Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pisa Unplugged

At 12,800 feet above sea level, I was literally at the top of the world.  I felt like I could do anything I wanted--and I did.

Getting there was not easy. I needed to rest so I just had to figure out a way to unplug from the matrix.  I figured that taking a vacation with a very busy itinerary would do the trick.  After a 7 hour plane ride, I was in another hemisphere and ready to put the slogan  "All you need is Ecuador" to the test. Why Ecuador? Just watch these videos (short and long version). Another reason? I was born and lived there during my childhood.  Although I lived there, so much has changed in the last couple of years that when I watched the video it felt like it was brand-new and I was ready to be Dora.

I woke up the next morning ready to be an "explorer" after taking a hot shower to start the day.  A hot shower was all I needed before starting my quest to conquer the world.  Life had other plans.

My first adventure began--finding a place to take a hot shower.  I refused to take a cold shower or take a bucket shower.  I just really needed a hot shower to relax my muscles after my long trip 😢.  I know it sounds childish but at the time a hot shower was essential to feel that my vacation had started. After the third hour, I lost faith that the water heater repairman was going to show up. For a second the bucket shower sounded tempting--very tempting.  It was around 2 p.m. when I found a house with a hot shower--there was not much water pressure but the water was warm.  My mom called to check-in on me and I was happy to report that I had taken a hot shower--I felt so accomplished!  That is when I realized that the water heater breaking, the electricity outage, and the water shortage --by the way, they were very rare events in the city I was in--were all part of the perfect plan to help me unplug.

After the shower incident all the obstacles in my path to enjoy a relaxing vacation seemed like if they were all just part of the plan. So how was my bad altitude sickness, a Zika virus epidemic, my food allergies, an erupting volcano, and the recent death of 2 tourists part of my vacation plan?  It is a crazy mix of circumstances but they were all part of my 24 day journey to relaxation.


PS. The picture was taken atop the Quilotoa crater lake.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

If you cook for 10, they will come!

Just like in the movie The Field of Dreams, there is no logical reason why people just come.  Some are invited and others are not; but by the end of the day the food is gone and everyone is happy--especially me.

I can not help it, whenever I decide to try out a new recipe or make a special recipe, instead of making just a couple of servings I start to multiply the recipe and end up making at minimum 10 servings.  It is a crazy habit,  so recently I put on my psychologist hat--I do have a degree in psychology--and began to ponder on the reasons for this crazy behavior.

Is it my Latino roots?  Latinos love cooking, love food, love feeding anyone that  comes by their home even if you are not hungry.  For Latinos, food is a token of their love.  However, we can probably say the same about Italians, Greeks, or many other cultures.

Is it my grandparents?  My parents come from very large families; my mom has 12 sibblings and my dad 11.   Although, only 5 of my 23 aunts and uncles live in the US.  My mom says that my grandmother used to cook for about 30 people everyday--the immediate family and her employees.  Can you image the size of the cooking pots or amount of the dishes that needed to be washed every day? My goodness!

Is it my parents?  We are a family of 5 so eventhought my sibblings have left the nest, most of the time my parents still make 5 servings just in case. Also when my parents decide to make some traditional dish from Ecuador--usually very intricate--my sibblings and their family always get an invite.  Moreover, like every loving parent, frequently, the end up cooking like 5 different dishes so everyone has their favorite and is happy; this behavior drives me nuts sometimes but I get it--everyone is happy.

Is it just me?  It has taken me about 7 years to learn how to cook.  They first years I just followed the lead of others---my parents or recipies I found; but now I think I have finally found my own voice.  I cook for 10. Why? Because sharing makes me happy. Also, because in all the years of training with my family--my parents, aunts  and uncles--led me into a secret.  When cooking to share, the regular rules for multiplication don't apply because love is involved.  For example, when you cook shrimp ceviche for 3 the recipe might call for 1 pound of shrimp per serving; but when I cook to share, I get about 20 hefty servings from 7 pounds.  Also when you cook to share, the blessings you receive, just like the number of servings you share, are exponentially multiplied.

If you want to try it, don't cook for 10, just cook to share!....and you will always get enough servings.

Happy cooking!  Pisa

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My Bucket List

Granted I came up with this Bucket List in my teens so some of the items were kind of crazy.  In my 20s I checked many items off the list: back-packing in Europe, riding crazy roller coasters, and running out of room in my passport for more travel stamps.  Then came my 30s and due to a health scare, I checked some items off the list not because I did them but because I considered they were too risky.

Here comes 2015 and basically I went over the scary-cat hump I was stuck in and started to rethink about those items in my Bucket List I removed.  Were they really that risky or was it just an excuse I created?  I started planning again for the perfect conditions to get them done--controlled risk and right fitness level.  The day I found myself bungee jumping or canopying/zip lining was in no way the day in which conditions were perfect.  In fact, I kept telling my sister-in-law "I'm completely out of my comfort zone" over and over as I stepped off the ledge.  In my head I kept picturing my young self as I wrote the Bucket List and put my logic/fears/excuses aside and just let go.

In my Bucket List, 3 items remain: visiting Greece, balloning and sky diving.  Since I'm almost done I have started my Bucket List #2.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Spare Parts movie...that was me!

Spare Parts is a movie by George Lopez I watched this weekend. Watching it was surreal because that was kinda of me more than 20 years ago.  A 12 year old girl who recently arrived to America, who carried her English-Spanish dictionary everywhere since she could barely speak English, who was undocumented, and who knew education was the only chance she had to achieve the American dream---and I did.

