El Camino: Boots, Socks, Blisters, Oh My!



All the articles I have read about walking the Camino have one thing in common.  Every article, blog, list etc says, “Take care of your feet.”

I’m a runner, walker, hiker, and backpacker.  I am no stranger to blisters, hot spots, ankle pain, black toenails and foot cramps.  When I am told to take care of my feet, I listen.

SO….I’m very late in buying boots for the trip.  I did buy a pair of the same brand I fell in love with for my wilderness trips, Oboz.  However, this new pair is lighter and more flexible.  I have been wearing them for three days now.  First, only in the house in case I hated them and wanted to return them.  Nope…all good. The second day I wore them all day in and out of the house.  All was good and I started to think, “yay, I will not have any problems.”  Then today I decided to walk briskly to our local levee to see how my feet would do.  Mile two…hot spot.  I decided to turn around to avoid a blister.

When I got home I got distracted and kept my shoes on while I cleaned up and made lunch.  Eventually, I realized that while my hot spot was not only acting out, I have a blister on my heel.    4 miles.  I am beside myself.

So back to square one I go.  I think I’m just going to get the exact pair of shoes I have been using for a couple years without a single blister.  I know  I’m starting way too late and that stresses me even more.

I am also very suspicious of the socks I wore today.  They are double layered.  I’ve never used them before.  I tried toe socks once and thought I was going to have to amputate my toes as a result.  I’m going to wear regular socks for a while before I head back to REI to try more boots.

I think the Camino is testing me already.  No problem… Better now than later.

Siempre pa’ adelante.


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El Camino: Decisions, Decisions.


A few years ago, on a ferry taking us out of the wilderness and back to our awaiting vehicle I engaged in conversation with a lovely woman named Susan who having been injured, was leaving her backpacking trip a little early.  Somehow I mentioned having watched the movie, The Way, and her face lit up. She talked to me about the Camino de Santiago.  She said she completed the French route, well because of the F*ing food.   I listened intently feeling drawn to her adventure and wondering if I could do it too.

Most people have heard about hiking the Camino. But like me, many may not realize that there is a network of trails that can be taken to Galicia, Spain. Many do not understand that hiking the trails is in fact meant to be a pilgrimage to the site where St. James is buried in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Over the years I have talked about it to anyone who will listen and have been rewarded with conversations with those who have to my surprise, completed the journey themselves.  One woman gave me her map/guidebook to study. Another man I met in Yosemite, Walter, has recently completed the trip with his lovely wife and as such has provided much-appreciated details and recommendations.

Accompanying my husband and one of his “bromances” and his wife, Judy to the California Classic summer league basketball games, I was happy to strike up a conversation about my desire to travel in August.  To my happy surprise, she said she wanted to go too. And so the planning began.

Today, over three years after I first started dreaming about walking the Camino, I have confirmed an itinerary for hiking the 500 miles from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the cathedral in Galicia.  We should be in France on August 31, 2018. I’m so excited I can’t think or sleep.

I hope to post updates as we go, although really, I’ve not yet figured out how this will work.  That’s ok, its all an adventure!


Siempre pa’ adelante!

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When the nest is (really, really) empty.

This weekend was wonderful albeit filled with all the anxiety and discomfort of a family milestone. We packed up the older sister and the three year old non stop talker (talkers are nothing new in our family) and headed to Santa Clara to bear witness to the conferral of degrees to the Santa Clara University class of 2018. My youngest child, my son of 22 years received his Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He graduated Cum Laude, lamenting that first quarter freshman year when the adjustment managed to damage his GPA. His choice to enter into a five year program to accomplish his Masters in short order caused him to have a three year undergraduate experience and leaving him .03 points away from the Magma Cum Laude honor.

He already rented his apartment and is raring to move in. It’s one day after graduation and he’s ready. His internship job is morphing into a full time job for the summer while he begins his summer classes to get a jump on the masters degree.

It’s now Sunday, Father’s Day. We clean up the house we rented nearby and pick him up for a quick lunch. He chooses a small but familiar diner type restaurant for our meal. It’s good hearty food and even the baby seems to enjoy the meal.

We return him to the house he’s lived in for the past few years that is so trashed and unkept he won’t let us go in. It’s more attributable to the slum lords that charge ridiculous amounts of money for college kids to live close to campus than the kids who actually live there. Things need regular upkeep and repair; this house for 8 gets neither.

