Retiring the Machine

Every walk of life includes peaks and valleys, and for much of the journey we can imagine ourselves participating in an ongoing climb. We strive to do more, be better, achieve things we’ve never had, etc. Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs if you need further clarification on this part of the life cycle.

I’ve been climbing my own mountain for quite some time now, longer than I had initially imagined. I can remember standing in the den of our house in Vista, holding a then only 4 1/2 month old Kennedy, discussing with Fabian the plan of action for how we would relocate ourselves, our baby, our careers, our cares, and our belongings to the other side of the country for the greater good of our entire family. The clock started then, and so did the climb. After that decision was finalized and we started the process, everything just got faster and faster…

Ever since, I’ve had momentary pauses, but I’ve been in motion the entire time. If not to put together the puzzles of a cross country move, then to learn the new lay of the land here in Florida, to find a job, to get back into school, to find something fun to do as a release, to adjust to online teaching as a career, to run in five directions consecutively in order to keep relationships intact, and to somehow keep my head above water through it all. In the midst of this, I also decided to start a business of my own. Where I found the time to do that I will never ever know, but that’s what I did and I’m just about a year in with it. Oh, and add an escrow to the tail end of that. Those are never ever fun or easy. If you can recall the Myth of Sisyphus, the former king had been condemned by the Greek gods to roll a boulder up a mountain with the aim to maybe leave it at the top or let it roll down the other side only to find that each time he would near the peak, the weight of the boulder would result in its rolling back down the path it had traveled. Sisyphus’ plight demonstrates the concept of insanity to us, because for as long as Sisyphus rolled that boulder, the outcome always remained the same. To do the same thing over and over and expect different results is exactly what insanity is, and week after week, month after month, and (I can actually say) year after year I felt the weight of the insanity that has been my life for two years.

mom and kennedy

One of the momentary pauses I got to have during this two-year period. Kennedy is only 8 months old here, and though the move was happening when this photo was taken, I wasn’t completely buried under my obligations yet. I was still able to freely be a wife mom here, and I’m so, so anxious to get back to this place again. (Photo credit: Primrose Plum Photography)


But unlike Sisyphus, I actually get to realize a different, much more triumphant outcome.

I hold two masters degrees now. I run two businesses from home and make my own work schedule. I live in a house that has everything I need in it and is located near people I care about living close to. All of these achievements were goals and milestones I set for myself, so I’m elated to have been blessed to realize each one of them.

But what it took…

Time and energy are just the surface sacrifices. Those moments of watching cartoons with my little one, going on dates with my husband, helping my mom and dad around the house, and sitting still long enough to talk on the phone or have lunch with a friend have also been sacrificed. My personal care has been sacrificed. Don’t worry, I kept showering through all of this 😉 but I could’ve used more sleep. I could’ve used more time to myself to think. My soul could’ve benefitted from more time spent playing my guitar. My body could’ve done better with more exposure to the sun.

I symbolically crossed the finish line on Friday when I defended my way to a perfect score for my MBA capstone, with boxes and blue painter’s tape still strewn about my newly moved into house. On Friday, the journey ended, and so did a chapter of my life that I didn’t even know I was capable of living through. It will go down as the most painful, difficult to budge, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’ shouted through tears chapter in the Antoinette book, but it was so, 100 percent, absolutely necessary for me to write. I’m a better woman for it.

It’s time for me to retire the machine. A piece of her will always be present because of who I am by nature, but in much smaller doses. It’s time for me to recoup some of what I lost personally while I also process all of the ways in which I’ve been made different.

I would write more, but I hear my daughter calling me…




Why I Can’t Go Back (at least not right now…)

I can’t believe it’s June already!

