Happy Mother’s Day! A tribute to my mom

Mom and I…Happy Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day and I hope you’re having a sweet day with your mom. I honor my mom everyday –especially when I am sick and want her soup, I call her and of course she makes it for me…(yes, even at this age), but today is Mother’s Day and I am very much so looking forward to sharing this day with my mom and my sisters (both moms too)! However way you’re celebrating, I hope your day is just perfect! I wanted to take a few minutes to share a little bit about my mom. I know you think your mom is the best, and I am sure she is. I’m certain my mom’s the best mom for me and for this, I am truly grateful.

IMG_1708 (1)
Family Photo: Mom, Dad and my siblings in North Carolina (1979). I was in her belly at this time.

Farmer’s daughter, sister, cousin, niece, aunt, wife, daughter-in-law, mom, refugee, immigrant, widow, seamstress, student, entrepreneur, grandmother, she’s been many things, but of all things, she’s the one I get to call my mom. Consistent, kind, fierce, reliable, strong, resilient, dedicated, self-less, she’s all of these things and she’s taught me this through the example she leads. I wouldn’t be completely honest if I didn’t share that she’s also damn crazy!

“Teacher, if Sammy no listen to you, you hit her!!!” Every year she’d always say this to my grade school teachers at each and every parent conference. Yes, every conference. Even my teachers would make fun of me. Yes, really! It was embarrassing and she didn’t care. I told her that if she kept saying that, someone would end up calling Child Protective Services…again, she didn’t care. I later asked why she’d do that and it made sense. She explained that she wanted me to know who is in charge when she was not around. A bit extreme, but I get it. She’s a strong personality and I’ve come to embrace this about her.

1985 – Mom, my siblings and I at Almansor Park. We couldn’t get the tripod to work, so my brother had to take the photo. Mom wanted us to have a family photo.

When I am tested and have a bad day and pushed beyond my limits, I often think about my mom and I quickly get over it. By the time my mom was my current age of thirty-five, she’d left her home country, had five kids, and was a young widow. She never remarried and as a matter of fact, my paternal grandparents lived with us and she took care of them until the day they died. It wasn’t so much that it was her filial duties to “obey her father at birth, husband at marriage, and in-laws when a widow,” rather she wanted to ensure that her kids would be raised in a consistent, stable and safe upbringing; and we definitely had all of this. Though we didn’t have many fancy toys or clothes, we did have consistency and plenty of love to go around.

Mom’s proudest title is Grandma. She’s got 7 grandchildren. Here she is with five of them.
Just the girls. We love mom.

To make ends meet, she would sing us to sleep with her sewing machine. That machine was on 12-14 hours a day. She was a seamstress and later an entrepreneur, only to lose her business to the LA Riots. A true Opportunist and survivor, she was resourceful and the common theme of her journey is that she’s relentless, keeps going and just does. And as she keeps going, she goes with all heart. Her English is limited, but she’s got a few phrases down. These are her most common: “Hello,” “Please,” “Eat,” “Thank You,” and “I am Sorry” –I’ve seen first hand how these phrases go a long way. She’s always instilled the importance of acknowledging others, showing manners, expressing gratitude, and being accountable and saying sorry when you’re wrong. I am forever grateful for all that she’s taught me and for how she continues to teach me.

My mom, she’s the best mom for me and for this, I am truly grateful.

Thank you Mom!



Running into the Ex!!!

image source: CNN
Oh, you know…that moment. That moment where you run into your ex and you need to immediately make some executive decisions. Have you ever run into the ex? What’d you do? “Run, Forrest, RUN!!!” OR hurry up, get your disheveled self together, quickly apply the lip gloss and concealer, double check that the brows are on fleek, work that plastic smile, put on a show and subtly let him know that since your break up, you were on last month’s cover of Sports Illustrated, discovered the cure for cancer, traveled the world and are working on your 4th start up.  What do you do? Well, it depends.

My roll dog and I were out, minding our own business, having fun, and then it happened. Right there…as we were ready to complete our weekend hike. Are you effin’ serious? Right when almost reached the peak of the hike, he and his wife were right there. Yeah, apparently, there was no other place to hike that day. He had to choose the same place as us.

