Category Archives: Personal Journey

Reflections on family, friends and sources of inspiration.

Empty Houses and Monster in the Park

This past week I heard a woman talking on her cell as she stood by her child at the kids park, "Yea I haven’t heard from Monster."  I walked to the Gazebo and I found Carola chatting with another neighbor about how some other site was more effective than Monster.  Up until then, at the park, I had only heard talk of a Monster from the mouths of kids running around without a care in the world.

When we moved to our neighborhood the houses would sell like hotcakes.  Our own house was spotted by us the very day the classified ad was published in the newspaper.  Two months later we were moving.  Now as I drive up to the neighborhood there are atleast 6 for sale signs at the entrance to the subdivision.

How things change. 

Today I saw a water company rep. parking in front of a neighbors house. I asked what he was up to, suspecting first and foremost he was about to shut somebody’s water due to lack of payment. It is not unheard of in this middle class neighborhood that people are always leaving one bill behind to pay the next month. Concerned for my neighbor I asked willing to pick up the tab to avoid the sensation of walls falling in on any neighbor. 

 For eight years, we have been working to open a market for alternative technologies, a market open to innovation, building greater economic opportunity for local technology companies.   We have also worked with government to assist in bridging the gap between government strategies for economic development and  a vibrant and diversified private sector. 

Jim and I are invested in this economy, we cannot just get up and go.  Perhaps we could, but the sweat equity we have put in drives us to want to see the change come about, to experience the satisfaction of building trust and opportunity back into the equation.

Today I remember those who left and prepare to say goodbye to the ones leaving everyweek.  I wish I could do something to stop the diaspora now,  something more immediate. I wish it were just enough to say "Puerto Rico te necesita."

Idania, Juan Carlos, Damián, Pedro Javier, Melisa, René, Oliver, Holly, Alberto, Gloria, Diego, Bobby, Carola,  the list goes on but these names I know.  In the year 2000, most of these talented young profesionals were gainfully employed and full of idealism and drive. In the years that followed their careers and dreams hit a wall.  The economy stalled and started moving to a depression. Little by little they left for better opportunities.  Most of them felt they were forced into exile. They have made their lives in Miami, Orlando, Virginia, Maryland, California, New Mexico and New York.

Asier, Our New Beginning

AsiersBirth.jpgAsier Enrique O’Malley finally came out to great us a couple of weeks before schedule on the 5th of february. Seems he was just as curious and excited to meet us as we were to meet him.

My first question as my husband looked at him being born, was does he have dark hair? This is an inside joke… I wanted to know if I would have a dark haired companion or would I be alone and outnumbered in a family of honey haired beauties. And yes he did!

Asier looks just like his siblings, no brows for now, cheeky and big but at least he’s got hair, dark hair.


And “Perhaps” Became Reality

I was just reviewing past posts and had to laugh at my open ended speculation about "Perhaps"… "Perhaps we’ll have a fourth."  I wrote those fateful words in February.  Jim and I had agreed to remain open to a fourth but to wait until our economic picture had improved.  God must be hard of hearing or have a sense of humor because he skipped the whole "if" and "when"  statement and four months later we were surprised by number four.

I am now two weeks away from the due date and we are so eager to meet the new member of our family. Will he have black hair like his mommy? Curly hair like Javier? Will he have the O’Malley cleft? We are all very excited to meet him. 

At first we thought we’d call him Luis Enrique. Jim liked the name and I thought it was appropriate seeing as he might be born on his grandmother "Louise" birthday.  Another runner up in the naming game was Alejandro do differentiate from Alexandra his cousin. Now we are more partial to Asier, meaning "Beginning" in Basque. 

Jim and I do feel like we are embarking on a new beginning.  Though 2006 was a rough year in our economy and the business dropped dramatically we have been chugging along, up beat with a new sense of purpose and control.  In a way I think it comes down to the moment when Perhaps became Reality.  In a split second you have to choose and embrace what your reaction is going to be:  We had already been moving towards improving our quality of life. Reality knocked on our door and surprised us and we responded, "today is as good a day as any, we are glad to have you."

Jim and I both know there is nowhere to go but on to "victory."  We have been down and out and the only thing that made our life worth living was each other and our wonderful little family.  Now, we fear not the difficult times and have embraced a new beginning.  Our active realization and choice to welcome this new beginning I believe has given us a recent "high" a natural motivational boost.