We hug and say our goodbyes. He walks away. As we drive off I realize that even though his room is filled with his clothes and belongings that he will likely not return to call our house his home anymore. Well yes it will always be his home, but not likely his residence.

Then it kinda hit me. We actually are real empty nesters. Like Shrek’s donkey says, “Really, really.” Neither of our two kids live in our house.

They really don’t go away, but they are no longer a constant presence. Or am I kidding myself. I don’t know. This one just feels really different. He’s always been a little more standoffish, independent.

It just feels different.

So as we leave the Bay Area to go home I cry a little. Santa Clara University you have been good to my son. Thank you.

Pleasanton. Livermore. Tracy. Stockton.

One day he’ll understand how this silly separation seems so abysmal. And when that day comes, I’ll be old enough to know that it really wasn’t.

Congrats to the Universitys’ Class of 2018 and their parents. I wonder how many of us are feeling this way.

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Out of the Mouths of Babes

Originally posted online on Tuesday, August 3, 2010, at 11:58pm



This morning I sat, as usual, typing at the computer when our student walked into my office to file some papers….she bounced in like Tigger and said, “Hey Ms. Garcia I told my boyfriend that your parents were farm workers and you went to Cal. He asked if you were in the Bracero Program?”

Ok, so when I stopped laughing and picked myself up off the floor, I saw that she was dead serious. I said, “Let me put it this way, “No, but my grandfather was.”

The Bracero Program, which brought millions of Mexican guest workers to the United States, ended more than four decades ago. Most young people today know very little about the program, the nation’s largest experiment with guest workers. The Bracero Program’s name comes from the word, brazo, (arm) and means manual laborer.

The Bracero Program grew out of a series of bilateral agreements between Mexico and the United States that allowed millions of Mexican men to come to the United States to work on, short-term, primarily agricultural labor contracts. From 1942 to 1964, 4.6 million contracts were signed, with many individuals returning several times on different contracts, making it the largest U.S. contract labor program.

The Bracero Program was created by executive order in 1942 because many growers argued that World War II would bring labor shortages to low-paying agricultural jobs. In 1951, after nearly a decade in existence, concerns about production and the U.S. entry into the Korean conflict led Congress to formalize the Bracero Program with Public Law 78.

The Bracero Program was controversial in its time. Mexican nationals, desperate for work, were willing to take difficult and labor-intensive jobs at wages scorned by most Americans. Each contract also had built-in safeguards to protect both Mexican and domestic workers for example, guaranteed payment of at least the prevailing area wage received by native workers; employment for three-fourths of the contract period; adequate, sanitary, and free housing; decent meals at reasonable prices; occupational insurance at employer’s expense; and free transportation back to Mexico at the end of the contract. My mom has a copy of my grandfathers contract.

Employers were supposed to hire braceros only in areas of certified domestic labor shortage and were not to use them as strikebreakers. In practice, they ignored many of these rules and Mexican and native workers suffered while growers benefited from plentiful, cheap, labor.

Unfortunately, not all of this immigration was legal. While the Bracero Program allowed more people to find work in the United States, many farm-owners and employers continued to illegally employ undocumented workers with disregard to the Bracero Program because illegal laborers were more willing to work for lower wages. In 1949, approximately forty percent of the country’s migratory workers were illegal.

To stop this problem, the federal government initiated a program called “Operation Wetback” in 1950. The purpose of this program was to encourage undocumented workers to leave voluntarily and to deport them. While the Border Patrol forces used in this operation did not exceed seven to eight hundred men, they were able to seize an average of eleven hundred “wetbacks” each day. 1.1 million Mexicans were deported. This program continued until 1954.



Ten years later, the Bracero Program was also terminated after having legally and temporarily employed nearly 4.5 million Mexican laborers. From then on, immigrant workers were left with the options of obtaining citizenship, green cards that permit temporary employment, or a resident visa.

Now, between 1952 and 1953 my grandfather Vicente Vidaurri (1896-1973), came to know a rancher named Homer Dillon. He met the man as a Bracero and was contracted to work for him for two, three month periods. My grandfather was a landowner and rancher himself, in Mexico but wanted a better life for his family in the US. He brought a great deal of expertise with him and soon earned the trust and respect of the Dillon patriarch.

