Post-Christmas Blues: assorted thoughts on minimalism, gratitude and goodwill

December 26, North Shore Auckland, New Zealand, morning.

It is pouring outside, and the house is quiet. I woke up early because I need these moments of solitude. My day is always a bit strange if I don’t have this stillness in the morning. I’m pretty sure most parents can relate.

When it’s this early, sometimes I write, sometimes I work, sometimes I paint my nails. I used to do yoga quite regularly at this early time but I have to confess I haven’t done it once since we left on our trip. Yes, I stretch here and there, but I haven’t done a full session since June. That felt strange, saying June… feels like a lifetime ago. We are in such a different place both physically and mentally.  Having only what we need with us, really opens up space for other things. I guess Marie Kondo was right, “the best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t.” I finally had the mental space (and time) needed to read her book, and I found it quite interesting. At times it’s extreme, and a bit mystical for my taste, but I would still recommend it. The most interesting part was that of the effects of uncluttering. I have to say, getting rid of the clutter does change your life.

We have traveled since June, with only the things we need.

With that said, we just celebrated Christmas… with gifts under the tree. Even though we kept it minimal, with five of us, it adds up. After all, Santa brings a gift, and grandma sends a gift, and we give a gift, and the kids gift each other. I spent the 25th taking it slow… we made waffles with our new waffle maker and drank champagne. I picked up the wrapping paper mess and enjoyed my new teacup, breathing deep and taking it all in. We had recently spent some serious quality time in our local library and had heaps of books to enjoy, so I did some reading and even napped. Then the 26 came along and I woke up feeling blue.

Now in addition to the things we needed, we also have many things we wanted. We will have to downsize again before returning to California!

After Christmas, there is a silence, the kids are busy playing with all of their new toys, and we rest, exhausted from all the celebrating. There is also the additional emptiness and exhaustion that weighs on me with every holiday, the way I start dreaming about my family days before the holiday arrives, and then the mornings when I crave to pick up the phone and call my parents. But I can’t call them, my dad passed away in 2009 and my mom in 2010. I can no longer call them, or hug them, or watch them play with my kids. This year is particularly heavy, as I am aware that many in my circle of family and friends are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Maria. Many still don’t have electricity. My aunt who was hosting the family Christmas party in Puerto Rico found herself with her water down to a trickle the day before the party. I have some family members that have not received water service at all after the hurricane, and everyone in Puerto Rico needs to boil their water before using it for consumption. And then there are the many family and friends that were not able to celebrate in Puerto Rico because they had to leave. This fills me with grief because I know there is no place they would rather be this Holiday season than on the island. Puerto Ricans celebrate Christmas in a loud and unique way, which leaves me panging for the old days every year, even though it’s been more than 10 years that I’ve celebrated a Christmas there.

December 26, North Shore Auckland, New Zealand, evening.

I read that one way to fight the Christmas blues is to be selfless and do something good for other people. Another one is to be active and go outside. We decided to do both.

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Ice cream cones and shell collecting at a local beach 🙂

The amazing thing about the North Shore is that there are accessible beaches and parks everywhere. This time, we went to Milford beach, which is next to a park with a very fun playground. There was even an ice cream truck parked at the beach, so we got cones and went shell collecting. There were many people picnicking at the park and playing in the water. They celebrate Boxing Day here on the 26, so there was a festive mood in the air. We are so grateful to be here.

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After the beach, I looked into the different initiatives that are doing good work in Puerto Rico and chose a couple to donate to. If you want to join us in helping people in Puerto Rico, consider donating to local community groups. They are doing amazing work at the local level. For more information check out the interactive map linked below, it has links to the local organizations that are doing grassroots community work.

Map of Local Puerto Rican Initiatives

Here is a recent video of the good people doing amazing work in barrio Mariana, Humacao:

How Puerto Ricans are Saving Themselves

This year we tried to donate to a variety of places, one of them is the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo in Caguas, they are doing solid work. We hope you are inspired to donate to a charity this holiday season. When you do, make sure they are doing real work at the local level, with the communities that need help the most.

With a heart full of love and hope for a better future full of solidarity,





Help Puerto Rico – salimos de aquí

[Salimos de Aquí is the title of a song by Puerto Rican rock band Fiel a la Vega. Translated loosely as “we came from here”. The featured image is the town of Corozal, pre-hurricane María. I took the picture last summer, I can’t imagine how this area looks now.]

[Update 10/31- I’ve included an easy to share jpg of the list of places that are helping Puerto Rico at the end of this Blog Post]

Here I find myself, exactly a week after my previous blog post. A lot has happened in this week. Frustration is mounting both in and out of Puerto Rico. Those of us that are following the news from the outside are waiting to see when and how our people will receive the help that they need.  I am heartbroken because, even though I have heard that my immediate family is well, there is a large portion of the population of Puerto Rico that is suffering. Many people have asked me how they can help. I decided to make a list of places that are currently helping. This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a start.

El jíbaro- Nació para luchar: esa es su gloria. (The country man- Was born to fight/struggle: that is his glory)

At the end of this list, I included the song and lyrics to Salimos de Aquí. The colonial situation in Puerto Rico is complex. There is too much emotional baggage to unpack at this time. The only important truth in this situation is that the people of Puerto Rico are loving people that care for others, and right now they need your help. The lines of this song: “vivir pa’ sobrevivir” (live to survive) have never rung truer. It has been 10 days since hurricane Maria and people are running out of food and water.

