My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.



October 1, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today’s Writing 101 assignment is to write about finding something.


Denial.  Anger.  Bereavement.  Depression.  Acceptance.  These are all stages of grief.  For the first 26 years after the loss of my daughter, I experienced a constant barrage of emotions, along with four out of the five stages of grief.  Never, not once, in 26 years, did I ever come close to acceptance.  Today, however, I am happy to report that I have found it.

Jessica passed away on June 26, 1987.  She was not quite three years old and I was not quite 23 years old.  The havoc this event wreaked in my life is immeasurable.  Denial, anger, bargaining, and depression have been the ebb and flow of my life, to some degree or another, for the past 25 years.  Every event, every undertaking, every celebration in my life was filtered through my daughter’s passing.  So much so, that I experienced nothing in my life in its pure form.  It was as though I had an asterisk next to my name in the book of life.  “* Mother of 5”, “* College Graduate”, “* English Teacher”.  The asterisk at the bottom of the page always indicated the same caveat, “* Daughter passed away June 26, 1987”

In recent years, maybe the past 7 or so, I stopped looking for acceptance and resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to find the ever elusive, acceptance.  I pared my grieving down to only one month a year, June.  This is not something I did consciously.  However, my other four children were relieved when I began to cut back on my fits of sobbing.  It’s not that they begrudged me my grief, they were just frustrated at not being able to help me.

Twenty-six years of therapy, two mental breakdowns,one halfhearted suicide attempt and I still had not found that damned acceptance stage!  Until recently.

Like any good epiphany, my epiphany came out of nowhere.  It happened just a few months back.  I realized how very self-centered and narcissistic I had been regarding Jessica’s passing.  Several years ago, I found the strength to accept that Jessica’s death was not my fault.  However, I could not accept the fact that Jessica’s death had nothing to do with me.  Let me just say that one more time, “Jessica’s death had nothing to do with me.”

I have spent the better part of my life feeling sorry for myself.  Well,not exactly, it was an extremely painful experience.  However, my grieving had taken the focus off of Jessica years ago.  Now, it was all about me and how my daughter’s death had really screwed with my head.  Things were about to change.

Last year, through a series of unexpected events, I was flying home to Arizona from the Middle East.  The date was June 26, 2013, and it was the 26th anniversary of Jessica’s death.  It had always been sacrosanct for me to do nothing but grieve on June 26th.  Yet, I had scheduled a 30 hour, two stop flight home.  What was I thinking?  I wasn’t, and that turned out to be the best thing for me.

I was 30 minutes or so from my final landing when I said to myself, “Well, this has sure been an uneventful June 26.”  And just like that, it dawned on me that I had finally found what I had been looking for all these years, acceptance.

Peace, ~v.


Marriage and a Modern Muslim Girl

September 30, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today’s “A to Z Challenge” is brought to you by the letter “M“.

Writing 101’s assignment:  Write a post with roots in a real-world conversation.  For a twist, include foreshadowing.

Based on real life events.  The names have been changed.  Peace, ~v.


“Miss Victoria, my mom would never make me marry if I didn’t want to.  And I don’t want to!”  Della was adamant as she spoke with all the confidence of an 18 year-old about to graduate from high school.  The rest of the girls in my class smiled their knowing smiles.

It was the end of the school year and my students were schooling me on marriage in the Middle East.  Of all the Middle East traditions I know, the ones involving marriage are the most perplexing.  Males and females are completely separated by society, in public and in private, from around the age of 5.  By age 20, most young ladies are bound to an arranged marriage.  Having never been alone with a member of the opposite sex, teenage girls fall back on their fantasies of love and marriage.  Each imagines she will fall madly in love with her husband, but only after she marries him, of course.

Della didn’t ascribe to that conclusion.  She was determined to go to the university and determined not to have an arranged marriage.  “I will marry for love or I will not marry at all!” she was fond of saying.

The bell rang, signaling the end of the day, and my students hurried out the door.  Della hung back, she had something on her mind.

