Saturday, October 29, 2005


1,998 . . .

ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25, as I lay in bed listening to the early morning news on the radio, the above number was the American casualty count in Iraq. “Just two shy of the two thousand mark,” said the DJ. When I came home later that evening just in time for the evening news, we had reached the 2,000 mark.


AND YOU KNOW what Bush said: “Stay the course.” As if the more soldiers we lose, the more justified this war becomes. Guess what, George? It doesn’t. This war will never be justifiable.

OF COURSE, THE Iraqi civilian count is much higher. And the number of people who die by gunfire in Chicago and other American cities surpasses the 400-500 mark every year.

I WROTE THE following poem in 1991, when Bush Sr. ordered the first invasion of Iraq. I remembered being very scared for my son, who was 9 at the time. Flash forward 14 years later and here we are again, back in Iraq, with Bush’s spawn, Bush Jr. I’m even more scared for my son now, who is of draft age. I revised the poem a little in 2002 after Bush Jr. convinced much of the country that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but I didn’t change much.

THIS PIECE IS not anti-USA, anti-male, or anti-Bush (alright, who am I kidding?), just anti-war, and pro-motherhood/pro-peace.

On the Eve of Armageddon

If we ran the world
There’d be no such thing as war
It’s as simple as the fact
that we, as mothers
live to see our sons
emerge from wet amniotic sacs
and not from bloody body bags
we’re not afraid to shed tears --
a sign of weakness
a weakness to have them
outlive us the way
it’s supposed to be

heroic words and speeches
about doing their job and
standing behind our men
all brainwashed lies
we got to keep fighting
to keep our country free
hypocritical redundancy
if fighting kept us free
why must we keep fighting

young protestors tie up
loop traffic on michigan avenue
outta the way communist
yells the wwII vet
on his way home to
his 10-room north shore home
with the swimming pool
in the back
I fought for where I am --
It’s your turn

while the vietnam vet
hell no, we won't go

think about it
do you think
the great white fathers in DC
care about the brown people
of this earth
indians, africans, vietnamese,
kuwaitis, afghans, iraqis
the so-called uncivilized masses
a people tricked ripped-off
killed off and mowed over
to pave the gold-lined streets
of america the beautiful
it is about oil
and manifest destiny
and egos and pride
and snips and snails
and puppy dog tails
that boys and men are so famous for
and never, ever against
weapons of mass destruction
there’s always an underlying reason

and in the end
when they’re done
playing chicken and other games
with our futures
when all the babies
and their mothers who were in the way
have been legally murdered
because that’s what happens
in wartime and it can’t be helped
when the chemical weapons
and the H-bombs are exhausted
and they have no where to run
cause there will be no where to hide
from the fallout of Armageddon
they (those unlucky enough to
still be alive)
will look for us
who can no longer bear the children
to carry on this planet
and cry
didn't we listen
to the weaker sex
sing the song of

--copyright 1991, 2002 by Xenia Ruíz

Peace out...

Friday, October 21, 2005



The Amen Sisters by Angela Benson is a story about an abuse that apparently has been kept secret for too long -- pastors who misuse their power and sexually abuse women in their congregation. Benson's novel offers insight into this hush-hush world and the lengths that women and pastors go through to keep these secrets. By offering several points of view on this issue from the betrayed women, The Amen Sisters brings to life the fact that pastors are men, fallible and vulnerable, and not the gods that worshippers sometimes mistake them to be. The only points of view missing are those of the pastors, which would have made this a more in-depth read. However, the relationship between the two sisters, Francine and Dawn, and their relationships with the two men in their lives, Stuart and Sylvester, takes the story to a slightly higher level. The Amen Sisters is an engaging, refreshing story of reaffirming love and faith packed with the drama that comes with church-life and the mortals who sometimes confuse the difference between God and man. Like the sexual abuse of children by priests, the sexual abuse of women by pastors must be confronted. So let the church say AMEN and more!

Thursday, October 20, 2005


[My niece and nephew doing a dramatic reading as Eva & Adam at El Barrio Art Fest 2005 this past summer]

I SURVIVED MY first week of work. WOO-HOO! Actually, I’m into my second week, this being Wednesday and all. Last week went by excruciatingly slow; this week much faster. I can’t believe tomorrow is Thursday.

I’M STILL TREADING unfamiliar waters, but I’m slowly learning my way around the office. I’m meeting with my boss almost daily, working on a new program from scratch, a program which he wants to launch by January 9, 2006 – right! I actually feel like I’m making a contribution to the organization. The other ladies (the boss calls them “girls” -- what is this, the ‘60s?) in the office are friendly and polite. Though, I brought a container of non-dairy creamer on Monday & it’s mysteriously disappeared. And there are only seven of us in the department…hmmm. Not that I’m accusing anyone; it’s just strange.

TODAY, I ATE in the cafeteria for the first time. They had rice and beans (which tasted like Ma’s & made me homesick; I actually called Mami in Puerto Rico, but the phone was busy) and fried chicken legs (which I’m not too fond of). Everything at this new job (a predominantly Latino organization) is such a “culture shock” after working at a major hospital/corporation, my former job, such as:

1) There are only two (slow) elevators as opposed to over 20 elevators (which talked) at my old job.

2) We can’t use the stairwells because of the child and older adult day care centers.

3) When employees speak Spanish (or Spanglish) on the elevator or in the halls, no one looks at them weird.

4) White folks are a minority and the department heads are Latino (including the President, who is also female); the opposite was the case at my old job.

I THINK I’M going to like it here. OK, enough about work . . .

CREATIVELY, I HAVEN’T done much writing, except e-mailing, which doesn’t really count, and blogging. I have been reading more though (see my reading list/mini-reviews at the end). I find that sometimes, it stimulates my writing. Sometimes.

