Guerrero, Mexico

The girls taking the public transportation to the swimming pool with their cousins. (February 2015)

Tlaxcala, Mexico

Erika picking out pan dulce at our favorite panaderia. (January 2015)

Bend, Oregon, United States

Our family photo taken in Drake Park with all three of my daughters (October 2014)

San Francisco, California, United States

Enjoying the beautiful view from the top of Twin Peaks (July 2015)

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Exploring the ruins of Palenque during our Great Mexican Road Trip. (May 2014)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Back in BodyBugg Action

I first got my BodyBugg on June 11, 2010 and I literally took it with me wherever I went. You wear it on the back of your non dominant arm so that is the left for me. It has sensors on the back that track your heart rate, temperature of your skin, and steps. You wear it 24/7 except for in water. I wore it while I was training to run my first half marathon and then continued as I lost weight. I reached a weight that I was happy with in 2012 and I took it off. I didn't want to pay a monthly service fee and I felt like I was in a good place. It has a digital display that I wear on my left wrist that tells me exactly how many calories I am burning a minute, how many steps I've taken, and how many minutes of activity. My goals now are to burn 2495 calories, walk 10,000 steps, and do one hour of moderate activity. My body's metabolism burns approximately 1.1 calories per minute when I am resting. So if I just lie in bed all day long, I'm going to naturally burn 1584 calories. In order to lose a pound a week, I need to burn 500 more calories a day than I consume. I can either watch my calories very carefully and eat 1000 calories which is not considered safe, or exercise and eat moderately. I love my food so I prefer to count the calories and consume around 1500-1700 calories a day so I have at least a 500 calorie deficit each day.
I found my Bodybugg and display while I was cleaning and unpacking a month ago but they were oth dead and I couldn't find a USB charger for the BodyBugg now that all our electronics take the mini USB now. I had to order a cable off Amazon and then remember to take the watch to the jewelers to get the battery replaced for $12. They don't manufacture the Bodybugg any more. It now retails for $159 and I really can't afford to spend that kind of money right now. Thankfully I was able to sync it with the BodyMedia website and activate a new monthly subscription for $6.95/mo. This device requires the use of a monthly subscription because you have to download the data once it reaches capacity. The interface is much easier to use than five years ago.
I have gotten lazy about my fitness since we returned from Mexico and it's time to change that. I have been trying half assed since January 1st and I got nowhere besides losing the same 3 pounds over and over again. I like to share my journey on social media be it my blog or Facebook or Instagram because it helps to hold me accountable. My goal is to lose one pound a week until we move to Spain. I want to look great in our travel pictures and I want to be fit enough to traipse all over Europe with my backpack and my family. I hope you'll follow along and I'll be posting weekly updates as to my progress. In my next post, I'll bare it all with some before pics so we can see where I'm starting from and how far I can get in the next 15 weeks! I'm currently around 177 pounds so that means I need to reach at least 152 pounds before our flight out. It really is necessary because I can't fit into my jeans and I refuse to spend my precious travel money on a new wardrobe. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Officially Admitted to the Universidad de Salamanca

Logotipo Universidad de Salamanca The stars in the sky have aligned and everything is slowly falling into place, and all around the same time too. On May 11th, I received my school placement in the Auxiliares de conversación program and on May 12th, I received my official acceptance letter into the Master of Advanced English Studies program at the Universidad de Salamanca. I don't feel that it would be wise of me to try to do both programs at the same time since the schools run at the same time. I still have two huge obstacles in front of me.

The first being: Getting the Veteran's Administration to pay for my tuition and housing allowance for my studies in Spain. In my haste, I  missed the rather important fact that while the University is approved for the GI Bill, my particular course of study is not. The Master's in Spanish Language and Culture is.

In order to get my program approved, I have to find someone at the Universidad de Salamanca who is willing, able, and qualified to complete the following information for me and provide it to the VA. I called the VA to ask about the process and I was told that the process would take approximately 2 months AFTER they review the paperwork. They will backdate my benefits for up to one year. My dilemma is this though. Do I go with Plan A and run off to Spain and hope that I can find someone who can assist me with this or play it safe and go with Plan B and teach English instead? The Director of the Master's Program is trying to help me find the point of contact for this but no luck yet.

Should I go with Plan A (Master's program) or Plan B (Auxiliares)?? This is a difficult task, even for a US based educational institution and I'm asking a foreign university to do this for my benefit alone in a second language. If I don't have a good point of contact from someone who is willing to ask me by the middle of June, I'm going to admit defeat (for this year) and go with Plan B. Thoughts? What would you do under these circumstances?

Please submit all information in English or include an English translation of the submitted information. 

