The Mighty Outdoors

We are Family

There has been no running in my life for the past five weeks and though painful, I have been staying occupied. My childhood friend, my cousin, and her daughter (my niece) trekked from sunny Florida to the Pacific NW and we made it a point to show off the mighty northwest.

A walking bridge is like pixie dust, it makes surroundings so magical.

Miami, Florida is a mega-tropolis and though I appreciated growing up in a such a rich and culturally diverse environment, there are definitely some drawbacks. With a population of 3,000,000 people – Oregon has a combined population of 4,000,000 – you can imagine what commuting looks like. Furthermore, because of it’s flat terrain, you don’t get to experience mountains or the views one would gain from climbing a mountain. Thus, it was critical for us to ensure my family experienced elevation and the rewards of the huffing and puffing that come from the climb.

The white patch shaped like a heart is what remains of Winter Snow.

Hosting and playing tour-guide was rather exhausting, but we felt great pride showing off the beauty the state of Oregon has to offer. What was most refreshing was the detachment to materialistic possessions. Hiking to the top of a mountain, pausing to enjoy a waterfall, sitting around a campfire to roast marshmallows, and the lack of reception made us feel not only connected to nature, but to one another. We were able to give each other our undivided attention and participate in the give and take of an organic conversation. The only status updates pertained to food, the beauty of our surroundings, and the magic of a campfire under the scintillating stars.

The rewards of stepping outside and setting one foot in front of the other.


I still have another three more weeks before I can even attempt to run a single mile, but as long as I have the mighty outdoors, I have enough to be grateful for. With two more months left of Summer, I reckon there will be plenty of adventures that will give me the opportunity to count my blessings.

Jake The Explorer. I swear our dog is 1/4 mountain goat.


 

 

We Got an RV!


We headed to Central Oregon for our first trip.


Camp fires will never go out of style regardless of whether we are sleeping in a tent or in a recreational vehicle.


We took in the beautiful scenery and hugged trees.


Some trees were too tall and robust to hug, but that made them even more impressive. This tree is the largest Ponderosa Tree in Oregon and approximately 500 years old.


En route back to the fast paced life, we made a pit-stop to Sparrow Bakery to indulge in the buzzed about ocean rolls.


Much to my chagrin, the bakery was closed (it closes around “2ish” according to their sign) and my disappointment was apparently evident to the young man who asked me to stand-by after I informed him I wanted to try the ocean rolls. He went back inside and came back with two rolls – on the house! The rolls did not disappoint! Sparrow bakery will be a must for me from now on. 


Do you own an RV? What campground do you recommend?

That’s a Wrap!

One-thousand three-hundred and fifty-three miles: the amount of miles I ran in 2015! These have been the most miles I have run in a given year, and I am hoping to log many more for 2016. If I remain injury-free, I should be able to reach 1,500 miles for 2016. However, because I am more interested in remaining physically healthy, I prefer not to make miles a running goal. Thus, if I run less in 2015, but manage to remain injury-free, I shall be content. Here is a look back of some of my favorite moments of 2015:

January – Made the decision to start “believing” in myself and committed myself to train hard and step outside my comfort zone in order to perform my very best in the field of running.

February – Half-Marathon PR in the Run 4 Luv Half-Marathon on Valentine’s Day (1:50:25). I had no idea I would PR, so when I crossed the finish line seven minutes faster than my previous PR, I was completely shocked.

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March – Celebrated my 38th birthday and ran my first 20 miler since summer of 2011! It was a fantastic run, and gave me a confidence boost that I would be able to break 4:20 goal for Eugene Marathon. I also ran 190 for the month of March, the MOST miles I have ever logged in a single month.

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April – Ruptured my plantar fascia and experienced disappointment and heart ache like I had never experienced before. Because I could barely walk, I had to drop out of Eugene Marathon and dig deep to not fall into a trench of self-pity.

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May  – Celebrated Mother’s Day with my family and ran 1.2 miles for the first time in five weeks.

June – Ran my first Ragnar Relay with the Oiselle Team in Utah. This was my first solo getaway since 2012! It was refreshing to get away for the first time and enjoy a running escapade with 11 completely different strangers.

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July – Officially started training for the Marine Corps Marathon and ran my second Ragnar Relay. This time though, I ran alongside my husband in the state of Washington.