 Over Christmas, Jim dusted off his woodworking talent and built me two beautiful book cases as a birthday/Christmas gift. It is now the first time in 10 years I see most of my books decorating my home.  The sight gives me such warmth and peace.  We have thrown out and given to the Salvation Army half a conex of memories.  Clothes from college that I had not worn in 8 years or more, papers, letters, shoes,… the list goes on… Jim touched up the oven and fridge, and is currently building new shelves for the kids room and medicine cabinets for our bathroom.  All in addition to both working full time.

Perhaps became a Reality and I cannot be happier about our New Beginning.



Everybody is a movie critic

My husband found out conclusively that in this economy it has to be easier to buy illicit crops or contraband than to buy green coffee. In fact it seems there is more trust afforded to underhanded people you know than to trust strangers thinking they are out to rob you.

It was a rough day one of those days when your search and your tasks are trampled by individuals who are eager to assert themselves by disempowering others. "It’s not done" It can’t be done" "I have policies to follow because people have robbed us." So we all get treated liked criminals, thieves and corrupt individuals.

How could the coffee sales people at the public relations office deny a Dad with his two sons some green coffee. what did they expect? What horrible secret could have been uncovered.

So I got a movie to commiserate with… I got Crash. I was ready to see vignettes of other people’s lives, people having good and bad moments, a mixed bag of events and small victories.

I was ready to evaluate the movie as a bit contrived, with its own prejudices and ignorance as it tries to capture reality and depth. The message everybody is a mixed bag of good and bad comes at the expense of there is no plain good people. THus rather than building social trust through humanizing the other the movie reinforces what it is trying to combat – ok so maybe we move from having tunnel vision and being blind to seeing people but our "seeing them" reinforces that we cannot trust "them." All in all, however, I enjoyed the story-telling.

Now that was my evaluation, but little did I expect for my husband to actually walk out frustrated with the misrepresentations and shallow stereotypes used. His criticism like mine was in the lack of realistic rendering of the individuals cast, but it bothered him to no end. To him Hollywood’s sermononizing on race relations was too much for him to handle.

Discussing our disillusionment with the Oscar winning movie, we went on to forget about our difficult day by walking down memory lane and rembering the movies we did like. In no particular order these are some of our favorite movies.


  • The Sixth Sense – neat story-telling
  • Unbreakable – intriguing story
  • The Usual Suspects – suspense good story
  • The Mission – sweeping drama beautiful

Quotes that speak to me

 ”The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” –Brian Tracy

 ”Trust each other again and again. When the trust level gets high enough, people transcend apparent limits, discovering new and awesome abilities for which they were previously unaware.” –David Armistead]

”Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Albert Einstein, The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

The milk of disruptive innovation doesn’t flow from cash-cows. (David Isenberg)

Thomas Edison

Send ecard"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards. (Arthur Koestler)

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. (Galileo Galilei)

The winner is the chef who takes the same
ingredients as everyone else and produces
the best results.
de Bono

The milk of disruptive innovation doesn’t flow from cash-cows. (David Isenberg)

Soluciones para armonizar eficiencia y calidad de vida

Artículos de tecnología a ser publicado en "Sin Fronteras" la revista de la Asociación Productos de Puerto Rico edición de abril.

En varios foros se viene hablando de la competitividad de Puerto Rico dentro del marco global. A todos nos suena bien y muy correcto pensar que necesitamos desarrollar una mejor calidad de vida en la Isla pero a la vez cuando hablamos de competitividad reconocemos que las empresas tenemos que ser más eficientes en nuestras gestiones de trabajo.  Eficiencia y calidad de vida a veces suenan como ideas encontradas. Tomemos, por ejemplo, una baja por maternidad o paternidad.

La protección legal para poder compartir con la familia en ese momento tan
importante se justifica como una garantía de un estándar básico de buena calidad de vida. Pero la misma política que protege al empleado con garantias, incrementa su costo e introduce desventajas operacionales a la empresa. Muchos dirán que la medida atenta contra la competitividad de las empresas. Pero
es posible, aún en una baja de maternidad, armonizar calidad de vida con la eficiencia, todo depende de las necesidades de la empresa sobre la persona ausente y la tecnología que se utilice.

