<![CDATA[Minnie Lahongrais - The Pink Diamond Lady - Blog]]>Sat, 21 Jan 2017 22:18:23 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Where Have I Been? - Part 6]]>Sat, 14 Jan 2017 17:00:00 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/where-have-i-been-part-6Recuperation, Rehab and Return to Life with Gratitude
Give up? Yes, I wanted to. Five weeks after surgery I had recuperated enough to begin physical, occupational and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy for I had been diagnosed with PTSD. The physical and occupational therapy was a long and painful process as was the psychotherapy but in a different way. 

I was out of work four and a half months and returned before any of my prescribed therapy sessions were completed. I worked three days a week and did my therapy twice a week for a little while. I never finished all my sessions for fear I would be let go from my job. They were giving me a hard time about it and things happened that made my anxiety worse than it already was. I had a lot of medical bills because even though I have excellent health insurance, the co-pays for the therapy sessions and prescriptions along with daily living expenses were eating up my credit cards. Why? Because mistakes were made and I wasn't getting payments for disability as I should have been. It took me another two months to get everything straightened out and get retroactively paid. Yes, I paid those bills with that money, but I had been living on my credit cards and the interest earned was not covered by those delayed payments.

I still work at the same place in Times Square. I suffer a great deal of anxiety and insomnia when I think of having to navigate the crowds in that part of town. This was exacerbated by regular news reports while I was on disability of people being stuck with needles, getting pushed onto the tracks, getting punched and attacked in NYC's subway system. It's not really getting better but one's got to eat, right? I stay close to home when I don't have to go to work and I often do not leave my apartment on weekends.

I am back to regular Pilates sessions and have seen better progress with this than I did with my physical therapy toward the end of those sessions. The difference for me is that I have one-on-one Pilates sessions vs being one of three or four people during physical therapy. I feel I am back to 90% of my old self. I may never be 100% again, but I'll keep trying to reach that goal.

In the end, I learned some extremely valuable lessons from this experience. Most importantly, I learned that sometimes things aren't what they seem not matter how real they appear and sometimes, people are like the Wizard of Oz. They only show you what they want you to see in order for you to see them in the best light.

​But that's ok. Everyone has their own journey in life. 
I want to end this series of posts on a positive note even though I am looking forward to what 2017 brings with a little bit of a side eye. 

I have a five year plan and to that end, I have begun writing every day again. I don't expect to publish anything anytime soon though. I have several pieces in various stages of unreadiness that I will work on diligently. I will share pieces of them with you now and then.

I also plan on focusing on reconnecting with you all and sharing more of my life experiences - jagged as they are.
With heartfelt gratitude, I want to thank the following people:

My daughter Mari, my son-in-law James, my Prince Dayne and my nephew Peter: You dropped everything to come to the hospital to be with me. I will never forget that.

To my sister Maritza and her husband Colley: You too rushed to the hospital. I reluctantly accepted your invitation to stay with you for a while right before I began physical therapy. Once I decided to go back to my place, you came to my apartment to help me bathe. I originally didn't want to go to your place and impose on you guys especially after you having just just been with Mami until her last breath. But I did because you insisted. I am deeply grateful. Thank you.

To my younger brother, Rev. Pedro: Thank you for just being there to listen and respecting I didn't want to be preached to. You have grown so much in your journey. It is a reminder to myself there is always a light at the end of the tunnel no matter what I may think. 

To my neighbors Linda and Karina who fed me, helped me with household chores, kept me company hours on end and whose shoulders I cried on - sometimes family doesn't have to be blood. I am grateful for your love and friendship.

To Debbie and Paul who drove me back and forth to my therapy sessions. I treasure your caring love and friendship.

To Jamie DeBree whose hilarious posts "written" by her dogs kept me entertained on my bus rides home from physical therapy when I was well enough to go on my own. I think you have a clue as to how much that helped me. Those posts kept me smiling and I very much appreciated them.

To Marjorie Brown, Evelyn Correa, Hilda Aviles, Myrna Solganick and Andi Reis who regularly called, emailed, texted, visited with words of love and encouragement and sent care packages and cookies :) - thank you for reminding me life was worth living. 

To Liza, my Pilates instructor - you were with me when I got word Mami died and you have been a great support to me. You are more than my instructor. You are a friend. Mil y una gracias!

To Sharif who regularly rides the bus with me to work: your insight, words of wisdom, realness and truth play back whenever I feel myself slipping. Sometimes I just wanna smack you on the back of your head you're so damned real, but I don't because you're my black Dominick :)

And to Tricia who stopped in twice a week at my daughter's place to help me with my meds and offered her assistance, I thank you.
Here's to 2017!

