Monday, December 20, 2010

It sure has been a while...

...but why? Well, it has been a busy, somewhat complicated, extremely eye-opening, emotionally healing time for me during the latter half of this year. Some personal revelations forced me to take a hard look at my self, my choices and the desires I have for my future.

Blogging, I'm certain, will increase in 2011. At least that's the goal as of right now. But until then...

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, etc. and Happy New Year to all!!!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

If you like it and you know it clap your hands...

One of my favorite artists has done it again, she's released an album that I can't stop listening to over and over again. This song is one of my favorite's on the album and as usual, her video's are funky and creative. Where would we be without true artists?

Clap Your Hands people!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This blog is missing...


More soon, dear blog. I'm sorry to have been MIA.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Hulk

Some days I feel like my life is in a vortex. Other days I feel I'm in a holding pattern. At times, though, life is like a rollercoaster ride. Sort of like the one known as The Hulk which can be found at Islands of Adventure in the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida. I've been on it several times while I visited the park with family and friends while living in South Florida. It has a sharp take-off as it shoots you out like a rocket then continues into the spiral of twists and turns that is a rollercoaster. I usually hate rollercoasters. Most of my life I have. This one I like. I think it's the exciting take-off. Or maybe I'm just weird and have an affinity for rollercoasters in my older years. I wonder.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The way I see it...

Almost two months have gone by since my last blog post. Life has been busy with a new term at school starting, a trip to Ecuador for a family wedding, and, the daily ups and downs that life brings. I find myself at a crossroads where I must focus on attending to some personal business that seems to cut into my creative outlets. I haven't written much, felted much or cooked as much as I normally do. But on the other hand, I am focusing on taking care of things that needs my attention. I do long for the day when I can feel at peace with myself for some of the decisions I've made and how they have affected me, overall. That is a daily process, however.

I turned on the news yesterday to hear of another tragedy caused by Mother Nature. Poor Mother Nature, she sure is getting blamed on a lot of things these days. Global warming, global swarming!! In all honesty, though, it is sad to hear of people losing their lives through flooding in Pakistan. But, it was nice to read of the many lives that lived after the plane crash in Columbia. Quite a miracle, actually. We're living in a unique time in life where news is at our fingertips, information is abundant, yet, we still seem to focus on things that are most important to us. Such as who is judging on American Idol and what fashion ensemble Lindsay Lohan wore on her surrender to jail. (Yes, there is a hint of sarcasm there).

One of the big stories in the news yesterday had to do with our president supporting the First Amendment and stating that it is the right of any business or organization to set up shop wherever they like as long as they are within their legal rights. Shame on our president for supporting the foundation in which our country was built. Why is it that capitalism goes out the window when people want it to? You can't have it both ways...either you have government involved in making decisions about private business or you don't. Emotions set aside, business is business. And that's the harsh reality of it, at times. I support my president on this one.

And that's just the way I see it today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cuban Food

Living in South Florida for the nearly six years that I did introduced me to some of the most fantastic cuisine I have ever tasted...Cuban food. Since moving to Phoenix, we haven't had much Cuban food mostly due to the fact that there are only two Cuban restaurants in the Valley of the Sun. One is an overpriced, cuisine-type restaurant but the other is fantastic. The owners are from Miami and of Cuban descent. We were happy to discover Mimita's Cuban Cafe, however, it's in Chandler which in reality isn't very far away (maybe 25 minutes, without traffic, on the highway), but feels far. And yes, I'm plugging the restaurant and not getting paid for it. It's that good.

Anyhow, last night I suddenly got a craving for the cuisine my hubby grew up on and decided to make the one dish I have mastered, which is Chicken with Mojo marinade and White Rice with Black Beans. I woke up super early, put the chicken, white onion, fresh garlic and Mojo marinade in the crockpot and went back to bed. A few hours later, the smell had permeated throughout the house, so much so that I couldn't stay in bed any longer.

I start to think about making the white rice and black beans when I jump onto Facebook and see a recipe for Congri, which is the same as Moros except with red bean (Moros uses black beans). I'm craving Moros but haven't had the best of luck when attempting to make them on my own. But today, I thought I'd give it another try. And, I'm sure glad I did. My moros came out fantastic and I just finished a nice lunch of Arroz Moros y Pollo en Mojo (hope I didn't butcher that title too much).

Name of the dish aside, the food reminds me of my time in South Florida. Which I miss immensely.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Life, as it

Lately I haven't blogged much but life is good, overall. I have good health, love and hope. But life is life and it isn't always perfect. I still believe and experience perfect moments and cherish them within, however.

Sometimes it's the little things in life that we must appreciate. Such as, right now, I'm sitting here, listening to Sia's new album delivered to me early by a wonderful friend. So far it's fantastic. I'm also happy that my kitchen is clean. I love a clean kitchen! When you love to cook the way I do, a clean kitchen is important. I continue to felt, my hobby as of late and can't seem to get enough of it. Ah, the little things.

Channeling energy into areas that need my attention is my priority, so right now I'm writing privately, keeping a diary of sorts. And finally, focusing on writing the book I've started over and over. It's time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Intricate beauty.
The petals of a flower.
Inspire poems.

Monday, May 10, 2010

First-Friday in downtown Phoenix

On Friday, my sister Petrina and I joined creative forces and set up a table at the local, monthly art and cultural even here in Phoenix known as First-Friday. There were hundreds of people and we had a good amount of people show interest and even purchased our one-of-a-kind, handmade brooches, hair clips and headbands. Our little creative outlet/hobby is putting us in the middle of the art and cultural scene in Phoenix and I love staying connected.

