Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dream weaving...

It's been a while since I can remember my dreams. So, when I woke up remembering this one vividly, I wonder about its meaning.

The dream: I am outside in a public area. Don't remember who or what was around me. I see pine trees and woods all around. Some other stuff happens that I can't remember, but the part that's vivid is the last piece. I'm walking up a slope towards the trees, woods, and see stuffed animals all around. Under each tree is a stuffed animal propped up against the tree trunk, just sitting there. And throughout the woods floor are stuffed animals just sitting around. As I'm walking towards them (maybe to pick one up and throw to my dog???) they all start to frown. Then, as I get closer, each of them has a frown face on them :(

For some reason, this is my cue that something bad is going to happen. I begin to run back down the hill/slope and tell the people all around (now there are random people around) that the flood is coming. My sister appears (older sister) and I tell her that I know this because the stuffed animals are frowning and they told me so. Well, she says that I'm over-reacting. That I cannot read animal faces. At that same time, the flood starts. Ahead of us is an arroyo (that's a dry river bed for you non-Arizonans). We must all get to the other side before being swept up by the approaching floodwaters).

We see people getting swept up, some making it, others going through some black hole tunnel/underpass. My sister and I decide we have to jump and walk through NOW before the water gets too high. We jump. Me first, but holding her hand. We push through to the other side and grab on and pull ourselves up to safety on the other side. I remember feeling that my toes are barely able to touch the ground and that my sister is the one pulling me along.

It ends with that. We make it across.

The interpretation: Crazy weird! The stuffed animals creep me out!
According my my dream dictionary:
Floods = a feeling of overwhelming circumstances invading my real life, like my "to-do" list or an emotional crisis.
= in any form, symbolizes emotions.
Flood (pt. 2) = this is my favorite interpretation:
Depending on the content of the dream and your emotional experience in it, the flood could also represent sexuality and be a sexual dream symbol.

wild animals are reps of feelings and emotions that we don't readily deal with. Symbols of dangers being swallowed by the unconscious.

OK, now it's your turn...what's your interpretation?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cup of love

Sometimes the thing that makes you feel better is simply sitting, enjoying the beautiful weather and sipping the best coffee ever.
At a local cafe, Lux, coffee is an art. Plus, they gave me some apple pie to taste and tell them what I thought of it. Well, simply put..."yummy."

So. Lately I've been in a funk. It's not something that goes away. It comes and goes. It usually goes. Have you ever felt that you were the only one in the world that thinks like you? Have you ever looked around and wondered where on earth is everyone?

I've made some choices in my life that have drastically changed the course of my life. I don't regret these choices, I celebrate them, mostly. But sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if I didn't do that? Where would I be? How would my life have turned out? Would I have a family by now? Would I be here in Arizona? Would I be a mother, wife, friend? To whom? Would I be closer to my father? Mother? Sisters? Would they love me more? Would I be loved?

Someone asked me once if I feel complete. I answered then as I do now...YES. My life is rich, full, complete. But different than that of most of the people I see around me. Different than my sisters. Different than the strangers around me at this coffee shop. Different than most people I know. Different from the lovers past and present. I just feel different. I don't recognize the shoes I wear. They're mine, and I'm walking in them. But I don't know where they're taking me. My path is a strange one...

I go through the motions of my life, living it the best way I know how. And I'm wondering when I need to take the next step. When is the time that I move on? Where is the sign that my life will change again? I wait and I hope. In the meantime, I sit back and enjoy the sunshine, the coffee and pie. I sit and take in everything that is good around me.

As I was riding to the cafe this morning, I was listening to one of my favorite singers/songwriters, Michael Franti. I love his lyrics and sometimes they even hit home...

So I let go of a broken heart
I let go to an open heart
I let go of my broken dreams
I let go to the mystery
And I believe in the miracles
I believe in the spiritual
I believe in the one above
I believe in the one I love

And take one step closer to you
I just take one step closer to you
Even when I've fallen down
My heart says follow through
I take one step closer to you

I keep on walking to you, I'm walking
I keep on walking to you, I'm walking
I keep on walking to you, I'm walking
And I'm never going to stop

Even when I've fallen down
My heart says follow through
I'll take one step closer
I'll take two steps closer...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rescuing puppies

Jack and Ivanna

So, I'm not so sure what got into me on Friday. I received an e-mail telling the sad story of 2 dogs who's owners couldn't pay the rent anymore and packed up and left. Only, they also left their dogs behind. As the dogs were trying to jump into the car and go along...they were shoved out and left standing, watching their owners drive away. The neighbors took care of the dogs by going over to the house and feeding them and hiding them from the pound that came looking for them. They tried calling all the no-kill shelters...full, to the max...thanks to the increase in foreclosures. The only place willing to take them was the Humane Society. Only, they're also full so they'd be immediately euthanized. What was I going to do? Well...I took the pups! Not sure what I was going to do with them since I already have one that's just perfect for me. Thanks to friends, I borrowed 2 crates, some leashes, bowls, dog food and went to get my new babies.