He was working in Donna, Texas and left his family in Mexico. He worked and they applied for passports to join him. Eventually, on April 23, 1953, he entered into a three-year contract with Mr. Dillon. The family still continued to apply for permission to join him and each year did not make it into the 12 thousand person quota. Each year they applied again. The contract ended on April 22, 1956, and on October 26 the family was allowed to join him. He was called an indentured servant on the contract.

My mother tells that she was 15 years old when she came to the US on her passport. In those days, her picture and that of her brother Francisco (also a minor) were located on the same passport as that of her mother, Gregoria, and her father, Vicente. The older children, Jose, Melecio and her sister Inez, had their own passports.

The family joined my grandfather after being registered and examined physically. My mother recalls the complete physical she endured. “It was like when you have a baby. The tell you to take off all your clothes and examine each part of you. They were looking for diseases, sexually transmitted ones.”



She negates having been fumigated like most of the men were in order to ensure that they were pest free. They were fumigated with DDT.



She recalls that she earned money by cleaning Mr. Dillon’s house for his wife, Irma. Mom recalls that the Dillons were very nice to her family. The Dillons had two older boys and no daughters. Mrs. Dillon spent a great deal of money on my mom and bought her dresses and other clothes. Mom laughs, “She even bought me shorts! Papá never let me wear shorts, so I had to hide them.”

When the contract was over, my grandfather continued to work with the Dillons about three more years. Eventually, the family left Donna, Texas and came to California around 1960.

My parents married in 1961 and I was born in 1962.

So I was never a part of the Bracero program (geez, how old does she think I am?), but it is a part of me.

Thanks for being my friends.

Siempre Adelante



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Sensory Overload

Yup. That’s the one.

For the past few months I’ve been having very strong, very real feelings elicited by smell or thoughts of scents. The feelings are so strong that I swear I can actually feel a presence of whatever it is I’m thinking about.

They are so real that it’s as if I can taste the smell. Sounds weird right? I think so, too. Yet, I have been thinking about the memories a great deal.

I like many people buy things in bulk at Costco. But on a trip to visit my parents I decided to buy a large bottle of Jergens lotion at a local grocery store to leave in the bathroom I use when I visit. One less thing to pack I thought.

When I used it the first time I was almost knocked to my butt by the overwhelming memory of the scent if my grandmother. She has been deceased for 42 years. I last was near her around the age of ten.

So I came home and I bought another bottle. I’m telling you I was shocked by how strong these feelings are. So I looked at the bottle and it reads, “Original Scent: Cherries and Almond.” I started to cry.

At ten (1972), and living in a farmworker home in the south end of the Central Valley of California I would never have known what almonds or cherries smelled like.

We bartered for our food. My dad worked for Walmon Bros and Elliot (spelling correctly is optional and based on a child’s memory) later sold to Metzler Farms. They grew oranges, tangerines, tangelos, Santa Rosa plums, peaches, kiwi and granny smith apples. The apples were experimental in that the trees were espaliered with the idea that maybe one day a machine could harvest the fruit. That was in the late 70’s; apples are still harvested by hand.

So with all this fruit around, we would trade some of it for potato, melon, watermelon, corn, tomato, grapes and carrots (Bunny Luv). Yeah, ok. They were not purchased. But hey we worked our butts off, so keeping a little for ourselves.was kinda a right. Yeah, it was stealing.

But never would we ever have cherries in the house. Oh and while we likely had almonds, I at that age would not have known or paid attention to what they might smell like.

So imagine my surprise when I realized that the scent of my maternal grandmother was in fact cherries and almonds. What could have lead her to use this particular lotion above all others? Jergens ads?

She was the one person in the world that loved me for absolutly no reason and never, ever had a harsh word for me. The scent of Jergen’s body lotion knocks me to my knees. I think of her everytime, no matter how much of a hurry I’m in. There is no escaping it.

I’m ok with that.

Did I tell you that looking at a child’s coloring book makes me smell crayon colors like Burnt Sienna and Periwinkle? That’s another story.

My Abuelita Goyita.

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Backyard Camping

Avi and I finally did it.  We slept outside in the back yard in my Big Agnes tent. May 5 can still be a cold time in Sacramento, so I dragged out every blanket I could so we would stay toasty warm.

He let me put a headlamp on his little head and we explored the yard in the dark. “Uy,” he said, “tengo miedo!”

We had to pull his pal Luna into the house since she wanted only to lay all over us and frankly I wasn’t ready to snuggle with a 70 pound dog in a tent with a toddler.