My sweet puppy Ace knows a thing or two about hiding in shrubs. Ace, where are you? What are great hider you are.
The trail was narrow and there was no avoiding and the shrubs were too bare to hide behind in, so…we did what our instincts said, we avoided him like the plague and bolted down that mountain faster than a rolling boulder! We ran so fast, I was going to puke but it was all worth it because they never knew that we were there and we avoided each other. PHEW!

As you may have guessed, they ended on terrible terms and as to prevent any unnecessary drama, we did what we did. Have you ever thought about what you’d do if you ran into an ex? What have you done or what would you do? I got to thinking…here are my three simple rules:

  1. Plan Ahead. Anticipate the unexpected. Plan ahead and know your response. Think of the worst case scenario and how you’d react so that you can be as composed as possible. You may have a run in. So how would you react? Think about it. If things ended badly where he stalked you, smeared you, and if there was some restraining order involved and he just was not nice, yes…avoid him. No need to be mean and give any slanted stares, just move on.However if things ended amicably, there’s no need to bolt.Other times running into an ex can be a bit more expected (say if you both still share mutual friends) and are invited to a wedding. If this is the case, don’t be surprised. Know your response, and oh…Avoid the alcohol (even if it’s an open bar)!
  2. KISS -not as in kiss, but…Keep It Short & Simple. Yes, you’re likely wondering how your once shared Fido is doing, but don’t ask. You don’t have shared custody anymore and there’s no sense in revisiting the given. Or you may feel compelled to let him know that you’re now an Olympic athlete and won the gold. There’s no need to upsell yourself or pretend like you care. Don’t reminisce.  Oh, and speaking of KISS, there’s no need to do that awkward handshake (you’re not business partners), or that cold 3 hand pats on the back I- don’t -want- to -hug -you- hug. Keep things short and simple and end conversation as quick as possible.
  3. Respectful and Courteous – Yes, you may harbor resentment and you never got the closure you wanted, but that’s all in the past now. No need to bring it up and revisit the past, it’s done. Act nice (just for these two minutes–remember tip #2). It’s not hard.

Work Hard, Play Hard

Decadent food (lots of it), spirits, massages, golf, just the right amount of sun, lots of rest and relaxation… we were able to share some much needed quality time. Yes, this is what Tony (and the other top producers of his company) were awarded and because he’s my fiance, I was able to share in this experience with him. Insert hashtag blessed, hashtag lucky… right here — #blessed #lucky, ah and heck #winning!

We shared a very well organized trip hosted by his company, and yes while the above listed is something to talk about, the way in which his company continuously invests in personal leadership development, sharing in the experience among other Power Producers, hearing the keynote speaker, are both impressive and assuring. I left this trip impressed, motivated, and ready! I rarely have proud moments, but this past weekend, I had one of those unique experiences. Yes, proud. I am a half glass full kind of a gal and spend most of the time focused, working on, obsessed on filling the emptiness. Okay, sometimes I harp a lot.


Being together for as long as we have, it’s easy to get hung up on all the bang ups that comes with his line of  work…the unknown, ever-changing guidelines, regulations, and unique circumstances of each client, the incessant texting, emails, stress, pandemonium (yes, even an anxiety attack which led to an ER trip)…it’s a part of mortgage lending and sales territory. To see Tony go up on stage, it was not about this trip and this moment per se. To me, it was about all hang ups, the times he felt paralyzed to have a pipeline of business that he couldn’t close due to the lack of infrastructure, the doubt and the adversity. When foreclosures were #trending, I used to have to tell him, “Just trust in this journey, or move on.” Saying this was easy. It was having conviction in this that was hard. It’s been a ride, and this moment wouldn’t have been made possible without the unwavering support of our dear family and friends who always kept us (him) going. What made this past weekend so sweet was that it was about the journey that led to this very moment. I know that this is just the start of many.

Keynote Speaker Carey Lohrenz…what a message!

Meeting, listening and sharing in the experience of the keynote speaker, Carey Lohrenz left an indelible impression. Towering the stage at over 6 feet tall, well spoken, funny, relate-able and oh…and just the first female F-14 Tomcat pilot, she’s knocked down walls and spoke about fearless leadership and of the many takeaways, she shared about the importance of not waiting for perfection and how just doing is part of the process. (yeah, you had to be there to feel the umph!!!).

