Thematic me

In 2002 I spent New Year’s Eve in New York City. In 2004, I was in San Francisco. The following year, I drove out to the desert to spend NYE in Palm Desert. In 2005, I rang in the 2006 all by myself in my room at Papa Chepe and Mama Toni’s house in El Cargadero, Zacatecas (they and my parents were all asleep).

This year, I’m still away from LA and glad about it because I’m with my boyfriend and his family in Fremont.

Hope you all have a good and safe New Year’s Eve and Happy New Year.


The words

Around my house words like tumor, lesion, liver, oncologist, biopsy, MRI, surgery, tests, operation and hospital are spoken in calm, serious tones. Words like cancer, malignant, and benign are just thought, rarely spoken. And those words are never spoken to Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni.

About six weeks ago, my mother told me that her doctors had discovered a tumor in her lower abdomen. She said it was about the size of a golf ball.

Since then, my dad has accompanied her to numerous appointments. While the doctors give my mom the news of her most recent test, my dad takes meticulous notes.

And when they call and tell me the news, my head spins with the words I hear on Grey’s Anatomy. On a 44-minute show, there’s a problem and it’s fixed quickly.

No one tells you how long you have to wait to hear the words you really want to hear like, “your mom is going to be okay.”

[Note: if you know me or my family personally and want to know how my mom is doing, it’s best to call my dad (and only my dad) on his cell phone. Email me for more info.]


Christmas (compiled)

My camera is broken and thus I have no pictures from the Christmas festivities at my tío Beto and tía Ana’s house in San Diego (the 16th), my tío Chuy and tía Luisa’s house in Ontario (the 23rd), and my house on the 24th.

If I did have photos, I would have posted them on Flickr and you would have seen:

  • A bunch of my cousins laughing at Betito’s assertion that “[his] dad is the winner [pronounced wiener], and all of you are the losers” after he chose his dad’s name in a raffle.
  • My Padrino José asleep in the massage chair. He made us laugh a lot as his panza shook with the vibration of the chair. My Padrino played along once he woke up (but faked it) and realized we were all laughing at him.
  • Ingrid and little Anthony versus Bobby and Betito in musical chairs. Bobby caused Betito to lose and Betito didn’t take it well… he started crying.
  • Betito kicking Adrian dangerously close to his “no-no” spot while they were wrestling.
  • Every room in my tío Beto and tía Ana’s house full of people eating, drinking, laughing and just talking.
  • My cousin Adán, who I haven’t seen since he moved to Arizona earlier in the year, showing up wearing some cool new alligator boots.
  • The yummy pozole that my tía Luisa made, complete with some lime, onions and lots of repollo.
  • The elimination Jenga tournament in which 9 people played and Vanny (the winner) got so nervous her heart began to beat fast.
  • Eric (cousin) and Claudia’s pit bull, Diesel.
  • The silly drawings of Christmas related words (e.g., Christmas tree, angel, Nativity scene, Virgin Mary, baby Jesus) drawn during a blind pictionary game. I split every one into 7 groups of 4, gave them paper and markers. They picked a piece of paper and drew that word with their eyes closed as their team tried to guess the word. The first team to guess their word got a point.
  • VR (our dog) wearing his new black t-shirt that says “who’s walking who?”. He looks cute, but it makes him look fat. I guess black is not a slimming color for dogs. He didn’t like it much, and later peed on his t-shirt.
  • Mikey’s parents, sister and her boyfriend meeting the rest of my family and getting punked during one of the games.
  • The traditional gift exchange/intercambio which featured dares. You would have a photo of Danny, my brother, eating a piece of pumpkin pie without hands; my dad moviendo la colita (and not throwing out his back!); Mikey dancing with a broom; my dad dancing with tío Pancho; and Mamá Toni kissing Papá Chepe.
  • Denise (cousin George’s girlfriend) first Christmas with the Ureño-Saldivar family initiated with a shot of Patrón tequila.
  • Betito swinging with all his might to break the burrito piñata.
  • The frenzy that occurred during one of the games. My mom, dad and Vanny went around a big circle holding a bowl with dice. If you rolled a pair, you had to run in to the circle and grab one of three wrapped gifts. If there were no gifts there, you took the gift from someone else. At the end of three minutes, who ever still had a gift got to keep it.
  • My cousin Bobby dressing up as Santa Claus for the first time. He brought a sack of gifts for all the little kids and several of the big kids.
  • The younger kids’ wide eyes as they saw Santa Claus come up to the house (we held the party outdoors). Betito and Anthony’s fake smiles as they posed for pictures with Santa after receiving their gifts.
  • Betito and his sister, Lizette’s, t-shirts that read “Jingle bells, all girls smell” and “Dear Santa, I’ve been bad… but I’m good at it.”
  • Little Anthony holding the baby Jesus while the rest of the family sang Vamos Pastores Vamos, O Come All Ye Faithful, and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
  • The late night dinner of more tamales.
  • My Padrino José holding up his gift from his daughter Bibi. It took my mom a minute to realize that Vitamina P2 would be read as “vitamina pedos”.
  • The mess of wrapping paper, boxes, gift bags and tissue paper throughout the living room.

