Amor Eterno

She lived for 104 years.

She saw the world transform – from the mountains of Ecuador to the peaks of New York City buildings.  From radio to the television screen sizes.  She lived so many different lives – a daughter, sister, a Mother of 6, and the wife of a man who dreamed of coming to America.  She was a seamstress in New York City as so many immigrant women were.  She was strong enough to keep going, despite the small apartment, the rough subways, and the language barrier.

She is America, my Grandmother and the matriarch of our family.  She had a way of making 3 small pots of food feed everyone who came to visit – her 6 children, 11 grandchildren and, eventually, 15 great grandchildren and even 2 great-great- grandchildren!  Her biggest fan, Luis, my grandfather, always got the 1st plate. She and my Grandfather founded a family whose story breaks cultural barriers and defines what it means to be an American.  We define what it means to be a New Yorker.

But I only know the part where I came in.  The part where I know for certain that I am my Grandmother’s favorite.  How do I know this?  Because I am the one my cousins would get to ask permission to go places.  Like, if we wanted to go to the park, they’d pay me with quarters to go ask Grandma.

“She likes you, you ask.”

“She’s Grandma.  She likes all of us….”

“No, no, she likes you most because you read a lot.  You’re ‘responsible.'”

The funny thing is that I never really learned how to speak Spanish fluently.  And my Grandmother never learned to speak English at all.  Our conversations were a special type of Spanglish on both ends.

“Quiero vas a la park”


“The park”

“Al parque?  Si, si, via con cuidado. Before I could run off to the bunch hiding on the porch, she’d laugh and say, “Ay, La Niña Nancy no hablas Espanol.”

Off we would go, my cousins Stephanie and Omar and my sister Lisa.   Off to the park 2 blocks away, up the steep hill and stairs of death, in Woodside, Queens, New York.  We’d get Omar to push all us girls on the tire swing, we’d run like mad children, chasing each other with sticks.  We would stay there forever, but I swear we could hear her calling us to come home from 2 city blocks away.

At Grandma’s house, we would eat what she made or starve because there was no ordering out or frozen options.  Rice, beans, chicken.  Rice, soup, bread.  Rice, beans, steak.  Rice, beans, fish.  No matter what, it would always taste delicious.  I didn’t like red meat or fish at the time, but when Grandma made it, I ate it.  It had a unequivocal flavor, not even my own mother could replicate.  At the end of every meal, we would walk our plates to the sink, give her a kiss and say, “Gracias Abuelita.”  I usually called her Grandma, but after a meal, this was the tradition.  Always kiss the chef!

We would beg to sleep over Grandma’s house.  Admittedly, not because we wanted to spend more time with her, but because we wanted to hang out with our cousins.  Grandma would put us all to bed around 8 pm.  Earlier if she could, but 8 pm, when the sun was still shining through the large windows of her big yellow house on a corner in Queens.  We would just about fall asleep when we would hear the tune of Mister Softee, the ice cream truck, coming down the block.

“Ask her if we can get ice cream.”

“Quiero Ice Cream.”

“Que? Helado?”


“Ay, La Niña Nancy no hablas Espanol.”
I’m pretty sure the change in the tone of her voice signified that we should all get back to sleep…but I didn’t understand her at all when she yelled.  My Spanish was selective. Luckily, Grandpa would intercept and hand us all a dollar so we could all get ice cream. Mister Softee would stop right in front of their house and we’d make our purchases and hang out on the brick porch steps with the white aluminum awning.  We’d tell jokes, 

Eventually we’d get back to sleep on her plastic covered couches covered with her flowery sheets.

There are a few phrases I could exchange with Grandma, but mostly it was about “Escuela.”

“Te gusta Escuela?”

“Si, Grandma.”

“Esta bien.” and she might carry on a few minutes with words that I’m sure meant, “Getting an education is important.  Make sure you study.”

“Si, Grandma.”

She’d chuckle again and again  saying, “La Niña Nancy no hablas Espanol.”

As she and Grandpa would leave our house, she’d secretly slip me $5, $10, $20 to spend. Actually, I’m sure she meant for me to save it, but I never did.

