Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008

Andre & me in San Juan Bautista with Santa before watching La Virgen Del Tepeyac by Teatro Campesino in the Mission chapel, starring Luis Valdez as the bishop. On the right, Andre, Daniel and I pose in front of the Xmas tree at Diane and Armando's house in Chula Vista, where the Becerra gals and friends prepared the traditional tamales on Noche Buena (below).

Andre's first sledding experience, in the Laguna Mountains of San Diego County.

Andre's first time in the snow.

Vicki Finley Harley & I, overlooking the desert. We've known each other since Mrs. McNary's kindergarten class at Rosebank Elementary.

My nephew Hugh, his wife Shaya and their kids on Christmas Eve at Hugh's sister Tiese's house.

Maya's biological grandma Carmen in San Diego.

12/27/08 Greetings from the Laguna Mountains, one hour east of San Diego. Andre and Daniel are out stomping around in the snow -- another first for Andre. We're staying in a cabin at the Mt. Laguna Lodge with a childhood friend, Vicki, her 15-year-old son Alec and his friend Mike. Andre and I even have our own room. Vicki is busy cooking roast beef, ribs, potatoes and asparagus bernaise for dinner. Life is rough!

We got on the road on Tuesday, Dec. 23 and drove straight through to Chula Vista. With 3 drivers and not too much holiday traffic, we cruised down quite painlessly, only stopping for food and gas. Andre and I got up early on Christmas Eve and went for a swim in the motel pool.

We dropped in on the Becerra women and friends as they finished up making the traditional holiday tamales. Andre and Daniel were the only men there for the first 15 minutes. I could tell they were getting bored, listening to the "gallinas" (hens) clacking away in the kitchen. Finally, they were rescued by Armando, the man of the house.

On Christmas Eve we went out for dinner with my dad and his wife Judith and had a nice table right by the fireplace. Afterwards, we went to my niece Tiese's house. My only desire was to be with her two kids, J'Shon and Jayla, hoping not to miss Maya too much. But much to my surprise, they had a full house when we got there. It was filled with Charfauros', my relatives from my first marriage. I was so excited to see former sister-in-law Marian and her husband Eli, my nephew Vern and his girlfriend Angie, Marian's twin Alan, and my nephew Hugh with his wife Shaya and their 3 kids. In addition, there were lots of Tiese and Hugh's relatives on their dad's side. Too bad we were too stuffed to enjoy the feast they put out.

Christmas morning I was surprised to see J'Shon and Jayla sleeping in late, probably because they already opened some of their presents on Christmas Eve. Andre, Daniel and I crashed out early, but when I woke around 3:00 a.m. to go to the bathroom, I found Tiese still cleaning up the kitchen and putting food away. I helped by cleaning the stove. The last guests had just left around 2:00. That might also explain why the little ones were slow to awake on Christmas Day. The big hit of the day was a complete rock band for their Wii game. The biggest rock star was Tiese's husband Jason. Hopefully, he'll let the kids have their turn sometime.

We weren't expecting any gifts and we brought very few down, but what was cute is we got matching gifts. Judith gave us each a pound of See's Chocolates (YUM!) and Tiese gave us each a small digital alarm clock. The funny thing was trying to figure out whose was whose afterwards. You know my chocolates had the most left and Daniel claimed he'd set the time on his clock.

We visited Jim Heiner, former Hilltop High School English teacher on our way up to the snow, and my long-time friend Mary on the way back. We stayed a night with Maya's bio-grandma Carmen and her family. As it turns out, Carmen got recently married too -- to her sweetheart of 20 years. Maya would have been so excited. We shared some of the leftover wedding cake (YUM!). It was so great to see Carmen and her daughters.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Victory for All


Today is a historic day for the United States and the rest of the world. As one journalist wrote, this marks the end of the Civil War. Finally. The American people elected a black president for the first time. But better than that, we voted for someone to unite us, to care about us, to restore our place in the world as peacekeepers.

I'm so happy for my new husband Andre, an immigrant and a black man, that he could be here in the U.S. on this historic day. I know it sounds cliche, but the idea of President Barack Obama gives me a lot of hope for our future and pride to be an American. His acceptance speech last night was so inspiring -- confident, yet humble. Now Barack has his chance to prove that he can be a capable leader...for all Americans.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Andre's First Halloween

Here we are on a neighboring pirate's porch. He spotted us on our way to the wharf and immediately offered Andre a spare saber he had at home...Andre with his classmate Jaime on their way to the Halloween party in their ESL class.

More friends from ESL class, representing Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand. On the wharf we ran into our neighbor Eric, his son Javier, his brother the father, and wife Carmen.

More friends on the wharf -- Sergio and kids. His wife Griselda and their baby were parking the car...Friend and fellow writer Karen Kefauver as emcee (Mistress of Ceremonies) for the wharf's Kids Costume Contest, which she does every year.

Some samples of the kids' costumes. Then at night we walked over to Pacific Avenue. Because of the light rains, only 20,000 revelers packed downtown Santa Cruz this year -- which actually made it much easier to maneuver through the crowds.

Samba dancers on stilts stole the show and their drummers kept the crowds bopping to the beat...The top echelon from Santa Cruz Adult School -- Personnel director Hermanita and principal Mary, along with a big shot from Watsonville Adult School.

Carla the Cop stopped to arrest us. Long time, no see Yuan and Beibei, Chinese computer housemates from Walnut Avenue house. They're living in San Jose, but couldn't miss a chance to visit Santa Cruz. They got married this year after 9 years together.

The mark of Zorro...Musicians pull up the rear in the Day of the Dead procession in Watsonville on November 1.