It’s been just a little over nine months since we made the move and while the adjustment has been rough in some spots, we’ve still managed to move forward, even if only by making baby steps sometimes. Though I’m sinking into my new home, I still have a fondness and nostalgia for the old one. I don’t think it’s possible to live somewhere for 25 years and not miss it when you leave. I was scrambling to come up with a plan for visiting San Diego this summer, but it just didn’t come up as feasible. Normally, when I talk about trips being impossible it’s because of the monetary cost. However, in trying to formulate a California vacation, I found that making such a trip would be of an emotional cost to me – a price that I didn’t want to pay. Here’s why:

  1. I’m trying to be strong and accept the aftermath of the changes I’ve set in motion.
    That sounds negative on the surface, but it really just summarizes my acknowledgment of the fact that this move was largely my choice – my husband had a say in the matter, but all the while he decided to go along with this because he knew how much it meant to me – and my choice has directly affected five people. I don’t take that lightly. I’ve mentioned on here before that I tossed all of the playing cards in the deck up in the air a million times, and every time they’ve fallen, they’ve always pointed to the fact that moving here was the right decision for our family’s future. I have to be accountable for the choices I make, and in doing so, I can’t just allow myself to go running back to San Diego just because I miss some of the people there.
  1. I’ve had to sort out just exactly what I was missing.
    It’s easy to make the blanket statement that, “I miss home,” or “I miss San Diego,” but truthfully, those are misguided statements of what my heart is really longing for. My heart longs for familiarity, routine, my old comfort zone, and to see certain faces on a regular basis again. Making a trip back doesn’t necessarily bring these things back, though. As much as I miss my old coworkers and would love to visit the campus to say hi, the fact remains that I do not work there anymore. I’d love to go hang out at my favorite spots and bask in the beauty of that place with nothing more to do, but not if I have to pay for a rental car, a hotel, and airfare to do it. The people who mean the most to me exist separately from that place, and friends like Allison have shown me that even if San Diego were to fall, our friendship would still be intact. I’m remembering things the way they were when I lived there, but I don’t live there anymore. Things are different now.
  1. I have to get over some things before I can truly set foot on SD soil again.
    Even though many of my relationships have maintained their continuity, there are quite a few that ended poorly before I left. The outcomes weren’t always my choice, but they’re the reality I have to accept. I need to get over those relationships first before I try to be a visitor in the town where I used to spend time where certain people who aren’t a part of my life anymore.
  1. It doesn’t make sense for me to look back, because I’m not going that way.
    Andy Bernard on The Office said the most profound line ever of that show, which was, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve left them.” My husband tells me all the time to cherish this time we have with our daughter, cherish the time we have right now because life will change, realize that things aren’t that bad. He’s right. What’s even more profound about this whole concept is that many of us are begging for God’s mercy and blessings, but we’re too consumed with what we don’t have to be grateful for what we do. Would you shower your child with Christmas presents if all they did was complain all December about how they don’t have anything cool to play with? Would you serve a second helping to someone who complained about the meal? Why do we expect God to continue to bless us when we can’t even be grateful for the work he’s already done to keep us safe, fed, and happy? This is changing my attitude immensely.

The bottom line is this: My life is here now, not there. I have to make the most of it. Though it’s easy to get lost in reflection and think back on days we miss, the direction of time is still moving forward. My daughter is still growing up quickly – I won’t have a cuddly toddler anymore pretty soon. One day, our family will grow, and I will think back on how easy things were when I had just one. I should probably appreciate having just one right now while I do. Some people have none…

Our lives in Gainesville can’t officially start until we’ve let go of our lives in San Diego. They’re over. My life there is over, and I’ve finally mustered the courage to really shut the door on that chapter. It’s taken me 9 months, but better late than never.

Going back now would only undo all this work I’ve done.

A Tale of Two Cities – My 2014 in Pictures

Let me take you on a photo journey of what my 2014 was like.

Here’s what my baby looked like when the year started…


A four-and-a-half-month-old Kennedy just barely began to sit up in January.

I got to begin the year by feeding her purees and limited solids…


She tried to feed herself a few times, too, as seen here.

I also got to help shower one of my dearest friends as she anticipated the arrival of her own baby…


Meanwhile, we also started working to fix our home up in order to sell it…


Those who know what our guest bathroom looked like before know what a vast improvement this was. I also learned how to pull a toilet from its pedestal in order to paint behind it. I’m going to flip a house myself one day…

I reconnected with some people I was missing…



An old friend came to visit, and brought her adorable baby girl along. Kennedy enjoyed her girl time with Mariah!

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I decided to make my first Mother’s Day with Kennedy a memorable one for me and her, and my mom…


We flew cross country and showed up at my parents’ door just in time for the Mother’s Day weekend. My mom had no idea we were coming. This was one of the best moments of the year!


