My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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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.


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Adaptability


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.


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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.


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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.


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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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Longing to Laugh Out Loud


September 23, 2014

Dear Readers,

Today I have managed to combine two assignments into one blog post.  The first assignment is the “A to Z Challenge” and we are now up to the letter “L“.  I have posted the story in today’s  “Longing to Laugh” one year ago.  However, I revised almost all of it to fit today’s assignments.  The story is as true and accurate an account of my time in the Middle East, as I can remember; the names however, have been changed.

My next assignment if for my Writing 101 class.  I am to focus this post on the contrast between two things.  Here’s the twist:  I am to write the post in the form of a dialogue.  Enjoy!  Peace, ~v.

“Miss Victoria, it is our tradition.  Women do not laugh in public.”

Of all the traditions and customs I had to learn while living in the Middle East, this was the most disturbing.  I had been teaching in a remote town in the middle of the Arabian Desert and after six months, I was finally beginning to fit in, until today.

Tears began to well in my eyes as I stammered, “I’m sorry, Miss Da’ad.  I didn’t know…” and I let my voice trail off.

“You must not cry, Miss Victoria.  I do not mean to hurt you, but we do not laugh in public.”

I knew why the women were not allowed to laugh in public, it was the same reason they wore abayas to cover their bodies and shaylas to cover their heads.  It was the same reason they couldn’t leave their homes after dark and the same reason they couldn’t see their sons graduate from high school:  Men have no self control.

That is not the official reason, of course.  However, I had had enough discussions with my tutor, Mr. Mahmoud, to have reached that conclusion long before Miss Da’ad told me that she longed to laugh.

“So why do Muslim women have to wear the veil, Mr. Mahmoud?”  I asked him one evening between lessons.

“The woman must protect her honor, Miss Victoria.”

“You mean without her veil, a Muslim woman has no honor?  I don’t get it.”

“No, no.  She must be modest in her dress, that will protect her honor.”

“Oh!  I see, dressing modestly and wearing the Shayla keeps men from lusting after the women.  So really, wearing the veil protects the man’s honor.  Well why can’t men protect their own honor?”

“No, no, no Miss Victoria, you are getting it confused!  The man, he is not allowed to look at the woman.  If he looks at the woman with the lust, the woman has no honor anymore.  So she must not draw the man’s stares and she must not look at the man in public, or even at the home, she must cover herself to protect her honor.”

“Wait!”  I said, a little more loudly that I had wanted to.  “Even in her own home she is not allowed to uncover herself?”

“Of course not.  What if her husband brings home a friend?  What if her uncle makes a visit?  She cannot make the mistake and uncover her modesty.  If she makes the man to look at her, she loses her honor.”

“It would be an honest mistake if that happened.  Her honor wouldn’t be lost.  Anyway, if that happened, it would be the man who steals her honor, not the woman who loses it.  See the difference?”

“Miss Victoria, the woman must protect herself.  Even in her own home.  The man, he does not have the will to look away.  The man, he is not responsible to keep the honor.  If the man has lust because the woman, she is not covered, the woman has failed to do her duty.  The man cannot be expected to look away!  And then what?  He see the woman, uncovered, and he has the lustful thoughts and the man, he cannot control his thoughts.  No, no Miss Victoria, the woman, she is responsible for keeping her honor pure.”

“But she has no control over what men are thinking when they look at her, whether she is covered up or not!  If a man sees a woman without her Shayla, he should quickly cover his eyes if he has no self-control.  It is the man’s responsibility to control his thoughts and protect the woman’s honor.”

“So, that is how it is in the West?  The woman, she is allowed to do whatever and the man, he must protect her honor and control his thoughts and actions?  She is allowed to make the man to lust after her?  She can stop this, she can save the man and herself if she wants to!  The woman must protect herself and she must protect the man.  The man cannot help himself, it is the woman who must protect them both. It is not the man’s fault.  The woman must not draw the attention to her.  It is because of he that the man has not pure thoughts.  It is because of her that the man, he cannot control himself.  It is because of the woman that the man does not respect and honor her.  The Muslim man, he respects the women and he honors the women, but the Muslim man, he cannot be responsible for what he thinks and what he does if the woman does not protect herself.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So there it was, the fault in the logic of Muslim society.  Intellectually, I had known it all along.  Women wore the veil because they had to protect the men, not themselves.  And here I was, apologizing to Miss Da’ad for my shortsightedness.

“Of course I shouldn’t laugh in public, Miss Da’ad.  I did not mean to draw attention.”

“No, no Miss Victoria, keep laughing.  The Muslim women, we cannot laugh.  But you my sister, you must never stop laughing.  Never stop laughing my sister, because when you laugh, you are laughing for all of us.”

And so I laugh.  I laugh long and I laugh loud, hoping that the sounds will reach across the miles and into the patient ears of my sisters in the Middle East who are longing to laugh out loud.

The following was posted in Al Arabiya newspaper September 23, 2014:

“Don’t laugh out loud,” Turkey’s deputy PM urges women


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Truth in Jest


September 22, 2014

Dear Readers,

For my Writing 101 assignment, I’ve been tasked to write about the most interesting person I met in 2014.  Although I met him long before this year, I could think of no other person I’d rather do a character study on.  Enjoy!  Peace, ~v.

He had an unusually loud disposition.  If he were an article of clothing, he’d be a silk paisley tie; worn only sparingly, but always at the best parties.  His humor, delivered tongue in cheek, was  both his introduction to, and his shield against the world.  His humor was never biting.  However, he never turned it off, leading one to believe that he was well-versed in protecting his inner child.

His business acumen has won and lost him a fortune.  Now, he was working toward his retirement, though no one who knew him could ever imagine him slowing down.  He made his way through life schmoozing all the right people.  Most never tired of his spiel, because he always had a ready smile, one of his more endearing qualities.

Never schmaltzy or sentimental, and never one to wear his heart on his sleeve, I know he does love me, this yenta.  He has to, he’s married to my sister.  And I, too, love my brother-in-law, George.  What a mentsh.

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