Search This Blog

Saturday, December 29, 2012


By Silvia Uribe

We all have a spark, the spark of life, and joy within us. Just by the simple fact of living, we own that little spark: This is the spark that brightens our eyes when we are happy, that pulls upward the corners of our lips when we see or hear something that pleases us; the tiny little spark of hope, that gets us going in difficult times, and makes us remember that tomorrow will be another day.

We all know someone who’s spark is so bright, it brightens us, and bring us back to life even when we are tired, or just simply bored.  These are the people whose energy is contagious; those who can manage to infuse us with an injection of excitement out of the blue. These are people that produce an attraction on others, and good, positive events around them. We call them lucky. Bun in reality, they are responsible for creating this cosmic synergy, with their spark; one that others don’t want to miss. 

However, when life gets tough, our little spark deems. It deems so much that it almost becomes imperceptible, even to ourselves. But, it is then, when we need our spark more than ever. So the question here is: How to re-charge our spark?

1 – Do not just complain about your problem. Take action. – Continuously thinking about a problem without making any decisions, and taking any actions is a recipe for disaster: the problem won’t get solved, and you’ll be overwhelmed. Don’t stay in the analyzing stage forever. Start making decisions, and take the appropriate actions. Now, you’re on your way to solve your problem.

2 – Do not create a snowball – If you happen to have more than one problem at the same time, try to separate them, and deal with both, but one independent from the other. Snowballs are hard to stop once they get rolling. You may have a couple of problems in your life, but your whole life is not a problem, unless you allow for this to happen.

3 – Cry if you will, but limit your suffering time – Do not allow yourself to become a victim of your circumstances. Realize that although your problem might be big, and it causes you a lot of stress, there are other aspects of your life that are actually enjoyable.

4 – Every day, do one thing that brings you peace– Whether it is exercise, meditation, prayer, therapy, or a good conversation with a friend, we need to decompress. Maybe it is a peaceful walk on the beach, or a cup of hot chocolate and a good read. Do this for only 30 minutes if your time is limited, but do something to reestablish your inner balance, and the intensity of your sparkle. 

5 –Do not allow your sparkle to be extinct – When life gets tough we feel that our sparkle is the last thing we want to think about, but we must. Without a conscious effort to find the affable side of life, we have the risk to fall into depression, and once we’ve fallen, it is quite difficult to recover.

And, remember that having a bright spark, could help you tremendously this time of the year.


Friday, December 28, 2012


By Silvia Uribe
In the midst of celebrating the Holidays, it seems that we, the people, are oblivious to the financial/political reality that we face as a country. We hear about the financial troubles, we are sort of aware of the risks to come, but for now, we don’t want to think about the possibility of our country falling into a second recession. However, the possibility seems inevitable, especially if we consider that as of now, we are already being strangled with a 2% increase in our taxes. Why? Because Washington didn’t come to a rational agreement on time. Whose fault is this?

As a country, we’ve been fighting the fight, a big one, all over the world, against terrorists and terrorism. We have spent trillions of dollars in such a quest. But, how is it that Congress is holding us hostage to their political interests, their lack of vision, and of their ineptitude altogether?

Our representatives’ tantrums are tiring, insulting, and dangerous for our county. Most of the time, they behave like capricious infants - when they don’t like the game that’s being played, they want to take the ball go home -. As citizens of this country we should hold these career politicians accountable for their actions. We are only a few days from another financial debacle, and they don't do their job. Meanwhile the whole country nail-biting, and waiting on them!

The President is doing what he can to avoid serious financial consequences for 99% of Americans, while the Speaker of the House shows his party servitude to interests that are not the majority’s. Among the people, there is an overwhelming feeling of lack of control, and hopelessness. 

Congress'  careless attitude makes us wonder why, if we are going after terrorists all over the world, we let our government terrorize us with their indolence toward the majority, and their less than stellar performance while doing their job?