They both came to visit us where ever we were.  In North Carolina, In Hawaii.  In Hempstead.  In my many apartments/houses.  But when Grandpa passed away in 2010, she stopped leaving the house.  She was 96 at the time and she’d say over and over, “Everyone is gone.  I want to be with them.” or something to that effect.

But she just kept going.  She kept cooking, cleaning, and sitting by her window, watching who came in and out of the house.

Until the second week of June, when she started to complain of pain in her stomach.  They took her to the hospital and the doctors said there was a tumor.  But she’s too old to have surgery.  They sent her home with a Hospice nurse and said it could be days, even weeks.

I left Virginia for New York on Thursday, the day they sent her home.  I walked into the room and my mom told her it was me.  Her only true ailment up until this point was her eyesight.

“La Nina Nancy…” she sang, slowly, and then continued on in Spanish

“She says she’s dying.” my Mom translated.

I held her hand.  She was so thin.  So tiny.

Everyone left at that moment.  Uncle Luis went to get her water.  Uncle Santiago went to answer the phone.  The kids went off to play.

And she spoke to me.  But I couldn’t understand what she was saying.  I held her hand and listened.  But I had no response.  I figured I would find a few words to say to her tomorrow.  I said, “I love you.”

And she passed the next day.

We kissed her good-bye before they took her away.  “Gracias Abuelita.”

Omar, Stephanie, Lisa and I hugged each other a little bit harder and broke down in each other’s arms.  We each took turns trying to console Uncle Luis, who took care of her every day since Grandpa died.

Eventually I made it outside to the backyard and I watched the children play.  They didn’t really have any idea what had happened.  Most of them won’t remember her at all.   But there they were, running up and down the side of the house like we once did.  Riding on a little Fisher Price horse on wheels that used to belong to Omar.  Kicking the ball out into the street and waiting for a kind stranger to return it as they walked by.  Asking for ice cream when the truck came by.

I looked up at the Yellow House my Grandfather bought so many years ago and how so many of us were lucky enough to feel like this is home, thanks to her.

I made a video using all the pictures we could find of her, but we didn’t have many of her younger years.  We played it at the funeral home and now the song, “Amor Eterno,” is forever etched in my brain.  I would have liked to find photos of her as a young girl, long before any of us came along.  But there just aren’t any.  Just a headshot of her with my Grandpa, smiling and leaning on each other.  I don’t know what year it is from, but they’re both young.  There’s the one of them both by the fence that used to surround the house.  Another of her by the train when my Mom was very young.  Maybe we’ll find more in Ecuador.

Gracias Abuelita for the beautiful home you made, the love you gave us all and the bravery you had for venturing into the unknown in hopes of giving your children the best life possible.

This is Not the End

If there is a reason for everything, then there is a reason why I didn’t go to Abu Dhabi last year. Actually, I think there’s quite a few reasons why. but that’s a post for another day.


My Daily NYC 5/13/16

The Notes App on my iPhone has become a sort of diary for me. Scrolling through you’ll see:

  • What teachers do all summer 7/30/16
  • Goals 2/17/16
  • Natalie’s Wedding Toast 7/30/15
  • Shopping for New Apt 3/27/14
  • Baby names 12/29/12

I never have time to write in my fancy leather bound diary. Nor any time to write in an artsy diary I purchased in France with Monet’s Sunrise on the cover. Not even a crack into the cute little owl covered journal I bought when my daughter was born. It’s a wonder I got this blog thing going!  Motherhood and teaching have very little down time. One can never be bored!

I remember being inspired to jot down “My Daily NYC” after reading a post by Trudy who blogs in Rendezvous En New York.  She described her NYC Non-negotiables for Happiness and it got me thinking of what got me through the day in NYC.

My Daily NYC 5/13/16:

