Wednesday, February 14, 2018

measure



At the Cairo Hospital...looking at my true love.

February is a month when couples measure their love by romance:
“He took me to a waterfront restaurant and serenaded me with violins;
presented me with a two-carat diamond; long stemmed roses,
got down on one knee when he proposed. 
We went home and made love in front of a roaring fire; afterward he rubbed my feet.” 

Measures of love that are compared—their spurred talons and greased feathers glittering.

My love resists comparison. 

He stopped taking me to waterfront restaurants after a messy incident when I ordered lobster at market price; and I hope he will never buy me a diamond.  Not after what we’ve seen.
He prefers rosebushes over long-stemmed and his idea of a roaring fire is at the end of a good cigar, but he puts the seat down and replaces light bulbs.

His serenade has stronger arms. 

He once supported my weight as I tried to act normal, walking up a flight of stairs in Cairo
—uneven stone steps that were littered with small candy wrappers and beggars, too afraid to hold out
their wrinkled hands, thinking I might be cursed.  

They stared at me, with frightened expressions that made me believe I was going to die.

 That day, I couldn’t walk by myself, weak from blood loss and dehydration. 
It took all the strength I had to steady myself on my true love’s arm, which stabilized me; his other hand clasped over mine, holding it in place.
We were there to meet a qualified surgeon, who said he could stop the bleeding. 
My love kept whispering, “a few more steps, just a few more steps…”
Even though neither one of us had ever been there.
His whispers, nevertheless, comforted me.  

My measure of romance will always be in the way my true love steadies me,
up the bleak and stony steps that are too difficult to scale alone.   
On steps like these, weak and bloodless with nothing left to give,  I measure my true love’s heart.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

handover




On Sunday, the 4th of February our long-time friends, Matt and Shannon, will take the reins of Capital City Church (CCC) in Sacramento, from our long-time lead elder couple, Rick and Kathy, to become our official “lead elder” couple.  Rick and Kathy are Matt’s parents, and the handover service is the culmination of years of training and preparation for our “new Martinez’s” to lead the people in the way.  

As I thought about writing this, I wanted to find scripture to punctuate why this is so important, finally deciding on Deuteronomy 31, when Moses instructs Joshua in the way he should lead the Israelites…but I realize that particular blog would be better written by someone else.  I’m not a theologian; I’m just Janet.  

I stand here, at another crossroads in my life, bearing witness to a change that will happen right in front of me, one I am excited about and so grateful for. My gratitude is not the kind that floats on the surface, it is more like a submarine gratitude that explores the depths of my soul like a littered ocean floor. 

Rick Martinez has been our pastor for most of our Christian lives.  We met him when we first attended Vineyard, twenty-four years ago, a large church held in a warehouse off of highway 50 and Bradshaw Rd, where we worshiped in passionate joy with  about 700 other folks we called brothers and sisters.  When we first started going, Alicia was four-years-old and Vince was seven.  We grew up there, spiritually and physically.  My friend, Jane Ritzema, taught me how to teach Sunday School and later became a mentor for teaching in general.  We met friends that we are still close with today.  Several new churches were started out of that particular Vineyard.  

Eventually, our eldership—led by Rick—decided to leave the denomination and we became “Journey Christian Fellowship,” worshiping in the same location, but with less people.  Our kids became teenagers during this time.  One year, Rick and Kathy visited South Africa to attend leadership training with a group called New Covenant Ministries.  When they came back, we all went to Brea for a Leadership Training Time (LTT) which led to us meeting Hennie Keyter and Ray Oliver.   They invited Mario and I to go with them on a trip to Malawi—which we did—and our lives changed.  Our church changed its name to Capital City Church International, about the same time that Mario and I  began traveling with teams in and out of Africa and Brazil, all the while growing in Christ.

The only reason Mario and I ever left our church was to move to Johannesburg, when we finally settled it in our hearts that we should live there full time and work into the continent in whatever way we could.  Our church family at Capital City Church sent us away with a grand party, and Rick and Kathy gave us their blessings.  We came back, seven years later, our church family welcomed us with open arms.

We have always been challenged; we have always been safe.

