Tuesday, October 26, 2010


On our bookshelf is a massive publication of academia entitled "William Burke and Francisco de Miranda: The Word and the Deed in Spanish America's Emancipation" written by a man of great knowledge and distinction. His name is Mario Rodriguez...and is (my) Mario's namesake uncle.

A professor at USC, Uncle Mario was someone I never got to meet.

I barely got to read him.

In the University system there is a tongue-in-cheek (but unfortunately true) saying "Publish or Perish"- which conveys to professors that if they're not published (regularly), they are sure to be overlooked by the tenure comittee, their collegues or the University itself when it comes time for a choice position.

The typical university professor isn't sustained by publishing just anything: It has to be specific to his/her specialty field and almost incomprehesibly boring to those that read it. The writing should be lacking in charm and flavor; but be rich in citations and obscure facts that would be otherwise lost in normal education and research. The works are usually read by only those in academic circles unless they are scandalous (!)

Uncle Mario's books are actually well written and understandable, but I never made it through one. Instead, I found the introductory prefaces to be the best parts. It is here that he makes himself known, this mysterious, academic uncle who my husband was named after. The books that took so long to research are introduced in a manner where he exposes his heart (motivation) to begin. His fondness of key colleagues, family and heritage are seen here.

Today's Universities are digital. The classrooms are modified from theater seating to couches and televisions. The new professors are celebrities. Our trade of facts for fun is making us a dumber (and a more gullable) people.

In cruising through internet newspapers today I came upon an author pedaling a book that caught me by its title: How to Rule the World from Your Couch. Catchy title -- and everybody wants to rule the world, right? This woman has a catchy title, a following of many tweeties and great hair. She also gives tips (if you buy her book for $24.00) to:

 • Find and secure your dream job
• Maintain solid relationships, even at a distance
• Lose weight by reclaiming the body you were meant to have
• Know how to spot your perfect mate
• Make better investments and business decisions
• Negotiate differences in the workplace
• Have an understanding relationship with your child
• Identify which opportunities will pan out
• Project a desirable image for yourself or your product
• Anticipate and resolve difficult conflict before you walk into a situation

 Shoot, if I were a clueless idiot, I'd buy it!

 No kidding, this woman claims to be turning people's lives around by "empowering them to believe in the power of intuition to achieve their dreams". In other words, if you trust yourself and your own power to heal your own negative thoughts and feelings, you can set yourself free from any need you ever had. Imagine the actual power to achieve your own dreams!!

It turns out the book was published over a year ago, but I'm sure she's getting to the "publish or perish" stage, so watch Oprah to see what she'll publish next.

I am living my dream. In a way, I never dreamed my life would be this way. I have few places that I wish to go, and only now am waiting for the harvest of God's promises (all of which will come to me, I am sure). 

I guess because I have tons of negative thoughts I can't write a book that cleanses them from you.  There are deep areas of pain in my life -- grief, loss, unforgettable decisions that haunt me.  I miss my family all the time... so much so that it brings me to tears.  

So, when people ask me if I am fulfilled (or happy) I should say "sometimes", but most often I say "YES!"  I have a husband who loves me, and still makes me blush like he's the quarterback looking at me: the skinny acne-faced bookworm. I have lots and lots of friends, some that feel as close as family.  I laugh loudly everyday...I catch myself smiling at stupid stuff.  I love so much...so many... so heartily.  

I don't know if there's a secret formula to making your dreams come true...I don't think there is, but I know people have sold the snake oil of happiness since the beginning of time.  

I do know this: the removal of the name of Jesus - the Savior of the World - from any philosophy or teaching is a senseless waste of time.  Not only a historical figure,  He has become my dream.  His plans for me are "YES" and "Amen".   In the dark grievious places, He is my comfort.  I don't know many happy people who live without Him. He loves me...without reason. He makes me soft when I am prickly.  He is the rock in times when everywhere else is sinking and moving.  I become humble when I catch myself being a clueless and heartless scathing know-it-all. I bow to Him and find peace... but only because He loves me.

So, I have no wisdom inside of myself...just His.  

I do want to know from my generation and the one before me: Is it just me or don't you think we should have learned from Dale Carnegie that someone can remove one's negative thinking and still be a completely clueless moron?


