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Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Good Housekeeping Quote: Complaining to a Friend Who Is Grieving

Belated for my great-grandmother's first yarzheit (4/3/14):

Charles W. Bartlett, "Hawaiian Mother and Child"
It's just a blip quote but my family thinks it's hilarious that I ended up quoted in Good Housekeeping magazine.

Okay, it IS kind of hilarious.

The first thing people think when they think about me is NOT housekeeping, especially considering that awful allergies (dust, fragrance, chemicals) make me unable to do most housekeeping. Not to mention my Ehlers Danlos makes most repetitive work impossible!

So here it is:

Complaining to a Friend Who Is Grieving (Good Housekeeping Magazine, April 2014)

Until recently, I had never had to grieve for a relative. I have been blessed with family members who live for a very long time. It wasn't until my great-grandmother Leonidas passed last April that I truly understood grieving. And having been born in April 1912, she was just about to turn 101 before she passed away. I had my ticket booked for her 101st birthday after having missed her 100th birthday due to my health problems and I ended up having to use it for her funeral.

My great-grandmother, my Abuela...I have to stop. Because I have never called anyone but her Abuela. I will never call anyone but her my Abuela. I have always called her daughter, my maternal grandmother Mami because my grandmother had had her last child a  year before my mother had me, her first, and that is what I heard my mother and my aunt call her.

Abuela was the matriarch of my maternal family. She was the person who consoled me when I was 4 years old and too young and too old to understand that my parents were separating forever. She was the person who humored me by calling me Xavier that year, ALL YEAR, when I insisted I had changed my name (the first of many name changes) to my favorite Menudo boy band singer. She will never embarrass me again by revealing the deep dark secret that used to be my favorite song in the world: "Subete a Mi Moto." (My husband just told me to SHUT IT OFF!)

Abuela will never see the GREAT-great-granddaughter, my second niece born last year, who was in utero ready and waiting to meet Abuela in July of last year. She will never meet my own children though she was just 94 when I got married and I thought I had all the time in the world. But most people do not get to meet their great-grandmothers. They do not get to enjoy their great-grandmother's wicked sense of humor. They do not know that they talk as much on the phone as their great-grandmother did because they spent hours on the phone with her.

So you can imagine, when someone tells me that their mother or father has passed, like many people I do not know what to say. But unlike most people, I know that it is mainly because while I sympathize...I will never feel the same way. There is a void. A space in my heart. It grew a long time ago and it will always be there because  my parents...are not the same.

If I am lucky, I see my father once every five years. My father knows he is more like a distant uncle...who just happens to bless me every year with a new sibling! And despite his neglect, my mother is still the abuser, the perpetrator who got away with one of the most heinous crimes one can commit against their own or any children. I do not feel as others do about their parents. It is almost impossible to break the bond between parent and child but someone wise told me that I had to stop feeling for order to survive. So I survived.

And when my much younger paternal sister lost her too-young mother unexpectedly this year, I had no idea what to do or what to say.

I grieved...not as a child but as a big sister. I grieved because I could not "fix this" for my little sister. There was no one that I could beat up. There were no dragons I could slay for her so that her mother could yet meet her beautiful, first grandchild who is also my adorable first niece. I could not exchange with her the days I can still have with my not-really-there-mother or father.

My wise LITTLE sister knew more about loss when she decided to join me at my great-grandmother's (no relation to her) funeral the year before than I did when she lost her mother suddenly this past year. For when she lost her mother this year, I was for the first time rendered VERY speechless. So I knew that when I did speak, I would put both feet in my mouth down deep. I ended up apologizing a lot for everything and everyone under the sun. And she was patient with me. But I still do not know what to do when I say the words "my mother" in the present tense and she has to use them in the past.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Jewminicana in Lakewood

During the past holidays, I gave an interview to The Lakewood Shopper that I've been meaning to post on here.

You can see the two parts of the interviews here:

See pages 64-68

October 4
Issue 19
Volume 9
Illness & Health

Women Speak by F. Adams


See pages 90-93
October 11
Issue 20
Volume 9
Illness & Health
Women Speak by F. Adams


Friday, November 8, 2013

I have always been...

