New Year Do’s and Don’ts

Last year around this time, I had never felt lonelier, as financially frustrated or emotionally fragile. So when 2020 emerged, I was ready to leave 2019 for a fresh new start. Not even Miss Cleo could predict what was to come. Technically the CDC and supposedly Bill Gates did, but I digress. The point is, like millions of others I started the new year with a long list of things I wanted to change. 2020 had its own plans. It came in like a ball of acid wrecking everything in its sight. Day to day plans disintegrated and life stood still as the calendar days painstakingly ticked away. Time was no longer measured by how much was done, but how many survived. Welcome to a new reality.

I’ve decided to take a few things I’ve learned from 2020 into 2021 with me. Here’s my list of New Year Do’s and Don’ts.

Don’t Create New Year Resolutions. If you want to do something you’ve never done or have put off-then just do it! You don’t have to wait until the beginning of the year to be a better you. One thing that 2020 has taught us is time waits for no one. We might not get the opportunity to do it later. Start now!

Do Create a Vision Board. Grab a stack of old magazines or photos, a pair of scissors, glue or tape and a poster board and get to visioning! A vision board captures the things you love and desire through photos and fun graphics, leaving you feeling inspired to explore, dream and crush your goals. Love to travel? Find images of all the places you’ve been and would like to go. Wanna lose weight? Rather than staring at “Go to Gym” and feeling instant anxiety, a water bottle image or photo of a mountain/hiking trail map can calmly communicate the need to practice a healthy lifestyle . Ultimately, a vision board gives life to your goals. Seeing an image of what you want to accomplish allows yourself to see the finish line even if you haven’t started yet.

Do Put Family First. 2020 taught us that some things can wait. Spending time with your loved ones isn’t one of them. Distance learning and remote work has created its own challenges, but the biggest plus has been more quality time together in the home. As the world returns back to long office hours and no days off, remember to keep family first. Whether it’s family dinner at the table or a quick meal together on the couch, it’s the effort that counts. Don’t forget a check-in call to friends and family afar goes a long way.

Don’t Stop Safe Practices. Listen, going into 2021 is not going to magically erase the pandemic. Even if the fairy god scientists eradicate COVID from the face of earth when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, let’s continue to give random strangers 6 feet of personal space and follow precautions. Too many times I’ve encountered that person that stands way too close for comfort in line at the bank or grocery store. We all deserve to have our own little bubble. My motto all 2021 is please don’t stand in my bubble! Oh, and it should go without saying that we should all continue to stay at home if you’re sick. Parents, stop dropping your sick kids off at school and if you’re sick yourself, don’t go into work! This also goes for businesses, please keep your hand sanitizer dispensers filled and carts wiped clean year round! May we all continue to be safe and healthy in 2021.

Do Have A Back Up Plan. Life can go astray and jobs can be lost in a blink of an eye. Having a second source of income is essential. Side gigs can range from a hobby that pays to charging for a service. My son created his business, Art Effect Kid, in the middle of the pandemic. He drew a picture representing the Black Lives Matter protest, in which I shared on social media. Almost immediately I began receiving requests for t-shirts of his art. After a bit of research, we soon began selling Art Effect Kid shirts…lots of them! I then purchased a LLC, obtained a seller’s permit and opened a bank account. The earnings aren’t enough to send him off to college, but it’s a start to generating extra income. Like my son, many adults have talents that they never thought could be lucrative. I challenge everyone in the new year to push themselves creatively and financially.

A Scary, Merry, Keep Hope Alive Christmas

Albuquerque’s art scene is truly one of the best! Factor in the recent Black Lives Matter protests, never ending COVID and arrival of Christmas, the nation’s current state of hope, anger and pain couldn’t be clearer.

Last night while cruising down Central, we ventured through picturesque, family-friendly Christmas decor in Nob Hill…to trendy, pop culture art in the University Area…on down to Downtown’s grungy back alleys. There ain’t no place like Route 66 baby! Where Pennywise dons a scull Santa hat and bomb ass murals pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman and Malcom X. A few aliens escaped Roswell to let there be Peace in Burque. Or maybe they were a creating a distraction from the T-Rex surrounded by little shop of horrors.

Check out a few photos and see for yourself…

Moroccan Connections

On August 4, 2017, my family and I welcomed an exchange student from Casablanca, Morocco into our home!

Arriving in America marked Zineb’s first trip out of the country without family and friends. Neither of us knew what to expect. In the first few days we learned about each other. As time passed, we learned from each other.