We pulled out our books, “Guess How Much I Love You and “Going On a Bear Hunt” and read them slowly and deliberately. Every so often we heard the branches of the giant Japanese Maple rub against each other in the wind. He would gasp and turn to me, blinding me with his headlamp. “It’s ok,” I would assure him.

We talked about every sound we heard and we discussed what could happen if that pesky raccoon came back to eat our oranges. He described how Luna would chase it away without really acknowledging that she had been banished indoors.

We talked and adjusted and pulled covers, and pushed them off. We listened to the delta breeze and the chimes ringing periodically. We put him in pajamas. I wanted him to know what it felt like to change his clothes in a tent.

We took selfies.

The sound of traffic picked up again around midnight as all the people coming back into our neighborhood which only has two entrances, returned from their late night activities. Eventually, it all simmered down and all we could hear was the fountain bubbling away.

We finally fell asleep and when the sun came up I felt him pushing my arm, saying, “Nocih, ya salió el sol!” Time to get up and go to the donut shop with his papa.

Soon, I hope very soon, we can do this for real. My guess is that we may go to Indian Grinding Rock State Park. We will be hiking in no time.

Siempre adelante.

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In Sickness and In Health

I wonder if I have become immobilized by fear. I haven’t been able to run since mid August 2017. That is the first time I actually typed out that date and now it sits here on the page, staring me down. I have walked plenty, but no races, no runs along my beloved levee; nothing.

My most recent MRI reveals another disc injury at L5, likely a new one earned in physical therapy for the L4 injury. It makes me so sad. I literally stopped doing everything I love in order to get well and nothing seems to work. Today I have the added pleasure of a summer cold that has settled in my sinuses and is manifested in some kinda headache.

I’ve spent the day in bed, having asked my spouse to drop off my ballot for me. So I did vote, and so should you….still time in CA. But mostly I watched cooking shows on Netflix and scrolled through horrible picture of Guatemalans killed in the volcano eruption and brown babies in cages; they are kept worse than our pets without a pad to lay on.

What lays ahead for me is not clear today. Perhaps Im confused by my inability to breathe. I do know that my issues are nothing compared to the state of the world and that I must pray, volunteer, and keep moving forward. Please get out your vote. Your vote matters.

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It’s His Lens

Avi Picture taker

Blurry and mismatched

Crystal clear and identical

He is his mother’s child

Nothing new to grandmothers

but he is new to me

He dances with abandon

Sings with a full orchestra


My heart swells

when his eyes puddle

Oh no, ya llego la lluvia

Los gatos no ponen huevos.

¿La lumbris es buena?

His little fingers

learning to work together

We decide what how

he will perceive the world,

his or not

to create what he needs

to fill his desires

My world will not be his;

his will be his own

but he will love it

like he fills me

with love and excitement


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How Wild is Your Wild?: What do you really need to backpack in the wilderness?

Yosemite Valley


Have you read the book WILD by Cheryl Strayed?  It’s interesting and thought-provoking read.  That book was published in March of 2012.  I took my first hike during that summer (the Mist Trail in Yosemite) and hiked up Half Dome on June 21 as part of a three-day backpacking trip and my first step in conquering the John Muir Trail in sections. I was 50 years old. Talk about teaching an old dog a new trick!

Since this was only my second hike and my first backpacking trip, I had no idea of what lay ahead. I relied on my friends to help me get ready for our adventure. I hadn’t read the book and didn’t do so until the trailers for the film adaptation started to pop up everywhere in 2014. While I enjoyed the book and its premise, I was very unnerved by the lack of preparation demonstrated by Ms. Strayed.  Her reasons for plunging into a long, potentially dangerous hike without adequately addressing her goals are hers alone but for me, it was foolhardy and shocking. I remember thinking, “now everyone will want to get out there and think its ok to half-ass it.” I didn’t know what SMDH meant back then, but I was certainly doing it. During the two years after my initial backpacking experience, I immersed myself in learning about being safe in the wilderness.  However, I still relied heavily on my friend’s input as far as what our needs would be for each “specific” section of the trail.   For example, we decided to rent harnesses for added safety on the Half Dome cables.