Friday: Met the pooches, Jack and Ivanna. Cuties! Put the collar and leashes on them...they immediately laid down not sure what to do with the new things around their necks. Never leaving their house or backyard, it was a new world for them! And they didn't know how to walk with a I had to carry them into the car. Had a neutral visit with Nerina, my dog, at the park across the street to do the obligatory butt-sniffing and humping. Only Ivanna would have nothing to do with Nerina. Fangs out and tail-between-her-legs she immediately proceeds to attempt to bite her...this is not a good start! Fear-aggression is a difficult thing to work out and I know that I'll have my hands full for a while.

At the house, crates are up, room is ready for new additions. They're quarantined until they get used to the rules and norms of the house. They immediately love the crates and jump in it anytime they can (except Jack prefers to jump on it and look out the window during the day). Slept like babies all night.

Saturday: Tried to get them used to the leash. Took them for a "walk." 20 minutes later, coaxed them out of the front gate and down 2 houses...that's it! Not a bad start, I suppose. Jack's a natural retriever....loves to catch things. Ivanna just loves to follow me around, rub up against me, wag her tail, and look up at me lovingly. Then she goes over and tries to bite Nerina. Still working on that one. Jack discovered my pond...and loves to get in it and eat the algae...thanks Jack!

I can't leave them outside unsupervised yet...when I did, they dug a potted plant, ate a few t-shirts laying outside, and jumped into my garden.
They get a few good hours of sunshine, play and running around time...then, it's back in their room for a while.

Sunday: My friend, TK, visits for the day...Jack eats the corner of his book. TK will learn not to do that anymore. Jack and Ivanna sunbathe while I lay nearby on the hammock. More leash training, this time inside the backyard. Jack and Ivanna are learning "this way," "leave it," and "come."

Beautiful day.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

unconventional conventions...

At the RNC in St. Paul last week

I found this old blog that I never sent out. Got busy, I guess. But I figure I might as well publish it now. Only 1 1/2 more days until the election...cross your fingers people!!! It's going to be an amazing night! Who else is planning on taking Wednesday off work?

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Democratic National Convention in Denver last week. Through a series of luck, more luck and some very close connections, I got a free ticket both to Denver and into the Stadium to hear Obama's speech.

To say it simply, I make a very bad democrat. I think some Dems would like it if I didn't affiliate with them. Not sure why, really. It's just that most Democrats I know are more like liberal republicans. There are very little differences between party's these days. Saying that I'm liberal would be an understatement. I support women's rights to safe abortions, I support open borders, our right to marry whoever we want, hate the war, love the poor, think the rich should share their money, love community organizing, support collective communities, I'd rather bike or walk than drive (even though I rarely's the idea that counts, right?), love the trees, polar bears and baby seals ;) I think you get the picture.

I know that I have friends and family on all ends of the spectrum on these issues, and I love each and every one of you! I appreciate that I'm constantly challenged to defend my beliefs, re-think some of my views (but most of you know I rarely change my mind!!). I've heard many suggest that those who share my views hate this country...and we're unpatriotic. You know, I've struggled to come to an opinion about how to respond. How can I prove or convince someone of the motives behind my beliefs? What I do know is that my parents came to this country because they believed that there was something greater here that they could have, be a part of, that didn't exist in their country. Something about freedoms...of liberties, pursuits of happiness, peace.

What most people have forgotten, or never realized, is that this country was founded on the principal of fighting for justice, serious activism and protest to obtain those liberties we have today. If it wasn't for organizers, unions, dissent, protest, and many, many committed individuals to fight for justice for the poor, the oppressed, then we would be a very different country. But this struggle comes at a large price.

As I've witnessed both in the streets a few weeks ago and in Indy media coverage, our right to protest and pea
cefully assemble is seen as a greater and greater threat to our government. There has developed over the years a growing frustration with the status quo, the rising divide between rich and poor, privileged and poor, and class struggles.

I thought I'd share some photos and video from both the RNC and DNC this summer. Not my pictures, but good ones...

At the RNC in St. Paul September 2, 2008...what the heck are they afraid of?

Summer basil...

