Happiness is

For some reason those license plate frames that read ‘Happiness is (fill in the blank)’ have always erked me for some reason. But last night, I seriously had a moment where I thought to myself, Now this is happiness.

I was driving to get frozen yogurt at a shop I used to visit often before the yogurt craze began. As a kid, it was a family ritual to grab yogurt on hot summer evenings, or even on brisk winter nights. My mom was even a pro at memorizing the daily yogurt flavors, without even needing to call to confirm. Our new house is conveniently in the very neighborhood of this shop. Closer than my parents house even.

But as I made the familiar drive, I realized our new house is in a neighborhood of my fondest childhood memories. Happy, happy memories that I am overwhelmingly thrilled to relive again! The yogurt shop. The grocery store we once shopped in regularly. The park that leads to the river. The local pizza place my childhood best friend introduced to me. The list continues. I feel like I’m breathing in all these old memories and it brings me such joy. Especially because now new memories will be made here in this very place.

The new house we live in brings me such pure joy. My main wish list item was a big backyard because my childhood home had the best backyard. As I gaze from my kitchen table, I see such possibilities if the memories that are to come. Chris and I continue to add to the already large list of ideas to make this backyard amazing. I’m dying to just lounge under an umbrella and daydream about our future in that backyard.

So though those license plate frames may cause me to roll my eyes from time to time, I guess I can finally say I get it. I have found that happiness.

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Nothing can stop me now

I felt like a little girl on Christmas Eve.

I knew it was well past time for bed,

but I just couldn’t sleep.

For the excitement for the coming day kept me awake,

but then again, so did the never-ending question, Is this really a good idea?

Sooner or later slumber greeted me, but morning arrived quickly.

photo-17Since returning to running I’ve been sticking to a slow and steady return.

April and May were meant to be ‘run for fun’ months

so that I could build up a base and really test my legs to see if they were ready.

But when my aunt invited me to run a Race for the Cure 5k with her,

I just couldn’t resist.  I signed up.

It was just a 5k, right?  I’d be fine. I prayed my legs wouldn’t fail me.

race for the cure

Brewing a small cup of coffee, the zing of race day surged inside me.

I couldn’t wait to arrive and be among the people.

Though I always arrive way earlier than I should to races,

there’s something about the atmosphere that calms me.

The pre-race music, the people watching, and the children running about.

As I walked around the sea of people, my nerves became calm.

I started to feel more and more ready.

Bring it on!

This race definitely felt different.

For once, I wasn’t the least bit concerned about my overall time,

rather just curious what pace I could hold.

I decided to let my aunt do the pacing, and I was just along for the ride.

I wanted to take it in, and return to this happy place of mine.

Gliding along the pavement, and letting my mind run free.

The first mile and a half felt amazing!

We were zipping through the course,

and I could tell by my breathing that I was actually ready for this.

Then mile two hit, and I had to really get serious.

I started to feel tired, but I just couldn’t slow down.

I had to reach that finish line and feel good about it.

Push. I’d tell myself. Push.

I reminded myself to push because I knew I could hang on,

not because I wanted to push myself faster.

I just wanted to run, and keep running.

The finish line grew closer and I could feel the relief inside me.

I’d made it and I had no care to even look at my watch.

It’d been a year since I’d crossed a finish line.

But in that moment, I felt more unstoppable than ever.

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My PR for a 5k is 28:04. Looks like I almost broke a PR on accident! Not too shabby!

The name of the game is still slow and steady

as far as training is concerned.

But it makes me feel good to know I still got it!

Abuelas are better than grandmas

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This is Abuela.

She’s the one who is responsible for my Cuban heritage.

My espresso addiction.

My fiery bulldog ways on the soccer field.

The woman who inspired my sewing hobby

and taught me to sew a project for “10 dollars or less.”

The woman who will always greet me with,

“Hay que linda!  Gina, you look like a million dollars.”

(Yes, even if I’m in workout clothes.)

Who told me to never leave the house without earrings

and a little bit of lipstick (or chapstick in my case).

She’s hilarious, thoughtful and you better believe she’s a good negotiator.

I had the best time sifting through old family photos with her yesterday.

We belly laughed as we shared stories

and passed back and forth, “Remember when?”s.

Brought me back to the days I’d visit her in Miami

on my Spring Breaks in college.

While my friends would visit the beach or go on some crazy college group trip,

instead I took a flight to Miami to spend time with Abuela.

She and I would shop and take in movies,

and come home to eat Cuban food with Abuelo.

We’d practice speaking spanish.

We’d drink cafe con leche.

To me, those were the best Spring Breaks ever.

Though I really do miss my visits to Miami,

I’m pretty happy she’s here in California now.

Because now I don’t have to wait for Spring Break

just to hang out with her.

Acts of Kindness

Well, December is here,

and with that, I’ve begun my month of Kindness project

as a part of my 30 before 30 bucket list.

I finally finished making my list of the 30 things I will do this month

in order to spread a little extra kindness to strangers

and the ones I love most.

I have to say, this took some research.