(I was at home for both photos but yes, that's my hair uncovered. May you never suffer from the multiple conditions that cause my head, face, scalp to constantly hurt. I am likely one of the few women to get a heter for hair covering due to severe health problems.)


In high school and early college, I looked emaciated enough to earn the name "the Somalian." My first boss bought me lunch every day because she thought I couldn't afford to eat. I couldn't. Seriously, I still wore clothing from the girl's department.

But since 2011 when I had to go on the strongest painkiller I've ever taken to help me get my Ehlers Danlos to a manageable point, I have been obese. Possibly, the worst thing you can be if you have Ehlers Danlos. I have sprained my wrists and my ankles daily. I've subluxated my shoulders and my hips. I've fallen down and over just trying to walk and stand. I've twisted my knees. Thankfully, I have broken anything. And (hopefully) I haven't developed early on-set osteoarthritis that comes with Ehlers Danlos, wobbly joints and body parts and obesity.

Two years later, after already having gained 20 pounds on Motrin--I am considered intolerant to all NSAIDs now which is kinda funny when you have inflammation in all your joints--after my botched wisdom tooth extraction and 15 pounds on Prednisone for the allergies that flared up because, well, Ehlers Danlos invades your whole body and makes everything worst, I am two pounds away from having lost...

50 pounds. 

I  have lost almost 50 pounds since January 2013.

If you had told me at 17 that one day I'd be obese, when I hated missing school because it meant also meant missing free breakfast and lunch and freedom from my very scary home life...well, I would have laughed in your face.

The first Dominican boy I liked in high school wouldn't date me because I was too skinny. He may have said skeletal. Rice and beans apparently hadn't hit me hard enough!* (His friend later asked me out but in doing so, also compared my thick, tight-curly then-long hair to pubic hair.)

I am so much stronger than I have ever been now. Sometimes, I think I'm stronger than I really am. Apparently, even though I was spacing it out throughout the day, well, working out three times a day or three hours a day is not something that my body does. Apparently, I was doing this because the endorphins are the best painkiller I've ever experienced in my life. They make me feel like Superman.

But after I collapsed into a chronic fatigue coma in my bed for two weeks, I'm taking it easier at the gym. Doctor's orders. Trainer's orders. Also, I threw up at the gym thanks to POTS. But my job is still the same.

I won't be coming back any time soon on a permanent basis though I am still trying to do what I can in my own way for the Jews and future converts who contact me from all over the my own pace. I'm still posting articles and quotes and comments on my Facebook page.

2013...and it took long enough because I was first misdiagnosed in 2005 when my body pretty much shutdown like a computer gone awry is the year that I put my health first wholeheartedly. Because of that, I'm feeling stronger than I've ever felt.

Even though I've got to lose 10 pounds before I move from obese to overweight, I look strong. I have muscles I haven't had since I was 17. I can pick things up that I've never imagine I'd ever pick up again with my horrible motor skills. I can do more that I ever thought I would be able to do again.

And I've learned that there are things I will never be able to do again and if I can't find a way to do them differently, I need to accept it, move on and do what is right for this body. Because I am no longer than underweight high school girl.

I'm a 33-year-old woman with severe Ehlers Danlos Type 3, an amazing team of doctors and two gym memberships, an awesome trainer, a Weight Watchers membership and the most supportive husband, sisters and family and friends that that underweight high school girl could ever have imagined having in her life.

35 more pounds to go and maybe the next baby photo you see on this page will be a mini-me!

Thank you for your continued prayers.

Aliza Moriah bat Avraham & Sarah

Note/Update: I actually gained 75 pounds in a month and a half on that painkiller but I lost 15 as soon as I got off of it. Unfortunately, at the same time, a bout with allergic asthma caused me to be put on steroids and I gained it right back again. If the scale is right today, I may have just passed 50 pounds. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wait, I'm what?! Putting the Anglo in Anglo-Saxon.

Okay, as if it wasn't shocking enough to find out that I was significantly English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish Catholic as in Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland and French when I thought I was strictly half Iberian Peninsula and half African in ancestry, discovers yet another interesting tidbit.

