Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The holiday season has begun for us, but not without its share of drama. But I guess in the midst of it all, we have been reminded again of what is important.

It isn't about the gifts, the food, the obligations we have to entertain other. It is about love, commitment, family.

We woke up Christmas day as we had many other Christmases. The kids were thrilled to see what Santa had left under our tree, and ready to put it all to good use. Grandparents came over to have breakfast with us, and I placed a call to my mom, who was late for our celebration.

She had been sick all of the night before, and was not feeling well. We weren't quite sure what was wrong with her, but she was not doing well. Mom isn't the type to succumb to illness, she will go to work if she can, even when ill. For her to stay in bed is a huge ordeal and a sign of things not going well.

I headed over to her house, along with 2 of my sisters, and we did our best to make her comfortable. The rest of the days have been spent at doctor's offices, and the ER. We finally have a diagnosis, and a course of treatment. She will need surgery but at least we found the cause of all her discomfort.

None of us really minded that our Christmas was unusual. We did what was right and took care of our mother's need. We cancelled our get together and hope to reschedule it later so we can exchange gifts. There have been no complaints, not even from the kids who don't quite understand what's happening.

In a way, this year reminded us of what's truly important. It is not about having the perfect decorations, perfect food, perfectly set table. It's about family, about taking care of each, about love.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Tomorrow is Nochebuena, Christmas Eve. Wow. This month flew by and Christmas was here before I knew it.

Nochebuena was probably my favorite day of the whole season when I was a kid. The anticipation, the excitement, the food. It was almost as if the air smelled like Christmas. I miss that. I wish I could take my family back to Panama for Christmas, so they could see how I celebrated growing up. One day soon...

I miss my home this time of the year, every year since I moved here. I miss the sound of villancicos (carols), the smell of the food being prepared, the festive atmosphere that just cannot be replicated, no matter how much I try.

This year, I will try to replicate a tiny bit of my Navidad in my home, for my children to experience: in the food, the christmas carols, the anticipation. Maybe one year soon, they'll get to experience an authentic Panamanian Christmas

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Christmas Season

I was cleaning the kitchen last night, when my daughter came in and sadly said she will be so sad when Christmas is over. I asked her what was the reason behind her sadness, and she said that once Christmas day is over, then Christmas will be over too.

I love moments like those when I can tell her about my life as a child, when I was her age, and have her undivided attention.

So I began to tell her about our Christmas season. I'm Catholic, and growing up in a country where the majority of the people were also Catholic meant our holidays were heavily centered around their Christian meaning. Yes, there were presents and Christmas trees, but we were reminded every step of the way, whether at home or at school, of the real meaning of the holiday.

My Christmas celebration has never ended on Christmas day. My tree doesn't come down, I keep everything as it is until January 6. That's when my Christmas season ends. Growing up, I didn't really know the reason behind keeping the decorations up so long. Everyone else did it, and so did we. It was what we did.

As I've gotten older, I have learned the reason why we did that. Our church celebrates the Christmas season from Dec 25th until January 6. I guess it is simple if you think about it. The story of salvation didn't end with the birth of the Savior, it is just the beginning. There were other things that happened after his birth and during his infancy that were also important and we conmemorate those too. It all ends with the Epiphany, or the day we celebrate the visit from the Magi, the three Wise men.

I explained all this to her in terms she could understand. Regardless of how your worship, Christmas doesn't have to end on Christmas day. The message of Christmas, the giving of unselfish love that God showed us, doesn't end that day, and we shouldn't stop celebrating it just because our decorations are no longer on display.

She seemed to be satisfied with the answer. Who doesn't want to continue to celebrate Christmas a bit longer? I just hope our decorations survive until then. My sons seem to think they need to redecorate every day. They keep moving ornaments around, and rearranging our Nativity scene. Let's home we have decorations left until the Epiphany.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


It's funny how the simplest of things can bring up a mountain of memories. After I put the twins to bed, I started wrapping some Christmas gifts that need to make their way to a friend across the country. It was then that a flood of memories came to me.

I had my first job at the age of 14, wrapping Christmas gifts at a store back in my hometown. My cousin, who was a bit older than me, was working there for the holidays, and got me the job. I was so excited because I had the chance to make my own money and spend it in whatever I wanted.

At the time, there was not a mall in my hometown. The majority of the stores were on one street, lined up on both sides. The stores would all have big speakers right outside, playing Christmas music and trying to lure people into their stores. The stores are not air conditioned, not that it would matter because, in order to deal with the crowd, the doors remain open.

December is the beginning of the hot season in Panama, very little rain, and lots of sun. The gift wrapping area was outside, in front of the store, right on the sidewalk. There was no shade to cover us when the hot afternoon sun was in full force.
I worked the entire month in the heat, and never even noticed. Since the gift wrapping was free, almost everyone took advantage of it, and as the day got nearer, the crowd of people got larger and larger. I wrapped gifts until 11 PM on Christmas Eve that day, and walked home with my cousin (I lived about 5 minutes walk from the store) shortly after.

I remember how proud I was when I received my paycheck. I can't remember the exact amount but it couldn't have been much. Back in those days, minimum wage was $5.60 per day.
It was hard work, but I was happy I was able to do for myself.

A lot has changed since then, I've had many other jobs too. I still remember that job with fondness. It taught me the value of hardwork, no matter what job you are doing. It also taught me how valuable an education would be.

Now I wrap gifts for those that I love, and thank the heavens for the lessons I learned back then.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Question

To-do or not-to-do, that is the question. Or at least the subject of today's rambling.

I recently suscribed to Real Simple magazine. I had bought one at the store, loved it, and ended up buying a suscription from a friend's son, they were selling suscriptions as a fundraiser.

Anyway, I received the new one yesterday, the official Jan 09 issue. I was anxiously waiting to see what new ideas I could incorporate into my not-really-simple life. This issue actually centered around to-do lists.

I used to keep to-do lists, that's how I survived engineering schools. There were design reports, lab reports, homeworks, tests, more reports that needed to be turned in on time. I had to keep a list so I would know what needed to get done next. As my life became more hectic, my lists got longer and longer until they were no longer manageable. I stopped making them.

I can get things done without one, and my life would be less hectic if I kept a list, but they just don't work for me. I've taken time management classes that praise list making as the best thing ever invented. I just cannot keep one. That's not to say I don't have lists. I keep lists of projects, reports that need to be reviewed, these are "master" lists, not daily lists.

I attended the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" seminar back in July and loved the whole thing. I even tried to apply the habits to my life and was doing really well until I went on vacation. You can't plan your days while on vacation. Habit 3 is First Things First. All about prioritizing and making lists, and deciding what should come first. It all sounds great, unfortunately once my priority list is set, I will very likely get a phone call from the boss, telling me a new project has moved up to the top of the list, and the list will no longer be valid. Back to square one.

I love the end of the year, not only because Christmas is my favorite holiday, but because the end of the year is near. All those things I promised myself I would do at the beginning of the year, that list of "resolutions" , I can toss it all away and start fresh once January 1 rolls around.

So, rather than trying to plan the rest of the year, I've decided to give the whole planning/prioritizing/to-do list another try after the holidays. If nothing else, this can be part of the whole "New Year resolution" list. After all, I may need something to "toss away" by this time next year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Adventure at the mall

I decided to venture out of the house with all three of the kids yesterday. I'm pretty certain my husband thought I had lost my mind. My friend Veronica was very quick to point out how "brave" I was to go to the mall with not just one but three kids in tow.

I kept telling myself I could handle this. This isn't international travel, it is just a trip to Northpark. How bad could it be?

We arrived at Northpark and I unloaded the double stroller. I told all the kids what behavior I was expecting from them and the consequences they would face if they misbehaved. There was nothing but silence in the backseat of the car as I started to unload them, one by one.

First stop was the food court. Every time my daughter and I head out together we have lunch either at McAlister's or Chick Fil A. Neither of these have a branch near our house, so it is a special treat. We ordered her lunch from McAlister's and got a table. The boys quickly decided they didn't need the stroller, and sat at the table. For a few minutes, I debated with myself. Do I wait for Candace to be finished with her food before I go order some Chick Fil A for the twins, do I leave the twins at the table with her, do I take the twins with me, do I take them all with me?

Decisions, decisions. Candace has been trained when it comes to strangers and what to do. Besides, the table was near enough I could see her while ordering food for the twins. So I took the boys with me, we ordered while watching her, and came back to the table. First obstacle had been conquered.

They got back in the stroller and we headed to find Santa Claus. Everyone was excited to see him, including me. I was daydreaming of the money I would spend ordering pictures with Santa. I didn't even notice the stares that met us everywhere we went, we were going to see Santa!

We arrived, and Cade decided he was having nothing to do with the white-bearded man. He wouldn't even look at him, much less get close. I couldn't even get the other two in there, because this kid was screaming at the sight of Santa.

So we left. He calmed down, we did some window shopping, tried to do some real shopping but they kept insisting in helping me. Thanks but I'm tired of putting things back on the racks. We did manage to get an ornament for our tree and an outfit for Candace. They had a great time, we ate cotton candy and they didn't even noticed the stares.