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August – Went back to work after staying home with my youngest daughter for two years and ran my third (and final) Relay (Inaugural Elkhorn Relay). I also ran my second half-marathon (Catherine Creek Classic) of the year with my friend Kim, who visited me from Portland.

September – Liberated myself from the chains of resentment, pain, and bitterness that I had been carrying with me and forgave my mother. Out of all the things that happened in 2015, this was the MOST LIFE CHANGING for me. It allowed me to see my mother as completely different person. Furthermore, forgiving my mother gave me grace as a mother myself. I know I will never be perfect, but I don’t have to beat myself up when I am not the ideal mother I strive to be.

October – Hello 26.2! Toed the starting line and Crossed the finish line of Marine Corps Marathon in 4:13! It was a thirty minute PR and I got to run honor my running journey by running with MARINES. I also got to explore the magnificent history of Washington D.C. with the family.

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November – Spent Thanksgiving with my youngest sister, Angela, who visited me from Florida. This was the first time I spent Thanksgiving with one of my family members since 2005! She endured the coldest Thanksgiving she has ever celebrated.

December – Gratitude and more gratitude. The year was good to me. Despite my injury, and not being able to complete Eugene Marathon, I had an abundance of experiences to be thankful for.

Summer Training Potpourri

My training since I last blogged (apparently it’s been a while) has been more consistent than my blogging abilities. Let’s just say Summer has been a busy month, and sitting down and typing my current affairs have been placed on the back burner.

The coast in the background and a moment alone with my amazing husband.

Since my participation in Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back, I have ran another Relay – Northwest Passage. There will be an upcoming post rating the experience, but for now, it’s only a draft. My first half-marathon (Catherine Creek Half Marathon) since my injury is this upcoming weekend and I am rather scared and excited about the event. It will be interesting to see how perform given it’s only been about two months since I started running again due to my plantar fascia rupture. The Catherine Creek Half-Marathon was the half where I finally broke under two hours last Summer. It is my hope to finish strong, but most importantly, I will be just happy to finish considering I did not toe the starting line of Eugene Marathon. This year, a good friend of mine will be racing Catherine Creek as well and I am hoping she can set a PR!

Here is a run down of what my training for Marine Corps Marathon looks like:

Trail Runs

Working the trails at 5:30 am!


I’ve falling in love with trail runs. They are definitely challenging, but I feel they are a deviation from the concrete runs I had while training for Eugene Marathon. In the last month I have been running trails, I’ve definitely felt like it has improved my running pace as well as sculpt my calves, quads, and hamstrings. Even better, my foot, which was given me trouble when I started running, is loving the dirt path over the hard pavement. Overall, I’m really enjoying getting up early in the  morning and breathing in the fresh air and being enveloped by the beautiful scenery. So far, my longest run has been a 10k, but I am hoping I can increase that distance within time.

Up in the morning with the Oregon Sun.

Relay Races

When an opportunity presented itself for Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage with my husband, I immediately jumped on it! Running on the same team with my husband in the state of Washington for a relay was exhausting, but it was so worth it. I love running as much as I love my husband, so being able to share this experience with him (and without our daughters) was such a memorable occasion for me. In Wasatch, I barely ran 12 miles for my total distance. In Northwest Passage, I ran over 20 miles! It was a strong run for me and it boosted my confidence that perhaps I can start training harder for my Marine Corps Marathon and my foot injury may finally be behind me. I’ve got one more relay race ahead of me, – Elkhorn Relay August 7 and 8 – and once that relay is over, my long distance runs in the double digits will commence.

At the finish line of our 200-ish mile journey with my wonderful husband. Running together is a rare occasion for us, so this moment was very significant for me.

Hiking

Surrounded by the majestic views Eastern Oregon in Wallowa State Park on the Aneroid Trail Lake.


This past Sunday, we spontaneously hiked Aneroid Lake Trail,  a beautiful trail in Wallowa Lake State Park. The roundtrip distance was 12 miles, and it was pretty exhausting to do with a two-year-old, an 11-year-old, and a beagle. There was an elevation gain of over 2,500 feet, which made for a challenging climb (for the young ones). Because it took us 3 hours and 20 minutes to get to Rogers Lake, .5 miles short of Aneroid Lake, and it was already 6:30 pm, we decided to head back out before the trail was completely dark. Our way down was so much faster, as our return only took us 2 hours and 15 minutes; enough time to make it out before darkness blanketed the trail. We are definitely interested in returning before Summer ends, but we would like to start the hike much earlier in the day. By the end of the hike, we were all exhausted! Because I had a challenging nine mile run the day before, my knees were definitely feeling the climb and the descend.

