Tres Mujeres

Watching my three older kids become young adults has been hugely rewarding, and of course, leaves me a little wistful for their childhood days.  Olivia, our oldest at 23, is now living and working in Bogota, Colombia, after being awarded a Fulbright fellowship to teach English at a prestigious national university.  After completing his sophomore year studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria, and traveling independently throughout Europe, Nico is now back at the University of Portland, excited and focused about his newly declared major in Political Science.  Erica, ever the free-spirit, has decided to forego college and is getting her real life education working a full-time job, living with housemates and (largely) paying her own expenses.  They are, for the most part, “adulting.”  Not long ago, Olivia asked me what I was doing in my life at  her age. I thought about it and realized that my own experience at “adulting” looked very different from hers.

When I was 23 I was working at my third full-time job in the 18 months since I graduated from college. My first two jobs, a receptionist in a commercial production company, and a mailroom clerk for a major television network, left me uninspired, bored, and with little income.  I lived with my parents throughout college and continued to live with them after graduation, but my $250 a month car payment, gas, insurance and all my personal expenses, rapidly cut into my $800 per month paycheck.  When a local television network called and offered me a job making a whopping $320 per week as a production secretary, I jumped at the opportunity.  With the extra money and chance to do some real television production, I finally felt that I was launching my life.

One year later, in an even bigger leap into adulthood, I plotted my escape from my parents’ house and made the fateful decision to marry my college boyfriend.  I loved him enough and we had similar interests so I ignored the doubting voice in my head and dismissed it as pre-wedding jitters. Looking back, I realize that the marriage was a way for me to break away from my parents and assert myself as an independent woman. I find it ironic that I subconsciously believed I had to marry in order to declare my autonomy.  Our newlywed years were marred by sadness and loneliness because I was often left alone, missing my family while my husband worked day and night launching his own business.  Four years later, when I found out those long work hours also involved my husband’s extra-marital affairs, I immediately filed for divorce.  I escaped that marriage a little wiser, a little older, and feeling more liberated. With a marriage and divorce between my parents’ house and my new life, I was firmly planted into ADULTHOOD.

Perhaps that is why I chose not to return to live with my parents when they offered me a place to live while I mended my bruised heart and ego.  Instead, I lived in a series of sub-let apartments while I re-invented my life and applied to law school.  When the sub-let apartments dried up and as I was faced with an enormous amount of law school student debt, I moved in with my then boyfriend for the first year of law school.  My last two years of law school I lived with a classmate, juggling school, a part-time job and my relationship with my boyfriend.  After law school and passing the bar, I married and I landed a job in a small law firm. Finally, I was making enough money to pay my student loans, buy a house with my husband, and indulge in some adult-scale luxuries.

One of those luxuries was the purchase of my first “real” piece of art.  Our law firm had a local school district as one of its clients, and some of the attorneys became friends with the teachers and administrators.  A teacher at the school district was also an accomplished artist who painted in one of my favorite styles of Mexican folk art.  My colleague offered to host an art show to help him further his art career. I attended the show and fell in love with one of the paintings.  The work, entitled “Tres Mujeres” (Three Women) with its bright colors, bold lines and feminine images made me feel happy and nostalgic.

Even though I was making a decent salary, I had a $900 monthly law school loan payment, and paying over $300 for a piece of art was a real indulgence.  I splurged and brought home my new symbol of adulthood. My husband loved the painting too and we proudly displayed it in our newly painted dining room.

The painting has become even more meaningful to me since I first bought it.  When my second husband and I divorced and we divided up our personal property, I quickly claimed the painting.  The painting still hangs in my dining room, but that is one of the only things unchanged since I bought the painting.  In this third chapter of my adult life, I am married to Juan, I am almost done raising four kids, and I am excited at the opportunities and challenges as I contemplate my retirement from my legal career and pursue writing.

As I re-launched this blog, I looked around my world and scoured the internet for an image that would be a good representation of me and this blog. I couldn’t come up with anything until Juan looked at the painting and suggested it.  Of course! Tres Mujeres.  Three women. The woman I have become over the years, through three distinct phases in my life.  The painting, purchased when I saw it as a symbol of my ascent into adulthood, has become an image of my own life and a reflection of who I am as my own work of art.