We flew home with an awesome new piece of luggage – my dad!


Kennedy did so well with flights this year.

We touched down in San Diego just in time for this to happen:


A glimpse of the ever-destructive, arsonist-started Cocos Fire.


Surf, sun, and smoke plumes.

Later that month, I got to host a bridal shower for my BFF Allison, whom I’ve written about in this blog before…


The following week, I got to work my last graduation as a CCSD instructor…


I think this is my favorite selfie of 2014.

Then, the next day, we partied, bachelorette style…




We drove to LA to celebrate my friend and fellow CSUSM alum’s marriage…


Mr. & Mrs. Foss 🙂

When the Del Mar Fair opened (because it will always be the DEL MAR FAIR to me), we packed up the family and went…


Soon after, we packed up again to drive to the top of a mountain and take part in this…



Newlyweds! So beautiful! 🙂


Momming on the road – we did it, Manda!

Around the same time, this happened:


…and to our surprise, very soon after that, this happened:


So, lots of this started happening:


For the Fourth of July, Michelle and I got fancy on her balcony with Doritos, wine, and sorry ass fireworks. We made some drunken promises that night, too…


Class out the ass.

We also attended another wedding this summer, for Cassie and Todd!


First dance 🙂



July 24, 2014 was my last day at CCSD…


And another dear friend of mine shipped off for deployment that same week…


You can’t sit with us. Don’t try.

To take my mind off of being sad and in-between jobs, April decided we should go to the Wild Animal Park.


It was hot.


The kiddos had fun though. I swear it.

I started planning for my daughter’s first birthday, and decided I’d also get a tattoo in her honor:



We celebrated Kennedy’s first birthday at our home, and this is the only picture of the event that I have…


Home-made cake for Princess Kennedy 🙂

I dumped ice water over my head for a good cause…


I snapped one last selfie with the A-Team…


And then Kennedy and I boarded our one-way flight out of San Diego. I left plenty of people and places behind that will always have dear spots in my heart…like this girl…


Fabian followed behind us with the moving truck and arrived a week after we did.

We slept a lot, sat in silence, then contemplated how to start a new life.

So we found a new farmer’s market to frequent…


…a new spot to drink our beers…


Mean muggin’ at the Brass Tap.

New places to vacation…

Omni Resort at Amelia Island Plantation

Omni Resort at Amelia Island Plantation

…and new memories to create.



My first new friend in Gainesville, Jacqueline Valdez. She’s also my coach. 🙂


Another family pic fail. Thanksgiving Day.




Friending is Trending

There are pivotal situations in life in which we come to eye-opening realizations about ourselves and others. If you are ever curious about who your true friends are, you need only to get married and see who supports your union, or get divorced and see who stands by your decision to split from your spouse. You can graduate from school and see who shows up or sends their well wishes, or get arrested and see who shows up to bail you out, or at least picks up the phone when you call. You can also move far, far away, and see how others react.

You see where I’m going with this…

It’s been just over a month that I’ve been a Florida resident and I’ve gotten just grounded enough, and rested up enough, and blinked my eyes to see things clearly enough, to be able to decide if and what changes I plan to usher in as I embark on this new part of my life. In the midst of this, I’ve had to confront my love affair with that damn mecca of social media: Facebook.

Facebook is a crock of shit.

I think my “friend” list contains 390 some odd people, but it dawned on me during my run this morning that the word “friend” is a loose term here. As I’ve grown up, and been burned, and seen people’s true colors, and been lied to, and let down, and had my feelings hurt, and my heart ripped apart, I’ve had to revise the definition of what a friend truly means. There are only about 7 friends on my “friend” list through Facebook. As for the rest of the folks who are privy to my profile, they’re better acquainted in categories like “acquaintance list,” maybe a short “colleagues list,” and then there’s the “stalker list,” and “creeper list.” I’m tired of allowing Facebook to be a running log of minute details about my life that were not documented in any way 10 years ago. I’m tired of allowing Facebook to be my window to the world, which I usually access while actually sitting in a room that has windows, with actual views of the world. [Notice how I’m not blaming Facebook here, but rather faulting my usage of it.]