Our plan is to continue this on a monthly basis so it's back to being creative again. Below are a few pictures of our table setup and the crowd that walked past us. It was quite crowded at one point, but so much fun!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Confession from Keith

I sat in a room with about 10 other people today and heard a man admit to being an alcoholic. He said he wakes up every morning and has to have a drink to get his day going. While he doesn't drink at work, he can't wait to get home to crack open his first beer. Over the course of his admission, he included that he had served time in prison and had previously been addicted to drugs. He stated all this with a matter of fact attitude and when he was done, he had a look of relief on his face as he stated, "wow, it feels good to admit and unload that!"

I looked around the room at the other people sitting there. None of us seemed to be prepared for that admission. It came out of the blue, it seemed. Tears were stinging my eyes and I had to swallow deeply a couple of times to hold them back. Something about the look on his face, the release of admission to something that he maybe had been holding on to for a while. He might have admitted it to himself, at one point, but maybe this was the first time he admitted it to others out loud. He continued sharing that he wanted to stop drinking but didn't know how. Now he realizes he needs to do something. He has three small children, all boys, he wants to be around as they grow up. Tears now flowed slightly from his eyes.

I wanted to reach out to him. Touch his shoulder and let him know that he could do it. Remind him of all he had to live for. Encourage him to get help. Offer prayer, anything to let him know he wasn't alone. Yet, I didn't. Like the others I just sat there and listened. It didn't seem the appropriate time to interrupt him. It didn't even seem the appropriate time for his confession.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Educator

In a few minutes I begin teaching my fourth course of the week. As I've mentioned in a previous post, I'm teaching full-time at a local college and I must admit, I'm loving it. (No, I'm not stealing that tag line from McDonald's...notice I actually spell it out fully?)  =) Anyhow, each one of us is given the opportunity to do things that bring value and meaning to our lives and the lives of others. For some, it is the blessing of being a parent, as they guide their children to live full and productive lives. For others, it is being a mentor or big brother/big sister to younger ones in need of positive guidance. For me, it's the opportunity to stand in front of a group of college students and relay whatever content they're here to learn in a way they will not only grasp it but also be able to use it in their lives on a daily basis. A traditional educator I am not. But an educator, I am.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Witty insight or a funny comment. Ticklish licks and kisses from cute doggies. Everyday, moments of laughter.

Reminder of loss or abandonment of a friendship. Words left unspoken. Everyday, moments of pain.

A smile or kindness from a stranger. Witnessing a student connecting with the topic being discussed. Everyday, moments of joy.

Actions that may have hurt the ones loved most. Regret for words that should have remained unspoken. Everyday, moments of remorse.

Ability to experience life with all five senses. Blessed with love and friendship. Everyday, moments of appreciation.

Each cause for those, opportunities for growth; once accepted. Each moment unique; always reflect. Each, a life lesson. Facing truths.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Your Son

When we first met, I remember thinking almost immediately that I could see where he got his eyes, his kindness. You welcomed me into your heart almost immediately and never let me go. Along with your mother and sisters, you all gave him a most special gift you could have ever given him - the natural instinct of how to love, treasure and respect his wife. It's almost as if you each prepared him for me, in different ways. I'm not saying that he's perfect, he's human after all. But there's no denying he's the right fit for me.

Today, I celebrate another year of life with the man you brought into this world. I miss you.

I wish I could tell you this over the phone. I would give almost anything to hear your voice as you deny you had anything to do with the good parts of your son. Giving full credit to his father, which by the way, you're right...once I met him I loved him and I totally understand what you were telling me all those times. Not once did you criticize his father. If anything, you praised him for the man that he is. Your respect for his father made me respect you even more.

Today, I celebrate another year of life with the man you brought into this world. I thank you.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Fishies

Sipping my café con leche this early afternoon, I'm sitting here at home in an old, t-shirt type pajama. It's white and has little colorful fishes all around it. It's at least 10 sizes too big on me, but, it's comfy as ever.

The last time I wore it was probably about eight years ago. My husband saved it and it sat folded in a drawer, then in one box after another. It was recently washed, during the craziness of our last move. It's one of the pieces of clothing that I would wear when I was a much heavier woman, along with the weight of a whole other person. A very thin person, but another person, nonetheless.

The majority of my life, represented in just a few articles of clothing. Surely my life was not just about the size of my clothing or the weight of my body. Nevertheless, the pj otherwise known as 'the fishies' is still here. A reminder of a time past, a different time. Not just physically; mentally and emotionally, as well.

Reflecting on all the many things I can do now that I couldn't do then. A five-mile bike ride that doesn't leave me too winded, an hour and fifteen minute yoga class that allows me to stretch my breathing and body to its limits. Of course, the aesthetics aspect of weight loss has it's benefits, but that's not what is most important. What's important is the fact that I have no major health ailments, I don't take pharmaceutical medication to keep me healthy, and, I'm rarely sick due to low blood sugar or high blood pressure.

'The fishies' is a fond reminder of a time in my past, along with being a reason to appreciate the time of the present and the future. Although it's like a tent on me, I proudly wear it. In my house, anyway.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Many unique individuals, choose to live their lives.
Boundaries pushed in the cultural realm of life.
Social, political and economic reform.
Power of the arts?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's in a Diary?

A diary, generally meant to be private, tends to be one of the most revealing, soul-baring, explicitly honest, treasure chest of desires, dreams, secrets, hopes, fears, frustrations...the describing words could go on and on. Being one who has kept a diary on and off throughout her lifetime, I cringe at the thought of many of my words going public. Yet, at the same time, it is not my worst fear in life. Would I be embarrassed about most of it? Most likely. I realize, though, that the words I wrote then and those I write now are a true reflection of where I was in life and where I am in life.

One of my favorite writers, Anais Nin, writes about her passion and drive for writing in this excerpt from her diary. I love her honesty. Her vulnerability. Her ambition. Her passion.


