Thursday, December 29, 2016


Mario and I - the night before we married

Mario and I have been married Twenty-nine years today.  I thank God for Mario and I am sure that he thanks God for me, but we would both agree that marriage has not always been easy.  After twenty-nine years we have a relationship that is beautiful.  It is a relationship that has benefited from our years of hard work.  For years we both practiced sowing the seeds of love.  Our early marriage counselors promised us that sowing good seeds would bear good fruit.  They were right.

After you have been married for as long as we have, people ask you for advice.  We usually don’t give any – mainly because what these couples are really asking for is hope.  They want us to tell them that there is hope for their relationship, no matter how badly it has deteriorated.  All couples do – they want a good relationship.

Once a year I break out our best advice – and here it is.  Read on if you want to…this is the super-abridged edition of what we would tell couples if we really did give out advice.  

1.  Don’t expect your marriage to be like your wedding.

Please don’t take this the wrong way.  

I just mean that your marriage is not going to be like your wedding where everything is all about you!  Weddings used to be a church, a smattering of family, and the bride and groom dressed up in their “Sunday best”.  Now weddings are five-star affairs with big, fat dresses and tuxedos and tall cakes.  Grooms and their groomsmen dance in synchronized fashion.  Envelopes of money are given in celebration. 

Marriage is a MERGER, a legal contract, and a covenant that cannot be broken.   God help you if you think that marriage is one big party.  It is work! Often it is boring, tedious, and routine.  Only the best couples have the endurance to bring life into this arrangement!

2. DEPOSIT into your spouse’s heart.

Love is one of the key ingredients in successful marriages, but romantic love is not enough.  People who master marriage realize that the spouse has a “heart account” that must be filled.  Most people know how to make love withdrawals – but forget to make the love deposits.

Kind words, gifts, laughter, memories and special traditions that you celebrate together are all examples of deposits.  Figure out what your spouse likes and do that thing a lot.  

Let it be your idea. 

3.  Ditch your addictions.

Love is a seedling in an antagonistic world that is built for individuals.  Individuals have addictions. 

Alcohol, drugs and gambling are not the only addictions that kill relationships (although they certainly do a LOT of damage to plenty of marriages). Socially acceptable addictions like food, television, phone games, and work take their toll on more families than you would think.  

After years in full-time ministry we have heard too many partners confide that their significant other no longer values them as much as their ____________.  Fill in the blank with your addiction – that kind of behavior kills.

4. Relationships are worth protecting.   

In an effort to be polite or socially acceptable you may forget that the main relationship you are in requires a genuine wall of defense.  People may try to kidnap one of you for fun and games at the cost of the other’s happiness.  Others may be friends with your spouse but not care for you.  These people have a habit of asking if “just one of you” can work or play side-by-side with them.  There might be times when friends encourage gossiping about your spouse. 

Even well-meaning friends and family can make these mistakes.  We have had many of these in our marriage, but have always managed to remember that our partnership takes priority.  We are not joined at the hip, but we do value togetherness.  Most successful couples are genuinely friends who like to be with one another.  Mario and I keep our spiritual eyes open for the other’s welfare --protecting one another means protecting our relationship. 

5.  Laugh together. 

Couples who laugh together are more likely to enjoy each other's company.  Laughter also releases endorphin - the same hormone that is released during sex.  Take time out of each day to laugh - or to crack each other up.

Last night we played a board game --one that made us guffaw with laughter (Game of Things).  I watched Mario laughing and I was instantly grateful for him being joyful.

6.   Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

I didn’t author this – God did.  Learn how to listen (without your answer playing in your head).  Listen like it’s the first time you’ve ever heard what he/she is saying.  Listen more than you talk and get a reputation as a listener.  If you listen, you open one another’s hearts.  Each time you listen to your spouse you say “You are worth something to me.  What you have to say matters.” 

You may not agree with each other, but at least you have listened.