Here’s what I’m leaving out: All those years of attending the same church, being part of the leadership in some way—all those years of living and dying in so many ways—would have been disastrous had it not been for strong leadership and counsel.  I am no different from any bum on the street who does not want to leave their comfort zone and live for anyone else but myself.  It is by the grace of God that I want to be near Him.  It is by God’s grace that Mario and I have enjoyed strong friendship and strong leadership with Rick and Kathy. Every season of our lives have been dangerous in some way or another, and every season has been filled with my own self-pity and self-righteousness in some way.  

Our lead elder couple has taken turns in recognizing our gifts and correcting our path when we start to stray away from God.  Rick and Kathy have lived lives of selflessness and sacrifice, but have never complained or acted like this lifestyle was any kind of hardship.  This is the example they have set; this is what we have seen without fail.

Visiting from RSA -- 2008

So, communicating what it is like to have a lead elder who you love and trust, is a challenge.  There are no words to express the magnitude of the importance a couple like this in our lives.  In truth, the handover would be a sad one if it were not for this: Rick and Kathy will be handing off to Matt and Shannon.

We have faith in this decision, but not just because we hope it will all work out.  In a way, it has been happening for years.  Matt and Rick are truly like Moses and Joshua, and we know that more than just strategy has been exchanged.

Mario and I like to say that we knew Matt and Shannon before their five kids entered the picture—and their eldest is 14.  Part of me feels like proud parents of our cool, young friends who will now be our lead elder couple, but in truth, we are equals and friends before we are anything like parents.  Even after we moved to South Africa, we maintained close contact via email. Mario and I would come home for two weeks a year and visit with only a few friends—usually ones we needed to catch up with on more than one level.  We had what we called “the Martinez day,” which was lunch with Rick and Kathy and dinner with Matt and Shannon.  We would always leave feeling encouraged, always equipped to go on, knowing that they knew our hearts and loved us.

Taken at Burns night 2018--Matt in full beard and suit, Shannon in yellow sweater


Last Sunday, I was kind of verklempt after Rick’s sermon.  I went up to him and said, “Was that your last sermon as our lead elder?”

He just shrugged and said, “I don’t think so.  Besides, I’ll still preach.  Matt better let me preach now and then!” 

Kathy smiled when he said this.  “You know,” she said, “we’re not going anywhere.  We’ll be right here.”

And then we went to a side-room in the church so we could have a planning meeting about our upcoming trip to Mexico. 


On Sunday there will be no sacred ring that is passed from Rick to Matt; there is no holy scepter transferred.  No one will wave loaves of bread in the air, nor will they sacrifice bulls or goats.  There will be a formal exchange, so we can point to the day, like a pile of stones, and say, “That was the day the handover took place.”  On Sunday, there will be service like any other—but we’ll eat afterward and celebrate as family.

That’s right…I have to bring a fruit platter.  Or veggies…Kathy said I could bring veggies.


In a world where churches change leaders like companies change CEO’s, we feel fortunate to have been shepherded so carefully by the same lead elder for most of our Christian lives.  We trust that Matt and Shannon will be up to the task and delight in it as much as Rick and Kathy have. 

While I have been writing, Matt published his own blog about the handover —complete with scripture! 

Thank God.

Click here to read Matt's most excellent blog about what this handover means!


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Vic

The SPPOAC Legislative Team with Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy: (l to r)
Mike Lynch, Vic Trevisanut, McCarthy, Lisa Beutler, and Mario Rodriguez