Yesterday afternoon I wrote a short story. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a great many ideas have come to me and I receive them with pleasure, as this doesn't often happen. When the story was finished, I got busy and copied it carefully. I fell asleep last night dreaming that I had taken it to a publisher who frightened me terribly and told me that I could do better. And now today, obsessed by that dream, I wrote another one that is much better. I am a tiny little bit discouraged because I write rather like a child, not like a lady, and I haven't yet been able to correct that. I have only one aim: as soon as I am in New York, I will type my story on the machine and putting all my sensitiveness and especially my fear of being ridiculous to one side, I will really go to see that terrible publisher...It's strange how this real ambition has suddenly come to life. For a long time I have written nothing except my diary, and I had somewhat lost hope of ever becoming an author. It's my French that worries me, but lo and behold, I have English at my disposal now, and I can write it better than any other language! Furthermore, I am here in the great country of opportunity, so I can try. And what enthusiasm is tied to this dream of hope and ambition! I have never taken lessons in how to write stories, I never went very far in school, and yes, there is a lot of discouragement, things that make me feel doubts about my career, but also there is that inexplicable something that I was born with it, and little by little experience will teach me all the things that I lack.

~Anais Nin, September 1, 1919

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Phoenix, First-Friday and Dinner

It was quite a lovely day here in Phoenix. I'm finding myself appreciating this city, which I disliked for so long, more and more every day. Even with the impending heat of summer, I still seem to have a cheery disposition about living in the desert. When I reflect on my attitude about this city, I recognize that much of my disdain had to do with where I was in life, maturity, and experience. Which could be the reason I'm actually enjoying life in Phoenix, in a home about four miles from the home where I grew up, about two miles from the high school I attended, and about five miles from the business/educational institution where I started my career and college education. The neighborhood where I grew up was actually gang infested and filled mostly with low-income families. These days, it's a thriving community with a mixture of similar low-income families, artsy-type singles and couples, and alternative-lifestyle families.

Older homes built in the early to mid-1900's have been renovated baring exposed brick, hardwood floors, and beautiful architecture. A cyclical downtown renovation reminiscent of what's occurred in many other large metropolitan cities such as Los Angeles and Seattle. Suddenly it's hip to live in downtown Phoenix. Which makes me even more proud to know that not only did I grow up in this part of the city, but upon my return I haven't gone much further.

Tonight, in downtown was a monthly event known as First-Friday. A cultural art event that brings together artists and vendors allowed to display and sell their creative inventions (whether it's art, handmade jewelry and clothing, or food). This monthly event draws people from all over the Phoenix metropolitan area and beyond. Next month, my good friend and artist, Fernando Moreno, will be showing his work, which consists of some of the most original, oil paintings on canvas. My sister Petrina and I are also hoping to get a booth to display and sell our handmade accessories. You can check out our items online at our Etsy store. Once we secure our booth I'll post additional information.

Dinner was lovely tonight as my hubby and I (well, mostly I) feasted on some of Chef Johnny Chu's fabulous Asian dishes at his restaurant Sens. If you live in Phoenix and haven't been, make it a point at some time to stop by and try some of his dishes. It's a tapas-style restaurant so be prepared to share. I love that we can find such unique restaurants so close to home.

Happy April family and friends! 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Being a Woman

Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody. (Jane Austen)

Jane said it well. Giving a girl an education gives her the means of relying on no one but herself, should that be required. Certainly, many a girls dream is to find her prince charming, settle into the castle and be taken care of emotionally, mentally, physically and financially. Oh, but just a dream that is for most, though. And these days, many don't even dream that. Generation after generation of women have found their reliance on a man only brings them disappointment, sadness, grief, self-doubt, insecurity, mistrust and fear. Mothers have taught their daughters, based on their own personal experiences usually, that relying on a man is not the thing to do these days. If I take this a step further, relying on anyone to help define who you are as a human being, whether a male or female significant other, isn't the smart thing to do.

Various sources indicate that the divorce rate in the United States has reached up to a staggering 50%. While that blows my mind in many ways, it also doesn't surprise me. There are very few people that I know who have stayed married to their first spouse. This isn't stated in a judgmental fashion, it's stated simply as a fact. While it is an unfortunate fact, it is a fact, nonetheless. The psychological aspect of why this is has been analyzed in many ways. That's not the purpose of this post, though. I'll leave that to the sociological and psychological experts.

At one time, marriages were considered business transactions. Although, while I say at one time, I'm sure this is still a fact on many social levels today. If I break it down from a business perspective, which lately includes an accounting refresher, the business of a marriage would include 'debits and credits' and 'assets and liabilities'. Crazy to think about it in those terms but when you turn on the news and hear stories such as this one, there's no denying that accounting terms are taken into consideration in some marriages these days.

Throughout history, men are depicted and have been considered the stronger sex. It's a fact in so many different respects, starting from the physicality aspect of it to the social standing aspect. A quick peruse of the list of CEO's for the top Fortune 500 companies in America is proof that women still have a long way to go if they'll ever reach the same status and/or level as men. If ever.

In my lifetime, I've not lacked the presence of strong women in my life. Starting with my own mother, both of my grandmother's, my step-mom, various aunts, friends, mentors, colleagues...countless women who have shown me the strength that God has given to the 'weaker' of the two sexes. Women who have stood up to men who have wanted to dominate, control, oppress and manipulate. Women who have made it on their own personally, professionally, spiritually, emotionally.

Contrary to what might be assumed, this is not being written in opposition of men. I love men. I'm married to a wonderful man who understands and respects the strength and courage that women have been blessed with. He was raised by four very strong women and always refers to his maternal grandmother as his grandmother and grandfather, whom he never knew. I'm blessed that my father is still alive, as well as my step-father who played a major role in my upbringing. Many men have taught me many things about the roles they accept and play as husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, friends.