Here’s our story…

May 2017– Within days of filling out a host family application, I was told there was a possible match. We were swept in the world wind of meeting other exchange host families and parents and undergoing the screening process, all while frantically removing the piled junk in our spare bedroom that we had been using for storage.
Although, we knew Zineb was our match, we couldn’t contact her for at least a month until she received official notice and approval in her home country. Oh, the anticipation!

July 2017– We received official notification of Zineb’s arrival date and we placed our very first call! I actually dialed the number in Morocco not even thinking about international call fees. We eventually figured out that talking through social media was…well much more practical! One more month and she will be here!

August 2017– I knew there was no turning back as my son and I stood at the airport with welcome signs and balloons in our hand, searching the sea of faces for Zineb. It took for-ev-errr but there she was! Suddenly it hit me…I have a teenager! What do you do with those?! I would soon find out!

Zineb shared gifts she brought from her home-a boys Moroccan outfit for my son and a traditional Moroccan dress/Kaftan for me with matching shoes. So cute watching her get settled in!


October 2017– The first month was rough! From juggling early morning drop offs and afterschool pickups, to buying halal foods and cooking dinner every night, to explaining things I’ve never thought to explain before! Although Zineb speaks nearly-perfect English and has quickly adapted to our culture, I know the transition is difficult for her. Through all the excitement, I can still see the sadness from missing her family and friends.

November 2017– Zineb turns 16! We celebrated with a huge “Sweet Sixteen” party! Every day gets a bit easier…

My cousin visited for Thanksgiving and we cooked a feast! Zineb made Moroccan treats from scratch. As we all sat around the table and shared our blessings, I felt whole – as if Z’ was part of our family all along.

December 2017– This month marks Zineb’s very first Christmas. I never laughed so hard from trying to explain Christmas traditions, like why we leave out milk and cookies for Santa. I wasn’t laughing however when Zineb opened a UPS package of presents for under the Christmas tree (spoiler alert!). I’m quite sure my son had something to do with reassuring her it was okay to open them!

This month also marks our first family trip! We went sledding on the dunes at White Sands National Monument, an incredible experience. The sand really does look like snow. Then, we spent the night in El Paso, TX ( one hour drive away) and visited the shops and sights near the Mexico border the next morning. Driving back on Christmas Eve with hidden presents to wrap (what the kids hadn’t opened already) made for a very long night! Yet, nothing compared to watching my son and Zineb’s excitement on Christmas morning.

January 2018– I never imagined I would feel so fulfilled as a host mom. Since her arrival, Zineb has been patient with us as she shared her culture and traditions. We are still learning to be mindful of her prayer times and respectful of the foods she can not eat. This month also marks the halfway/mid year point.

February 2018– Viva Las Vegas! When your best friend is moving to Las Vegas, NV and invites your family along you DO it! Although much of our time was spent unpacking boxes than shopping and sightseeing, we had a ton of fun!

March 2018– Denver here we come! This time it was all work for me, having to attend a conference. I managed to skip a few sessions to explore downtown Denver with the kids. We made the most of the trip spending nearly 4 hours in IKEA and visiting my cousin and his family in Colorado Springs.

Spring Break– Zineb travelled to California to visit a fellow Moroccan exchange student living there with his host mom. So glad to have the support of other host families near and far!


April 2018– Prom anyone?!? Oh the reminders of a having an instant teenager! It was an all-day affair from hair appointments to doing her makeup. Zineb was absolutely stunning! I was a bit nervous as any mom would be on prom night. All’s well that ends well.

May 2018– Where did the time go? Last day of school is May 23rd. The exchange program’s pre-return orientation is May 26th. Everyone is a bit somber, trying not to think about the inevitable. My grandmother visiting us is a great distraction. Zineb told me she reminder her of her own grandmother-a gift to us all.

June 2018- 10 months gone-just. like. that. We survived something new and unfamiliar, yet we became so close that it was hard to let go. Zineb from Morocco had become “Z” my Moroccan daughter. I felt relieved (that I survived with minimal damage) and sad (because her presence felt so organic) at the same time.

On June 5th, we were back in the same airport, with the same signs. This time, or hearts and smiles were different. They both grew.

Today, Zineb is 17 and on track to graduate high school in Morocco by 2020. She plans on returning to the US to pursue college.

Zineb came to study in the U.S. through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Abroad Program, hosted through AFS.

To learn more about YES, go to https://exchanges.state.gov/us/program/kennedy-lugar-youth-exchange-study-yes-abroad

If interested in becoming a host parent, please visit https://www.afsusa.org


Cabin Life the Ancient Way


All I need is a café and a cabin (preferably dubbed the Horse)….in the middle of a small town, population 300.

Featuring :Ancient Way Café, El Morro RV Park & Cabins in Ramah,NM.