In the meantime, those inept representatives are indulging in their libation of power – as intoxicating as the strongest drug – and trusting that for them, not facing the average Joe’s problems, next year will be a good one. What about us? They should realize that  they’re stretching us too thin.

The people of this country are hard working individuals. We do our part. We are not a mass of 300 million people living in the United States. Each one of us is a human being with dreams and hopes for a better future for our families. Our country is strong due to the individual effort of each one of us. We deserve from the people we elect to represent us to be responsive to us. Our representatives are not there to rule, but to make sure that the needs and wants of the people are met. 

Through our world history, we know that indolent governments and financially oppressed societies make a very dangerous combination. Our country has always striven on giving its people the chance to do well during their productive years, so that they can enjoy life in their retirement. All of us, citizens of this country, expect to savor the fruit of our hard work. It is only fair that we are granted the chance to do it.   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Parents: Guides or Cheerleaders?

How Much Is Too Much Praise?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
This might be one of those times in which I get in trouble with my readers, as I do every now and then. When I do, it is usually because my opinion goes against what’s trendy or, at the very least, considered as accepted in today’s society. So, here I go.

Since we just passed graduation time, let me say this. I have an issue with children having big graduation celebrations — with guests, presents, and fancy parties — before finishing high school, and in general, with parents overly praising their children for everything they do.
Some parents exaggerate their praises even when their children have done nothing at all. Have you watched the show “Sweet 16,” or attended a “QuinceaƱera” lately? Praising children for what they do well is one thing, and I completely support encouraging them, the same way I support parents being their children’s handy behavior thermometer. When they do something good or when they are responsible, we should moderately praise them; when they don’t, we should give them feedback — from a couple of words or time-out to eliminating privileges, depending on the child’s age. It is all about balance.

As parents, our role is to be our children’s guide, not just their cheerleaders.
If we excessively or disproportionately praise them, we’re at risk of causing the opposite effect than the one we’re trying to attain. Throwing a big graduation party, for example, before finishing high school could harm our children more than it could help them get ahead with their academic achievements.

Why? Because it is like with anything else: Human beings try to accomplish the things that they can dream about.

When kids see what a high school or college graduation entails, all the preparations, the presents given, the diploma, the party, and in general, the excitement that this generates in our society, it is something that they can look forward to. That’s the right time to really praise our youth for a successful career as a student. The message here is this: First comes the commitment, then the effort, then the dedication, and at the end, the big celebration.

That's how life goes. Is it not our goal as parents to give our children tools that they can use to craft a successful life for themselves? The meaning of that celebration gets diluted if we do it over and over, starting from kindergarten. If we take the anticipation from the equation, what are they going to look forward to? The risk with this lack of motivation is that they may be tempted to not finish their basic education, and the consequences could be devastating - they wouldn't have the knowledge to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

The messages that we communicate to our children with our actions, are even more important than those spoken. We should avoid communicating that little or no effort will do the trick for them in the future, or that others should or would be as accepting and benevolent with them as we as parents are.

Our children are special to no one else but us, their parents. For others, our children are exactly like any other kid now and will be treated like any other adult in the future.

They will have the same challenges we had, or more, and we better make sure that they have the tools to rise above those challenges and understand that they will need the abilities, the resiliency, the brains, and good work habits to succeed. If we as parents exceed our praises, they will expect the same thing from the rest of the world, and that would make for a false promise that we're making to them.

Let’s give our children the right praises in the right amount, at the right time, and let’s also teach them that nothing will be simply given to them because they’re cute. Let’s not make them feel special, but smart and capable.

And, let’s also make sure they know that the only path to success is hard work and an endless amount of perseverance on their part.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2012


     By Silvia Uribe

    Living in Goleta, we don’t always notice all the construction that happens over time in our city, but the reality is that there have been a number of new things in Goleta in the last few months that have made Goleta a more dynamic, safer, more welcoming, and earth-friendlier city.