  1. My Morning Coffee.  Mornings are a mad dash of chaos (6 am wake, shower, dress. 7 am wake & dress the kids.  7:20 pile everyone in the car.  7:45 drop off hubby at the A Train. 7:50 drop off kids at daycare. 7:55 search for parking.  8:05 enter work – hopefully). I usually rely on Starbucks.  They sold me on the App perks. I’d love to go to Rockaway Roasters every morning, but there is no parking lot or mobile orders.  If for some reason I can’t make it to Starbucks, I end up getting a weak brew from a deli.  Sad face.
  2. Parking Loopholes.  It is possible to drive to work in Queens, however, if I want to be on time for work, I take a semi-illegal spot at a bus stop that forces me to move my car by 1 pm or face an $85 ticket. Oh well. I need to step out of the school building for fresh air at least once a day anyway.
  3. Deli/Bodega/Bagel store for lunch. I hate packing lunch because by the time 12 noon rolls around, I might have had the type of day that requires comfort food. Sometimes I’ve had the type of day that requires a sandwich that can be inhaled in under 45 seconds. Sometimes, I just want more coffee. Still waiting for gentrification to hit Ozone Park so I can get some more options for lunch.
  4. Alternate routes. Traffic. Sucks. ALWAYS. Better to know your side streets and, if only for your sanity’s sake, take the scenic route instead of blasting your horn down Crossbay Blvd.
  5. Rockaway Beach & other NYC Parks by the water. I don’t know what I’d do without the ocean. Whether is on the boardwalk or a promenade in Brooklyn, water views add zen to our chaotic city.

The similarities and differences here in NOVA?

  1. My Morning Coffee – I am now the only one leaving the house at 6:30 am every morning (waking at 5:30) so I either brew a pot and bring my coffee or I make a stop at Starbucks (those perks add up).  Did I mention how much earlier I need to be at work?  School doesn’t start till 7:30 but we are encouraged to be in before 7 otherwise you will get stuck behind the horde of buses dropping kids off.
  2. Parking Lot.  No loopholes needed.  There’s plenty of spots and I usually take a spot right in between the exit and the front door.  One less battle to fight before you start the work day!
  3. Bring Your Own Lunch or starve.  There are no delis or bodegas on any corner in this area.  There are lots of trees!  So if I don’t pack a sandwich, salad or leftovers, I’m screwed for lunch.  Lesson learned and now I leave a few cans of Progresso in my closet at school.  We have quite the teachers lounge, unlike NYC, so I fill the fridge with salad, tomatoes, croutons and avocados for the week.  There’s even a stove if I want to whip up something (which I don’t).
  4. Alternate Routes are still necessary.  I have a pretty direct commute of 10 minutes on the Beltway, but, if there’s an accident, I jump right off and experiment with side roads.  Ok, so that’s happened once.
  5. Parks and Waterfronts are still vital to me.  I love Alexandria Waterfront and Great Falls Park.  The only difference is that you can, believe it or not, swim in the ocean in NYC.  You cannot swim in the Potomic.  It sure is pretty to look at!  I’ve become a fan of hiking and hope to do more of it over the next year.

Hiking @ Great Falls Park

NYC teachers go through so much before the day even begins! The kids don’t have it any easier – there’s no bus that picks you up on your street corner and drops you in front of the school.  Most of my kids took the crowded J train to Jamaica Ave and transferred to a crowded Q11 bus which leaves you two blocks away from the school’s entrance. Can you imagine riding the subway in 6th grade?

What are your non-negotiables?  What gets you through the day in your city?

Last car in the parking lot

Dear Sally,

“Dear Sally…”

I’m posting from a dorm room at Columbia University, my home for the next week.  Yeah, I know, Felicity was supposedly attending NYU but this has the same vibe.  I’ve got suite-mates from around the country, a really hard twin bed, and a meal plan with my student ID card.

I was selected to attend a Gilder Lehrman Seminar at Columbia University back in May…just after accepting the job in Abu Dhabi.  I remember worrying that I might not be able to attend because this is the same week teachers were told to be prepared to leave.  We would have been leaving this Thursday, in fact.  A number of teachers have received their “Golden Ticket” and are on their way!  Congrats to them!

This week I will not be put up in a 5 star hotel nor will I have to deal with 130 degree weather.  Instead, I am in a tiny dorm room around the corner from Teachers College at Columbia University with 93 degree weather.  Pretty hot for NYC!  This particular seminar focuses on the history of immigration in the US.  For one whole week, I will be attending classes, going on field trips and designing lesson plans on immigration.  Oh, did I mention, I’m living in a dorm room?