I wanted to keep this project low cost,

and I wanted each item to be easily attainable.

Now, I’d love to shell out a ton of money to brighten a stranger’s day

but that would leave me broke and not feeling so kind and cheery.

So though some of these tasks seem minor,

to me, they are enough to push me out of my daily routine

and do something nice and/or thoughtful for someone else.

Day 1: Send a note in the mail to a friend, just because.

Easy enough, right?  Shockingly, the hardest part was deciding who to send it to.

I have so many great friends that it was hard to choose just one person.

I have to admit, it felt a little funny writing a note to a friend

when it wasn’t her birthday, and she wasn’t getting married

or having a child.

But honestly, who doesn’t enjoy getting mail?

Like, actual mail, not bills, credit card offers or a catalog?

Here’s hoping this brightens my friend’s day.

Day 2: Surprise grandma with a visit, just to say hello.

My abuela has been on vacation in Miami since the beginning of November,

and it’s been strange not having her around.

She got back last night, and I knew a call to welcome her home

would have been sufficient.

But I knew an unexpected visit would have been that much better.

So this morning, I drove to her house and didn’t call her until I was around the corner.

Greeted by tons of hugs and kisses and squeals of delight,

I knew this was much better.

I showed her the skirt I sewed all by myself weeks earlier

for her to admire and praise with her ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.’

She shared all the adventures of her travels

and I ‘oohed’ and ‘aahhed’ in jealousy.

Before we knew it, an hour had passed.

A phone call probably would have been quicker,

and probably, still, would have made her day.

But this meant more.

I could have gone to the hot yoga class I wanted to attend,

and called her on the way,

but this was more important.

Welcome home, Abuela!  You were missed!

Just for Mom

Today was one of those school days I look forward to.

My mom’s birthday is Sunday

and every year I have my class surprise her

by calling her to sing a rendition of “Happy Birthday,”

cha-cha-cha’s and all.

And I love it because every year, without a doubt,

she is just as surprised as the first year of this tradition.

I think one of my favorite parts is

watching the kids sit squirmy and giddy,

smiling ear to ear as they wait silently for me to give them the cue.

Just another way I bring the “Joy Factor” into my classroom

and a way to tell my mom I love her.

Happy birthday, Mom!

Thankfulness Thursdays

Back for week 3 of Thankfulness Thursdays

thanks to the Domestic Fashionista.

This week was the start to one of my favorite parts of Fall:

NBA Basketball.

Though I have been posting an awful lot

about my love for the San Francisco Giants

my heart will always belong to the Sacramento Kings first.

Basketball season means time spent beside my family

cheering, laughing, and stat trading

in front of a game I love to watch.

It means a little less sleep a few nights a week

because you better believe I don’t miss a game without an incredible excuse.

There’s nothing I love more than blaming my exhaustion

on staying up past my bedtime just so I could see the end of the game.

I won’t lie… Basketball season is the reason

I recently upgraded my cable service just so I wouldn’t miss a game.

Last year I even kept the Kings schedule in my car,

so that if I was in the car during game time,

at least I could listen to the play call on the radio.

A little extreme…I know.

But this is coming from the girl

who called her Daddy at 7am the day of the “last” Kings game

crying because I had tickets to the game and he didn’t.

I was feeling guilty.  How could I not watch this last game with him?

(Luckily, that wasn’t the last game.)

Sounds a little silly, but really, it’s the reason I’m thankful today.

Because to me, this game stands for family time.

Whether it be on the couch in front of the television for TNT Thursdays,

or sitting in our season ticket seats at Sleep Train Arena,

I am so very thankful for basketball season!

Thankfulness Thursday

Many of my students do not have the childhood that I had long ago.

Some do not come home to two parents

nor do they come home to ones that drive them to soccer practice

or nag them to clean their room.

They might come home to McDonalds for dinner

or a screaming match between mom and her boyfriend.

Some don’t have a bedtime,

and some don’t have their own room.

As a teacher, I try to bring any kind of version of “normalcy”

and try to stick to any kind of promises I make.

I try to give them stability.

I am thankful today for my dad.

My amazing, generous, thoughtful father.

Who today, gave an hour of his time

just to read and bond with a few of my students

over a book about one of his all-time favorite baseball players.

Roberto Clemente.

He started a “Boys Book Club” that he’ll be hosting for a month

with four boys in my class.

I felt so proud listening to him tell them about

this legendary player, someone these boys had never heard of.

When Dad and I spoke prior to plan the book club meeting,

I was wagering it’d take about 15-20 minutes.

I was wrong.

Today my dad sat and read with these four boys for 40 minutes.

When they finished, I took the time to go and ask each one,

“How’d it go?”

My heart melted watching their faces turn to smiles

as they told me all the new things they learned

and what a great time they had.

I felt so proud.

That’s my dad!

How lucky I am to have a dad who’d want to come in

and spend time with my students.

Who’d want to come in and actually try to make an impact

teaching and sharing lessons of the world.

Thats my dad!

Today I’m thankful for Dad!