Friday, August 12, 2011

It was 4th grade...

We have survived the first week of school at our house.  The boys are now in kindergarten and for the first time, they are apart most of the day.  The decision to ask for separate classrooms for them wasn't easy. Then again, most parenting decisions are seldom easy.  Unless you are telling your child he has no use for an iPod at age 5.  Now that one is quite easy.

Candace is starting fourth grade, and happy-go- lucky as usual.   She has her best friends in class with her, the teacher she wanted, and life is as good as it can be, through the eyes of a nine year old.  

Every year, I pray they get good teachers.  Teachers who will not only teach them everything they need to know, but who will also make learning an exciting adventure.  I want them to have teachers like the ones I had,  teachers who will inspire them to never stop learning, who will make school a fascinating place and every school year an exciting one.

Most of my teachers were like that, with the exception of my 4th grade teacher.   She made quite an impression on me and for all the wrong reasons. 

By the time I made it to 4th grade,  I had good study habits and just LOVED school.  If they had told me I had to attend year round, I would have been the happiest kid on earth.  Learning and studying came easy for me because I had had such great teachers until then.

Fourth grade started like any other normal year for me until my teacher and I had our first "incident".  I still remember how the classroom looked, where I was sitting on that particular day, how much light was coming through the windows and the beautiful trees I could see on the other side of them. 

The teacher asked the class a question, and no one besides me raised their hand.  But she didn't call on me.  She simply ignored me and kept on with the lesson.  She asked a few more questions, and again, no one but me raised their hand.  She scowled and called on me.  I gave her the answer, and it so happened I was right.  

It was time for recess and as I was walking out of the classroom passed her, she pulled me back by my ponytail. 

She was a tall, hefty woman, and I was a tiny 9 year old, much smaller than Candace is.  Imagine for a second this woman, pulling on my ponytail, and holding my head back so she could look me in the eyes and say "You think you are very smart, don't you?".  
I vividly remember looking straight into her eyes, and replying "Yes, I AM smart", and the look of disgust in her face when she realized she had not intimidated me.
I went home and told my parents, and my dad went to school the next day to speak to her.  I'm not sure what all he said, but she never spoke to me that way again or put a hand on me.  She barely made eye contact the rest of the school year.  I still made As and was at the top of my class but the impression this woman made on me has remained even 28 years later.

Without knowing, she taught me a valuable lesson, how to stand up for myself, regardless of how formidable my opponent may be.  She didn't ruin my love for school, she didn't make me self conscious about my ability to learn and do well.  I wonder now if I did so well to prove to her I was smart and not afraid to show it.

I'm not sure what became of her, or if she ever treated another child the same way she treated me.  I surely hope not.  I pray no one ever does that to any of my kids either, or any child for that matter.

Friday, July 1, 2011

On Life and other things

It has been a while since I blogged.  Blame it on life, I simply got busy, then started thinking I really have nothing to say.  You can figure out the rest.
I still may not have anything to say but blogging is quite therapeutic for me, and lord knows, I'm in need of therapy these days.  So here it goes.

Summer is here, and with it, the most torturous time in a woman's life: Bathing Suit Season.  Life was so much easier 10 years ago, when I was fit and in great shape, and stupid enough to pass on the opportunity to wear a two piece.
Here I am now, older, wiser (ha!), and with three kids who love everything water.  Of course, I no longer have that body, but now I'm forced to either go to the pool in a t-shirt and shorts, or find a bathing suit that "flatters" my new figure.

The first thing people tell me when I say I'm on a diet is "why, you don't need to lose weight".  Well, looks can be (and are in my case) deceiving.  I can afford to lose 15 pounds and still be within the recommended weight range for my height.  But that's easier said than done.  The older I've gotten, the harder it is to get rid of the weight.  So I'm embarking (again!) on that journey.  Wish me luck.  I love food.

As if trying to lose weight was not enough, I've also been dealing with the "blues" lately.  And I don't mean the BB King, Breeze Kings type. 
Call it the blues, depression, under the weather, it really boils down to one thing, you just feel blah, without energy or desire to do anything, not even those things you enjoy the most.