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Hiking Away From Fear

While I was on my way to the mountains for my writer’s retreat, I continued  listening to the book, “You are a Bad Ass.” The book was queued to Chapter 20, “Fear is for Suckers.” This chapter challenged me to think of fear as a choice and provided some handy tips for navigating through fear. Little did I know that I would be putting this chapter to good use the very next day.

The second day of my retreat I spent the morning writing and working.  Around midday I decided to stretch my legs and enjoy the brisk Fall weather.  I donned my brand new pair of hiking boots, filled up a water bottle, stuffed a couple of snacks in my pockets and drove out to trailhead for Castle Rock Trail.

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Brand new hiking kicks.

The guidebook said it was “one of the most popular trails” and “after a steep elevation gain the first half mile it leveled off to well marked trails.”  Halfway through the 2.4 mile trek, I would be treated with an “impressive granite rock outcropping providing 360 degree panoramic views.” Now, I am no Cheryl Strayed, but I enjoy hiking. It is one of the few forms of exercise that does not begin with me complaining and thinking of dozens of reasons why I can’t do it.

I found the trailhead easily enough and parked along the highway.  I noticed that there were very few cars.  It occurred to me that perhaps one of the “most popular trails” would not be that busy on a Wednesday afternoon in the off season. Hmm. I sent my husband a text to let him know where I was, just in case I got lost or injured along the way.  I was just about to reconsider my choice of hikes when I saw an older couple approach the trailhead. They didn’t look like axe murders and appeared friendly.  We exchanged greetings as I quickly passed them on the “steep elevation gain.”

The trail was beautiful and I began to relax. I kept stopping to enjoy the Fall color and didn’t notice that my walking app on my phone stopped working, or that I lost cell service.  I wasn’t quite sure how far I had gone when I realized that the “well marked trail” did not seem so well marked.  I began to worry that I had veered off the trail.  I started thinking about all those stories of lost hikers dying from exposure. I thought about how people who are lost tend to walk in circles. Did I just pass that tree? As I felt myself become more worried, I remembered that “fear is a choice.” Okay, I will not choose fear. That is when I noticed footprints in the sand and found my way back to the trail.

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Actual Fall color in Southern California. I only had to drive 2 hours to find it.
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The well-marked portion of the trail.

As I ascended the trail, I noticed the silence around me. Where were all the people?  Being an LA girl who sometimes takes local hikes on weekends, I can’t go a hundred yards without encountering a Boy Scout troop, hiking clubs and dog walkers.  This was very different. Maybe it’s the criminal attorney in me, but I started thinking about all those cases of young women who are assaulted. What would I do? I was completely alone.  I didn’t have any mace.  Who would help me if I screamed? Ugh.  I reminded myself not to choose fear.  That helped keep me calm.  It also helped that right about that time I saw two young athletic women making their way down the trail. Okay, I guess if they were safe, I should be too. I puffed up my chest to make myself appear bigger to any nearby assailants and continued up the trail.

I made my way to the top and sure enough, there it was, “an impressive granite rock outcropping providing 360 degree panoramic views.” I made it without getting lost, dying of exposure or getting assaulted along the way.  As I stood below looking upon the granite tower, which surely gave the trail its name, Castle Rock,  I thought about how much nicer the view would be from atop.  I tried to find a way up but could not find an easy path. I decided with no one else around to find my body if I took a fall while I was attempting to scale the boulders, the view from where I stood seemed just fine.

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The Castle Rock boulders looked like they would provide a good view.
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I decided this view was just fine.
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My lunchtime view.

I found a nice rock to climb on and enjoyed my snacks and the view.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself when a squirrel approached me from behind another rock.  I tossed a bit of apple to the squirrel and took in the mountain scenery.  I was in the middle of communing with nature when my thoughts started swirling… Ah wildlife.  Wildlife like squirrels. Birds. Maybe lions? These were mountains right? Mountain lions live in mountains.  My heart started racing as I stuffed my half-eaten apple in my pocket and scrambled down the rock.  I didn’t want to make myself easy prey for a mountain lion.  That’s when I heard voices, and not the ones in my head.

