40 People That Have Influenced My Life in a Positive Way (so far)

As I approach the eve of my 40th year, I have been thinking a lot about where I am, and how I got here. It’s been a long, winding road, with lots of interesting stops along the way, some detours, a few bumps, but thankfully my internal GPS has kept me from getting totally lost.

Obviously, I needed a lot of help!

There are also lots of people that God has put in my life that have helped me on the way. Friends, relatives, classmates, colleagues, professors- a whole bunch of you who, at one point or another, believed in me, shared with me, and have encouraged me along the way. Many of you still encourage me to this day!

In most cases, I can remember specific moments where something you said, or did, really impacted me, and I never forgot it. In other cases, it’s been your consistent encouragement & friendship over the years. This is most likely a partial list, but as of THIS moment my Top 40 list of people who have influenced my life in a positive way.

Some of you may be surprised to be on this list at all … don’t be. I decided not to write an explanation of why each person is on this list, it should be obvious, but if you want me to explain why,  just give me a call – I’ll be happy to!

In chronological order:

Al Eyde
Lupe Eyde
Niel Eyde
Ann Bennett
Monique Owens
Mrs. Gerin
Gloria Stamato
Tracy Horner
Mr. Frost
Jody Calendar
Carl Calendar
Paola Ordoñez
Glenda Burgos
Mrs. Burgos
Maria Eugenia Guillén
Giancarlo Toti
Leonardo Mosto
Anthony Sehnaoui
Gonzalo Chavez
Miriam Torranzos
Patti Nielsen-Hadden
Teresa Caballero
Lisa Rose
Richard Rose
J.T. Wagenheim
Barbara Szostak
Mariuxi Bueno
Steve Holt
Andy Stark
Curtis Tucker
Shari Daniels
Sunny Tucker
Alegria Tucker
Faith Tucker
Magnolia Tucker
Noah Tucker
Tanya Hackney
Jon Pahl
Kelly Fournier
Sandy Williams
Nancy Warren
Ron Stephens

When I started this post, I didn’t realize how hard this going to be. Limiting myself to 40 was a particular challenge, and there are more people that belong on this list. To everyone I have included, I just want to say thank you, and I love you all!

(For those of you who took the time to actually count, I realized a day after I posted this that I forgot to include two INCREDIBLY important people, so I added them to my list, making it 42)

No line on the horizon.

J’habite dans la Terre du Pommes D’amour

Pommes d’amour – I have always liked that name for tomatoes in French. Long ago, tomatoes were thought to be an aphrodisiac, so in the 16th century the French took the rather dull Italian name, Pomo di Mori, and replaced it with something infinitely more poetic, and inspiring.

Alas, those legendary tomatoes are long gone, due in large part to modern industrial agriculture. These days, you can buy red orbs to put in your salad, but today’s typical supermarket fare are a far cry from what tomatoes used to be. C’est un vrai dommage.

I thought I was the only one who thought that tomatoes had changed. Gone was the deep red color- and totally gone was the fragrant aroma and tangy sweetness that my memory associates with tomatoes. Tomatoes have been bland for such a long time, that I had begun to question my memory as just an exaggeration over time. You know, like how you remember certain things from your childhood a certain way, big things, for example, and later on when you revist them, your adult perspective makes them seem smaller, or shabbier? I thought that my memory of tomatoes was like that.

I was not at all relieved when I found out that I wasn’t the only one that thought this way. Not one iota, because it turns out that for the past 20 years, modern, commercially available tomatoes have had the all flavor, color, and nutrition bred right out of them.

Florida accounts for 1/3 of the United States’ supply of out-of-season tomatoes, thanks to our warmer climate. However, ironically, the warm, humid climate, combined with the worst soil in the world (sand, basically) makes for a terrible place to grow tomatoes. Just to get tomatoes to grow requires a lethal cocktail of 100 different chemical pesticides and fungicides. This is to kill the 27  pests that thrive in Florida’s warm, humid climate, and which inevitably attack and decimate whole fields of tomato plants. If the plants actually bear fruit, the tomatoes are then cut short of maturing and are picked green, so that they are still hard and can withstand the rigors of handling & shipping. They are unable to ripen on their own, so they are gassed with ethylene, which turns them red.