What's with the stares anyway? I get that they are twins, and they will get attention but these days, with fertility treatments and such, multiples are a lot more common. It seems people can't help themselves. Thankfully, they don't notice yet the unwanted attention they receive. I keep telling myself people stare because they are just too cute to go unnoticed!

People sometimes ask me how I do it. I don't have an answer for that. How does any mom do it? I don't think I'm "special" because I have twins, I'm just a mom like any other. Yes, I had to juggle feeding two babies at once, double the amount of diapers, bottles, and clothes. I had to learn to remain calm when both of them were screaming at once, and figure out how to juggle time with Candace so she wouldn't feel neglected.

But all moms juggle their share of challenges. They all manage. I'm not special. I am just a mom

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas traditions

At work, we have an internal newsletter that features different employees every month, and depending on the time of the year, different recipes, ideas, traditions.

For the December newsletter they asked that we submit our traditional New Year's celebrations. We have people from all over the world here so it should be interesting to see what everyone does for New Years.

This time of the year has always been my favorite. As a child, I remember how exciting it was to decorate the house for Christmas. One year, our entire neighborhood decorated the street with lights, and we made sure our house was decorated to match.
Christmas Eve is a big deal back in Panama. There is Midnight Mass, and most families attend mass together, to celebrate the birth of Christ. Mass usually starts around 11:00 PM and ends by midnight. Afterwards everyone heads home, to celebrate. There is food, and neighbors go to each others homes to say Feliz Navidad. The kids get to stay up late, and of course, no presents are "delivered" until after everyone is sleep.

I guess you can say we like to party back home because New Years is a big deal too. There is more food, music, our entire neighborhood would become a huge street party. At midnight, everyone goes outside to wish each other a Happy New Year.

I miss the holidays back in Panama. I miss welcoming our neighbors to the house, sharing a bit of food and happy wishes with them, I miss attending Midnight Mass at the Cathedral, I miss home.

But new traditions are emerging as my children get older. For the past 3 years, one of Santa's elves delivers a special package on Christmas Eve. The elves are very busy, so they usually ring the doorbell and leave before we can get to the door. Inside the package, there are pajamas for each member of the family. These aren't your normal pajamas, you know. They come from the North Pole, and they are magic. They help Santa work "his magic" on Christmas night.
I can't wait to hear the doorbell this year, and watch Candace rush to the door to retrieve the package.

We have a Nativity scene in the center of our home to remind us of the real reason we celebrate Christmas. We bake cookies for Santa and we write a note for him to read as he is eating his cookies. For the past few years, he has even left footprints inside our house, since the fireplace had ashes in there.

As they get older, I hope to incorporate more traditions, like Midnight Mass, and Christmas Carols in Spanish.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas now that the weather has turned cold. It's time to let the magic of this season touch our hearts and get ready to celebrate with our families.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


If I didn't have kids, I would
* Sleep as late as I could on weekends
* Have a spotlessly clean house
* Spend lots of money in clothes, purses, and shoes
* Drive a convertible
* Take fabulous vacations every year
* Eat out at expensive places
* Go out of town on the weekends
* Go back to school
* Read more books

BUT if I wasn't a mother, I wouldn't know
* the joy of cuddling with my kids and watching cartoons on Saturday morning.
* the pride in my children's eyes when they show me their latest masterpiece drawn in the living room wall.
* the joy of buying clothes for that little person growing inside of me.
* what loving unconditionally feels like.
* I would have never discovered how good chicken nuggets from Chick Fil A are, or how much fun it is to collect the toys inside a Happy Meal.
* the sounds of my children's laughter in the backseat of my car would be unknown to me.
* that indescribable feeling I felt when I took my children to my homeland
* I would have missed the sparkle in their eyes when they saw the ocean for the first time.
* I would not know how chaotic and fun a family meal at home can truly be.
* I wouldn't have a first grader teaching me how to properly pronounce words in English
* I would have never read the Cat in the Hat, or even know who Dr. Seuss was.
* I wouldn't know that an old, tore up bear, can keep all the monsters away at night.
* I would have never known what it feels like to have a little pair of arms tightly wrapped around my neck.
* the joy of hearing "I love you" for the first time
* the pride of watching them in their first dance recital, or scoring their first goal, or playing their first song in the piano.
* how the cry of a child in the middle of the night will wake you from the deepest of sleeps.

If I wasn't a mother, I would have never known love can have no boundaries.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The real meaning of Christmas

Have you noticed how materialistic Christmas has become? I was disturbed to hear about that person who got trampled to death at Walmart. How is it possible that, out of those thousands, there was not one person who cared enough to help that man up so he wouldn't get killed? Have we become so obssessed with having things, that we take human life for granted?

I am an optimist and I believe there is a lot of hope left in the world. We seldom hear about the Good Samaritans who help others, or the families who share what little they have because it makes them feel good. Those are not newsworthy stories. But those people are still out there, trying to make a difference, and doing their best to refocused our Christmas celebration so we'll remember the reason why we celebrate in the first place.

Growing up, we had no Santa Claus. Our Christmases were not cold, there was no snow. As a matter in fact, December is the beginning of the "summer" in Panama, and Christmas was always warm, sunny, perfect for playing outside. Santa was someone who visited those kids who lived "up north", where it got cold and it snowed. He didn't drive his sleigh down to the tropics, you know.

I never missed not having Santa, and Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I was lucky to grow up in a place where the majority of the people are Christians, so our Christmas celebrations were centered around the birth of Christ.

You are probably wondering how could I receive gifts if Santa didn't visit me. Baby Jesus, the one who truly gives the best gifts, He brought our gifts. I knew my parents bought the gifts and I knew my mom wrapped them and they placed them under the tree. But I knew that without Him, there would be no gifts. If He didn't bless my parents with health and jobs, we would have no gifts. I knew even as a child that He was the real gift of Christmas.

I'm now an adult, raising children in a place where it gets cold for Christmas and where Santa visits every year. My husband grew up with knowledge of Santa coming on Christmas morning, so now we try to incorporate his tradition and mine during Christmas.

It is not easy, and those of you who are parents and are Christians know how secular our celebration has become. We seem to be more focused on how much stuff we get rather than on giving and living by our Christian faith. Maybe it is time we refocused our Christmas, don't you think?

I'm not Scrooge, I like gifts and I like watching my kids open their gifts on Christmas morning. Every year I try to recenter our Christmas around the birth of Jesus. My kids are still young and they probably don't notice but that's ok. Eventually, they will realize that Christmas isn't about Santa, or gifts, it is about the birth of our Savior, about giving, and helping those who need help, and spreading the love of Christ around the world.

So this year I've decided to spend less. Not because I want a fat bank account (well, I do, but that's a long way from happening), rather that money I will not spend on gifts of "obligation", I'm going to use for charity. I'm going to buy one less thing and find someone who needs it more than I or my kids and give to them. I will probably spend more time baking and giving baked goods because that's one way I show someone that I care. I will probably spend more time with my daughter making handmade gifts so that she can put a bit of her love into the gifts she is giving away this year.
I will give my kids gifts from Baby Jesus this year so they will remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

(for ideas on gifts, visit www.rethinkingchristmas.com

Monday, December 1, 2008

18 years ago today

It seems like just yesterday. I remember vividly how excited I was. I had never been on a plane before and I was about to get my first chance.

We arrived at the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica very early and checked in. We didn't have a lot of luggage, just a few old suitcases with our entire possessions. I was nervous, and excited. I had no idea what the rest of my life would be like but I knew it would be an adventure.

We said goodbye to my father, it was a bittersweet moment. I felt guilty because I was so happy to leave, yet so sad to leave him.

We arrived in New Orleans on a typical December day. It was gray and cold as we stepped out of the airport. I could see the city at a distance. We drove back to Mississippi and I remember wondering what our life would be like from now on. Little did I know how my life would turn out.

Eighteen years ago today, I arrived in the US. An immigrant full of dreams. I have been blessed to be able to fulfill those dreams. One by one, they have become a reality. There are still many more dreams left to achieve.

I am thankful for the last 18 yrs, for the opportunities I have had, and for the people I left behind who supported me throught these 18 yrs, who rejoiced with me every time I achieved a goal and believed I could be someone one day.

I'm looking forward to the next 18, 36, 54, 72... years

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am thankful for:

* the opportunity of embarking in this journey we call Life.
* my father, who open my mind up to the world and its beauty
* my mother who made incredible sacrificies for all of us
* my siblings, who taught me about unconditional love
* all the teachers I had throughout the years, who planted in me the desire to learn and keep on learning every day of my life.
* my aunt Michaela who showed me how to be a true Christian
* my grandfather "Abuelo", the head of our family, who taught me about hardwork, loyalty to our family.
* my grandmother "Abuela" who taught me how to cook and show my love for others in that way
* my cousins, uncles, aunts who, in spite of the distance that separate us, still show me their love and are proud of me.
* my church family, who has given me a chance to serve them and have blessed my life in so many ways.
* my husband, my companion, my best friend, because he always sees the best in me, and loves me in spite of my flaws.
* my daughter, the answer to my prayers, who has shown me how to appreciate life in a whole new way.
* to my sons, who chose me to guide them through this life
* to my God, for the blessings He bestows in me every day of my life. I hope I am able to recognize those blessings each day.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Gift of Reading

I remember learning how to read. Back then and back in Panama, kindergarten was the time when kids got used to schedules, and discipline in schools. Most children did not go to daycare, and kindergarten was not mandatory. There was no pressure on being "ahead" and "prepared" for first grade, as there is here.