Unfortunately, though, there are many men who abuse the roles given to them. Men who seek to dominate and emotionally control as a way to pad their egos and hide their lack of emotional maturity. I've been exempt by this type of man most of my life, but alas, another lesson in life reared it's head. I've seen hypocrisy, in one form or another, my whole life. I'm sure we all have. Allowing someone into your life who claims to live one way, but turns out to live it another, is always a learning lesson. A wolf in sheep's clothing, so-to-speak. Jane Austen also stated, "Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast." She was so right! The details aren't important, the learning lesson is, however. And what I learned is that to stay true to who I am as a woman, who I was raised to be - even if I daily seek to change and improve all aspects of my being into a better, more balanced person - is to fall back on all that I've learned. All I've learned from the strong, amazing women in my life, and from the men - most especially my husband.

Every day, every moment, life is my teacher.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Father, My Dad

Across the table I see a man. In him I see me. Well, not exactly me. I see where 'me' comes from. Or at least partially comes from. He likes to remind me that he's much older, he would say he's much wiser, and there's no denying we're related. As we eat I stare at him; observe, is a better word. His skin color is a dark brown with reddish undertones. Skin color you might normally see derived from the Indigenous peoples of Mexico. He's an attractive man, in my opinion, with the draw of his personality adding to his physical attributes. He's extremely likable and in the eyes of at least a ten-mile radius of Phoenix natives, he's a local celebrity.

I've always perceived him as laid-back, relaxed and funny as heck! He loves to laugh, as evident by the laugh lines at the edges of his eyes. Some people, these days, go to ridiculous means to cover up those lines. Not this man. I know for a fact that he's proud of every line. Proud of the gray hairs that randomly appear throughout his naturally black locks. A man of few words with the talent and voice of an angel. Okay, maybe not an angel, but the man can sing. He's always told me that he sings from his throat when he should be singing from his gut. Forty or so years of performing is proof that regardless, his voice has done him well. His guitar, a vintage Fender Telecaster, has been with him longer than any significant other. Watching him play that instrument, while singing and pumping up the crowd is quite amazing. What a gift he has. What a gift he shares.

Across the table I see a man. In him I see me. Well, not exactly me. I see where 'me' comes from. Or at least partially comes from. He likes to remind me that he's much older, he would say he's much wiser, and there's no denying he's my father.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

This Moment

All days aren't like was a very good day. Dare I say a perfect day? As perfect as perfect can get. I was taught growing up, that no one is perfect. I don't disagree with that. I was also taught that life isn't perfect. I don't disagree with that either. But no one ever said that a moment or moments in life couldn't be perfect. In reflection, I would have to say that while it was never specifically stated, it sure was implied. The word 'perfect' seemed to be set aside for only one.

It wasn't until recently that I became open to the thought that perfection is possible. Possible in the sense of what we each, individually, define as perfection. Perfection, may have been the moment you realized you loved the man you were dating and decided you could spend the rest of your life with him. Or, perfection may have been the moment you saw your first child emerge from the womb of your wife. A moment of perfection is a moment when you can do nothing else but smile the whole time or cry tears of joy. It may be but for a moment, but it is perfection.

In coming to this point, I've enjoyed more moments for what they are; perfect for that moment in life. This moment in life. A moment of meditation to give thanks for the breath I'm breathing, the clock I hear ticking, the doggies that surround me as I sit here and type this, my husband who sits across from me on the next sofa; a perfect moment to end a perfect day. A day that included physical, spiritual and emotional balance. A day that was not without pain. A day that was not without frustrations. Life wouldn't be life if it wasn't frustrating at times. A day that included meeting new people and trying new things. A day that included a warm soul waking up next to me in the morning and soon going to sleep next to me tonight. Perfect for this moment in life.

Friday, March 26, 2010


With sweat on his brow;

the weeds, deep and furious.

Gone, are the past roots.

For my husband

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Always Learning

"Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath."

Charlotte Joko Beck

Mrs. Saafir was Muslim and wore a traditional Muslim turban every day. She was intimidating and had a strong personality. She was my sixth-grade teacher. There have been many influential teachers in my life. I've learned from extremely knowledgeable and intelligent professors, teachers and leaders. But Mrs. Saafir stands out in my memory more the most. I was a young, impressionable child and she scared me like no other. But she also challenged me and, in some odd way, knew I needed that. She shared, without hesitation, of her religion without pushing it on any of us. She knew that educating her students on the differences in life was what education was about.

Many, many years ago, while still quite a young woman and just a year or so into my college years, I stood in the front yard of my church youth leaders. They wanted to talk to me about something they were gravely concerned about. It seems that I hadn't been spending enough time with God. The time I had been spending in my classes at Phoenix College, after long days at work in my first full-time, post-high school position, was simply too much time because it took my focus away from God. Their limited knowledge of education was apparent. They lived in a tiny, two-bedroom home with their three children. They were nice enough, but even in my young adult mind, I knew they wouldn't understand the importance of education, let alone higher education, even if I took the time to explain and break it down to them. While I don't blame them for their opinion and ignorance, I do regard them as the leaders who encouraged me to push forward with my education, which I know was not their intention at the time.

Some might think I use my college education as a platform in which to stand and proclaim I am better than those without. A perception that is far from the truth. Others might think that I use it to forget where I come from. Again, far from the truth. I do not think college is for everyone, nor do I think a person is better with a college education than those without. What I do think, believe and know from personal experience, is that education, whether formal or informal, is the key to freedom. Freedom from a sheltered life. Freedom from ignorance to the ways of the world and the people who dictate around us. Freedom from the constraints put upon us by dogmatic religion, politics or persons.

I make no apologies for where I stand in my views of politics, religion and life in general. I may not shout my beliefs from the rooftops, but if you ask, I will share. I have been and will continue to be a lifelong learner. Sometimes my education comes in the form of structured learning in a classroom environment. Other times, my learning comes from one-on-one teachings from friends, family, colleagues, teachers or leaders. Wherever my learning comes from, I'm open to it because I have a passion for learning and intellectual, emotional and spiritual freedom.