Tomatoland by Larry Estabrook

Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook

Tomatoland is a book that partly explores this travesty, and goes deeper to expose the common practices of companies in the Florida out-of-season tomato industry: the overuse of pesticides & fertilizers, the widespread use of illegal migrant workers and their mistreatment, the lobbying power of the Florida Tomato Board, and what is being done to offer the consumer better alternatives. The author, Barry Estabrook, does an amazing job of bringing these issues to the fore, and balancing the negatives with stories of people who are devoting their lives to making positive changes in the industry, the cultivation of tomatoes, and raising awareness of the problems related to human trafficking.

After reading Tomatoland, what I thought was just a problem of flavorless-ness in tomatoes ended up being worse. What I learned through Estabrook’s careful research actually left a very bad taste in my mouth. The working conditions of the laborers are what horrified me the most. Popular brands of tomatoes that I have bought at the supermarket, thinking I was being a savvy shopper because they were marked “grown in the USA” and not Mexico, turned out to be some of the worst offenders. Slavery, birth defects, and deaths are direct results of the lack of oversight, outright greed, and negligence of these companies.

The stories that Estabrook tells about the working conditions, as well as the accounts of human bondage, violence and exploitation, are horrendous. The mere thought that these things are still happening today (as you read this!) and here in Florida, just a few counties away from my home, let ALONE in the United States, is extremely disturbing. To know that by purchasing certain brands of tomatoes made me an unwitting accomplice to these working conditions, really shook me to the core. By the simple choices of what I put on the table for my family to eat, I was enabling a whole system of human slavery.

Needless to say, I have become very picky about my tomatoes.  Taste, nutrition- those qualities seem rather superficial now. Give me a tomato that is humane, ecologically sustainable, then we’ll work on the rest. Thankfully, Estabrook devotes several chapters to the positive inroads that are being made on all fronts: attorneys and workers’ coalitions who are fighting for the basic needs of the migrant workers, organic farmers and horticulturalists who work long hours to produce tomatoes that don’t require the lethal chemical cocktails AND actually taste good.

This book challenged some of my beliefs, and gave me a greater awareness of the business of agriculture in our country. Tomatoland is a snapshot of one segment of the commercial agriculture industry – out-of -season tomatoes. There are many more fruits and vegetables that are produced in FL, and other states, that have stories very similar to the tomato. Tomatoland exposes just “the tip of a very ugly iceberg.”

Female Number Torture

I have always liked math and numbers. Numbers can be fun, like when you are counting your cash in Monopoly, or tallying your miles in Mille Bornes. Numbers can be useful, such as in determining exactly how many miles are left to go on I-95 before you reach the next exit with a Panera Bread, or a Costco.

I find myself thinking in numbers a lot. I have been crunching numbers for many years now. It all started somewhere in my senior year of college, and I have gotten really good at it since. I can add & subtract, divide and multiply to my heart’s content until the numbers make sense. I even like doing the taxes – well at least the math part. OK, call me a geek – but I just like it when everything adds up.

I have learned that numbers have their evil side, or rather a seamy underbelly.  Some numbers are ugly, no matter which way you turn them. Such as the number of things that have not been completed from my to-do list. Or the figure in dollars of late fees incurred at the library. Those ugly numbers pale in comparison to the number of times I have hollered at my children. Thankfully, I can control these numbers, and have made concerted efforts to curb these numerical trends.

The thing is, even though numbers can be manipulated, they don’t inherently lie. They are truthful, they are plain, they don’t exaggerate, or understate. They are not loyal in any way.