“Miss Victoria,” she began after the class had emptied.  “Miss, I don’t think I’m going to go to the university.”

“Oh, no?”  I tried to hold my surprise in check.  Della dreamed of becoming a television journalist.

“No, Miss.  I don’t think I can do it.  It’s probably too hard for me.”

This was not the Della I knew.  The Della I knew was confident, independent, and so sure that she would be broadcasting on TV in the near future.  I could tell she had made up her mind.  I muttered a few platitudes and Della slid out the door.

The next day, Della again stayed after school.

“Miss, can I tell you something and you won’t tell on me?”  She asked.

“Of course,” I assured her.

“Miss, my mom wants me to marry my cousin right after school is through.”

“And you don’t want to?” I hedged.

“No, miss I don’t even like him!  But my mom says I should marry him because he is part of our family and at least if he hits me or something, we can control him.”

After I regained my composure, I said, “What about college?  Doesn’t your mother know you want to go to college?”

“Yes.  But she thinks it’s time for me to get married.  I don’t think she will make me if I keep telling her no.  And she stopped talking about it a couple of weeks ago.  But I think she is going to ask me again.”

“Well, can you keep telling her no?  I mean, I don’t know…” and my voice trailed off .  We both knew the answer to that question, and we didn’t have the heart to face it.

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity.  Every now and again, I would catch Della’s eye and she would flash me her beautiful smile as if all was right with her world.  I tried to reason out the scenario in my head.  Della’s mom would persist in asking her daughter to marry the man she had picked out for her.  Della would continue to resist.  I was convinced that Della’s mom would not force Della to marry.  Unfortunately, I was right.  Della’s mom did not have to force Della to marry.

I saw Della one last time before graduation.  We hugged and we cried and we laughed, all things that Della would no longer be allowed to do in public now that she was no longer a girl.  Her face stoic as she pulled away from me, Della stood terribly erect.

“Miss,” Della announced in a bold voice.  “Miss, my mom asked me again to marry my cousin.  I said yes.”

She didn’t wait for my reaction.  She simply turned on her heels and was gone.



38 and Counting

September 29, 2014

Dear Readers,

My writing assignment for today is to write about the home I lived in when I was twelve.  The twist is to write in varying sentence length, short, medium, and long.  The short ones will be the most difficult for me.  I’ve never met a sentence I couldn’t painfully stretch out.  I’m long-winded.  There, that’s a good start.  Happy reading!

I remember both homes I lived in when I was 12.  I can even supply you with the complete addresses, not that remembering my childhood addresses is such a terrific feat.  Then again, perhaps it is.

I have lived at 38 different addresses.  I have lived in only one state (Arizona) and two countries (the U.S. and the U.A.E.).  However, I have had more residences than I think I can recall.  Also, if I include the two times I was homeless, that brings the figure to 40.  If my math is correct, I have moved at least once every 15 months or so throughout my lifetime.  And still, I’m not finished.

Childhood Homes

I can describe all of my childhood homes in the same manner.  Three bedrooms, two baths, a dog or two, my parents, my five brothers, my two sisters, and me.  If anyone’s keeping count, it’s ten.  My two sisters and I shared a room, my five brothers shared another one, and Mom and Dad maintained the master bedroom.

I didn’t bother me having to share so little space with so many people.  My mom was a great organizer, still is, so we rarely had fights over the use of the bathrooms.  I still marvel at the fact that Mom made sure all ten of us were cleaned and pressed every Sunday in order to attend mass.

What we lacked for in space, we more than made up for with love.  My perspective may be completely different from any and all of my siblings.  However, I grew up knowing that where ever I was, as long as I was with my family, I was home.

Adult Homes

The feeling that I am home hasn’t always transitioned to the homes I have lived in as an adult.  I tried my level best to create a home for me and my children while I was raising them.  Each has fond memories growing up.  I’ll take that as a good sign.

While living as a family with my children, I knew I was home.  I felt I was home.  Now, I’m struggling to duplicate that feeling.  I am struggling to duplicate the feeling of home I remember from childhood.  I’m struggling to get back that feeling of home I created for myself and my children.  It seems a daunting task.