I learned how to read at home. My dad would take the time to teach me how to sound out the words. Once I was able to read, a new world appeared in front of me, and I was ready to explore it.

We had one tv at our house, and it was not for the children. My parents were very strict when it came to our tv time. The tv was off limits for us, and only 2 shows were watched at home: the news and Sesame Street.

So the majority of our time was spent playing outside and when the weather did not cooperate, we spent our time reading. My parents made sure we had plenty of material to read. Back then, salesman would come to our house, offering encyclopedias. My parents bought two sets, I can see them now. The biggest set was bound in blue, and it had at least 20 volumes. It covered every imaginable topic, from history to sports. Each volume was heavy and hard to handle for a small child but dad would help us carry it so we could enjoy reading it. The other set was red, the books were smaller, and as I recall, most of the volumes talked about the different animals in the animal kingdom.

In those books, the world was within reach. I read about world history, and learned about Greece and Rome, Plato, Aristotle, Michael Angelo, and Thomas Jefferson. I read about the US, the American Revolution, and the Civil War. I learned about the European Monarchies, and the great empires that dominated the world centuries ago. It was fascinating, even as a child, to read about this far away place I now call my home.

There is no need now for encyclopedia salesmans anymore. One can find out about anyone and anything through the internet. My daughter doesn't have to read throough countless volumes to learn about the world anymore. All she needs is a computer.

Still, I want her to experience the joy of reading. I want her to read about the world, and imagine the things that are beyond her reach. I want her to enjoy reading as much as I do. I want her to be able to compete in a technological world without losing that desire to seek knowledge. I don't want her to stop thirsting for knowledge simply because it's at her fingertips, with just the stroke of a key on the computer keyboard.

Much like my parents, I am setting the ground rules. There are books, and magazines, and newspapers for her to read. There is a computer too, but for now, I want her to learn about the world and its wonder the old fashioned way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Role Models

The campaigns are over and by morning, we will know who won the election. I'm sure many of us will be relieved, and glad to be able to watch TV again without having to see a political ad.

This has been a historical race, that's what all the TV stations and newspapers have been advertising for months. It has affected everyone in a different way, I'm sure.

In my case, it has made role models for my kids out of the candidates. Not because of their political agendas, or affiliations. Simply because of who they are.

There is a woman on the ticket. A working mother. She knows what it's like to compete with men, and having to prove herself over and over again. She knows everything she does will be scrutizined, simply because of her gender. But she is still on the ticket.
This is the first election that my daughter has been old enough to understand. She has watched Sarah Palin on TV, she understands that this woman is "applying" for the 2nd most important job in this country. She now knows that a woman can aspire to the highest offices, and be respected among her peers, the same way a man is. For that, I am grateful. My daughter has witnessed history in the making.

There is also a man on the ticket who put his life on the line for this country. A man who loved it enough to fight for its freedom. His heroic act defines my personal definition of patriotism. He reminds me of those patriots, back in Panama, who fought for their right to elect the leaders of the country. He is a role model to all of my kids, not just my boys. They should love this country, and defend their freedom, and respect those who fought for it like John McCain did.

Last but not least, there is a man of mixed heritage running for the highest office. Just like my children, his parents came from very different backgrounds and his perspective in life comes from his experiences as a child. Perhaps his life is richer and fuller because he had the chance to see the world in a different manner than his peers. My kids now see Obama compete and be respected in the same manner as a white man. They too can aspire to be presidents one day. For that I am thankful.

Regardless of who wins the election, tomorrow is a new day and this election will go down in history. I hope now that it is over, we can overlook our differences and work together to continue to push this country ahead, for ourselves and for our children.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I am

I am from Banana Trees, from Polleras, and Diablos Rojos

I am from the Casa Vieja where my mom grew up, with its dark rooms filled with memories; of Abuelos' stories, of the piles of golden rice he kept inside, and the rainy afternoons in October talking about nature and learning about life.

Of summers spents with grandparents, in a house with no electricity, of sneaking out to the river, of riding horses, feeding chickens, and eating guavas right of the tree.

I am from the Chiriqui River, roaring behind Abuelo’s house, of the algarrobo tree in their front yard, of laying on the grass, listening to ghosts stories, and staying up all night wondering about what was lurking in the dark.

I am from Nochebuena y Año Nuevo spent with family, of Carnavales and Processiones during Semana Santa, from Amada and Amelia and Carmen.

I am from the family sticks together, and love and respect your older sisters as if they were your mothers; of loving our cousins as if they were our siblings and standing up for those who can’t do it for themselves.
From respecting your elders, and always doing your best. Of being proud of who you are and the place where you came from, and of understanding the value of an education.

I am from being raised Catholic, from praying the rosary with Abuela, and learning prayers tthat were passed down generations. I’m from having faith in a God who is merciful and kind, of believing in ghosts, praying to saints, and never eating meat on Good Friday.

I’m from a Buddhist father, from catholic school, from learning about the paranormal and the power of the universe. I am a mix of Catholicism and indigenous beliefs, of going to curanderos, while lighting a candle for your health to be restored. I’m Catholic, secured in my faith and my beliefs and not afraid to say I don’t agree with man-made rules.

I'm from Panama, Spain, and the Guaymi Indians, of sancocho, arroz con pollos, platanos and tortillas.

From a mother with only a 6th grade education who taught me about hard work and determination, from slumber parties with my cousins, from running across the swinging bridge without our parents knowing.

Of starry nights listening to my father telling us about the wonders of the universe, and dreaming about becoming an astronaut. Of dancing on the streets during Carnaval under the blazing sun and the cool water; of patriotic parades on Independence Day.

Of Jose’s courage, and Abuelo’s strength, of Abuela’s faith, Mom’s determination, and of Dad’s thirst for knowledge.

I am from that little bench Tio Dany made for me 31 years ago, that Abuelo kept for me all these years, of watching my kids sit on that bench and see my life realized in them; of the wooden stove where Abuela used to cook, and the sewing machine where she would fix Abuelo’s clothes while whistling a tune.

I’m from dancing with Abuela after dinner, under the light of a kerosene lamp with Abuelo watching as he smoked his pipe. I’m from the moments that were never captured in film but will remain in my heart forever.

Polleras- national dress of Panama
Diablos Rojos- traditional buses in Panama
Casa Vieja- my grandparents (Abuelo and Abuela) old house
Amada, Amelia, Carmen - grandmother, mom, great grandmother
Jose- my cousin who died of diabetes-related problems at age 33. he was like my brother.
Nochebuena- Christmas Eve
Ano Nuevo- New Year's
sancocho, arroz con pollo, platanos, tortillas - traditional Panamanian dishes

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I always get excited when the elections get near. Whether it is a local election or the presidential election, I can hardly wait to go to the poll on voting day, and cast my ballot.

Call me a geek, but I cherish my right to vote.

Many have heard me tell the story about growing up in a country where the people were not allowed to elect their president. I vividly remember the election of 1989 in Panama, when the candidates of the opposition party were beaten with metal pipes by military officers during a peaceful protest against the government.

That's the reason I don't take my right to vote lightly. So many people in the world do not have the power to elect their governments, yet here in this country so many people are so apathetic about the opportunity to make their vote count.

But it takes more than just casting a ballot on election day. You have informed yourself on the candidates, on their records, on what their plans are. Voting for a candidate simply because your family has always voted for that candidate's party, or because they seem "nice" on TV defeats the purpose. Of course, many will show up and vote on Tuesday without having any idea what any of the candidates stands for.

There is one election on the ballot this year that really has puzzled me from the beginning. We are electing someone to be on the MS Supreme Court. This is quite an important election, if you ask me. So many things are decided by the Justices of the MS Supreme Court, I think we should all take the time to do our research on the candidates. I've done mine.
So being this is my blog and all :-) I would like to ask you take a minute and read up on what Jim Kitchens stands for. I have had the pleasure to meet Mr. Kitchens in person, as well as his mother, wife, and son. They are excellent people and pillars of our community. I believe he would an excellent choice this election. http://www.kitchensforjustice.com/ is his website.

So, that's that. The only endorsement I will publicly give for this upcoming election. I personally can't wait to cast my ballot. How about you?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I am a professional woman, in a male dominated field. Even in college, males outnumbered women in the majority of my engineering classes. I knew once I entered the workforce, I would have to fight the stereotypes about women in engineering. I also knew I would have to confront chauvinism, sexism, and racism. I was up to the challenge. I knew I would have to work twice as hard as my male collegues because I had to prove to others I was smart enough and not a result of "affirmative action".

I took on the challenge because I enjoy being challenged. I picked a major that most people would never consider. I pushed myself to the max, graduated, had a job a month after graduation. I didn't stop there. I knew it would take more than a bachelor's degree to get me where I wanted to be. I enrolled in a master's degree program and went to school at night. Still not enough, not when my male counterparts were accomplishing the same goals as I was.