The professor, Mae Ngai, wrote The Lucky Ones, a book on Chinese Immigration in the late 1800’s.  The concept of migrating as a calculated move to better one’s situation resonates so much with me right now. Here are my choices:

A) International School in Washington DC

B) Gifted Program in Chapel Hill, NC

C) Middle School English position in an affluent neighborhood in McLean, VA

I feel like I cast too wide of a net, but isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when seeking a job?  I had no idea I’d have to weigh so many options.  Which do I choose?  Figuring hubby can work anywhere, we have family in each location, and each offer a fair salary for the cost of living…which do I choose?

As I walked back into class after getting the call that I’d been hired in NC, I got mixed reviews from teachers from the south.  “Aw that’s a beautiful place to live!” and “You DO NOT want to go there.”  From the one teacher that was actually from North Carolina, all she could say over and over was that, “It will be a culture shock.”

What do you think?

You may be asking, “Why not stay in New York?”  The pay and benefits surpass all other options.  That’s what my peers are asking.  “Why do you want to leave New York?”

I tell them about Abu Dhabi and explain, “We were going to leave anyway.  Might as well take advantage of all our prep work and go ahead and move.”  We may never be this prepared to move again.  It might even be now or never.  Felicity Porter could have stayed, gone to Stanford, and become a doctor.  It made sense.  Instead she foolishly followed a boy to New York.  I don’t want to be foolish, but I can’t not explore these options.

Technically, we’ve already left New York.  On June 30th we put the rest of our belongings into storage and began our family road trip.  We traveled up to New York’s Hudson Valley and down to Baltimore, MD.  We’ve enjoyed Shenandoah National Park in VA and the food scene in Georgetown, DC.  Last week we were laid back in Durham, NC until we crossed paths with a garden snake.  That may be a sign from God right there.

We are still not ready to make a decision as to where to call home. There’s only one thing that is certain:

Sometimes, in order to teach in New York City, you have to leave it for a little while.

Shenandoah National Park

Spring Break 2016

Building sand castles by the sea…should have been building smowmen!

The stretch between winter break and spring break was brutal this year. There were two weeks of practice tests, 4 weeks of test prep, two weeks of state tests and one week of make up tests and grading. Great weather throughout all the testing! Once we were finally released on break, however, the weather decided to stop cooperating. The sun can be such a tease!

My Little Sunshine

We headed to Beach Haven for a little time with Grandma Ellen. The gusts of wind and light rain didn’t stop us from collecting seashells along the shore, flying the drone, and taking the kids to the park. We painted the seashells, completed several puzzles, read all the children’s books in the house and caught up on episodes of Better Call Saul. 

My Little Man on the Moon

We got ONE sunny day we took full advantage – running in wide open spaces, participating in the fire department parade & picnic and flying the drone out over the bay to capture the sunset.

If all goes as anticipated, we have about 100 days left on this side of the planet!