    For those who have not been paying attention to all the changes our city has undergone lately, here’s a list of five things that I can remember off the top of my head, including of course, my humble evaluation of these changes:

    Winchester overpass
    1) The new Winchester overpass — It is great! Wider and with sidewalks, so everyone can cross the freeway in a much safer way. But turning from the overpass to the northbound on-ramp is a little cumbersome during the day, and trying to do it at night is plain dangerous, to say the least. This point is, there's a screaming need for better signage, or a terrible accident is imminent.

    2) Montecito Bank and Trust — This is the "new bank on the block," if you know what I mean. Its building is nice and smartly located at the very corner of Storke Avenue and Hollister Avenue. I’m saddened, though, that it covers part of the mountain views as you come in from North Hollister Avenue. I know that things have to change, and the landscape of the city is not the exception. But, due to the fact that I grew up as a city girl, around tall buildings only, I wrestle with the romantic idea of keeping the open views of the mountains, and the citrus groves, which my family and I have enjoyed during our 14 years here in Goleta.

    3) You have probably seen traffic cones and very tall cranes along the 217 Highway — You will probably see them around for quite some time. Yes, they are there because the San Jose Creek Restoration Project is ongoing. The City of Goleta is preparing for the installation of precast concrete panels up and down both sides of the creek. In the end, the creek will be deeper and easier for fish to pass.

    Please remember: Safety is first! Obey all traffic signs, and remember that this is an active construction site. Do not try to get too close to it.

    4) The Camino Real Hotel on Storke Avenue and Phelps Road — This hotel is going up fast, and pretty soon it will be ready, I’m sure. We know that the demand for rooms during graduation time at UCSB and Dos Pueblos High surpasses existing capacity, but I wonder if the flux of tourists in the area will be there throughout the year. The owners seem to think that they will have no vacancies for the most part. They must know better than I do, and I wish them well.

    5) This construction hasn’t started yet, but Goleta will have its first roundabout in the months to come (top picture) — It will be located at the intersection of Los Carneros Road and Calle Real. This will definitely be an improvement on the dangerous three-way intersection there now, which has an elevated number of side-impact collisions. However, I know by experience that using roundabouts is not always an easy thing for everyone. If you missed the workshop that the city offered but would like information on how to appropriately and safely use a roundabout, don’t hesitate to email the project manager, Rosemary Gaglione. Her email is

    It is amazing to me how little-by-little our city takes its own form and develops its own personality and culture. I’m so thankful for those who had the vision of a vibrant city and worked really hard for the City of Goleta's incorporation. I have the pleasure of knowing several of these visionaries, starting with our city’s first mayor, Margaret Connell. Some of the others are also well known to the community through their participation in government, but there are some unsung heroes who, through their silent but constant work, have shaped our city’s future.
    We can all contribute to it by taking care of this great city and making sure the right people lead our way in the years to come.

    Thursday, April 19, 2012


    A few days back I went to see The Hunger Games, which was in three of the six movie theaters at Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace. I didn’t read any of the three books on which this movie was based, so I didn’t have any particular expectation about it. I didn’t have great interest in it either. Judging it by the name, I was convinced it would be a rather depressing movie. I was right.

    Don’t get me wrong. The movie has what one can call a “happy ending," which I won’t spoil, in case you haven’t seen it. But, the more the movie progressed, the more I was subject to the unsettling feeling that this movie presaged some sort of reality the initial stages of which we are already living. Yes, I’m talking about the reality of our infamous “reality shows."

    The parallels are stunning, if you think about it. People chosen to be a part of the entertainment have to do whatever the producers tell them in order to get the prize. Like in the movie, we reality show fans are avid consumers of whatever is sold to us as “fun to watch.” But – is it really? Or are we simply becoming insensitive, uncompassionate, and, to put it plainly, dehumanized beings? Is it right for us to laugh about other people’s misery, vices, depression, pain, or confusion?