I love basil. There isn't an herb that brings me back to my childhood like basil. Running my fingers through the leaves in my dad's garden, eating it straight from the garden, smelling it on my clothes as brush by the plant. Now I have 5 basil plants and I'm busy finding creative ways to eat and cook with it.

Besides the traditional recipes (like adding it to everything), one of my favorite things to make is pesto. My mom has satisfied my pesto addiction in the past by gifting me little baggies with pesto paste; enough to last an entire year. But now, I have my own garden full of the tiny green leaves. Here's a good recipe for pesto that I use. It's the one that my mom uses. The nice thing with this is that you it stores well. Just put them in little baggies and freeze them, or put in a jar and cover with olive oil to keep the paste wet.

4 Tbs. pine nuts (+/-)
2 garlic cloves (I love garlic, so I add alot more)
2 or 3 cups of firmly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Add more, as needed.
1 cup of fresh, grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
some salt

Combine pine nuts and garlic in food processor. Chop coarsely. Add half of the basil. Chop coarsely. Add the rest of the basil, olive oil and process until thick, green paste forms. If the sauce is too thin, add more basil; too thick, add more olive oil. Add the cheese and process again for a few seconds.

I'm already set for most of the fall and if anyone wants some, just give me a call! Another delicious recipe is for Basil-Lemonade!! Really, it's that delicious. It also tastes really good over ice and rum (or other favorite drink). I've made this with fresh lemons off my neighbors trees, but you can just go out and buy the'll need about 12 of them, if you double the recipe.

Basil Lemonade

2 cups basil lemon syrup (recipe below)
2 cups cold water
2 cups ice cubes
1 ¼ cups fresh lemon juice

Stir together all ingredients in a large pitcher or bowl. Pour into tall glasses half-filled with ice. For an alcoholic version (which I recommend), add 3/4-cup vodka to the mix before serving.

Makes about 6 drinks.

Basil Lemon Syrup

2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
4 (4- by 1-inch) strips lemon zest (I left these out)
2 cups packed fresh basil sprigs

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and zest. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the basil, stir to combine, and let stand at room temperature, covered, for 1 hour. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and chill until cold, about 1 hour. Strain the syrup through a sieve into an airtight container, pressing hard on and then discarding the solids.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Potluck Ettiquette

I found this blog today about potluck faux pas and think it's a must read if you've ever hosted or attended a potluck. Really, I can't tell you how many times many of these items have happened to me (especially number 4...I always get soooo many potato chips!!).

Anyway, let me know if you've been a victim of this or, (could it be possible??) you've actually committed some of these crimes!

A few potluck rules of thumb. This comes from the post punk kitchen blog:

1) Coordinate with others so that not everyone is bringing sweets.

2) There has to be at least one lasagna.

3) Bring your A-game, spend a few hours in the kitchen, now is the time to impress, not to cut corners.

4) Bring something! And not a little bag of chips, either. If you absolutely can not cook something, then call the host and see what is needed - drinks, fresh fruit. Something. But if more than a few people are doing this, that makes for a crappy potluck.

5) Don’t plan on cooking at the host’s house. What the hell is that about? If you have to do that, then call the host and see that it’s okay. Warming up is absolutely permitted, but preparing your whole dish there without warning? No. Just no, never, no.

6) Bring big portions. Some people have said they bring enough for 6, but why? Is it really that much harder to cook for 12? Like I said, now is the time to go all out. Make time in your schedule, prioritize the potluck. Mean business!

7) Help the host clean up. Or at least offer to. They will probably say no.

8) The host should not be doing most of the cooking. As the host it’s your job to really bring it because it’s your kitchen, but it isn’t your job to bring…all of it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Vacation 2008

Even though it's only mid-July, my summer is officially over. I went back to work this week after having the past 6 weeks off. For those of you who work in schools, this is just way too short. For everyone else, don't be jealous! The first 3 weeks was spent in the desert in Southern Arizona and in Tucson. I spent half of my time at the desert aid camp, helping to coordinate the volunteers coming down to help with the humanitarian aid work.

Here's an e-mail I sent to a friend when I came back from the desert:

"Just got back yesterday from being in Arivaca this week. It's hot! And also incredibly sad and tiring stuff. I feel good about being out there, though. It makes all that we do worthwhile knowing that the work is reaching people.

I met a man from Guatemala who was lost for a week, just wandering and walking North, separated from his group by Border Patrol. The only thing that kept him walking all week was his 2 year old daughter currently living in North Carolina. Seeing a grown man cry for the day when he can hold his daughter again is extremely moving and I feel honored to be able to help him on his way. After some rest and rehabilitation he continued on his way. I pray for his safe journey to reach his family.

