Be Happy Anyway

Be Happy Anyway
From Brave Girls Club

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I guess that's so. When you look at photos taken by Ansel Adams or Annie Liebowitz, they definitely tell a story. The only difference between your photos and photographers like these two is you may never see yourself in a museum or on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. That doesn't diminish the stories that your photos tell.

Take for example this photo that showed up in my newsfeed today. What do you see?

The man was my Sweetie Bobby. He would have turned 50 on Monday.

The car was his pride and joy. There was a carwash near his house that offered a rain check up to three days after your first wash. He used that raincheck and would upgrade to a full wash every time. When asked what kind of air freshener, he would always get New Leather. He took very good care of it, making sure to get the oil changed as directed and rotating the tires regularly. He needed to do this because his job had him driving long distance, and every three weeks he drove nine hours through the West Texas heat to see me.

In addition to the car, I see plaid shorts and gray trainers. He was a khaki pants, "dad jean" wearing kind of guy. He felt dressed up if he wore Dockers deck shoes. Bobby let me dress him, choose his clothes and even his shoes. So when I see those plaid shorts, I smile because it shows how much he valued my opinion.

Another thing I notice are his calves. When he would go to the gym, he would get on the elliptical machine and bang out the miles. He would call me after the gym and rib me about how many calories he had burned. Bobby also learned about spin class at the gym. There was something about the loud music and frenetic pace that grabbed his attention.

You may notice he is taking a picture. It was probably with an iPhone. That man loved technology, especially his Apple products. I once converted him to Android but it was short-lived. When the next iPhone came out, he immediately switched. His dining room was not a dining room. It was his technology center where he took apart computers or experimented with Raspberry Pi circuits.

Lastly, you will see that this photo was taken in the mountains. Bobby loved the outdoors, camping with his youngest and traveling. This trip was to the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains. When the instructors taught about the planets, stars and satellites, Bobby was all ears. As we left, he was already talking about the next time.

So I challenge you. Find a photo you haven't seen for a while. Look at it carefully. What story does it tell you?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

But You Are so White!

I've heard that many times in my life, and today wasn't much different.

It's actually a funny story. There is a girl who calls me mom. I never did get a chance to officially become her mom because Bobby and I never married. Nonetheless, LM is one of my children.

LM called me today while Caitlin and I were driving down the highway, and just like my other two kids, if she needs me, I'm usually going to do what I can for her. Her question was a funny one. "You speak Spanish, right?" Now the answer to that is a complicated one, but yes, Spanish words have been known to come out of my mouth. So I tell her I do and ask her why. Well, it seems while she was having a garage sale, there was a man there interested in buying a car she had. However, he only spoke Spanish. I tell her I am five minutes away and head over there instead of going to Hobby Lobby.

When I get to the garage sale, I introduce myself to the man who starts talking a mile a minute in Spanish. Uh oh! I give him my overwhelmed look, and he begins to slow down. I tell him what I can about the car, relay his questions to LM and her boyfriend R, and try to translate back to the man what R said. It's quite comical listening to me speak in Spanish at the level of a three year old because I clearly don't know how to say things like timing belt and battery. My Spanish is limited to asking where the bathroom or library is or telling someone that Juan is wearing brown pants. Nevertheless, we settle on a date for the man to come back and see the car when the garage sale isn't going.

As he and I walk away, he thanks me and wonders aloud how I learned Spanish. I explain that my parents are both Puerto Rican but I grew up here (Texas) to which he responds with the typical, "You're so white."

Growing up in America with Puerto Rican parents, I have learned a few things. 1) There are people of many races in Puerto Rico. 2) That seems to be the truth in any country. 3) Even Hispanic people can be ignorant to the fact that Latin American people come in many colors.

And this is why I gave this man my usual response. I nodded and smiled.

Some of my many Puerto Rican cousins. (2005)

Friday, January 1, 2016


It's that time again, time to reflect on the past year and decide what kind of progress I've made. My word for the year was FORWARD. Even though I didn't write about it at all, I feel I have managed to move forward pretty well. But to see how I've moved forward I would like to take a look back - waaay back.

A look back at where it all began - 2009

I said I wanted to develop good habits such as:
  • Cooking at least 5 days a week 
  • Drinking Water 
  • Exercise 
  • Reading books 
  • Playing with my children  
  • Sticking to my plans 
  • Saving Money 
  • Go to bed no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays 
Did I? Not so much then, but I do many of them now  and I think that says something. It says you may plant a seed to something that may take awhile to grow but with patience you will see results, especially with periodic reflection on where you have come from.