My First Blogging Award!!!
We moved around quite a bit when I was younger.  My Dad is a proud Ex-Marine, which meant I was constantly the new kid on the playground.  I can recall a number of times when I would timidly make a friend on the swings, then get introduced to her friends hanging out on the monkey bars and by the end of recess, I’d have a whole new group of friends playing tag!
Well, I’ve met a few friends on the blogging playground and I have to say a great big thank you to Delta, who keeps a heart-warming blog at Rev2point0 – Thanks for the nomination! Delta’s blog embodies the spirit of living life to the fullest!  I don’t mean sky-diving or climbing Everest.  I mean all those little moments that add up to a life well-lived.  The Mommy moments, the growing closer to your spouse and enjoying adventures with friends – all of these that we look back on and can say “I did it all!” (Cue One Republic Song).
I started this blog to document my attempt to secure a new job abroad and new adventures.  It has become a great reflection on my life and has connected to so many people who wonder, “What if we just picked up and moved?”
So the rules for the Liebster Award are as follows
11 Questions I must answer from Delta:
1. What is your favorite (non-blog) website?…although I mostly use the App!  I’ve been a Yelper for about 6 years and I was even a Yelp Elite for a while!  This meant free events, shows, tastings, and drinks! No time for that nowadays!
2. If you could time travel to any decade in the 20th century, what would it be?
Bring me back to the 90’s!  Love the music, love the clothes, love how carefree I was to be a teen!
3. If you were to invite five famous (in any sense) people to your home for dinner, who would they be?
Although I would be a nervous wreck organizing the house and making dinner, I’d like to invite the Obamas and Jane Goodall.  What would we eat?  Would Malia be bored?  Will Michelle ask if I grew the herbs in my backyard?  Does Jane even eat meat?  I think it would be an amazing dinner!
4. What would you serve them?
Crap, that’s what I want to know!  As much as I love cooking and making delicious meals, I can’t handle the pressure of feeding a high-profile party!  My go-to catering is A Taberna in Island Park, NY.  Delicious food from Portugal!  They have amazing Paella, Grilled Veggies and Roast Lamb…I’m sure there’s a pasta dish of some sort for any possible vegetarians!
5. If you were marooned on a desert island and could only bring three books, what would they be?
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  I think they’d keep me very occupied and provide enough inspiration to survive.
6. If you could be a character in any book you’ve read, what character would you choose and why?
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery.  Growing up, a friend and I pretended to be Anne and Diana when we played.  She was always Anne because she dreamt of romance and travel.  I was always Diana for my long hair and willingness to go along with her ideas. But I’ve always really wanted to be Anne: Adventurous, romantic, headstrong and driven!
7.  Do you read on an e-reader or do you read physical books?
My favorite reads have all been physical books.  For books that I just need to get through I use an e-reader.
8. If you could move to any part of the world, where would you choose and why?
I want to retire in Costa Rica.  I love the “Pura Vida” life, the weather, nature, food and ocean.  But Spain would be cool too.  And I think I’m meant to live in France at some point. But right now, I’m moving to Abu Dhabi in The Middle East!
9. What is your favorite time of day?
Nap time.  I love sleep!  But there’s something so special about a nap in the middle of the afternoon…it’s the best sleep and I haven’t had it in at least 3.5 years! (Before kids!)
10.  What is one thing that can turn a bad day around?.
Good coffee, lunch with a friend (especially if it’s sushi) or a hug from my husband and children.
11.  What inspires you to write?
Everything!  I jot down everything that is seemingly significant.  I keep notes that I’ll probably never get a chance to look back on.  My “notes” app on the iPhone is crammed with lists and ideas.  I read an abbreviated version of The Diary of Anne Frank in 4th grade and have kept a diary ever since.  Some years I write more than others.  But I always want to be writing!  It’s more than a hobby.
11 Random Facts About Myself
  1. I did not consider applying to teach in Abu Dhabi until I was certain there are sushi restaurants there.
  2. I hope to someday teach students in the US while I’m abroad – virtual classroom style.
  3. I started drinking coffee when I was 29… It started with one cup very few days and has increased to at least two cups per day. I cannot quit any time.
  4. One of my many summer jobs, while in college, was washing hair at a boutique hair salon in the Hamptons. Many of the Hamptonite ladies complimented me on my English.
  5. After high school, I immediately enrolled in Katherine Gibbs…”finishing school” for girls. I thought I wanted to be a secretary. I learned to type, shorthand, and how to style my hair like Rachel, in Friends.
  6. I run a community farmers market via which allows my family to get farm fresh food at a huge discount. It’s just a little bit of extra work every Monday when the farms deliver the food and I distribute to the community members.  Totally worth it!
  7. I currently Love the comedic style of Trevor Noah!
  8. My top 5 Pandora stations are Alicia Keys, Sara Bareilles, Adele, Disney Sing-alongs and Frozen.
  9. I have a three-year-old daughter who completely amazes me every single day.
  10. Her little brother is 20 months younger than she is and the sweetest little thing ever.  Except when he’s trying to jump off the kitchen counter.
  11. I loved the TV series, Lost, for many reasons.  Including the fact that it was filmed in Hawaii and I love everything about Hawaii.
And the Nominees Are…
Top 11 Blogs I currently follow that have less than 200 followers:
1) Teaching Abroad – American Teacher in Qatar
2) Tanai Bernard
3) The Stories of Dubai
4) Karla’s Not Lost
5) Nurse on Fire
6) Dreaming in Arabic
7) Black Girl in Abu Dhabi
8) Adventures in the World
9) My Cipher Keeps Moving Like a Rolling Stone
10) NYC Educator
11) Finding Out Who Started It
For those who have been nominated, here are the questions I’d like you to answer:
1) If you could give someone $1,000,000, who would you give it to and why?
2) If you won an exotic, all expense paid trip, who would you bring with you?
3) What are the top 3 most beautiful places you have ever visited?
4) What tip would you give someone who is just starting their blog?
5) If travel were something everyone did as a rite of passage growing up, where would you recommend they go? (one country only please)
6) What is your favorite dish?
7) Have you ever hesitated posting something on your blog, but did it anyway?  What was it? Link it here:
8)  If you could move anywhere in the world, where would it be? What would you do there?
9)  What is your favorite non-blog website?  Post a Link!
10) When you’re in trouble, who do you call?
11) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That’s all Folks!  This was fun, but a lot of work!  I hope you take a moment to discover a few new blogs out there, especially Rev2point0!  Remind your friends and family that there’s a lot more on the web than Youtube, Facebook and Instagram!