The combination of water, trees, skies…just stunning.

Summer has been busy so far. We’ve grilled, swam, hiked, visited family, stayed up late, and slept in. The mornings have gotten a little cooler, and even though we still have at least another six weeks of Summer remaining, it makes my gut ache thinking that this will soon come to an end and the dark, cold, gray days of winter will soon be creeping in. It is my intent to soak up as much vitamin D and heat as I possibly can.

How have your summer days been filled? Have you hiked any trails?

Roughing It

On Friday night, my husband, my daughters, the dog, and I, drove up to the mountains to spend quality time with the outdoors. In all frankness, I was dragged to the mountains, but it was because the forecast read rain from 11pm Friday until 8 am Saturday with the possibility of floods.

This is what the skies looked like when we headed on our camping trip.

While the spring temperatures are no longer below freezing, the weather for the Holiday weekend was supposed to be too cold for my liking. Cold anything is just not my cup of tea; cold weather, cold wind, cold rain, cold floors, and colds in general. If the temperature is not above 70 during camping, then I feel like the experience is more like survival. Since the whole family, including the dog, seemed excited for the excursion, I swallowed my selfishness and put on a happy face.

Traveling in style like the Beverly Hillbillies. Good thing our dog does not mind small spaces.

It was wet, cold, and breezy when we arrived to our campsite. A large group of my husband’s co-workers who had arrived to the campsite a couple of ours before us had already started a much needed fire for my cold bones. There were also quadrupedal species frolicking around like small children who came to greet us upon our arrival.

The dogs were like small children and they wanted to play all weekend long. Except for the beagle who was sunbathing. He wanted to sniff the ground and catch some sun all weekend long. The dog on the bottom right is a labrador pup, and he never seemed to tire no matter how many times I tossed him the ball.


As much as I wanted to relish and enjoy the outdoors, my mind was still stuck on the gray, wet, and cold weather. When I looked around the camp fire to observe whether anybody else seemed perturbed by the weather conditions, it dawned on me I was all alone in the “negative nancy” category. The cool wind and the scent of rain falling from the skies didn’t faze my two-year-old, who was running around with chocolate on her face and gooey marshmallow all over her hair. My ten-year-old had muddy legs and shoes after riding on an OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) with my husband, who was smoking a cigar and exhaling like Sean Connery on a James Bond film. Even Jake, my dog seemed to be enjoying the night as he was sitting cuddled under his fleece blanket next to the warm fire.Their happiness made up for my funk and the tempestuous nature of the dark clouds. Perhaps it wasn’t only the weather that was impacting me, given I had not worked out that morning. At approximately 9 pm, I decided to call it a night and told myself I would attempt to run the next morning so that I could create some positive energy.

 

Our humble abode.

 
Saturday was a much better day! Even though I had to get up at 2 in the morning while it was raining cats and dogs to do my business, and subsequently could not go back to sleep after doing my business due howling winds scratching the perimeters of our tent, I was still looking forward to the day. The rain continued until at least 10:00 am in the morning, but a breakfast filled with delicious eggs, hash browns, and pancakes further fueled my desires to go for a run. 

Rabbit Hole Warning: I know I have not made any updates pertaining to my running injury, but it’s mostly due to the fact that there has not  been much to update. There was an attempt on my behalf to shake out my legs around the track two weeks ago, which was around the fifth week of recovery, and while I managed to make it around the track four times, my foot hurt, so I decided not to push it. That one mile felt great in terms of being able to physically perform what I had easily been able to do eight weeks ago, but mentally, it was frustrating to accept the physical limitations.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, May 23rd, I accepted the strength of my body, and embraced the outdoors. Not only did I manage to pull out a 5k on a gravel/dirt hilly trail, the sun came out and warmed my body!! There was mild discomfort on my foot while, but not a painful kind of discomfort, just a cautious discomfort of not pushing it too far.  The pace was slow, but my legs and lungs were getting a good workout and there was a surge of endorphins that made the trip, the rain, and the mud worthwhile. Most importantly though, my run was full of gratitude towards all the service men and women who never made it back. Men and women who did not say good-bye to their spouse and children. Men and women who were children themselves and did not say good-bye to their parents. It was a reminder Freedom comes at a price that few are willing to pay but many advantageously enjoy; the price of one’s life.