Numbers have always been a tool, a measurement to help me understand the bigger picture, but lately, instead of leaving me with a sense of comprehension, certain numbers are SCARING me. And this, leaves me baffled, perplexed, and basically, unsettled.

The numbers I am speaking of are simple measurements. Quantities. Arcane amounts. They are:

  • weight
  • age
  • number of gray hairs

and the following equation: Current Age (CA) + Years Left (X) = Total Age (TA). Solve for X.

The Tanita Scale. Looks harmless, doesn't it?


Female Number Torture happens when simple numbers become larger than life, when our minds allow numbers to define us, even affect our emotions. There are the usual instruments of torture, such as scales, calculators and calendars. Last week I found a new instrument of torture, far more evil and subversive than those. At the suggestion of one of the trainers at the Y, I hopped on something called a Tanita Scale. This marvelous example of modern science not only tells you your weight, if you enter in a few statistics (height, age) it will throw some pretty scary numbers your way. Humdingers like: pounds of fat, percentage of muscle, how many calories you should not exceed for your height/weight/age combo, and the MOST evil number of all: metabolic age.

I have to say, I was so offended by this new form of digital torture, that in a state of extreme mental self-defense, and denial, I almost went off numbers altogether.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I’m one of those people who actually believed, and threw around harum-scarum, clichéd phrases like, “age doesn’t matter,” and “you are only as young as you feel.” Granted, these are true statements, BUT for me personally, at this juncture (39 years, 10 months and 25 days) they aren’t having the same effect that they supposedly were having on everyone I said them to.

My rational mind, and some of my most loveliest, older-than-I, friends, tell me that I have nothing to worry about, this is just a phase. I can accept that. Yet, I continue to subject myself to milder forms of Female Number Torture.

Ultimately, I have narrowed down this numerical anxiety to one simple question. Even if I can’t solve the above equation, this is the more important matter: It’s not so much the value of x, but rather, what does one do with X?

Time is getting short, and I want to make it count. So I will try hard to not let the numbers get to me. I will be strong. I will shake it off. Just 45 days to go.

Bucket List

1. To behold your beauty once more.
To hear the sound of gentle laughter in your voice,
as I watch your lips
slowly curve into a smile.

To give these dying words
a fitting farewell,
Held prisoner all these years in my heart.
To release them to the wind, in your presence
And watch as they fly away
free at last, towards the clouds.

Chances are, I will cry.

Abigail Adams would rock today’s world

One of the most enjoyable things about being a home educator is learning new things through my children’s studies. My two eldest daughters love history, and are insatiable readers like me. Most recently we have been reading a biography about Abigail Adams, and I have been very encouraged by what I learned about her life as John Adams’ wife.

I often find myself feeling overwhelmed with work-related issues, caring for the children, educating the children, planning & making the meals, keeping the house in order, and carving out a little time each day to decompress and exercise. Not to mention being a wife, best friend and right arm of my husband!

But then I think about Abigail’s life. Her husband John, a delegate in the Continental Congress, was gone from the farm for long stretches of time. She was left to tend the gardens, the livestock, the children, their education, and during the revolution provided shelter for friends who had to flee Boston because of the fighting. Each night, after everyone had gone to bed, she would stay up late at night and write letters to John by candlelight, to keep him abreast of the news back home and to encourage him as he worked towards the independence of our nation. To say she was tireless is a vast understatement!

Much like John and Abigail Adams, we home educate our children, run our business from home, and keep livestock. However, in this modern age of computers and running water, microwaves and refrigeration, life is pretty easy for me, compared to Abigail’s life. Frankly, I think about all that she did with a merry heart, and I come to the logical conclusion that I must be a complete wuss.

You know, it might be easy to brush it off, and say that Abigail’s times were different, that people were different then … and that is partially true. However, I think we lost something along the way from 1776 to now – a certain spirit perhaps. I am not naive enough to believe that everyone back then was like Abigail, I know she was a unique lady, but nevertheless, she epitomizes a spirit of self determination that is so lacking today, especially among women.

