I dream of the day that I no longer get the “it’s not you it’s me” letter from agents.

I dream of the day when I no longer get upset because I can’t believe books were published by Bravo Reality TV Stars and people buy them.

I dream of the day when I finish my second novel and someone other than myself thinks it’s awesome enough to publish.

I dream of the day when I walk out of an agent’s office as happy as Will Smith does at the end of  his Pursuit of Happyness movie.

I dream of the day I get to feel the Lero Lero Factor around those that didn’t believe I could do it.

I dream of the day that I walk into a Barnes & Noble and my book is sitting on the shelf … any shelf … even the 30% off shelf.

Dreaming …

Lonjas, Spanx, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Cotton Blends

16 Jul

As I was looking through some pictures recently, I discovered something disturbing. Although I’m not a vein person, I do have shame and this very shame has taught me to wear appropriate clothing for my body type.

No Daisy Dukes for my grown-ass 36-year old body, unless they’re board shorts and I’m on the beach. And surely no midriff if I’m not sporting a six-pack, which I’m not. Haven’t had one since high school and even then it was a four-pack at best.

As I was thumbing through some photos, I noticed some recent pictures of me and a couple of friends. Now apparently there is a certain way to pose when you’re taking a group photo and being the Guat that I am, I had no idea that some of my friends had mastered the Oscars Red Carpet pose, even when wearing shorts and sandals, or jeans and t-shirts. Poses that make you look more appealing and hide what every woman wants to camouflage — the lonja — the love handles, the flabby stomach rolls hanging out under your t-shirt or blouse. But being in this Red Carpet pose means turning my back on my friend, instead of hugging her … and I’m big on hugs.

Now I am aware that my body isn’t in tip-top pre-baby form and I’m o.k. with that, but after looking at these pictures I wasn’t too happy with my lonjas making an appearance in these photos. Granted they are not very big and I’m sure everyone I know has a couple, but no one wants to check these out in a group photo. Mine are usually private and stay confined to the undershirt or tank top, but apparently they were not comfortable in the cotton blend shirt I was wearing.

In all honesty it shouldn’t have bothered me because I have a killer smile, great skin, and good hair, but there I was being a chick and scrutinizing myself. Then one of my family members walked in the room and asked me what I was doing, and I mentioned that I was just looking at photos, but that I felt kind of bad because my lonja made its debut. And then they said something that only family can say …

“Well maybe you shouldn’t eat all that chocolate …”

Now … I’m not a violent person by any means, but I felt the urge to become an Ultimate Fighting Champion at that moment and smash somebody’s face. Fortunately for them I’m trying this new ZenFour-AgreementsHappiness Project thing so I maintained my composure and kept flipping through the photos.

You might ask … is this true? Do you eat a lot of chocolate? And … Yeah. Yeah I do. But people know better than to say something this stupid. But the fact that I eat truck loads of chocolate has nothing to do with my lonjas.You might think so, but it doesn’t I work out. I play sports. It has more to do with giving birth to a kid and my stomach not being what it used to be five years ago. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re 36.

HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm The Midriff Episode

I guess this all could have been avoided by wearing Spanx, but I really don’t see myself buying a pair of those things, unless I’m walking the red carpet. But after this little photo shoot, who knows, I might just pick me up a pair.

But then I saw something on television and realized, maybe I don’t need Spanx as much as I think I do. After watching a rerun of Curb Your Enthusiasm, I felt much better.  It was the Midriff Episode. It’s a pretty hilarious take on Larry’s new assistant and her being comfortable enough with her body image that she wears a short tight t-shirt that exposes her midriff. However, Larry being Larry makes this entire episode pretty funny. And it made me realize that I needed to relax. My lonjas are not that bad, and even though everyone else’s don’t show in the picture, everyone has them. They just had better clothes. So I embrace  my lonjas  … yes embrace them! But let’s not get crazy and have them make another appearance in a photo shoot. Note to self … work on that Red Carpet pose. No … scratch that … that’s not you. I’m more of the Heisman Trophy pose. Let’s try again … Note to self pick a different shirt. 100 percent cotton seems to work best. No blends.

No Blue Bowling Bag, But Plenty of Hugs, Smiles, Hi-Fives, and Cake

15 Jul

It’s been an emotional marathon this weekend. I hadn’t trained for it and it nearly kicked my ass. But there’s really no way to train for something like this. You just got to be able to get through it.

The Goody Bags

My daughter’s first birthday was on Friday, the anniversary of my father’s passing was on Saturday, and my kids’ birthday bowling party took place today.  I’ve had too many emotions this weekend. But at least there was cake. Two of them. A Lightening McQueen cake  for my son and a purple princess cake for my daughter. No pink involved.

The party, the balloons, the bowling action with friends the family, the pizza, the buffalo wings, the funky arcade games, the happy birthday song, the blowing out the candles, the bowling pin sippy cups, and the goodie bags. These were all great distractions. I even laughed and smiled, but my dad was still on my mind.

He would’ve loved the party. He’s the kind of guy that had his own bowling shoes, bowling ball, bowling towel, and bowling bag, but no bowling league. That’s just how he rolled. He didn’t need the league, he was pretty badass by himself. Whenever he picked up a hobby he went all the way, and the family joined in. We all had our Brunswick or Dexter bowling shoes, part of it because we were badass. But also because we weren’t big fans of sharing other people’s sweaty bowling shoes. Even with the disinfectant spray. I told you, I’ve got them Howard Hughes issues. But we always had a good time.

So when I was off celebrating my kids’ birthdays, I missed seeing my dad’s blue bowling bag hanging out on one of the chairs. Even though I was happy for my son and daughter, I was sad about dad. His presence was definitely missed.