Uso como ejemplo lo que he vivido recientemente al dar a luz en marzo a
mi tercer hijo. En esos primeros meses, el uso de tecnología fue clave para poder ser eficaz en los negocios y balancear mi vida. Las soluciones de tecnología fueron orientadas a facilitar horario flexible y flexibilidad de lugar de

Como es de esperar, estuve en esos primeros meses trabajando más desde mi casa. Esto último, el trabajar fuera de la oficina aterra a algunos pero con las debidas precauciones es posible con la solución de tecnología que se provea proteger la empresa, aportar trabajo importante desde remoto y medir la cuantía
o impacto del trabajo.

La jornada de trabajo tenía momentos de menor rigor entre 6-7am, 7:20-9:00am, 8:30-10pm, y periodos de mayor concentracion entre las 10:30am-1pm y 2-5pm. Empresaria al fin, trabajo de noche y en los fines de semana dónde y cuándo se abra una ventana de tiempo.

¿Cómo compara esto con trabajar en la oficina? Hoy día gracias al Internet en las oficinas se estima que de las 8 horas de trabajo, los empleados desperdician 4 horas navegando el Internet distraídos. Eso deja 4 horas en las que son productivos para la empresa. En la casa, las interrupciones y pausas
son más frecuentes pero con disciplina y tecnología el trabajo puede ser igual de efectivo o más si consideramos que no nos preocupamos de dónde y cómo esta la familia. En el ejemplo mas reciente, he podido aportar a mi negocio unas 40-60 horas semanales. Durante momentos picos, fácilmente las horas son más largas, pero al realizarlas desde mi casa, no dejan de ser más llevaderas. Usando el Internet me ahorro tener que hacer diligencias y sostengo reuniones virtuales de ser necesario.

Hasta este punto no he mencionado las tecnologías que hacen posible el trabajar desde remoto, porque lo importante es primero definir qué es lo que uno quiere lograr y luego buscar las soluciones. De esta manera se evita tener que adaptar la empresa a la tecnología y en vez se diseña la solución de acuerdo a las necesidades de la empresa y sus empleados. En breve presento una tabla con las
gestiones que se pueden realizar remotamente y las tecnologías que lo hacen posible:

Volviendo al ejemplo de una baja de maternidad o paternidad, existe la tecnología hoy para que la empresas grandes y pequeñas puedan dar el paso
para crear un ambiente de trabajo flexible. Muchas de las tareas y tecnologías mencionadas en la tabla anterior se pueden integrar a las operación mediante servicios mensuales subcontratados a terceros o mantenerlos en la oficina con una inversión de $5,000 en equipo y programación.

Lo que hemos aplicado a una baja por maternidad, aplica igualmente a ejecutivos que viajan o dueños estudiando un retiro parcial de las operaciones. Pero ya sea para la conveniencia de sus ejecutivos o empleados, un ambiente de trabajo flexible es una de las maneras de introducir una mejor calidad de vida entre sus empleados y augurar mayor compromiso con la empresa.

Anécdotas del viaje con Olaia

En la escuela de Olaia tienen la bonita tradición de dedicar una semana a cada niño. Al final de la semana se invitan a los padres y otros familiares cercanos a venir y hablar sobre el/la estudiante de la semana. A menudo, lo que se solicita es una "cartita de amor." A menudo se habla del "amor" pero en el sobreuso se pierde el significado y se convierte en algo que repetimos sin pensar. Por ello, en vez de decir cuanto la quiero, comparto con sus colegas historias sobre Olaia que captan mi admiración y amor por ella.

Esta es mi carta a Olaia en honor de ser “la
carita alegre de la semana,"

Mi querida Olaia,

Hace algún tiempo venimos
hablando de la importancia de ser valiente. No es suficiente con ser
buena hay que ser buena y valiente, pues el mundo necesita más
voces que salgan a la defensa de los pobres, más personas que
se atrevan a soñar un mundo mejor y trabajar por hacerlo
realidad. En aquel momento, hablabamos de este tema porque te
excusaste conmigo para no hacer algo diciendo que eras tímida.
Pero recientemente repasando todas nuestras fotos me he recordado de
tantos momentos en los que es evidente que eres una chica valiente
con un corazón muy grande y fuerte.