Mrs. Saafir may not ever know the impression she left on a chubby, Hispanic, sixth-grader with an inquisitive nature way back in 1983, but she definitely left a mark. She encouraged me to question everything, try to understand things and always be open to differences in people and life in general. She was the right teacher for me, at that time in my life. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Summer of Discovery

The sky usually cloudy, the wind frigid, the rain misty. A cold never known. Snow capped Mount Rainier, not usually visible unless the sky is clear, which isn't often. A city of refuge, a soul hungry for life, culture, adventure. Summer of discovery.

The streets of Capitol Hill, in the warm, summer season are well-lit by the light of day. Nine in the evening looks like the middle of day. Restaurant windows and doors wide-open, patrons fill the seats on the patio tables and chairs. Friends, acquaintances, family and strangers sharing a picturesque view of life. Bread and wine, being broken.

An artist sits on the sidewalk across the street, paintbrush in hand, his canvas a block of wood. He peers across the street, mentally takes a snapshot of the cafe, translates the picture in his head and his hand interprets with various strokes of color. An eventual permanent imprint of this moment in life.

The sun sets in the west, although it's almost ten p.m. A couple walks by, hand-in-hand, smiling, happy, visibly in love. Their definition of love. A stroll down the street with a steep decline to a coffeeshop. Around many people but alone. Alone but not lonely. Observing, listening, learning. A summer of discovery.

Boats docked, children playing, friends cheering. Homes and apartments on the hills surround the lake with patios filled with talking and laughter. Lake Union aglow with reflections from the fireworks. A patriotic holiday celebrated.

The sky finally black, lit up artificially. On a warm summer night, in the Emerald City. Two friends, far from home, experiencing the moment together. Talking, laughing, crying, growing. What a summer of discovery.

For Magdiel

Friday, March 19, 2010

College Credit For Your Thoughts?

As a young employee at University of Phoenix (UOP) many, many years ago, I recall being introduced to the concept of Prior Learning Assessment. Having been in my late-teens to early-twenties, I couldn't personally connect to the idea, having very little prior learning (a.k.a. experiential/life learning) myself that I could use to convert into college credit. I do remember understanding the benefit this was to our adult students working towards their bachelor and master degrees, however.

In this article found in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, the author shares that traditional colleges and universities are finally open to the concept of awarding credit to students for the life and work experience. This, of course, is a structured process that must adhere to guidelines each college or university sets forth to stay within accreditation requirements. Interestingly, the articles states that UOP has been doing this for many, try decades.

Nontraditional higher ed, once again, has led the way in an area of learning that traditional schools are just acknowledging as beneficial tools to assist students on their path towards graduation.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Story

sto·ry 1  (stôr, str)
n. pl. sto·ries
  1. An account or recital of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious, as: 
    • An account or report regarding the facts of an event or group of events.
    • An anecdote. 
    • A lie.

We all have stories. Whether they are ones we make up or ones others make up for us. Labels, titles, biased perceptions, opinions. Stories from the past; stories we've made up for the future. Unrealistic stories, tall tales. Truth and lies. Some stories good, some bad.

Living in the past, holding on to pain, frustrations or fears - stories. Living for the future, holding on to the probabilities and possibilities - stories. We are of our past, and if we're lucky, we'll be of our future.

We need to remember that we must be in the now, the present. Not living a story, but living life. The reality of what we've been dealt, good and bad.

One of my favorite musical artists, Brandi Carlile, sings a song aptly named 'The Story'...she has a beautiful take on it. And for that reason I'm sharing it.

Lyrics | The Story lyrics

Saturday, March 13, 2010

All The Remaining Years

Week nine of a twelve week quarter has come very quickly. The new college where I am a teaching in my first role as a full-time faculty member has been rewarding thus far. I'm finding that I've learned a lot about many things through this experience and my hopes, of course, is that my students have learned as well.

This is only the third time in my teaching career that I've worked for a college with younger students. Having begun my role as an educator in 2001, I found myself younger than at least one-third to half of the students in the groups I taught. This was a position I was used to - being younger than most I associated with on a professional level. In this new role, however, I feel more adult than I ever have before. With less than two years before I hit the big four-o (gulp), I'm finally beginning to feel like an adult.

While I realize that might sound like a crazy statement, considering we are generally adults by the age of eighteen, I must say it's honest. When I walk the halls of the college, I'll guess that I'm older than the majority of students who attend. I get called Mrs. and Ma'am more often than not and Ms. Guillen, rather than Tricia or Patricia. My guess is that my younger students think it's best to call their elders by their last name. I know that's what I did when I was their age. 

Age is definitely creeping up on me faster than I realize and I'm actually okay with this. I'm not freaking out about getting old. Nor am I dreading the big four-o. What I'm finding is that feeling like an adult is a pretty good feeling. While I hope to never loose the desire to learn, change and grow, and act like a kid, at times, I do feel I'm wholeheartedly working towards a healthy work/life balance. Which feels like an adult thing to do. Something that isn't an easy task for most of us. It's much easier, than not, to get caught up in the minutia of life and the drama that comes with it; most of which we cause ourselves.

Something that my dad usually says whenever I ask him how he's doing is something along the lines of "I'm still breathing, living life, and enjoying another day"...And I think he's got it right. We're given only one life and it only makes sense to focus on everything within it. Life as it is, good or bad. Focusing on the moment, the here and now, is the only way to appreciate and live life fully. That is the goal these days and hopefully for all the remaining years of my life.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

At-risk Student

Such potential to make it to the end.
Life has taken hold, fear has overwhelmed.
A wave of sadness, she cannot see through.
Suffering all her own.

Never quit what you start.
She's told herself this, but cannot remember the words.
Transgressions, cause and effect, blinding.
Success, seemingly impossible.

She's given up.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Fibers and a Needle

The needle pierces with a sharp, pointy tip.

Prodding, seemingly painful, combining the fibers.