I have always joked that I'm Ashkefardic. I'm Sephardic at heart. It is the tradition that feels like home to me. But I am married to an Ashkenazi husband and I converted through an Ashkenazi rabbi and well, SOME PEOPLE don't think I look Ashkenazi.

But apparently, 2% of my ancestry is Eastern European Jewry. Sure, it's just 2% but I think it shocked me more than finding out I was British, French or Italian. How in the world does a Dominican girl from NYC end up with ANY Eastern European ancestry. So far, I've uncovered one Polish ancestor and Italian ancestors and an Irish ancestor on my family tree but apparently, there will be more surprises along the way.

My husband and I were so certain that there was no possible way that I had Ashkenazi ancestry. And not just because I don't like bagels (can't chew them because of my damaged jaw) or lox (I prefer sushi). We just couldn't contemplate how complicated my ancestry actually is when you look at the statistics! I can't wait to look further in my family tree and uncover more family surprises!

This reminds me of when my niece Leyla was born and we hadn't gotten all the results back on our European ancestry. We were sure that she was taking after her Irish/Scottish/English/Native American father without having any clue that we had some of the same ancestry!

Here is's update on my DNA genetic ethnicity test as of late October:

(My friend now likes to joke that I've lost all street cred as I am clearly WHITE if I'm 55% European. So, let me be clear. My mom is brown. Her mom is white with red hair. My Dad is white. My grandfather was black. The other one was so white they called him "Blanco" (white in Spanish). Nobody Ashkenazi ever thinks I'm white. I think it's the hair despite the epic Jewfros I've seen.

I am white (European-North & South), African, Native American and East and South Asian.

I am multiracial. And I am proud of every part of my heritage even though, well, most of my ancestors spent a lot of time trying to kill each other! (Note to ancestors: Really, not cool!)

If you want to know what I am, it's still easier to tell you what I'm not: Australian! I was really hoping Hugh Jackman and I had more in common than our sideburns.

Europe 55%
Great Britain 9%+
Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales
Also located in: Ireland, France, Germany
Iberian Peninsula 31%
Primarily found in: Spain, Portugal
May also be found in: France, Morocco, Algeria, Italy
Italy/Greece 12%
Primarily found in: Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia
Also found in: France, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia, Romania, Turkey, Slovenia, Algeria, Tunisia
European Jewish 2%
Primarily found in: Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, Israel
Also found in: Germany, France, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Bosnia, Serbia, Estonia
Ireland <1 span="">
Primarily found in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland
Also found in: France, England

Africa 31%
Ivory Coast/Ghana 10%
Primarily found in: Ivory Coast, Ghana
May also be found in: Togo, Mali, Nigeria
Cameroon/Congo 9%
Primarily located in: CameroonGabonCongoRepublic of Congo
Also found in: AngolaChad
Nigeria 6%
Primarily found in: Nigeria
May also be found in: Niger, Benin, Cameroon
Senegal 3%
Primarily found in: Senegal, Gambia
May also be found in: Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania
Africa Southeastern Bantu 1%
Primarily found in: South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda
May also be found in: Nigeria, Congo
Benin/Togo 1%
Primarily found in: Benin, Togo
May also be found in: Ghana, Nigeria, Mali
Mali <1 span="">
Primarily found in: Mali, Guinea
May also be found in: Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Senegal
Africa North <1 span="">
Primarily found in: Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya
May also be found in: Spain, Portugal, the Near East

America 9%
Native American (Taino)
Modern Day Location
United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Caribbean

Near East 4%
Primarily located in: Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Lebanon, Israel
Also found in: Iran, Pakistan

Ancestry doesn't include my East Asian ancestry which has already been confirmed by Filipino ancestors on my family tree. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

So, the next time...

someone asks (very infrequently) in Los Angeles:

Where are you from?

Where are your parents from?

Where are your grandparents from?

What's your maiden name?

What's your background?

I'm either going to recite from my blog or tell them:

"If you REALLY want to know, you'll have to Google it." :)