Abigail Adams was her husband’s confidant and chief advisor in all things, especially when it came to the politics and policies he embraced during his career. Although she was not a feminist in the modern sense of the word, she did see the need to provide the same freedom for men and women in the constitution. She encouraged her husband to not exclude women or slaves from having the same rights and freedoms as free men. She did it in a graceful, lovely, respectful way that only furthered her husband’s love for her, so much so that he called her a heroine! Wow, what wife wouldn’t just love to have her husband say that to her.

This post is a hats-off to Abigail Adams. I have been both encouraged & inspired by her story. I recommend to all ladies out there who need a role model to look up to, read a little about Abigail. She had a good head on her shoulders and used it, truly loved a good man, raised her children well, she held out her hand to the needy, and championed a better tomorrow for all of us.

One if by land, two if by sea

Signals are so important in life. They are everywhere: traffic lights, street signs, that look your toddler gets when he’s just about to poop, alarm clocks, thunder claps. For the most part, signals are underappreciated, but truthfully, we’d all be in big trouble if it weren’t for the proverbial writing on the wall. I, for one, can be a bit clueless when going about my business day in and day out.

Life can be overwhelming too, so I need that jolt back to reality. It has taken me a while, but I am actually starting to look around for signals, instead of letting them smack me upside the head! Nowadays I would much rather have a little heads up when something is about to happen, no matter how short notice, than to be blindsided- although this might be a sign of “older,” and not necessarily “wiser.”

No tresspassing

My husband Curtis and I have very flexible schedules during the day, therefore we often work late at night. Nighttime is often reserved for projects that need extra concentration, or dedicated to knocking out emails en masse. In our busy schedules we have to fit in time for everything, and intimacy definitely cannot take a back seat.

I used to be a night owl, but I think another sign of my impending old age is the need to go to bed earlier. We have five children, and by the time everyone is tucked in bed, I am just wiped out! Frankly, if I am up past midnight, the next morning is going to be rough, and I definitely need my beauty sleep.

Curtis is exactly the opposite. He’s one of those people that can stay up ’til 3 am and wake up at 7 am. We don’t even own a coffeemaker, so caffeine is not a part of this equation.

On a typical late night I’ll send some obvious (to me, at least) signals, meant to convey: “if there’s going to be any intimacy tonight, it better be soon, because I am tired and I’m ready for bed!” For instance, I’ll shut the computer down (signal #1) while Curtis invariably is typing away at his. I’ll lean over to kiss him (signal #2) and ask him something to the effect of, “Are you planning on staying up late?” (signal #3). Being the demure, modest, and somewhat shy lady that I am, my hope is that Curtis gets the message and gets ready for bed too! I have to admit though, my subtle approach can be too subtle at times and I don’t always achieve my goal.

My dear husband has his own set of signals, which he implemented the other night rather successfully. It was a regular evening, almost midnight, when I did my signal routine, with apparently not much of a response from Curtis. So, I walked to the bedroom to get ready for bed. As I opened the door to our bedroom, the lights were off and two fragrant candles were lit on opposite sides of the room. Wow, I was so impressed! I couldn’t help chuckling to myself at Curtis’ sneakiness and forethought.

I shut the door, and got ready for bed. Then, I snuggled WAAAY under the covers and pretended to be asleep. A few minutes later, I heard Curtis’ footsteps outside the door. Waiting for the perfect moment, I felt him walk past the bed in the candlelight. All of the sudden, I whipped off the covers and yelled, “THE BRITISH ARE COMING! THE BRITISH ARE COMING!!” and collapsed into a fit of giggles.

Who says signals can’t be fun?

The value of life, here and abroad

I am not a Republican, nor a Democrat. These days I do have a tendency to be more conservative, but it is definitely spiced with my ultra-liberal upbringing. It is always good to keep an open mind, and not buy into a story at face value. Do your own research, and generally, question EVERYTHING, I always say.