And, to my Puerto Rican friends and family, remember: “Salimos de aquí… eso no es de donde quiera”  (We came out of here… and that is not from anywhere).



Update 10/13 – I’ve talked with my family. Hardly anyone has electricity and supermarkets don’t have much selection of food. Read the news today and there are concerns over Maria-related suicides.


Exploring Playa Puerto Hermina in Quebradilla this last summer. All the green is gone.


(note these are in no particular order)

Feeding America partners with Bancos de Alimentos Puerto Rico 

For information go here:

To donate to Bancos de Alimentos Puerto Rico go here (pay pal): (once you are there, click on the yellow button that says “Dona Ahora” and it will take you to PayPal

If you need to be convinced:

Defend Puerto Rico

Focusing on the relief efforts of Loiza and other various low-income communities.

For information, and to donate go here:

World Central Kitchen

I have been seeing many videos about the efforts of Chef José Andrés organizing, cooking and distributing food. There is no doubt in my mind that they are making things happen.

For information and to donate go here:

If you need to be convinced:

They are independent, non-partisan and non-profit. This group is vowing to use the funds received on long-term recovery and reconstruction which will definitely be needed. They will not charge OVERHEAD.

You can find more details on this page:

You Caring- People of Puerto Rico Fund

For information, and to donate go here:

If you need to be convinced, here’s Ricky Martin:


Voices for Puerto Rico

The funds will then be distributed to local non-profit organizations located in rural and/or disconnected local communities affected in Puerto Rico by hurricane María.

For information and to donate go here:


The NYC Mayor’s Fund

What made me donate to this fund, before any other fund, is that I saw that the work that Governer Andrew Cuomo of New York was doing for Puerto Rico. As soon as anyone could fly to Puerto Rico, he was there, with generators, food, water and medicine.  For more information, go here:

To donate go here:

Remember to select “Support critical aid and relief efforts for those impacted by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the surrounding areas.” or “Please join the NYC Department of Education community in supporting critical aid and relief efforts for schools and students impacted by Hurricane Maria.”

Governor Cuomo has also spearheading the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico. He has a great list of suggestions on where to donate here:

Unicef, American Red Cross & Save the Children

If you feel more comfortable donating to long-running organizations, Unicef, the American Red Cross and Save the Children are taking donations, according to the USAid site devoted to the hurricanes (


Easy to share jpg here:




Salimos de una grieta 
de una calle cercana 
desde entonces dormimos 
dando vueltas en la cama 
Salimos del pedazo de cielo 
que pudre las manzanas… 

Salimos del baile, la botella 
y la baraja… 
Salimos de un sueño, 
un sueño de agua salada… 

Salimos del Yunque y de los ríos 
y del Combate y del picadillo 
y del fanatismo a los partidos 
y a la iglesia y al bolsillo… 

Salimos de un pozo 
donde ya no queda agua… 
Salimos de un pueblo 
que en silencio se le ama… 
Salimos de donde se reunen 
todas las caravanas… 

Salimos de un monte 
con cadillos en los pies… 
Salimos de un bosque de azucar y café… 
Salimos de centro y del calor y del machismo 
y del amor al conformismo 
y del culantro y del sartén 
y de una ola que se corre alrevéz… 

Salimos de aquí 
de la orilla del cámino… 
Salimos de aquí 
de un paraiso pérdido… 
Salimos de aquí 
de la perla privilegiada 
de la sombra asociada 
de la envidia caribeña 
y de la estupidez isleña 
de sentirse en menosprecio 
por ser de aquí… 

Y así salimos descalzos 
y así aprendimos sin querer 
a comernos las “s” cuando hablamos 
y eso es to’ lo que hay que saber 
Somos los que cantan con la lengua amarrada 
Somos los que alternan Coca-Cola con Maví 
Somos de la tribu que se pierde en su pais 

Mirando la vida por el retrovisor 
de cantazo en cantazo 
aprendiendo con sabor 
Y no creemos en diccionarios 
ni en panfletos de la fé 
ni en los dichosos patriotismos 
de las copas elevados y los 
brindis de chalet… 

Salimos de aquí… 
eso no es de donde quiera 
Salimos de aquí… 
te lo digo sin problemas 
Salimos de aquí… 
de la playa enamorada 
de los campos de batalla 
y de las casas de cemento 
y que se caigan los lamentos 
que se escucha por aquí… 

…vivir pa’ sobrevivir… 
…vivir pa’ sobrevivir… 
…vivir pa’ sobrevivir… 
…vivir pa’ sobrevivir… 

Salimos del beso 
de una diosa olvidada 
Salimos de un volcán 
al que no le queda lava 
Salimos de pensar 
de que ya aquí no queda nada… 

Salimos de madrugada 
de una cuna reciclada 
recitando oraciones 
que aprendimos sin opciones 
y hoy regresan en canciones 
en saludos y discuciones 
en las miradas de tu cara 
y en la forma en que te paras 
y hoy toda la brisa 
sabe a Puerto Rico…