Monday, April 27, 2015


It is nearing the end of the semester and I am counting on my endurance to carry me through.  Thanks to living through a lot of challenging times, I think I have an advantage over my fellow students who tend to panic when the pressure is too intense.  I think it also helps that I have (as Virginia Woolf said) “a room of my own” to work.

The four classes I’m taking all gave out syllabi at the beginning of the semester, but I didn’t realize the intensity of the writing assignments until about a week ago.  By the time I finish April, I will have finished three semester papers (one that is nearly 5000 words), reviewed three books (after reading them), given four oral presentations and taken four final exams.  At fifty two, I can say something that makes me smile: “That’s nothing compared to what young mothers have to do in a week!”

Honestly, I love the work – and I’m glad I can write.  The book reviews are the hardest because (as an author) I cannot in good conscience, skip over parts and say I’ve read the book.  Because of this, I have been caught up in them, especially one I’m reading for history: Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism; A Brief Biography with Documents (Second Edition).  I adored it and would recommend it highly.  I never knew much about LBJ until I read this book; now I understand him (and the era) so much more. 

I told my friend today that I’m cranking out the homework, but nothing is as important as those final exams; everyone knows that you can lose a significant lead in the endgame.  I am trying not to.

I am also drawing to a close on the blog thing for KCRA’s A list.  There are only 6 days left to vote and I’d love to be in the top 5.  If you haven’t voted yet, I’d really appreciate your vote!  Here’s the link.  Until the end of the semester, my head is down, my chin is tucked in and I’m ready to rush. 

Look out.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Whether you are Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, sloppy or neat, pessimist or optimist, you can join hands with the person next to you and celebrate today. 

Earth Day, celebrated each year on April 22, is the world’s “newest holiday.”  Long ago - way back in 1970, Earth Day was started by two politicians who wanted to stage a “moment of silence” after an oil spill off the coast of California.  It has become quite a controversial day (mainly because of the  politics attached to it)  but, when we examine it for what it is, we can see that it’s a simple and peaceful day – for reflection of how we treat the host planet on which we all live.

Earth Day 1970 was the unusual brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a United States Senator from Wisconsin.  He decided to capitalize on the “emerging consciousness” of people with growing environmental concerns, after witnessing first-hand the  massive oil spill that happened the year before in Santa Barbara, California. In January of 1969, a Union Oil platform spilled sixteen thousand cubic meters of oil into the Santa Barbara channel, an estimated 3,500 sea birds were killed, to say nothing of the dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions. Oil washed up on Santa Barbara beaches and citizens were outraged; legislation was passed to prevent such a spill from happening again. 

As with any tragedy, good sprang from the disaster.  Senator Nelson, a staunch Democrat, used the example of protests taking place at the time to stage a “national teach-in on the environment.” He alerted the media and invited his friend, Congressman Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican, to join him.  They later recruited Denis Hayes to serve as a national coordinator to build a staff to make the event completely legit.

In rare bi-partisan agreement, the United States came together to agree that our world should be taken care of.  Legislation began for clean air and water; recycling was openly encouraged.  Within ten years, Earth Day became a World Celebration where all people took time to reflect how we could make our world better.

Regardless of politics, beliefs, and desires for the future, today is a day where we can have agreement to be good stewards of this place.  Earth Day should not be controversial; it should be enjoyed and make us think.  Do one thing for our planet today – you decide what that thing is. 

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Saturday, April 11, 2015


The down staircase at the ARC Library

I heard from one of my best friends in South Africa this week, Lyn.  She emailed me an uplifting devotion; I emailed her back to thank her.  In our exchanges, we shared our hearts and what was going on in our lives.  Lyn is near the one year anniversary of losing her husband to cancer; she is having dinner with mutual friends of ours on Wednesday – it made me wish I could be there. 

Lyn remarked about my return to school, saying: “The very fact that you are at college shows that you are teachable … quite frankly, I could think of nothing worse, but then I never was great at studying …

The irony of her statement made me laugh.  I was never great at studying either.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons I stopped going to college in the first place.  I enjoyed being smart enough; I didn’t want to put unnecessary hard work into being educated. 

These days, at fifty-two, I can see clearly where studying gets people.  It gets them pretty damn far.  I learned how to refinish furniture, plant roses, change my printer’s ink cartridge and home-school my children – all because I studied.  I decided to do something and then followed the directions.

