Saturday, November 29, 2008

Grand Canyon, with the family

With all the traveling -- over 30 hours total driving in seven days -- I forgot to take care of some details for the trip, like getting batteries for my camera. My mother did as well.

Thankfully we were only at the Grand Canyon for the day, so we only had to suffer not taking pictures for a few hours after the batteries died.

Here are Grammie, Poppa and the Mijo before he was taken to look at the "forest" - note no harness yet.

For some reason, we were all fascinated with the rivers and streams in the canyon.

This guy looked up as I was snapping shots, I swear he could here the shutter and looked up in curiosity. In any case, he looked right at us -- and was a great end to the day. Next stop -- DINNER!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Day

My little sister hosted all the hooligans at her house in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving.

Note the white couches... she likes white... and she only has the little dog (Lola) to keep in line.

Lola says to my dad or anyone that would listen: "Protect me!
I am surrounded by KIDS!"

The kids (and the men) were all given the rules about not eating in the living room -- connected to the dining room. Some snacks made it in front of the tv anyway.

We put the kids in the middle -- and they did just fine -- besides it was raining outside!

a table full of people -- actually THREE tables put together, I think the final count was 20


The Mijo made his choice. Mom said only one. And he only ate the frosting.

Afterwards, they all piled into cars and went to see a movie (kids) or to the casino (adults except those going to the movies) -- and I did some work in a finally quiet house.

My dad and Lola enjoyed the quiet, kidless house.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Long story short because I am out of time. But in response to me stating that I am not photogentic, a colleague shared this with me today...

I hadn't seen it, but I am loving this ad campaign.

I am feeling pretty lovely on my own just about now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Morning Gold

I love to wake up out of my morning haze to two pieces -- Perspectives and StoryCorps.

In preparation for National Day of Listening, we are getting a StoryCorps interview every day this week!! This weekend we got two absolute perfect diamonds -- Scott Simon (who could read the alphabet on air and be interesting and entertaining) and Liane Hansen getting super personal - these are absolutely must listens!

This morning, I finally roused myself enough to hear Steve Inskeep's mom talk about why she became an English teacher. I am sure that the story had gotten into my consciousness even as I slept. Not only did it help me wake with the idea of writing about my inspirations, it also gave me an insight into Steve his daily work has not. I liked Steve just a little bit this morning -- generally I just want Bob back whenever I hear Steve's whinny voice.

Ah... and then, already awake and typing, I heard the latest Perspective -- about coffee names! I immediately realized I needed to post this, so I went in search of the archive -- it has been difficult for me to find in the past. This time I came up with a page promising me the chance to subscribe to the podcast. This is important because sometimes I sleep through the first part of the piece and NEED to hear it again. You can't count on weaving a story into your dream, so you might actually miss some important part of the idea being presented. [I will warn you that the link offered on this page as the subscribe to podcast actually takes you to the QUEST subscription -- not at all the same thing -- but once at iTunes, you can choose to see all the podcasts from KQED and choose Perspectives.]

If you are in the mood for morning gold, then you might as well go ahead and listen to this piece, too. Junot Diaz talking about walking in the shoes of immigrants before you think about dropping dime to ICE or just hating someone you don't know. What a morning!

Talk about when it rains, it pours ... I have about three more posts I want to write today! We'll see what we get.

Part of the Other 48 Pages

Why is it so hard to write about yourself? Given the number of memoirs (real and imagined) we’ve heard about recently, you wouldn’t think that it is. But writing about yourself as part of an application is like pulling out your own fingernails.

I have been wondering all these months if there is something particular to my situation that makes me so resistant to the writing. Late, very late, last night, as I was trying to finish up some of the graduate school application work, an ex-colleague saw that I was online and IMed me.

She was up late, working on her law school application. We commiserated on how grueling the process is – especially writing about yourself. She needed a favor – she is working on a fellowship application – having to write the two pages that must convince the readers that she is the ONE person whose study should be paid in full. She has four pages that need to be turned into two pages – by Tuesday.

Even though I struggle daily to find the time and energy to work on my applications, I eagerly thought through how I could find the time to read her four pages and offer my suggestions.

She asked about my applications and as I wrote her in chat format what I want to do, it was so clear – and granted she knows me, she doesn’t know me that well; we were really only colleagues for a few weeks. [We both survived working with the crazy lady and so we bonded.] I typed in two sentences and they made sense and I wondered if I had been that clear in my own statement draft.

Maybe what makes writing this kind of document so difficult is what you can’t say. Every time I have approached this kind of writing since I graduated from college, I have struggled with the idea of touting me – though there are accomplishments and accolades to write about, when you only have two page, you must take full credit for everything.