    Although I don’t watch a lot of TV shows in general, just by surfing the channels I’m aware of a number of them - which many times seem to be the only option available - that could very well be driving us to not think for ourselves, and to simply follow the path others draw for us. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

    The Bachelor, and The Bachelorette – Self-abasement for fifteen minutes of fame.
    Hoarders – Extremely depressed individuals who bury themselves alive.
    Intervention – Drug addicts who at times consume in front of the cameras.
    Jersey Shore – Low-living individuals with amazingly high levels of ignorance.
    Wiped out – People risking their lives on a bad fall sparkled with snarky comments
    Ultimate Fighter (UFC) – Pure bestiality.
    Toddlers & Tiaras – Bordering on child abuse.
    Sweet 16 – Brats’ empowerment at its best

    Is this uplifting, positive, or even interesting? I venture to say that most of us don’t think it is. However, driven by a morbid impulse, we keep watching.

    Who is to say that one of the Intervention participants won’t inadvertently overdose in front of the camera, or that one of the Jersey Shore cast members won’t badly hurt another one during one of their drunken brawls? What if one or more of the Wiped Out participants “accidentally” breaks their neck? Or if, while we’re watching, an ultimate fighter gets killed?

    Will we stop watching then? Or are we going to coldly say that they knew what they were getting into? And will this explanation help convince us that we bear no responsibility whatsoever? Oh, wait a minute. Didn’t the husband of one of the Real Housewives commit suicide? Yes, he did.

    To be fair, there are a few positive "reality" shows on the air, too. What Would You Do?Undercover BossRestaurant ImpossibleWhat Not to Wear, and a couple more. However, they don’t get half the attention from the media and the public as the other ones do.

    At the pace we’re going, in not too long, our children may be “volunteering” for The Hunger Games. The question is: will we – like the colorful people in the movie – still be watching?


    Thursday, February 9, 2012


    Wordle: Untitled
    By Silvia Uribe

    We all tend to think that we are the center of the world, the most important person, and of course, we feel we are the only one who has problems, who suffers, and we find it very difficult at times to navigate through life. We stop enjoying life just because we’re focused on our problems.  

    Frequently, we complain so much, that it becomes our norm: we don’t have enough money to buy enough stuff to compete enough with our friends, and even with our enemies. We complain about how we look, about our hair, about the dress size we cannot fit in, about our house, our neighbors, and about where and how they park. We also complain about our friends, and about our work; about our short eyelashes, and about not being able to buy a newer car. The list goes on.

    In short, we forget to live, and we consume ourselves with negativity.

    I don’t usually write about my private life, but when talking about compassion, it has to be personal to illustrate its effects and results. 

    For the last 10 years, life has given me the opportunity to be close to vulnerable individuals who are, or at least feel, very lonely. With those who think that their bad luck will never cease, and they seem to be right. With those whose sadness has found a way to settle in their souls, and despair seems like the only thing alive within them. Many of them are individuals without resources to make their life better, they lack options at that point, and perhaps they never had them. Many of them did nothing to deserve what they got. One can say they’re victims of their circumstances.

    To some, it sounds a bit illogical for me to say that working with and around these individuals is an opportunity.  People I know often perceive it more as a challenge, something that, due to the emotional charge involved, they would not be able to do. My close friends know that I see it as a meaningful, relevant thing to do, but most of them also think they couldn’t do it, if offered the option.  I disagree. It is, not as hard as it seems. In fact, it is not hard at all.

    Compassion is the secret. Compassion gives us a chance to relate and help other human beings, and to see how relatively little effort on our part it takes to make someone’s life a lot better. This is an encouraging experience. But, as altruist and romantic as this sounds, it is not the main reason why I think being compassionate works.  The right question would be:  What’s in it for the one who is compassionate? And, the answer is: A lot.

    Compassion gives us the opportunity to put things in perspective.

    In my case, I realized that my life was as easy as it can get, even though I have my share of minor troubles. My family life, with all its ups and downs, is strong and stable. I have a constant income, and a place I call home. My body is not perfect, but it definitely works much better and is healthier than many of those with whom I work on a daily basis.  I have good friends, and I’m able to spare a little money to have some fun with them. When I came to the realization that compared to others’ my life was so much better, I stopped complaining. I started living a purposeful life, and up until now, I enjoy every minute of it.  I am thankful for all the good I have. The words need, and pain, and life, and justice suddenly acquired a new, and a very real meaning, and compassion was not only a word anymore. It became a way of living.

