What was childhood like for me?

This one is best responded to with a couple of poems: 
Found in Island of Dreams


I remember opening

Brown bag after brown bag

Of Meals Ready to Eat hoping to find

Generic Kool-Aid®

We could savor while we sat

On our cold basement floor.

Avoiding the powdered and packaged

Fake food, we drenched our

Fingers in purple and orange sugar

Instead. Laughing about it later on,

We wondered why no one

Had tried to stop us.

Every once in a while

Saturday nights belonged to

The joy of bubble wrap.

We would jump on it.

Easily amusing ourselves,

Not needing candy or gifts

Or even attention.

The sound of simplicity

Popping underneath our toes

Was enough.

After each move I’d keep

As many cardboard boxes as possible

And I’d build a fortress

In my new bedroom.

In it I would keep all the pieces

Of broken knick knacks, shattered

Toys and ruined books that didn’t make it

From one state to the next.

It was my sanctuary of memories.

My only answer to the word home.

Sometimes, on the 4th

Of July, the planes would fly

High above our government provided

Housing and we would sit on the porch

And watch the fireworks rise above our heads.

Mostly though, the three of us

Just spent time with mom.

Wishing Papi could have been there too.


Shopping Carts

I remember shopping carts

Lots and lots of shopping carts

Filled to the brim with platanos


Arroz and Mazola corn oil

The wheels always squeaked or got stuck

Mami always complaining, smacking her teeth

And saying with a sigh: “Ay, why’d you pick that one?”

“Let ME push it!”My brother would shove me.

“No, I can do it.”

I'd dig my nails into his arm.

“Deja eso,”Mami would scold

I always won.

By the time we’d arrive at Isle 4B

I was tired of pushing

And Mami was stuck with the cargo 

Fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and cheeses.

“Go get the cereal,” she’d tell my brother.

“Stay here with your sister and watch my purse,” she’d look at me

I would stand and stare at the chips, cookies, cake and kool-aide

Mami had already told me we couldn’t afford because:

“No hay dinero para eso,” which meant “eso” “that” whatever it was

Was not essential to our survival.

It was an errand that never ended

Week after week, gallon after gallon, roll after roll

It was grocery trip upon grocery trip that I remember

Learning life lessons one Isle at a time

Taste the grapes before you buy

Stick your nail in the mango to see if it’s ripe

Generic foods don’t taste the same

But a box of Magic Stars is better than sugarless corn flakes

Only buy strawberries in season

It’s cheaper

Clipping coupons isn’t a hobby

It’s a necessity

Keep your handbag closed and your money in your pocket

Always check the eggs

And never grab the first box or bag of


It’s been handled too many times

I remember standing in line and hating it

I remember never asking for anything more than once

I remember translating for my mother

And paying with food stamps

This is where I learned to be patient and frugal

To take only what I need with grace and with gratitude

And leave the rest on the shelf

Never mind the expiration date. 


Bullet Wound

I am known for blowing things out of proportion. I overreact at the drop of a hat. I believe things are worse than what they are until I've had time to process it. I eventually come to my senses and realize that it's not as bad as it seems, but I usually have that one FML moment. It's all about perception. 

Because of my ability (for many years, and even sometimes still today) to make a mountain out of a molehill, Lupe's nickname for me became "Bullet Wound." Any time I am clearly overreacting about a situation, life event, experience, or physical or emotional trauma, Lupe grabs his arm and yells: BULLET WOUND! 

His rationale behind the name is that I react to everything out of the norm as if I had just been shot. 

Me: "No one turned in their homework today!"


Me: "They all failed the test. I MUST be a horrible teacher. I guess I should find a new career."


Me: "I have a rash. I think it's skin cancer. My meds say a side effect is skin cancer.."


Me: "Someone broke into my car. We need to move NOW!"


Me: I had a dream you cheated on me. That's my subconscious telling me...