Another treat…something that I would have never checked out on my own, dinner was hosted Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. We got to meet with pilots and hear about their experiences in their service.  Those jets and copters are no joke! One can lift two hummers, oh and to see the guns and where the ammunition was loaded…it was quite a treat!

Thank you, Prime Lending… what a great example of an organization that believes in investing in personal development! Oh, and Thank you, Tony. Well done indeed!

Summing up Dim Sum (and then some)

The weekend is soon here and it’s time to think about brunch, Dim Sum brunch that is. Dim Sum translates to touching the heart and is also referred to as “yum cha” which means to drink tea. So, saying “Let’s go dim sum” is the same as saying, “Let’s go yum cha (drink tea).” It’s also known as brunch time where people gather for Chinese like tapas, nibble and talk story. What I really appreciate about dim sum is that babies, elderly and everyone in between… all love dim sum. It pleases the masses which attests to how it’s great for virtually all taste buds!

Dim Sum love starts at a young age, just ask Ayla! She loves pork buns!!!

Here’s what you can expect…

Enter a large room, and in traditional setting, you can find servers (typically women) pushing carts of delicious tapa-like dumplings, buns, or dishes that have been freshly steamed or deep fried.  Recently, more restaurants have done without the dim sum carts and provide a menu where you can check off what you want. I prefer the latter because it’s more fresh and less of a commotion.

There is so much to choose from and because it can be somewhat overwhelming, I have listed my top 10 dishes (I’d venture to say that these are commonly favored by most).

Photos courtesy of Lunasia Dim Sum House

Last week, we celebrated Tony’s birthday at a Dim Sum brunch with our family at one of my favorite places, Lunasia Dim Sum House. In answering questions, I thought I’d share with you some dim sum etiquette tips and pointers so that you know what to expect when you dim sum.

  • There will be a tea pot and tea cups. You never serve yourself first. You serve those to the left first and then to the right. If there is an elder, you deviate from this rule and serve the eldest first. You don’t need to serve everyone, just those within arms reach.
  • Somebody else will likely also serve you tea. When they serve you tea, as a way of thanking them, you use your index and middle fingers (using one hand only) and gently apply about 3 taps to the table (by your tea cup) as it nears the end of your pour. This dates back to how emperors would thank others when they were served tea.
  • This is a family style meal, so be mindful. There is plenty to go around and you can easily order more. Don’t stock pile and don’t hoard your favorite dumpling or dish. Ensure that everyone has a share.
  • Remember, you don’t have to wait for dessert, so when those egg tarts or jello comes around, go for it. Dessert is not last and it’s whenever you want it to be.
  • Again, this is family style…BE MINDFUL. Don’t double dip or reach across to grab the piece that is speaking to you. Grab the piece that is closest to you and do it with a community pair of chopsticks (if available), or do it in one gesture. Refrain from picking at the dish.
  • If there is a lazy Susan, look before you spin as to ensure that nobody is in the middle of serving themselves.
  • Mustard and chili are supplied at the table, add to taste. I prefer asking for fresh cut chili and soy sauce (this is a common request), just ask.
  • It is customary to leave standard tip amount as dim sum is considered full service.


Dine out? There are notes on you! 10 Common Sense Dining Tips You Need to know.

Have you ever wondered how or why your server may appear to know a little more about you and your quirks? Why some guests may receive preferential treatment and you don’t? It’s not a mistake. There are notes on you! That’s right, there are notes on you. Your server knows more about you than you think. You know…the important things: good/ bad tipper, high maintenance, annoying, never happy, difficult, oh…yes, and then there’s the really important stuff …your food allergies, how many different mistresses you have and who is actually your real spouse. When my server told me this, my eyes popped out and I blurted, “Genius! This is just GENIUS!!!”

He shared some of the notes of actors in Los Angeles and of the difficult guests next to us. Then he showed me the notes on me. Phew. I am good. Of course, I am good! I was once a server!!! I promised him that I would not reveal the name of this establishment, but it’s for a popular restaurant group here in LA (they also have locations nationwide). Did I mention? These notes follow you.