I went further, and took the dreaded exam required to obtain my professional engineer's license. Never mind that I had a 3 month old baby at home, and a full time job. This was important to me and my career. I passed the first time I took the test.

This is just the academic part. There is the "working hard" part to go along with the other stuff. The most important part in my opinion. I have done my work and gone above and beyond what's expected of me. I have carved a name for myself and earned the respect of my superiors and my peers. I have enrolled in leadership programs, in management programs. I have read books, I have done my homework.

Still, there is barely a crack on my glass ceiling. I often wonder if I haven't done enough. Have I not taken a class I should have? Have I not tried hard enough?

I think I have done my part. There is always room for improvement, I don't believe a person should ever stop learning or growing as a person. So I know I am not perfect, then again, no one is.

Still, it is frustrating when your peers feel that a male, with less qualifications and work experience, is better qualified for a job simply because of seniority. There is always going to be someone with more seniority than me. And I will always have more seniority than someone else. Does that mean I am never going to be able to move above that glass ceiling?

I don't want a "hand-me-down" or a promotion I did not earn. I am not asking for charity. I am not asking for what some people see as "affirmative action". I simply want the same considerations my male colleagues get. I want someone to look at my qualifications, my skills, and hard work and allow me to compete with the "guys", regardless of how long I have been here. Seniority does not make anyone qualified to do anything, experience and expertise do.

I have worked hard to educate myself. I have worked hard at every job I've had, from my times as a clerk at Walmart to my job at a Fortune 500 company. I believe my work is a personal reflection of the person I am, so I take pride on everything I do.

I don't want a "free pass" because of my gender or my ethnicity. I simpy want the same opportunity to compete.

Friday, October 24, 2008


I don't have a "topic" to discuss today. For starters, I have a wicked headache that refuses to leave, even though it has received an eviction notice (ibuprofen). Besides, there are several things going on in my head this morning.

* What's with artists and changing their names? First we had Prince, who wanted to be called by a symbol, then Garth Brooks who wanted to be Chris Gaines. Now Beyonce wants to be Sasha somebody. Are they insane? Is this what happens when you get famous? Brain cells begin to day and one day you wake up wanting to be someone else? Maybe they need to learn from Madonna, who still calls herself, well, Madonna.

* Has anyone been keeping up to date with the economy? It is like being on Space Mountain at DisneyWorld. It is dark and you just can't see if you are about to go up or down, you just hold on for dear life until the ride is over.

* Speaking of the economy, I never really like anything related to business. I took an economics class in high school and that was enough for me. I could not tell you what NASDAQ stands for, or what a hedge fund is. BUT I can listen to Kai Rysdall talk about the market all day long. I have a crush on his voice. I don't think anyone else on this planet can make news about the economy sound so entertaining. His show comes on at 6 PM on NPR.

* Why is it that politics always bring out the WORST in people? I'm not talking about the candidates either. I honestly think the candidates actually respect one another, but mudslinging is part of the deal.
I'm talking about the average person, the one you see on the street, talking trash about other people and feeling they are entitled to look down on others, simply because of their political choice. It happens on both sides of the coin too. This isn't a problem with only the followers of A or B party. It's on both sides.
It makes me ill, specially when people start attacking one another and they know NOTHING about the candidates' platforms, or what the candidates stand for. They have done no research on the issues; they simply are basing their support on either on what the candidate looks like, or what they think this candidate must be like in private; or what someone else said about the candidate (either a family member, church member, pastor, coworker).

Let's use our brains and draw our own conclusion about the candidates. And after we have drawn those conclusions, let's respect those who have a different conclusion than ours.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Doctors and your health

I have been to the doctor a few times in the past week and I've began to wonder if people no longer take active part in their healthcare.

I have been having problems for a while now which I atributed to my gallbladder. Being that gallbladder issues are hereditary and other members of my family have had problems, it wasn't a stretch to think mine may be going awry.
As many times before, I have been procrastinating about seeing a doctor about it. I don't like taking medication and I will find alternative forms of healing for any ailment I have before I take a pill or antibiotic. I will do home remedies and the things my grandmother used to do to cure most of my ailments.

This time it is different. I can't find anything that will make my gallbladder better. So off to the doctor I went. Our family physician is one of those small town doctors, who practices in a small town, and treats all his patients like his family. I like him. Anyway, I told him what was wrong, he said it sounded like stones in my gallbladder, and gave me an order for an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed there is a polyp growing in there, close the bile duct, and that's why my symptoms are very similar to those of people with stones.

Time to decide what to do next. If I had stones, I would have look for alternative ways to dissolve those stones so I could pass them. I'm not sure one can dissolve a polyp. I don't want to have it removed unless there are no more options. So the doctor sends me to see a surgeon who specializes in gall bladder removals.

I have to admit I was not going in there to schedule surgery. I figured this doctor would order another test to verify the existence of a problem, rather than just go on the results of one test.
I was quite surprised to find out he was ready to cut me open and take my gallbladder.

I won't bored you with the details of the conversation with the surgeon, but he seemed surprised and a bit uncomfortable because I questioned him regarding the proposed treatment for my ailment. I wasn't trying to be difficult, but this is my body we are talking about and I want to make sure no parts are removed unless it is needed.

The whole experience left me wondering if people no longer question their doctors. Why was this one so surprised and a bit uncomfortable with my questions? Did he think I would say ok to a surgery without having sufficient proof that this was the best course of action?

Perhaps we have become too complacent when it comes to healthcare. Maybe we are too quick to allow doctors to prescribe a remedy they think fits our situation without ever questioning them, or challenging them. I wonder if our healthcare costs, not to mention malpractice lawsuits, wouldn't be as high as they are if we actively participated in our care.

I am not a doctor and I am not denying they know more than I do about medicine. But in this day in age, all it takes is Google and a little time to find out what are common test and remedies for whatever ailment you've got. I knew there was another type of test that would show, without a doubt, the state of my gallbladder, and it wasn't an ultrasound. All I did was ask. I didn't sue, I didn't threaten, I just asked. The test is probably costly but I'm sure it is cheaper than having surgery that I may not need.

So I ask you, do you actively participate in your healthcare and that of your family? Or if the doctor says "take this medicine" or "give them this shot", you do it without asking what repercusions may come from it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


My mom, daughter and myself at the Making Strides against Breast Cancer walk this past weekend.

My little soccer player

Monday, October 20, 2008


This summer, our church started looking for Sunday school teachers. Truth be told, most of us don't really like getting up earlier than we need to during our weekends, so the responsibility often falls on those of us who have children attending Sunday school.

Last year, I didn't volunteer. I had excuses, the twins were small, etc. This year the inspiration came from my daughter. We were reading the church's bulletin one Sunday, and I mentioned to her they were looking for teachers. She became very excited and said she would like for me to be a teacher. How could I say no? So I signed up.

I am not teaching her class, though. This year she will going through First Communion classes, so they have a special teacher for that class. I am teaching the 3rd-4th graders this year. When I received the call, I was told these children were very bright, smart, and eager to learn. They would challenge me with questions, so I should be prepared.

They didn't tell me I would learn from them as much as they would learn from me. Our parish is small, and our class is small enough that all the kids get to participate and we (the teachers) get to interact with all of them.
Last week our lesson was about the first Christians, the things they went through, how they stood up for their faith even though they were likely to die for their beliefs.
I asked the class to think for a second about someone they knew, someone in their life, who stands up for their faith.

The first answer from most of them: my mother.

I hadn't really thought about the impact my faith could be having on my kids. To hear these kids talk about their mothers with such respect and admiration was an incredible feeling. I wonder if their moms know what an impact they have on their kids. I'm guessing they probably don't. Like me, they probably are doing the best they can to raise their children in the church, to teach them right from wrong. They probably don't expect praise, and probably don't know that their children are watching and noticing every example they set.

I'm glad I took on the challenge to teach these kids. They are bringing so many blessings to my life, and I'm learning a great deal from them.

"Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pet peeve

I don't want to sound "preachy" or give the impression I know it all. I don't. I'm still trying to figure out the rest of my life.

One of my biggest pet peeve is people who give up before they even try. These are people who find a million reasons why something will not work out before they even get started. They are the ones who won't exercise because they just know that x,y,z is going to hurt, or because they know they won't lose weight.

Their glass is always half empty. They can't see the rainbow through the clouds. They want to get out of whatever rut they are in but they are afraid of failing.

I guess the reason they aggravate me so much is that I cannot relate to them. Failing is not one of my fears, not trying is. I won't say I have never had moments in my life when the skies were gray and I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've had those times, we all have. I just didn't sit there and complained and waited for things to happen to me, rather than make things happen.

I am not perfect, I have more flaws than I care to share with you. I have been beaten down, and I have stood up every time and fought even harder. I will not quit, and those who know me well know that I will go after the impossible without any hesitation. I have fallen short of accomplishing things, but it wasn't because I didn't try. I find there is a lot of satisfaction in just trying the impossible.

