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Hi All…

So I know it has been ages since I’ve written a new post, but I’m back, this time to ask for a little bit of support. As many of you know, I’m working on my MA in Foreign Languages, Literatures & Cultures, focusing on Spanish. I’ve also been taking some amazing anthropology classes where I am learning soooo much about ethnography writing. Believe it or not, this last semester I’ve been doing something I never thought I’d do for a class…play an MMOG (massive, multiplayer online game). Yep. It’s called Guild Wars 2, and I’m actually enjoying it! The goal of the class is to learn how to take field notes, partake in participant observation, interview and ultimately write an ethnography. I have learned SO much!!

It’s a good thing that I’ve been learning so much, because all these valuable skills that I’ve been gaining I will have the opportunity to put into real-life action this coming January. It has always been my dream to travel to Cuba. During an Ethnopsychiatry and Spiritual Healing course I took at CSU, I began to learn more about different cultural ways of healing and,  combined with my interest in Cuba and Spanish, I began investigating Santeria. It is a syncretic religion that was formed by the merging of Regla de Ocha, a religion brought to Cuba from Africa during the slave trade, and Catholicism. The topic of my master’s thesis is Santeria as an ethnopsychiatry, and after lots of back and forth I recently received permission from the U.S. government to travel to Cuba under an educational license. (Woop woop!!!) I really can hardly believe it….it’s actually happening!! While in Cuba I will be staying with an older, local woman who is a friend of my professor. She will be helping me to find contacts to interview about their personal experiences with Santeria. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. With locals personal narratives I will weave together the story of Santeria as a way of healing, told from the Cuban perspective.

Travel to Cuba, even though it is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, is quite expensive. For that reason I have created a gofundme account and am asking for financial support. I estimate the trip total to be around $2,600, which I unfortunately cannot afford on my own. If you are able, or know anyone that might be interested in supporting my research, please check out my account at http://www.gofundme.com/rileygoestocuba

Thank you so much and I’ll definitely keep you all posted on my travels!!!



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For Valentine’s Day this year I woke up a little  earlier than usual so that I could, rather than buying flowers, make my own roses!….out of bacon! I used bbq skewers, bacon, and some spinach and voilà… Bacon roses for my love. I wish I could have gotten a video of his reaction…he immediately ate one right off the stick. Bahaha…Priceless.

photo 1

pretty yummy looking right?

photo 2

the special breakfast…omelet complete with an edible arrangement and coffee!

Not that I don’t like to receive flowers on occassion…but to be honest I’ve never been the biggest fan of Valentine’s Day. I love the idea of showing love and appreciation to those people who are dear to our hearts, but shouldn’t we do that daily? Plus, have you ever thought about where your flowers come from?

Did you know that most of our flowers come from Columbia and then Ecuador??? When I traveled to Ecuador several years back that was one thing that stood out to me…how cheap red roses were there and the crazy price that we pay for them here. If you’re interested check out this USA Today article here.

I’m not sure exactly what I’m getting at…but it was something I thought about a lot today, and even used for discussion in my Spanish classes. I brought in an image of one of Diego Rivera’s paintings to spark conversation and to hopefully bring some thought to the workers…creating the link between process and product. In many of his paintings, although esthetically pleasing and elegant, we are unable to see faces…as if to parallel the fact that often times the workers go unrecognized.

Screen shot 2014-02-13 at 8.36.10 PM

El vendedor de alcatraces, Diego Rivera

Anyway, I’m not trying to put a downer on V-day….my  point I guess is to just a simple reminder to be aware and to always be thankful for what we have in life. I am so thankful for my loved ones, and even though this holiday may not always bring out the best in people (I can’t help but think about all the chocolates, jewelry, and silly stuffed animals purchased today just for the sake of giving someone something) I am thankful that the holiday has brought with it  some reflection.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!


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Yikes! It has been an eternity (or at least it feels like it) since I last wrote a blog!! I have been busy, busy, busy since last August! People are not kidding when they say that grad school is a lot of work. Add teaching on top of that (which I’ve found that I really love!) and I have zero social life!! Haha I pretty much live at home, on campus, or in the yoga studio.