We saw a group of 11 the other day (the temperature read 115 degrees in the shade) who were lost and walking for 4 days. No coyote, just all walking on their own. When we arrived, they ran and reached for our water and food desperately. They asked how much farther until they reach Phoenix. How could I tell them that they were only 4 miles from the border? That they have been walking in circles for 4 days? That they will surely not make it to Phoenix? One man from the group was from Honduras...he left home on May 27. Another man had a terribly sprained foot, all black and blue and swollen so large. He could barely put any weight on it. He was encouraged to stop and not to continue walking because they were heading towards the mountains and steep canyons. After pleading with him for a while, he still decided to continue on, to keep moving. It's a mixed feeling for me, the extreme determination, will and faith in God keeps him going; but I'm filled with sadness that he will surely be left behind with the condition of his foot. Only a miracle will get him through this horrible desert.

Then, earlier that day, we came across a Mesquite tree where a woman's backpack was found, all of her belongings thrown around the tree. Her bras and underwear were hanging on the branches of the tree, like colorful flags from far away. We found her birth certificate and voter ID card under the tree. No sign of her anywhere, we looked under more trees and in the arroyos for signs of her. But nothing. She was 17, from Veracruz. Most likely, she was assaulted by someone and left by her group.

I try to find ways to process what I see and what is happening down here. It feels we're doing so little with so much going against us and the immigrants. The wall is going up around us, the helicopters are flying, and the heat is rising. "

Ann Arbor 2008
It's been 3 years since I visited Ann Arbor, MI, where I used to live, work and study. I decided it's time to go back and say thank you to a community of friends that have helped make me who I am today.
I lived there about 5 years, on and off. It's complicated. Ann Arbor is where I went to study Social Work. There, I learned about love, heartbreak, how to plant a garden, work on a cooperative farm, sing at the moon, bathe in the sun, swim in the lake, take off my clothes and go for a run, midnight walks on the train tracks, fireflies, camping, making a fire, snow, snow-shoveling, how to make a snow man, sledding in the park... I learned about life by enjoying it, by living it, by experiencing the amazing-ness that surrounds me. My life and times in Ann Arbor helped to shape my thoughts and beliefs about who I am, what I do, and how we are responsible to each other in this world.

Of course, not all of it was good. We think and remember the good and positive times. But forget the nights where I wondered "what the heck am I doing here? There's nothing left for me here. I need to get back to Arizona." (Seriously, that phrase popped into my head more than a few times. Arizona is the LAST place I wanted to get back to!). The first, and most significant, loss of a relationship happened that transformed the course of my life. It's amazing how one man's decision could potentially change the course of someone else's life. It did. And I'm grateful for it now because I wouldn't be here today.

Well, that was 8 years ago and I left. But I took with me everything that I learned, that was taught to be by my mentors and friends.

My small, raggedy Phoenix garden is thanks to Annie and Paul from the Community Farm of Ann Arbor.

My joy for adventure and spontaneous fun is thanks to 2 girls who taught me how to fall gracefully, pick myself back up and laugh loudly (with some bruises!).

My strength in times of sorrow, heartbreak and despair is thanks to a good friend and mentor who never stopped believing in me even when I stopped believing in myself.

My determination to move forward, blindly, in the hopes that something good is out there; to continue fighting for what I believe in; not to settle is thanks to several men and women who taught me to follow and trust my intuition.

My dedication to working with oppressed groups is thanks to a University system that encouraged dissent, fight and protest every step of the way.

Ona, Liz, Marley and Theresa...

John and TK...they're showing off their BBQ'ing skills

Marley and Ona...2 of the coolest girls I know!

Trying to show how amazing the sunset was that night

I spent 8 days with my good friend John and his partner Liz at their amazing home on 200 acres of farmland and wetlands! Yup, green space!! It was amazing, and I did nothing the whole week. I caught up on lots of leisure reading, went into town every day, went to the cafes, walked around town, visited the community farm, danced to swing, bluegrass and jazz music with TK, watched fireflies outside and went for walks...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bountiful Harvest II

Over the past few weeks, the phrase that pops into my mind is “bountiful harvest.” As I've been spending more and more time in my garden these past few weeks, bountiful harvest is a natural phrase to come into my mind as I'm constantly picking lots and lots of eggplant, tomatoes and basil, thinking I have a bountiful harvest of veggies that I don’t know what to do with. Also, how lucky I am that my garden is so healthy this year, how lucky I am to have the skills to be a part of this creation, and how abundant our food can be when we care for the soil, the plant, and the fruit. A little love and tenderness to the land provides one with a bountiful harvest of food to sustain us. Just enough to survive and eat well through the summer.