Barbed wires, pulling it all together.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Confused Life

Life is but a dream, or so she was told.
Living each day, hoping his goals come true.
Dependent on him to make her happy.
Viewing life through a kaleidescope, confused.

A life depends on her, she birthed into being.
Living each day, hoping things get handed to her.
What is work? We must dream big, he tells her.
Wandering daily with impending doom, sadness.

Found her fathers body, he ended his own life.
Living each day, hoping hers doesn't end the same.
From one tragedy to another, she seems to teeter.
Avoiding dealing with what she must, denial.

Using people in her life, all she knows.
Living each day, hoping to live each day.
Dreaming of a better life, doing nothing to attain it.
Depending on him, her mistake.

For MC

Monday, March 1, 2010

Yummy Brownie Addiction

Earlier this week a craving for the Best Cocoa Brownies succumbed me and yesterday, after attending a screening of the documentary Mall R Us, I stocked up on Ghiradelli Unsweetened Cocoa to indulge in my recent baking passion. I've made this wonderful recipe about five or possibly six times since I discovered it a couple months ago on the Smitten Kitchen blog, which is a good indication that this is one fabulous recipe.

Ironically enough, I've never been one to be a chocolate lover. I know most people would think me to be crazy or can't relate to this, but it's true. As a matter of fact, I rarely crave chocolate and it wasn't until my late twenties, maybe earlier thirties, that I fully understood the differences of chocolate. Although I may not be a chocolate lover, I am a food lover and I know a good thing when I taste it.

These brownies are slightly different than your usual brownie because it calls for cocoa, rather than chocolate morsels that you'll find your usual brownie recipe calls for. This is the only ingredient that I can say makes this a unique brownie. Not being very good at following recipes to the exact, this one I recommend following as exact as possible. Even to the extent of lining your baking dish or pan with parchment paper or foil. I line with foil and coat with butter or ghee, if you have on hand, which is what I used. This makes for easy clean-up and guarantees no sticking!

In my opinion, these are definitely the Best Cocoa Brownies! Thanks Smitten Kitchen!!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Noisy Stories

Stories, stories in your head.
Pondering if this, maybe that, or, if that, maybe this.
Assumptions and presumptions.
Perception, reality.

Constant noise clouding your mind.
Wondering where the story ends, or when it begins.
Wanting and needing.
Self-concept, false.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Determination Shining Through

The look in her eyes said it all...the eyes red, slightly puffy. Glossy irises, dilated pupils, wet-rimmed eyelids; upper and lower. My heart immediately panged. I've felt that pain before. The kind that makes an otherwise strong-willed, determined woman, cower to the pull of emotions.

This young woman in her early 20's made an impression from the moment I met her. She has an air of confidence that doesn't seem so much ego-driven, as it seems a thirst for knowledge that she believes will guarantee her a better future. In the short time we've known each other, I've learned that she is a young mother. She's not a native to this city and she lives here without any family. Reference has been made to a past relationship.

Every week she's late at least 30 minutes. She always texts to let me know. Certainly I can't let that go without some sort of repercussion; however, I can't help but accept that this is her pattern. This is her life. An air of determination looms around her as her inquisitive nature asks question, interjects comments and thoughts, provides rationale for her initial thoughts or lack of knowledge. Not afraid to admit she doesn't know or she might be wrong. Happy when she is right.

I inquired of her well-being when she first arrived. She admitted she was having a tough morning but not to worry, she was here to learn and complete her midterm. I respected her wishes and didn't push further. I could relate in some odd way. Three hours later, she had completed her midterm. A successful presentation of research conducted on a successful business leader. She dove into the assignment, complete with it a week earlier than it was due. Determination shining through. Learning clearly evident.

Wide-eyed and proud, the tears no longer evident. The redness gone. A smile on her face. The look in her eyes said it all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Continued learning...

The sky was an amazing blue after the sun lowered last night. I stood out on the patio of my sister's home, hugged my husband, and embraced the moment. Having spent the majority of that afternoon on that patio, my sister and I had dyed material and assembled flowers for our project. Finding very interesting color combinations I felt like a kid back in art class as I donned a painter's smock (okay, it was really an apron) and used paint brushes to apply the different colors. It was fun and relaxing, at the same time.

While sitting on the patio at the work table, a make-shift set-up my sister uses as her workstation, I remember thinking how wonderful the temperature was outside. Conducive to our afternoon of creativity. The music played in the background, a varied combination of tunes that came from her iPod. Most songs I knew and could sing along to, some I had heard and knew the tune, others completely new to me. 

Back on the patio, I stood there embraced by my husband, looked into the kitchen from the back window and as my sister sat on the table in her home, I felt the wicked sting of tears approaching. Not having a sad reason to cry, I knew they were happy tears. And happy tears I always welcome. Realizing what was happening my husband asked me what was wrong. After a moment of swallowing the approaching tears to the best of my ability, I finally got the words out to tell him they were happy tears. I looked into the window and told him how much I'm learning from my sister. He smiled, knowing what I was referring to.

As the day turned to evening, we found ourselves working on the dining room table as we each created new items for our shop. At one point, with music playing in the background, she and I both sung different parts of songs as we sewed petals together and beads on the petals. My brother-in-law, as he meandered into the kitchen, made note of the music we were singing along to. Yes, it could have been a Lilith Fair mix, but it wasn't, and he had totally missed our ode to the New Wave movement of the 80's. We continued to sing and hum...a connection we had even as small, young sisters, which obviously remains with us as adults.

Back on the patio, embraced by love in so many different ways, I relished in the moment, appreciated the day and headed back inside to create more. The sky, now a dark blue; the temperature, colder and brisk. Life, a continuous learning lesson.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Words that pierce...

I'm always thrilled to discover artists who can express their creative gift through the written word. I have read the words of many great writers; some long gone, others, novice at their talent. The depth of insight a writer may present is, at times, astounding, refreshing, riveting...words that pierce the mind and soul.