In August of 2016, I revisited the Half Dome hike (sans harness) from Tuolumne Meadows to the Valley floor only this time I coordinated the trip and acted as the leader of our group. After almost four years of hiking and backpacking with very dedicated and well-informed women, I hiked with two men; one had never backpacked before.  The trip was exciting and since I had become familiar with the process of acquiring a permit, getting myself to the trailhead, packing the right equipment and food it seemed like it would be a piece of cake.  And it was, for me.  My novice friend found it quite a bit more challenging than he thought.  But that, my friends, is a story for another time.  Today I thought I would share some very basic ideas on what to gather in preparation for a hiking or backpacking trip. Did you notice that I said “gather” instead of buying?  Well, that’s my first tip.

Purchasing equipment before having a good understanding of what “hiking” or “backpacking”  entails can turn out to be costly.  I don’t care what anyone says. The wilder you want your experience to be the more you will spend on great equipment.  What that means for you younguns is that as you go further out and away from amenities, the more you will want to carry them with you.  Imagine then that you want to charge your cell phone. If you are day hiking based out of a hotel room you will never need a battery pack or solar charging panel. If you are out in the wild for days at a time you will need to decide how to keep your phone, GPS unit, etc charged in case of emergency. Believe it or not, there are some locations where you can actually call or text using cell service.  So before you go out and buy everything on the lists posted all over the web, ask around and see if you can borrow or rent equipment. Trust me, there are enthusiasts who will gladly help you out if you just ask. One of the odd consequences of experiencing the solitude of the outdoors is that you want to help others share the experience!

Let’s say that you have reached out, used borrowed equipment and have decided that you want to make an investment.  You are sure you will want to do this (“hiking,” “backpacking,”) over and again so you decide to invest in your own equipment. Ask yourself a few more questions: Do I plan on going alone or will I always participate with others? Will I have a set group of reliable and generous companions that would be willing to share the cost of purchasing items to be used as a group, ie. stove, water filter, tent, first aid kit, or GPS emergency beacons? Sharing owned equipment can greatly enhance your experience and cut costs significantly.

Now I’ll let you in on a secret.  When you share the financial burden of purchasing equipment you get into a pickle about who is going to carry it.  I kid you not, you will argue, haggle and trade your life away just to that everyone is carrying their share of the weight.  Sounds silly until you are on mile 23 and your pack seems to be heavier than everyone else’s and you’re sure that they should take some of the tent stuff out of your pack to help out!  As a group, we learned that weighing all shared items and then evenly distributing the weight seemed to work well. Each member agreed to carry their share of the weight and that any personal use items would not factor into the mix.  So if one person decided to carry a can of beer to celebrate a particular accomplishment, that would be their choice; their weight to bear.

Similarly, remember that you are required to pack out that which you pack in.  So if you decide you can carry relatively heavy prepared tuna packages you will have to carry out the remaining trash. So items like this should be purchased individually so that each person carries out their own trash. Otherwise, your pack will not “lose weight” as you go and in fact, you will be carrying other’s trash for them and yes, you will not be happy. Sounds petty up until mile 23…when again you will come to your senses.

Speaking of senses, there’s a wide spectrum of creature comforts that some of us are not willing to give up. For example, a toothbrush and toothpaste.  Should you take a full size of anything?  ONLY if you are willing to suffer the extra weight.  Buy travel sized items such as these, including bug sprays, deodorant, lotions, biodegradable soaps, makeup, mirrors etc.  What?  Come on, you know there are going to be pictures! But just remember….the smelly stuff has to be stored properly to avoid attracting critters. Trying to pack all your food and scented things into a bear-proof container can be challenging. Don’t forget that the sunscreen you carry in a side pocket of your pack for easy access will need to be safely packed away at night and stored away from your campsite for added safety.

Critters are attracted to scents. Food, hygiene items, candy, gum, and flavored powders for water. Wet wipes are wonderful for cleanliness but weigh a great deal.  Consider purchasing dry wipes that you can add water to as you need them. Also, consider using them once for your hands or face and saving the “gently used” wipe for later use instead of toilet paper.  Of course, you will have to pack this trash out so you will need a ziplock bag to serve as a garbage container. I know…TMI! But careful consideration of what you are willing to give up will help you reduce the weight load on your person.  Trust me, your tired back and feet will thank you.