​~~ML
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<![CDATA[Where Have I Been? - Part 5]]>Fri, 13 Jan 2017 17:00:00 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/where-have-i-been-part-5Surgery and My Mindset
Yep. That's right.

Back in July of 2012, I had knee surgery to replace my right patella due to a torn meniscus and osteoporosis. I loved my doctor and his staff. I had an overall pleasant experience with them. But since I was taken to a hospital where he is not affiliated, it was two weeks before I could have surgery due to his schedule. I was not about to let anyone else touch me. I called him the next morning, but he was away and I was unable to see him for another week. Thank goodness for Vicodin. I was always in pain. 

When I finally made it in to see him, I had additional x-rays done because it had been over a week since the incident and he wanted to see what he was dealing with. I watched his face for any sign of the seriousness of my injuries when he returned from reading the film.

I'm not going to lie. It wasn't pretty. I had ligaments torn so badly they had to be reconstructed. They were shredded. My left knee is being held together with rubber bands - literally. What was left of my original ligaments were stitched together to strengthen them as best as possible.

My doctor explained he had some commitments he could not re-arrange so we decided he would perform the surgery the following week -- January 19, 2016. He sent me home with a prescription for more pain killers and urged me not to bend the leg. It had to remain straight both before surgery in order to prevent additional damange as well as five weeks after the surgery in order for it to heal, at which point I could begin physical therapy.

With regard to my wrist, he recommended a hand surgeon who was kind enough to see me that same day without an appointment. I was extremely lucky he would do that.

Now, my wrist was fractured near the joint and I also had torn the TFCC ligament. (I had no idea how complex the structure of your hand is!) The hand doctor thought we could perform surgery -- put a plate over the bone in the wrist. I refused and asked for alternate treatment. At this point he suggested putting it in a hard cast for five weeks. His thinking was that because it had been set so well in the emergency room, there was a good chance the bone would grow and heal nicely. I would then have intensive occupational therapy to strengthen the wrist.
I am right-handed and couldn't use the hand. I needed help doing EVERYTHING! I was still staying at my daughter's place. I had taken over my grandson's room. Though I loved being around my Prince, I hated having to depend on everyone for everything from brushing my teeth, to eating, to my daughter bathing me, to being taken to the bathroom. I felt like an inconvenience. I now know how my mother must have felt being in the condition she was in prior to her death. She of strong will and fierce temperament at the mercy of those taking care of her. At least I can talk about it, write about it. She couldn't even speak.

I sank into a deep, dark hole. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I could count. I didn't even see the point in writing. For a week while I waited on my surgery date, all I could think about was my Mom, my brother and my friend. I prayed I would just fall asleep like he did and not wake up. Honestly, I was just fucking miserable. 

I wondered what lesson was I supposed to be learning from all of my losses and the aftermath of those deaths. I became painfully aware of my own fatality. I worried about my daughter and my grandson. How would they cope if something went wrong during surgery and I died? I began to doubt my own beliefs. I believe in reincarnation, I do. But, I know there are no guarantees that I would be able to protect them from wherever I went as a spirit. Was that even possible?

This incident not only impacted me, but my whole family. Everyone came together for me and I am deeply appreciative for everything everyone did on my behalf, but it also made me take a long hard look at my life and everyone around me. My knee surgery would take place three weeks before my 59th birthday. I got clear as to what I wanted to do, what kind of life I wanted to live. I asked myself the hard questions. 

What if I only have twenty years left? How do I want to spend that time? What makes me happy? Who do I want to be surrounded by? 

There was nothing I could do but think. I was bedridden. I could only use my weak ass left hand. But I did come up with some answers. 

First, I needed to really look at the people around me. Friends, family -- everybody I encountered on a daily basis. I needed to evaluate where I fit in their lives and where they fit in mine. You know, ying/yang. Then move forward from there.

I was scheduled for surgery the afternoon of January 19th, 2016,. I went into that OR with my head all fucked up. 
It was scheduled as an ambulatory procedure, but once I came out of the recovery room, I knew there was absolutely no way I could put weight on that leg. To be honest, I didn't even want to try. It was close to midnight when I woke up, and my family was waiting for me to come out of surgery to take me home. I felt like shit they had spent all that time waiting but there was no way I could force myself out of that bed and climb into the back seat of a car and go to Jersey City to begin my recuperation.

Next: Recuperation, Rehab and Return to Life with Gratitude

​~ML
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<![CDATA[Where Have I Been? - Part 4]]>Thu, 12 Jan 2017 17:00:00 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/where-have-i-been-part-4What Else Could Possibly Happen, Right?