En especial me acuerdo del viaje que
hicimos juntas a Suiza y Alemania. En Suiza conociste al señor
que me sirvió de papá por un año cuando me fui de intercambio escolar. Recientemente, este señor sufrió un derrame y ahora casi no puede expresarse o
moverse. Cualquier niño de tu edad hubiera tenido miedo de
saludarle y compartir con él. Pero no tú, tú le
sonreías y hasta tuviste la gran idea de tomarnos una foto tu
y yo en la estación del tren para acordarle de nuestra visita.
Tu joven corazón mostró ser muy sabio y generoso y me
cuentan que al día de hoy el se alegra muchísimo de ver
nuestra foto.

En un tono más cómico, tu
valentía y entusiasmo me sorprendió a mí cuando
luego de ver una demostración de ciclismo acrobático
preguntaron ¿quién quiere tratar de aprender algunas
maromas en las bici? Y tú levantaste la mano con tanta alegría
y confianza que no fue hasta que te estabas cambiando de ropa que me
acordé que aún no habías aprendido a correr
bicicleta y ya te ofrecías para hacer maromas! Voy a tener que
velarte de cerca en el futuro pues veo que tu valentía y
sentido de aventura a veces se apunta para cada cosa!

Por último, mirando las fotos de
nuestro viaje me acordé de cómo sin conocer mucho
alemán con el poder de tu sonrísa y buen corazón
ayudaste a que la familia alemana y tu famiilia de Puerto Rico la
pasaran bien. Tu jugaste con niños alemanes y bailaste con
casi todo el mundo. No te importó la edad, cultura, o idioma preferido. Tu entendiste lo que todos deberíamos entender, que al compartir un casamiento todos venimos a ser "familia."

Olaia "tímida," no lo creo, sólo de
mil en ciento, y eso no está mal. Repasando nuestras aventuras
juntas estoy convencida que ere un ejemplo de una buena persona que
gracias a Dios tiene la valentía de compartir sus dones de
felicidad y cariño con los demás.

No puedo esperar a ver qué otros
cuentos y aventuras nos esperan, querida hija mía.

Celebrating Valentines

One of the wonderful pluses to having kids: a party is always around the corner. I truly enjoy celebrating holidays and now that I have my own brood it is just blissful. I know I get cranky and tense as I prepare meals, especially any baked portion, but aside from the baking anxiety I love every moment.

This Valentine’s Day began a few days earlier when Jim let me know I was getting a spa treatment as a gift. I choose to have a pedicure – it should be coming soon. Olaia had a school project that required her to create a valentines for a classmate. She and I sat down at the dining room table with scissors and construction paper to plan out our Valentines. I made one for Jim and gave her ideas for hers.

She followed my lead and we created cards that had three layers folded back and forth and were able to stand revealing all three layers in steps. We put hearts overstepping the edge of each folded layer. I wrote: My dearest Jim you make my heart skip when I’m with you. She wrote: Querida Estefania,Alegras me corazon cuando me haces reir.

The night before Jim and I watched the Alton Brown-s show on the Food Channel and Jim confessed he was drooling craving the taste of chocolate. So chocolate was now on the menu for Valentine’s Day. I made tiny chocolate  torts for dessert.

For some reason this Valentines I just wanted to do fish pies. A strange urge I admit, but who can explain the affairs of the heart. I prepared my dough and cooked some fish, put it together in the oven and voilá! Ok, so the chocolate tortlets were the best part of dinner, but I do enjoy sometimes just cooking something out of the ordinary that captures my fancy.

Last year it was lithuanian style potato/veggie pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream toppings. Before that I have gone for oven roasted lamb and other unusual dishes. They don’t always turn out perfectly but what is life without risk. Passion is not perfect it is messsy,  full of risk and requires openness to surprises.

JaimitoValent06_sm.pngJaimito waited all day on Tuesday for the time when I would bake a cake. I looked everywhere for a heart shaped cake mold but found zilch. But before any baking began, Jaimito worked on his Valentine day cards. He made cards for Olaia, for Daddy and one for the rest of us…Mami and Javier. Oh, and he made a Valentine’s day card for himself.  

This year, because Valentines fell on a Tuesday Jim went to his prison ministry and spread the love and cheer. Kids ate early and later I ate with Jim.  For me, it was just a long day of preparation, anticipation and happy wonderful celebration.

I just love celebrating life and love!