There is no chance to talk about the village that raised you. You are only allowed to talk about the days when you cleared the hurdle by a mile – not the days when you barely made it over, but your foot tipped obstacle and turned it over. The picture you have to present is supposed to be perfect in a way that no one ever is – perfect in its succinct ability to get all these sides into two pages or perfect in that it represents your best self but never has to say how you got to be that self.

Taking credit for how I got to be this me without acknowledging Mrs. Kelly or Mrs. Davis or Ms. Soliz or Ms. Tatum. It doesn’t allow me to explain how much of this me comes from my opposition to Mr. Rexford or Mr. and Mrs. Lundquist or even Mrs. Tingstrom.

So this morning after only three hours of sleep, I woke with the desire to write pages and pages about what I can’t put in my application. Some part of me began (loudly) to argue with this logic – WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS RIGHT NOW. But, that is why I have a blog. To rant about things – to put the thoughts and ideas and problems and complaints that swirl around my head somewhere.

It seemed so clear to me (perhaps it is sleep deficit) – and maybe it would even help me to get some of these ideas pared down into graduate school application acceptable sentences – because you don’t get paragraphs, you get sentences and well chosen words.

You are forewarned, internet. Watch out.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

two steps forward, one step back

Frustration does begin to describe how I feel after my visit to the doctor on Friday.

On my quest to be the most fabulous forty ever -- weight loss was a means to an end: health.

So, now I am nearly 3o lbs lighter -- still 10-15 lbs from my goal, but so very close to being healthy according to BMI standards.

And my cholesterol is HIGHER than it was in June. Um, ok, perspective. My magic number in June was 216, but my LDL was 139 and my HDL was 56. The doctor said she wouldn't care if I didn't lower my LDL if I could get my HDL to 60.

Instead, my LDL went up and my HDL went down. In other words, both went in the wrong direction.

I am off the dead animals other than fish until further notice... if when I get my blood tested again we don't see what we want, we are going to have to talk about other causes of cholesterol issues -- not a conversation I want to have.

So, I am on the serious get the belly fat to go away campaign.

I WILL get back on the exercise bandwagon.

I WILL start training for another half on December 1 -- tentative target date March 15 -- now I just need to find the race.

I WILL reach my weight loss goal by February 2nd -- and birthday month will be healthy and tasty ... I guess I need to start practicing those recipes.

Why is it that ever since I went to the doctor I have been craving a burger?!

Universe, give me strength and resolve.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Last year, we adopted a family through the Salvation Army -- it was my little sister's idea. A great one, by the way. She rightly saw that we have so much and NEED so little, why not give to a family as a family. We wanted to give to the mom so she could play Santa as we are sure she would like to, but she has to first pay the rent and buy the food and the gas and on and on.

It was a hard sell.

I don't know why it surprises me, but it does. My older siblings decided not to participate. One never responded to the email and the other said she wanted to do something for her husband's family member who had fallen on hard times. But later on I would hear her say to her daughter that we were doing it because we didn't want to buy them presents.

That they didn't want to participate made me sad; but to hear the premise twisted in such a way really hurt my heart.

Not only had we (the three younger siblings and my mother with a little cajoling) gotten as much as we could off the list for the family, we had also bought a little something for everyone else -- maybe it was small: less than $10 -- but we did our best to be thoughtful with that $10.

In the end, it was a nice Christmas but there was so much tension leading up to it, I was worried how it would turn out.

The only thing that had gone absolutely right was doing for others -- we had to be done with the list by the first week in December in order to have everything ready to give to the Salvation Army -- and we made the deadline. We all converged on my parents house for a faux-Thanksgiving and gathered the gifts we had bought -- sharing with each other the treasures we were hoping would meet with approval on Christmas day -- even though we wouldn't be there to see it.

After that weekend, I was so excited about Christmas -- I spent time shopping for those little gifts for my family with a joy I can't remember having in the crazy shopping season. [I usually buy gifts all year round in order to avoid the crazy buying people that descend on malls at this time of year.]
This year, time got away from us -- and we just started planning. The same three are committed and we strong armed my mother into a contribution as well -- and I want to invite my other siblings to participate.

I drafted an email to them to try to explain in greater detail the why and the how -- we have had the great fortune to have a wonderful family who has over these many years given so much to us. We just want to share that with others -- we don't need to buy each other things -- it's so not about things ... I even offered the alternative of coming up with creative, heartfelt gifts for each other -- share your favorite song or poem or book or picture; invite a sibling to dinner or a movie or a hike or just to spend time together; offer to babysit and give one of our siblings with children the night off or a weekend off... or make something for each other or just write your sibling a letter...