I usually remember most things—especially meeting iconic people—but I cannot remember meeting Vic Trevisanut.  That is why it is ironic that he takes residence inside my important memories of the 1980’s, when I was a young, idealistic girl who wanted to change the world.  Vic was a State Park Ranger and union organizer—a personal friend and colleague of my roommate, Lisa Beutler.  They had the same birthday, and worked together to organize SPPOAC (State Park Peace Officer’s Association of California). Vic and Lisa also had a close friend whose name was Mario, who I would later work for, fall in love with, and marry.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In 1982, Lisa B. and I worked for the Lieutenant Governor, Leo McCarthy.  Lisa was a consultant with her finger on the pulse of the Law Enforcement community and women’s groups—making her invaluable to the office.  I was an accounts payable clerk, thanks to Lisa, who recommended me for the job.  It was my first time in the big city of Sacramento—I came from the small town of Tracy—and most of the time I went to work bubbling over with enthusiasm and gratitude.  Because Lisa and I shared a house, many times I got to hang out with her legislative/law enforcement friends simply because I was around.  It was a wonderful time in my life, being part of an eclectic crowd that included peace officers (mostly rangers), legislative analysts, lawyers, and lobbyists.  Inside of this think tank was Vic Trevisanut. 
Vic seemed to know every legislative bill coming through the California Assembly, especially if it affected law enforcement agencies or their budget.  He worked full-time as a State Park Ranger, but he also gave a lot of hours to the ranger’s union afterward. 
“So, how do you know Lisa?” Vic once asked me.
“I used to work with her,” I answered.  “I was a park aid at the same place where she was a ranger.”
Vic nodded as if he understood, and turned to Lisa.  “Hey LB!  You brought your Park Aid to Sacramento so that she could be your private secretary?”
Lisa shrugged.  “Doesn’t everybody?”
Vic was always making jokes—often about himself—and I liked him.  He made us all laugh, even during intense conversations about legal issues pressing down on the law enforcement community.  That’s how I remembered him.

Fast forward five years, and I was back in Tracy trying to start my life over, with a new baby.  The relationship with the baby’s father ended disastrously, and I was devastated.  I reconnected with Lisa one day, over the phone, and she encouraged me to go get my old job back—at the same State Park where we met. 
“You know who is supervising that park now?  Mario!  You remember him.”
“Kind of,” I answered. Mario, Lisa, their friend, Bartlett, and I shared a dinner together after the Lieutenant Governor’s inaugural.  But Mario was Lisa’s friend, not mine. 
“Go back to Carnegie and apply,” she said.  “Tell them how good you are—or better yet, show them.”
I did.  In my interview, I convinced the new staff that I could do the job better than anyone else.  I also mentioned that I knew Mario and Lisa.  I was rehired, but when Mario— my boss—returned from an extended vacation, he neither remembered me from the legislative crowd in Sacramento, nor approved of my swift re-hire. 
“You were hired illegally,” he told me when he first met me in the kiosk.  “We’re supposed to hire only AFDC recipients.”
“I need this job, please,” I pleaded.  “I have a baby and I need to work to support him.”
He thought about this for a moment, and then, straight-faced and through his mirrored sunglasses said: “You’re out of uniform.  You need a black belt.”
I was able to keep my job, but Mario proved to be a silent and distant employer, compared to the other rangers who had supervised me in the past.  I felt like I was always trying to prove my merit around him.  It wasn’t until Vic called that things changed.
I was sitting in the main office one weekday afternoon when the phone rang.  I answered it, and a man asked for Mario.
“It’s his day off,” I told him.  “Can I take a message?”
“Yeah, just tell him that Vic called.”
I grabbed a message pad (fifty points if you remember those) and wrote it down.  “Alright, Vic, I’ll have him call you back?  Why not give me your last name just in case.”
“I’ll spell it,” Vic said. “Because no one ever gets it right.  It’s T-R-E-V-I…”
“Is this Vic Trevisanut?  Vic?”
“Yeah…” Vic sounded nonplussed on the other end.
“This is Janet, I don’t know if you remember me.  I am Lisa’s friend, her roommate from Sacramento…”
Vic suddenly became animated. “Janet!  The park aid that came with her to Sacramento? How are you?”
“I’m good,” I answered.  This was only half-true.  I was alive. I had a job and a healthy new baby, but I was a city hollowed out from a bomb blast.  I had extremely low self-esteem.  “How are you?”
“Yeah, listen, Janet.  You need to get Mario to campaign for this guy in Daly City who’s running for state assembly.  His name is Mike Nevin; he’s a good guy—really important to Law Enforcement.  Just give me Mario’s number—I lost it somehow.”
I thought for a second.  Giving out peace officer’s phone numbers is strictly forbidden—I was trained to never do this.  It was hammered home several times; a violation of this might mean losing my job.  I needed my job.
“I know you’re not supposed to,” Vic said, reading my mind.  “But you know me and you know that Mario and I are friends, right?”
I did know Vic—and I knew he was friends with Mario.  Vic was also a Ranger. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to, but gave Vic Mario’s phone number anyway.
“Don’t worry, Janet,” Vic said, laughing.  “I promise I won’t tell him you gave me his number—but on one condition.  You have to convince him that he needs to campaign for Nevin.  And you need to come, too, alright?”
“Alright,” I agreed.  I was no stranger to campaigns, and I relished the thought of reconnecting with the crowd I once knew.  I smiled as I said goodbye.
Five minutes later, Mario called the office.
“Janet, this is Mario.  I just talked to Vic Trevisanut.  He told me you gave him my phone number.  I’m pretty sure you have been briefed about this.”
I froze.  I had the sudden urge to release my entire bladder.
“In this case it’s alright, Janet,” Mario continued.  My heart started to beat again and I almost relaxed.  “I know Vic, and we’re friends, but I am a sworn peace officer and you are not supposed to give out private phone numbers to anyone, even if they say they know me.  Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.  “I’m sorry.  I know Vic from Sacramento…”
“Yeah, that’s what he said.  He also said that you were going to help the union by canvassing neighborhoods in Daly City.  He told me that you suggested I be a part of this?”
I shook my head.  Vic was known for assembling an army on short notice using any means necessary.  “Umm… he asked me to ask you.”
“Alright,” Mario said.  He seemed to be putting things together. “I guess I’ll call him back and tell him that I can’t be part of this.  You can do this, but I have too much on my plate right now.”
“Okay.”
“Okay.”
He hung up; I was pretty sure I was in trouble.
Five minutes later Mario called back.  After pleasantries he sighed. “You know, Daly City is pretty nice this time of year.”
We both laughed.  Vic had talked him into it.