I have found most people have a misguided idea that one has to have a reason to be depressed in order to suffer from depression.  If I had a $1 for every time I've been asked "why are you depressed, you have a great _______", I'd have enough money to take a European vacation.
I'm no expert when it comes to mental illness, but I do know, in my case at least, I don't need a reason.  It just happens.  I've been told by those who know more about depression than I, that it can be caused by stress.  well, hello!  Working mother of 3 on aisle one!  

Other people have pointed out I must not be a good Christian, otherwise I would not be affected by depression.  Their logic is, if you trust in the Lord, then you don't have anything to be worried/stressed about.  Sounds simple, right?  In my opinion, if they were better Christians, they would be trying to HELP, not JUDGE.  But I digress.

Different people get affected differently, and for me stress is a trigger.  Most of the time I can "see" it coming, I can notice when doing normal things becomes harder and when the things I enjoy fall by the wayside.  I missed all the signs this last time, and didn't realize what was happening until it had already happened.  It took having an anxiety attack (another one of those fun side effects) to realize something was off.

Thing is, most people don't have a clue I've been dealing with this.  I still get out of bed every day, go to work every day, take care of the house/kids/chores/husband (not in that order), and do the things that need to get done in order to keep our life in order.  
Some people think depressed people are in a dark room, sleep all the time, never seeing anyone.  I guess there are some of those people out there, but I'm not one of them.  Unless you knew me well, you probably wouldn't see a difference in me.

Aside from the "blah" feeling, my body sends me signals too.  I get the aches and pains that make me wonder if my parents got my birthday wrong in the birth certificate.  All of those are a sign that something is off.

I'm on the other side of the D valley now.  One step at a time, climbing back out of the pit.  Good days and bad days.  Granted, anyone who reads this will know, but those who don't, will probably not notice a difference at all.  

And that's my point for this rambling. (I do have a point!).  Never judge a book by its cover.  Someone may be dealing with something big and show no signs whatsoever.  Be kind to everyone and treat people as you would like to be treated; because you never know what they are dealing with.

One last word of advice, if someone tells you they are dealing with weight issues, or depression; be supportive.  Life is a challenge without having to answer 20 questions every time you share a bit about yourself with others.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: Love Walked In and Belong to me- Marisa de los Santos

There are books you read simply because you love books. You flip through the pages, discovering the characters, and taking a look into their lives.

Then there are books that touch something inside your heart. The characters are more than just people on paper, they become a part of your life, their lives intertwine with yours. You can feel what they feel, their happiness, their fears, their apprehensions.

Love Walked in, and Belong to me belong in latter category. At least for me.

I read Love Walked In first. I had come across it while looking for books in Paperback Swap several months ago. In all honesty, it was the author's name that first incited my curiosity. I love reading Spanish/Latin authors, and her name made me wonder about her heritage. Still that wasn't enough for me to request the book. Months passed before I stumbled upon it again and this time I decided to give it a shot and see what it is about. I'm glad I did.

The main characters in this novel are Cornelia and Clare. Cornelia is a coffee shop manager in Philadelphia, and Clare is an 11 year old girl. In the first chapters in the book, we meet them and find out that Cornelia is still trying to figure out the rest of her life, loves her family even if they can drive her crazy at times (isn't that true of all families?). Clare is an only child who has never met her father. She has an eccentric mother and has begun to worry that her mom is off because of her erratic behavior.

I have to admit, the first few chapters I simply didn't understand how these two characters would find their way to each other. And that was the reason I kept on reading the book. I was hooked then.

A handsome man walks in the coffee shop one day and Cornelia, who is a fan of old Hollywood movies, believes this is the man of her dreams. We see how their relationship develops and how Cornelia begins to suspect that, perhaps, she was too quick on her assessment of him being the perfect guy.

So where is the love that walked in, as the title suggests? It isn't a romantic love. Clare turns out to be the daughter of Cornelia's boyfriend, the one he never mentioned until Clare showed at his doorsteps, having been abandoned by her bipolar mother.

It is the love between Clare and Cornelia that touched my heart, the love that walked in. Once she gets over the initial shock, Cornelia realizes that Clare has no one and needs her. And she begins to realize how much she needs Clare too.