You get the idea....Up until my diagnoses I lived a fairly normal and unchallenging life. My major dramas revolved around boys, grades, and the occasional flat tire. As an adult, life has challenged me greatly, but along with it my hubs has allowed me to put it all in perspective, after all: 

The sweet ain’t as sweet without the sour
— Vanilla Sky

What's great about this nickname is that every time he says it, it makes me laugh and I immediately realize how irrational I'm being and no matter how many ways from Sunday I try to excuse my behavior, I know he's right. When it comes to "Bullet Wound", Lupe, is...always right. 

Nothing Is As It Seems

When it comes to watching films, I am the person you hate to have nearby. I am the indie loving, in your head, what was that movie about anyway kind of gal. The more it makes you think, the more I like it. Sure, I love a good chick flick, all black cast comedy or thriller now and again, but when it comes to movies I love and could watch over and over the dystopian, alternate reality, dream sequence type movies are my FAVORITE!

To name but a few: (And most people hate these movies)

1. Memento

2. V for Vendetta

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

4. Vanilla Sky

5. Inception

Perhaps it's because I'm a dreamer and believe our dreams hold the secret to understanding ourselves better. Perhaps it's because I'm a conspiracy theorists and really do believe that Big Brother is always watching. (ahem..NSA..ahem) Perhaps it is because the cinematography of these movies is amazing. Or perhaps because I just like being told a good, clever and new story. Whatever the reason, I prefer non-linear plot lines with surprise endings and feeling like I learned something in the process. (#nerdgasm)

These types of movies get into our subconscious and make us think...what if?

What if you suffered amnesia and couldn't remember all the horrible things you did?

What if you had to become a traitor to your country in order to save it?

What if you could erase those parts of your memory that only made you sad?

What if you could live forever?

What if our dreams were our reality?

They are psychological mind Fu**s...and that's why I love them. The types of films you have to watch 3 or 4 times to understand and get every detail. The kind of movie you want to research after the film is done. It's all because I love to learn, I love to challenge my brain and I love stories that are non-traditional. If I were a film maker, these are the types of movies I would make.

A few short clips from some of my favorite scenes: (Oh, I'm also a sucker for amazing dialogue and good writing- that's the writer in me)

Sad or confused yet...???

What If?

What if I wasn't sick? What if money were no object? What if I could do anything? What's interesting about trying to answer those questions, is that it was really hard to come up with something because, for the most part, I only believe in doing things that make me happy. I don't stay at jobs I hate or make me miserable. If there's a city, town or country I really want to see or visit, I make it happen. Whatever I really want, I go for it. So, for this Pintrest board, I had to really stretch my imagination and think of those somewhat frivolous things that I would do if I didn't already enjoy doing the things I do everyday. What would I do if I had endless time, resources and health? Well, a few of the things below I'm already working on making happen, and the others...well they're just for fun.


Clap Along If You Feel....

What is success? What is love? (Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me..) What is happiness? What does it mean to be free? 

After a long day of doctor's visits, blood draws, medication side effects, bad weather and my car being broken into...I am at a loss for words. Right now, success means getting a good night's sleep. Love means being held by my hubby as I cry into his shoulder. Happiness is a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine. Freedom is the ability to do all or none of those things as I so choose. (Yea, it's been one of THOSE days)

But, as I know these feelings are only temporary, and I am STILL at a loss to describe what these words to me at the "core" level, I will tell this story through pictures:


Doing what I love and being recognized for it. (Book published, performing poetry, hosting writing workshops)


Being with my husband. Being with family. Being with my dog. Watching my hubby sleep uncomfortably as he takes care of me in the hospital. Seeing the people I love, love each other.


Doing things I love, like baking, crafts, eating, and reading.


The ability to change my destiny at any given moment. The ability to think and act for myself. The ability to tell my story.

The Stories We Tell

I'll be honest, when I was asked yesterday to interview someone and share their story, I cringed. Growing up, I was always told not to ask questions. If someone doesn't tell you willingly, it's not your place to ask. As a Latina your job was to cross your legs, sit still and avoid direct eye contact with anyone older or wiser than you. Now while not asking questions doesn't apply to your bestie, cousins, husband, or still makes me a bit awkward. 