The canvas was well-planned; it was still hard work.  Mario and I covered several neighborhoods together, delivering small house plants to supporters of Nevin.  “Thank you for your support,” I would say, handing a potted plant to a pleasantly surprised constituent.  After a long day of scaling stairs up and down steep hillsides in Daly City, we were exhausted. 
And hungry.
The after-party was at a fancy banquet hall, where a campaign fundraiser was being held for the candidate.  The cost of one plate for the deluxe buffet was ridiculously expensive, but the volunteers were given an appreciation plate.  Vic, Mario, and I (like everyone else who worked the campaign) were given small plates, about the size of our hands.
“What the hell is this?” we asked each other, comparing our little saucers to the normal-sized dinner plates on the donors’ tables.  We were granted as many trips to the buffet as we desired and we definitely made use of this.  I made three trips to the sumptuous buffet, shamelessly mowing down food.  Vic and Mario made several more, all as we relaxed at a comfortable table of eight and caught up like old friends.
I looked up to see Pat Johnston, San Joaquin County’s Assemblyman, walk in and start greeting people.  I gasped. 
“Look, guys!”  I whispered to Mario and Vic.  “There’s Pat Johnston!”
“Yeah?” Vic asked, as if I was overreacting. 
“He’s our assemblyman!  He’s a wonderful representative!”
“Do you want to meet him?” Vic asked.  “It looks like he’s making his way around the room.”
Before I knew it, I was shaking hands with Pat Johnston, smiling and gushing about how I thought he was doing such a good job for our district. 
“You were actually the first person I ever voted for,” I told him, beaming with unashamed admiration.  “I turned eighteen and voted for you as an assemblyman!”
“Thank you,” he said, graciously.  He wore an expression of guarded confusion, as if he wasn’t used to such attention by smiling young women.  It was then, over his shoulder I saw Vic and Mario looking at me.  I could tell that something was wrong by their expressions—like football coaches when a quarterback throws an interception.  It was Mario who pulled me out of the game.
Without even thinking of its effect or awkwardness, Mario interrupted my gushing admiration by whispering loudly in my ear: “You have a big green piece of something stuck between your teeth.”
I froze.  In that moment, I imagined that I could see it, sticking out of my teeth like an olive tree on the side of a cliff.
Without so much as “Oh, please excuse me,” I sat down and dove into my purse for my mirror.  By the time I had pulled it out, I had run my tongue over my teeth at least five times.  When I opened my mirror and smiled, it was gone.  When I looked up, so was Pat Johnston.  I had never before been so embarrassed…and I do embarrassing stuff all the time. 
Mario and Vic came up to me, trying to suppress their laughter. 
“That was the biggest piece of greenery in between someone’s teeth I have ever seen in my life!” Mario said—pity mixed with admiration.
“Yeah,” Vic agreed eagerly. “It was there for ten or twelve smiles!”
I couldn’t help laughing.  It was so embarrassing, but Mario and Vic now were having a good laugh.  Throughout the campaign—which Nevin did not win—I was sentenced to be part of an embarrassing story that Vic retold to anyone who met me. 
Vic recruited, but also united, Mario and I to the Nevin campaign—and others after that.  On the trail, I fell in love with Mario.  Once outside the office, I saw him as a person, not just a boss.  He eventually saw the same humanity in me.  We were destined to be a couple.
Sue Trevisanut, Vic’s wife, was also a person who told good stories.  Their tales were about normal happenings, but were transformed into extraordinary events simply because of the way they retold them.  One story I remember was about the fate of their family pet—a rabbit.
“The rabbit was old,” Vic told Mario.  “It was time for her to go and so…” He made a motion of a quick cut across the neck.  The gesture made me laugh—I thought he was joking.  “So Sue made a big, beautiful stew!”
Sue was laughing as he told this, but also shaking her head.  “The kids came home from school,” she said.
“And they figured it out!” Vic leaned forward to punctuate his surprise. “My daughter came right out and asked us, where’s the rabbit? That’s her, isn’t it?”
“None of us ate the stew,” Sue laughed.  “We had to throw it out.”
Remembering the story through the week made me break out in laughter. 