Looking back it really is hard to believe the greatness, as well as handful of challenges, that this past year has brought me and my family, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything happens for a reason right? Here’s a little photo tour of the past year. Cheers to 2014!

Exactly one year ago I was still living in Costa Rica as a Peace Corps volunteer. The month of January saw me working on my favorite project…teaching English to 20 incredible youth who were selected to participate in the fully donation funded JumpStart English camp. One of my favorite memories was encouraging them all to participate in a little ‘strange thing’ called yoga! February brought with it many ‘see you laters’ as I made my way back to the U.S. to begin the next stage in my life.

Back home my main focus was on family! I love spending time with my Mom and am so proud of her!! We were all happy to see her finish her treatments, celebrate her 50th birthday, and to see her healing…the new year has even brought her a wonderful new job! Congrats Mama 🙂

I was also accepted to grad school at CSU and was offered a Graduate Teaching Assistant position where I am the instructor for an introductory Spanish class at the undergraduate level. I love teaching this age group! In March I celebrated another birthday and not too long after fostered an adorable puppy, but quickly learned how much work having a puppy is! Ultimately Anthony and I were unable to adopt her…womp womp.

One of my favorite parts of entering into the spring/summer season was becoming a working member at Native Hill Farm. I loved being outside getting my hands dirty and it’s definitely something I hope to do again!

number 3

This past summer brought with it more exciting life changes…Anthony and I moved in together! I loved getting the house all decorated and cozy feeling. One of the highlights of the summer was definitely our roadtrip to the Oregon coast. Can you believe that we (cough, cough…Anthony) drove all that way in one straight shot? Pretty crazy right?

August meant Anthony’s birthday and getting ready for grad school. I was able to get all of Anthony’s family and friends together to help me get him a Macbook Pro for his birthday and throw him one heck of a surprise party. It was great!! August also meant registering for classes. I took Spanish Word Formation and Morphology, Teaching Methodology, and Ethnopsychiatry and Spiritual healing.  Before the start of school I opted to take on a bootcamp…which was awesome! I felt so incredible after working out 1 hour a day for 6 days a week. Unfortunately, with the start of school came the end of my social life (and working out time), but I feel very accomplished after one semester. To finish the semester I turned in, among other things, a children’s story accompanied by a 100 page glossary of words (documenting etymology, definitions, synonyms, metaphors, you name it we included it!), and a 30 page research paper on Santeria in Cuba. The biggest reward of the semester, though, was to receive amazing compliments from my students….such a great group!

number 4

The holiday season was filled with many interesting stories to say the least. In November we celebrated my brother’s 21st  by taking him out to an arcade bar. In the same month my Dad was in need of TLC after going through a major surgery. Apparently 2013 wanted to go out with a bang (haha) because one morning I woke up to find that my car had been hit in the parking lot, the only evidence being $50 and a cop card left on my windshield….womp womp for November.

Sticking to the theme of 2013 going out with a bang, Anthony and I rang in the New Year right….coming home at 1:00 am to Izzy dashing out the front door….us chasing her around the buildings and trees hoping she wouldn’t dart into the road just as she booked it back inside our house… She loves to play tricks on us.

After a busy whirlwind of a  2013 a quote that I found fitting for 2014 goes something like this…my goal for 2014 is not to stress…everything will happen in it’s time…

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie ten Boom

Cheers to 2014!

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This past week was awesome…sooo many great things happened! I guess I should just start from the beginning right? For starters, Anthony and I signed a lease to rent a nice condo starting in August! Wooohooo!!!! I can’t stop thinking about how I want to decorate!! Haha, I look forward to seeing what kind of goodies I can find at yard sales this summer with my Mom.

I also started training for my new job as a summer Day Camp Leader. I am going to be the leader of the “Cub” group of kids ages 6-8. It is going to be a blast, and I can’t wait to tell you about all the kooky and fun things I envision myself to be doing this summer.

Another major event was my Mom finishing up her last treatment…so it’s all (hopefully) down hill from here! She seriously is like the toughest lady I know. “YAHOO! YOU’RE THROUGH!” was totally my grandma’s idea.