We didn’t do anything on Christmas Day except enjoy the 73 degree day. Yeah, I would have taken a picture of myself in flip flops, jeans and short-sleeve blouse as I took VR for a Christmas Day walk.


The nerd within

One of the reasons I wasn’t so ready to give up on my PhD program earlier this fall and summer was because I knew I’d have the opportunity to work on my own research.

As I wondered “should I stay or should I go?” I talked to friends within the program and others outside education. I came to realize that working on a research project that was not quantitative based and focused on a topic of which I was genuinely interested would help me stick it out. I’d been a research assistant for the first two years and liked it, but I was also tired of trying to figure out how to do something using SPSS (a statistical program) and then not knowing how to interpret the results. I was also working on projects directed by someone else… which is definitely not the same as doing something you want to do.

I decided on doing my 299 research project on Latina science, mathematics and engineering undergraduate students. I wanted to know why some students stayed in the SME fields while others switched major. Half of my interest in this area comes from my interest in the retention and persistence of Latino student I’ve had since I worked as the director of MEChA Calmecac (counseling and mentorship program at UCLA). The other half comes my current work with science students.

One of the first things I need to do when I start my project is read the literature and get a sense of what is and is not known. There’s a lot that is not known in this area which is cool because that means I can add something with my research.

The following are brief passages and things that stuck out when doing my literature review.

“[G]irls’ self-esteem drops precipitously after adolescence, with the drop for Latinas being the greatest” (p. 255).

Leslie, L., McClure, G.T. & Oaxaca, R.L. (1998). Women and minorities in science and engineering: A life sequence analysis. The Journal of Higher Education, 69 (3), 239-276.

“[I]t felt good to be in a room with so many Chicanos. I felt strong. In fact, I go every week now just because of the strength I get from being around my people. It’s tough going to class and being the only Chicano. If it wasn’t for MEChA, I don’t know if I’d still be here.”

“MEChA was vital to their persistence at the university, and, like their families, MEChA was an important source of cultural nourishment from which to draw strength.”

González, K. P. (2003). Campus culture and the experiences of Chicano students in a predominantly white university. Urban Education, 37(2), 193-218.

“[E]xperiences of discrimination have a depressing effect on latino students’ feeling of attachment to the institution.”

Hurtado, S., Carter, D. F. & Spuler, S. (1996). Latino student transition to college: Assessing difficulties and factors in successful college adjustment. Research in Higher Education, 37(2), 135-157.

“According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Latino students have the lowest completion rate of all college students, with only 32 percent finishing.This compares with completion rates of 34 percent for African Americans, 47 percent for Asian Americans, and 48 percent for whites.”

Torres, V. (2003). Mi casa is not exactly like your house: A window onto the experience of Latino students. About Campus, 8 (2), 2-7.

“The 31.6% increase in Latino PhDs during [1994-2001] is particularly impressive when compared to the slight decrease in the total number of science and engineering PhDs. However, as mentioned earlier, the number of doctorates in science and engineering awarded to Latino students in 2001 still numbered only in the hundreds.”