But the phrase bountiful harvest takes on many meanings for me these days. As I sat in the past 2 meetings last month, organizing to gather water for No More Deaths, with about 100 volunteers ready to help, I began to think "this is a bountiful harvest of volunteers." This project came at the perfect time for me…as I was feeling frustrated, discouraged, alone, overwhelmed and a bit depressed at all the work that needed to be done and the (seemingly) few people stepping up to help me. It’s one of those moments where I look around and wonder if it’s all worth the effort.

Three amazing and beautiful women called me, out of the blue, and wanted to organize a massive water drive every month this summer. It has evolved into over 100 volunteers organizing in Phoenix, and hundreds and hundreds of gallons of water steaming in…to my house, at schools, in office buildings. A “bountiful harvest” of volunteers, water, and commitment.

Over 2,500 gallons of water was donated in only 2 days and 24 hours. Completely dedicated people eager to help and contribute in some way. It was one of my best moments in the recent past that truly connects people to each other. (The other best moment was being a part of organizing the largest march in Arizona history the Spring of 2005).

I'm not a patient person, and I have a hard time trusting in the unknown. So, this has been a lesson to me, one that I'm still learning from. If I care for something, tend to it consistently and committedly, give it constant nourishment and love, and pray a little that the roots will take hold, then something, I don't really know what, but something, will begin to grow and take shape all on its own (this doesn't apply to relationships, me!).

volunteer collecting water on the corner

standing, surrounded by over 2,500 gallons of water!

water, water...everywhere!

little and big workers, young and old.

More volunteers, showing off our muscles

hardcore organizers...NMD represents!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


I have a thief in my garden. I came home the other day and ran outside to pick the biggest, reddest tomato growing so far in my garden. It was bigger than my fist and was hanging so nicely just that morning. I thought, "this tomato will be perfect to pick when I get home from work." So, I ran outside and it was disappeared. At first, I thought it just fell off the vine because it was so gigantic (it really was that big). But I looked down, around, on the side of the plant and nothing! I looked on my lawn, in the pond, in the basket near the door...maybe it walked out of the garden all on it's own. Nope. Gone. Disappeared. MIA.

Then, I turn on my dog. My dog who has been loyal to me for the past 12 years...I immediately blame her. I look her in the eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of the guilt that Nerina has when she's done something wrong and has been caught. Nope, no guilty look. I open her mouth, check her teeth, smell her breath. Again, nothing. No sign of the deep red tomato skin in her teeth or in her gums.

Then, I go back to the garden thinking I missed something obvious (footprints, paw prints, snake, mouse, something) when I notice that the pink/red little pear tomatoes were also missing! Yup, I have a tomato bandit!!! Not only that, but one of my little zebras was torn off the vine and half-eaten by, what looks like, a human. By the teeth marks on the poor little zebra, I could tell it was a little person (small man, woman, or child...everyone is guilty).

I suppose I shouldn't care...I was just thinking I had too much to eat all by myself. But, I wish they could have left me the big one. The first tomato on that vine. They could have had the rest. Isn't there thief etiquette? Shouldn't they have known?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bountiful Harvest

My first harvest...delicious!

I am raking in the veggies this week! My first full week of a bountiful harvest! Just 2 months ago I was pulling endless weeds from my very neglected garden. After 2 years, I decided to take up the much-loved hobby of backyard gardening. I stopped gardening after I began seeing my last boyfriend. It seemed there was no room for 2 things in my the garden had to go. Hmmm...I should have reconsidered my decision, since the garden space is still around and the boyfriend isn't. Instead, the garden became a nice space for all the neighborhood cats to hang out, for my dog to sniff around, and for the weeds to flourish.

I got my garden shovel out, along with my gloves, manure, and compost and set out to re-create a space which I used to love to hang out in. After spending many hours pulling weeds taller than me, creating a watering system that conserves water (remember, I live in a darn desert), I planted little itty-bitty transplants of 5 heirloom tomatoes (I only remember 2 plants of Zebra Tomatoes, can't remember what else I got), 6 Japanese eggplants (yummy!), 6 Italian basil (yummy, again), 3 red sweet peppers, 2 cantaloupes, 3 cilantros, and 1 sage plant.

I'm leaving for the summer in a week and now I'm not so sure I want to leave. I would love to sit in my backyard, gloves and hat on, under the shade cloth and disappear in the aroma of basil, in the trees of my tomatoes, the vines of my cantaloupe, and the purple passion of my eggplants. Alas, my garden will be tended to by a good friend...and she will enjoy a bountiful harvest...lucky her!