Similarly, are you willing to share a tent with others?  Once I stopped being antsy at night I decided to buy and carry my own tent. I invested in the lightest tent I could afford and I love it.  But like everything else, if you can share a tent at night, you can share the weight during the day. It’s really all a matter of what you can and cannot live without.  Carrying weight at 56 years of age is not the same as carrying the same weight at 26.  Don’t worry, you’ll understand what I mean in no time flat.

Speaking of flat feet. Everything I said about cutting corners is moot when it comes to your feet.  Take your time when shopping for the appropriate shoes.  Go to a place that specializes in hiking shoes and boots. Determine whether you can tolerate high tops (I can’t) and if you need inserts for added comfort. Depending on the terrain you are exploring you might be able to use hiking shoes vs. boots. REI offers some great advice.  Remember to buy a pair of water shoes or crocs to give your feet a rest once you make camp or in case of a deeper water crossing. Good socks that will dry quickly when sweaty or after being washed are also a must. If you purchase carefully, you will be able to use the same equipment repeatedly and until it is worn out.

In summary: 

  1. Whatever you decide to buy be sure it’s LIGHT and reliable. Read labels and reviews. Ask for recommendations.
  2. If you’re going to go hiking a lot buy quality so you don’t have to replace things very often. 
  3. If (like me) a full-sized camera is a must, get an attachment for your backpack shoulder strap. They provide amazing relief from neck pain and that annoying thumping on your belly as you walk.
  4. Always shop around to reduce costs. REI membership has its rewards when you get the annual dividends check! Share equipment if you can; no one needs two camp stoves on one trip.
  5. Shoes should be the best you can afford. It is the difference between coming home tired and coming home injured, (sprains, black toenails, blisters, and back pain from walking funny to accommodate foot pain.)
  6. Safety gear outweighs “coolness,” “nice to haves,” and “I can’t afford both”.
  7. Never skimp on information about your destination. Maps, permits, weather reports, phone cellular access, hazards (even trains) etc. Do your homework. Look for people on Youtube that have posted recent experiences on the trail you want to hike. Their insights can be invaluable.
  8. Packing lists are all over the web. Use them so you don’t forget anything. Remember, being stinky and carrying a light load might be better than being fresh carrying a ton of dirty laundry. Less is more.

Most importantly, no matter how you get there, you will find that there is nothing better than being outside, except maybe being further out than you thought you could ever be. You find yourself when you challenge yourself. So challenge yourself to reach out, ask questions, do things you might be reluctant to do.  Make exploring better by knowing what you need to hike as safely and comfortably as possible.  Preparation is the difference between a great time and flinging your boot over a cliff.

My favorite shirt reads:  The wild is not a place, its a thing to be. Take yourself into your wild once in a while, you’ll come back a better you.

Happy Trails!


My backpack: “Elphaba”


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Another year passes and while it seems we are retreating into a horrid past, indeed we are not. The Sleeping Giant awakes! We pull forward those in need of a hand up. We shout to those not willing to listen. We continue to march to show our presence. And we continue to feed the faith that hard work is rewarded, now and forever. Viva Chavez!

via Cesar Chavez Taught Me to Love Climbing Mountains

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Gracias. De Nada. You Welcome.

I took Avi to dinner tonight. We went to Vientos, the restaurant he has been going to since he was a tiny baby. We always purchased albóndiga soup for him because we could basically use a fork to baby-ize it.

This crept into my mind as I lay here trying to sleep. Yeah that real cup of coffee got me.

I knew I was taking an exhausted child to dinner at a restaurant where the staff have watched him grow up so the chances of a behavior melt down were pretty high.

We had gone from childcare to a tricycle ride of about a mile on the Sacramento River levee. We were almost to our favorite destination, the little plaza in front of the water plant building. He loves it there because if you stand on the X you can cause an echo by stomping your feet, clapping or yelling. It’s one of his favorite places.

Instead when we paused to address the bell on his trike I noticed that our park was just to the north of us, at the open end of a cul de sac. I asked him if he wanted to go on a “caminata” (hike) and he said, “Si!” He drove his bike back to me, dismounted and watched in amazement as I let the little red Schwinn roll down the quite steep levee wall. The trike got to the bottom and flipped over in the tall grass.

He looked at me and whispered, “Ohhhhh.” Then I said, now you. He gave me his little hand and I told him to squat down so we could slowly slide down the embankment. We made it, we played at the park and chased a rainbow that magically appeared for us.

He rode his bike home, another half mile and we made our way to the neighborhood joint. In the car, I warned him about behavior and we rehearsed what he might want to eat and drink.