 

Gravel, hills, wooden fences, and evergreens help shake off the funk.

 
For the first time, I also got to play in the mud (don’t like mud) and ride the trails in one of the OHV’s with my husband. In all honesty, I am not an adventurous person when it comes to new experiences. In fact, I tend to be apprehensive about experiences that I feel may lead to bodily harm and or drowning (bungee jumping, motorcycles rides, diving, snorkeling), so when my husband asked me to ride with him, I went with reservations. Once again, I was grateful I did not allow the voices of fear inside my head to seize the day and enjoyed a nice ride with my main man!

 

Riding, Rolling, and Spinning!

 
On our ride back home on Sunday afternoon, I noticed the mud on the side of our vehicle, the girls with knotted hair and dirty clothes, the dirt between my nails, the scent of burning wood wafting off my clothes, a tired beagle, and a handsome husband who seemed content to have spent time with his family in the outdoors. An enlightened smile was immediately planted on my face for not allowing my selfishness that overcame me on Friday afternoon to get in the way of the beautiful memories that we created as a family during the weekend. It was a good lesson for me to experience and learn on Memorial Day weekend.

 

The sun will come out tomorrow. And it did!

 
How was your Memorial Day Weekend? What are you most grateful for?

Spring Break 2015

As a child, my Spring Breaks were filled with television – lots of television. Even though we lived in Florida, we never saw the beach on Spring Break. Throw into the mix Spring Break usually landed on Holy Week with a highly devout Catholic grandma who frowned upon pleasurable experiences during that time of year, and our Spring Breaks were as exciting as a plate of liver with onions – yuck! 

As a parent, Spring Break has become a week that allows our family the opportunity to make wonderful memories together. My husband and I have made it a point to get out of the house during Spring Break in order to grant our daughters (11 and 2) experiences that will forever be forged in their memory banks. Fortunately, most Spring Breaks in Oregon are not usually held during Holy Week, so I don’t have to feel bad about my grandma looking down on me from heaven and frowning. This year, we decided to head to the Oregon Coast to visit my husband’s mother.

Here’s a breakdown of our week:

Monday

My sister-in-law visited us from Seal Rock, Oregon and we enjoyed the evening with wine and baked chicken drumsticks accompanied with a fresh green salad and steamed broccoli. 

Tuesday 

We had a stack of my favorite pancakes for breakfast (King Arthur Gluten Free Pancake Mix – not sensitive to gluten, just love the flavor) and we trekked to Wallowa Lake to enjoy some scenery and a walk around the park. 

View of Mountains that are part of the Eagle Cap Wilderness

Wallowa Lake in its splendor


Wednesday 

After almost ten years of wanting to run the Marine Corps Marathon, my husband and I are going to run it together this Fall! This year, the Marine Corps Marathon went into a lottery system, which meant you got in by luck. Figuring I had nothing to lose but the time I invested in registering for it, I went ahead and registered both my husband and me. When I woke up in the morning and saw an e-mail indicating both he and I made it, I jumped up and down and screamed due to all the excitement.

Immediately following my excitement, I did some strength training, a run, made breakfast for my guests, and helped them prepare for their journey back to the Coast. We pretty much spent most of the day packing for our trip that would take place on Thursday morning. 

Thursday

We were supposed to leave at 8, but due to my inability to complete my nine mile run prior to 8 am, we did not end up leaving until close to 11 am!

For our trip to the Coast, we decided to take the long round about way and stop at a place I’ve been wanting to see since we moved to Eastern Oregon two years ago: The Painted Hills.

We made a bathroom break (very clean bathrooms) at the Mascall Formation Overlook on our way to the Painted Hills.

I’ve seen pictures of the Painted Hills on the Internet and I’ve always wanted to see them with my own eyes. I wanted a picture of the Hills snapped by my own lens. The Painted Hills are in the Central Oregon area close to the city of Mitchell, Oregon. Traversing quaint small towns nestled at the foot of majestic hills is my favorite part of road trips!  

This Painted Hill was one of the first Hills that greeted us as we first drove into the park.

Sand and surf weren’t the only elements of nature we failed to experience during Spring Break. Florida, known for its palm trees and sandy shorelines is also as flat as a can of soda left opened for three days straight. So whenever hills and mountains are involved, I’m always up for the experience regardless of whether it takes running, hiking, snowshoeing or driving to get to it.