I am afraid to send it ... I am not sure if I have expressed it quite right -- I am not saying there is anything wrong with gifting -- but isn't the season about more than what you can buy in a store? And I am not talking about Jesus... if you are confused, read this, or this.

I am talking about a time to share with family -- for some families the only time in the year that they are together -- a time to count our blessings -- and maybe to see that no matter how bad things seem, we really do have quite a lot of wealth -- not always money but certainly the support of our family and friends and the legacy of hardworking parents and grandparents who were willing to leave the comfort of their countries (or distress or discomfort as the case may be) to give us a chance at something better... there's more, you know it, though.

I am looking for the courage to send the note. I am hoping for the wisdom to understand that it is less what I say and more how they hear. And the patience to accept whatever will come.

We can do this without them... I would just rather not.

Monday, November 17, 2008


From DailyOM, as usual, reading my mind:
“During each of our journeys, there are those inevitable moments when someone comes into our life at precisely the right time and says or does precisely the right thing. Their words or actions may help us perceive ourselves more clearly, remind us that everything will turn out for the best, help us cope, or see us through difficult situations. These people are human angels – individuals designated by the universe to be of service to those in need at specific points in time. Some human angels make a commitment before their births to make a positive contribution to the world at a particular moment. Others were chosen by the universe. All human angels, however, come into our lives when we least expect them and when we can most benefit from their presence.

A few of the human angels we may encounter are in professions where helping others is an everyday occurrence. But most of them are regular people, going about their daily lives until called upon to be in the right place at the right time to bring peace, joy, help, or heal someone when they most need it. You may have met a human angel in the form of a teacher who gave you a piece of advice that touched your soul and influenced your path. The person that momentarily stopped you to say hello on the street, delaying you long enough to avoid an oncoming car or a collision, is also a human angel. They may offer nothing more than a kind word or a smile, but they will offer it when you can draw the most strength and support from their simple action.”

So, despite my less than enthusiastic support for all things religious ... I still like the word "ANGEL" to describe those spirits, souls and people who come in our lives and provide that little something that is exactly what we need.

And hoping that sometimes I am that person for someone as so many people/spirits/souls have been there for me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Jake's Little Brother

I am still trying to find the right way to react to this situation, but I will try to tell you about it anyway.

Last night on my way home from work, I decided to walk from the BART instead of taking the cute shuttle -- mostly because I hadn't taken a walk at lunch, so I really needed the stretch.

I was listening to Bill Moyers on the Ipod Shuffle when a young man on a bike (on the sidewalk) lunged toward me and snatched my shuffle right from my sweater. Um... apparently that was the universe introducing me to Jake's little brother.

I would like to say that in my zen like meditative mode I wished him well and hoped that he needed that shuffle more than me.

That was not the case... I yelled "asshole" at him not really fully realizing that he had not just grabbed at me but had actually stolen my shuffle.

I thought seriously about chasing after him. I kicked myself (metaphorically) in the butt for not having stuck my foot in his bike wheel.

I took out my phone and contemplated calling the police, but decided that him snatching my shuffle didn't really rise to the 911 occasion but didn't have the regular police dept number in my phone. Remember when I did carry that kind of info with me? I decided that I didn't have time to hear a lecture on why I should just give up anything and not fight back and by the way I will never get it back --- basically, I knew that they would say get over it. I wanted my shuffle back -- that was the bottom line but it would not be worth a trip to the police department for me or for Jake's little brother, either.

I wished some large guy from the martial arts place had witnessed it and ran after the guy -- I even contemplated asking a random stranger to drive me that way to see if I could find the little punk.

I warned a young woman on a bike to be careful. She requested that I report the incident to the police.

I was angry. And frustrated. And helpless and small and defenseless. And humiliated?! What a crazy bunch of emotions over an incident that didn't even threaten my safety.

So, I just kept walking home -- and as I walked home I tried to imagine a situation where I could justify buying myself a new shuffle -- or whether or not this was the universe trying to remind me that I didn't want to be one of those people who lives under the headphones.... and I thought about whether or not this would keep me from running this weekend -- yeah, who am I kidding? I had the shuffle all week and I didn't go running!

I made myself dinner, congratulated myself for having gotten that extra mile of walking in, washed dishes and ate a pomegranate as a treat -- slowly peeling the fruit to reveal all the precious jewels -- collecting them in one place until they were all removed from their precious treasure chest and then eating every last one!

And at the end of that I was still upset -- but now I was thinking about what it means to look like a victim -- how does someone decide that you can be victimized and was Jake's little brother worried or anxious -- did his heart beat fast or was he sure I would pose no threat?