Friday, October 22, 2010


We had an understanding between my brothers and sisters that it would impossible to leave our grandma's house quickly after saying goodbye.

If you had made a remark like "Well, I better go..." it caused her to get up and start cooking, or rewarming food she had already cooked for you that day and encouraging you to eat more.  Despite our hugs and "No, grandma, I'm going to burst open!" She would not stop...not wanting to see you go away hungry.

Just in case you didn't grow up with a Mexican (or ethnic) influence in your family, here's the translation:  "HUNGRY" means you are upright, chewing gum, or you are not hunched over from gas pains that you have acquired from eating a lot of food too fast.

To convince Grandma you had had enough, you must mention a previous engagement you were jetting off to, or confession before it closes, or that your mother doesn't know where you are (before cell phones) she'd finally wrap it all up and send it with you for later.

The way she (as her mothers, sister and Aunties before her) showed her children "special love" usually unfolded in feeding us tons of food.  To this day, when I eat Mexican food it means "I am loved", or "Someone who loves me has made this".  The guys at Adalbertos, Filibertos, LaMission and Super Taco (all back in the States) love to see my face when I look at the food.  They like it when I realize they are passing on a tradition of feeding comida de amor (food of love)  to me.

My grandma is now in heaven  I miss her with heart-ripping, fat-tear-filled thoughts that surprise me during the most unexpected times.  It really isn't how much I loved her that I miss...it is receiving the love she had for me, and it was a lot.

I have to have faith that I will see her again.  She is one of the people who personified love and faith for me.   She trusted God with everthing...and it all seemed to work out.  She also would pray as if God's ear were inside of the atmospher, waiting to hear what she said.

I have grown up into who I am, and realize that most people see the "wall between the heavens and the earth"  is impenetrable.  The bushmen in South Africa who occupied this Gauteng before us believed the cave rock-face upon which they painted, was itself believed to be a veil between this world and the spirit world.  The Europeans, Egyptians and Maya basically turned to physical creations of God, and in wonder, began to seek the doorway to heaven.

Because they wouldn't DARE try to contact God, they began to try to contact their ancestors: all with the hope that they would guide them in this life.  When Samuel was aroused by an insecure king (Saul), he asked "Why are you disturbing me??".  Samuel said it well: heaven is much better than earth -- don't bring me back just to guide you in your problems!!

Faith (the belief for things unseen and in our Father who we can't yet see face to face) is like fog.

Don't get me wrong...my life is beautiful and most of the time I dance, but there are those times when I know I'm in for a trip through a foggy, unstable road where I can't see what's ahead.   We all have them.  the roads that are unusually cloudy...with each soggy, muddy step you can see almost ahead....but not enough to be sure you're going the right way.This is when I become little girl, needing to be led and having great assurance that I'm going the right way.

I'll be fine if I know what is coming.

I don't know what else to do but stand still and focus on God.  He is my COMFORT...my ROCK.  My Bible turns into healing medicine.  I eat up Jesus' words so that I feel the love...the lasting promises!   "Don't be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. You know the way to where I am going." Thomas said, "Lord, we don't even know where you are going! How can we know the way?" "I am the way, the truth, and the life!" Jesus answered. "Without me, no one can go to the Father (John 14:1-6).

The way out of a fog of "What's ahead?? Who will walk with me??  Where am I going?  Why did this happen?" is found in these words.   Jesus, the one who loves me better than my grandma is the rock on which I stand.  He is my righteousness, my peace, healer.

And then I have a taco.  HEY!  Don't hate....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


It is amazing to see what passes for news these days.  News, as we all know and have always known, is a fair report on something that cannot ever be objective.

For instance, if a small child is run over by a car, there are emotions at work before we know details.  Still, we want to know more.  This creates the desire for news.  It sells newspapers, gets the most hits on news sites and encourages water tank conversation.  It makes us turn the radio up louder in the car to hear the latest about what has happened to that poor girl; that poor family; imagine the driver- how he must feel.

News reports are increasingly chasing what makes us "feel".  Today in Johannesburg there are news stories galore: Neighboring Zimbabwe is awaiting word from their dictatorial leader on whether free elections will begin. A schoolgirl was found in a KwaZulu Natal township stabbed and thrown into the bushes by a passerby.  The Bafana Bafana soccer team had moved up in world rankings to 52nd.  In all of what I just said, if you are South African, you may have had your heart provoked by one of these.  Which one?  Politics? Death? Sports? 