If you want to run a marathon, do it. If you want to skydive, learn something new, change your career, go ahead and don't be afraid. Make a list of things that will make you feel great about yourself. Nothing in life is easy, and it shouldn't be, otherwise we would never appreciate what we have. Don't give up before you even try, don't look for reasons why you will fail.

Just give whatever you are dreaming a chance. You may be surprised.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This blog is dedicated to my brother in law, Jeff, he is one of the kindest persons I know, and I'm priviledged to know him.

I have known Jeff for many years, too many to count, really. He has been there in the good times and the bad ones. We've had our moments when we fought, times when we didn't speak to each other, but I always knew he'd be there if I needed him.

He was there when I graduated high school, when I picked my major, when I picked Ole Miss. He believed in me even when I doubted myself. Through the years, he has offered his support unconditionally.

Last year, when I announced I wanted to run the Chicago marathon, Jeff said "I know you can do it". Before I even started training, he had given me a pedometer, and other "running" stuff to get me started.

He was there, along with my sister Joyce, and nieces Stephanie and Aurora, to watch me run the marathon last year. Even though I wasn't able to finish because they closed the race, he believed I was a winner.

What could I do to show him how much I appreciate all his support throughout the years? I took him to the first meeting for Marathon Makeover 2008. I told him he, too, could run the Chicago marathon. I sat with him in the first meeting, and told him the first mile would be the hardest. If he could get past that first mile, he could run Chicago.

And he, once again, believed in me. He signed up to train for the marathon. He went through the pain, and the exhilaration only those who have done it before can understand. And last weekend, he ran the Chicago marathon!

I could not be prouder. I am so happy that he believed in me when I told him he could do it. I am glad that I was able to "introduce" him to marathoning. I didn't get to see him run, but I was there in spirit. He finished the race, and now joins those who can call themselves marathoners.

There will be more marathons in both our futures, I hope. Maybe we'll run one together.

So thanks Jeff, for always reminded me I can achieve greatness. I've seen you do it, I'm just glad to be a witness to your life.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Making Strides against Breast Cancer

Many of us know someone whose life has been touched by breast cancer. In my case, my cousin is a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed after she found a lump during a self-exam and went to the doctor. That simple act of giving herself a self exam may have saved her life. She is cancer free, after undergoing a mastectomy.

I was so happy to see her this past summer, when I went to Panama. She is so full of life, and so happy to be alive, it is contagious. I am so happy she is still able to enjoy the little things in life. As she said to me, never take your life for granted, even the smallest things, or the insignificant moments. It all matters.

Again this year, I am helping raise money for the American Cancer Society's "Making Strides against Breast Cancer". I want to help raise awareness about this disease and educate women ( and men) about it. A little education can go a long way.

Many people around the metro area are supporting this cause also, so if someone approaches you and asks for a donation, please consider giving. Think about your mother, daughter, sister, friend. Think about all the special women in your life, and consider donating in their honor.

To make a donation for my walk, just click on my website. You can make your donation online, and every dollar makes a big difference!


Monday, October 6, 2008

Change is good

I'm still looking for 6 extra hours in the day, so I can have plenty of time to update this blog.

A lot of changes going on everywhere. Fall is in the air. Not only are the seasons changing, there is change in Wall Street, we have an election coming up, change is definitely in the air.

There are a lot of changes going on at home too. New opportunities in the horizon, some fading away. We are getting ready to write new chapters at home, that's for sure.

My husband has joined the ranks of Stay at Home Dads. He will be staying home, tending to the kids and all the other things that surface day to day. He definitely now has the hardest job there is, and I truly admire him for making this decision.
The adjustment will be hard, I'm certain of it. But I know the kids are going to love having daddy around all the time and having him take care of them rather than daycare.
I also know one day, when they are all grown up, they will cherish those times with dad and will admire him for the decision he made to stay home with them.

My daughter is taking piano lessons, so our house is now filled with the sound of music. She has a innate ability for music, and has taken up piano very quickly. She is growing up before my own eyes, and I'm in awe at the person she is becoming.
I know she will love having her dad around all the time, and I know this will have a great impact on her in the years to come.

The twins will also be adjusting. They will be staying home with dad, and learning how to be good men from dad.

And I will be adjusting to my new role as well. I hope I remember to be supportive of him, and to never take him or his job for granted.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Trying to catch up

I need a 30 hour day, please. If I only had a few more hours, maybe I could catch up with the tons of stuff I need to do.
It seems these days I am running around, from work to school to church, back to work... It's never ending.

I spent last week in Denver attending a training class. It was my first time in Denver, and that was exciting in itself. We had a chance to stay downtown, at the Curtis. If you've ever go to Denver, check that hotel out.
Every floor has a "theme", I stayed on the "Laugh outloud" floor. The decor were basically pictures of different comedians, like Lucy, Three Stooges, etc. Really cool. And the best part, it was just 2 blocks from 16th street, where all the shops and restaurants are.

The class was very good and relevant to my line of work. I'm guessing only a handful of people would classify a groundwater geochemistry class as "good". I'm one of those people. I was reminded of how much I really like chemistry. I'm an odd bird, I know.

Came home to find one of the boys sick. Fever, runny nose, congestion. I guess it's a summer cold, aggravated by allergies. Ended up missing work most of this week, because boy#2 also got sick. He is still home getting over his illness.

Aside from taking care of the boys, there was still dance class , and piano lessons, and soccer practices to go to. I wonder what it will be like when all three kids have after school activities? One of us will have a full time job taking everyone to their respective stuff.

Last but not least, there is church. I'm teaching Sunday school and I'm also involved in another program for adults, so that also has to be added to my schedule. And of course, there is still housework to be done.

So if anyone knows how I can add another 6 hrs to my day, please share the info. I need them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Candace!

I saw her for the first time seven years ago today. After waiting for almost 12 hrs, she finally made her entrance into this world at 5:12 PM. I was surprised to see how alert she was. She didn't cry, she just looked around at all the people welcoming her into this world.

Her big brown eyes made quite an impression on me. They weren't typical newborn eyes, with their sleepy look. They were bright, alert, scanning the room, inspecting everything. She didn't cry and I wondered if something was wrong, weren't newborns suppose to cry as soon as they were born? It wasn't until they started to clean her up and weigh her that she cried, only for a few seconds. She stopped as soon as she heard her father's voice.

She immediately took her place in our family, commanding attention when she wanted it, as all newborns did. She was fiercily independent from the start, wanting to do everything by herself. She was a lot of hard work, but always worth it.

I look at her in awe and amazement to see what an incredible human being she is. Her compassion surpases her young life, she always has a smile, a hug, ready when you need it the most. She is bright, intelligent, and well mannered, loving, all the qualities you want to see in a child. She loves to laugh, to have fun, to cuddle and watch movies, and Ben&Jerry's ice cream.

She is a tomboy and a girlie girl all wrapped up in one. She loves to go fishing with her grandparents, as much as she loves dresses, cute haircuts, and toenail polish.

She is a gift from above, and I will be forever thankful that she chose me to be her mother.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago

I'm pretty certain most people remember where they were, what they were doing, when the planes hit and the towers fell. I'm certainly one of them.

Even as I was watching one of those shows in the History channel, it all seemed so surreal, almost as if watching a movie with a horrible ending. If I hadn't been alive when it happened, I'd probably wonder if it truly happened.

I was 38 wks pregnant with my first child. I had preeclampsia and the doctor was going to induce so I was on my way to my last office appointment. My legs were twice their size and so were my hands, and I could no longer sleep because I could not get comfortable.

The fact I was bringing a child into this world was terrifying in itself. Millions of questions raced through my mind : What if I mess up? What if I don't know how to take care of a baby? Will I ever sleep for 8 uninterrupted hours?

We got the call from mother in law about the planes, so we knew something was happening by the time we arrived at the doctor's office. Perhaps we were too self absorbed, but none of that seemed important enough, we just wanted to make sure that kid was going to be ok and that I would be around to watch her grow up.

I sat the rest of the day on the couch, at home, watching the news unfold, and wondering what kind of world I was bringing this child into. And worrying about whether I had enough diapers, clothes, bottles and all other gadgets I thought I would need.

When people talk about the events of Sept 11 and get emotional about it, I feel bad because it was one of the happiest times of my life. The anticipation of finally meeting my first child, my little girl, the excitement of finally seeing her face overshadowed anything else that happened that day.

My heart aches for the families of those who lost their lives that day. But when I look in my daughter's eyes, I know there is goodness, hope, and love still in this world.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I just felt like running...

Remember Forrest Gump? I can relate to his quote right now.

I have the itch to run again. Not just run, but train for a half marathon. 13.1 miles.

I trained for the Chicago marathon in 2007 and it was a great experience. Even though the race was cancelled and I didn't get a chance to officially finish the race, it was still one of the best experiences of my life.

I learned a lot about myself while training for Chicago. I learn that age is just a number, that there are a million excuses I could have use to quit. I had 9 month old twins and a 5 yr old when I started training, a full time career, a husband. A million excuses. The amazing group of people who trained with me helped me get through it. They have no idea how much they helped me.

In my closet, there is a somewhat new pair of running shoes. My faithful Saucony Omni shoes, that got me through the streets of Chicago last October. Should I bring them out of retirement?