I RECEIVED MY first statement and royalty check from my publisher, which was nice. It showed how many books were “out there,” how much of my advance has been paid out, and how much I have left. I thought I would be receiving the last installment of my advance after turning in the second manuscript, but apparently, I won’t receive it until after the final editing is done (Fudgesicle!). And me, a week-and-a-half away from my first paycheck. Now I know how people who depend on the government feel waiting on the first of the month -- well, not really.

THIS SATURDAY I’LL be attending the Blackboard Book & Music Festival, part of the 6th Chicago Book Festival which happens every October. It will take place at the Harold Washington Cultural Arts Center, 4701 South King Drive, Chicago. There will be many authors there: Victoria Christopher Murray, one of the first Walk Worthy Press authors (Joy, Temptation) and most recently, Grown Folks Business (Touchstone); Kimberla Lawson Roby & Carl Weber (whose books I’ve never read); Kuwana Hausley, whose first book I loved (The Red Moon) and recently re-read; and Sharon Flake, author of the award-winning young adult novel, The Skin I’m In. My sister is reading the latter with her fifth-grade class so she’s invited the class to meet her there; mind you, she’s not TAKING them as an extracurricular field trip. She’s a dedicated teacher, but she’s having a rough year with this class.

ALSO APPEARING AT the Blackboard Book & Music Festival is Spike Lee, on Sunday. Apparently, he has a biography out, which he didn’t even write and he’s charging a $5 entry fee at the signing-! (I hope it’s going to charity); I believe his wife wrote a book also (a novel, I think, with another author). Carlos Santana’s wife is also scheduled for a book signing to promoting her memoir. What is it with celebrities writing books? Okay, I know they lead interesting lives, maybe a little more interesting than us regular folk, but they just make it harder for us regular-folk authors to sell our books since we live in such a celebrity-obsessed society. I’ve just never been interested in reading rags-to-riches tales full of name-dropping and self-aggrandizement (with the exception of Celia Cruz, who is a legend). Needless to say, I won’t be attending either of their events. If I sound like I’m hatin’, I’m not. I just prefer to support struggling authors like myself.


Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman
by Nuala O’Faolain ("Humbling & thought-provoking")

Celia: My Life by Celia Cruz with Ana Cristina Reymundo ("Powerful in its simplicity)

Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Julie Moran ("Lyrically delightful")

From Bomba to Hip-Hop by Juan Flores ("A little too academic for my taste")

Having it All? Black Women and Success by Veronica Chambers ("Honest & true to life")

The Amen Sisters
by Angela Benson ("Spiritually scandalous")

Buena' Noche',

La 'X'

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


[My newest cousin, Alfred William III (named after his father & grandfather) whose photo I couldn't download a couple of months ago]

WELL, I STARTED my new job today. I’m so-o-o excited. Really . . . I . . . am.

I AM THE new program coordinator for home care services at a community organization in Humboldt Park, which is where I grew up, at least from ages 5-9. I have never lived more than 15 minutes away from my old hood but after working half my life in the Loop (downtown) and in the Gold Coast (north of downtown), working near my home is going to be a whole new experience.

I’M EXCITED ABOUT working again after being unemployed for three-and-a-half months, though with all the book promoting this summer, I feel like I never stopped working.

I’M EXCITED ABOUT the potential to utilize my writing in this job, including a annual newsletter for clients; however, since most of the clients are Latino, does that mean I have to write in Spanish?? If so, I’ll need some SSL (Spanish as a Second Language) classes, because I think, dream, read & write in English.

I’M EXCITED ABOUT getting a regular paycheck again, and I’m not ashamed to say that. If I didn’t have a mortgage, car note, and other “unnecessary” bills, I wouldn’t care about making money, but alas, it’s a sad fact, life is about working to pay bills, money makes the world go ‘round, blah, blah, blah.

WHAT I’M NOT excited about . . .

GETTING UP IN the early a.m. (one of my weaknesses, but once I’ve had my coffee, I usually good to go), office politics/gossip, not knowing what I’m doing, screwing up, probationary period, etc.

MY NEW BOSS seems like a nice guy, young, early 30’s, and everybody seems to get along, but then . . . it’s only the first day.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


[My niece and her son lighting candles at Chicago's 2005 Domestic Violence Awareness Luminaria]

OCTOBER IS NATIONAL Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On Saturday, October 1st, I participated in the Annual Luminaria—“Light Up the Lakefront” event at Oak Street Beach, in Chicago. This candlelight vigil is in honor of women and children impacted by domestic violence. Volunteers from several domestic violence agencies around Chicago light 3,000 luminaries representing the thousands of victims affected by domestic violence each year.

AS A CRISIS line volunteer for a domestic violence agency, people always ask me why I got involved with domestic violence. And I always respond, “How could I not?” How can I explain it? Throughout my life, I have witnessed domestic violence and have known women who have been affected by domestic violence. Every time I hear about a woman who has been killed at the hands of her boyfriend or husband (or ex- boyfriend/husband), my blood boils. I never think, “Why didn’t she knock him out the first time it happened?” “Why didn’t she leave?” I think, “What could I do to empower this woman so that she can believe she deserves more than she’s been getting?”

ALTHOUGH MY JOB is to provide information about orders of protection, emergency shelter and other resources, I hope I provide much more. There’s only so much I can say in the 5-15 minutes when speaking to callers but sometimes all women need is someone to listen to them, someone to support them.

IF YOU KNOW someone who is a victim of domestic violence, don’t ridicule her, don’t tell her “just leave,” and don’t tell her how you would never let a man hit you, just support her. Give her the number to the local domestic violence agency (in Chicago, call Between Friends 1-800-603-4357). But most of all, LISTEN. And pray for the victims and survivors.

Love, Peace & Soul
Amor, Paz y Alma