Let's try an American one:  Yesterday a science teacher in California  was explaining the dangers of sulfuric acid when he dropped a beaker containing the liquid, splashing it on himself and other students President Barack Obama is heading west on a five-state, four-day campaign swing, his longest of the season.  The October baseball season is heating up, with the Yankees lagging behind the Rangers.  Well?  How did you do??  Which headline made you read?  

Now for the real attention getters:  Lady Gaga was pronounced queen of the airwaves yesterday in the UK, withofficially 275,00  spins on the UK airwaves - the most aired track being Bad Romance. , The Associated Press reported on Monday that a judge issued two $50,000 arrest warrants for the Randy and Via Quaid, who failed to appear for a court hearing, related to their arrests last month on suspicion they illegally squatted at the guest house of a Montecito home they once owned. Each Quaid faces a felony vandalism charge. Glee star Jessalyn Gilsig, famous for playing the slightly neurotic ex-wife on hit show Glee, is now becoming an ex-wife in real life as well. The 39 year-old Gilsig filed for divorce from her husband of almost six years, producer Bobby Solomon.  Cops were called to Katherine Heigl's house for an alleged a hot tub dispute between Heigl and her neighbors. Apparently the actress and her husband, musician Josh Kelly, were enjoying some quality time in their outdoor hot tub when a neighbor began "yelling profanities" at the couple for being too loud.

So this is today's "news".  The first two paragraphs are what I read on official news sites.  The Celebrity gossip paragraph is also from a reputable place online, that is if you consider celebrity gossip "news".  

The truth is, that our news is no longer real.  It only is what we will read.  If we decide to read about the freed miners and their new found joy in life, the news sites (and newspapers) can tell.  They will print more and more and more...until we stop reading.  Then, a net is thrown out to see what else we are interested in.  And so it goes...

Today I have had a lot of big news.  I will not print it.  It is private...but I know that if I did print it you all would read it.  I have good news, life-changing news, bad news, sexy news, encouraging news...none of which I am at liberty to share.  

It made me realize that most of our news is just gossip.  The fashionable news we read usually pertains to what we're into: art, music, sport, love, literature, churches, kids.  

So this makes me ask...why do you read??  

Monday, October 18, 2010


After a six week trip, we are back in Jozi.

This is what native Johanneburg residents call the city we live in: Jozi.  People who visit shorten it to Joburg...but to its own, the fun girl's name defines the multi-faceted place we live.  We are now calling it home.  I'll get back to that point- that loaded word.

The trip itself was long, and we're still jet lagged.  We arrived back on Friday night, picked up at the airport by a young friend who is one of the coolest guys we know-- he's now 100% cooler for driving through traffic at 5:00 p.m. on a Friday night in South Africa.

People here have the most amazing questions: How is your family?  How was the 50th Anniversary party?  How is Harmony?  How was the 1st Birthday party?   Vince?  Your Siblings?  Did you eat Mexican food?  The questions are amazing because they are spoken (asked) by people who  know us now...know us like family.  This is amazing, since we always have thought of our friends here as "new" friends who could never know us like our friends "back home" (I'll get to that).  The questions are as amazing as our experiences.

First was Mongolia: a relating church on the far reaches of Asia.  The church, led by friends of ours, sang beautiful, worshipful songs in a foreign language I didn't have to understand to know was worshipful.  The language was unimportant: our hearts were joined by Jesus.  We presented a marriage course there that we have "authored" (a synopsis of all the best marriage courses we have ever attended) translated by Ganji, the lead elder's wife.  The translation was perfect--and the Mongolians drew from the truths we have learned from as if they had grown up next door to us.  Boldo (the lead elder) assured us everyday with words and friendship that reminded me of my American (biological) brother, Steve.  The whole thing was a blast...and we left part of our hearts there.

Next came a small vacation in China (Beijing).  We absolutely loved it...as we expected we would.  We saw the Great Wall (and walked part of it), Tienemen Square, the Forbidden City and whirring lighted rockets during the Moon Cake Festival in the People's square.  I bought a little red book (Mao's teachings) for Vince and a perfect knock-off Chanel bag for Alicia.