Through the book, we see the bond between Cornelia and Clare grow stronger, until they become family. Don't we all have those people in our life, who weren't born into our blood family but are family nonetheless? I know I do.

Cornelia finds real love, Clare finds her mother again, and the book ends with Cornelia making the difficult decision to put some distance between her and Clare to allow Clare and her mom to bond once again. It was the love between these two strangers that touched my heart and made me realize that this same type love is still alive in this world.

Belong to me is not a sequel to Love Walked in. But Cornelia, her now husband Teo, and Clare are in this book also. I read the book because I could not wait to see what had happened to Cornelia and Clare.

Cornelia chooses to move out of the city into suburbia. Clare is living with her mom, being a typical teenager. Cornelia struggles making new friends in a place where people worry so much about appearances, about their kids attending the right school, having a manicured lawn, etc.

We meet Dev who is an incredibly intelligent teenager trying to fit in. His mother moves him across the country and they settle in the same neighborhood as Cornelia and Teo. Dev has never met his father. Cornelia becomes friends with Dev's mother Lake.

There is also Piper who is a model suburbia mother, trying to keep all things in order while trying to be there for her best friend Elizabeth who is dying of cancer. Piper is not an easy character to like. But through the illness and death of Elizabeth we begin to see her human side. She and Cornelia eventually become friends.

I guess this book is more about secrets, about pretending to be something you are not, and about letting people into your life.
We all have secrets, some darker than others. In this book, we see those secrets come to the surface. Piper has secrets and begins to realize she has not allowed herself to live her life because she has been too worried about what people would think of her. Lake has a secret that has dictated her cross country move and that shakes her relationship with her son Dev after it is revealed.

We see Cornelia and Clare still close, still family. And when everyone's secrets finally come out, it is that closeness, that sense of family that allows Cornelia to get passed the hurt, the shock, and embrace this new family that has opened up.

I loved every character in these two books. I loved their humanity. I'm sure everyone knows at least one person who resembles one of the characters. They are real, they have emotions, secrets, and aspirations as the rest of us. And their lives may resemble our own. They are human to me, and they reminded me of the good still left in this world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review: Can you keep a secret? by Sophia Kinsella

I'm participating in a reading challenge this year. The fact is I love books but needed a way to "spice up" what I read. Hence my decision to do this book challenge. It has proven to be a good decision!

How did I come about this book? I guess I should start by saying this is not the type of book I normally would pick up at the library. In a normal day, I would have passed right by it without a second glance. But one of the categories for this challenge is a Random book. One you just stumble upon at random, without thinking.

I marched into the local library with the idea the chosen book would find its way into my hands. Isn't that how random works? I tried to recall all the theories about randomness I heard while in school. Alas, none came to me. Still I just knew the book would find its way into my hands.

And it did. As I was walking down the aisle, waiting for the book to say "pick me, pick me", this book with pink cover stood out. I had to pick it up. For starters, why a pink cover? I'm not a fan of pink, so that was clue #1 this book may be a contender. Under normal circumstances, the color of the cover alone would have made me pass right by it without a second glance. I read the title and I knew I had to read it. I had to find out what this secret was about.

The book I read is "Can you keep a secret" by Sophia Kinsella. I'll be honest, I had only heard of her at passing. I found out later she has a trilogy of Shopaholic books. I'm not a big shopper, so never had any desire of reading these books.

I read the book in 2 days, I simply could not put it down. It was the perfect book for the kind of week I was having. I had a house full of sick children and one adult, and needed something to help me unwind at the end of the day.
Call it chick lit, or whatever you want. The fact is the minute I met Emma Corrigan, I liked her. She reminded me of most every one of my friends, wrapped up in one. She is trying to get ahead in the corporate world, while trying to figure out what exactly she wants out of life. Haven't we all experienced that at some point in our lives? I know I have.

Emma happens to hate flying, not something I share with her, as I wish I could fly to work every single day. She is flying back home after disastrous work meeting and ends up telling all her secrets to a complete stranger on the plane. She thought she was going to die and felt the need to tell someone all those things. The plane had hit turbulence and she was absolutely certain this was it. So she spilled the beans, from how she is killing a coworker's plant by feeding orange juice to what type of underwear she despises, and everything in between.