7. Use your manners.

This is your spouse, not your property.  Say thank you for everything they do for you.  Say please when you ask them to do something.  Hopefully your parents raised you with manners.  Exercise them!!

There are people who use manners even when they are stressed or tired -- I love being around these people!!   

Be blessed and live in love.  We wish you the best in everything. 

Mario and I tonight - after we got home from Dave Smith's Memorial

There are proven studies that show what kinds of couples survive the long-haul of marriage.  Check this out to see one interesting factoid.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Me - at my beloved writing station - at 54
I will love this year.

Today marks my fifty-fourth year here among this beautiful human race.  I am deeply grateful and richly blessed.  My whole life has been defined by the grace of God.  I feel like His favorite daughter, one that often disappoints humans and yet delights Him.  I am tethered to Him –the source of my life and love.  For some inexplicable reason, I have received a greater measure of everything just because He loves me. 

This is truth.  This is real.  This is who I am.

The by-the-ways about me are in a constant state of flux.  By the way, I am a mother.  By the way, I am a wife.  I am a sister, a daughter, a student, a teacher, a writer, an artist, a lover and a musician.  I have learned not to define myself by the by-the-ways in my life. 

If someone would have asked who I was ten years ago, I would have answered that I was Mario’s wife and a homeschooling mother.  Five years ago, I would have answered that I was kind of an American Christian missionary living in Africa.  I am learning how to define myself without presenting the accreditations of all the temporary roles in my life. 

If you read this on the 28th of December, I will most likely be actively grieving with friends and family.  Mario and I will be at David Smith’s memorial –a celebration of a friend’s life.  Dave was here one minute and then gone the next, leaving us all looking around and asking how something like this could happen.  He was a Christian man, one of our closest confidants and advisers.

This year, more than any other, I realize that one day I will die.  I look at my own precious Mario, my beautiful rock, and know that I will grieve him one day –or he will grieve me.  When that day comes, all of my temporary roles of wife, mother, writer, artist, etc. will not matter as much as me being a daughter of God.  That is the role which is eternal, one that defines me on this earth and in the next world. 

For Dave, I am happy.  For his family, I am not.  It is hard to do without one another when there is love that has held us together.  The bonds of family and friendships are beautiful here, but I am grateful for the better bonds: the ones that bind us together with God.

Today I have wisdom in a measure – and next year I will have even more.  I treasure all of you, my friends and family who build me up and shape me into who I am.  Because of all of your human contact, I am constantly reminded of how beautiful this life actually is.

This day, I give you the first three verses of Isaiah 54.  This is a promise from Our Father to Israel.  We inherit these promises because we are grafted into the vine through the righteous branch -and I am looking forward to another triumphant year.

Blessings, today and always.

“Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the Lord.
 “Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
“For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.
And your descendants will possess nations

And will resettle the desolate cities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Mario and David - Christmas 2011

I was driving to Chico on Friday when Mario called me.

“Pull over,” he said, in the voice he uses when there is an emergency.  But I was on that unfortunate stretch between Lincoln and Wheatland where there are no turnouts or shoulders. 

“I can’t,” I said.  “What happened?”

“I don’t want to tell you while you’re driving,” he said at first.  After I explained that I could not pull over, he told me that he had just received an email from Terry, one of our best friends, telling him that Dave Smith had died.

Dave Smith, Mario’s best friend.  Dave Smith, the best man at our wedding.  Dave Smith, our daughter’s “step-father.”  Dave Smith who helped us put all of our houses together.  Dave Smith, the relational equivalent of super-glue in our family.

I was sure that it was a mistake.

I finally pulled over on some side street that led to somewhere I didn’t know.  I was seeing rainbows and hearing a ringing in my ears.

“Are you sure?” I asked, in desperation.  We had just seen David the weekend before, at the annual Smith Christmas party where we exchanged white elephant gifts that made us all shriek with laughter.  Where we hugged and made silly faces at each other.  It was all a movie in my head, and I could still feel David and Terry’s hugs.  “Have you called Terry?”