“Among Latinos, about a third of all PhDs and more than 40% of science and engineering PhDs granted in 2001 went to holders of temporary visas.”

Chapa, J. & De La Rosa, B. (2006). The problematic pipeline: Demographic trends and Latino participation in graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 5 (3), 203-221.

“Because nearly half of all Latinos in California are immigrants from Latin America, it is instructive to compare this physician-to-population ratio with those of Latin American countries. Some Latin American countries have physician-to-population ratios close to that of non-Latino California: Cuba at 1:226, Uruguay at 1:268, and Argentina at 1:364. Mexico has a ratio that is nearly twice that of non-Latino California, at 1:593. Latin America’s overall ratio is 1:649. California’s Latino physician-to-population ratio, at 1:2,893, exceeds the ratio of every Latin American country…

Hayes-Bautista, D. E., Hsu, P., Hayes-Bautista, M., Stein, R. M., Dowling, P., Beltran, R., & Villagomez, J. (2000). Latino physician supply in California: Sources, locations, and projections. Academic Medicine, 75 (7), 727-736.

“If one looks at Hispanic representation in STEM fields, Hispanic faculty represented from 2% to 4% of all faculty.”

Millett, C. M. & Nettles, M. T. (2006). Expanding and cultivating the Hispanic STEM doctoral workforce: Research on doctoral student experiences. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 5 (3), 258-287.

“It is intersting to note that although females earned higher [math/science] grades in high school than did males, were somewhat more liley to attend four-year colleges and universities, were somewhat more likely to take advantage of minority support systems — all of which contributed to greater science ambition — they still had less science ambition by the end of the sophomore year than did males.”

Grandy, J. (1998). Persistence in science of high-ability minority students: Results of a longitudinal study. The Journal of Higher Education, 69 (6), 589-620.

You know what happened when I was doing all this reading and writing at the last minute (I still need to work on that bad habit)?

I was glad friends convinced me not to leave the program. As much as I grumble and claim that PhD programs are for suckers, I’m still a nerd deep down inside who thinks that research is fun, loves to write and can’t get enough of the methods section in qualitative papers.


Adventure on the River Kern, II

My rival for coolest tshirt collection

To read Part I, go here.

Little Anthony’s t-shirt read what we were all thinking the next morning as we nursed our banged up legs and knees, “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

And even though it did seem like a good idea, no one regretted the harrowing trip down the river.


I was sitting on the river bank, reading one of the hilarious essays in David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day when Rene asked if I wanted to take a trip down the river.

“Where are we going?”

“Just down that part,” he replied and pointed to the right fork in the river where it looked a little rough. “We went down in the rafts earlier.”

That was all I needed. If they had gone down earlier in the day, it couldn’t have been that bad, right?


The six of us — me, Rene, Lindsay, Heather, Adán and Nancy — piled into the two rafts. I got in to one raft and kneeled down.

“You should sit down,” Lindsay advised. “Those rocks will bust up your knees, but your butt can take the bumps better.”

I followed her advice and sat down. Lindsay pulled the grey raft closer to her and jumped in jolting the raft the behind me. Rene was the last to get in and sat on the top of the raft up front.

I was nervous. I hadn’t gone rafting in a river in years… and the Kern was no friendly river. Rafting would be different than just floating down in a River Rat innertube for a few yards in the calm part.

As we started off following the yellow raft filled with Adán, Heather and Nancy, Rene gave me one last bit of advice.

“Whatever happens, don’t let go of the ropes.”

Yeah. Letting go of the ropes in a river nicknamed Killer Kern would be bad.

Danny made up the last of the group in a single yellow inner tube. He was the only one wearing any sort of protective gear, a purple and red life vest.


Rene lied. And it’s a good thing too, or else I wouldn’t have anything worth blogging about.

Our mini-rafting trip didn’t end once we made our way down the familar part of the river. The familar part of the river was a little rough, but we were all able to deal with water splashing in our faces and getting jolted by the river around boulders.

Once the two rafts and inner tube made it through the familiar part, we decided to keep going. It seemed like a good idea at the time.