So, I haven't interviewed anyone. And truth be told, I kind of already avoided this assignment in the past and I wrote a poem about it. So for today's post, I'm going to cheat and copy and paste something I wrote a couple years ago.

The following poem is the "un-researched/untold" story of my mother.  Don't worry Mami, one day I'll have the courage to ask you everything I've ever wanted to know. And then, the world will know how awesome you are.

For now, I want to keep you all to myself. 

The following poem was first published by Floricanto Press in my memoir Island of Dreams


This is not my story to tell.

It is her life and only she knows the truth behind it.

But my mother’s tongue belongs to the island.

If she were to tell you about the things she knows

Her cloudy English would make it all seem like a lie

And you would hate her for betraying what you think

Sunny island days and juicy mango nights are supposed to be like. 

So, I will purposefully fail to do my research  

For fear of opening wounds that would leak poverty and salt water;

Instead, I will piece together this story by collecting abandoned pictures,

Spying on the stories of clanky coffee cup Sunday mornings,

And by reading stolen letters written in a language even my mother has forgotten.

You see, I want to send her home so she can smile again.

I want to have the money to build her a big house in el campo,

With a generator that will always work

And with water pipes that will never leak so she can feel at peace again.  

But I know, that even if I did she would defy me like a spoiled child

Because my mother cannot be still.

I know this because of her erratic cleaning sprees at 3:00 a.m.  

I know this because she is compelled to mop the kitchen every day.

I know this because the picture of her, wearing tight leather pants and

straddling a motorcycle reveals to me that she was and still wants to be


She believes in a God that is merciful but she doesn’t understand the pain or the poverty.

She met my father and fell in love with hope and opportunity.

He left her for boot camp, alone in a dark, damp city where she cried herself to sleep

Holding his letters that promised brighter days to come.

She built the heart of a home with a bottle of bleach, a frying pan, and a Rosary.

Her alma bleeds for her Americanized children and her tears rain on palm trees she cannot see.

If she loved someone before Papi, I will never know.

If she had bigger dreams of fame and fortune I will never know.

If she wanted to be something more than just my mother, I don’t have the courage to ask.

If I could send her back to the Santo Domingo

That used to smile on her olive skin and make her laugh, I would.

But that island doesn’t exist anymore,

Only her memories of something else do.

I don’t want to let her down, but she needs more than what I can give her.

She needs fresh coconut milk to nourish her soul like holy water

So she can believe in something again.

She needs fresh ocean breezes to tickle her neck so she can feel young again.

She needs the dance of a live merengue to rock her to sleep so she can dream again.

My mother longs for the past like she fears for the future,

Watching her family come and go apart.

Praying in silence, believing in miracles, and always feeling

Like she left herself behind.

And yet, I must remember that this is not my story to tell.

My Hairvolution

Today I was tasked with the job of telling the story of an object a thing I own. I am not someone who is very attached to many things. At first I considered telling the story of my engagement ring, but as many of my closest friends know, that story is still too heartbreaking to talk about. 

So, I thought about it some more and decided to be a bit untraditional about my approach to this topic. The thing I've chosen to tell the story of is my hair.

My hair (like for most women) has been at times my best friend and my own worst enemy. A mixture of African inspired kink and curl with a hint of Spaniard softness and silk. Being Dominican, who knows where my hair really comes from- Africa, Spain, maybe a bit of French and Taino (Native American peoples of DR)

From the age of 10-21 I fought my hair's natural texture with relaxers, rollers, flat irons and blow dryers. I wanted nothing to do with my frizzy, fussy curls. Big hair was not cute. Natural hair was taboo. I fought my hair like I fought my identity. As long as I didn't know who I was or who I wanted to be (American? Dominican? Black? Hispanic/Latina?), my hair didn't either. 