After a weak exchange of flighty conversation, Mario said that he would call her.  He also told me he could not help the urge to get in the car and drive to Walnut Creek and be with her.  I completely agreed. 

“As soon as you know anything, let me know,” I said. 

A few hours later, Mario called me from Dave’s house.  He was with Terry and Michelle (Dave’s daughter) and the news was definitely true.  David had experienced a “major cardiac incident” and had died in the early morning hours of December 16.

Before and After - "Wait a second!! I didn't know you were taking a picture!!" 

I made my way to Chico on auto-pilot.  I knew that I would have to tell our daughter the news before she saw it on social media.   We wept on her laundry room floor, holding on to each other. 
Mario and I did the best we could to make it known privately to our kids that Dave had died. Their reaction was much like ours:  shock, denial, and finally the personal brand of acceptance that only death can bring. 

It is still hard to believe that it is true.

I can remember the day that I met Dave Smith.  I met him at a track meet where he and Mario were competing.  Dave was tall and athletic, like Mario and they related to one another like brothers.  I loved him immediately, even though I could tell that Dave and his wife, Peggy, were careful with me. 

I was Mario’s new girlfriend, another one that came after Mario’s divorce from Cathy.  David did not believe in divorce nor did he approve of Mario dating girls afterwards.  I was the last in a long line of “less-desirables” (Dave’s words, not mine). Dave and Peggy were best friends with Mario and Cathy and they were polite, but reserved with me.  Later David told me that he didn’t want to like me.  “You were taking Cathy’s place and I didn’t want that place taken.”

After a strange and wonderful courtship, I was accepted into the “circle of trust” and Mario and I were married.
David toasts us at our wedding

Our kids and Dave’s kids grew up together.  We were all friends and we were completely unready for a life event that changed everything: David’s divorce from Peggy.  The news sent us reeling.  After all, Dave and Peggy were our solid couple friends and we were not prepared for the next few months. 

After the divorce, Mark, David’s eldest son, contracted type 1 diabetes.  The disease was one that affected all of us – we grieved that this was life-changing for Mark and had no cure.  At 15, Mark was sentenced to a life taking insulin with a syringe, a feat that he had to do not once, but twice every day. 

Mario and Dave became even closer.  They now had something else to discuss: how to survive a divorce, especially with kids involved.  The process was strangely bonding and through it all, both men became closer to their maker.  They learned how to forgive themselves.  Our families healed as much as we could.

Terry and Dave by the BBQ - 2012

I met Terry, the first and only girl David dated after Peggy, the day of their wedding.  She was tall and beautiful.  She was a Christian.  I was so attracted to her – and her desire to adore Christ.  She loved Dave and she came with three incredible kids.  I loved her immediately – even though I felt like I was “cheating” on Peggy.  Did my love for Terry mean that I no longer supported Peggy?  I felt the same feelings that David felt toward me. I could now see how he felt conflicted accepting my presence in Mario’s life.

When she was eight, our daughter, Alicia, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  As I type this, I remember our familial panic.  Our first call was to David, who brought us down to earth and told us he would be there “after church on Sunday.” He and Terry came to the hospital with a cookbook of sugar free desserts.  I wept in Terry’s arms, David could barely talk.  I remember how Job’s friends came to him and just sat…. that’s what we did.  We just sat together and said nothing.

At eight-years-old, Alicia was not as discouraged about her diagnosis as we were.  Instead, Alicia wanted to know why everyone in her family had a stepfather but she did not.  We tried to explain that step-fathers were only given to kids whose parents divorced, something that we were sure she did not want.  David stepped up and silenced us.

“Hey, I’ll be your step-father, if you want one.”

Alicia was filled with gratitude.  “Really?  Will you?”  From that day forward, David was her step-father.  This was hard to explain to her friends, or their parents, at first.  Eventually, they saw that the relationship was hilarious, and a cause for laughter.