On Monday, January 4, 2016, I went back to work focused on getting past the previous year. What happened three days later, January 7th has marked me forever.

I left my office in Times Square fifteen minutes later than I normally do thinking about dinner. I decided on take out from a place close to my home. That meant taking a different train than I normally would. 

Every time I think of the events of that night, I shiver at the idea that life can turn in an instant. 

I pushed the revolving doors of my office building and walked out onto the street. I entered Port Authority, swiped my Metro Card and headed down a ramp that is always crowded with people zig zagging in and out of the station. There are five trains that come out of that part of the station and here it was rush hour so it was even more packed. I needed to get the 7 train to Grand Central and change for the 4 train to my home station where I would pick up dinner.

I never made it home. 

As I approached the stairs to the train I needed, another train came into the station. There was a young man behind me, apparently in a hurry. I must have been moving too slow for him. He must have thought it was his train that pulled in and he wanted to get on it. He pushed me in his rush. I sincerely don't think he did it on purpose. There was a bunch of people coming in our direction and there was a crowd behind me. Our feet got tangled and soon the ground was coming up to greet me. As I started to fall, I put my right hand out to break the fall. I felt a snap in my wrist and a pop in my left knee as I slid across the ground.

I'm not sure if I hit my head; I don't know if I lost consciousness.

I remember being asked if I could get up.

"Miss! Miss! Can you get up?"

I looked up at his young face and said:

"Are you the MF who pushed me?"

"Yes. Can you get up?"

Well, at least he was honest, right? So no. My leg was bent under me and I couldn't straighten it out. I couldn't get up. I also couldn't move my right hand and I now had a knot growing on my wrist. I felt lightheaded and a little disoriented. 
Luckily, his girlfriend had the presence of mind to call 911 just as two police officers moseyed on over to see what the crowd was looking at. They took my information down and we waited for an ambulance for what seemed like a very long time. When one of the policemen called to find out what was taking so long, he was told EMT couldn't find us. Why? Because they were told we were at Grand Central Station which is all the way across town. So now they had to come crosstown to Port Authority in rush hour traffic to pick me up. When they finally did arrive, they couldn't use the stretcher because the elevator was too small and they had to straighten out my leg enough so that I could sit in a wheel chair. That was pretty painful but not as painful as when they completely straightened it in the ambulance to put it in a splint.

The young man who caused the accident hung around until I was safely on the ambulance and apologized. I appreciated that and told him so.
The photos above were taken by family members at the emergency room while I waited for x-rays. The ones below were taken at my daughter's home where I went afterward.

​Yea, I was pretty messed up.
Now, as though that wasn't enough, as the hours wore on and I did more waiting in the emergency room -- this time for a consultation and my release papers, I noticed alot of activity. Right after I spoke with the orthopedic attending on duty, we were all evacuated from the emergency room to the lobby of another wing of the hospital because someone committed suicide by jumping out of a window and landing on oxygen tanks that were on the rooftop of another wing of the hospital. That story can be found here. To make matters worse, my daughter's car was parked right in front of where the suicide occurred so emergency personnel wouldn't let her get her car. I ended up going to her place with my nephew and son-in-law around 2 a.m. It was daylight when my daugher was able to get her car. She ended up going right to work.

Next: Surgery and my mindset

​~~ML
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<![CDATA[Where Have I Been? - Part 3]]>Wed, 11 Jan 2017 17:00:00 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/where-have-i-been-part-3He Never Said a Word
It was August 31, 2014, Ramon's 74th birthday. I called that morning to see how my mom was and to wish him a happy birthday. We chatted a bit, I teased him about getting older and then we hung up.
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Ramon at my mother's house in NY back in the 80's.
I called daily as was my habit -- something I had done since they moved back to PR in 1995 -- until that day in September of 2014 when I called and his sister-in-law answered the phone. Initially, I was confused.

What is she doing there? Why is she answering the phone?

I got a flashback to when my mom initially had the stroke.

Did something happen and they forgot -- once again --  to call me?

I couldn't get through the niceties fast enough. I half listened as she explained that my sister-in-law had arrived in PR to surprise him and he didn't look good, so she rushed him to the hospital. He was admitted to the ICU. I wanted to fly out to PR immediately but my sister-in-law kept telling me I should wait until his tests had been completed and the results came in. I shouldn't have listened to her. It took them eighteen days to figure out he had cancer and that he had maybe three to five months to live.

My sister-in-law called me with the news while I was at work and I immediately booked a flight to PR for that evening. I wanted to see him before he passed. That very day, the evening of October 14, 2014, my big brother passed away. So now, instead of going to PR to visit with my brother during his last days, I was going there to bury him.