Now I can look back and see how blessed I was and just like the movie it is important to share my story. My parents brought my sibblings  and I to Maryland because we had family here; they had no idea at the time they had chosen to bring their kids to one of the best public school systems in the country.  I did not realize that either until I was able to get into the Honors and Advanced Placement classes.  How does an ESL student get there?  According to my middle school counselor who let me take that first regular math class, by being very anoying.  She was sick of me begging her everyday to give me a chance to take another math class because I was bored.  My convincing argument was that one does not need English to do math; besides I had my Eng/Span dictionary  with me at all times.  She thought I would ask her to switch me to my old ESL class after the first exam; instead I got an A+ and was tutoring my English-speaking peers while I was still learning English in my other ESL classes.  Since I had good grades to back me up I did not have to campaign long to convince her that after 6-months of ESL courses I knew enough English---at that point, ESL was designed to provide English proficiency in a couple of years.  That is how I got my foot in the door.

In high school, I convinced my counselor to allow me to skip regular level courses and to assign me to honors classes.  I did not realize then how crazy my request was; the only thing I knew was that I wanted to take the same classes my friends from math class were taking.  Yes, I was the only kid with an accent in those classes and for sure the only one that always had an Eng/Span dictionary by her side.  That is how I eventually got to Mr. Torsch's honor science class.  He was an amazing teacher; he was my cheerleader for many years--also he never made fun of my accent.  In my case, the science competition was called The Final Frontiers and I was building 8 feet tall towers out of popsicle  sticks and 30 grams toothpick bridges that would support bricks.  We were undefeated champions for many years.

Those science competitions opened many doors for me. During high school I was always busy attending summer programs at various universities across the US at no cost since I always got the full scholarship and my parents were not able to afford it.  Now that I think about it, I did not really consider how risky it was to travel by plane  or be included in newspaper articles since I was undocumented.  In my head I figured that the chance that la migra stopped at a science program to pick up one kid was very remote.

I don't think I was the smartest kid in high school but I was very driven.  I graduated at the top of my class-7th to be exact-with a 4.5 GPA, with 15 college credits, with acceptance letters even to Ivy League universities and a full state scholarship.  It was amazing, these were the fruit of labor of many people that supported me in the journey like my family and teachers.

I got what I worked so hard for, the only problem was that in 1996 the Dream Act was only a dream.  Reality had finally caught up with me and I was still an undocumented kid who could not accept the scholarships she needed to pay for college.  It was a tragic situation.  On top of it all, la migra caught my mom while working in a bakery--she, maybe all of us, were going to be deported.  My world crumbled to pieces.  Then enter divine intervention into this crazy equation and la migra ended up bringing our pink cards instead.  On the last day before the deadline,  I turned in my acceptance letter to University of Maryland with a full scholarship.  I graduated after 5 years with 200 credits and with 3 degrees.  I was going to say that it is not my intention to brag; but it is,  this little kid who carried her dictionary for so many years was able to reach her American dream.  She graduated, became a citizen, works for the government and still has an accent.

Keep dreaming and working hard,


Monday, June 1, 2015

Unique gifts for you....and to share!

This is my business motto but of late I have realized it has become the motto for my life as well.  Humility aside I have many gifts---we all do.  There are things we learned in school, things we learned at work and so many things we have just learned along the way.  How to start a business is a great skill to have.  It has taken me many years to learn the basics; many years to just loose the fear and anxiety that comes with the process.

This weekend was interesting to say the least.  Launching my online store has been in my To Do list for a while; taking photos of your inventory and uploading them to the online store is an intricate and long process.  This weekend, my 10 year old baby niece launched her Etsy jewerly store.  Yes, I know  what you are thinking. She is 10 so she is not a baby.  I changed her diapers so like I told her, I earned the right to call her "my baby" for as long as I want to--so probably forever.  Indeed, my sister in law is teaching my niece an interesting set of skills this summer; you can read all about it here. I think it is never too early to learn those skills, especially because when you learned them early you approach the task at hand differently.  If you ask her about the experience of starting a business she will probably say that it is fun and cool.  On the other hand, just in the last 2 paragraphs I have mentioned the words fear, anxiety, long, and intricate.  Granted, she has a limited number of products and I have hundreds.  Nevertheless, she got me out of my creativity block and provided the inspiration I needed.  I don't think my niece has realized yet but one of her gifts is that she is a cheerleader of life.

So, my niece is off to play and enjoy the nice weather and I am walking around the house with my ipad trying to find the best lighthing spot to take photos of my products.  After many, many photos, a spot by the dinning room window made me happy.  So, it began, until I get a message from my cousin a hemisphere away-I was born in Ecuador-informing me she has started a home business and she has designated me as her marketing director.  The day continued and I, the one that had a creativity block in the morning, now have 2 businesses to work on.

So all those unique gifts you have, enjoy them and also share them--so your reward is doubled.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Life happens...

Even though I like to view life through my sparkling-rose-tinted glasses, life happens, and it ends up being more like this beautiful bouquet full of many colors.  An unexpected illness of a loved one, especially a life-threatening one, takes you through the darkest shades of life.  It feels like I have been holding my breath for the last 3 months and just now I can finally let go and breathe again.  Yes, I'm one of those people that in the darkest hours puts everything aside and just folds up their sleeves to focus on helping.  When the sun finally rises it takes me a minute to process everything and breathe again.   I'm processing now....and finally the stream of crazy ideas that flods my life is finally running again. Pisa

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fill the Void...

Fill the void with the positive so there is no room for the negative.

I like to think that I can contribute to this goal by sharing my ideas, thoughts and experiences.  I'm very shy but once you get me talking it is hard to make me stop.  When blogging--surprisingly---my filters disappear and I can talk with an open heart.  So here it goes...

With love,