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.
                                                                             ~Anais Nin (1903 - 1977)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's what?

This morning as I listened to a talk I was reminded that it was Valentine's Day. Actually, I can't say that I didn't notice the commercialized holiday advertised in the form of decorations and specialty holiday items in the many stores. Nor did I miss all the Hallmark commercials throughout the past few weeks. I still, somehow, managed to wake up, get dressed, leave my house, hop on my bike to ride to my destination (The Sitting Frog Zen Center) and still failed to remember it was 'the' day.

Something that my hubby and I agreed on from the very beginning was that we both had a disdain for the holiday created by big business. Now, don't get me wrong, we're not holding picket signs outside of the local Walgreen's in protest of greeting cards and stuffed teddy bears being sold - we simply don't celebrate the holiday. We figure if we have to use one day out of the year to tell each other how much we love each other, we're probably in trouble. Granted, it is possible that we're both scarred from the lack of Valentine cards we received, or rather, didn't receive in grade school but really, that's simply a possibility. ;)

So while today was a day for lovers, I celebrated it getting to know new friends over lunch, spending the late afternoon with a very tired Tech Director, creating a Facebook page for a project my sister and I are working on, doing research for the project, catching up on some reading, felting petals for two new flowers, and finally writing this. And I must say, it was a great day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yes, I am a Phoenix...

I am a Phoenix. Similar to the bird that emerges from the ashes, so too has the value of my education. Or so one would think considering the massive growth and sustained profitability my alma matter has proven. Many years ago when I was still young and naive, I found it difficult not to resent the jabs that people and the media took at my school. Words and phrases such as 'diploma mill' and 'second-rate college' were thrown around freely, and I admit, at times it worried me. At the time, which was approximately around the mid-90's, nontraditional education was still misunderstood. Traditional educators balked at anything nontraditional, it seemed.

Fast forward about fifteen or so years and I stumble across an article such as the one posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education today - For-Profit Colleges Change Higher Education's Landscape. An institution that started with opposition from the very beginning has proven to be a driving force in the landscape of not just nontraditional higher ed, but in higher ed as a whole. 30+ successful years with an average of 9% increased enrollment every year is solid proof of that.

Honestly, it simply blows my mind that enrollment at University of Phoenix now tops over 455,000 students. It is a feat not easily accomplished and not reached without obstacles and challenges. No other U.S.-based universities can claim this type of success, and for that, I'm proud to be a Phoenix.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For the love of music

Rarely do I share about my love for music. Unless you're really close to me you probably don't know that my father is a musician. He has performed with several bands in his younger years until he finally decided he wanted to start his own band, The Viva Band, which he's had for over 30 years. As a child, I remember wanting to be a musician and even attempted a musical instrument while in the sixth-grade. I remember torturing the ears of my family as I practiced the clarinet after school and on weekends. My attempt at musical genius came to an end after a concert performance my bandmates and I put on, at the guidance of our music teacher. I remember the nice sounds, along with annoying squeeks, coming out of my wind-instrument as I missed notes, which were the result from nerves and lack of natural-born-clarinet-playing talent.

Although this experience did not impede my love for music, I didn't attempt another music instrument until my husband asked me to try my hand at the drums for a project he was working on for one of his classes in college. It was this project, approximately two and a half years ago, that made me realize my love for music burns as bright as always. Playing the drums came natural to me and after much practice, I played them while my husband played the guitar in one of his recording projects. It was not only fun but it was an experience that I'll never forget. I don't consider myself a natural performer, of any sort, but find myself in performer mode when needed. I'm sure many understand what I mean by this from personal experience.

As an adult, I find myself married to a musician who is talented enough to play three instruments (guitar, drums and bass). He's not only self-taught but also extremely passionate about his craft. His commitment to good music contributes to the continuous fostering of my love for music. There are many musicians that I call my favorites, but some are at a super-special level. In honor of great musical artists, here's one of my super-special favorites...

Artist: Sia
Song: Soon We'll Be Found

Friday, February 5, 2010

Education in Cultural Diversity

I've spent the last week teaching classes. My three morning classes have younger college students (some younger in years, some younger in experience), and at night, I have adult college students on two nights of the week. Each group of students are different, diverse. Some eager to learn, others not so much; the majority I can seem to draw in but there are always one or two that are tough. During conversation with one of my groups, the topic of cultural diversity came up and like the good teacher that I am, I pulled from my own life experiences and brought up some experiences traveling and my time in Seattle and South Florida. After five years living in the Sunshine State, I gained the most cultural diversity I've ever experienced in my life. (I just realized that I usually tell people I lived there about seven years...hmmmm, how have I gotten that wrong so many times??...or did it just feel longer than five years and I subconsciously change the number???)

After sharing my experiences with the different cultures, languages, dialects, food, etc. I was taken back to my first day in Fort Lauderdale. Having traveled, by car, for a little over three days with a friend as my moving companion, we had only one overnight stop in Jacksonville, Florida where we stayed with my friend Paula, it was a long drive across I-10 and then down South on I-95. Having lived in Seattle for barely a year, I wasn't thrilled at the thought of leaving the city I had fallen in love with so easily. Somehow I was convinced that the job opportunity was worth the move, worth leaving the Pacific Northwest that had some odd pull and tug at my heart strings. My year in Seattle may have been one of the loneliest, exciting, scary, educational, insightful and rewarding times in my life, but alas, South Florida called my name. We arrived with a car full of clothes, and other odds and ends, to an apartment complex that looked somewhat of a tropical retreat. (Well, at that time, all of South Florida seemed to be a tropical retreat to me).