The 2nd MS Blues Marathon is coming up in January 2009. Last year, I was an spectator, happy to cheer for the runners, some of whom have become my friends. This year, I want to be one of the runners.

Training won't be easy, but the best things in life never are. I find myself missing those long runs from my training last year, when it was just me and the pavement. That section of my day when it's all about me, and what I can do, how far I can run.

Then there is my daughter, who will be 7 on Friday. She wants to run the Kids Marathon portion of the Blues. She has been asking when we are going to run together so she can start logging in her miles. There is no better incentive than to set the example for her.

So I may be running the Blues, and passing the torch to my daughter.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Working and parenting

If you have been watching the news lately, this has been a hot topic lately, because of Sarah Palin's nomination as VP for the GOP.

First, let me say this blog is not about politics. I don't agree with Palin's viewpoints, and this has nothing to do with her qualifications to be a potential VP.

I am, however, a working mother like her. I juggle a career and motherhood the same way she does. Since her nomination, I have heard (in several TV newscasts) reporters questioning whether she would be able to perform as a VP, not because of her experience but because she is a MOTHER.

As if the simple fact she has kids makes her less qualified to perform a job. Like I said, I'm not one of her fans and you won't hear me sing her praises or pledging my support. But I do think it's unfair to assume that because she is a mother, she is incapable of doing a good job, regardless of what that job may be.

As a working mother, I have had to endure my share of comments from people "oh, I'm so SORRY you have to work", or "you must have no time to do X, Y, Z with the kids".
Or they'll make comments about my kids being cared for by other people, or about me loving my career more than my children.

Most of the time, these comments are ignored because I know what's true, and because I don't feel these people deserve an explanation as to the reason for my choices.

Now that a working mother has been put in the spotlight, the same old question has come up again, can a woman have it all? Has anyone questioned whether a man can be a good father and also the President of this country? Does anyone ever question whether a man can have it all, a happy family and a good career?

Being a working mother is not easy, it is a juggling act. We struggle to be the best mothers, best wives, and still have a successful career. Our cars are overrun by toys, books, backpacks, and empty juice boxes. So are our houses. There are toys in the kitchen, and cups in the bedrooms. There are piles of laundry waiting to be done, and piles of clothes waiting to be folded. Most of the time, we hope people will call ahead before visiting so we can at least pick up some of the mess. There are crayon markings on our walls, and fingerprints on the windows, and probably cheerios under the cushions of the sofa.

Make no mistake, we are not lazy. Our houses are not a wreck because we can't handle a career and a home. They are a mess, at least mine is, because we CHOOSE to spend our free time with our kids. We rather snuggle under a blanket and watch Mary Poppins for the 1000th time than clean the house, or do the laundry. We rather go to soccer games, or dance practice, or listen to our kids practice their piano lessons, than stress over how our house may look if someone shows up.

What kind of mothers we are have nothing to do with what we do for a living. I have known mothers who stay home and spend no time with their kids (and will admit so). The kids are in front of the TV while they are preoccupied with keeping up with the Joneses. I have met other moms who make me want to stay home and imitate them. I have met working mothers who make it look easy, and who will be happy to give you the number to their cleaning ladies.

I don't believe my qualifications as an engineer depend on whether or not I have a family, the same way I don't think Sarah Palin's depend on her having one. We must stop putting working mothers down, or making them feel as if they don't love their kids enough. There are many of us who work because we have to and not because we want to. There are many of us who chose to work because we feel we can make a difference in this world, and want our kids to believe they, too, can have it all.Even if having it all means having a house in disarray.

I am proud of being a working mother. One day, my daughter will have to make her own decision, and my sons will be able to support their wives in their decisions, and I hope it will be because I set a good example. Whatever those decisions are, I hope they understand they too can have it all.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

New habits, old habits, haircuts, DNC, RNC, Hanna, Ike...

So many things to blog about, so little time.

I was happily surprised to see the money I spend on private education is being put to good use. At least some of it. Part of my duties as the mother of a first grader include attending a mandatory meeting. This meeting is designed to tell us what our kids are going to learn, and how we can help them study at home. In the meeting, they mentioned the kids would be bringing home an "agenda" to keep up with their homework assignments, tests, etc.

First I thought I had misread the list of school supplies because I never bought an agenda. Then they told us they would provide one. I figured it would be a regular notebook, where they could write their assignments and we, the parents, could keep up with it.

She brought the agenda home yesterday for the first time. I started looking through and it looked vaguely familiar. Then I read the intro pages and the agenda is geared towards kids and based on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

How cool is that? Yes, I'm showing my geek side by getting excited about something like this. But I think it's awesome she is learning to be organized at an early age, and even moreso, that she is being introduced to some great ideas at an early age.

On to the old habits part. I really need to quit drinking coffee. I quit before but I love my coffee. Or at least I need to make an effort to add more calcium into my diet. Osteoporosis runs in my family and I should really make a serious effort to exercise more and eat more calcium rich foods.

I'm getting a new haircut today. Not sure what yet, but I want to try something new and different. I picked up a magazine at Walmart and they have gazillion different short styles in one magazine. I decided not to buy it, otherwise I would probably never be able to pick just one. Whatever I pick, it will be better than the mop I'm sporting right now.

DNC, RNC... Have been watching both, listening to both sides spew venom about the other candidates. I WANT TO HEAR YOUR STAND ON THE ISSUES! Why is that so hard? I get that you have to badmouth the other guy because it's expected. But I'm more interested to hear YOUR stand on the issues that matter to me: the war, the economy, abortion, immigration, energy. Then I can draw my own conclusions about you and the other candidate.

It's a little insulting to hear over and over again the candidates tell me why I shouldn't pick the other guy. I want you to tell me why I should pick YOU over the guy. Americans are smart enough to make their own conclusions (at least I like to think so, but then, we have made some dumb decisions in the past when it comes to presidential elections). Present the facts about your plan and let us draw our own conclusions.

I'm looking forward to the first debate, not only because I want to see the candidates finally answer questions about the issues, but because it's at my beloved Ole Miss campus. But Tim Russert will be missed, I really like watching his show. I wonder who will be the moderator?

Then there is Hanna and Ike, headed somewhere. Will they come close to us, will people evacuate next time, will they stay put? I see all these "forecasters" trying to tell us where the hurricane is going. Please, you can't even tell me with precision whether it's going to rain tomorrow!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Resurrecting this old blog

It's been a while since I updated this blog. Lots has happened, mostly life so it's been hard to catch up.

We went to Panama in July and had a great time. This was our first, big vacation as a family of 5 so we had our challenges. Overall, it was a great experience. I learned that my kids are better behaved than I thought, and that my husband is more patient and understanding than I give him credit for.

Our family had a chance to spend time with the rest of the family, and that was great. My kids immediately embraced this new group of folks as if they had always known them. They enjoyed everything, the food, the places. We had meltdowns, as would be expected, but I think they were born to travel.

My husband had a chance to see where I grew up, my home, the place where I came to be. He says he liked it (did you, really?). But I wonder if it has made a difference for him to truly know where I came from and all the obstacles I had to overcome, and to meet the people closest to me, even after all these years?

It was great to see my family and spend time with them. I am ready to go back, this time Candace has requested an "only girls" trip. I really hope we can do that next time. It was great to show her where I grew up, and tell her about what my life was like when I was her age.

Came back to MS and to work and then life got hectic again. Trips to the ER because one fell off the couch and later busted his lip. Everyone is fine now.
Work was crazy busy during the month of August, I'm still trying to catch up.

Then school started. We are the parents of a first grader, and I feel like I'm the one in school. There is math homework, phonics homework, reading homework... Not to mention piano lessons, dance lessons, soccer lessons, and soon First Communion classes. My little girl is growing up way too fast, in 2 weeks she will be celebrating her 7th birthday!

Back in June, I took the seminar on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and now I'm trying to implement those. Turns out it was harder than I thought but I have discovered there are things I can do on a daily basis that will help me be a better mother and wife, not to mention a better person. Taking the time to think about what I can do every week to make a difference in one of those roles is really having an impact in my life. Still a work in progress though.

Then there is the world around me. Hurricanes and political conventions. We were better prepared for Gustav than we were for Katrina, a good thing considering we have 2 more kids than we did back then.
Political elections bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. I hope it brings out the best in me, although I have to admit I'm not perfect. I get easily annoyed by narrow minded people who believe their way and their beliefs are the only ones that are valid.
No two people are ever going to agree on anything, not even my twin boys who shared the womb.

So it gets very annoying when people share their political views and get highly offended because others don't see it the way they do, or because others don't agree with them.
I find it highly offensive for someone to assume I'm not intelligent enough to formulate my own opinion and expects me to adopt theirs.

I believe what I believe. Simple as that. My viewpoint is not the only one. I see the world the way I do because of my life experiences. I don't expect other people to see the world the same way if they haven't walked in my shoes. And no one has walked in my exact path, and even those who have walked a very similar path, have different views.

I like to debate about politics and religion but have discovered most people don't want to debate, they want to argue. They want to tell me my views are wrong and "convert" me. I really enjoy watching people get all worked up about their political views, and why their way is the best way for America.