Selfie with my wonderfully wonderful husband.

There are have been many times where I have been filled with so much anticipation about an event, that the day or moment it happens, the experience does not live up to the hype I’ve built up. This was definitely NOT the case when I saw the Painted Hills! It was how I imagined it, and its beauty lived up to the awe and fascination I had for them when I could only admire them in pictures. It was my only hope my 11 year-old would remember this landmark and this moment and would someday share this, if not a similar experience, with her children! 

The AMAZING Painted Hills!

Friday

We arrived to Newport close to 11 pm and I did not get to bed until midnight. Spring Break meant a break from routine, but not from marathon training. It was only four miles of running on the schedule, but they were four green miles filled with beach, bridges, and homes with cedar sidings. My husband took me on a trail run that he himself had never run despite growing up in Oregon. It was filled with bridges, dirt and gravel paths! 

Ocean to Bay Trail in Agate Beach

After negating the calories we burned on our run with a delicious and hearty breakfast, we all drove to Cape Perpetua. The weather was definitely tailored for individuals who enjoy wind and rain (not me). However, the views were still striking and the weather added an extra touch of excitement to our exploration.

View of the Pacific Ocean from West Shelter Observation Point

There was slight fog and relentless wind. The shelter gave us good cover from the elements.


Saturday

Twenty miles along the Newport Marathon Course was the best way to start my Saturday. But the day only got better.

Long run along the Newport Marathon Course

My mother-in-law, in honor of my 38th birthday (March 31), made a delicious pulled pork and potato salad meal (yum) and homemade carrot cake – score!!!! I was overfilled with joy because the day turned out so much better than I expected. I got to put in a long run and celebrate with family savoring a wonderful meal! My heart was filled with gratitude! Thank you so much to my mother-in-law for a stupendous weekend.

My mother-in-law gave me my favorite chocolates and Huma Gel. She knows me pretty well. I also got spoiled with homemade carrot cake, carrot cupcakes, and triple chocolate cake! Best part, I felt zero guilt considering I had run 20 miles!

Sunday

We headed back home on Sunday and our return called for another long road trip. We made various stops along the way, but my favorite by far was a trail we serendipitously discovered while making a potty break for our two-year-old. The trail was called Soap Stone Lake Trail. Since it was unplanned, we figured this was a perfect opportunity to explore this Oregon gem.

The trail was 1.5 miles long, and led to Soap Stone Lake. There were wooden bridges, tall green mossy trees, meadows, and wooden stairs. It was also a decent climb as the trail was not flat. I stopped and took as many pictures and soaked in the scenery. Perhaps the best part about our hike was the fact we were the only individuals hiking it! 

One of the bridges and stairs along the Soap Stone Lake Trail

A picture of Soap Stone Lake. We got closer and walked on some of the logs that are fallen on the lake.

Trail Selfie

I don’t know what the little leaves on the top left corner are, but they are edible and they taste delicious! My husband introduced us to them and we kept stopping to pick them and eat them.

All I can say is, “Best Spring Break EVER.” I don’t believe I sat down to watch any television!

How was your Spring Break? Did you get out of the house and explore the world around you?

Memoirs of a Wetback – Part One

I must have been six, because I no longer had to carry my desk to Profesora Sarita’s house near my barrio. My new school required all of us to wear dark navy bottoms, a white shirt, and a red scarf around our necks. At the beginning of the school day, we all lined up wearing our uniforms and sang the hymn. I don’t know what on Earth I was singing about, but I do recall singing loudly “ni se venden ni se rinden luchamos contra el yankee, enemigo de la humanidad” (not sold, or surrender, fight against the Yankee, enemy of all humanity). Even though I pride myself in remembering every single one of my teachers’ names from first grade on to my senior year in high school (and most of my college teachers), I can not not only remember any of the teachers at this particular school, I can’t even remember ever seeing their faces. It was as if their corporal vessel was comprised by a mere pair of legs, a torso, and two hands. I, however, do remember the lady whom I lied to every single day in order to eat. Because there wasn’t a cafeteria that included free or reduced lunch, the only way I was able to obtain any kind of calories throughout the school day was to lie to the lady with a food stand in the middle of the recess court. “Manana se lo traigo” I’d tell her in exchange for a bag of fruits or a corn tortilla with cheese. But then, the next day would come, and I wouldn’t have the money I promised her the day prior. She either believed I would someday bring her a huge chunk of the money I owed her, or she felt sorry for me. Whatever the reason may have been, I repeated my false monetary promise to her, and every single day, she handed me food to fill my belly.