My garden...after pulling for about an hour...still with endless weeds...

Pile o' weeds

My garden now, with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, canteloup and basil...yummy!

My first tiny tomato...probably wasn't quite ready, but I'm not a patient person :)

Japanese Eggplant

Pear-shaped tomatoes (?) and Zebras (not sure if they're the red or the green ones. As you can see, I didn't wait around to see if they were supposed to be red.

Italian basil...need I say more? Yummy!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Memorial Mass for Josseline

This February, 4 NMD volunteers found the body of a 14 year old girl from El Salvador in the desert. Two months later, we went back to the site of her death, along with her family, to hold a Memorial Mass for her. We pilgrimaged about 3 hours from Tucson to Arivaca, then to the site of her death - a 1/2 mile walk to the canyon below.
It was a beautiful afternoon...windy, warm and sunny. There were about 25 of us there, 10 of her family drove from California to be there. Fr. Bob gave a wonderful Mass in Spanish, using a large stone as the altar. We built a cross that will remain there... Josseine Janiletha Hernandez Quinteros"

Her mother requested a quote be added to the memorial:

"Cuando sientes que el camino se te ha vuelto duro y dificil, no te des por vencido y sigue adelante, y busca la ayuda de Dios."

Te llevaremos siempre en el corazón

Thursday, April 17, 2008

With every Season

It's been eight years since I moved back to Phoenix. Living in Ann Arbor, one of the most amazing things I've experienced was the changing seasons. After the Winter months of dread, cold, and snow, the Spring jumps out with daffodils and flowering trees and perfect weather. Then the Summer months come with the fireflies, picnics, Jazz at the Park, long walks, humidity, and greeeeeen, followed by the Fall with a burst of color in the leaves on the trees, the change in the air, the pumpkin patches, the apples and cider farms. I was living in "season heaven."

So, people have mentioned that Phoenix has no seasons. That it shifts from freaking hot to cool. I, too, have been guilty of thinking this, at times, when I desperately want to leave and move away to a utopic place (which I've since d
ecided doesn't exist). But this is nonsense!

This Spring, as I sit in my hammock in February, March, and April I can smell Spring in the air. Do you have smells that bring you back? Back to a certain feeling, memory, place? For me, one of my 3 favorite smells (2 are season related) comes in and out of my backyard, as I lay and read my book, or as I walk Nerina, or as I'm laying in bed with my windows open. It's the smell of blossoms. There is nothing else like the sweet smell of these little orange flowers, everywhere. As I inhale, I'm immediately taken back to some fond memory, or feeling, and I am in bliss. I stop everything and inhale. I do this until I either feel lightheaded for inhaling too deeply (the exhales are no fun) or if I'm in public and I worry about what the strangers will think of me as they notice me just standing there, smelling the air. It's a bit weird, I know, but you should smell's heaven.

Then, there's the flowers. The desert in bloom is one of the most amazing things to see. The desert explodes in intense color for only a few weeks. A desert that looks so dry and brown, and, well, deserty, is transformed into a sea of california poppies, flowering cactus, amazing colors of reds, purples, blues...
The ocotillo cactus shoots out these bright red cone-shaped flowers on each "branch" - and if you eat the flower you'll taste that it's super-sweet.

The thing about the Arizona desert is that the seasons tend to blur into each other. The warm Spring weather of 75 degrees quickly changes to the 90's, then the 100's...well before June. Then, Summer hits us full on! The air conditioners go on 24/7, tank tops, summer skirts, flip flops, sun screen, pools, hats...definitely no walking around outside for about 3 months (no Jazz in the parks for us!). Not a cloud in the sky...until the monsoons.

Which brings me to my second favorite smell of all time...the smell of the monsoons. Now, I don't think I can really describe this smell. It's just in the air. You know when the Monsoons are coming by the air. It smells. The Creosote bush (or Greasewood) puts out this smell that is the desert, to tell us that it's going to rain. And after 2 or 3 months with nothing, no rain, the smell is welcome news! Again, I sit, I inhale, I watch the rains come in, the thunderstorms, the wind, the flash floods, the dry arroyos fill up with water to become a raging river...Summer is not subtle during the monsoons. In the southern AZ deserts, where I spend most of my summer months and weekends, the once dry desert turns into Savanna...tall, green grass, flowers everywhere, rivers, cottonwood trees blooming, snakes and other desert things out looking for the new water...a desert totally alive.