Growing up, I was always told I had “attention problems” and I believed them; I loved daydreaming and writing poetry – not math and science. As an adult,  in an act of complete defiance,, I decided to read the biggest book I could find: Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  I made it through (I actually loved the book) – it took me a whole year to do it, but I read the book in its entirety.  After I did, I thought : “If I could read War and Peace, I probably could run a marathon…”  The next year, just shy of my fortieth birthday, I did.

Running a marathon and reading Tolstoy’s epic novel were just two of the wake-up calls in my life.  They came late, but I realized that I might be able to really pursue things I wanted if I just focused.

There are pathways in our brain that wear grooves – they are called neuro-pathways. As you study, the neurons housed in the area of your brain that's thinking send electrical messengers to another targeted group of neurons that are processing the same information. At first, these neural pathways struggle to form a connection and store the information. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories.

Imagine yourself growing up in a wooded area, taking the paths through the woods to and from school everyday.  They are safe and clear and it doesn’t take much effort to stay on them.  You can think about other things while you’re walking, like what’s for dinner or who is going to be playing baseball that day.  One day, out of the blue, you decide to cut a new path closer to a nearby river where you want to fish; you purposefully take this path every day.  Eventually, this path becomes more worn and you have accomplished making a new trail.  The new path might  never become as worn as your original one, but it’s still a new pathway.   This is a lot like how neuroplasticity is worked into our brains when we learn a new skill. The more we repeat something and use that portion of the brain in a focused way, the more these neural pathways develop in our brain.

After spring break, I returned to school and got my midterms back.  I passed them all, but two of them were not A’s.  I felt discouraged, until I remembered that this is still all new to me.  I am trudging a new path and building neuroplasticity as I go along.  I'll study harder, I thought.  I made appointments to talk to my professors about improving my grades. 

I was never good at studying, but I will be.  With grace, I’ll be better at it than I ever was before.  Thursday, after I finished studying at the library, I decided to take the stairs down to my class instead of the elevator.  Maybe I’ll do that from now on…
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Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Vince - One day old

The story of Vince is a wild an untamed one.  My first born son was born at 1:56 in the morning on April 9, 1985. I had been in labor all day and he finally emerged, a ten on the apgar scale – a perfect birth.

Most things of value in your life sneak up on you and fill your world with a new wonder, excitement and worry.  Vince’s birth was no different.  Pregnancy was a surprise and caused me to re-evaluate my life – something I had never done as intensely before.  I cleaned up a lot of "loose ends" and focused on what I knew was important and by the time I was ready to deliver Vince, I thought I had a better handle on things.

That is, until Vince was born.

He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen – ask any new mother how long it took to put down their baby.  He was bright and peaceful, a son I didn’t deserve.  I held him in my arms and cooed like someone had given me the moon and the stars – and I thanked God for all of the joy in my life. I also worried and obsessed about every little thing.  What if I messed it all up?  What if I wasn't good enough to be a mom?

I vowed to make something of my life and pass anything I had of value on to this child.   Even after the relationship with his father didn’t work out, I was hopeful that everything was for the best.

Vince grew quickly and displayed remarkable curiosity, taking forever examining books, globes, shapes, legos – anything around.  Once, while I was renewing my license at the DMV he pointed out to the clerk that one of the structures in her cubicle was in the shape of a triangle.  She looked at me and smiled.

“How old is he?”

“Twenty months,” I answered proudly.  As far as I was concerned, Vince was the smartest kid in the world.  

It was the easiest thing to see about him: his fine mind.  When Mario and I married, he adopted the now three-year-old Vince and we quickly commenced to becoming a family.  We loved reading to him - an activity he could sit through for hours on end.  When  he eventually taught himself to read before he entered kindergarten, his teacher accused me of pushing him in his first year of school.
Preschool Graduation - 1989

“Remember to let him be a kid,” she said, in true condescension.  “He has all the time in the world to learn at his own pace.”

“I don’t push him,” I answered, truthfully.  “He taught himself.”

She didn’t believe me and went through a lengthy explanation of how phonetic structure was impossible to learn by osmosis...blah, blah, blah. 


Eventually, Vince's power to teach himself new things took him in directions I wasn't prepared for.  He found trouble quickly and loved laughing about it later.  He listened to loud music; had colorful friends.  During his teen years we struggled and I wondered how to take control of my son; it was clear to me in no time that Vince was becoming his own man.  Almost immediately after he turned eighteen, Vince left our home.

Like most men, Vince started defining what he believed – much of it very unlike what I had “raised him to believe.”  

One night, while I was calling him from Africa, Vince casually shared that he was a socialist – a revelation that nearly made me fall off my chair.  