I want to feel I’m home.  I need to feel I’m home.  Unfortunately, that feeling isn’t going to come from an address.  It also won’t come from the structure or the place in which I reside.  No.  That feeling of being home, the feeling that says “This is my home and I belong here,” that’s going to have to come from within.  Peace, ~v.



September 28, 2014

Dear Readers,

It was the best of traits, it was the worst of traits, it was the mark of wisdom, it was the mark of foolishness, it was the attribute of belief, it was the attribute of incredulity, it was the quality of Light, it was the quality of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.  It was adaptability.

With apologies to Charles Dickens,  I am writing about my best and my worst personality trait.  I am making a concerted effort to become a better person.  Through my soul searching of the past month, I have determined that my best personality trait is adaptability.  However, it is also my worst.

My ability to adapt allows me to feel comfortable in any given situation.  And it’s a good thing, too, because I’ve had to adjust to some pretty tough situations.  I’ve managed several times to make the best of a bad situation; I’m proud of that.  I am also ashamed at how base a life I was willing to lead because of my adaptability.  You’d be surprised at what we are willing to adapt to.  Or maybe not.  Now, having survived my first half century none the worse for wear, I plan on living the life I was intended to live.

Oftentimes over the years, I have instructed my students and my own children that they were destined to do great things.  I instilled in them a belief that they had the power to change the world, and they do.  So do I.

Accepting that I can, and I will, affect change began some time ago.  Last night, I fully embraced it.  Allow me to share with you, dear Readers, the beginnings of my new Journey:  My Journey of Peace.


Fifty Things I’ve Learned II

This is what 50 looks like, naturally.

This is what 50 looks like, naturally.

September 27, 2014

Dear Readers,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!  As my birthday month draws to a close, I feel more alive than ever.  I am thankful that I am (altogether now) Highly Blessed and Divinely Favored.  God has blessed me with much more than I have ever asked for or wanted.  What a coup to make it to the half century mark.  I will take wisdom over youth any day.

And speaking of wisdom, I have a list to finish.  Yesterday, I posted the beginning of the Fifty Things I’ve Learned during my lifetime.  Today, I am going to finish that list.  Here, dear Readers, are  the last 25 things I’ve learned through the years and how they have shaped me into the person I am today.

26. It is always best to show forgiveness and compassion toward an enemy or someone who has hurt you. I am merciful, even though it has, at times, come back to haunt me.
27. Unpredictable changes in mood often bring unpredictable changes in whether or not they stay. When I am moody, which is less now that before, people find it difficult to get close to me. Perhaps it is my exit strategy? Something to think about.
28. Take care and teach the next generation because they take care of and teach you. One of my strongest personality traits is that I am nurturing. People, animals, and plants thrive while under my care.
29. Take “The Road Less Traveled.” It is my nature to take the one less traveled by and to be a nonconformist. It has given me a lifetime of rewards.
30. Be tolerant of others and their ideas. I’ve never been afraid of ‘different’ thanks to my being open-minded. It cultivates acceptance.
31. See the glass as half-full. Always hated this saying until recently. Now, I am a true optimist. No one is more surprised than I.
32. Find your purpose and live it. For me, purpose is strongly linked to what I am passionate about. I live life with a passion that few have ever seen.
33. Live and act in such a way as to bring about peace. I am peace-loving. You may say I’m a dreamer…
34. “Victoria Regina, follow her lead.” One of my mentor teachers, Mrs. Smithson, would often tell me this. Queen Victoria was known as Victoria Regina. Regina is a feminine Latin name meaning ‘Queen”. Mrs. Smithson was telling me to possess queen-like qualities. I think my children would agree that I am benevolent.
35. Respect. I am respectful. I respect my Maker and His prophecies. And I respect Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants.
36. “Victoria Regina, follow her lead.” I have learned to act refined when necessary. Notice I wrote, “when necessary.” It’s a trait I need to incorporate more into my daily life.
37. Follow God’s rules. I try and I try and I always fall short. I am a sinner. Enough said.
38. Be heartfelt in your dealing with people. I am soulful by nature and by choice. I am sincere and emotional when needed.
39. Be honest. I am truthful, for the most part. Although I have been known to lie, it is not a habit I have ever owned.
40. Follow God’s rules. I don’t always. Temptress. That is all.
41. Never let ‘em see you sweat. I am unflinching in the face of danger and in the face of my enemies.
42. Keep your life in balance. Given that the scales of justice represent Libra, this is the most ironic of all my traits. I am often unbalanced. I have managed to even out the scale considerably since my youth. Still have a way to go.
43. Overcome adversity. I have overcome more than some, less than others. I will leave this life victorious in my endeavors.
44. Think before you speak. Too many times I have ignored this sage advice. I have a venomous tongue that will surely lose me more than my friends if I do not heed this one.
45. Be book smart and street-smart. I used to be just one, now I’m both. I am indeed worldly.
46. Wisdom comes with age. Not always, but if you learn your lessons, it is the best you can hope for. I am wise through the grace of God and all the crosses I have had to bear.
47. Follow God’s rules. I don’t always. X-Rated. That is all.
48. No one can hear you if you scream. This has always been a tough one for me. I am a yeller. I have learned to control my rising anger better than in my youth. I only wish I had tempered my yelling as I was raising my children.
49. You are only as old as you feel. Surrounding myself with my students keeps me young-at-heart. It has been my saving grace these past five years. I will not get old before I die. Carpe diem!
50. Be enthusiastic in all you do. I am zealous in my pursuit of happiness, sometimes to the chagrin of others.