Sadie waiting for Mom to get home!!

Sadie waiting for Mom to get home!!


Probably the biggest thing though, was that my Mom celebrated a very important birth year (I’m not going to reveal her age though, or I might suffer hearing “Riiiiley” accompanied by the stink eye).  My grandma and aunt were even able to come and celebrate with us!

For the "rock star" birthday girl

For the “rock star” birthday girl

My Mom can be a little stubborn when it comes to accepting gifts, so my brother and I thought this card was rather fitting.

"good birthday human, good"

“good birthday human, good”

Something else that my brother and I thought was fitting for this birthday  was a vacation. For that reason we’ve been planning something a little extra special for my Mom. After all she’s been through in recent months we figured she deserves to just get out of here and relax. For that reason, my brother and I planned a little escape vacation for my Mom and Dad to head to San Francisco, CA, rent a car and drive along the coast (something my Dad has always wanted to do) to their destination; Fort Bragg, CA. I titled the trip “Operation Relaxation”. Mom is looking forward to taking a ride on the Skunk Train!


She requested two things for her birthday; a bird house and a strawberry pie, so that’s what we made her! Click here for the delicious paleo strawberry pie recipe that I used. It was nice because it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet or bitter like some fruit pies can be. It had just the right balance. Yum 🙂

Sweet bird house my Dad built!!

Sweet bird house my Dad built!!

Dates, strawberries and lemon juice!

Dates, strawberries and lemon juice!


The week ended equally full of sunshine. Anthony and I went on a great hike on Memorial Day and then had my Dad over to BBQ. How did you all celebrate your 3 day weekend?


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No, Walter is not another random, mangey pet that I’m attempting to adopt. It is however a bit mangey looking. Like many things over the age of 30, Walter just needs a little TLC. Walter is a 30-ish year old moped that Anthony bought out from under another customer on Craigslist for $80. Sounds like a steal to me! That other interested shopper just so happened to be named Walter, hence why we nicknamed the moped Walter. 

walter 2

walter 1

Here’s a video that was captured of me being shown my surprise for the first time. Pretty amusing I think, haha. And no, it doesn’t run…


But someday soon you’ll see me cruising around on this blue steed with the wind in my hair and a yoga mat slug over my shoulder. Oh happy Monday 🙂

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Dear Mom,

You are the bomb.

(a.k.a. you’re pretty awesome.)

Supporting my adventuring to everywhere but Guam.

How do you do it?

You are the rock, the glue that keeps us all from unraveling.

Thanks for always supporting my traveling…

…and helping me wash the puppy (smelly thing)…

…oh and stopping her from eating about everything, including my diamond ring.

And thanks for letting me make a mess of the kitchen…in fact, thanks for letting even me move back in.

And for defending me from crazy ex “friends”

Mom, actually, thanks for always putting up with all my shenanigans!

You are the strongest woman I know *comma*

and I am so lucky to call you my mama.

Happy Mother’s Day.

The past few months have been tough for us as a family and even more so for you personally, and yet you still manage to always have a smile on your face. You really are the bomb.

"Don't say it's a fine morning or I'll shoot ya."

“Don’t say it’s a fine morning or I’ll shoot ya.”

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We called her Lilo. Her “real” name, according to the shelter was Rye, but my name is Riley, which occasionally gets shortened to Ri…so that just wasn’t going to work. Could you imagine someone calling “Ri” and both of us coming running? **fweeeeeet, fweeeeet, come here Ri!!** Nope, no way was that going to work.

Let me clarify. Every now and then I get a bright idea or two. Ever since coming home from the Peace Corps I have been experiencing a range of emotions, ranging from being psyched to be with my family again, to feeling lonely and like I have no friends that can relate.   This may or may not lead me to do some crazy things. Here’s a prime example. For a while now I have been eyeballing puppies from humane societies, and a few weeks ago I saw a posting of the cutest puppy ever. Big pointy ears, bright, intelligent brown eyes…she looked like the mangy dingo I’d always wanted.