“How can you be a Socialist?” I asked him. I was confused: In my mind, socialists had goatees and denied the existence of God.  They loved Cuba and China and said bad things about America.  How could my son be this?

Vince was silent for awhile and then sighed.  “Mom, I’ve been a Socialist for awhile,” he said.  “You really don’t pay much attention to these things when I talk about them.”


When we got off the phone, I went into deep prayer.  “Please, God... save my son from being a Socialist.”  It went like this for about an hour until I finally remembered that God knew more about Vince than I did.  

“What is bothering you?” I felt God asking me.  “What bothers you about that word?  Vince has always been a Socialist – I made him that way.”

The voice of God was certain – but why would He say this?

Then he showed me:  Even as a young child, Vince wanted everything to be fair and equal.  It was a passion of his; he loved justice.  He hated the abuse of power – he knew there was a way for a fair distribution of wealth.  Fairness; equality; truth.

The noble purposes of socialism were alive in Vince’s heart.  I was so busy thinking he was my baby, my son who was so bright and creative and believed what I told him to – that I forgot he had grown up.  He was now a man who had grown to think for himself.  This epiphany caused me to pray for understanding.

Gaming with Vince  
More and more of my prayers are now that I understand my own children – like God does.  So I now listen closer, knowing that I am not their only teacher. 

So today, April 9th, I remember Vince and his big heart – a man who wants the world to be fair and equal.  He is a gunsmith – restores and shoots for recreation – after growing up with a mother who had outlawed them in our house.   He’s a fabulous cook and can make menudo just like my grandma's.

Today he turns THIRTY! 

I don’t care about getting older; no part of it scares me.  What I want out of life is to truly love and understand people for who they are - especially my kids.   I love Vince and he has taught me to enjoy many things – tolerance, respect, genuine love of people...even X-box. Even if he weren't my son, I’d still love hanging out with him. 

Last year, I was present for the birth of his first child- a girl named Scarlett.  At one point, after I held her (the compulsory Grandma turn) I handed her back to him.  Rikki's cousin had been snapping pictures and I now have this one as a memory of that day.  It is one of my best memories - and images.

Happy Birthday, Vince.  You used to be my baby, but now you're a man - and a Daddy.  I pray that your day is all you want it to be.  

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Prayer before Easter Meal

As a Christian, Easter represents the most sacred day of our year. It's a day of celebration - Christ beat death and rose - what an incredible day for us!  We're given another year to celebrate each other and Christ!!!

This Easter marks the two year anniversary of Mario and I returning to Sacramento from Johannesburg - I can't believe it's been so long.

I thank God every day that we are back- we are happy and active and involved... I decided to post  some very precious pics - just to give you a sampling of what our lives are like (kind of) on a day of fun and celebration.
Mario serves his famous guacamole at my parents' house

Zuzu (fore) and Peaches before we have to put them outside...

Alicia prepares to dye eggs with the girls!

Alannah dyes eggs

Alicia and Alannah after hunting for eggs...
....and finding her basket!

Harmony finds her basket near the big trees

Four Generations

Then and now:
1995                                                       2015
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Friday, April 3, 2015


Photo Credit

And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’
                                                                                          Zechariah 13:6

Our faith is based on one God who had ONE begotten son; He became a righteous sacrifice to make us presentable to the Father.  The thought is brutal – and violent.  Jesus’ crucifixion was the required act to allow me access to God.  Without Good Friday, we would have no hope- no religion. 

The crucifixion happened on the same day as the beginning of the Jewish Feast of the Passover: a festival that celebrates the Exodus of God’s Holy people from Egypt.  The last of all the Egyptian plagues was the death of the firstborn son – or the hope of the family.  To escape this plague, God commanded Moses to sprinkle “the blood of a perfect  lamb” over their doors: the north, south, east and west.  Can anyone say that the two events are coincidence?  At Passover, the blood of a righteous sacrifice at the entry of a dwelling place saved them from death - and was in the shape of a cross.  On Good Friday, God gave us HIS sacrifice - the sacrifice of His own Son - to release us from our inheritance of sin and death; His Blood will save the lives of all who believe.

The cross is an absolute perfection.  It is the greatest miracle for Christians; it is our identity.  That’s maybe why we wear them and hang them in our homes.  Without the cross, we are a hopeless people, playing church with each other.  On this day – Good Friday -  Jesus fulfilled most of the Messianic prophecies.

The death of God’s righteous sacrifice was the price for my life - and God paid it.

I am humbled by this and will never fully understand it until heaven. 

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