I'm an outsider, an immigrant. Growing up, my country was under a socialist regime where healthcare is provided by the government, and education is at the top of the list. I find myself trying to dissect the messages both major political parties give and find the one that closely resembles my ideals. Neither do, there is no party that truly represents me, 100% of my convictions. There couldn't be; simply because I'm just one and the party represents the many.

Liberal, conservative. I'm not sure where I fall. I'm too liberal to be a conservative and too conservative to truly be a liberal. I vote on the ISSUES, not along party lines.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where in the world...?

I often get asked is "Where is Panama?". When I first moved here, I was actually surprised that my classmates had no clue Panama was actually a country, and not the city in Florida.

It is not an island, and yes, there is a country of Panama, not just the canal. Even though the Canal is what most people know about the country, there is a whole lot more about this tiny piece of land I call home.

It borders Costa Rica and Colombia, and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. There is actually a place in my province where, on a clear day, you can see both oceans at once. Pretty cool, right?

On this map (from Mapquest), you can see Panama City. On the left side, close to the water, it's my hometown David.

I'm really excited about going home soon. For the first time since I left home (19 years ago) I'm going home as a "tourist". It really is different but I have the chance to rediscover my home, and all it has to offer. I'm so excited to show it to my husband and kids, and even more so, to see if through their eyes.

Of course, there is still lots of packing to do, and the trip is weeks away. But I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Making a list...

...Not checking twice. At least not yet.

I haven't updated this blog in ages. I really do not have anything too exciting happening on a day to day basis.

Let's see if I can do a quick recap of my "rock star life", shall we?

*Family time
*House work
*Trip planning.

Nothing too exciting, as you can see. For the most part anyway.

I'm still ironing out the last details of our trip. Royal pain in the you-know-what. Panama has become quite a tourist attraction, specially Panama City. I've been looking for reasonable hotels in a safe area for weeks now. Would you believe a room at a Country Inn and Suites costs $130 per night in the LOW season? I was quite surprised, to be honest.
I would be lying if I said there weren't cheaper hotels. There are, and some have great reviews from other travelers. The problem is some of them do not have rooms big enough for us. So even though they would be great for a couple, or even a couple and a child, they could not accomodate a family of 5 and all the paraphernalia we have to travel with.
I think I finally narrow it down to 2 B&B, in a nice area and with the room we need.

Then there is the fly vs. rent a car dilemma.

My family lives to the northwest of Panama City, a 6 hr drive, right on the border with Costa Rica. There are flights from Panama City every day but these are small "puddle jumpers", so they have weight restrictions on the luggage. The twins would not pay fare, but would have to ride on our lap (about 1 hr flight). But we would have to pay for their luggage since they don't have a ticket.
Once you add up the airfare for the 3 of us who have to pay, and the extra for the luggage, it's a pretty penny.

So I figured I could find out how much a rental car would be. We have to drive back to Panama City anyway since that's where the international airport is. All the major rental agencies are there (Budget, Avis, Dollar, National, etc), so I figured this should be a piece of cake.
WRONG. More like a pain in the neck.

These agencies do NOT take debit cards, period. Seems like no big deal except we do NOT have credit cards. We got rid of them a long time ago, and since our debit cards work at most places, we don't want one either.

So after contacting agency after agency, and hearing over and over again they do not take cash or debit cards, I came across a locally owned agency who was willing to let me use cash and pay a deposit. I never thought I'd deal with businesses who rather deal with plastic than with good ol' cash. You live, you learn...

So that's two big things that are finally coming together. Now I have to make a list (yes, a list) of people I want to see once I get to my hometown. God forbid I forget anyone, I'm sure my citizenship would be revoked! And a list of other places I want my family to see. That part should be a piece of cake since we have lodging already (courtesy of family and friends); and I'm more familiar with the area.

I guess I should start packing or at least making a list of things to take with us. I hate packing, period. Now you can imagine what I'll be going thru packing for 5 people.

I'll be good and update more now that I'm getting closer to the trip and afterwards. I want to do a travel journal (sort of) with pictures and such once I return.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And the saga continues...

I've been home the last 2 day with a sick child. By sick, I mean by daycare standards. Because his behavior was far from sick.
Sunday, I noticed his left eye was red. Considering the day before he had dumped bubble solution on his head, I figured that was probably the problem. But by Monday morning, his other eye was also red and had some goo in it.

Headed to the doctor, where all 3 of the kids proceeded to take over the waiting room. This included the supposely sick child, who was leaping off chairs, and causing all sort of ruckus.

Dr said it was pink eye and also an ear infection we didn't know about. Thankfully we caught it early. Kept him home yesterday. His eyes were miraculously back to normal yesterday. No discharge, no redness. I think it may have been allergies rather than pink eye.

Anyway, they are back at daycare, oldest child is spending the day with her grandmother, and I'm at work.

Now on to my update on the bank saga. Let me see if I can recap this without my blood pressure going thru the roof.

Talked to the VP at the bank, who proceeded to inform me the charges are indeed legitimate because, well, these merchants had my name (nooooo, really?) and debit card information and therefore the charges were made either by me (no, it was not me) or my husband (who doesn't even know my SS#, much less debit card info).

To make a long story short, I gave him a piece of my mind. Yes, the merchants had my name and debit card because someone stole my IDENTITY. That's the reason I reported it as IDENTITY THEFT. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if someone steals your identity, they are going to pretend to be you. Maybe it does take a scientist because this is beyond the level of comprehension of the VP at the bank.
Also, his implying that I am indeed responsible for the charges because "I have bought other things online" is insulting to say the least. Yes, I have bought books at Amazon and a pinata for my kids at the Sesame Street store online. BUT I'm NOT disputing those charges. I made those, I did not make the ones I am disputing in my letter.

Besides, why would I go through all this trouble if I was indeed responsible for the charges?

So, I got some of my $ back. I am pissed off and let him know just how pissed I was. I'm opening an account at a credit union, and taking my money out of this stupid bank. Not before I find out the credit union's policy regarding ID theft.

Then again, I may just go back to using cash only.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Public Service announcement

The last story was funny, even if it happened to me.

This one, not so much. Consider this a public service announcement.

Since the end of April, we have been navigating the maze that is identity theft. Yes folks, ID theft. I wish it was as simple as someone stole my wallet, and used my info. It is not. This is one of those cases featured in shows like Twilight zone. At least it feels like I'm on the twilight zone. Some of you have heard most of the story. Now it's the rest of the story.

Since this is a LONG story, I'll give you the gist of it.
  • Bank statement arrives in the mail. While checking it, I find out that there are charges there I don't recognize. I asked husband if he made those, he doesn't know where they came from either. Charges are made by Skype.com and EAuction.com, never heard of either nor have procured their services.
  • I bank with a local bank in my town, and since I work in Jackson, husband went to the bank to report it (account is in both of our names). Bank person tells him the charges were made using my debit card information so I have to report it in person before they can reverse the charges.
  • My debit card was still in my wallet. It was not physically stolen, someone stole the name and numbers off the card, and I still had the card. Bizarre.
  • Took time off work to go to the bank and report the incident. I gave the bank person a letter with my signature saying these charges were fraudulent, I did not authorize them, someone has stolen my info. Bank person tells me they will credit the account and investigate. If the investigation shows the charges are legitimate, they will take the credit back. I'm certain the charges are not legitimate because I did not make them. I also had them cancel the debit card to avoid any future charges. I leave the bank in good spirits, thinking their investigation will reveal who stole and use the info.
  • In the meantime, I called EAuction (their 800 # was on the bank statement). They tell me I bought some sort of websearch system from them. That was NOT me but they have my name and debit card on their system. They cancel the account and supposely mark it as FRAUD. What they forgot to tell me is yet ANOTHER charge was made to the account just the day before I called them. bastards.
  • I tried to find a number for Skype but was not successful. I sent a message thru their website, asking for a phone number where I can properly report the fraud to them. 10 days later, I received an email asking that I send them the debit card number so they can tag the account as fraud. As if I'm going to fall for that one! and no phone number to contact them.
  • Letter arrives from the bank telling me their investigation revealed the charges are legitimate. EXCUSE ME??? They have asked the "merchant" and they said it was legitimate so they are taking the credit back. WHAT?? Letter is on plain white paper and not even signed. Considering these people handle MY money, I expect a letter on letterhead and with a signature.
  • In case you haven't noticed, by this point, there are flames coming out of my mouth and ears. Not only is the bank's letter less than professional, it offers no insight on the supposed investigation. That's when I decided to do some research on my own. I came across a website (ripoffreport.com) where people from all over the country have similar complaints about these two companies. Apparently, this is not an isolated incident.
  • I also went to the MS Attorney General's website and found information as to what to do now. Filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, with the Attorney General, and visited the local police department. They still are not sure how to file the report since this crime is a cybercrime and I have no clue who stole the information. Still talking to police investigators and won't give up until a formal complaint is filed.
  • As for the bank, they received a rather lengthy letter from me, retelling the story and asking for copies of all documents generated during the investigation. These are the documents supposely used to arrive to the conclusion the charges were legitimate.