Having been in the restaurant industry (I waited tables in college), we’ve had many discussions with servers and for the most part, they want their guests to enjoy their time. I’d like to share my top 10 Common Sense Dining Tips with you so that you can maximize your dining experience:

  1. Double check your check. I was always surprised at how often guests would hand over their credit card without looking at their check.  Don’t do that. Your server can be balancing a dozen tables at once and can accidentally hand you the wrong check, unintentionally charging you the wrong amount. And yes, while this example is an accident, a fellow server I once worked with would consistently “accidentally” add a few dollars to the tip amount. Be sure to double check what your credit card charge is once it’s posted to your account.
  2.  It’s HOW you ask. Do you think your server wants to run to the person who is snapping their fingers at them? No. I used to love it when my guests would start a request with, “When you have a minute, do you think you can…?” It’s easier to be nice. Be nice.
  3. It’s your server’s job to be nice to you. The nicer they are, the higher the likelihood that they may earn more money. They are trained to smile. They’re not hitting on you. Don’t flirt with your server. This objectifies them and makes for an awkward experience.
  4. Upselling, it’s a part of the game. If you know what you want, you won’t fall into this trap. Know what you want.
  5. There’s a schedule to things. You want to know when those eggs in the Cobb salad you’re craving were boiled? Just ask. Sure your server may lie and say daily, but an honest server may tell you that it was boiled last Monday, de-shelled, thrown in a large tub of water with about a hundred other eggs…yes, all on Monday!
  6. A person’s favorite sound is their name. Your server usually introduces him/ herself by their name or they have their name tag on. It’s pretty nice to be called by your name and you’d be surprised how this goes a long way.
  7. Karma. Servers believe in karma and don’t forget. A fellow server never forgot how he was belittled, so when the rude guest returned with his colleagues, he made sure that his credit card “didn’t go through,” and asked, “Do you have another form of payment.” Oy Vey!

  8. There’s a Sequence of Service. It’s annoying. Servers don’t like repeating it, customers hate hearing it…it’s part of the experience. Find a way to deal with it.
  9. The Secret Shopper. Most restaurants have a secret shopper program. Which explains why your server may be rigid. That…or they have no personality.
  10. It’s not your server’s fault. Or is it? Most mistakes are administrative (entered incorrectly) or the cook, or food runner made a mistake. It’s not a perfect system and many hands are part of this process.


The perfect Girlfriend Getaway

A few weekends ago, five of us girls got away. Not from any one person or anything, but just some quality time being girls. We laughed, explored, danced, ate, drank and had fun, and all on our own terms. It was a last minute idea and living in Los Angeles, if it’s one thing I can appreciate, it’s that it is SO easy to plan a getaway. As a matter of fact, we had such a great time that we started a list of new local getaways (Palm Springs, San Diego, Carmel, Malibu). We went to Santa Barbara and though it was just for the weekend, I’m still pumped! It’s amazing what getting away from the normal day to day can do for your mind, body and spirit.

There are few things to consider in planning the perfect girlfriend getaway. The conflicted Type A and free-spirit in me operates on this mantra, “Over plan and then just go with the flow.” A true opportunist, I don’t want to miss out on the best eats, events and offerings a different destination has to offer, BUT I also don’t want to be closed to my ideas and miss out on the spontaneity that a town has to offer…you know, meeting locals and just going with the flow rather than ensuring each item off the agenda was checked off…a fine line between compulsiveness and free spirited. One thing I like to do in advance is book reservations for a few of my favorite spots. Doing this ensures that there is a plan at a preferred place, but if you stumble across something else or if you’re not in the mood, you can always cancel your rezos.

Planning a Girlfriend Getaway is simple and I’d like to share two simple tips to consider.  Just ask yourself, will everyone jive and have fun?

Jive. Will everyone jive? Yes, you have lots of friends, but they’re all different. While differences make for fun, they can also start drama. Will your Foodie friend who wants to try the French Laundry jive well with your friend whose idea of the perfect meal is a granola bar and a smoothie? Momo may not care for Paint the Town Sally, right? One friend may only do 5 star luxury hotels while another appreciates something a bit more quaint and personable offered at boutique hotel.

Think about those you want to invite and ask yourself, Will we all jive well? Having a group of like-minded people is a great idea and a sure fire way to ensure that you’re managing fun versus personalities!