We landed in our beloved San Francisco on the 24th of September.  We were picked up at the airport by Dave, our best man, who proceded to prove the theory that real friends can be apart for years and when they get back together it's as if no time has passed.  Mexican food for dinner, then a quick sleep before driving to Chico, where Alicia stays with her beloved (Brian) and their daughter (our granddaughter)  Harmony.  Can I say that name again?  Harmony.  Harmony.  Harmony.  I never thought I'd love a name more than my own children's.  More than Mario's.  She has stolen my heart.

Her first birthday party was amazing, hosted by Alicia (already a seasoned mother) at her in-laws' house.  I kept watching in disbelief and gratitude...was I really here?  Is this really our daughters' daughter I was holding?  I spent the day in a fog of happiness.  Happiness.  For the first time in a year I had a Bar-b-cued hot dog.  I almost cried.

Three more days in Chico sucking up Alicia's company and learning her life...learning her daughter's life.  I was amazed at her growth and grieving all I had missed (and will miss).

The day we drove to Tracy my parents were at the opera in San Francisco.  In my mind's eye, I saw myself exiting the car, my mom opening the door welcoming me in as she always did: with contained, (yet overjoyed) affection. Instead, we arrived and unloaded our serious luggage into the guest room (Steve's room) to make room for Vince and his new girlfriend in the Jeep.  They were scheduled to ride into town at 6 p.m. via Greyhound.

I entered the home in awe.  I was home for the first time in a year.

Instead of our planned rendezvous with Vince, we got word that his transportation was delayed and set him back hours.  Mario ended up driving to Modesto, unable to wait to be reunited.  By the time my parents arrived home (in glamorous and formal clothing, Mario, Vince and Rikki Jo were 20 minutes behind them.

We had a beautiful dinner at midnight -- roast beef and potatoes (my mom had cooked for us earlier in the day) and we caught up for hours before we all finally gave up and went to bed.  We all were aware how precious the whole visit was.

The following day Mario went with Vince and Alicia and Brian to San Francisco to see the Giants play.  I hung out with Harmony, Rikki Jo, Mom, my sister, Colleen and my assorted nieces and nephews -- heaven.

The 50th anniversary was from a fairy tale.  I reunited with my brothers and sisters, my family from all over and even my old teachers--all to celebrate my parents' incredible marriage over 50 years- the most amazing party I have ever been to, let alone hosted.  It was incredible.  Months of preparation culminated in  a day of celebration that went off without a hitch.  Tears came to my eyes as I saw my parents renew their vows--all the while holding Harmony and seeing my brothers and sisters...their children, and our children.  To think back, my heart is so full...

The rest of the week was spent visiting with friends.  Church at our beloved CCCI; visiting family and friends. We said goodbye to Vince and Alicia -- and Harmony -- before we boarded a plane to Arizona.

Picking us up from the airport was Anthony and Shirley, Mario's brother and sister-in-law.  Our visit was rich, finally meeting Renee's new husband and seeing Evan for the first time in years.  It was an incredible, rich time.
More Mexican food.  More visiting. More shopping.  Amazing.

On to New York City, we visited two precious days with Alice, Mario's step-mother (words cannot explain the relationship--I have stopped trying!).  In Riverdale, we loved all over pizza, bagels, coffee...ahhh.... and each other's company.

This is what leads me to now.  In the whole time, we were on 9 planes, crossed 11 time zones and had 2 days off.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.

So...here's the word.  Home.  I now tell people we are home. When we went to church yesterday my friend greeted me and said "I thought you were in California!!"
I said, "What made you think that?"

 He said, "Your facebook status said you were home."  He honestly meant it...and it made me think.

I never considered how the term would not only define our location; it would define us.  Here's the key: we are not home.  We are strangers in a strange land.  We are sojourners without a place to rest our heads.  As I peck away at a keyboard on our computer in our office, I know I am not here for good.  I am nowhere thant anyone calls anywhere for good.  I am a citizen of heaven, and until I get there I am permanently a transient.

One day I will be home.

Until then, I am in Jozi.  Jozi...Jozi.  Never thought I'd call this place my home, but it is for now.