The elderly couple I met at the base of the trail had made it to the top.  They were laughing and chatting.  We struck up a conversation and before I knew it we were encouraging each other to try climbing to the top of the granite rocks. The woman scrambled a quarter of the way up until her husband warned her that they still had a lot of vacation left and she shouldn’t risk injury.  Then, another guy appeared from around the trail.  He asked if we were going to make it to the top and said he had seen a You Tube video that showed a girl using a rope to scale up the boulders. Uh, no thanks. I may be fearful at times, but I am not stupid.

As I made my way down the trail I looked up and saw that the You Tube guy had made it to the top.  Good for him. And good for me.  Several times that day I felt fear overtake me and several times that day I beat it back.  I said “No” to fear and ended up having a great day, and meeting some nice people.  I even got in some exercise without complaint.

Writer’s Retreat

Earlier this week I ran away from home.  That is, I took a couple of days off work, packed a few essentials, my laptop, and some books and I drove to 2 hours to the mountains.  I left Juan and Diego to fend for themselves and left them a bag of Halloween candy to give out to trick or treaters, or eat as a dinner substitute.  I alternated between feelings of guilt and feelings of liberation.  Right now, as I sit here enjoying my coffee and writing this post, I think liberation is winning.  Last night, as I scrolled through my Facebook and Instagram feeds looking at all the Halloween fun, guilt was definitely on top.

My ever-supportive husband encouraged me to take this time as a retreat.  He knows how burned out I was feeling and how on fire I am to write and blog so he practically pushed me out the door.  Besides, we have timeshare points that will expire at the end of the year and he didn’t want them to go unused.  Family obligations, work, school and soccer schedules did not allow us to use the timeshare for a family vacation.  It has been good.  Despite the fact that I had to spend some time telecommuting for my real job, I have been able to write and blog. Most of all, it has been great to have the solitude and rest.

When I told my friend I was going away for a couple of days she seemed stunned. “Wait! You are going away by yourself? Aren’t you going to be lonely?  You are so brave.”  Actually, I don’t feel brave. When I checked into the timeshare I told the front desk my husband and son were with me. (Not that she couldn’t look out and see my empty car parked outside.)  I asked for the unit on the upper floor, and when I got to the unit I panicked slightly when I realized it was the last building on the property and was adjacent to the woods.  (Nice, unless you are worried that no on will hear your screams as you are being assaulted.) When I went to sleep at night I left the hall light on, double and triple checked the locks and put some furniture in front of door in case a mad man tried to break in.  This makes me wonder, do men ever take these measures when they travel alone?  I think not.

Juan and Diego will join me tonight. We plan to spend some time together outdoors, where there is actually Fall weather and color.  It’s a good thing too since I am getting a bit lonely and I am tired of moving furniture before I go to bed.

Do you ever enjoy traveling alone?

Blog 2.0 (Or is it 3.0?)

If you are reading this then you know that I am re-launching this blog. Again.  It is ironic that the last entry before this post is titled “Back to Blogging.”  It seems like I continue to start and re-start posting to my blog after lapsing in and out of writing.  This time around I could not bring myself to writing because I was trying to avoid the awful truth that almost two years of blog posts had been lost to the cybersphere.  Let me explain.

I started blogging in 2009, with very little knowledge about servers, websites, and backing up data.  I just wanted to write.  My husband was my technical support.  Over the years, I went to a few blogger conferences and began to grow my blog.  I learned just enough technical stuff to be dangerous.  I decided to buy my own domain name, LifeWellBlended.com.  I am not even sure I can explain how that works, but suffice to say, my blog was showing up at two addresses: LifeWellBlended.com and this address, Life Well Blended@Wordpress.com. I learned how to connect the two blog sites, so that when I posted at my own domain name, the blog post would show up here.  Then, the sharing feature stopped working and I did not fix it.  Ah well! I was still posting and saving my posts at my own blog address. Or so I thought.

The renewal to pay for my domain name came due right around the holidays.  It was a busy time.  We were experiencing a lot of stress in our family so I had gone into blog hibernation, and had stopped writing.  I was considering shutting down my blog at my domain name anyway so I did not make paying the renewal fee a priority.  Before I knew it, almost one month passed before I decided I wanted to maintain the blog.  When I checked the site, I discovered a notice that said, “Site not found.” What?! I immediately called the company and was told the site had been closed and they could not recover the data.  Worse yet, I really never got around to backing up the blog on my domain name.  As I began to realize the extent of the loss–two years of family stories, photos, my writings– I was overwhelmed.  I could not event think about it. This blog went silent.