I believe Ramon knew he was sick, but he never said a word. I think he thought he would outlive my mother. I think he worried about what would happen to her if he died and knowing the kind of man he was, he was going to keep his promise to take care of her.

The memories of that time and the following year float around in my head like a kaleidescope. Bits and pieces moving about in odd shapes all fighting to be the centerpiece. Between October 14, 2014 and October 10, 2015,  I lost five people who I loved dearly and thought of as my core people.

My brother, my childhood friend of fifty years, a woman I considered a second mother, a cousin I was very close to and finally my mom all passed away within 13 months.

I was crushed; completely defeated.
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www.palliative.org
The photo above aptly paints a picture of where I was mentally. I was paralyzed by grief. I spent more than a month away from work. I stopped writing. I forced myself to spend the holidays with my immediate family. No matter what I did, where I went or who I spent time with, I felt completely alone and numb. 

When 2016 rolled around, tried to convince myself I would pick up the pieces and go back to my old self. I was going to force myself to get up early to write. I was going to be more engaged on social media. I was going to get out more. I was going to stop crying. I was going to be happy, damn it!!

But truth be told, that was all bullshit. Five of my peeps just up and died on me. I needed to grieve. I needed to heal. The last thing I needed to do was be all the things I knew I couldn't be. The last thing I needed to do was coast through whatever time I had left on this planet. 

My relationship with my boyfriend fizzled. I didn't fight for it because I didn't feel as though I was any good to anyone. I mean, he had just lost his dad as well. What good was I? I chanted more because when I chant, my mind goes blank and I didn't have to talk to anyone about what I was feeling. When I chant, I focus on my Gohonzon and that is all I see and if I want to cry the ugly cry, I could do that -- in private. But what I realized was that I was sabotaging the process of grieving. So I made an heroic attempt to go through it and though it was debilitatingly painful, I determined I was gonna get through this and once I did, I was going to come back stronger.

I. Was. Determined. 2016 was going to be my year!

​Or not....

Next: What Else Could Possibly Happen, Right?

​~~ML
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<![CDATA[Where Have I Been? - Part 2]]>Tue, 10 Jan 2017 17:00:00 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/where-have-i-been-part-2I'm So Confused and Hurt
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Photo from https://workersadvisor.com/tag/generalized-anxiety-disorder/
Receiving a voicemail from my cousin in Puerto Rico who never calls me at work was disconcerting. I don't know how I got through my workload that morning. I couldn't focus. I made phone calls and sent text messages to people who I thought might have some information whenever I could, but to no avail. To make matters worse, I didn't have good cell reception where I sat so I had to leave my desk to find a spot where I could make those calls and/or send those text messages multiple times that morning. When my Dad suffered his stroke five years earlier, I had been called to personnel for using the company phone to call Puerto Rico even though I had used the codes necessary to have those calls charged to me.

Right before lunch, I called my daughter and told her what was going on. We each left work and met up. At this point the details are fuzzy. I vaguely remember calling my cousin and finally connecting with him. He gave me an update. The next thing I remember is being in a cab heading to the West Side Highway which would take my daughter and I to our respective homes. I remember calling personnel and telling them I was trying to get a flight out and I remember getting angry when I was asked how long I would be gone. How the hell did I know? All I knew was that my mom was in the hospital and I had little information.
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Morning sky heading to my mother's house from the airport
My daughter, my grandson and I flew out from New York a day and a half later and after stopping for something to eat, we got in our rental and began our 90 minute ride south to the hospital where my mom had been admitted. Memories of that visit come to me in tiny bits and pieces. I don't recall staying at my Mom's house; I may have stayed at the hospital. In fact, memories of my Dad in the hospital after his stroke five years earlier and those of my Mom's kind of blend together. All I know is that by the time I left Puerto Rico some days later, she was on her way home and her therapy sessions had been scheduled.

I was angry that this happened. I was angry some family members excluded me from the decision making process. I was angry that I would have to leave and I was angry that even though she knew she would receive better care in New York, she refused to leave Puerto Rico.

On the other hand, I was happy I saw her getting better and I was happy that my older brother, Ramon would be staying with her. He made a huge sacrifice, and I am grateful for that. But replaying the whole thing in my head on the flight home, I was disturbed by the fact that while I was riding the train to work like any other normal day, there were family members already at the airport waiting on standby flights without having contacted me. That oversight hurt deeply, and now more than five years removed from that fact, I get it. They may have been just as shocked about what was happening as I was, but it still hurt.

During my Mom's first twelve to eighteen months after her stroke, she made improvements. However, she began to slip both physically and I suspect, based some of the things she said, emotionally. She expressed how much she missed my Dad more frequently. She gave up on her therapy and she cried a lot. Eventually, she had to be put on a feeding tube for major muscles in her body were now atrophying and she lost the ability to speak. She slept most of the day.