Laughter is what Dave championed.  He would make fun of politicians (“Their dentist is also their proctologist”), people who drove badly (“They should be issued a golf cart, not a car!”), and even his own physical form, which was changing with age (“I am proof that crack kills!”).  The family Christmas party was one that we enjoyed together, the same friends and family, year after year.  Even when we were in Africa, the Smiths were in our lives.  We would come home, jet-lagged and exhausted, from Johannesburg, and flop down in some bedroom of the Smith home for two days before we felt normal.  The Smiths were always our touchstones.

Getting ready to throw something on the grill - 2012

The truth is, we all have our Dave Smiths.  They are the guys that make us real.  They are the ones that stay in one place while we find ourselves and decide who we are.  They are the touchstones of our lives; the glue that holds us together.  They are the ones who we relate to effortlessly for years.  They are what we Americans call “best friends.”

I grieve in incomplete stutters and fits. I will be wrapping presents and remember David and Mario exchanging stories of their growing boys.  I will suddenly remember Dave’s ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat.  I will remember his laugh and his jokes. 

Dave installs soffets at our Kubel Circle house
One final thought that makes me sum up who he was: David helped us get our last house ready to sell, and he and Mario did most of the physical labor.  Suffering with Scleroderma (a chronic connective tissue disorder that is an autoimmune rheumatic disease), Dave often left our house exhausted and in pain.

“Thanks, again, David,” Mario would say, hugging him.  “What do I owe you?” Many times, Dave would only take money for gas. 

“This is what friends do for each other, right?” he would say.  

Mario would laugh and shake his head. “When have I ever done this for you?”

David would think, looking up at the sky.  “Hey!  That’s right!”  He would pretend to be mad, getting in his truck and slamming the door.  “See if I ever help you again, you free-loader!”  The guys would laugh and Dave would wave as he drove away.

That was David: always giving much more than he took.  He was, indeed, the best friend any person could ever have.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


My beloved blog has been taking back seat to my heavy schedule and homework.  Not intentionally, I have been disconnected with an audience that I worked hard to build.  This morning, I arrived at school and found my first class cancelled – my Poetry Professor (capitalized out of respect) probably too depressed to hold class.  Or he’s nursing a wicked hangover.  Or he’s sick…

Last night, the country watched television and computer feeds that returned election results we definitely were not expecting.  I live in California (our friends call it the ‘left coast’ for our left-wing politics) and our extended family is in either Boston or New York City.  Our insulated bubbles of left-wing surround sound did not prepare us for the majority of our country screaming for change.  NO to the status quo – NO to Congress at a stand-still – NO to our increasing debt.  Domestic policies be damned, Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.

The United States.

When we lived overseas our friends laughed at that name.  “You are Fifty countries sharing one government!” They would joke- and that joke was not far from the truth.  We live in a place so diverse, we have to work hard to feel united about anything. 

Despite what most of our friends living in other countries think, the country’s decision to elect Donald Trump was a hotly contested fight to death, and many Americans believe that he is dragging the corpse of our ideals, it’s flesh still fresh from the kill, all the way to the swearing-in ceremony. 
If you’re interested, here is how these things came about:

  • 1.        The Majority of Americans are EXTREMELY WORRIED about our national debt – and should be.  

We were in South Africa when we heard – ON EVERY RADIO AND TELEVISION STATION – that the USA had lost its AAA Credit rating on the world market.    When we lost this top-tier AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor's it was an unprecedented blow to the world's largest economy.  It happened in the wake of a political battle that nearly took the country to the brink of default.  It exposed that the USA spent far more than it was producing.

President Obama signed legislation designed to reduce the fiscal deficit by $2.1 TRILLION over 10 years -- Budget Control Act of 2011.  This action was well short of the $4 trillion in savings S&P had called for as “a good down payment” on fixing America's finances on the world exchange system.

All of this happened while we lived in another country – and we wondered how it would affect our money, our assets, and our children’s future. 