My friend and I waited for the moving truck to deliver all the furniture and boxes to the apartment. The driver didn't arrive too much later than we had and within hours, all was unloaded into our two-bedroom, second-floor apartment with an entrance on the first floor and an amazing view of the pool in the center of the complex. On a whim, my roomie and I decided to find our way to the beach, because after all, this was the first time either of us had the opportunity to see the ocean on the Atlantic side. While I can't recall whether we went out to have dinner before, I recall us making our way to Fort Lauderdale Beach. It was night out and the moon was bright, the sand was warm between my toes and under my feet, and the water was...well, amazing. It was warm; comfortably warm. I had never been in ocean water that didn't nearly cause frost bite to my toes so this was a new experience. The slight splashing sound against the sandy coast is a sound I will never forget.

The smell of the salt in the air, warm water and feel of the sand under our feet, combined, is most likely what made us do the following...without much discussion, my friend and I decided to strip down to our last layer of clothing and jump in the warm water. I turned my back while my friend stripped down, because we were just friends after all. After he was in the water I did the same and we spent the next half-hour or so enjoying the warm cool wavy waters of Fort Lauderdale Beach. The first night in a city that would change me and my life in many positive ways.

While life can certainly be stressful, I mostly recall good times while living in South Florida. Maybe it's what I chose to do because whether good or bad, I generally try my best to use each experience in life as a learning lesson. That first night on the beach was only one of many, many times I would end up with sand in my car and the smell of salt water on my skin. I would eventually discover a city so beautiful that people will go out of there way to arrange a vacation there. Three counties (Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach) nearly overlapping, amazingly multi-cultural with more languages and dialects spoken than I had ever experienced. I would spend the next five years being exposed to cultures I knew about, and many I didn't, but had never experienced personally. Educational in more ways that my words can describe...which is quite surprising because I can usually find the words for anything.

Reminiscing about my culturally diverse experience in South Florida came to an end when one of my students asked me to share the most important or memorable thing I gained from my time there. I didn't have to ponder long to have an answer because while the ocean is beautiful, the palm trees picturesque (many with coconuts) and the food amazing...I left South Florida with an extremely culturally diverse mix of friends and family. From my Florida employee-turned-friend-turned-surrogate-mom, who is from the Dominican Republic from whom I inherited her family as my own (I'm like a distant cousin to her grown children), to one of my Bahamian employee-turn-friend who introduced me to Conch Fritters and one of the warmest souls and smiles I've ever met in my life, to my favorite couple (she from Columbian descent, he from Puerto Rican descent) who showed me what true friends are by including me as the third-wheel during many evenings and weekends when I otherwise would have been alone, to my Jewish employee-turned-friend who was my example and hero when it came to my decision to have surgery (she was much braver than I was). I've barely scratched the surface with examples of wonderful people who I call family and friends.

Reflecting on this is a reminder of why I love talking about cultural diversity whenever it comes up. There is nothing more educational when it comes to the topic than people who bring it to life for you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Arizona public universities are finding the grass IS greener on the other side...

Arizona state universities are going down a new route - for traditional higher ed institutions, anyway. Serving a nontraditional student population is far from new for many private institutions, but for public higher ed the resistance to most things outside of the box hasn't changed much.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cause and Effect

Taking stock in life on a much more intense level than usual. Trying never to think the grass is greener on the other side. Whatever that side might be or entail. Simply trying to evaluate, accept and appreciate life for what it is. Accepting the inevitability of reactions caused by actions or words. Repercussions, good and not so good, a result of something said or done. Learning to accept without allowing feelings of despair to take hold. Each moment a reflection possibility.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Art Lover

With poignant, beautiful descriptive words, a world not known before comes alive. Stories of lives and situations, representing the possibilities and inevitabilities. Painfully honest and, at times, liberating.

Colors overlapping, created out of passion, vision, energy, love, brush strokes. A visual interpretation of life, love, anger, pain. The smallest details creating depth, portraying emotion. Words omitted, not needed.

Eyes closed, listening to the sounds, each contributing to a well-orchestrated piece of art. Joining forces are the riffs, beats, words, voice, tempo. Chaos coming together to create harmony.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


With the touch of the sun, petals awaken.
Moisture-kissed; renewed suppleness.
Existential beauty, given life by earth.
Blooming for all to see.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

This Week

This week I found myself teaching five different groups, practically back-to-back. During some of the evenings, while listening to the pounding of water on the pavement and rooftop of our home, I reflected on each day. While the work was not expected so quickly, nor was I fully prepared, the challenge of having to quickly prepare is like an extra shot of espresso in my beloved latte. Liquid adrenaline. Driven by the surge of energy helps to calm the nerves when most important. Four out of the five groups were new and I somehow managed to stand up in front of each group and talk and teach. Teaching is nothing I ever expected I would enjoy doing but we don't always realize the gifts that we're given and how they're to be used. This week, surviving a hailstorm of responsibilities that came as quickly and unexpected as the rain.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


A light rain falling from the sky, moonlight peering through the clouds. Wind blowing, cool and brisk. Puddles on the ground. The ending of a perfect day.

The sun shining through the random clouds, blue sky peeking through. Cool air streaming through the windows. Blowing strands of hair into my face. The beginning of a perfect day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Some days are great days without a special or specific reason. It doesn't have to be a holiday, birthday or anniversary. It can just be a great day for no reason at all. Today was an amazingly beautiful winter day in the desert. Traveling to our different destinations with the windows rolled down allowed for an amazing breeze to blow through my hair. The wind was cool but the heat from the sun was warm, making for an amazing drive. I take none of this for granted as I watch the news to see and hear about the devastation in Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Everyday I'm reminded that it could be my last. I don't focus on it. I don't live in constant fear of it. But I do remind myself that I cannot take anything for granted.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lotus Ascension

Ascending upward, not looking back.
Evolving from a bulb, no gain sans pain.
An honest look within; passion leads the way.

Not looking back, just going forward.
Never take for granted, each petals offer.
Reflect on life; here and now.

Looking up to light, the lotus ascension.
Petals blooms, each its own story.
Rays of light; possibility looms.