And what, if anything, will this mean for my life, now -- would I not walk home from the BART anymore? Would I feel less safe in my neighborhood? Is this the incident that will finally make me feel old and lonely?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions -- but having gone through all the emotions was useful -- as a way of letting them go and not letting them hurt me from the inside.

Today is a new day -- that will be filled with WINE and CHAMPAGNE and yummy food -- the wine country awaits -- I hope that Jake's little brother will listen to This American Life on my shuffle before he erases my fingerprint on that little machine.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dubious Heroes

I had a plan to go to be early last night, instead, I ended up staying up and watching this.

It was so well made and of certain interest to me -- before I knew it, I was completely engrossed. The filmmakers did such an incredible job of presenting all sides, and, still, it made me want to cry.

Happy Holidays!

This one is for Tafari.

I read this article today (can't find the link to the article I read but there are many more) and had to check myself from laughing out loud ... LOVED IT.

It turns out the American Humanist Association (who affectionately refer to themselves as AHA -- you'll get it if you read their site) has a new ad campaign in Washington DC for this holiday season: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."
Here's the ad:

Here's what it looks like on the bus:

This is my favorite pic:

I would love to send this as my holiday card -- though I don't try to upset people who do believe -- it would be great to have a card that expressed my emotions during the season.

I especially liked this list of where "Christmas" comes from -- to counter all the bible thumpers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

honoring service

How about we honor our veterans by ...
giving them access to quality mental health services -- as soon as they need it.
limiting deployment
giving widows and widowers monetary help
supporting families while their loved ones are deployed -- physically, mentally and financially

to name a few things we can do

thank you for serving...

I hope our new administration will honor your service with more tangible demonstrations than flag pins and magnetic yellow ribbons on their cars

Sunday, November 09, 2008

still catching up

with the trip blog... check it out

I am plotting some back posts here that I have been working on as well... soon.

one of my favorite flora from the trip

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes we did

projection -- via NPR
Barack Obama 338
McCain 144
via NYTimes
Barack Obama 293
McCain 152

so, when did NPR become the ones out on the front lines?

who cares... we won... waiting for the acceptance speech ... pretty happy with McCain's concession speech.

I Made History, Did You?

don't forget to vote -- then pick up your free Starbucks and free cone at Ben and Jerrys!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Los Dias de los Muertos

In some way, the past three weeks I have been celebrating the dead.

It started with a way to find out more about my grandmother, but it turned out to be about so many more people -- those I knew, my grandmother, my great-uncle, my grandfather, his siblings; and those I never knew but knew existed once -- my grandmother's siblings and parents and cousins and aunts and uncles; and those who I may not have even know existed, really -- like Teresita Urrea and all the Revolucionarios and the Adelitas -- and all the students at the Santa Fe Indian School and St. Cate's over all those years ... and when I visited the Taos Pueblo, I was reminded of all those indigenous folks who did not survive the encounter -- and when I visited the Petrified Forest and saw the Puerco Pueblo, I remembered all those people who lived out there in that beautiful place so very long ago.

Today, I thought a lot about all those who gave their lives that we might vote -- and tears welled in my eyes when my fellow GOTV volunteers cheered the organizer reminding us that but for those folks in the 50's and the 60's and the 70's.

I felt their souls and hearts and eyes on me throughout the journey -- like a warm blanket or cozy socks. They gently reminded me when I was at the limit of my frustration (and taking it out on my parents) that compassion is like LENT -- if you fall off the wagon, you just get back on the game.

On this special day, I remember them all again (and a few more who travel with me daily --- my other grandma and my friend, Jaime) and feel their presence and toast their existence and their memory in my life.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Before the trip -- I checked the 10 day weather forecast for the first three cities (Phoenix, El Paso and Santa Fe) -- the predicted weather would require three kinds of clothing -- it was to be pretty much super hot in Phoenix (90s) and El Paso would be more moderate (70s) and Santa Fe had a chance of rain and clouds and need for sweaters (60s) -- um, yeah. I was prepared for the three climate swing and hoping that Las Vegas and Prescott would fit into one of these three -- but in fact, on Tuesday, October 28 we saw our first sign of weather.

That would be the clouds in the picture above -- we actually stopped the car in the Petrified Forest in order to make sure to catch these little clouds before the wind carried them away. This was after Phoenix, El Paso, Santa Fe and Gallup... where we saw nothing but blue skies and found the temps warmer than we're used to in Oakland and Oxnard -- and even Santa Fe was warmer than we expected. Go figure.

Today, I got big fat drops of rain in Las Vegas and a little wind storm -- lovely -- as I was walking around North Las Vegas... more on that later but all in code as I am not supposed to share why I was walking around and what I was doing!