Idea of FUN “What do you consider fun?!?! Fun, natural fun!” Fun is natural and it’s also different for everyone. We all have different ideas of it.

Understanding expectations is SO important! I once went on a getaway with friends who just slept in. Not my idea of f-u-n…but that’s because they were new moms and were chasing sleep. Yeah…well, while I get it…that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my time or money. While they were tucked away at 10PM, I kept myself entertained playing Words on my iPhone.

This is your getaway just as much as it is everyone else’s. It’s important to ensure that you all share the same idea of fun! What kind of a trip is this going to be? A shopping spree? Trying new hike trails? A foodie’s excursion? Arts and Museums? Wine Tasting? Bar Hopping? Exploring with the locals? Spa and golf?

Once we have an idea of the kind of trip this is going to be, this easily allows us to budget. Everyone has a different relationship with money and things they value, so setting the expectation allows for everyone to budget accordingly. Let go and have fun!!! This is the MOST important attitude to have. Attitude is everything, so make sure it’s properly adjusted and fine-tuned by all.

What are some of your favorite Girlfriend Weekend Getaway tips? What’s worked for you? I hope my tips helped you. Here are some tidbits of our trip. Even though it rained, that didn’t stop us…our mission was to have fun and we sure did!

The rain was coming in, but that didn’t stop us from having fun…what a gorgeous scene.
Great Beats and rambling about everything make for pleasant drive & bonding time.
Look at this little gem I spotted. Super cute! 
The start of wine tasting and trying a new spot
Appreciating simple details…the re-purposed pallets caught my eye…something I may just have to DIY.
More wine, pizza and salad por favor! Another spontaneous spot!
What a cute little store in an RV! I love locally sourced suppliers and we got a hat and a few other finds here.  Check them out http://www.stabilessantabarbara.com 
So many tasting rooms, so little time…
Our stay…we opted for a bed & breakfast, The Hotel Upham
Yes, these are real!
Just Lounging about…
Mas Mimosas y Oysters Please!!! All day happy hour at Lure’s!
Thank you, Santa Barbara. Enjoying the gorgeous drive…oh and rushing to do some more shopping!






Happy Birthday and Happiest Always Antonio Lopez

Today is a very special day, it’s my darlin’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Tony! I am going to take a few minutes to share with you a little bit about this guy. He’s a whole lot of awesome and manages to make my world more fun. You may already know, Tony’s my fiancé. He loves numbers and is good with them. He’s a kind, dark, handsome, pragmatic, guarded when you first meet him, simple (and sometimes complicated), fashionable, a responsible hedonist who will always choose the scenic route…and this big teddy bear of a gym rat appeared in my life about seven years ago.

Though not a Jr., he’s the son to Antonio Lopez and an inspiring, strong willed, Rosie. The only boy, he has three dynamic sisters. They’ve always adored their only brother. How lucky right? To have such a close family! They’re from Guadalajara which explains their zest for life, partying, value of family and appreciation for damn good Mariachi! Tony became a dad at a young age, and he’s an amazing one to his daughter. Throughout our relationship, I get to see him evolve as a father and I get to learn about myself too.

All of our nieces and nephews think Tio Chachi is a crazy uncle who loves fast cars and they love it when he lifts them up and slams them into the pool. The younger ones (and some of the naive ones) think that he’s a ninja. Sometimes, I think he is a ninja too. His resilience is like no other and I have seen him tested and dig deep in his career and how he redefines his definition of success and chases it.

I admire envy his ability to fall into deep, REM sleep in a matter of seconds (usually when I bore him with my stories), yet he manages to have this ability to stay wide awake and can watch endless episodes of House of Cards, Billions, and Banshee. A true guy’s guy, he loves raging with his friends. Going to ball games, listening to thumping music (Diplo, Tiesto, Steve Aoki…) sipping a glass of Macallan…these are a few of his favorite pastimes.

Tony’s a true kid at heart and sometimes the serious jokester in him overshadows the gentle heart he has. I will never forget the times I was sick and he was there…right by my side in the hospital. –We aren’t perfect, and it’s these moments that remind me of how and why we are in each other’s lives.

Thank you, Tony! Your celebration for life, appreciation for fun, and your power of focus continues to inspire me daily. I wish for you a very Happy Birthday and a Happy Always, always!