My Twitter feed is an eclectic mix of sources of information from both the left & right sides of the politcal spectrum. I follow some tweeters whose politics I disagree with completely, basically because I just want to understand other points of view, not just fill my feed with things I would automatically agree with. If a tweeter starts posting obscene things, or blatant propaganda, I unfollow. The unfollows have been rare though. My second one took place yesterday.

Yesterday, a radio program called MajorityFM posted on their twitter feed (@MajorityFM) a headline that disturbed me, “The GOP Budget Will Kill 70,000 Children Around the World.” The link went to a YouTube video of the broadcaster reading portions of an article from ABC News by Kirit Randia:

“At least 70,000 children around the world could die if funding for global health programs is cut under the Republican budget proposal, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah warned Congress Thursday.”

The article referenced by MajorityFM vilified the efforts in Congress to trim the Federal budget. One of the ways that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are doing this is by proposing cuts to many different programs, such as USAID, which would bear a roughly 50% reduction in its International Disaster Assistance fund, or $430 million.

This is without question, a terrible thing. I know firsthand how desperately the basic assistance that USAID provides is needed in many areas around the world. The figure of 70,000 children is definitely a conservative one- chances are its a lot higher.

However, MajorityFM’s incendiary rebuke of the GOP’s federal budget proposal strikes me as incredibly hypocritical and hence the unfollow. These are the same folks who decry slashing Federal funding of Planned Parenthood, which annually, in the United States alone, subsidizes 1,200,000 abortions a year. If we are talking about deaths of infants and children, these figures are not just terrible, but unconscionable. From my perspective, it seems that while MajorityFM bemoans the potential deaths of tens of thousands of children worldwide, it has no problem with 1,200,000 ACTUAL deaths a year, in their very own country!

Although by law, Planned Parenthood is prohibited from allocating any federal funding for abortions, some abortion opponents, like Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, have argued that allocating money to Planned Parenthood for the provision of other medical services “frees up” funds for abortion. Logically, anyone who knows how a business works knows, that if you provide several services, and one or more of those services have little or no overhead, you can allocate more capital to other goods or services that cost more to provide or produce.

I don’t want children to die ANYWHERE, no matter how big or small they are. To use geography, age, social status, stage of development, race, gender or religion to justify killing innocents is discriminatory, at the least.

If you are interested, here is my whole exchange with @MajorityFM:

@majorityfm Majority Report
The GOP Budget Bill Will Kill 70,000 Children Around the World http://bit.ly/hhQdd6 #p2 #tcot #tlot #gop

@lupitatucker Lupe Tucker
@majorityfm Whereas funding Planned Parenthood will kill hundreds of thousands of babies in the US ALONE. #unfollow

@majorityfm Majority Report
@lupitatucker So you’re against these cuts?

@lupitatucker Lupe Tucker
@majorityfm No, it just seems that acc to your politics, 70,000 children worldwide are worth more than hundreds of thousands domestically.

@lupitatucker Lupe Tucker
@majorityfm 1,200,000 to be exact. In the United States, in one year ALONE. Just food for thought.

No other responses.

In researching for this post I used abortion statistics from the following website: http://www.mccl.org/page.aspx?pid=400

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

Coming Home

Home is where the heart is. Where my heart longs to be.

In the physical world, that place is NJ. It has always been home to me.

Call me weird. I don’t care. I was born in NJ, and raised in NJ. Although my family uprooted and moved overseas when I was 12 1/2, on vacations we always would travel back home. To New Jersey.

I lived in South America for a total of 13 years (non-consecutive). I spent my teenage years there, I graduated from high school there, I got my first banking job and teaching job there. However, I don’t identify myself as “from Ecuador.” I was, and always will be from New Jersey.