To say I like Emma is an understatement. I liked her immediately, mostly because I cannot imagine ever sharing my secrets with a strange man on an airplane.

Turns out the stranger is the CEO of the company she works for. Of course, she has no idea who he is until he shows up at work the next day and she realizes that's the man from the plane.

Their story takes a lot of delicious twists and turns that could never be captured accurately in film. The type of stuff that makes you stay awake passed your bedtime (even though you have to be up before the crack of dawn) just because you have to know what's going to happen to Emma next.

I devoured this book as easily as I devour a Ghiardelli chocolate bar. Guilty pleasure. I enjoyed meeting Emma, rejoiced with her when she found love, and felt her pain when she had her heart broken on national tv.

As I said before, I love books. Some are easier to read than others, some have a complex plot line that requires you to pay attention so you don't miss a thing. If you are looking for a delightful story that will make you laugh out loud, and cheer for a unlikely heroine, this book is for you. If you want a break from big complex fiction plots and just want to read something lighthearted, this book is for you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reading Challenge

I love to read, and love books (as the collection of them all over my house will attest). So I've decided to participate in a reading challenge this year.

I found out about this challenge from a member of Paperback Swap (long story!) but I'm glad I did because I love challenges and this one should be fun. Wanna know more about the challenge? You can go to her page where it is all explained.

Every book I read I will review on this blog too. Maybe someone will want to pick one of these books, plus it will help keep track of all I've read so far.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another year

So yesterday I added yet another year to my birthday number. I like birthdays. I know some people don't like to think about them because that means they are getting older.

But I like birthdays. As a kid, birthdays were a big celebration. Big party, entire neighborhood invited, grown up and kids celebrating together. Everyone happy to celebrate the birth of that particular person. We wore new outfits for the occasion and got showered with attention and love from everyone.

Even though I'm older, I still get excited about birthdays. Not because of the party or the presents, although those are nice too, but because they mean I made it through another year. I love the fact my birthday follows so closely to the new year. I don't have to wait months and months to start living another 'yearly adventure'.

Last year was a year of self discovery for me. You'd think at 37 I would know all there is to know about myself. I don't, and I hope I never do. The fact I'm still growing as a person and learning about myself means I'm still capable of dreaming. At least that's what it means to me.

Self discovery is not easy and it isn't always pleasant. This past year wasn't exactly a walk in the park. I stood in front of an imaginary mirror and took a hard look at the person I am. While looking, I found things I never noticed were there. Or may I did know, and simply hadn't paid much attention to it.

Regardless, the journey was difficult. I had to learn to accept the flaws that mirror showed me, the rough edges that are going to need some attention in the near future. But that journey, as difficult as it may have been, brought me to this point.

I am very comfortable with myself now. Make no mistake, I was comfortable with me when last year's birthday came. But I had no idea what the year would be like. I had no clue about the disappointments that loomed at a distance. I had no clue that my integrity and my character would be challenged. The person who emerged from this self discovery journey is stronger, and happier than the one who started the journey.

So here I stand, on day one of the next year of my life. I'm ready for whatever challenges will come my way this year. I am happier, and much more comfortable in my own skin. You know how people sometimes say "Oh, how I wish I could back to when I was X years old". I never have. Every year has been special and has left wonderful memories. But I wouldn't want to go back.

Sometimes I see the person I was at 23, and realize how little I knew then. The years that have passed since then have made me a stronger, more secure person. If I could give her advice, I would tell her nothing. She has to experience life for herself so she can reach this point in her life.

So I raise my glass and toast my last 37 years of life, and look forward to the next 37. May they all be full of adventures. Salud!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Illegal Immigrant Bill- MS Legislature

I'm pretty certain many of my friends are going to disagree with me on this post. I respect their opinion and I hope they grant me the same respect on mine.

I happened to notice this article today. Normally, I don't discuss my opinions on bills passed in the legislature with anyone beside my closest friends and family. If there is something I have learned through the years, you don't discuss religion or politics with people you aren't sure will be able to "agree to disagree" with you.