    However - and this is very important - what I understand for compassion is very different from pity. I believe that compassion speaks more to the personal feelings and attitude that one has towards other people and their circumstances, and pity is more a diminishing impression of another. With compassion, we can put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and imagine how we would feel in their situation, and this is usually a humbling experience. This is what helps put things in perspective.

    Practicing more compassion towards other fellow human beings has done more for me, than whatever I’ve ever been able to do for them. True, I may have assisted them, but they have changed my life for the better. By being focused on someone other than myself, unexpectedly, I became a happier, more thankful person every day of my life.

    That’s the power of compassion.

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    What's Your Wish For Goleta in 2012?

    Goletans Sound Off

    Happy New Year to you all! We are in January, and in the wake of this new year, I can hardly believe that we are in 2012. For most people, the New Year represents predictions of what is to come and resolutions to accomplish — once again — what in the past has already proven to be just a bit less than impossible. Losing weight, becoming a millionaire, buying our dream house (or at least the car that we think we deserve), or even sending our job (and our boss) to hell are among the most popular desires expressed every New Year. The most optimistic may think that this is the year when we will start recovering from this seemingly never-ending recession. Others, in agreement with the ancient Aztec culture, predict that this year will be the end of times.

    But, for most of us, whatever we think the new year represents, it is for sure a time to renew our commitments, to think big, to dream of all that we want to see happening in our lives, in the lives of our loved ones, and, in general, of what we want to happen around us. No more wars, a lower cost of living, increased living standards, lower unemployment rates, the possibility of a salary increase, a nice vacation for the family, a cleaner environment, and justice for all. The thought alone of the possibility of achieving these wishes gives us the hope of a better, more comfortable, and more enjoyable future.

    With this in mind, I did one of my non-scientific surveys and asked random Goleta residents of different ages and occupations, “What’s your wish for Goleta in 2012?” In no particular order, these are the responses they offered me:

    A vibrant downtown. A cross-town shuttle stopping every 15 minutes. Better lighting around Cathedral Oaks. Coordinated traffic lights at The Glen Annie overpass. Kmart staying in town. The view of the mountains and agricultural land to not be blocked. A sign telling drivers that there’s a continuous right turn at the southbound on ramp at Glen Annie. Fewer sexual assaults in Isla Vista and a friendlier I.V. Foot Patrol. Agricultural land to be preserved.

    People were not shy in expressing their wishes:

    The Goleta Community Center to become City Hall. Another Elephant bar at the Camino Real Marketplace. No more construction on the Goleta Bluffs by UCSB. Visible signals at the on ramp of the new Winchester Overpass (which is very dangerous at night). A local newspaper and radio station. For the Hallmark store to stay in Goleta.

    Very creative ideas were offered:

    For the Kellogg Project to become the “Kellogg Community Sharing Grounds,” where community members can share once or twice a week their own produce, their thoughts, their news, and their concerns, and get to know their neighbors and elected officials on a personal level. The historic gas station at the end of Hollister to be restored for tourists to visit, obtain information, and buy souvenirs. To identify rooms in the city that community members can use free or at low cost for meetings. For City Council to offer Spanish interpreting services at their meetings. To have a space at the airport dedicated to exhibiting memorabilia of the marine base that once was there. For new constructions to be self-sustainable.

    Always present, of course, opposing opinions on some well known issues like Bishop Ranch and Target.
    And the most mentioned wish is one that I would have to agree with: Activities for kids 13-18-years-old to do after school and during weekends.

    Here we have quite a comprehensive list. And, although I’d say not everything seems possible to accomplish in one year, at least some things seem quite viable.

    We’ll see who's listening.

    Have a great year my fellow Goletanos!