We were seated and everyone exclaimed how big he has gotten to be. He reminded them he is “dos años.” The waiter asked me what he might like to drink. I asked Avi. He looked right at him and asked for “limonada.”

As the waiter left I reminded Avi that he could not wear his hat inside. He removed his Avengers cap and immediately looked across the room to a man wearing his cap. I agreed that he forgot to take it off and moved his focus back to our table.

The waiter returned to take our order. Avi looked at him and asked for a taco. I clarified that it be chicken and gave instructions on the sides but he ordered his meal.

As the waiter walked away Avi said, “Gracias.” The waiter replied, “De nada.” Avi retorted, “You’re welcome.” And took a long cool sip of lemonade.

The waiter smiled.

We had a wonderful evening outside and a hearty meal. By the time his mom came home from work he was snoring.

My heart smiles.

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Effie Yeaw Nature Center

Sundays are days reserved for going outside.  If we can, I load up the car and take Avi out somewhere in nature.  Sometimes we explore the banks of the Sacramento River since it is a few blocks from home and so easy to access.  I have been wanting to take Avi to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center on the American River in Sacramento, California based on the fact that most of the local elementary schools plan outings to the site on a yearly basis.  I figure it has to be good and easy enough for a two and a half-year-old, so why not?

We packed a good attitude (always a good attitude) some snacks, water, sunscreen and extra clothes (always extra clothes) and headed out. My goal with each outing is essentially the same; I want to teach Avi to love the outdoors. With this outing, however, I wanted to start talking to him about taking care, being safe, and caution (and respect) of all the animals outside.  He loves our dog and thinks everything with four legs is ok to hug.

As you can see below he now understands that trail signs are way cool and we should always make choices base on which way they point.  This trip, as with others, he was allowed a couple of choices as to which way to proceed. I let him choose since the trail was a loop and either way, we were home free.


trail sign avi

Our first trail marker of the day.


We walked down to the American River.  This is his first experience walking on river rock, dry and in shallow water.  He asked if it was ok to step in the water.  Having failed to change his shoes, I cautioned him to be careful not to step in a “deep” puddle and to hold my hand so he could balance better.  He made it across his first “water crossing” without falling in and was applauded by an African American woman about my age.  She commended me for getting him outside and away from devices (she mimicked texting) and asked Avi for a “high five.”  He complied exclaiming, “Good job Avi!”

We spent two hours exploring, throwing rocks, dodging low flying turkeys, counting ducks, snacking on apples and in general being with each other.  He watched others around us and asked if next time we could bring our “ropa de agua” or swimming clothes. I agreed that might be a great idea.


toss rock

This was one of his first attempts. I advised him to choose smaller rocks, and to point with his left index finger to where he wanted that rock to go, then throw it hard.  He got measurably better and was overheard saying, “Vete para allá, piedra.)” (Go over there rock!)


When we headed back, a different route, chosen by him, he, as usual, sang and danced as we walked.  He climbed a fallen tree but not until the lizard sitting on it moved to a quieter location. This lasted for about ten minutes until he fell off and landed on his butt.  He looked at me and I said, “Good job Avi!”  He got up and on we went.


We encountered deer and turkeys during this outing.  He witnessed 5 males annoyed with each other and the human traffic around them, and numerous females who were not too interested in us. Those turkeys are huge and make quite a sound when the rustle their feathers.  I cautioned him that while turkeys are good things, they are to be respected.

turkeyAll in all, this is a fabulous place to take children.  Note that you have to enter the property at the corner of Tarshes Drive and California Avenue.  This will allow you to drive right up to the property.  You do have to pay for parking.  Payment is enforced but you can get around it by buying a membership to the Center and using their lot.  I loved it so much that is what I did.  We will get a placard to place on our car’s dashboard when we visit in the future.

I hope you can get out there soon…it is truly a wonderful spot for all ages.

Don’t forget…. Pack out everything you pack in!   Leave only footprints, take only pictures!

Siempre adelante!

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Red Velvet Cake

Written on August 09, 2010


I made a red velvet bundt cake tonight. My daughter asked me if I would. The beanpole boyfriend was over, so I thought, “well at least it won’t tempt me tomorrow…they’ll eat it all at one sitting.” While there is a little bit left, it’s not likely to survive the 14-year old’s breakfast habits. But really, who makes a cake on a Monday night?