So, as I sit here in April, in 90 degree weather, I can say that, what I used to think of a place void of seasons, is full of life, color and smells!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring break in the desert

Last week was my spring break and off I went to the desert to get back to the things that I love doing the most. It's going on 4 years since I've been involved with No More Deaths. I remember the first time walking in the desert in Southern Arizona looking for people that needed help. It was so strange. Normally, I hike with my dog, have a picnic, take a nap under the trees, in the shade, and read a good book or do some journaling. It's been many years since I've done that sort of hiking.

My first time in the desert with No More Deaths was a transformation of sorts. I have never been the same since. It was the summer of 2004 and it was a hot day already, probably well over 100 degrees by early afternoon. I had just returned from spending a month in Peru, traveling and meeting amazing people, visiting ruins, temples and the old city of Cuzco and Machu Pichu. So, I came back ready to do some volunteering in the desert; looking for migrants that needed help during their journey into the US. At that time, the death toll for migrants was getting higher and higher and we were finding more and more people needing help, desperately.

So, we started our day bright and early, around 5am. It's cold in the desert in the early mornings and in the evenings. I woke up with dew around me; on my sleeping bag and on the tall, brown grasses surrounding our camp. It was beautiful and we were bundled up drinking our coffee, cereal and preparing for the morning ahead.

Now, 4 summers ago was very different than what we have now. No GPS's, no 4x4 trucks, no maps, no real idea of where we were going each day. We traveled familiar routes, ones that were known areas of high traffic, ones where we had seen people travel before, and ones where the local community told us to go. We drove into an area that I now know is called Las Guijas Mountains.

We were equipped with only a backpack containing migrant food packs, water, medical supplies, and a cell phone. We walked for hours, it seemed. We walked on well-worn paths, paths that the National Parks and Rec. could have made if I didn't know better. Instead, these paths were made by hundreds, thousands of pairs of feet walking North. I looked around me and saw a beautiful landscape; mesquite trees, flowering brittlebush. The smells of the desert: of creosote and the upcoming monsoon storm. It was an incredible hike. I could have easily forgotten what I was there for; I could have easily put out of my head the other reality that was evidenced all around me.

This apparent calm was routinely interrupted by our leader, or coordinator, who would call out in Spanish for the invisible migrants just out of our eyesight "tenemos agua!, tenemos comida! podemos ayudar!" "we have water! we have food! we can help you!"

To me, what was a beautiful hike was someone else's struggle for survival; their journey of hope, despair, and the unknown. That same day, at that same moment, people were walking for survival; leaving their homes to feed their families. Every year, thousands walk these trails with guides/coyotes and make it North for a promise of better wages, better living conditions, and opportunities for their children. Unfortunately, hundreds don't make it. I don't remember how many bodies were found at that point in the summer of 2004, but it was over 200 since October. In Arizona alone; and mostly in these same mountains that I was hiking; people who walked the same trails I was admiring.

We stopped along the trails to pick up trash. There were plenty of empty bottles along the way, along with other random things: a jacket on a tree branch, a shoe, food wrappers, aspirin containers. It was constant proof that we were on the migrant trail. We walked for what was probably 2 hours, resting to drink water, have a snack, get in the shade.

Finally, we continued until we came upon a "rest stop." A place where migrants would stay and rest or sleep before continuing on. These stops were nothing more than the shade under large mesquite trees. What I saw there left me speechless and drew me to tears. We walked upon a grove of Mesquite trees and underneath each and every tree were reminders of groups of people who had just left. I felt as though I had just walked into someone elses house and they had just left out of the back door as I entered through the front. I don't know how else to explain it except to say that the spirits of those who was there earlier was all around us. Literally.

Hundreds and hundreds of backpacks, sweaters, jackets, shoes, pants, shirts, socks, bras, underwear, hats, tampons, food, electrolytes, water, toothbrushes, playing cards, a school book, a Bible, a rosary, a prayer card, photos, photos of girlfriends and boyfriends, photos of husbands and wives, photos of entire families, photos of their children and written in the back "te amo, papa," ID from their home country, plane ticket stubs, foot powder, medicine, presents or recuerdos, a glass rose, love letters, baby shoes, baby socks, diapers, baby formula and Gerbers baby food containers.

I was devastated. All was left behind. And there were children, little babies. Somehow, I didn't realize that there were children. I know that children cross, but seeing all the little shoes and diapers was almost more than I could bear. I can't imagine doing their journey at all, let alone with a little one to care for. I can't imagine how bad it must have been for those families to finally have no choice but to move North.