I went to American news stations – and guess what? They were reporting on Jerry Lewis and how he would would no longer host any further MDA telethons.  American political shows, like the Daily Show, were poking fun of Michelle Bachman and her face.  There was some talk of “immigration reform” and Obama opened his arms to more people streaming into the United States, citing our open policies of taking care of our own. 

“Where are we getting the money?” I wondered…
That’s when I became a Libertarian.

  • 2.        The Majority of Americans are SICK AND TIRED OF CAREER POLITICIANS.    

The 2016 US Presidential campaign saw some interesting stuff.  It was filled with brilliant candidates and I wondered how America would choose.  Both big parties put forward their best, but it was a hard, long race that required money and political favors right and left. 

My candidate, Rand Paul, represented common sense and the Constitution.  I am a fan of both.  He was out early.

 Bernie Sanders, an Independent Party junior senator from Vermont organized the largest grass-roots campaign that America has ever seen.  People who didn’t vote registered and swore allegiance to the ideals that Sanders held – that together we could make a difference. 
The debates were brutal.  Many people didn’t watch because of the inability of candidates to do anything more than promote themselves. 

In the end, the Republican Party, with much hesitation, put forth Trump as a candidate.  Democrats traded the popular favorite (Sanders) for the politically savvy Clinton.

This is when it became a pit with two vipers – and we (the American Public) were watching in horror and disbelief.  Many people insisted that Hillary would be “more of the same” – a person who would promote the Democrat’s platform instead of manage the country for us all.  Trump was seen as a loose cannon – the candidate that somehow made it in despite such a (fill-in-the-blank) personal character.

We are a nation that uses the electoral college, a group of electors who cast their votes for whomever their district elects.  And last night, we watched the Electoral College – declare that Trump had it. 

  • 3.       The Majority of Americans are on one side or the other – we are a nation divided. 

There are always the Versailles Treaties that precedes the Hitlers.  There is always a pendulum swing to cause a certain political action. 

President Obama has overseen, in his eight years in office, more domestic terrorism than any other president.  We are a nation at war with itself.  The economic divide (between rich and poor) and the social divide (between represented and under-represented) in our country is staggering.  There are single mothers (like our daughter) working their tail off to make a living.  People of color –especially African Americans, feel unsafe in the presence of people designed to protect them.  Waitresses that work long hours and can no longer feed their families. 

To remedy this, Obama’s administration has tried to legislate change.  His administration has produced more social programs and regulations than any other president in history.  As a Libertarian, I can testify that more government is not the answer – it only creates more debt. The cost of running this country has increased dramatically.  We are now holding a debt that we …can never repay. 
Ouch.  That hurts to write.

Obama’s Job Approval (according to the Economist) say that Fifty percent (50%) of the country approve of the job he has done, and forty-nine percent (49%) disapprove.  The chasm between the two sets is wide – and unfriendly.  On one side, people see a president who is suave, loves people, and represents us all as a whole.  On the other side, people feel abused, forgotten, neglected by a country who is supposed to be their home.  Many small business owners feel squashed by the forced social programs and systems to which they must adhere.  Many immigrants finally feel represented.  Many people adore the way Obama leads – many others hate it so much they can barely speak his name. 

In a Republic (which is what we are) we elect officials to represent us.  A Democracy (which is what people think we are) the people speak for themselves.  We elect officials to run our nation – and our nation, like the officials that represent us – is fallible.

Many people blame our Commander in Chief, who is actually only one arm of our government.  We have the Supreme Court and the Legislature to share the load of responsibility or blame. 

In the 2016 election, the Pew Research Center revealed the three most important issues to America:
1.       Economy (which includes our National Debt)
2.       Terrorism (Domestic and International)
3.       Foreign Policy  (US support of Israel, especially)

“Middle America” has now decided that Trump is the man to tackle these issues.

We, as a country, are apprehensive about electing Donald Trump -- to say the least.  Trump is not a stunning example of our best, and I will say this no matter how many of my fellows would disagree with me. Then again, neither is Clinton.  I would have liked to see Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Bernie Sanders in a race. 