I played Angry Birds with my boy too. You may wonder, ‘how does she do it?’ I wonder why does she do it.

Well, I left work at 2:00 pm today. Those of you who know me know, that this in and of itself is a miracle. Those of you who know me also will understand that I was trying to leave by noon. I had to help kids with their bank accounts and changing needs. Nico struck it rich when he deposited his coins and learned that the machine was holding some leftover coins from a prior patron who doesn’t know the newspaper trick (You use a newspaper to make sure your coins all drop in and get counted. Its kinda like that spoon Costco lets you use when you grind the king-sized bag of coffee beans…We will leave no bean behind!”

I texted Dust Bunny and laughed at her because I was home before her. She honored me with the timeless insult, “Butthead!”

Time is the one thing I wish I had more of. But really, I would just fill it up with more of the same. I seem to think that I can do anything and that I should do everything. I remember thinking that a friend of mine was selfish when she said, “I don’t have time for that, I need to be with my family.” This was years ago and I still remember.

So I have tried to do it all. Be home, be at work. Be there for my kids, be there for the youth. Be there for my students (my kids) and be there for my students at work. It’s too much sometimes. So sometimes I stop and force myself to choose. I don’t know, sometimes I get angry with myself. Then, I tell myself that my kids and husband understand. And that they will become good public servants too. That our good fortune must be repaid.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s as easy as a selfish argument. There really is no point. There is just life and choices.

I love my kids more than my own last breath. I believe that I have been a good mom. I also believe that I have taught them that life is about living and that sometimes we choose to work late (or coach late, or counsel late, or teach late, or be with our friends late) and sometimes we have to choose to make a cake on a Monday night.

I hope you eat cake.

Thanks for being my friends.

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I am so grateful to be able to share my voice about getting people of color outside, especially when they go with family, both young and old.

Please listen…


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Veni, Vidi, Vici, Vittles and Vino

Written on Saturday, August 7, 2010, at 1:25pm

garlic bread

Garlic Rosemary Bread…

Many many months ago, perhaps even years ago, I befriended a rather opinionated young woman, who although small in stature is big on life. She has a bear trap of a brain and a smile that shines like a full moon on a sultry summer evening. The kind of smile that makes you smile too.

When I met her first, she was interviewing for a job where I worked. She seemed to be very smart and likable. Really, I still haven’t found a better formula for hiring someone. To this day I look at brains and personality when I look for people to work with. I need my coworkers to try, to laugh and to look on the bright side. Everything else is OJT.

This little Dust Bunny fit the bill.

Over time, we became good friends, and now we are food friends too. We like to eat. Ok, I like to eat. She likes to eat other people’s cooking without having to do dishes. I’m not talking out of turn. If you were to ask her, she would admit it. Of all the things she is, fake is not a descriptor. She lets you know what she thinks, feels, and believes.

One of our most fun activities, besides bashing LMAs (not mine, of course, she’s afraid he’ll change the code on the garage door opener) is our Friday night, Dinner-and-a-Movie night.

We started out sorta by accident but came to love watching movies together. I, being one or 215 months older than she, have a greater repertoire of movies from which to choose. Ok, I also have Netflix. I think that this is somehow related to not having to do dishes too.

We have watched many of the classic and Academy Award winning movies that are funny, sad, or romantic….. and we wont apologize for it. My husband and son run to the bedroom to watch DVRs of Leverage or Chuck (seriously why?) as we take over the living room along with Favorite Daughter Olivia (FDO).

Sometimes, like tonight, FDO has an event to attend and we watch Sex and the City. We discuss the value of clothes, the behavior, the food, New York, the music, the morals… and we drink Vino.

Now, most of you know that I work kinda late. In fact I was telling SistA that I thought it was winter because when I leave work its dark. But on most Fridays, unless there really is something that must be done, I rush home ASAP. To cook, eat, talk, sit, drink and laugh with the Dust Bunny.

I am grateful for the company and for the opportunity to share my life with someone …for no other reason than because its fun. Tonight we ate well and we had Garlic Rosemary Bread with our salads. “oh, not too much, that’s a lot,” she said.

Whatever Dust Rhino… you ate it all.

And every Friday, when I manage to feed us before 10 o’clock and we laugh, I think to myself, “Veni, Vidi, Vici vittles and vino.”

Thanks for being my friends.


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