Thinking of bowling-pin strategy

But seeing everyone enjoy themselves and my son reaching for that congratulatory high-five when he got that strike made me feel less crappy. And I don’t know what it is that makes you feel so great after knocking down ten pins, but you definitely smile and feel some sort of vindication.

And yes … yes there were strikes. Granted the kids had bumpers to help them out, nevertheless a strike was hard to come by in that tiny tots section, so when it did happen, it was high-fives all-around and dance moves for everyone. In fact having him throw the ball and then lean to the right and then to left, made me crack up. Watching him study the pins as if he was planning his next move was even funnier.

It was a good moment during my emotional marathon, and I was thankful that my son was having a good time, my daughter wasn’t giving me that baby attitude, my family wasn’t crazy, and my friends showed up to join the party. Even though there was no blue bowling bag, I did have hugs, smiles, chocolate cake, white cake, and goody bags.

Remembering Dad: Phone Messages and Aftershave

14 Jul

Two years ago today he passed away at the hospital. Mine was the last voice he heard. All I could say was I love you and I’ll see you in the morning. This was at 1:47 a.m.  He passed away two hours later.

I spent the morning listening to the last messages five messages he left me on my answering machine and smelling the half empty bottle of aftershave he left in the bathroom cabinet.

My dad.

January 1948 to July 2010















The Initiation of the Little Guat

13 Jul

I didn’t get there last time and believe me, it wasn’t because I didn’t try. We were making all kinds of traffic infractions, but I just didn’t make it. The process happened so fast so I missed the window of opportunity.

Even though people tell you, you forget the pain, they lie. Because you recognize it when it hits your abdomen. Then comes your back. Your aching back. It’s so excruciating that profanity constantly fills the room. You try not to, but it just comes out. Even in a Catholic Hospital.

Granted everyone’s experience is quite different, but everyone feels pain, even a little. If they say they don’t, that’s probably because the drugs are working.

These pains caused me such agony that I was calling on all Gods and Powers that be to make sure I had made it in time — made it to the window of opportunity. The Epidural Opportunity.

Now I’m not a wuss, and my pain threshold is pretty high, but there was no need to test my limits. Really there wasn’t. I had gone through that entire process before and let’s just say that I’m not a fan pain. Just because I can take it, doesn’t mean I should do it again.

And yes … yes this time, the window of opportunity was still there.

But all that pain, agony, swearing, and needles shoved into my veins brought me the joys of motherhood once again. A year ago today my daughter was born, and we celebrated her initiation into The Guat Family with a little cake, a little bouncer, and a few games. Her big party, along with my son’s is on Sunday, but the memory was created today.

Trying to play some games

One year of limited sleep.

One year of 2 a.m. feedings.

One year of 6 a.m. wake up calls.

One year of washing 20 Doctor Brown baby bottle parts a day.

One year of dirty Huggies diapers.

One year of random screaming.

One year of purchasing multiple pacifiers.

One year of people trying to give me pink things even though they know I hate pink.

One year of baby-proofing stuff that is never really baby proof.

One year of vaccinations and the crying that goes with it.

One year of crying because she’s sleepy.

One year of crying because she’s hungry.

One year of crying because she’s teething.

One year of crying for no reason.

One year of losing my mind.

One year of giggles.

One year of enthusiastic screaming when I enter the room.

One year of baby dancing when she hears music.

One year of watching a brother love his sister.

One year of smiles.

One year of puppy-dog eyes.

One year of ten tiny toes and ten tiny fingers.

One year of another little Guat hanging around.

One year today.

The Lunch Circle and The Potato

12 Jul

Ever have one of those jobs where almost everything about it sucked. I mean you wake up in the morning and think please, please don’t call me. I need the money yes I do, but this is going to be a four-day work week. I’d rather have my sanity than earn a paycheck.

This was my life as a substitute teacher for middle school students. Middle school. This is an interesting species — the kind that makes you want to take a personal day once a week. But even though substituting for some of the classes was disastrous, I did manage to get something good out of it. The lunch circle.

Now, most of the time I was on special assignment, stuff like state exams and filling in at the dean’s office. During these times I was able to have lunch with a few people. To be more specific, it was a group of chicks, mostly walkie-talkie coordinators — Sanchez 1, Sanchez 2, Gonzalez and a couple of other regulars. But it was mainly these three ladies that formed my circle of trust.

But since I stopped working there, due to sanity purposes, I haven’t seen the lunch circle too often. But from time to time, something reminds me of them and I send an email or make a phone call just to catch up. Today was one of those days.

I was having lunch by myself, and I thought of them. Not so much because I was eating alone in front of the television, but because of what I was eating.


A potato.

A baked potato and a big salad. I remembered bringing this same meal with me to the lunch circle. But as everyone had their small containers of green, red, or orange Tupperware and their regular-sized portions, I unloaded a monster-sized Rubbermaid tub holding my big salad, and a potato on steroids.

Now aside from joking around about my large-sized portions it wasn’t the salad that had everyone cracking up. It was the potato. There I was piling on my toppings. And then came the butter. It just wasn’t a pad or a tablespoon. It was much more. It was a Paula-Deen-Juliet-Child type of butter measurement. So as I was building up my best potato, I see someone staring from behind and smiling.

“Are you gonna have some potato with that butter?”

I laughed and then put more butter on my spud.

So as I was eating my potato and big salad today, I thought about the lunch circle. I thought about the conversations we had about life, relationships, and television shows, food, and recipes But most of all I thought about the comments and stories that made me laugh.

So maybe the job did suck, but the lunches were pretty good.