I can say “if only” many times…but it won’t change things.

Last night, while listening to election results, I drove home from school.  The drive was long and hard and I was grieving.  Ahead of me, on Fair Oaks Boulevard, I saw flashing Police lights.  There, in the road, was a beautiful buck deer, sitting down as if he belonged in the middle of the road.  As my car past him, he looked at me.  There was a beautiful expression in his eyes, and his antlers were covered in a soft, brown velvet.  It occurred to me, as I passed him, that he had been hit by a car and the police were guarding him until animal control would arrive. 

I wept all the way home…and I haven’t stopped.

Pray for us.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Lilliana Grace
at Mahaffie’s Historic Stagecoach Stop and Farm in Olathe 

When you love someone, really love someone, you want to know everything about them.  This used to apply mostly to Mario – the love of my life –as I tried to learn everything about him in order to love him better.

The older I get, the more this principle applies to my grandchildren.  It is especially true for Lilliana Grace, my enigmatic granddaughter who is happier to observe most conversations than participate in them.  Because I want so very much to know her, I spy on her.  

To be part of her world, I have researched Josh and Tyler, watched several Jack Septic-Eye videos and know who segue-way Steve is.  I know which emojis describe her.  I know that she has incredible relationships with colors because she is an artist (and how she prefers to wear certain hues while she paints her room dark)  

Because I love her, I want to know everything about her.  

Beautiful Lilliana

The last time we spent significant time together (this past August), I figured out something else beautiful and significant about Lilli: she remembers things.  She can store  details and facts that “normal” kids forget. Random things that we heard in passing, or trivial details about a destination and kept track 

We took a trip to Mahaffie’s Historic Stagecoach Stop and Farm in Olathe on perhaps the most beautiful day of summer.  I sighed as we walked down to the coach.

“This is so beautiful, isn’t it?”  I motioned to the rolling sorghum fields, the red barn in the distance and the Poplar trees, whose leaves were blowing in the warm breeze. 

“Did you know that Olathe means ‘beautiful’ in another language?” Lilli asked, looking up at me. 

“Does it?” I asked, smiling.  The air was so warm and the sky was so blue and that day will forever be etched into my heart because Lilli glowed with summer as she told me. 

It turns out that Olathe does literally translate to “beautiful” in the Shawnee tongue.  When Dr. John Barton arrived in the spring of 1857,  the prairie was covered with verbena and other wild flowers. Barton asked his Shawnee guide how to say “beautiful” in his native language. The interpreter responded, “Olathe.”

Last Christmas!! Lilli in striped shirt in front
Because Lilli lives with her siblings (Max and Lauren) in Kansas and Mario and I live in California, our relationship is not the traditional Grandparent-grandchild type.  My own Grandma lived in the same city as I did as we grew up – she wore only dresses, didn’t drive a car, and hung her wash on a clothesline.  She baked cookies and sang songs in Spanish.  I loved her deeply and still think of her as a driving force in my life, an inspiration.  I want to be that kind of my Grandma to my Grandchildren, but today things are more complicated.  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, 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.  I hope you know that I do see you, even when you think I can’t, I do.  You are amazing, creative, brilliant, and loving.  I am so proud of you, honey.

 Oh! And BTW – did you know that your name, Lilliana means “beauty” in another language?  True story.  

Saturday, October 15, 2016


L to R:  Jeff, Mario, Ralph and Jim smoke a nice cigar to celebrate Mario's Retirement last week -- at lunch break

This year, on December 29, Mario and I will celebrate twenty-nine years of marriage.  The only relationship that Mario has sustained longer than this one is with the State of California – for which he has worked 35 years.  Now this relationship is about to change – Mario is retiring.