She persisted this way four more years. During that time, Ramon was her full time care giver with the help of a part-time home attendant. 

I took vacation time once, sometimes twice a year, to spend time with her and give Ramon a break.

Then tragedy struck.

Next: He never said a word.

~~ML
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<![CDATA[Where Have I Been? - Part 1]]>Mon, 09 Jan 2017 17:00:00 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/where-have-i-been-part-1It has been over a year since I even thought about my own site and I'm thinking many may have wondered whatever happened to me. Some of you know some of the details, but for the most part, I haven't really talked about anything on social media. So here goes:

I thought the splintering of what encased my little world began on August 31, 2014. That morning, I called my brother Ramon to wish him a happy birthday. It was his 74th and I was prepared to tease him about being one year shy of three-quarters of a century old. I hadn't noticed it at the time, but the process of the destruction of the protective shield of my personal origins had begun two months earlier when I visited Puerto Rico to spend time with my Mom for her 93rd birthday. 
I've shared the above photo of my mother as a 29-year old woman multiple times. With her fresh face full of hope, although slightly tainted by life -- for she had already experienced a lifetime of hardship -- it is one of my favorite photos of her. She had given this photo to my Dad in the late 1940's right before she embarked on a life-changing journey to New York City. He had stayed behind with my brother Ramon until she got herself a place to live, a job and enough money to send for them. The woman had guts of steel. I admire that! 

But I digress...

Fifty plus years later, my nightmare would last almost two years. (I wrote about that time back in December of 2014, so I won't re-hash it again for it is too painful).
It was a hot, humid Sunday afternoon. Ramon and I decided we would make a batch of Pina Colada. Because there were sixteen years between us, we really didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things, but when it came to our mother, we mostly did.

Ramon spent a lot of time with Mami in Puerto Rico after our Pops passed away in 2005. He traveled back and forth between NY and PR and when he wasn't there, one of my other siblings or I flew out to be with her so she wouldn't be alone so much. When Mom suffered her most devastating stroke in 2010, Ramon was in NY as we all were. 

I remember I'd called her that morning as was my practice -- my sister phoned in the evenings and my younger brother called weekends -- but I got no answer that morning. I figured she was in the back yard or in the shower or doing something in her garden and didn't hear the phone ring. I decided to call her again once I got off the train and talk to her while I walked from the station to my office. Mind you, this was before NYC train stations were equipped for WiFi. In other words, if you called me while I was underground, I was unaware unless you left a message. I wouldn't even see a missed call message on my phone.

So, once I was above ground, I tried calling my mother's number again. More than an hour had passed since I tried the first time, but still, there was no answer.

Did she go shopping with someone?
Did she go to the post office?
I'll try again at lunchtime, 
I told myself.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the office to find a voicemail message from my cousin who lives in Puerto Rico a short distance from where my mother lived. 

My cousin is very involved in local politics and has many connections. Apparently, he was at the hospital visiting someone when he ran into my mother's home attendant.

My Mom had been rushed to the hospital!

Little did I know then how much hurt and suffering I would endure in just a short few years; how much loss I would suffer.

Next: I'm So Confused and Hurt

​~~ML
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<![CDATA[Perspective]]>Thu, 24 Dec 2015 17:38:42 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/perspective
It has been over five months since I've blogged about anything at all and even longer than that since I've had a real presence on social media or did much writing. Not because I didn't want to, but because I couldn't present myself to anyone and be cheerful and all smiley while not only my life was falling apart but the lives of people dearest to me. I couldn't bring myself to re-live all the angst, the pain, the betrayals and psychological warfare I've experienced in the last three hundred and eighty-two days in every aspect of my life.

I lost my older brother, Raymond, to cancer. He left his family in New York to take care of my bedridden mother up until eighteen days before his death.

I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my brother from another mother, Dominick, two days after our last conversation. He was the one who always had a kind word for me; a person I could count on to make me smile with his stupid jokes. I could feel his smile radiating even via the phone. The loss of a fifty year friendship that disappeared in the blink of an eye and knocked me to my knees. 

I lost one of my favorite cousins, Frankie, who I re-connected with years after my divorce in the strangest way. He'd spotted me in the background of a picture his daughter had taken at a Salsa club back in the eighties.

I lost my second mother, Paula, a woman who embraced me with love at one of the lowest moments in my life. Her heart was so big she counted me and my daughter as her own.

And the final blow came on October 10, 2015 when I lost my own mother, my Queen. 