Nancy’s New York – The Sweet 16

What would you do if you only had 5 months left to live in New York? The US?

I think we spent a good part of this weekend saying good-bye to New York.  We took my parents and sister’s family to eat a huge family meal at our favorite Thai restaurant, right here in Rockaway.  It’s on the bay and as scenic as the food is delicious.  We visited my husband’s office building in downtown Manhattan and admired the 360 views of NYC – The Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower and Brooklyn Bridge Park.  If I worked in that building, I wouldn’t get any work done!  I would sit staring out the windows and picking up games of ping-pong in the cafeteria!

I have been compiling a bucket list of things to do before we leave.  It has made me realize that my New York centers around family, friends and food.  I am making a list of things I must say good-bye to, places I must try before I go and who I need to spend time with before time is up.  My New York has been all about the diverse culture.  Cliche?  Perhaps.  But, I think what you allow on your plate says a lot about who you allow in your life.  Some people are very bland, picky and fake eaters. What does that mean? You go out to eat and they order a burger and fries because they don’t like seafood or Mexican food or waffles are too fattening. Then they lament throughout the meal, “this is too much! I won’t be able to finish this!”  Finally once their plate is clear they say, “I feel disgusting. I can’t believe I are that much.”  I can’t eat with people like this.

Others have a colorful palate.  They say things like, “Let’s try something new!” And “Try my dish!” Or “I can’t finish this but I’m taking it home for dinner!”  I definitely lean toward those who have open minds, hearts and taste buds!

I’m sure I have left off plenty, but here’s the Sweet 16:

1 – Serendipity – another cliche New York, I know!  But before that damn movie came out, my sisters and I would go here and indulge in the Forbidden Broadway and Frozen Hot Chocolate without a 3 hour wait!  Their food is “Meh,” but I’ll make a reservation for a full meal just to bag the lunch and get to dessert!

2 – Max Brenner – my new chocolate indulgence spot.  Their Italian hot chocolate is like pudding, another one of my favorite things.  I enjoyed this with my Mom and sisters one afternoon and it was well worth the trip through the pouring rain! Oh, if only I were Oprah…I’d fly you all here and treat you to this liquid heaven!  I also want to go here with my babies and all my nieces – it’s super kid friendly!

3 – Natsumi – anyone who knows me  knows that sushi is the only thing I ever want to eat!  I went here with one of my best friends, Maria, before a Janet Jackson concert and I remember it being one of the best served raw fish EVER!  I cannot believe we haven’t been back!  Probably because we have kids…It’s in Midtown Manhattan and pretty pricey!  Well, a babysitter will be hired – we are going back!

4 – Sugarcane – bread pudding and rum punch led me to my husband!  I just realized that if it weren’t for food, we would never have met! I love this place for its style, flavor and Brooklyn atmosphere.  If it’s a girls night out, we’ll get the wings.  If I can convince hubby to come back here, we’ll get the steak.

5 – Brooklyn Botanic Garden – one of my favorite places on earth!  I love most botanic gardens, but this one I got to know in depth while taking a botany course one summer.  There is nothing more soothing than admiring the beauty of plants, potting a seedling, or sketching exotic blooms with colored pencils.  I spent a month getting know every exhibit and now I bring my students there twice per year to see the beauty of a sleepy winter and the vibrant life of spring! I’ll go here and New York’s many other gardens with my Mom – she has a knack for growing beautiful things herself!