Saturday was the day to clean out his office, since Monday will officially be his last day at California’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.   This morning, he texted me to say that everything that belonged to him was now cleaned out of his office space and that he was on his way home.  Knowing that he would be driving into the garage and unloading a car-full of personal items, I scrambled to make space.  In my head, I  knew what he would be bringing home: his painting of a South African winery, an assortment of snacks, a table-top fan, freshly laundered shirts, framed photographs, etc. I still remember him packing up those personal items to take to POST when he re-entered the workplace three-and-a-half years ago.

After we found places to store the personal boxes in our garage, we hugged.

“I don’t know how to feel,” Mario sighed.  “I have so many mixed emotions.”

I nodded.  When others would be jumping up and fist pumping the sky, Mario is entering retirement more than a little conflicted.  On one hand, retiring makes perfect financial sense and provides Mario with the freedom to teach in a police academy or community college.  He can serve as a subject matter expert without a conflict of interest or bias.  Yet, on the other hand, Mario will miss POST.  Changes in life bring all kinds of unanswered questions.  

Saturday morning brought an unlikely one: “What am I going to do now?”

I almost laughed.  Mario does not exactly sit still.  He is purposeful and driven in everything he does. He has worked hard to achieve the level of mastery and expertise that he has now. He has pioneered new things, developed as an employee and as an employer, and learned how to lead during turbulent times. 

When we left for South Africa in 2007, he really thought he was retired for good.  We were blessed enough to have a chance at fulfilling a dream to move to South Africa and work for God, joining a team that supported existing churches all over Africa.  We also joined forces with a local church in Johannesburg that became our church home for seven years. 

Preaching in Mozambique - 2008
When we realized that we were returning to the United States in 2013, Mario was asked to return to POST and serve as a retired annuitant. He appreciated the return, especially in the aftermath of a life change, transitioning from one continent to another; moving from full-time ministry back into his chosen profession of law enforcement.  After some thought, he officially “un-retired” and continued on as if he never left.

Mario with the "Road Warriors" from the TDC Bureau 
For the last eighteen months, Mario has worked as a Bureau Chief for Learning Technology Resources at POST, a job he takes very seriously.  Supervising the bureau that develops and applies technology to law enforcement training, Mario comes home raving about his employees.  Much of his work has been building teams, or supporting existing ones.  Even when he’s working by himself he strives to bring people together –or recognize their talents.  What has made him successful in ministry has also made him successful in the workplace.  It is also what has made him successful as a person. 

LTR celebrates 90,000 on the Learning Portal
L to R:  Jan M., Mario, Catherine, Jan B., Larry, Trish, Rich, and Ron.

 Mario actually  started as a State Park Ranger, straight out of the police academy when he was twenty-two years old. Last Monday he celebrated 35 years of service to the people of the State of California, working 17 years with State Parks and 18 more with POST.

Ranger Rodriguez - After Graduation 1977
 In this climate of political uncertainty, and with a public perception of police being so mixed, leadership is incredibly important.  Mario is an exceptional leader –and I’m not saying this just because I’m his wife. I actually used to work for him, when he was the supervising Ranger of Carnegie SVRA and I was a lowly Park Aid.  I remember feeling safe with him.  His leadership was solid and authoritative, but contained a humility that was extremely comforting. 

Mario's Fist POST Portrait.  Handsome!

To this day, I still see Mario as my boss – my leader. I am an avowed feminist, but there is nothing that makes me feel better than the leadership of a man who knows what he is doing.   Today, when he came home, I looked in his eyes and felt such pride and so much sympathy for his conflicted heart – at the same time.

“Why don’t you lay down?” I answered, after he asked me his question. “Rest first and then later you can sort all this stuff out.” 

I sometimes I say pretty wise things without even meaning to. 

I love you, Babe!  xoxo

The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training(POST) leads the nation in Training and Development.  It was established by the Legislature in 1959 to set minimum selection and training standards for California law enforcement. The POST organization, with more than 130 staff members, functions under the direction of an Executive Director appointed by the Commission.  Click here to see their website.  If you look  you will find him as a Bureau Chief -until October 18th, when he will be removed.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Mario calls them “The David Shots.”  They are a series of pictures that he took with a new SLR camera the day that his first son was born – the day that changed his life forever.