Last week we got an email telling us that Vic had died.  He had been living in Missouri and had remarried.  His beloved Sue had died before him and their children were all grown with children of their own. It made Mario and I shake our heads in disbelief—and think of how fast time passes when it comes to friends and memories.  I recount all of this as if it happened last week, but when I look at pictures of us back then, Mario has light brown hair and I have big 80’s patterns in my dresses.  We were so young when we socialized with Vic and Sue—and now we have grown to be a couple of our age, wondering where the time has gone.  On his obituary page, fellow rangers share stories like this one and memories they shared with him.  We even saw a message from Vic’s daughter (maybe the one who called him on cooking the family rabbit), a heart-felt thanks to the people who were sharing.  It made Mario and I remember how Vic was so important in the formation of our relationship—even in our lives.  He was a man who meant so much to so many people.
To me, he will always be the guy out in front, bringing everyone together, with that infectious smile on his face and a great story to tell.  If you are going to make friends, make sure they are stand-up fellows whose memories endure the test of time.  
Like Vic.





Vic’s obituary can be accessed here for the next few days:
https://www.charterfunerals.com/Obituary/2018/01/02/Victor+Raymond+Trevisanut+III

Friday, December 29, 2017

30!

Taken about 15 minutes ago.  Me and my love...


Mario and I have been married 30 years today!

Tonight, I asked him a question. “I’m blogging about our anniversary later. Are you in?”

He raised his eyebrows and looked at me.  “What do you mean?”

“Come on, babe,” I said, insinuating that he should have been expecting me to ask him about this.  I do this every year, for crying out loud.  “What if someone asked you the key to staying happily married for 30 years?  What would you say?”

Mario looked over his dinner plate—he was polishing off a lamb chop.  “That’s a loaded question.  Can I get back to you?”

I sighed.  “Alright.”

I started cleaning up the kitchen, since my daughter-in-law made dinner, and returned to my desk about fifteen minutes later.  Mario handed me a yellow post-it note.  “This is all I got, sorry.”

I looked down and saw a list, one that he had just written.  Mario is a list-man.  In response to my inquiry, he made a list of what he would answer if someone asked him for the secret to a long and happy marriage. 

“Thanks, babe,” I laughed.  I kissed him on the neck.

“That’s all I got,” he said, shrugging and trying not to laugh.

I should end this blog here, with that cute little story, but I won't. If anyone is curious, I'll explain the items on his list; it’s pretty cool.

Our family decided to use all the props at the photographer's for a humorous family picture


1.  Humor.

Mario and I make each other laugh—sometimes in response to terrible circumstances.  If you want to bond with your partner, laugh together.  Mario has a great sense of humor; I love to laugh.  This makes us a good team.    

Humor is a weapon of love; laughter releases endorphins. Whenever we share humor, we admit that we don’t take ourselves so seriously.  We laugh to connect with each other, but also because we’re both pretty damn funny. 