I am still reeling.
In the midst of all that, I had medical challenges, work challenges and family challenges. I held my daughter's hand and watched as she herself faced down battles while simultaneously being the grandmother my grandson knew me to be in order to keep him safe emotionally.

I was/am completely drained.
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So, I took the time I needed to go through this process, to re-think my life and give myself a chance to re-direct my karma. I did lots of soul-searching. I paid attention to my environment and who was in it. In doing so, I found that I had an army of people who, in their own way, helped strengthen my soul. They shored me up the way a soldier helps his fallen comrade. 

What I didn't realize until just this moment, is that every single one of these people manifested in my life between six months to nine months before the battle for my life began -- about the same amount of time it takes for a fetus to grow and be healthy enough to survive. 

There's the wise man who rides the bus with me in the morning who has the added sense of humor that not only made me smile, but gave me the strength to look at things from a perspective I hadn't quite respected enough. I consider him a soul brother.

There's the woman in Wisconsin I'd met online who used her skills as a therapist to help me purge myself of the guilt I had about things I had no control over. When she visited New York last summer, there was no doubt in my mind I'd known her before; that we were members of a soul family. She is my soul sister.

Though we'd been friends for years, there is the neighbor who cooked dinners for me, who never complained or judged me as I poured my heart out to her -- while I depleted her supply of wine. She never once complained and rarely accepted my offer to replace what I had drunk. People in our complex often assume we are sisters as we resemble each other. That, I don't think, is a coincidence.

And finally, there's my sister-friend from work who saw me as something greater than I saw myself during this past year. She never, ever once gave up on me even while I was ready to give up on myself. She says I've helped her through a tough time. I really hope I have.

Each of these souls has given me what I needed at the time and each allowed me to go easy on myself in order to heal.

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I have a deep love and respect for each of these people described above. They are but four of the army of folks who said words of wisdom, words of comfort. loving words. As an author, words carry a lot of weight for me and so many people chose just the right ones to say.

As 2015 winds down, I want to show my appreciation for all who said a kind word, all who showed me and my family love. I won't name you each individually lest I forget someone for there are so many. The only way I can show you my appreciation is to get back on the saddle and do the things that I love.

2016 will bring about major changes in my life that I have already set in motion. My immediate family -- my daughter, my grandson and even her fur baby, Rocky -- they are my first priority. 

As the oldest of the surviving children of two of the most heroic people I know, I will do what needs to be done so that there is one place each of us knows we can go to as a safe haven. Someplace we can have fun, laugh, cry and even fight as we strengthen what's left of the ties to our original clan. 

And finally, my passion -- the one thing that keeps me breathing: my writing. I have several projects in various stages of "un-ready-ness" that I have organized into folders and will turn to in the coming months.

The one thing I can share right now is the planned re-release of Sinner's Ride with added content and a new cover in celebration of its fifth anniversary in April. After that, who knows? The world is open to me for I have a new perspective.

In closing, I'd like to acknowledge the sacrifice my sister made of her own life to ensure that my mother had a vocal advocate; that Mom wanted for nothing,that she was comfortable as she neared her last days on this plane. Maritza Gaston was there when our Queen took her last breath. Her husband, my bother-in-law, Colley, gave my mother mouth to mouth resuscitation in an attempt to keep her alive. I will never, EVER forget that and there isn't enough I can do that will show my love for them both. All I can do is be the best human being I can possibly be.

To my last surviving brother, Pastor Pedro Torres who gave a beautiful sermon at Mami's funeral bringing us all to tears. We don't always get along, but don't get it twisted. I would lay my life down for my brother and sister. No doubt about it.

Thank you all for your love and support. I wish you all a very Merry Holiday Season; one that brings you joy, laughter and a new perspective as we enter 2016!

Hasta pronto!

~~ML
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<![CDATA[Author MJ Kane Releases Book 4 of The Butterfly Series]]>Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:06:39 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/author-mj-kane-releases-book-4-of-the-butterfly-series
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Author MJ Kane
And she's back, bigger and better than ever before! Author MJ Kane not only returns to The Pink Diamond Lady's blog to announce her latest release in the Butterfly Series entitled Nobody's Business, but there's also a month-long contest! 

MJ Kane is not only a talented writer, she is also my friend. MJ's stories are engaging and and perfect for beach reading. I am currently reading and loving it!!

That being said, I will give her the floor.

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I am excited to announce the release of the next novel in The Butterfly Memoirs series! This story is nothing like the previous novels. There are new characters, and a new set of stories. If you’re new to the series, take a moment to get to know the characters by following this link. Already caught up? Then grab your copy today and dig in for another exciting read!

Don’t forget to share the news by entering the Rafflecopter contest below for your chance to win a gift basket filled with AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of all four novels and butterfly swag!