Beautiful artwork and altars in the Pajaro Valley Arts Council's Gallery in Watsonville.

More art, followed by tamales, enchiladas, champurrado, buñuelos, and chicken mole. Andre sporting cornrows and a clean-shaven look.

Originally, I had hoped to go to southern California for a Senior Olympics racquetball tournament and 109th annual Day of the Dead Celebration at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, with our friends, the Becerras. I had been planning on it for a long time, but a week or so ago I realized we don't have the money or time to rush down there. I wanted Andre to see the wild and crazy Halloween costumes on Pacific Avenue first, so how would we squeeze in a 7-hour drive? Plus, the round-robin racquetball tournament was all day Saturday, the same day I wanted to help build the altar with Marta, Diane, Teresa, Trisha, and Tina Becerra. Diane and Armando's daughter Elena died of leukemia at the age of 5, about 30 years ago. Starting last year, the Becerras included my little Mayita as a butterfly on their amazing altar which won 1st prize and a check for $3,000 this year! Now I'm really bummed I missed it.

But we had a nice Halloween, as I hope the photos portray. The next evening we celebrated Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Watsonville. In comparison with the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, it was a small and quiet event, but also another chance to honor the memory of Mayita.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ready to Ref!

PHOTO CAPTIONS: It's official! After an 18-hour refereeing certification course and a grueling 100-question exam in English, Andre is ready to referee children's soccer matches.

Right: At the Santa Cruz County Fair, Rocket's K-9 Comets Extreme Frisbee Stars

Left: Chelsea's close encounter with a baby crocodile. Right: Andre feeds an overfed llama.

Left: All-Alaska Racing Pigs. Right: Kahlil and Sage watch a sheep getting shorn.

Santa Cruz's Kite Festival to benefit Children's Hospice

Left: Daniel and me with our fabulous volunteers at Jacob's Heart's Kidrageous Festival. Right: Rock painting project.

Left: Mexican folkloric dancer entertains the crowd. Right: Celebrating Leonardo and Lena's daughter's 1st birthday.

Celebrating Sage's 9th birthday with a homemade carrot cake.

Left: Shasta and Susan tie the know after 20 years together. Right: Brian took second in the piping competition, to the delight of his 92-year-old father Ken. Our friends Kahlil and Sage enjoyed the Loch Lomond Highland Games and Celtic Gathering.

My friend Griselda, her husband Sergio, and their four kids in their Craftsman home which they have been remodeling and renovating for the past few years.

It's been a month since I entered anything into this blog, so let me give you some updates:

The big news is that Andre is now an official Class 8 referee for children's soccer. It's an ideal job for Andre because he loves soccer, there's a shortage of qualified referees for this popular game, and he can earn good money just working the weekends, which allows him to stay in his Monday-Friday ESL classes and practice racquetball and martial arts on weekday nights.

Sept. 13 -- Early in the morning, Andre made his own kite out of simple materials: bamboo from our neighbor's yard, a plastic dry-cleaner's bag, tape and string. I was amazed at the hexagon shape and floating tails. At first, Andre's kite looked rustic compared to the professional kites, some costing up to $5,000 at the Santa Cruz Kite Festival. But once his little kite soared to the sky, the spectators were impressed.

Afterwards, we picked up our little friends Kahlil and Sage and drove to the Santa Cruz County Fair. As usual, the All-Alaska Pig Races and Rocket's K-9 Comets Extreme Frisbee Dogs pleased the crowds. Daniel joined us later on, to watch the fake Beatles group "Yesterday" and his favorite hypnotist Michael Mezmer.

Sept. 21 -- Jacob Heart's Kidrageous Carnival in the Watsonville Plaza -- Last year our friends Cynthia Martinez and Pam King organized and ran the rock-painting booth in memory of Maya. This year, Daniel and I were available to do it ourselves, with Cynthia's help providing the materials. Believe it or not, rock painting is very popular. The Kidrageous Carnival raises funds for Jacob's Heart, a wonderful organization that helps families who are affected by childhood cancer.

After the carnival, we joined our friends Leonardo and Lena as they celebrated their daughter's first birthday in a park on Freedom Blvd. I've known Leonardo for nearly 20 years, ever since I subbed his ESL class at Santa Cruz Adult School. I hired him to help me do some yardwork. Now he has his own gardening business (831) 234-7669.

Sept. 26 -- More long-time friends, Susan and Shasta, got married. They've been together for 20 years, but only recently did California allow gays and lesbians to marry. After the ceremony at the riverfront outside the courthouse (same place that Andre and I tied the knot), a handful of family and friends celebrated at Thai House restaurant.

Sept. 27 -- Sage's 9th birthday -- His mother Nancy surprised even herself by making an edible carrot cake. Usually her baked goods are so healthy, no one wants to eat them. But this one was a winner. Andre and I were invited to join them on a kayaking adventure in the morning, but Andre got called in to referee.

October 4 -- The Loch Lomond Highlands Games and Celtic Gathering -- Andre had to referee all day, so I took Sage, Kahlil, and 2-year-old Rohnan, a former housemate, to the festival by myself. Maya and I had been many times and always enjoyed the music, dancing, clan booths, crafts for sale, husky men in kilts throwing cabers and heavy metal balls, the Shetland ponies and various Scottish dog breeds, and shepherd's pie. The boys were more interested in the river and the playground, but the one thing I insisted we do is watch my friend Brian Molver take second in the bagpipes competition (some of you may remember him from Maya's birthday parties and her memorial). His 92-year-old father Ken, also resplendent in his kilt, beamed on the sidelines.