At 22, I finally threw my hands up in the air, set my insecurities aside and decided to stop relaxing my hair and go natural.(This was also about the time I discovered the term: Afro-Latina. Finally a word to describe ME!)

It was definitely a process! For the first couple of years I didn't know how to manage my mane. I endured ugly looks and rude comments from my abuelas and primas and generally kept my unruly strands in a pony tail. 

I started chatting with some of my natural haired friends and even stopped to ask random women (with gorgeous curly hair similar to mine) in public what products they used to tame their tresses. I began to experiment with products until I found ones that worked. I fell in love with my hair.

I could walk out in the rain and not cringe or worry about messing it up. I could go swimming and actually stick my head under water. The humidity and Texas weather is still my arch nemesis, but I have found ways to combat it. Over the last 7 years, I've experimented with my curls from long to short. Dark to light. Bangs to bob. But I've never once regretted my decision. 

I thought going natural would mean easier more carefree days, but naturally curly hair is actually a lot more maintenance.  But I don't mind it.  Do I still sometimes straighten my hair? Yes. But not because I'm fighting who I am, just because sometimes I need a change of pace or out of convenience if my hands are too swollen to manage my curls, straight hair is just a bit easier. I like putting the time and effort into my hair, especially if it inspires other girls to go natural as well.

As women, we are told that our hair is one of our top assets. We spend hundreds of dollars a year on products and services for our hair.  Everyone's head of hair (or lack thereof) has a story. Sometimes it's a colorful one. Sometimes it's flat and ordinary. Other times it's full of life and lengthy. Whatever it is, know that like in life, you have the power to change your hair story at any time. Let your hair inspire and excite you but never let it define you.

Love your locks. Embrace the strands you've got. 

To learn more about my hairvolution order a copy of my book!


My Mantra

What do I want? Everything. Yes, I am one of those naive individuals that believes she can have it all. A house. A husband. A whole lot of success. A huge family.  Even if it takes me an entire life to get there, I believe that I will. But what is at the core of those wants? What lies underneath all the stuff? Me. 

When asked to describe what was at my core. To describe what I really wanted to feel, and to be all day, every day regardless of the "stuff" that I had, the first thought that came to my mind was: I want to be pain free. But as I thought about it some more, I realized that that was just more stuff too. It was not something I could feel at my core. It was a physical ailment that could only affect me as much as I let it. 

Within 30 seconds of letting go of that thought, my "core" feelings arose to the surface almost instantly and there was no doubt in my mind what they were (my meditation mantra for the last 2 years):

"I want to be happy, healthy and whole, in mind, body and soul." 

I want my mind to feel and perceive happiness at a real level, not in a superficial, ephemeral way but in a lasting way. I want my mind to be healthy by practicing emotionally healthy responses to situations. By meditating daily and keeping my brain strong with challenges. I want my mind to feel whole by giving it what it needs on every level.

I want my body to be as healthy as it can be by nourishing it with good food, healthy amounts of exercise and plenty of rest. I want my body to feel happiness by enjoying the soft touch of my husband. By dancing and laughing and smiling often. And I want my body to feel whole and not broken by doing all that I need to do to prevent flare ups and relapses. By taking my meds and going to the doctors. By practicing yoga and being thankful for the parts of me that do work right and not dwelling on those that don't.

I want my soul to feel happy by finding ways to be at peace with myself and others. I want my soul to be healthy by finding moments of stillness and spirituality. I want my soul to feel whole by listening to it, feeding it with wisdom and letting my light shine as often as possible. 

The only other core feeling that I would add to my mantra is that I want to feel loved. I want my words and my God-given talent to reach others and inspire them. I want my family and friends to be proud of me and smile when they see me. I want to know that what I do matters to someone and has made a difference. 

What's at your core? Underneath all that "stuff" you think you need and want, what drives your soul?



Who Knew?

So, one week ago I started a 28 Day Blogging Challenge- hence the reason I've posted something to my blog everyday- I decided to do this because I needed to keep myself motivated with my writing. I hadn't written anything in awhile because I've been so focused and engrossed in promoting my book.