Benefits of Living in a Tiny House

It is hard to believe it has now been seven years since we first moved into our house. I remember loving its location and Jim saying it was the only suburb where he had felt a familiar connection a certain " I could live here … wake up in the morning early go outside and across the street work out on the park, after work go out to play in the park with the kids." The place evoked us going outside and being active and we liked it. In fact, living here has lived up to that first impression. In a way it is like it was in the Basque Country, tiny living space makes it uncomfortable enough to want to spill out of your house to live outside in the company of other people, your neighbors who may become your friends. But regardless of who you choose to make your friends the truth of the matter is that everybody in the neighborhood ends up knowing who you are because they see you everyday or atleast every week for the past three hundred sixty weeks.

I can still remember the shock of moving from a nice 1200 sq. ft. apartment for two in Oakland to a 500 sq.ft. apartment in Renteria. We were so grateful to our hosts but wondered how could people live in such tiny spaces for so many years. "Why, there is barely any room to put clothes, what about the rest of the things you accumulate?" Our American ways could not comprehend such a drastically different paradigm for living. We had barely begun a life together and were living in the apartment of a recently deceased elderly couple . In two years of marraige we already had spill over boxes of stuff outside the aparment in the floor of the inner courtyard where people shook out their table cloths and rugs and hung their laundry.

Over the course of the couple of years we realized a transformation coming about. Every opportunity to buy, get, save, accumulate would go through the heavy filters: do we have space for it? do we absolutely need it? will we pay to take it with us? can we save it some other wayby taking pictures or writing about it? At the same time, hanging at home watching tv was almost painful in the Basque Country. The TV programming was awful and after a few hours in the living room the walls seem to cave in, searching for deep breathes and space we were compelled to leave the apartment. Being out led to being seen and talking to strangers that soon became neighbors and later became friends. Life was good.

House_Facade_sm.jpgWhen we bought our house, we knew it was small and increasingly feel small as our family grew. But we now valued living small and knew that though painful it would serve us well. Well I am now at that pain point. Seven years and three children later we do not fit. I have to let go of something. Over the past few years our sentimental instincts had us saving baby toys, baby clothes, car seats, strollers and the like, saving for the next baby. Saving and recycling hand me downs felt good as we avoided being consumed by the western push to buy, discard and consume again. But even if we been less consumers of new goods we still have accumulated so much and our tiny house is woefully short on storage thus forcing me to this moment.

I am not sure if it is the anthropologist in me *that sounds so fancy* or if it just the sentimental packrat in me but I have this old world compulsion to want to hand down to other generationsof family some of our precious things. Many are precious not so much for their market value but for the fact that they were chosen and worn for baby that was so loved and adored that the item itself has come to carry the sentiment. Alas, we cannot save it all so I am today applying the critical analysis:

Is Javier, our third child, to be our last? I cannot say I wish it so. My husband and I do enjoy children and parenting so much. Strangers on the street ask us if we are "closing shop." I reply "we have not shut any manufactuing lines down, we are just not putting in orders for now." We always knew we wanted atleast three children. It was always "and perhaps four", "perhaps." What does perhaps mean? It has been this mental marker. I planned and held on to things because we were sure we wanted three, now I am in the realm of Perhaps. If it were to happen what will I keep for "Perhaps"? Well, for starters I cannot save all of this I see before me for the chance I may need it. I now need to plan the space for elementary school books and longer dresses and pants. I have come to accept that if number four were to happen the biggest thing we are saving is the joy and love we have and wont go away. If number four comes, it will be a joyous return to early childhood parenting, but the time and context will be another. The family demands a new use of space and it is into that family that any future "Perhaps" will have to fit.

So today, I have come to terms with what Perhaps will need, so long as it is a construct we hold. As I look around I have my camera in hand, laptop on lap and am ready to ask: How special is this article? Is it is in good enough shape to save for another 10 or 20 years? Is it a classic that will age well in 10 or 20 years? Can I bear to part with it and not have it around for Perhaps? For memorable items that do not make it past the 10-20 years question I have pictures and brief stories. To ease the transition I also remind myself that just as I enjoyed recycling hand-me downs, these beloved articles of clothing will now go to clothe another baby and part of our love will be added to that new bunddle of joy.


Practical Children’s Attire

Battlegroundjumpers_sm.jpgThese outfits were colorful children’s clothes that were gender neutral and worn by all three: Olaia, Jaimito and Javier. They were my battleground ready for anything adventure clothes. Their use was primarily around the house crawling around in our concrete tiled floor.  Their whites stopped being white a long time ago but as the white became grays they became dearer peices of wardrobe. Clothes that begged no special care and enabled carefree times are clothes that become embedded with memories of a happy baby-hood.