There is my list, dear Readers.  I am far from perfect.  But you know what?  I like me, I really like me.  And I haven’t always been able to say that.  I have come a long way in my 50 years.  However, to quote Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark, and, deep.

But I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

Peace, ~v.


Food is My Sister

September 27, 2014

Dear Readers,

My assignment today is to write about a favorite childhood meal.  The twist is to tell the story in my own distinct voice.  This could be fun…

My mom is the best cook, period.  No, seriously, my mom is the best cook, ever.  So,having to pick just one favorite childhood meal is difficult at best.  Instead, I am going to try and explain the connection between me and food.

In my family, the Alex Zubia family, food is our legal tender.  In fact, food is so powerful to our populace, that it has never lost its value.  Over the years, Food has evolved into a member of our family, with the same rights and responsibilities as every other individual.  Food is both our strength and our Achilles’ heel.

Growing up, Food always received more attention than I did, even when I was the one making it.  By age 9 or so, my sister and I were making homemade tortillas for our large family of 10.  Mercy would usually roll out, shape, and watch the tortillas on the griddle, while I was tasked with making the masa (the dough).  To this day, I can assure you that my 6 younger siblings do not remember that I made quite a few of our tortillas.  However, I can also assure you that they remember how good they tasted.  Upstaged by Food.

I can’t say that I blame my siblings for celebrating the tortillas and not me.  Food was the golden child in our household, it could do no wrong.  Food was never distasteful, I was.  Food was never too salty, I was.  Food was never so sweet that Dad would ignore its shortcomings, I was.  And Food never made you sick to your stomach, unless of course, you forced it to.

I had a love/hate relationship with Food.  I loved to eat Food, but I was jealous of all the attention it garnered.  One day, I had simply had enough.  As we sat down to dinner, I was overcome with joy at even the smell of Mom’s spaghetti.  I was going to eat, eat, eat, eat, eat.  I was going to eat this Food until I couldn’t eat no more.  And I did.  And when I couldn’t eat anymore Food, I threw-up the Food.  It was one of the most euphoric feelings in the world.  I mean it was disgusting!  Thus began my road to bulimia and eventually, anorexia.