I hadn't blogged in almost 6 months and knew that it was time to start back up. Even if it wasn't on my original blog Chronic Brevity, but this new one. I just got the itch and knew I needed to pick it back up. So, I took this challenge..and I'm loving it.


For today's post, I was asked to use one word to describe the blogging challenge experience so far, and the word I came up with is:


In just 6 days, this blogging challenge has revealed to me:

1. I still got it! I can still write interesting, compelling and meaningful blog entries that reach a wide audience and help others.

2. It's much easier to blog when someone tells you what to write about.

3. Blogging doesn't always have to be "serious"- I need to have more fun with it and entertain my readers as well as inspire them.

4. There are other Latinas and female writers who share my story and are striving to help others the same way I am.

5. I may not have a lot to say always, but I always have SOMETHING to say.

6. Other women are going through or have gone through so much in their lives that I can learn from, and I now truly have a better understanding of the quote:

Be kind to one another. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

7. That I have been blogging since 2010 and it's time to take those entries and finish that second memoir I keep putting off for fear of opening old wounds that quite simply will only be healed once the damn thing is done. (I am now more motivated to finish it thanks to this challenge)

8. I reveal a lot of myself on a daily basis. I am an open book and I use this openness to broach subjects others are too afraid to even whisper about.

9. I am enough. WE are all enough. When I wrote that sentence I didn't realize the impact it would have on me and on others. It took a few days to sink in, but it's a part of me now and I truly believe it.

Serenity, Courage & WTF

Like my header quote reads: "It's never the changes we want, that change everything." For better or for worse, life throws us curve balls. We have a life plan that goes awry because actual life happens. One moment we're coasting along headed in one direction, and suddenly life slaps us (or beats us with a dirty stick) and changes the direction and the journey we're destined to be on. 

I was lucky growing up. I didn't have any major plot twists. I had a life plan and I was able to stick to it, all the way through college. But on the day before graduating with my M.Ed. I was diagnosed with Lupus (later to realize it was actually Scleroderma as the symptoms progressed).

This completely rocked my world. All of my future dreams and aspirations seemed impossible. What did this mean? Who was I to become now? WTF? Over the first few months I suffered through depression. Gained weight. Shut  out all my friends and family. Living became almost impossible. I was burdened by chronic fatigue, joint pain, skin tightening, acid reflux, insomnia, medication side effects, constipation and diarrhea and the list goes on...anything and everything was happening to me, and I couldn't stop it.

My body was betraying me. I was told there was no cure. I was told it was chronic. Chronic meant forever. I was only 22, "forever" is a long time when you're only 22. 

The predictability of my life suddenly vanished. I didn't know how I would feel or what I would have the energy for from one day to the next. It took me two hours a day just to shower, get dressed, comb my hair and "look normal." Every motion, every step required a 10-15minute break afterwards. It was debilitating. It was frustrating. And back then, that Jasminne refused to ask for help. 

I still wanted to be who I was. I still expected my "young" body to do as I wanted, but that only made matters worse. Shortly after graduation, I quit the wonderful full-time job I had at a non-profit to pursue my artistic endeavors. I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a world-renowned slam poet. But my symptoms continued to progress and working multiple part time jobs was stressful on my body and didn't give me the health insurance I needed. I struggled to make ends meet and fell into an even deeper depression because I couldn't follow my dreams with the same "gusto" and passion that I had before. But I was determined to at least do what was always my plan B. To succeed at my backup plan if/when acting didn't work out. I set out to become the best teacher I knew I could be.

I eventually found a teaching gig, teaching theatre. I lasted 2 years at that job before my body and mind gave out and I was forced to work part time for a year to recover. (Luckily I was married by this time so health insurance wasn't an issue) After a year of part time teaching I went back to teaching full-time. That. Was. A. Mistake. It was a great year, but 2 months into year two at that school I ended up in the ICU with near heart failure. (There were many other things that lead up to the ICU incident you can read more about it here)

I spent some time at home recovering and reflecting, and there was no doubt in my mind what I needed to do. What I was being called to do.