When Cathy went into labor, Mario took her to Monterey Peninsula Hospital in a very interesting way.  Since it was their first child and Mario didn’t know what to expect, he loaded his wife into his patrol vehicle and proceeded to the hospital code-3.  “I flipped the lights and siren on and we took off for the hospital!”

David was born soon afterwards, and Mario began taking pictures and couldn’t stop.  He must have had forty or fifty prints – the days before digital –from high-quality film.  

Looking at the old prints now, I smile.  Their rounded corners and faded colors betray their age, but the memories of them are deep in Mario's heart.  The one above, taken when the Olympic torch was passing, is one of my favorites of father and son.  
Don't worry, Joe.  It's almost your turn! 

Today David turns 37 years old.  

I still gasp and hold my heart, unable to digest the fact that David is a grown-up with kids of his own.  I can still remember the soapy smell of  him at the Kaypro, freshly bathed and begging me for more time on the computer before he went off to bed.  I still remember the years in Arnold, chasing the boys around Big Trees State Park.  I remember his graduation, his wedding, the birth of his first child and the day he sold his company to Hewlett Packard.  

Life goes by so quickly, I know it is a cliché, but it does.  

David with Lauren, 2014

Today David is a husband and a father, the roles he loves and inevitably define him.  He is also something of a subject matter expert in communication systems. 

David is my step-son, but he’s really more than that.  Mario and I officially tied the knot just after he turned eight, so I feel closely connected to him.  He is a deep thinker and a wonderful communicator.  He grew up with a vibrant sense of humor and a strong personality.  In our blended family, David was the eldest son and proved to be a leader to his siblings.  Today, he still has a way of connecting with us.  He is a son who remembers to call his parents, and keeps inside of the life of his extended family.  This year has been an amazing, eventful time and he has grown more as a man than ever before.  I pray that God be his strength every day.

When people ask me about David, I tell them that he is strong, funny, and great to have in our family.  We love him.  We are proud of him.  We miss him.

Happy Birthday, David.  If only words were sufficient to tell you how treasured, you are in our hearts! We love you!!  

Just for fun!  Mario took this picture of himself the day that the guy on the right was born!

Monday, September 26, 2016


Selfie (taken by Harmony) at Caper Acres, Chico

Harmony has lights in her eyes that sparkle, like fireworks.  She is filled with curiosity and loves adventure.  

When she puts a puzzle together she concentrates with such intensity that she twists her mouth and purses her lips.  She glows with love asks me to cuddle with her as we read, which she does at a fourth grade level.  

She is friends with every kid in her first grade class, even the awkward ones that have trouble fitting in.  She is tender and gentle, fiercely protective of her sister and her mother.

Today she turns seven years old. 

“She’s amazing,” her teacher told me two weeks ago.  “Her reading level is definitely advanced, but she enjoys helping her classmates, which is what makes her special.” 

Daniel and Harmony with their new teachers!

Harmony loves her school experience and looks forward to going every day.  She seems to delight in every portion, especially her friends. Daniel, her bestie from kindergarten, is always by her side when I come to pick her up on Fridays. 

Because I am two hours away, our Fridays are spent at one of Chico’s picturesque parks, or its Gateway Science Museum, or visit an old fashioned Ice Cream Shoppe.  

Ice Cream cones!

We shop at local toy and game stores that carry American-made toys and stuffed animals.  We go to the Library and look at new quilts hanging on display and then read a book or two.  Fridays with the girls are relaxed, sweet times.

Back at home, Harmony and I cook together.  She loves to cook, just like her Mama did at her age.

Making Tacos

“Grandma,” she sighs.  “I just love you.”

On Fridays, my world is filled with life.  I am grateful that I get to be engaged in this little person's life, someone who is joyful and loving.  How was I ever able to inherit such joy?  I love this girl so much… she is solid gold!

Happy Birthday, Harmony!  I am so proud of you!!