The month long contest will give you plenty of chances to enter and you can enter as many times as you want. Follow this blog tour schedule to learn more about me, the characters, and the story. Not only will this blog tour be held online, there will be chances to meet me in person, as well as tune in to radio interviews and chat!

See you soon! 

Blurb 

Trevon Campbell’s world changed the moment his ex-girlfriend announced he was a father. Determined to make up for his past mistakes, he gives Trina what she wanted before their breakup, what feels like his soul, which means forgetting the woman he had a one-night stand with, the woman who stole his heart.

Kai Malone doesn’t want to play by her family’s rules. Instead of working for the family business, she became a firefighter. Being a female of multicultural descent, working in a field dominated by men, Kai focuses on her job to ignore the infidelity of her fiancé. Tired of his deceit, she gave in to a one-night stand with a complete stranger, someone she’d never have to see again…or so she thought.

When tragedy strikes, their worlds collide, leaving them no choice but to deal with each other again. It doesn’t take long for them to realize the attraction that brought them together the first time is stronger than ever, forcing Trevon to make the biggest decision of his life.


All About MJ Kane 

M.J. Kane stumbled into writing. An avid reader, this once stay at home mom never lost the overactive imagination of an only child. As an adult she made up stories, though never shared them, to keep herself entertained. It wasn’t until surviving a traumatic medical incident in 2006 that she found a reason to let the characters inhabiting her imagination free.  Upon the suggestion of her husband, she commandeered his laptop and allowed the characters to take life. It was that, or look over her shoulder for men caring a purple strait jacket. And the rest, as they say, is history.

No longer a television addict, if M.J. isn’t reading a book by one of her favorite authors, she’s battling with her creative muse to balance writing and being a wife and mother. She resides in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia with her high school sweetheart, four wonderful children, and four pit bulls. During the day, MJ is a librarian. In her spare time, she is director of a local writer’s group, or online connecting with readers and other authors. Other activities she enjoys include: creating custom floral arrangements, assisting her children in their creative pursuits of music and art, and supporting her husband’s music production business, 3D Sounds. 


Congratulations to my friend MJ!!! As always, I wish you much success!!

Readers, don't forget to click on the link in order to participate in the contest and good luck to you all!!!

Hasta pronto mi gente!

~~ML
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<![CDATA[Friendship, Love and Loss]]>Sun, 26 Apr 2015 22:09:12 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/friendship-love-and-loss
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Found on bitch-ohs.blogspot.com
We were seven years old when we met. I've talked about him before. You all must know the story: 

My Dad, who I thought was Superman, told me I could invite anyone I wanted to my birthday party. We were in the school cafeteria and I was talking about how Superman was going to be there. One girl asked how was it possible that Superman would be at my party? I told her Superman was my Dad. And then she burst my bubble.

"How can your father be Superman when Superman is white and your father is Puerto Rican?" she retorted. Ok. She was right, but I didn't want to hear it so I charged her, head first and down on the ground we went.

I was not very well liked in school. I was known as a "momma's girl" and "daddy's princess." I wore glasses and didn't horse around. I'd rather read. Anyway, we rolled around on the ground for a bit while everyone cheered ... for her. And then I heard someone call my name. I heard one sole voice cheering for me ... Dominick D'Avanzo.

That is how we met. He cheered for me right up to his death.
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Found on imgfave.com
Dominick and I became friends after that. We grew up together but never talked about that day or that fight again. After graduating from elementary school, we went to different junior and senior high schools. In fact, he had moved away from the neighborhood. I did my thing, I'm sure he did his but I never forgot him. When I divorced in 1985, I learned that he become a policeman and was working out of the neighborhood precinct just two blocks from where I had been living but I never ran into him. I was a single working mom and I didn't have time to run the streets. I knew he was around and thought I would probably bump into him at some point but we never did. By 1996, I too had left the neighborhood.

When Dominick and I reconnected in 2009, it was as if we were kids again. We talked about anything and everything. Some people would say a guy and a girl could never be in a platonic friendship but we were. He was there when I released my first novel, Sinner's Ride, and he was on the phone with me when I received an email containing the first mock-up of the cover for Divergent Lives. I named a character after him in that story, for he was instrumental in helping me with fight scenes as well as with the correct lingo cops used in the late 80's.
Once, I think it was in late 2012 or early 2013, I happened to call his cellphone and I was shocked to find out he was in the hospital. I scolded him for not calling me to let me know and then he started to joke around. We were laughing when his nurse came in to take his vitals. He proudly told her he was talking to his lifelong friend. Afterward, we stayed on the phone until my battery died. 