Even though my body did not have the strength to teach for 8-10 hrs a day, eve though I couldn't act and perform like I used to,  I realized that there was one talent I had that couldn't be taken away: I could still write. I threw myself into writing poetry and memoir and blogging. Even on days when my fingers swelled and my knuckles ached, writing saved me. I quit teaching all together and spent the next 6 months compiling stories and poems for my first memoir. (About growing up Latina)

Writing gave me the serenity to accept my condition. Writing gave me the courage to speak up for myself when others wouldn't listen. And writing MY story, gave others the wisdom about how to better manage their illnesses and chronic pain. The response I got from others who related to what I was going through was overwhelming and liberating.

I realized that I still did have a purpose. It wasn't the journey I thought I'd be on, no, it was better. I was given the gift of language and of writing. The ability to tell my story so others could find understanding. I knew my life was not going to go as planned, hell it was already completely different. But I trusted, that it would be what it was meant to be. As long as I listened to my body when it cried for rest. As long as I listened to my heart when it cried for peace. 

A poem that I wrote a few years ago about this "plot twist" aka "my re-birth."(Video of me reading it linked)

Getting Thick Skinned

Jasminne Mendez


The doctor picked up a pen and a pad

And prescribed pain medicine

“You have scleroderma, so go home

And rest. Any questions?”

And he walked out of the room.

Where do I begin?

Where should I go?

What will happen now?

He’d placed a knife in my chest

That I couldn’t pull out.

So for the next 4 years I slowly

Bled to death.


Cold brittle bones breaking

With each bending motion.

Muscles made mush

By too much movement.

Frozen fingers feeling fragile

At the touch of an ice cold glass.

Solemn sleepless nights where I was left

Longing for something more

Than an idle prayer

Regurgitating remnants of food fragments

That crept up my esophagus

And burned my already tattered trachea

As I desperately tried to nourish myself.

But my own body ate away at me

Left my stiffened skin inexplicably incapacitated

And all I could hold onto was my mortality

And my memories


I reached for a bottle of pills

That beckoned and I took just enough

But wearily wondered what would happen

If I took just a little bit more

But the thought of my mother

Stopped me.

I drove past a locked empty church

That told me “Jesus was near”

And I contemplated running the red light

Into oncoming traffic

But my phone rang

And my husband’s voice

Stopped me.

I drank another glass of wine

And walked to the medicine cabinet

And this time, staring sullenly into the mirror

My own rejected reflection

Stopped me.

What was I doing?

Who had I become?

Where was I going?


I pushed the knife deeper into my

Chest, until I couldn’t feel it

And with my tears I healed the wound

That would leave me scarred.

I got up

Leaving most of myself on the floor

And began walking in a new direction

I was not who I had been

I was not going to become who I

Wanted to be.

But I was born again.

And I would learn to eat again

Like it was the first time.

Savoring delicious delicacies and

Enjoying every bite.

I would learn to see the world again

As it was meant to be seen

Like a child: with wonder and not with woe

I would use my brittle bones and

Meager muscles to their full capacity

And understand that it didn’t matter

How long I could use them

But how well I had used them.

And I remembered my memories

But I didn’t long for them

And I understood my mortality

Because it allowed me to live again

And the dark places still exist

And the taunting thoughts still threaten

Because I have scleroderma

But it doesn’t have me

And hope and understanding

Came to me through an incurable disease

That taught me how to live



Dinner With Friends

Today, I'm going to keep it simple and I'm going to let pictures do the talking. If I could host a dinner party and invite 5 strangers, who would they be?

What would we do? 

Sing  and Dance (Music by Celia and Juan Luis)

Recite Poetry (Langston & Maya)

Discuss politics (Junot)

Eat amazing food from everywhere. It would be a potluck dinner and everyone would have to bring their favorite comfort food. It would just be a private art event where some of the centuries' greatest artist spend time together and inspire ME.