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is the dog. - George Graham Vest

The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is the dog. – George Graham Vest


So what did I do? Talked my fiancé into going to see her of course! Normally by the time we get to the adoption events all the puppies are gone, so I figured what’s the harm. Well guess what, this time that particular puppy was there waiting for me. I was fine just looking at her until one of the adoption center employees asked me if I wanted to walk her. “uhhhh….yeah….” That’s when the real trouble started.

She flopped into my lap and I was hooked. That puppy was coming home with us. Now let me mention at this point that this is a bittersweet story, because occasionally I get bright ideas that take control of my actions before they are fully thought through and developed.

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person. - Andy Rooney

The average dog is a nicer person than the average person. – Andy Rooney


Ok. So, as you may have guessed, she did indeed come home with us that day. It took me a full 2 or 3 days to finally name her, so for a while we were running around calling her puppy. We finally settled on Lilo. The vet thinks she’s an Australian cattle dog/ boxer mix about 4 months old.  What’s awesome is that she’s pretty much already kennel trained and potty trained. When I said she looks like a mangy dingo, well I wasn’t kidding…she really does have mange. Poor thing. The vet says it’ll go away with some meds and time and that it’s caused from malnutrition and a low immunity…. meaning she probably was rescued from a pretty shitty situation. Due to the mange issue she isn’t quite ready for adoption, so technically we were just fostering.

lilo 2


For that reason I decided to make it a point to show her a good time. In a short 2 weeks we tuckered her out on a hike, took her jogging, played fetch in the dog park, laughed at her while she romped around in the snow, helped her gain 5 pounds so you could no longer see the boney frame of her ribcage, and did lots of snuggling. It was marvelous. I felt like I had a friend who would love me unconditionally no matter what. I found myself waking up ready to go each day again, starting my mornings off with a walk or a jog.

Scratch a dog and you'll find a permanent job.---Franklin P.Jones

Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.—Franklin P.Jones


By this point, you’re probably thinking what a great pup…so why was it a not-so-bright idea?

Here’s the thing…I currently don’t have a home for starters. I basically jump back and forth between my parents’ house and my fiancé’s (who lives with 3 other guys). Maybe you’re thinking again, ok, so what’s the big deal?

Well, my fiancé’s landlord says “no pets”…and the guys weren’t too fond of breaking that rule. Whoops. So why can’t she stay at my parents? They’ve got enough on their plates right now and little room left for an added stressor. Our family dog, Sadie is…well…she’s an 11 year old, grumpy fart. She’s not into other dogs, let alone a rambunctious puppy.  Problem number 3 (or 4 or 5…I’m not sure…)

I’m planning on getting my own place in August with my boo….buuuut it is damn hard to find a place to rent that has a yard, garage, and allows pets. I just couldn’t see Lilo liking an apartment. She’s an active breed and keeping her kenneled just didn’t seem fair to her mangy, dingo spirited, herding instincts. Problem number 5 million….


We will both be working full time soon (yay for finally having a job!) and won’t be able to come home for lunch. Again, not really fair to a puppy is it? So the conclusion (that felt like pulling out my own teeth) we came to was that we just weren’t ready for a dog.

Every now and then I get a bright idea or two. Like I said, occasionally these impulsive notions take control of my actions before they are fully thought through and developed. *Ahem*…so…this morning, with heavy hearts we took her back to the adoption center, envisioning her finding her way into the hearts of a wonderful ranching family where she can herd animals and frolic in sunny fields. As all mothers do, I hope the best for my baby…she wiggled her way into my heart so much that she felt like one of my own (I actually have no idea what a mother feels toward her children since I have none of my own, but I assume it’s a similar sensation).

lilo 7

She was the cure for my restlessness. I could spend the day with her just hanging out and feel accomplished…and for the short time Lilo could spend with me I am very thankful. Yikes…I feel like I’m writing an obituary or something, which is silly because I know she is going to find a great family…she’s too darn cute not to.  HaI just hope she’s not too confused when people start calling her “Rye” again.  

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden,where doing nothing was not boring- it was peace.---Milan Kundera

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden,where doing nothing was not boring- it was peace.—Milan Kundera

And that is the end of my short, bittersweet story. You now know what I have been up to the past few weeks.

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