My heart broke along with his when his sister passed away in December of 2013. He was never really the same after that but he was my go-to person when my brother passed away a year later.

I last spoke with Dominick from the office on Monday, March 23, 2015. It was 5:15 p.m. and I was rushing to finish something before leaving for the day. He asked me when I was going to retire so I could start working on a project we had discussed. I told him that his project would be the first one I'd attack when I did retire and I mentioned that I would be taking a week off to write right after Easter. He said he would call me that Wednesday so that we could pick a date to get together and talk about it some more. We ended our conversation like we always did, with mutual I love you's and I hung up.

Wednesday came and went and I didn't hear from him. I figured he was busy and I planned on calling him that weekend. I got wrapped up in something and didn't call. It was late Sunday, March 29, 2015 when I realized I hadn't talked to him. Little did I know at that point that he had passed away earlier that day.
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Found on thdandeliongirl.tumblr.com
The day I turned 40, my parents were getting ready to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. I remember my dad called that day, to wish me a happy birthday. I made a big deal about his and my mom's upcoming anniversary. He didn't think it was a big deal. He said that 50 years wasn't a long time if you truly loved and cared for someone. That made me feel sad because I knew I would never celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.

Eighteen and a half years later, Dominick's passing caused me to remember that conversation with my Dad and I realize how lucky I was. I had a 50 year friendship with someone I respected and loved. We always ended our conversations by exchanging I love you's. Dominick didn't let long periods of time pass before reaching out to me to ask why I hadn't been in touch.

I am a better person for having known him. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY loved Dominick. He was a wonderful, loving and dedicated father who absolutely adored his children. He had a hearty laugh and a wicked sense of humor. He was a humble man ready to help anyone in need. 

And when he said "I love you," you can bet he meant it.

For me, Dominick was my brother from another mother. Some days I think of him and I smile but mostly I cry. There is so much I want to share with him right now. It's almost a month since he's passed on and it seems like it happened just yesterday. I want to believe he's in a better place.

Thank you for 50 years of friendship my friend. I know you see me. I love you!


~~ML
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<![CDATA[Generations]]>Sat, 24 Jan 2015 02:49:37 GMThttp://minnielahongrais.com/blog/generationsI love the Steve Harvey Show. I DVR it every day and watch at least a little bit each night before bed. He's lighthearted and he's funny, so the show relaxes me.

The other night, I had the show running in the background while I got my stuff together for work the next day. I happened to glance over at the screen and caught the tail end of a soup commercial. There was a woman (obviously supposed to make you think of your grandmother) talking on what I thought was a can with a string attached to another can held by a chef. It could have been a phone, but my mind was already racing, so I don't really remember. 

Anyway, this woman was telling the chef that it was ok with her; him stealing her recipe for chicken soup. He responds by trying to appease her. In actuality, he hadn't stolen her recipe. He represents the mass producing company that sells this canned soup, probably by the millions.

The point is that this woman did make me think of my grandmother and so, this commercial got me thinking.

I see my grandmother as very dutiful, even tempered, docile, submissive and nurturing in a very emphatic way. She never worked outside the home. Dinner was always ready, the house was always clean and my grandfather wanted for nothing.

My daughter sees my mother in much the same way, even though my daughter never met my grandmother. My mom didn't work outside of the home until my siblings and I were in high school, or maybe the last year of junior high school. When my daughter was growing up, my mom worked part-time, but everything else was pretty traditional. My mother liked doing things that appealed to my daughter, like shopping and music. So my daughter has only known maternal figures who worked and liked to relax on the weekends with music and laughter.

My grandmother didn't do any of that.

I've asked my grandson if he thought I was old. He says he doesn't consider me old. My grandmother looked old to me at his age. 

My grandson has only known me to work outside the home. He's known me to be a bit of a neat freak. He knows I can be silly. He thinks it's funny when I dance. He knows I like to have a glass of wine while cooking with the music blasting in the background. And he knows I'm passionate about writing.

My daughter had that kind of relationship with my mom, and my grandson has that with me except for this small switch: this is his normal, but the NEW normal for me.
What will my grandson's children's vision of my daughter be? How will they perceive her? Will her grandchildren know how hard she works 24/7? And not just as a mother, but outside of the home as well? A strong, single mom who is passionate about what she believes in, yet soft for her son. A mother who would fight "til the end for her loved ones? A woman who also enjoys her wine and music and hanging out with her mother? A mother who would even play a bit of whatever the latest video game is, just so she knows what's going in her child's life? I hope to see for myself.

What kinds of images and visions do you imagine the children of today's teenagers will have of their grandmothers?

Hasta pronto!

~~ML
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