6 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, and The Guggenheim.  Art can heal a broken heart.  I never appreciated art growing up, despite having two sisters who are extremely talented in visual art.  I was actually bored at museums.  It wasn’t until I felt at my lowest, that I began to understand and appreciate it.  Once again, I took a course studying art in NYC and we spent Saturdays visiting different museums and analyzing different pieces.  I started scheduling tours at The Met for my students and I was mortified and delighted that the tour guide started with the unclothed statues in the Greek and Roman Gallery!  I don’t know if I’ll make it to all of them, Inshallah!

7 – Battery Park & Statue of Liberty – I’ve been so lucky to have been able to get to know this area of Manhattan.  A number of my PD’s are held here and my little family and I have walked along the promenade a few times.  One time in particular, we shared a bench with a family of readers.  Mom, Dad, and two little girls were all into their books as they stretched out in front of the waterways.  I promised that I would make sure my kids always carried a book.  As soon as I get them to sit still…Aside from the promenade, I’d like to say good-bye to Lady Liberty and ride the brand new sea-glass carousel with my munchkins.

8 – Levain Bakery – Huge Cookies that have a crisp crust and gooey inside.  I almost love them as much as Maison Kayser in Paris.  If I could bake cookies like this, I would be the perfect Mom.

9 – Brooklyn Bridge Park – I’ve been to Brooklyn plenty of times, but never took the time to check out the park until recently.  Playing tour guide to my cousin Erica from Texas, forced me to do some touristy things.  But this was a side of New York everyone must see.  With a view of skyscrapers across the river, Brooklyn Bridge looming above you, and one of the most spacious areas to stroll in NYC, Brooklyn Bridge Park has so much to offer!  Trails, grassy areas, a pop-up pool and lemonade stands! Oh, and built-in exercise machines next to the kids playground?  I could definitely squeeze in a work out everyday if this place weren’t 45 minutes from home.  All outdoors and all free! Well, except the food.  We discovered Luke’s Lobster in a tiny brick building by the bridge and while I thought I had had the best Lobster Roll in Montauk, this went far beyond my dreams!  Luke’s Lobster.  Go there.

10 – Montauk, The End – The end of Long Island, that is.  Montauk Manor, Gurney’s Inn, The Lighthouse – I don’t know if I’m really going to make it out there, but every so often I need to drive out to Montauk and gain some sanity!  This is where I spent my college years.  Most people head to places with parties and action.  I went to a place that is serene and quiet September -May. The beach takes over all your senses.  You smell it, see it, taste it everyday.  It’s the only place in New York that I get an idea of what it would be like to not have to rush anywhere – enjoy life at a slow pace. This is where we had our wedding, on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  This is where I would buy a block of land, grow some veggies, ferment some grapes, raise some chickens and live my life in peace.  If I could only afford it.  Costa Rica weighs in as second place in Retirement Goals.

11 – Famous Familgia Pizza – Pizza in New York is a must.  I loved hosting my cousin Erica last September because she was down with eating pizza everyday!  While I love the thin crust pizza at New Park in Howard Beach, the eggplant slice at Classica, Glendale, and the huge slices at any Puerto Rican Pizzeria in The Bronx, Famiglia has amazing lasagna and baked ziti!  Pizza is good too, but OMG with the cheesiness in their baked pasta!

12 – Thai Rock – I’m thinking of having our farewell party here.  It’s a beautifully designed restaurant with a deck overlooking the bay and one of the prettiest sunset spots in Rockaway.  The food is amazing and the owners are lovely!  If you’re dining out on the deck, they come around with blankets should the weather get chilly!  If we don’t have our farewell party here, we will definitely host a huge dinner for our closest friends and family.

13 –Bear Mountain – Hubby has been saying we should go hiking here forever!  Well, now that both kids know how to walk, this may be possible.  Hiking is an activity I would love to get into, but have never had the time nor the right companions!

14 – Long Beach, NY. Sorrento’s, Himawari, Chaba Thai – My old neighborhood of Long Beach still has the prettiest boardwalk and tastiest restaurants for after the beach.  I’ll try to get to all these places after a nice day on the beach in June!

15 – One World Observatory and Top of the Rock – typical tourist places offering amazing views of this city.  As we walked through downtown Manhattan Sunday to pick up cookies for Easter dessert, we talked about coming back here as tourists.  How easy is it to love this place when you don’t have to live here! How truly we love it despite having to live here!  These exhibits we might save for when we come home during the summer!