VA requires the following information be included in your request for program approval:
  1. Full legal name of the institution, local alternative name(s), and the English equivalent, as appropriate.
  2. Address of the institution.
  3. Full name and title of the person or person(s) authorized to certify VA forms for your institution.
  4. Language or languages used in conducting classes.
  5. Sponsorship, such as Ministry of Education, province, state, canton, municipality, specific church organization, or religious order.
  6. Is your Facility considered to be a public or private Institution?
  7. Does the Ministry, Department, or Office of Education, etc., officially classify the school as an institution of higher learning? (i.e., as a college, university, or similar establishment offering postsecondary level academic instruction leading to the conferring of a degree).  If so, what type of degree? 
  8. Provide the name of the program of study and the name of the student for which you are requesting approval. Only programs that eligible persons are enrolled in, or are thinking of enrolling in, should be requested. 
    • Be sure to include the academic prerequisites for enrollment (for example, is High School graduation a requirement?).
    • Please indicate the total length of the program.
    • Reference to a specific program by name and page number in the college catalog or direct web link address will be sufficient.
  9. Will the institution agree to accept students found to be eligible for VA benefits (United States veterans, servicepersons, reservists, and eligible dependents enrolled under title 38, United States Code or title 10, United States Code), at the student’s expense, in accordance with the provisions of the law, and at rates for tuition, related instructional fees, and expenses not greater than those required of other students similarly circumstanced?
  10. Will the institution agree to maintain sufficient records to show the progress of each VA student and to promptly inform the VA when the conduct or progress of any VA student is not satisfactory in accordance with the regularly prescribed standards and practices of the institution?
  11. Will the institution agree to complete the enrollment certifications and agree not to include any courses that are audited (no credit applied toward program requirements)? Will the institution also agree to promptly inform the VA when it comes to the school’s attention that any VA student:
    • Has changes in hours of credit or attendance, or 
    • Has interrupted or discontinued a course or program of study, giving the date(s) of withdrawal and the reason(s), if known, or 
    • Receives grade(s) for any course(s) that will not be used when computing graduation requirements.
  12. Will the institution give appropriate credit for previous education and training of VA students, shorten the training period proportionately, and reflect the credit granted on the enrollment certifications?
  13. Will the institution, if and when requested by VA, make all appropriate records pertaining to the enrollment of VA students available for examination by VA or its representatives?
  14. Will the institution routinely furnish VA with current publications concerning the courses and programs of study which are approved under the law?
  15. The application should be dated and subscribed by an official authorized to commit the institution to an agreement with VA, showing his or her title or position.

Santa Marta de Tormes, Salamanca, Castilla y León, España

On May 5th, I finally received the email that I had been waiting for. Which region in Spain would I get assigned to? I had requested 1. Castilla y León, 2. Asturias, or 3. Aragon in my application on January 7th.

This year, every other nation received their regional placements before the Americans started to receive theirs. Canadians are supposed to be a part of the same North American program but it appears their embassy works a lot faster than ours. I started to worry that I wasn't going to get my placement in CyL after all, even if I was only #44. And finally that precious email arrived...I had been placed in the autonomous community of Castilla y León. Future research has shown me that this area also happens to be the biggest one in all of the European Union. This one comunidad autonoma has 9 different provinces in it alone!

Image courtesy of
Recent posts on Facebook led me to understand that there were no positions available in the city proper of Salamanca. I asked some auxiliares who are currently in country if they could recommend any smaller cities.  I emailed the regional coordinator and asked for some feedback about the possibility of getting a position somewhere in the province of Salamanca. After some emails back and forth, he said that he had a position open in Santa Marta de Tormes, a mere 3 kilometers outside of Salamanca. This town is perfect!!!

We could still live in the apartment that I found for 575€ and I can commute the 4.7km to work and we could have the urban experience. Or I can find an apartment in Santa Marta and pay half the price! On May 11th, I got the official email that I have been awarded a post at an elementary school. Erika and Mia hopped right on Google Maps so they could do a street view tour of the school and surrounding areas.  We might show up after all and get temporary lodging through an AirBnB rental for a few days while we go house hunting if I can find something that cheap. So Plan B is all set. Now to update Plan A.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Today was Mother's Day. Erika and I got her Lip Scrub and Body wash.We had a party for Mother's Day.It was cold outside so I came back inside and had Hot Coco.Tomorrow is school.Tonight we took a bath.We served mom in bed.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

PTSD,a Veteran, and Life Insurance

PTSD,a Veteran, and Life Insurance....when you place these three things together, they don't fit.

I am an Iraq war veteran and I have PTSD. It's no secret. That one year has shaped my whole life since. I have three daughters; Mia is 7 now, Erika is a tween at 12, and AshLee is out of the house and living on her own at 22. If I die, what is going to happen to my babies?? Why does everyone else get the right to purchase life insurance to protect their kids in case something happens to them and I don't? Every day the news is full of someone's mom or dad who was killed in some freak accident and left behind a spouse and young children. Along with my disability, when I work, I am bring in $4,000 a month into our household to care for my family and pay the bills. If I die, my family will only receive my social security benefits and that's about $1500 a month until Mia turns 18 years old. That isn't even half of what I am able to provide for them now. I'm just trying to provide something to help my husband and family get through my loss. I want my husband to be able to stay home and not work for a few months and be there for our daughters. My military benefits stop the day I die and they will not get one penny besides a paltry $200 death benefits. That won't even cover my cremation and a pretty urn.

So thank you USAA, I appreciate the fact that you are comprised of 100% military members and their relatives. Yes, we are veterans and we've been deployed overseas. Now you are going to punish me for my service because I seek mental health services to deal with my issues. I don't hide in my house and drink them away. I acknowledge them and seek ways to learn how to deal with them and be a better mother and wife and sister and daughter and friend. I understand that we veterans have a very high suicide rate but I am not going to be one of your statistics! I have a beautiful family, a husband that stands by me through everything, a life of adventures waiting to be had. Why couldn't you have just added a suicide clause, USAA? I filed bankruptcy because US Immigration has been a nightmare for the last 8 years and I couldn't afford to do both things at once. Stay here and work to pay our bills or leave everything we had to follow my husband to Mexico in order to keep our family together. You judge me without even knowing who I am. Shame on you for treating a veteran this way. Instead, I'll just start saving a little money each month so that they will have something. I'm glad you approved the policy for my husband. At least he'll have a little piece of mind when he goes to sleep each night that his family will be provided for. I wish I could do the same.


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