The classroom was hot, with doors swung wide open and big squared windows letting the bright sun in. I remember seeing numbers on the chalkboard and using my pencil to jot down exactly what I saw. Despite my diligent ability to transfer numbers from the chalkboard to my paper, I did not comprehend the value of any of the numbers I copied. In all fairness, I had never written a single number on a piece of paper prior to going to that school. Nobody in my family that I could ever recall up to that point had ever sat with me and asked me to count from 1-10, or 1-100 with them. But, I could at least write because I did learn to use a pencil and draw shapes and write random lines as a form of punishment in kindergarten. If I was a good student, there was no way of knowing it because there weren’t any conferences between teachers and parents.

At home, we did not own any books. My grandmother was illiterate, so she never read to my mother as a child. My mother, despite being literate, never read to me. My father came in and out of the picture depending on the level of blood alcohol content in his bloodstream. When you are technically a single mother working a full-time low-wage job with three children over the age of five and one more on the way, reading or anything related to one-on-one time with children is probably daunting. So I learned to see my mother as a an unhappy individual who was stuck with too many children she did not have extra time for in her already busy schedule, and my father as an individual who aimed to please but always ended up disappointing.

In the evenings I’d spent my nights playing with kids in the barrio. There was no curfew, no family gathering around the table to enjoy dinner, and much to my delight, no homework time. Because we had a dilapidated television set with poor reception, we rarely sat in front of the tube. Showers were random, and if you would have given us a toothbrush with toothpaste on it, we would have thought it was meant to scrub the bathroom floors.

While my school days were a potpourri of general recollections, there was a specific experience that I will never forget. A teacher called me and asked me to go to the board. I obediently walked up to the board and nervously picked up a small piece of chalk. “Roca” was the word the unknown teacher without a face asked me to spell. I placed my head down in shame, scribbling squiggly lines pretending to write. I felt my ears turning red, my breathing becoming more methodical, and my heart beating rapidly. Even though my back was to my unknown classmates without a face, I could feel their eyes piercing every square inch of my body. If they were snickering, I couldn’t hear. I was too busy holding back hot tears of humiliation. Why did the teacher ask me to go up the board to spell that word? Did “it” know I was unable to read or write? Was it teaching me a lesson? I was so angry at myself for not knowing. I was angry for not being able to figure out which letters to write on the board. I was angry when I saw my dirty shoes over my dusty socks hiding my dirty calloused feet. I was angry I did not know what sounds belonged to letters. I felt like a rock. Dumb as a rock. And even worse, everyone in the classroom knew it. I may have stood there for a minute or so, but I felt as if the world stop spinning and every single inhabitant was mocking me, letting me know I was the dumbest six-year-old in the face of the universe.

That night, I went to sleep feeling sorry for myself. Nobody in my household knew what happened that day at school. The humiliation was so grand, letting out my pain would have consumed my insides with such force, it would have ruptured me to pieces. I cried strongly enough to soothe my pain, yet quietly enough so that the large bedroom partitioned with wooden frames to separate the sleeping quarters for six people did not interfere with anyone’s sleep. Little did I know that upon finally closing my eyes, my life would soon embark upon a life transforming journey.

This is the only picture in my possession taken while living in Nicaragua. I was either five or had just turned six. From left to right: My cousin Veronica, me - holding a doll that belonged to my neighbor friend who is pictured next to me along with her little sister- my expectant mother, and my older brother, Alvaro. One of the popular things to do in Nicaragua is to sit outside your home and socialize with your neighbors. Because my neighbor friend owned a doll, a luxury that most families could not afford, and she lived in a house with iron gates, we called her "little bourgeoisie." The smile on my face depicts how happy I was to hold that doll.

This is the only picture in my possession taken while living in Nicaragua. I was either five or had just turned six. From left to right: My cousin Veronica, me – holding a doll that belonged to my neighbor friend- who is pictured next to me, along with her little sister, my expectant mother, and my older brother, Alvaro. One of the popular things to do in Nicaragua is to sit outside your home and socialize with your neighbors. Because my neighbor friend owned a doll, a luxury that my and most family could not afford, and she lived in a house with iron gates, we called her “little bourgeoisie.” The smile on my face depicts how happy I was to hold that doll.