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!!!