My life went on. My kids got older. My job became more demanding. I became more despondent about my failed attempt at blogging, and my lackluster efforts at writing. I kept telling myself I wanted to be a writer, but what was I doing about it?  NOTHING.  I kept making excuses about why I couldn’t write. The kids’ lives were too private. My job was too busy.  I needed to be fully present for my family.  I was too old. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Then, a couple of things began to gnaw at me.  One of them was the voice of my cousin who had encouraged me when I was having doubts about applying to law school at the ripe old age of 29.  I told him I was getting too old. He told me I would be turning 30 anyway.  I could be turning 30 and be going to law school. Duh.

I also began listening to books.  I don’t have much time to read lately, but I have a lot of time in the car.  Commuting to work. Household chores. Running errands.  Listening to books has helped me tap into my love of stories, and my longing to write my own story.  I really enjoy historical fiction and don’t really enjoy non-fiction, but this book kept coming up on my social media feeds.

I thought the title was funny and I had expiring Audible credits, so I bought the audio book. I have listened and re-listened to sections. I play parts to my husband so he can understand what I am feeling. I bought the hard copy of the book so that I can mark it up. It has convicted me and led me back to the computer and this blog.

I will write my own story. I will practice the discipline of writing. Re-launching this blog will help me do both.  Thanks for visiting.

Back to Blogging

I am dropping by this blog for a quick minute to say hi and see if anyone is out there? Anyone?

Actually, I’ve been thinking about doing this for quite sometime, but something always got in the way, namely me and my so-called life. So much time has gone by and so much has happened—really good things, and some really-not-so-good things. I have allowed these things to keep me from blogging.

I woke up today and turned over a new month on the calendar. How did it get to be August? And how did so many months go by without me stopping to enjoy, reflect and blog? Everytime I thought about blogging, I would get so overwhelmed about how many things I’ve missed writing about, and how much I still needed to process before I could write, that I would get overwhelmed about the thought of blogging. I didn’t know how to catch up. I didn’t know how to start again.

I took my lunch hour to check in on some blogs which I enjoy reading, and which I haven’t read in many weeks. Just as I was finished and was about to turn back to the pile of legal documents on my desk, my husband walked through the door carrying gifts, fresh flowers from the farmers market, and broccoli. The flowers are for me and the broccoli is for tonight’s dinner. Maybe it’s the flowers, the blogs, the passing summer, but I decided I just need to get to back to blogging. I guess I’ll just start out blogging about today. I’ll catch you up later,

So, here I am. Is anyone out there? Anyone?

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Flowers for Today

Here and There

I’m here!! Well, to be totally honest, I am only here for now.

In case you haven’t noticed the sound of crickets chirping on my blog, I haven’t posted in a while. In fact, it’s been a little over one month since my last post. I wish I could say that I was traveling the world, and was in an exotic location where there was no internet access. Or perhaps, that I was caught up in the middle of some terrific criminal trial that left me little time or energy to blog.  But, it was nothing that exciting, I was studying.  I was studying so much that Diego often asked me if I could stop reading long enough to give him a “hugga.” My stress and absence was enough that my teen kids even noticed, and prompted them to ask me when my exam would be over; and it was enough to make my high school daughter grin in delight when I asked her if she had any blank index cards I could use to make my own set of study flash cards.  Sigh.  Crazy as it is, between work, home and family, I really missed my busy but predictable life. I have a newfound respect for any parent who manages to juggle school, work and family at the same time. I only had to do it for a few months and it was awful. Now that the exam is over, and the period when I wait for exam results has begun, I am trying to get back to the business of living…and blogging.

While I was on blogging hiatus, I was not able to make much progress on my list of 50 Things to do Before my 50th Birthday, with the exception of one thing, Number 23, Get a New Blog Design. When I started blogging I knew next to nothing about it. I knew even less about creating my own blog site.  I used a blog theme that allowed me to design my own banner, but I have never liked my banner. In August, I attended a BlogHer session about designing your own site.  One of the session panelists  was Cynthia at Nap Warden Designs.  She provided a lot of great information and made the whole thing seem easy. I was inspired. Even though I lacked the technical know-how to create a new site, I thought that with a little time and effort, I could do it. Well, one month later, I was still fiddling around with this idea, and I wasn’t’ any closer to having a finished look. In fact, I spent more time trying to get the hang of codes, and design, than I did writing any content.  So, I decided to scrap the do-it-yourself idea and hire someone who actually knows what they are doing. I started exploring design sites and found some really great ideas. Lo and behold, the sites I liked the most were those created by Cynthia. I figured it was meant to be.  I hired Cynthia to re-design my blog. Part of her job was to figure out what I blogged about, and come up with something that captured my “brand.” She came up with what I think I’m about, family and  heritage. I hope you like it. I really do.