On a trip to Sudan --2008

2.  Service to each other. 

Mario underlined the word “to” twice.  We are servant-hearted people by nature.  We both believe in the love-language of service to people.  If he asks me to do something, I do it—gladly.  The same is true for him serving me, and I would probably say more so.  

Service gets your eyes off yourself—it is a chance to do something for someone else and in doing this, you invest in their life.  Who better to invest in?

Mario and I after running the California International Marathon --2002


3.  Admiration of each other’s gifts.

Mario is athletic and I have attended more than one wrestling match, track meet, and softball game.  I am his head cheerleader.  He thinks in lists and equations—I admire this tremendously and look to him for his organizational eye when I am writing. I am social and creative; Mario loves to hear me tell stories.  He is my first reader, editor, sounding board, and counselor.  He is wise; I am compassionate.  We know each other’s value and with each passing year, we are more and more grateful for the other’s  incredible gifts.


Our 5-year-old selves

4.  Pics of us at 5 years old.

This is one that I need to explain.  Mario and I have not always been happily married—in fact, we’ve come close to splitting up.  When we were in counselling (about twenty-three years ago) one of our counselors explained that we were essentially fighting with the person inside of our spouse—our inner five-year-olds.   She suggested we carry pictures of our spouse at five-years-old.

When I met Mario, he was my confident boss; I was his beautiful employee.  Once we exchanged pictures of the little kids we once were, my heart broke.  Mario’s portrait was of a careful, frightened boy with messy hair.  His eyes held the sadness of the whole world.  I looked up at him, and realized that my words had been wounding this precious child.  I have never seen him the same—and I carried that picture around for years in my wallet. 

So, the short story is, if you wouldn’t cut a five-year-old child down in your anger, don’t do it to your spouse.  Maybe the other part of this story is—get help if you need it. A good counsellor is worth their weight in gold.




On board the Queen Mary II - January 2017

5.  Forgiveness.

How fitting that this comes after the 5-year old pics. 

Once a fight is over—maybe while it is still going on—make the decision to forgive.  Forgiveness is not some magical feeling that descends from heaven, it is a decision, like love.  Forgiveness is not forgetting, it’s not excusing, it’s not even being nice to the other person.  It’s recognizing the other person said something wrong—or did something bad—and deciding to throw that thing into the sea.

This concept doesn’t apply to behaviors associated with addictions.  Addiction is the equivalent of acid in a relationship. If you have an addiction (to ANYTHING) ditch it.  If you have a negative pattern of doing something, break it.  If you need help, get it.

So forgive.  Often.  Forgive so much it feels like you’re the one doing all the forgiving.  It’s like medicine…




Before Opening night --Man of La Mancha 2016

6.  Humility

Mario wrote (eventual!) in parentheses after this. For those of us who like to be right, humility is a tough concept, but a necessary one.  Think of being on the same, level playing field with your spouse, since you are fellow travelers in this marriage. 

When making decisions, it is important to (eventually) agree.  Have the humility to admit that the other might have a better idea than you, or might know as much and have a different opinion.  So many unnecessary fights are started because one partner thinks they are right and the other is wrong.  Usually, Mario and I are both right—and both wrong—but we listen to each other thoroughly before deciding.  I trust Mario; he trusts me.  We are co-laborers in the same life—what good would it do for one of us to rise haughtily above the other?



7.  Devotion.

I am deeply devoted to Mario, and he is to me. I will think of him first above anyone else; I will never even consider another man the way I do him.  He champions every dream I have, even if it seems inconvenient at this point in our life; I support him in every endeavor. We are each-other’s cheerleaders, best friends, and greatest admirers.  I am loyal to him and he to me.  This devotion might seem sappy or old-fashioned in today’s world, but it works for us.  After all, it is genuine.

Our Wedding Day--December 1987
There's been a lot of prayer since then!



8.  Prayer.

Mario and I are Christians, so we share a common faith. We believe in a God who hears us and communicates with us.  Our prayer life is something that is private, between us and God.  And yet, when we join to pray there is something incredibly intimate and special—and powerful. We both feel very blessed to have this as part of our relationship--and we know it is necessary to our survival.  