First out of necessity, then out of routine, I learned to live in other places. I learned not to miss my hometown. I got over it. I grew accustomed to the idea that I wasn’t in NJ and that was just the way it was. For the most part, this is how I live my days, and it doesn’t affect me.

Three years ago, my Dad, Albert Eyde, passed away. To say I miss him is an understatement. His loss is a void I will never be able to fill, and I have learned to live with that too.

In the process of mourning there are stages, I think, that a person has to go through to be able to get to a point of peace. There is no set time limit, there is no formula. For me, part of the process involved going back home, going back to New Jersey.

Our house in West End

Our house in West End.

My Dad was born in Atlantic City, and lived all over the state, mostly near the Shore. My history with my Dad took place entirely in Monmouth County, the epicenter of my home. So I made some plans with my mother, to take a trip together to Monmouth County and reconnect with our memories of Dad in the place where it all happened.

Just driving around, enjoying the summertime in Red Bank, Lincroft, Long Branch, Atlantic Highlands and Eatontown was therapeutic. Being there with my mom was good, for both of us, because we could be strong for each other and help each other remember things that the other had forgotten. We took the train into the City, walked around Manhattan and visited places that we used to go with Dad.

We also made plans to see old friends, and visit the place where my parents worked, Brookdale Community College. In many ways the history of my family is the history of that institution. I was practically born on campus.

Carmen, Mom, and Sue.

Seeing old friends & spending time with them I got to remember my Dad in ways that I never would have been able to otherwise! It was the best idea! Sharing our memories of him with his co-workers, colleagues and family friends was something I desperately needed. I felt the love they had for him, and in many ways I think it was good for them too, because none of our friends from NJ every got a chance to say goodbye to Al.

My mother and I have made a yearly mother-daughter trip out of it. The goal: to spend time together, and see our old friends. To make time to see people and reconnect. To not let the years go by without getting a chance to express our appreciation and joy at having such wonderful people in our lives! To be in New Jersey, to remember Dad, to make new memories, and for a brief few days, to be home.

Working it Out (with fear and trembling)

A long time ago, probably around the fourth grade, I started devouring books at an insatiable rate. I was growing up fast on a steady diet of Nancy Drew, Judy Blume and Trixie Belden.

Of course I wanted to be Nancy Drew, and even had fantasies of being an 80’s version of Mata Hari, but to me, what really seemed doable- and fun, and cool, and exciting- was to become a writer.

A long time ago, when I was a child, one of my teachers (or maybe it was my Dad) told me that I was a good writer. I can’t remember what I wrote to make them say that, but it really stuck with me. I milked that for years, and I actually believed I was a good writer.

I like to write. I like the process, the craft, and the outlet it gives me. I like re-reading stuff I wrote, stuff that ended up published, and old, forgotten stuff that I have found sandwiched between pages of a book or journal.

But I have to be honest with myself: Can I really call myself a writer? I have come to doubt what I was told.

To honestly say, “I am a writer,” I have to deliberately be a writer.

This blog is an attempt to change all that. This blog is an attempt to face my writing fears, to be brave (someone told me I was brave once, too, and I still believe it), and exercise my writing muscle, which has become flaccid over the years from non-use.

So, pardon me while I knock out the reps.

First by Lupita Eyde

It was in a dream

in a low-light room

in a box of matches

from a pocket

It was a rapid friction

a flare of passion

reflected in dark eyes

It was in a dream

I sometimes tell myself

where nothing I touched

could touch me back

It was in my skin

in the evidence of

the scars, the burns,

the scratches.

In a crying moment

in a chosen fashion

that a game of arms

struck like matches

in the beating heart

of a dream

pleasure & pain

are the same muscle.

I wrote this poem in 1993. I remember that I was taking an Environmental Science class in college and it was so boring, and so long, that I would write poetry to help myself stay awake. This poem was inspired by a friend of mine, Joe Amorese, whom I met in 1992.
– Lupi

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