During my love/hate period (bulimia), I still didn’t receive the attention I believed I so richly deserved.  The focus was always on Food.  That of course is not true.  But, in my overtaxed brain, I believed it.  And everyone can see (now) that my love/hate relationship with Food would eventually lead to my simply hating Food (anorexia).  And it did, lead to my simply hating Food.  But did my family hate Food because it was making me sick (in the head)?  Nooooo, Food was still the golden child in our family.

Several years and several hospital stays later, Food and I have reached a detente.  I have been forced to ease my hostility toward Food, if only for my health.  Food still holds sway over most of my remaining siblings, however.  Hell, who am I kidding, it still holds sway over me, as well.  What can I say?  Food is our family’s golden child.  Food is a member of our family.  Food, why that’s the name of my third sister.  Peace, ~v.


Fifty Things I’ve Learned

This is what 50 looks like, naturally.

This is what 50 looks like, naturally.

September 26, 2014

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow I turn 50 years old.  In honor of such a milestone, I have created a list of fifty things I have learned through the years, and how they have shaped me into the person I am today.

  1. One of life’s objective is to be able to communicate.  I have learned to articulate my thoughts.
  2. It is always better to be sympathetic.  I’m not quite there yet, I tend to be acrimonious.
  3. In order for others to believe something about you, you must believe it yourself.  I am beautiful.
  4. No one likes to be bossed around.  Unfortunately, I haven’t quite stopped being bossy, yet.
  5. There is always more than one way to solve a problem.  Being creative has saved me more than once.
  6. Subtle is sometimes best.  Again, not quite.  I am dramatic…Oh, woe is me!
  7. Stay away from danger.  The longer I live, the more I have to accept that my personality lends itself to being dangerous.  No, I will not expound on that!
  8. Relax.  Now this one isn’t even close to hitting home with me.  I am edgy, without a doubt.
  9. You can reach more people if you have a wide-range of interests.  That I am eclectic helps me reach most of my students.
  10. Courage will take you places you never dreamed you could go.  It’s true, and I am thankful that I am feisty enough to get to those places.
  11. Remember the little things about people, they will be pleased.  I try so hard with this one.  Unfortunately, I am most forgetful these days.
  12. Forgive others.  I have been blest with a forgiving spirit.  Yes, I have been tested.  And yes, I have passed.
  13. No matter how much or how little, always be thankful for what you have.  I am, indeed grateful for what God has bestowed on me, and for that which I have earned.
  14. What you give is likely to come back to you.  I am generous with all that I have and with all that is within me.
  15. Happiness is a choice that comes from within.  Boy, this one sure took a long time to embrace  However, I can now say with conviction that I am happy!
  16. What you give is likely to come back to you.  Yes, this is a repeat of #13, but I haven’t fully accepted this, yet.  I am hurtful to a large extent.
  17. Always be able to depend on yourself.  I learned this one a little too well. I am one of the most independent people I know.
  18. Do not squander away your God-given talents. I am intelligent, and I put it to good use.
  19. Be patient.  Unfortunately, I am intolerant of people who do squander their God-given talents.
  20. Do not judge, lest ye shall be judged.  I’m trying, I’m trying.  I can be judgmental, even though I know I will be judged.
  21. Always keep the spirit of innocence within you.  Ha!  Not even close to this one.  I am jaded.  There are things I just cannot pretend I haven’t seen.
  22. The more you know, the better to solve your problems.  I am knowledgeable about a lot of things because I’ve had to work my way out of a lot of problems.
  23. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  I am kind-hearted.  I often pray that others will treat me the same.
  24. No man is an island.  I know I need the socialization of others, and I am getting better.  However, I am a natural loner and everyday I fight the urge to drop out of society.
  25. When making decisions, it is best to put emotion aside.  Even though I am dramatic, I am logical.  I have never given the answer, “Because I said so.”  Ask me a question and I will always have a very logical explanation for you.

That is the first half of my list, dear Readers.  I figure 25 of anything about a person is enough for one day.  However, seeing my character traits (flaws) in writing sure doesn’t make me want to list the other 25.  But, I was the one who started this journey and I’m anything but a quitter.  God willing, I will be back tomorrow.  Peace, ~v.


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