Even though we didn't find anyone that day, the impact of what I saw has stayed with me since. So now, 4 years later, I sit as the coordinator, showing a group of new volunteers the desert surroundings. This time, we have maps, GPS's, 4x4's and a wealth of experience and stories to help us on our own journey.

that's me in the corner, kneeling.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Unitown...reflections from my student

I just came back from spending 5 days in Prescott, leading a diversity leadership camp for 60+ students from my school. I absolutely love the experience and find that I learn so much from the kids...just as much as they learn from us, I think. The best part of the week is talent night, where the kids step up and share some talents they have (or talents they don't have and just have a good laugh). One of my students read a poem that he wrote and shared it with the kids. It's absolutely beautiful and am posting it here for others to read. The talent in our children is amazing...
The students name is Tyler.

Who are we?

Who am I, you ask
I am the one who knows of good times
The expert on sad times
I am one who will be happy.

Who am I, you ask
The performer behind the curtain
The director, producer, stunt double, makeup artist, hair dresser and song writer
I prepare you for the ignorant world.

Who am I, you ask
The toy soldier you play with
A piece of plastic stamped “Made in China”
I was the one you shot down.

Who am I, you ask
I am the one marked “other”
The unknown, “who cares” guy
The toilet cleaner, janitor, garbage man, taxi driver, coffee guy, and store clerk.

Who am I you ask
I am the one who dances for thousands
I am paid 14.3 million by you to catch a football
I am too good for words

Who am I, you ask
I am a survivor
I watched thousands die for my faith
I am Jewish

Who am I, you ask
I am the solder who saved the above
I am one of many names on a stone wall to remember
I remember the above.

Who am I , you ask
I am one who believes
I stop;
Seven times a day and pray.

Who am I, you ask
I am one who worships once a week
Sunday I pray “In the name of Jesus Christ”
And I cry for those without faith.

Who am I, you ask
I am a philosopher of fate
A student of Buddha
And I will live again.

Who am I you ask
I live in deserted desert
No cable, internet or telephone
I am Iraqi, without.

Who am I, you ask
With everything,
I have nothing
I am the spoiled American.

Who am I, you ask
I live in the city with millions
Riding my bike home
I am the working Chinese.

Who am I, you ask
I am a father of kids who play with dirt
With nothing,
We have everything.

Who am I, you ask
I dress in uniform everyday; gun included
Shooting for what I (my country) believes is right,
I am the glorified bully.

Who am I, you ask
I work in a factory
Where we stamp “Made in China”
On everything leaving.

Who am I, you ask
I am the nonexistent leader,
I am the group of humans, not countrymen
We are supervised, not led nor taught.

Who am I, you ask
I am the leader of the greatest nation
The people who live happy; and lead
I am in reasonable control.

Who am I, you ask
An absolute leader
With all power I reign
Millions listen, learn, and do on my word.

Who are we
We are the hopefuls
The fans
And the competitors,

Who are we
We are ones who seek true happiness
We are the ones who smile for nothing
We wish on all the stars.

Who are we
We are the best of the best
The ones who care
We are everyone, and we, together, make the world go ‘round

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Anti-Valentine's Day Dinner

Coming home from the farmers market on Wednesday and getting ready to prepare my dinner for 12 friends. This is my second annual Anti-V Day gathering, an intimate night with singles, couples, and good friends. Last year involved chocolate, wine, fire and burning of past memories. This year, it's a celebration with good friends and an opportunity to cook for my favorite people. I think I'll keep this tradition going, since I hate all things Valentines. And since being single sucks on this day, I thought I would make the best of it! Plus, it's better to spend the evening with good friends, drinking and enjoying each others' company. I've learned that, often, the relationships that last the longest are the it's a perfect time to say I love you to everyone that I cherish. And, being Italian, food is the best way to do this :)

I picked up bags and bags of veggies from the farmers m
arket which made up the menu for the dinner. I love this picture because about 80% of the food was made using local, organic vegetables and food.

Having a dinner party is much more difficult than it seems. First, there is the menu. It took me a few days to come up with something delicious, but not too difficult. And all vegetarian. It turned out to be a 5-course meal! The trick is doing all the preparation a day ahead (with the help of a roomate and good friend who's willing to chop for hours).

Here is the menu breakdown:

Appetizers/ Antipasti:

Bruschetta with Olives, sundried tomatoes tapenade

Tomatoes with mozzarella and basil

Potato Leek soup with Kale

Mixed greens with spinach, snap peas, tomatoes

First Plate/ Primo piatti:
Cannelloni (crepes) - stuffed with ricotta and spinach over Tomato sauce

Second Plate/Secondo piatti:
Green beans with Zucchini and fresh sweet corn

Followed by decadent chocolate, berries, ice cream, and red wine...yummy!