16 – Woodside, Queens – The Yellow House on a Hill.  Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  I must spend as much time as possible with my beautiful Grandmother, who turns 104 in a few days!  She has already received a sweet happy birthday wish from The White House!  They wrote,

March 15, 2016

Dear Marietta,

Happy 104th Birthday! We are delighted to send our warmest wishes as you celebrate this milestone!

Your story is an integral part of the American Narrative and you have witnessed the best of what of what our nation can accomplish when we work together in pursuit of a brighter tomorrow. 


Barrack Obama   Michelle Obama 

She still lives in the same yellow house in Woodside, Queens, that my Grandfather purchased as part of his American Dream.  The house where she cooked the world’s most savory dishes and finished raising 6 Children, 11 Grandchildren, 12 Great Grandchildren and I’m really not sure how many great great grandchildren.  This house that is both very large and very small, hosted parties for us all along with many more relatives, friends, and neighbors. The yellow house on a hill, that you’ll catch a glimpse of as you ride the LIRR into Manhattan. 

Despite her eyes failing her, she still maintains the house with the help of her children. You will often find her by the window, catching a breeze or listening to the riff-raff going on in the street. She thinks about all who have passed before her and sometimes…she asks when her time will come. She says this all in Spanish, assuming I don’t understand anyway. But I do.

She truly is a beautiful part of the American story and the story of New York. Coming to this country with nothing and offering so much. I will visit her as often as possible before we leave.


Trump’s New York

I was recently “reprimanded” for allowing my students to debate the presidential candidates.  A supervisor walked in on a “Socratic Seminar” my students had planned, organized, and led.  The problem?  We were supposed to be working on Unit 4.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a vigilante teacher out to upset the system.  I follow the curriculum as best as possible.  I don’t even like discussing politics.  But Trump has everyone buzzing.   He was a hot topic for this month’s socratic seminar  Living in New York, we can’t escape the talk about him.  And I hear Canada is building a wall…

Lucky for me, I submitted all authenticated documents on Monday night.  We scanned one last thing and emailed it to the recruiter.  It is now in their hands…and in the hands of God!  “Inshallah” is a term I am told to get used to hearing and using.

The supervisor had a speaking to me after school and requested I stick to the pacing calendar and I agreed. “But can we possibly work something like this into our teaching?  Where students debate topics of their choice?” and I got a shaking head. “How about after the test?”  A reluctant nod, “Sure, they can do something like this in June.”

I believe my students should have a say in what we are learning and doing in the classroom.  So if they want to watch the debates and then talk it out in class – I don’t get in the way.  They requested we have Socratic Seminars once or twice a month.  They requested the topics.  They set the date and came prepared with their talking points.  But we were supposed to be working on Unit 4.

On the positive side, my kids wanted to debate the presidential candidates.  That’s pretty awesome.  I haven’t seen this much interest in politics since Obama was elected.  No other election had students reading newspapers and watching debates like the Obama Candidacy.  There were millions of children cheering in New York City Schools when he won the 2008 elections (I’m just kidding.  I didn’t see millions of children cheering in New Jersey either).

This time around, I’m seeing students tune into republican debates and it’s great to see them looking into our government and asking questions and even wishing they could vote.

While I’ve worked for New York City for 13 years, I’ve only lived in NYC for nearly 4.  I’ve come to see that you need to live here if you’re going to service the people of New York. You need to know what it’s like to ride the trains and buses everyday.  You need to know what it’s like to have police checkpoints in your neighborhood once a week and police vans instead police cars patrolling.  You get to know the reason for certain behaviors when you see more garbage than trees, more delis than Starbucks, and more liquor stores than farmer’s markets.  NYC isn’t just Trumps’s Fifth Avenue.

I met Patch Adams once…you know, the doctor Robin Williams portrayed in the movie?  He wanted to open hospitals for people and provide services for free. His vision was to create a healthcare system that put “care” back into medical practice. I met him after a talk he gave at Southampton College in 2000 and asked him one question, “How do you prevent people from taking advantage of you?”

“I’m here to be taken advantage of.” he said, simply.  “Everyone needs help sometimes and I can’t judge who needs it more than any other person.  So if you need me, I’m here.” America could use more Patch Adams.