I still have no debit card, because the new one I have applied for hasn't arrived. Still nothing has been resolved by the bank, and these people have gotten my money, to the tune of $150. I hope no one has to go thru this. I thought these things could only happen if you banked online (I don't) or if my wallet was stolen. Apparently thieves these days are experts at stealing your money without you even noticing.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Instructions book missing...

The parenting instruction manuals are missing. You know, the ones that suppose to come with the kids? The ones that tell how to "troubleshoot" when things arise? That one. Mine are missing. None of my kids had one with them. How am I suppose to know what to do when they "malfunction"?

A manual would have come in handy yesterday.

I arrived at daycare to find one of the boys on timeout. Apparently he had decided to climb on a table, and when the teacher asked him to get down, he laughed at her. I know that routine all too well. He has done this before, he is a daredevil. Or may be he thinks he is Superman. I'm of the opinion it's never too early to teach your kids how to behave, so we have been using timeouts and whatever else works for a while. Let's hope it works.

Next stop was school, to pick up my darling daughter. As I walked into the aftercare room, the director tells me she needs to speak with me outside. Oh brother, this can't be good. I quickly try to figure out what could she possibly have to say. Have we paid aftercare? Did we forget to send something she requested? Quickly, I figure out everything should be in order, and with a clueless look on my face, I wait to hear what she has to say.

My sweet child was sent to the Headmaster's office yesterday. Her offense: She decided to moon the entire playground, along with 3 of her friends.

I stood in that hallway wondering if I had heard correctly. Are we talking about the same kid? My sweet, innocent, always polite and well mannered daughter mooned the playground? There has to be some mistake, she is a girl and girls just don't do that!

I picked up my jaw from the floor and thanked the director for letting me know what happened. She asked me not to be too harsh on the child. She thinks having to talk to the Headmaster will make the kids behave from this point forward.

As I drove home, I could not wrap my brain around the incident. What could she possibly be thinking? What am I suppose to do now? Had it been someone else's kid, I would have laughed histerically and wish them luck. Laughter isn't exactly the reaction I am experiencing. Did I fail her as a parent? Have I not taught her what she needs to know about modesty and good manners?

We arrived home, where I proceeded to notify her father of the events of the day. He is also flabbergasted.

I told the child we would talk after the twins were in the bed, mainly because I need to make a few phone calls and find out HOW to handle this incident. My manual is missing, and I'm not sure what to do!

Apparently my mom found her manual after we were all grown because what she suggested didn't sound anything like what she did when were kids. She said I should ask the kid why she did it and not be too harsh. Who is this woman and where is my mother? My mother would have punish me first and ask questions later, simply because no matter what our reason was, the end result was the same.

I told my mother (or the alien who had invaded her body for a few minutes) Thanks and went to my daughter's room to find out the details. I need to know what happened, hopefully the story will give me ideas on what to do next.

Apparently, the boy in the group asked the girls to dare him to use the bathroom in the playground. They did. As he was using it, they decided to stand with him in solidarity and pull their pants down. Not to relieve themselves, just to show their support I guess.

I know you are laughing. I would be too if it wasn't my kid.

I told her why her behavior was wrong, and why I will not tolerate any more of it. I don't want to hear again that she has visited the Headmaster's office, unless she is being given an award. There will also be punishment and extra chores for her to do around the house.

Let's hope the punishment and my speech will teach her a lesson, and we don't have to worry about this ever again.

I'm still looking for the manual that should have come with her, and definitely need the one that should have come with the twins. God knows I'm going to need all the help I can get.

So if you have a manual, do you care to share it with me?

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Isn't it funny how some smells, sounds, commercials, can bring back a bunch of memories?

I received the most current Runner's World issue in the mail yesterday. I'm not sure exactly what triggered the memory, but I flashbacked to a year ago, when I was training for the Chicago Marathon.

I have not ran since Chicago. I didn't think not being able to finish would have such a big impact in my life. After all, it wasn't my fault. I didn't quit, the marathon did. I still believe I would have finished if given the chance.

The months following Chicago were difficult. I had trained so hard, for so long, and didn't get to accomplish the goal I had set for myself. I had sacrificed time away from my kids and my husband to train for this event, and it was all for nothing.

It has been 7 months since then. The wounds have healed. Even though I didn't finish the course, I came closer than I ever thought possible. I know I can run 22 miles. I know how far my body will go if I ask it to. I know I could have gone another 4 miles if allowed. I still call myself a marathoner.

So why haven't I ran in 7 months? Guilt, laziness, take your pick. I feel guilty to take time away from my kids to run. And yes, I rather sit around with the kids than get out in the humid afternoon and run a few miles.

There was something about holding that new issue of RW that sparked that desire to run again. I crave the sound of my feet pounding the pavement, the feeling of freedom, even the sweating. I like coming home after 30 minutes with a new boost of energy and being greeted at the door by my children.

I decided it's time to bring my running shoes back into rotation. My daughter is now old enough to go with me. She may not be able to run as far or as fast as me, but she'll be good company.

My goal is to run the Mississippi Blues Half Marathon on January 3. With my vacation coming up, I want to start running before we leave so I can start training once we return. Hopefully I'll be able to run the entire Chicago Marathon in 2009

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another year has passed

My twin boys are turning 2 today. How fast has time gone by!

This isn't their first birthday, but I've found myself thinking more about the day they were born than I did on thier first.
Maybe it is because the first year was harder, I was physically and mentally exhausted, and that milestone didn't really registered in my tired brain. I don't know.

All I know is 2 years ago today I became "a mother of three" and not just any three, a mother of twins.

The story goes something like this. We wanted a second child, and decided to let nature take its course. We had agreed early on we would not do any fertility treatments if things didn't happen naturally. Instead we would look into adoption.
Two years later, I had begun to research adoption, and that's when I found out we were expecting our number 2.
We told our daughter, who was 4 at the time, that she was going to have a baby brother and sister and her reply was "no, you are having 2 babies".

Little did we know she was right! On my first appointment, I asked the doctor (who is my good friend since our years at Ole Miss) if it was too early to see if there were, indeed, 2 babies in there. There are twins in my family, and well, I had a hunch. Lo and behold, there were 2 in there!

The pregnancy went better than expected. I had to go on bedrest but that's fairly normal for multiples. At exactly 34 wks and 1 day of gestation, the twins were born. One minute apart, 5 lbs and 4.5 lbs, 19 inches long.

To say my life has been changed forever would be an understatement. Anyone who is a parent has had their life changed.

It hasn't been easy, but then again, best things in life aren't always easy. Night feedings, diaper changes, laundry, everything multiplied by 3.

So are the hugs, the kisses, the "I love you", the smiles, the moments that you wish you could capture in film but will stay forever in your heart.

The boys are 2 now and have forged a bond that is hard to describe to parents of singletons. They are each other's "ying yang". They laughed together, cry together, and they say their last words before drifting to sleep to each other.
And they adore their big sister more than I could have ever imagine, and she adores them back.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Making a list, checking it twice...

Who knew going on vacation could be so stressful and fun, all wrapped up in one.

I have so much to do between now and the date we leave. It seems every time I think of something, another thing puts into my mind. I'll give you an example. We are going to fly out of New Orleans (because it's cheaper). Do we want an early flight, or a later flight? Earlier flight would mean we would have to spend the night close to the airport, but we would get to our final destination earlier. It would also mean getting 3 kids up at wee hours of the morning...
The later flight would be nice, except the airports would probably be more crowded, specially when our connecting flight leaves out of Miami.

Decisions, decisions.

I have also been thinking about taking souvenirs for some of our family/friends who will be letting us stay at their house. But I have not been able to come up with something original. I don't want to get anything that they could purchase there (there are a lot of American goods sold in Panama). I want something original, from MS.

Ideas? Please share with me your ideas of souvenirs I could get.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Home Sweet Home

The last time I visited my family in Panama was Christmas of '97. I had graduated college the year before, had a new job, and this was my first trip home as an "adult".

Ten years have passed without visiting home. I guess life got in "the way". I worked full time and started graduate school at night, later on met my husband, got married, had kids. Before I knew it, ten years had passed.

Not a day has gone by I haven't missed my family, my home. It's always there, in the back of mind, reminding me of those I left behind, of where I come from. It's a way of life for those of us who emigrate to another place.

I am finally going home after all this time, and this time I won't be alone. I am taking my husband and three children who have never seen the place of my birth, or the family that helped me become the person I am today.

Lots of planning and preparation that I wouldn't normally worry about: where to stay, should I rent a car or use public transportation, should I stay with family or in a hotel? There is a lot more to worry about when you are responsible for making this trip memorable for those you love.

I want this trip to be perfect, still I know nothing ever is. I want my husband to fall in love with the place of my birth, to meet the family that considers him one of them even though they have never met, to see the places where my childhood memories were made.

I want my kids to meet their family and to feel a part of them. I want them to embrace their heritage, to appreciate the sacrificies of those who came before them, and to feel a part of that country where their mom came to be.

Most of all, I want to go home and find that teenager, full of dreams and hopes, who left her home at 15 without knowing if she would ever come back, or if she would ever reach her dreams.

I want her to see the person she became, and the legacy she will leave on this planet in the lives of her children.