Since I was going to all this trouble of getting a new blog design I decided I should also get my own domain name. So, I am packing up this WordPress address, and moving here:

www.lifewellblended.com

I hope you will follow me there by clicking on the link.  If you are a subscriber, then you will need to re-subscribe by clicking on one of the one of the icons on the new site. While you are at it, you can like my new Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter. And just to make it interesting, and because I have nothing better to do, I have decided to participate in NaBloPoMo again this year. This means I will be posting everyday for the month of November.  Now,  maybe instead of watching me study every night, my kids will see me blogging.

50/50 Friday Weeks 10-15

It’s been several weeks since I have updated my list of 50 Things to Do Before I am 50.  My progress has slowed to a near grinding halt, since I have been preoccupied with getting everyone back to school, including me. Well, I am not actually in “school,” but I am studying for a big exam, and it leaves me little time to do anything else, including working my 50/50 list.  When I am not working my glamourus full-tim job as a high-powered government attorney, driving carpool, or helping with homework, I am reviewing criminal law and procedure. Bleh.  But, the family still needs to eat, and I still need to have my ocassional glass of wine, so here’s some minor progress on my list:

Iced Coffee.

It was really hot recently. My Colombian husband practically grew up on cafe con leche.  Iced coffee sounded like the best way to satisfy my  husband on a hot end-of summer day, without having to take my clothes off.  Plus, I was tired and needed a jolt of caffeine. I found this recipe on this website. It looked so good and very simple. The problem was that I didn’t have a  container big enough, so I had to cut the recipe in half. That involved some simple fractions. Yuck. Hey, if I was good at math, I would have gone to medical school, not law school. The end result was that I made some really strong iced coffee. Even my coffee addict husband thought it was too strong. After we diluted it a bit, poured in some half and half, it was as good as any baristas’ iced coffee and a fraction of the price.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Over the Labor Day weekend we hosted both sides of the family for a family dinner. When both sides of our local immediate families get together we number 22! Naturally, our celebrations involve pot luck and I assigned myself one of the main dishes, Cedar Plank Salmon.  I have tried cooking salmon wrapped in cedar paper, but it didn’t seem to have enough flavor. This time, I bought some cedar planks at the grocery store and soaked them in water.  I bought the fish at Costco, seasoned it and sprinkled it with brown sugar. I was inspired by this recipe, but, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I kind of improvised. The fish was a hit, as evidenced by this photo. We couldn’t take the photo fast enough. The crowd was hungry!

Cedar Plank Salmon

Smothered Pork Chops

The next thing I made was Smothered Pork Chops. Last Sunday I was feeling like I wanted some comfort food. I had some pork chops in the refrigerator so I looked on my favorite online cooking resource and found this recipe.  Just what I wanted, and even better because I only had to wash one pot.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

As a side dish I roasted brussel sprouts. I didn’t really need a recipe for this since I have made brussel sprouts before, but I still consulted with a few sources to find a different way to prepare them. I have boiled them and sauteed them before, but never roasted them. First  I cut them in half, then I drizzled some olive oil on them and seasoned them with salt and pepper. I placed them flat side down on a cookie sheet and roasted them in the oven for about 40 minutes at a temperature of 425 degrees. When they were done I sprinkled a little parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes on them.  I thought they came out great, and I will probably always make them this way.  Here’s what the dinner looked like:

Smothered Pork Chops and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

September Wine

During our family gathering we served this wonderful pinto gris. Juan scored this wine for a great price at our local grocery store. It was crisp, light and if I really knew anything about wine I would say it had tones of citrus and vanilla. What I do know is that it was really refreshing, and our guests enjoyed it too. It seems like we weren’t the only ones who liked it, and I am not the only one to blog about it. Check this mom’s post about her review of the same wine.