RIP Jose Fernandez

The shocking news came on while we were watching the Mets game last night. Cuban-American Jose Fernandez, who we feared as a competitor for the Miami Marlins, was dead at 24 in a boating accident.

Yoenis Cespedes, a fellow Cuban and Mets outfielder, hung up a Mets jersey with Fernandez’s name and number in tribute. Others followed suit all around the league.

Fernandez was voted the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year award. His was a promising life cut short, but it was a life of inspiration and as a fellow Cuban-American, it pained me to hear of his loss.

A Cuban-American sportscaster from Miami spoke about what Fernandez meant to the Cuban community, much like each and every successful Cuban resonates with Cubans all across the U.S.

We came here for freedom and to live the American dream. Fernandez embodied that spirit and attaining the dream.

At 14 he attempted to defect, but was caught and sent to prison. He tried again three other times and for each failure, he went to prison. During the successful attempt, Fernandez’s mother fell overboard and Fernandez had to rescue her, risking his own life to do so.

While Fernandez, his mother, and sister attained freedom here in the U.S. in 2007, his grandmother was left behind and it took six years before she could join her family in 2013. In 2015, Fernandez became a U.S. citizen.

Freedom was that important to Fernandez as it is to so many Cuban refugees who risked so much to get here. I understand. I lived it and have had the ability to attain the American Dream.

It’s why I stand and place my hand over my heart for the national anthem even when I’m at home and watching a game.

RIP Jose Fernandez. My sympathies to his family on their loss and to the families of the two other men killed in the boating accident.

José Fernández on April 12, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday My Galician Mom

I’ve mentioned in the past that although my parents and my generation were born in Cuba, all my grandparents were from the North of Spain in the province of Galicia. Galicia is one of the Celtic nations and it has its own traditions and costumes, much like the other provinces of Spain have their unique identities.

This is a photo of my mom taken during a very early visit back to Spain. She is dressed in the traditional costume of Galicia and in fact, I have a doll that was given to me by my grandparents that has this same outfit. The doll was made just for me, so it had my lighter hair color and green eyes. I will have to take a picture of it for you some day!
MomSpanishCostume

#ThrowbackThursday Me and My Curls

I think this photo was taken in Cuba before we escaped to the U.S. Those years in Cuba were tough times for my family. My parents and brother were already in America, my brother to avoid being conscripted into the militia and my parents to avoid jail for turning against Castro. It took my parents nearly two years to get us out of Cuba. During that time, Castro’s men would regularly come by the house and toss it. My grandmother would hide us under the bed while that happened.

I’m told that for years I was afraid of anyone in a uniform, but I don’t really remember much about those years. My first memories are of being in the United States, my new home. Of being both sad, but happy to finally be with my family.

When you think of booking a trip to Cuba, please think about the decades of misery heaped on others by the Castros who will be the ones benefiting from your trip.

My hair was a lot lighter in this photo and I only have a little bit of blonde left in the front. The curls are gone, although I still have wavy hair when it’s a little longer.
CpsBaby

#ThrowbackThursday A Retail Family, B. Altman, & Jersey Girl Bridesmaids

Sometimes you have an epiphany and this morning was one of those days as I considered what to share with you on this Throwback Thursday.

Some of you may know that my daughter owns her own surf and skate shop in Ocean Grove. From when she was about 10, she was fixated on fashion and owning her own shop. I could understand the fashion thing since my mom, unlike me, was a fashion plate. My mom was always dressed to the nines and was a sewing goddess. She’d make her own clothes and people would ask her if she was wearing Chanel.

But the wanting to own a shop part didn’t click until this morning when I thought about sharing this photo with you!

This is my dad at work in his father’s store in Havana. My grandfather’s store although I never really got to meet my grandfather since he stayed in Cuba and died there when I was a teen.
DadinStore
Except for a brief stint as a truck driver when my dad first got here from Cuba, my dad always worked retail. Actually, my dad was a fashion plate as well. He had an innate sense of what to wear and what colors worked well together. But back to the retail thing . . .

My dad worked at B. Altman & Co. for over 20 some years and I basically grew up in that store. From visits during the holidays to see the windows and visit Santa to working there part time in high school and through college, Altman’s was a part of my life. My mom would even take us to Altman’s Charleston Gardens on occasion for tea and confections.

I loved it and even considered accepting their offer of going through their management program, but in the end, I knew I wanted to get a college degree. Even that was facilitated in some part by the store since the Vice President of the store gave me a glowing recommendation during a scholarship interview for Villanova.

Altman’s treated their employees right. Commissions, a great thrift shop, purchasing discounts, training, and an excellent employee cafeteria.

Sadly, an IRS ruling forced the Altman Foundation to sell the stores and the new owners ended up having to declare bankruptcy.

The original Altman’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue was declared a landmark in 1985 and now houses a public library, CUNY graduate school and Oxford University Press.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, Altman’s and the other New York City stores that are now long gone (Gimbels, Bamberger’s, Bonwit Teller, Abraham & Strauss, EJ Korvette, Woolworth’s) really provided a very different way of life in the city. A better more genteel way of life. These stores provided jobs to so many people, but more importantly, they created memories at the same time.

You’ll see that in the first book in the Jersey Girl Bridesmaids as Maggie Sinclair, the heroine, tries to save the department store chain that her mother’s family founded over a century ago. I’ve incorporated a lot of my experiences working in Altman’s, but also growing up during that heydey of all the New York City department stores into the book.

#WriteWed Inspiration for UNDER THE BOARDWALK

I was born on an island: Cuba. I grew up on an island: Long Island. I work on an island: Manhattan. Plus I’m a Pisces so you can kind of say that I have an affinity for the water.

But once I moved out to New Jersey, work and family obligations kept me from exploring the amazing Jersey Shore. It wasn’t until a birthday celebration weekend at the lovely Beacon House in Sea Girt that hubby and I discovered that part of New Jersey.

Once we discovered it, there was no turning us back from moving there and I am so glad that we did. I love taking long strolls on the boardwalk and spending summers reading under my umbrella. Even the winters months are great and the flavors of each of the towns in our area are unique and special.

My love for this part of the Jersey Shore is what inspired me to set UNDER THE BOARDWALK in Asbury Park and Ocean Grove. Today I’m sharing some photos from those towns and I hope you will get to visit one day and come see me if you do! P.S., my daughter’s shop – OG Surf & Skate – is right in the heart of Ocean Grove.

UNDER THE BOARDWALK is available in the SUMMER HEAT Box set which is specially priced at 99 cents for a limited time and is now available at:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1SXcNjW
BN: http://bit.ly/1VIZ7qJ
iBooks: http://apple.co/1Ovw5MB
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1XPUCvS
Goodreads: http://bit.ly/20CGJBa
SummerHeatAuthors.com: http://bit.ly/1oI4s7c

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#ThrowbackThursday My Mom and Brother in Cuba

Cuba has been in the news a lot lately and for many of us who left, it’s been an emotional upheaval. People ask me all the time if I will go back and I have to explain how difficult the Cuban government makes it for us to visit. Besides, the Castros made my family’s life miserable, so why would I go back so long as they’re alive?

But, I thought I’d share this photo of my mom and brother in Cuba before the Castro dictatorship took hold and created the diasporo that exiled so many Cubans all around the world and in the United States.
MomandDuke

#ThrowbackThursday A Spring Dancer

Every time I see this photo, I think of my mom maybe getting all dressed up as a dancer to welcome spring. There’s just something about the flowers in her hair, costume, and hand that scream spring to me. What do you think?
MomDancer