So that’s Mario’s list.  I think it is a pretty good list—and to think he did it in just a few minutes makes me laugh.  “That’s all I got,” he said, handing it to me while trying to suppress a laugh. He knows very well that his list is awesome—written on a piece of yellow paper like it’s a simple note. 

In fact, it’s almost like a love letter, isn’t it?






Thursday, December 28, 2017

55

 55 today

I will love this year.

I still remember the day I called my father to wish him a Happy 55th Birthday.

“Hey, Dad!” I said, “Stay alive with 55!”

“That’s about it,” he chuckled. 

It was 1989, and major networks were saturated with the Stay Alive—Drive 55!” advertising campaign.  Our nation had been experiencing rising gasoline prices, but the Department of Transportation insisted that its focus was about freeway safety, hoping to minimize high-speed accidents.  Television commercials were everywhere, interrupting our favorite shows: “Stay Alive—Drive 55!”  Since these public service announcements were everywhere, I thought I was being funny and clever by merging my father’s birthday greeting with a nation-wide slogan.  Hilarious!

Today, I am 55. (How did this happen?)

I was born on December 28, 1962—a Friday.  My mother began that particular weekend by delivering me, her second of five children.  I was one of the babies born in the space between Christmas and New Year’s—a time where most people were catching their breath from the holiday gatherings or gearing up for one.  

I grew up believing that December 28th was an unfortunate time of year to be born, but when I eased into adulthood, it didn’t take me long to appreciate the sheer brilliance of being born on this day!  It is a relaxed time of year—and family gatherings are more frequent.

My 54th year has been amazing on many levels—I graduated from university and won two significant awards for my writing—but it has also been very painful. Mario and I have both lost dear, close friends.  It has been (as all other years have been) bursting with joy and pain, grief and celebration—chock-filled with life.

The “Stay Alive—Drive 55” campaign was designed to encourage drivers to slow down and enjoy their journey.  The concept never really caught on for Americans; we tend to speed through our lives, rushing from one place to the other.  It is quite easy to forget that along the way there is laughter and miracles in the seemingly mundane and ordinary steps in between. 

Today—on my 55th birthday—I will stop and reflect on the journey.  It’s actually an amazing one that I share with all of you. Today I told my daughter, Alicia, that I seriously am grateful for the life I have.  In fact, I feel undeserving of all the blessings that are in it.  I am grateful to God, my family, and friends for loving me. 

And I will love this year.

“But as for me, I trust in You.” 

Psalm 55:23

Saturday, December 9, 2017

numbers

My stole and cord--Ready and waiting


I am supposed to be working on a final paper that I will turn in on Monday—the date of my last final exam.  Instead, I am flipping through the web—random searches for news, Christmas gifts, homes in the area that are for sale….  I am putting off the paper.  Why?  I just arrived home from Chico and I am feeling a little dreamy.  There is nothing else for me to do but to write and write and write and write….
I am scheduled to graduate on the 16th of this month, at the Golden One Center downtown where I will wear a black mortarboard and gown and a gold tassel. Monday is officially my last day of school at Sac State (CSU Sacramento) and I am feeling a little exhausted—and sad that I am leaving such an incredible place.  Tonight, I found myself writing this—a blog about random numbers that relate to graduating with a bachelor’s degree at 54. 

Number:

120:   Academic Units required to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English degree—
                              I have 122.
19:   Maximum Number of units I have taken in one semester—
In my final semester at American River, I powered through five classes—one of them was six units, another was four (the average class is 3 units).  Three of these classes were honors classes, which meant more writing and a greater demand for class participation.  For every unit, the student is advised to reserve two hours of independent study per week.  21 units=42 hours per week of study.  You can see why students are considered to have a full-time job.  This semester I had a pleasant 18 units—all English classes with the best professors.

3: Years of my life it has taken to do this—
At 52 I returned to college.  I completed one semester of college when I was eighteen—right out of high school (1981).  I hated college back then.  It was lonely and hard work.  No one knew who I was—or cared.  When I returned at 52, I found the same loneliness on campus.  Don’t misunderstand me—there are plenty of people and I have made plenty of friends, but it became obvious very quickly that each student is on a separate journey. Unless you belong to a club or involved in a group project, students don’t really have a sense of shared purpose.  I had to remind myself that I was part of a family, a church, a marriage that valued what I was doing.  This way, I did not lose hope in the journey, which can be very lonely at times.