But this particular bill hits home for me because I am an IMMIGRANT. Note I capitalize that because there is a difference among immigrants. Some of us are here legally, others are not. This post isn't about illegal immigration per se.

What it is about is how I don't think this bill would help defray illegal immigrants from coming to the state looking for work. All this bill will do is nurture the fear and prejudice of people, who think all who are different from them represent a threat to their way of life.

I happen to be one of those people who is different. I am an immigrant, I speak another language beside English. And yes, people have said to my face I am a threat to them, that I am taking jobs from their family. I had to laugh, I hate to admit it. I laughed. I am a professional engineer with 2 degrees in Engineering but I was taking a job away from a high school dropout. Yet there are more people like this person out there.

I am a US citizen, have been a citizen for many years. Even before I became a citizen, I paid taxes like the rest of the people in this state. I'm also fortunate enough to serve the taxpayers of this state by the work I do for a state agency. As you see, I don't feel I'm a threat to anyone. I am a registered voter, I am involved in my community, I attend church regularly, I follow the letter of the law.

Yet if this bill becomes law, I will become a threat only because of the way I look. That law would give a police officer the right to stop me just because he has probable cause to think I may be an illegal immigrant. And that probable cause would be the way I look.

I know what you are thinking. Why are you worried if you are a US citizen? You have nothing to worry about. Not exactly. You see, none of you (black or white) walks around with a copy of your birth certificate in your pocket or purse. You don't have to. I have no proof of my citizenship in my purse either. I wasn't given a handy card I could carry in my pocket to prove to anyone I am a citizen of this country. I was given a 8" by 11" document that specifically says it is NOT to be copied for any purpose.

I have a driver license, but a driver license does not prove citizenship. I wonder how many people know that. So even though I have a driver license issued by this state, I could still be detained because it does not prove I am here legally or that I am a citizen.

I think the times and efforts of the MS Legislature would be better spent coming up with a bill that levies heavier penalties on companies who hired illegal workers. Companies are getting away with a slap on the wrist and little else.

Let's face it, people come here in search of the American dream. If they can't find it here because they are not finding jobs, they will leave. No one wants to live on the streets, folks, I can attest to it.

In my opinion, this bill will do nothing more than to nurture the prejudice and racism of some who think anyone who looks different than them is unworthy of living in civilized society.

Let's find a solution to the problem without alienating people, without making those of us lucky enough to stand out in a crowd feel like criminals, even when we are not.

And if it becomes law, look for me in the 10 o'clock news. I'll be the one screaming while getting arrested for not having proof of citizenship with me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Working mother???

From time to time, the whole "working mother" dilemma raises up its ugly head and gets me all worked up.

You see, all mothers are working mothers. I have yet to meet one that didn't work. Being a working mom is part of the deal. It starts with feeding that tiny baby and it gets more demanding as the kids get older.
There are no sick days, no holidays, no vacation days. When you are sick, your "job" is still there, and boy, they expect you to take care of them just as if nothing was happening. Holidays? I'm willing to bet we work overtime without any extra pay. As for vacations, who else takes work with them on vacation?. Enough said.

You see, aside from being a mother, I am also an environmental engineer. I love what I do, I have the privilege of taking care of this beautiful earth God has entrusted us, and get paid for it. It is not easy to juggle a home with a job outside the house, but I feel my kids are well adjusted and know just how much I love them.

The part that aggravates me and gets me all riled up is when people assume that mothers who have a paid job outside their homes care less about their kids than those who can stay home with them. Let's get real. In today's world, it is very common for both parents to work in order to provide for their kids a good education, a comfortable home, and put food on the table. We are no exception to that.

We don't own fancy cars, we don't dress in expensive clothes, or take lavish vacations. We live within our means, and share our blessings with those less fortunate whenever we have a chance. The fact still remains I have to work. I just happen to be lucky enough to LOVE my job too.

That doesn't mean I don't love my kids. There is nothing I would not do for them. Except allowing them to go without food, or get less than an exceptional education. That I will not allow, specially when I am capable and willing to work to provide for them.