I’m going on a Facebook diet. Been on it for 3 weeks, actually. And in my new free time I’ve been able to learn German, write chapters for my book, learn some new songs on my guitar, explore my new hometown, and interview for some jobs. How novel.

I also plan to devote more time to this precious blog.

Blue Skies and Bug Repellant

Gainesville is very different from Vista. Geographically, it’s almost night and day with difference in weather patterns, the presence of more bugs, (mosquitoes, moths, grasshoppers, lovebugs, fiercer ants) and lusher, greener landscapes with ponds and rivers plentiful. Demographically, it’s different too. Much of the town is populated with people who used to or are attending UF, or just people who grew up here. Whereas Mexicans dominated the population in SoCal, blacks and Indians (people from India) dominate central Florida. It’s a university town that really does center on its university, and this town turns up for Gator games when the team is in town. Take a stroll through the local grocery stores or The Oaks Mall on game day and you’ll be met with a sea of orange and blue. You’ll also have a hard time navigating around game-goers in RV’s and campers on busy streets like Archer Rd. and Newberry Rd. on game day, as it seems everyone takes to the streets to display their pride, as well as make their way to Ben Hill Stadium for kickoff.

San Diego hardly displayed even a fifth of this town’s enthusiasm when the SDSU men’s basketball team played their best season in 2011…

I like this departure. I’ve mentioned many times since my 26th birthday that I felt a change of scenery would be good for me, but I was too afraid to make the leap, and I needed a reason to do it other than it seeming fun. Living apart from my mom and dad for six years changed my psyche in ways I didn’t become aware of until I reunited with them. My life in California contained a lot of suppression – especially on weekends and holidays. With a husband working long hours, my best friend was usually my Wii console, or a stack of ungraded papers, or a glass of red wine. Oh, my dogs, too. Can’t forget them. I was so jealous of my friends who were able to dial up their parents and easily fit in some quality time. I didn’t have much quality time from July 2007 to August 25, 2014. I place the start date at July of ’07 because once they decided they’d leave, our interactions were always shrouded under the shadow of the upcoming breakup that we knew was inevitable. It’s nice to stay up late talking to my mom and not have the stress of knowing one of us has to catch a flight out in a few days, ending all this fun until some other undetermined date, ruining the encounter.

The other priceless gift is watching as my daughter interacts with her grandparents on a regular basis. Both sides, both she and they, needed each other so much. We needed them so much. I needed this so much. I’m so glad I didn’t get up and walk off of that flight when I left…

There’s a lot that I miss about my life in California, and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly stop mourning certain relationships, certain routines, or certain features of the first house I ever owned. I hope to make new friends and establish new customs, but I’m also not in a rush to make things “just like before.” The only way I can write a truly new chapter is to fill it with fresh content, so life has to be different now.

From Golden State to Sunshine State

In fewer than two months, I will be living in the same city and state as my dear parents. This decision has been a long time coming, and my closest friends know what’s led our family to making this choice. Moving across the country is the biggest thing I’ve ever done, and through bringing this together I had to learn to take the good with the bad.

My heart has felt a lot like a battlefield in the last few months. My emotions are a swirl of happiness and remorse, fear and courage, anticipation and resistance, comfort and pain.

I think that as humans we have a natural instinct to want to hang on to what we know and love very closely. Parents smother their children because of it, we rely on emotional crutches like inanimate or material objects to get us by, and breakups go bad because of it, certain relationships outlast their true expiration because of what we once thought we knew, etc. What I’ve tried to work on through this process is acknowledgment of the fact that in order to allow good to come into your life, you have to make room for it. Just like if your hands and arms are full, you cannot hold a gift when handed to you, we can’t accept God’s blessings without letting go of what we need to first. Though I am letting go of my physical presence here in San Diego, my history here will always remain.

As I look forward, I happily anticipate all of the things I will be able to do after the move – things I haven’t been able to in the past six years. Dinners at mom and dad’s house will become normal again. I dream of family vacations with my husband and child(ren) and their grandparents. I want to go on date nights with my husband and not feel guilty that my child has become a burden to one of my friends for a few hours. I want to be able to look into my mother’s eyes as she tells me advice, or sit on the deck eating my father’s barbeque chicken. I want my family to be a car ride away, and not a plane ride. I want the nightmare that began for me six years ago to finally end. And now, it’s going to.