The year 2012 found me looking to live more BOLDLY and boy did I. That was the year everything changed in a big way. 

I went through a lot that year including moving out with my kids, moving back to Texas, starting a new job, and so many other things.

That has to be the funniest OLW ever. I still do't finish much - at least when it comes to crafty projects. I have a half painted bookshelf in the garage, an unpainted table in the garage and a table that needs to be repainted in the kitchen. I also have my feet propped on an ottoman that needs to be recovered. That's pretty much me - full of ideas that never get accomplished. In fact, I don't even think I even finished focusing on my OLW for 2013. Typical.

So this leaves me with 2015's word FORWARD  where I said:

The word FORWARD makes me think of this little clip from Meet the Robinsons:

Growth mindset is what we teach our students at my school. When you fail, you keep moving forward. So thinking about this concept leads me to my word for 2016.



Will I blog about it? We will see. I'm looking forward to what 2016 has in store for me.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

What to Cook? What to Cook?

This summer found me being a bit lazy, especially because I was on vacation for three weeks and my youngest was away for three weeks. So imagine six weeks of not cooking when the little one asks, "What's for dinner?"

James's favorite dinner is spaghetti. I usually keep ground beef, pasta and sauce on hand as a go-to because I know it is something he will he eat.

The other day Cait and I went to Sam's Club and bought a big box of spaghetti and a four pound package of ground beef, but I didn't bring home any sauce. My go to is Hunt's Traditional spaghetti sauce. It's inexpensive. It can be used for pasta, lasagna, meatball subs and many other things. However, when James said, "Spaghetti," my mind did a mental inventory and realized I had none. So what's a mom to do? Improvise.

I have never made spaghetti sauce from scratch but could imagine what would go in it. Here's what I came up with.

I found two small cans of tomato sauce (a staple in a Puerto Rican household), an onion, garlic, a random jar of roasted red peppers and regular seasonings. I asked Cait if she had remembered to divide the ground beef into one pound packages, but she didn't so we had to deal with a four pound frozen lump of beef. Somehow she managed to break the block into four even sections that she placed in freezer bags and placed back in the freezer. The pound that we needed was still frozen solid and it was suppertime, so we put it in the five quart pot with a quarter cup of water, turned the pot on medium and covered it. It wasn't long before the meat was cooked and Cait broke it up into large crumbles.

Normally, I would sauté the onions and garlic first and then add thawed ground beef and seasonings. So if you have thawed meat, try it that way. It will give the meat more flavor.

After the beef was browned, I put in the rest of the ingredients but found it was a bit acidic so I added a tablespoon of sugar. Caitlin tasted it and liked it so I decided it was good to go.

Cait cooked the spaghetti noodles to al dente, drained the noodles and put it back in the pasta pot. I scooped some sauce on the noodles and mixed it together. James ate it that way, and I served Cait and me with some more sauce on top.

For having never made my own sauce, I am pretty darned impressed as was James. I may be done using store bought sauce. Try it out and let me know what you think.

2 TBS Olive Oil
1/2 Sweet onion diced
3-4 cloves of garlic minced
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 TBS of dried oregano (crushed)*
1 tsp pepper
1 roasted red pepper chopped finely**
8 oz tomato sauce
1 TBS sugar

*The oregano I used was Mexican oregano because that's what I had.
** I had a jar of roasted red peppers in the pantry so I used one whole pepper from the jar.

Heat a 5 quart pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Sauté diced onion until almost clear. Add garlic and continue to sauté. Brown ground beef in the same pot until juices run clear. Add salt, pepper and crushed oregano while browning.

Once the meat is cooked throughly, stir in the chopped roasted red pepper, tomato sauce and sugar.

Simmer while you cook the pasta of your choice.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and serve.

Serves 6

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Meaningful Lunch

My mom doesn't live too far away but we only see each other three to four times a month. Sometimes I drive to her, sometimes we meet at the movies and many times she drives to where I live to eat at the local diner. Today was one of those days.

Lunch at the diner is nothing special. We usually see the same wait staff and eat the same food. Today, however, I got a big surprise.

My mom and I were looking over the pictures from my vacation when one of the servers complimented me on my sneakers. I looked at her and saw a flash in the eyes that made me ask her what her name was. When she told me, I couldn't believe it. She was a student from fourteen years ago. I told her, "I was your teacher!!!" She shouted, "Mrs. Victory!!!" and hugged my tightly.
Aren't they cute?