So yeah, I get insulted when people assume I work because I don't like being home with the kids. Or because my career is more important to me than the kids are. But the insult is even worse when it comes from another mother, one who is fortunate enough to be able to stay home with her kids.

Why must mothers put other mothers down? We are all in this together. I have good friends who work outside the home just like I do, and good friends who stay home with the kids. We are all on the same boat, trying to do what is best for our kids.

I know, we all tell ourselves our choices are the best choices. Some of us think our choice to work and provide a little extra for our kids is best; while others think staying home with them is the best decision. Whatever works for you and your family is the best decision, there is no "one choice fits all" in this situation.

So if you are a mom, regardless of whether you get a paycheck at your job, or your paycheck comes in hugs and kisses, please remember: We are all mothers, we all love our kids, and we are all in this together.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Our brain is doing what?

Santa delivered a Wii at our house this year. It's red and pretty and it can keep us occupied for hours. We can play tennis, baseball, golf, boxing, even go bowling without leaving our living room. Not to mention we can now watch movies through the internet. What can I say? It's one handy piece of technology.

My daughter also received (as a gift from my sister and her husband) a Rubix Cube . Remember those? In all honesty, I didn't even know they still made those. I was probably my daughter's age (9) when my sister got one. She was a teenager then and the Cube was all the rage. If you could solve it, you were a genius!

So Candace asked me what she was suppose to do with it. I explained to her what the objective of this game was, and that, while she tried to solve the cube, her brain would be making new connections, neurons would interact with one another, the whole brain synopsis would be happening, I was just explaining brain science to her, when she looked at it, and decided "it is too hard".

I was doing the dishes ( I do my best thinking when I do dishes) and realized this generation, my kids' generation, is growing up in world where movies no longer come in VHS or even DVDs; where they don't have to leave the comfort of their home in order to play golf, and where life can happen in a virtual world. Then I wonder, is that good for them, for their brains?

When I was a kid, we imagined everything. Leaves were actually paper money, and we used sticks, empty jars and cans and anything else we could find to play. We didn't own a Nintendo, or had electronic games. iPods? Ha! That was something out of the Jetsons.

Then I came across an article on NPR news. Scientists have determined our brains are shrinking. Yep, shrinking. Of course, as all scientific discoveries, one group of scientists thinks it is a good thing. It means we are getting less aggressive, etc. (you can read the whole article by clicking on the link above). Another group of scientists thinks it's a sign we, humans, are getting dumber. Our world is so technologically advanced we don't need to use our brains as much.

It's hard to say which camp is correct. You can decide for yourself. In the meantime, I will make sure my kids make it to the real bowling alley, tennis court, and tackle that rubik cube until they figure it out. Just doing my part to make sure humanity remains smart.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's a new year!

" We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is called New Year's Day" ~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy New Year, everyone!

I am determined to write at least once a day on this blog. I often allow life to get in the way, then months pass by before I update it.

Writing is therapeutic for me, and God knows I need all the free therapy I can get!!! Between work, kids, and everything else; I often wonder how mothers don't go crazy before their children grow up.

2011 is full of promise, isn't it? Brand new, we have no idea what's in store for us. All we know is we get a chance to start over, to come up with a list of things we want to accomplish in this new year. We all have the New Year resolutions in our mind and we are certain this time we will get them all done!

I decided to come up with a simple list this year, mostly because the longer the list, the least likely I'll complete it.
My first one is to be more adventurous. Those who know me know I plan mostly everything. I'll think about it for weeks before I venture into something new. This year, I've decided I will try to be more spontaneous, which in my world means adventure. Plus I want to try a few things I haven't before like skydiving.

Number 2 on this list. Finish my novel. I started writing it but didn't finish. Who knew I had so much to say that a month would not be enough to finish saying it?

and last but not least, start running again. A few years back I trained for the Chicago Marathon. Yes, it was a whole lot of running. I know most people thought it was crazy. Truth be told, I miss those runs. Running is something you do alone, even if you have a running partner. It's you and the road. No one can run the distance for you, no one can pound the pavement for you. I specially liked the alone time that running afforded me. Alone time when you are a mother of 3 is a rare luxury.

So here is to 2011! May we all keep our resolutions!