3: Average hours per day spent in the library or Learning Resource Center
Best place to study at ARC?  The Learning Resource Center.  Best place at Sac State?  The library.  I grew attached to the community of nerds that hung out in both places, typing away or researching on the AMAZING databases we got access to with the price of tuition.  Sac State’s library is so amazing—I have never seen its equal—and I’ve been all over the world and visited many libraries.  I like the NYC Public Library in Manhattan, but I like Sac State’s even more…


2 and 2: Number of Analytical Math and Science Classes I had to take—
I am an ENGLISH MAJOR—a writer who knows how to BS her way through most subjects—until it comes to math and science.  I took Geology (which loved) and then I took Biology (which I thought was the study of life but turned out to be the study of life systems and microbiology)—both in the summer where I got to sweat it out in summer classrooms for at least three hours a day.  The focus helped.  I had to pass Statistics –but ARC had a wonderful class called STATway—which is the hardest class I have ever taken in my whole life! Yikes! Thank God for my gifted, talented, and very sympathetic professors.  They genuinely wanted to help me—I genuinely wanted to learn. Every single student who graduates with a bachelor’s degree has to satisfy the compulsory general education requirement to show you have at least a working knowledge of science and math.   Ask me the odds that most students will forget what they learned.


550: Dollars I spent on parking passes—
Forget books and tuition, parking is expensive for students—and a pain in the butt.  Everybody complains about parking; everyone has to do it.  In my last semester at Sac State, the campus was at sixes and sevens because they were building two additional parking garages.  Just in time for me to leave.
4: Number of rolling backpacks I bought—
Take my advice, if you return to school and plan to lug around books for as many classes as I took (I averaged 15 units per semester), INVEST in a good rolling backpack.  My first two were actually rolling computer bags, but those things are meant for business people carrying a computer from the car to the office.  I went through those wheels like a 14-year-old acne-faced skateboarder—and found that a rolling backpack was the ticket.  My latest one is on its last legs, but it was a trooper: a black JWorld New York.

5:  Average number of times I cried my eyes out in total frustration per semester—
This can’t be due tomorrow!  I didn’t get published in Lit Mag again!  I won’t be able to attend a friend’s wedding because I can’t dig myself out of my massive amounts of homework!  This professor hates me! I talk too much! 
You get it.  Three weeks before the end of the semester is high stress, and I –like many of my fellow students—panic with the amount of work that has to be done in those last crucial weeks.  I think this semester has been the calmest—maybe because I expected the overload. 



1 guy who got me through this—my husband.

Without a doubt, I could not have done this without Mario.  Then again, that goes for most of my endeavors.  I cannot imagine anyone doing this while working full time or with a partner that does not support them.  It is a hard business that requires intense focus.  If your partner is not on board, it is virtually impossible to succeed.  I had all the support in the world from Mario—and it shows.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Lilli



Liliana Grace is the grandchild whose face glows with wonder and excitement about nearly everything.  She is extremely artistic and has won awards for her paintings and drawings. Fiercely independent (like both mother and father) Lilli has a unique thirst for knowledge.  She also has a strong desire to see justice and fairness prevail. 

I miss her so much…





Because Lilli lives with her siblings (Callen and Lauren) in Kansas and Mario and I live in California, our relationship is not exactly traditional.  I wish that we could have our kids together within a one hour radius, kind of like my parents have it with their children, but it is not possible. Lilli has four sets of grandparents – and we are the furthest away. But love knows no boundaries.  Love has the power to skip over natural barriers as easily as stones skip over water.  Lilli is in my daily prayers and I carry her with me wherever I go.  Because she is so incredibly valuable to me, I will continue to learn about her and find new reasons to love her.


Today is Liliana Grace’s birthday, and we are here in California and she is there near Kansas City.  We will most likely call her on the phone, sing happy birthday and hear all about how her Halloween was.  We learn how to count our blessings, and talking on the phone is a huge blessing to a Grandparent who has lived in a foreign country for so long.    



Today, our Lilli will blow out candles on a birthday cake and the glow of her candles will light up her face like she lights up the world.

Happy Birthday, Lilli.  Today I walked through campus and thought of you—your beauty, your truth, your moral courage.  I love you and I’m proud of you.

Abuela.