We then started talking about her and how she'd been. She was proud to tell me that she was married and had a child. She remembered being a difficult student. (She was.) She was one of those hard case kids whom everyone shook their heads about when they saw her coming down the hall. She was loud and disrespectful, and I felt I wasn't reaching her. But the kicker came when she told me, "But I learned from you. I learned that actions have consequences." It really touched my heart because it is the one thing I talk to my students about ALL THE TIME. 

I asked her about her plans. She told me about attending college and studying criminal justice. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! 

As we left the diner, she called out to me again. She hugged me again and then let me know something sad. Two of her classmates had passed - one due to drugs and the other because of gun violence. My heart was crushed.

It made me realize, you can't reach every kid. You can make yourself crazy trying to. But you try your best. Hold your students to high expectations. They may not all hear you, but the ones who do just might surprise you. 

SIDE NOTE: I referred to this young lady as "she" a lot. My mother always told me not to use "she" because of something the nuns used to say, but I didn't feel right using her name and using a made up name didn't seem to fit either.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Year Later

I would like to thank everyone who helped me through this past year. A year ago today I lost my other half. It was one of the most heart crushing losses I have ever experienced. Bobby brought me so much joy, happiness and support during our time together. He was loving, patient and kind even when I was difficult. I am thankful for the time we had together. It taught me that there are people out there like my dad who are willing to do anything for you without asking anything in return.
 Christmas 2012

 Alpine, TX 2013

White Sands Missile Range 2014

So today I thank some of those people. Renee thank you for dropping everything and picking me up off the floor that first day - oh, and for folding laundry with me. Erica and Junior thank you for letting this blubbering mess stay with you, teaching me how to shoot at things and going with me to the cemetery. Janet and Brian thank you for opening your home to me when the stress got too much. It was just what I needed. Thomas you were a rock to your sister, mother and me, and I hope you have remembered that you need taking care of as well. I have enjoyed sharing Audiobooks with you. Judy thank you for accepting me as your daughter and sharing all of your family photos. Lauren, I consider you like another daughter. You are smart, talented and funny and strong. You can do anything you set your mind to do. Don't forget that. Mom, there are no words to describe all you have done. Just know I don't take it for granted. My children Caitlin and James, I love you. Bobby loved spending time with you. You give me the strength to get up everyday. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge Pamela K. You provided me with the resources I needed to manage my grief. I found a new friend in you.

Others who let me open up include Michelle, who showed me the value of aromatherapy; Jamie and Rebecca, although sometimes the loss you experienced somehow seems far more significant than mine at times, you opened your hearts to me. My running crew who pushed me and gave another reason to get out of bed every Saturday morning. The stamina you helped me build provided me with the physical strength I needed to pull myself through this year. Finally, my coworkers who had no clue what they were signing up for when I joined their team. Thank you for a successful year.

When I talk to my friend Miruspeg, the conversation often turns to a book by Ruby Payne called the Framework for Understanding Poverty. According to this book, there are several resources for success beyond financial security. They include:

  •  Emotional­ - the person can choose and control emotional responses, especially to negative situations, without engaging in self destructive behavior
  •  Mental­ - having the mental ability and acquired skills (reading, writing, and computing) to deal with daily life. 
  •  Spiritual­ - believing in divine purpose and guidance. 
  •  Physical­ - having physical health and mobility
  •  Support Systems­ - Having friends, family, and backup resources available to access in times of need 
  •  Relationships/ Role Models­ Having frequent access to adults who are appropriate, nurturing, and who do not engage in self destructive behavior. 
  •  Knowledge of Hidden Rules­ knowing unspoken cues and habits of a group

When I evaluate my life according to these standards, I find I am truly rich. Thanks again to everyone who has acted as my support system this past year. You truly made a difference.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Road Trip Anyone?

As a teacher, I am very much looking forward to summer break. The kids and I have lots of plans. What are your plans for this summer? Are you planning a road trip? Will your kiddos be going along? Do you dread hearing, "I'm bored"?

I have an idea for you.

My good friend Mimi has put together the most amazing Travel Activity Binder you could ever imagine. AND it's only $2.99. Can you believe it?

I don't want to give too much away, but it is jammed packed with over 30 pages of fun. I know my kids will enjoy them (even the teenager), and I am excited to see how much unplugged time we can get this summer.

Want to check it out? Hey, it's only $2.99 and well worth it. Just click on the image below.

Mimi calls herself a self-proclaimed "creator-holic." Her wholesome recipes make me want to get back to basics. I also wish we lived just a bit closer so I could drop in for dinner. So while you are at her site, go through her recipe and craft ideas, too. You will be glad you did. 

Disclosure: I did receive this product for free to review.

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