“I was born and raised in Glendale ’til I was in the 7th grade. And then I moved to San Diego. I had a good childhood. We used to go across the border to Mexico, where we had property. I got to ride horses and raise cows and pigs. It was a ranch. My dad worked very hard, and he built it all himself. I didn’t think anything of it until I moved to Echo Park when I was in the 10th grade. Then, I realized how lucky I was to have the opportunity to go back and forth and have wildlife, be around animals. A lot of people who grew up in the city didn’t have that opportunity. They never milked a cow before, never seen a little horse be born or ride horses. I was riding when I was 2 years old. I liked the animals more than I liked the people. I like to be out in the open with my dog, which I found about 8 months ago. And I’ve always had big dogs, except her. I’ve had a rottweiler, German shepherd, golden retriever, and a springer spaniel. When our pony was born, it would come and follow us into the house. And I had a swimming pool, which we helped our father build. It was pretty nice.

My older sister kind of raised me. She was a hippie from the 60s, and I was born in 1962. So, I think the 70s was the best years ever. Because there was a lot more opportunity, a lot more choices in school. You know, they had music, they had art, they had photography, they had economics. They had a lot of stuff. They offered a lot. And now, there’s not very many things for kids to do. And also I noticed that a lot of kids has no social skills because they’re on their tablets, or their computers, or stuck inside. Before I met my children’s dad, I was going to Vegas, from high school. I was just going to be one of those showgirls, and dance all the time. But I met their father, and had my kids. And raised them all, plus my nieces and nephews. I was a stay-at-home mom.

I had a lot of opportunities. I had a 5th and 6th grade teacher that was very into the community in Glendale. And I used to put on plays and acts and serve dinners to the veterans down at the Patriotic Hall and all the senior citizens homes in Glendale. We used to go to San Diego for a week, and we’d serve down there in the churches. Nowadays, young people don’t want to talk to the old people. They have so much to say. Great stories, you know. And now, I’m afraid the younger generation won’t have any stories to tell!

I was in dance at Belmont. I preferred to dance rather than learn how to drive at 16. All my electives were dance and in the arts. They don’t have those Christmas pageants anymore because I always ask my granddaughter, ‘You’re in the first grade going to second grade. Don’t you have any Christmas programs coming up – Halloween programs?’ We used to do all of those. She’s like, ‘No… Open house?’ It’s nothing, you know! She loves to act, and she loves to perform. Her room that she has is divided by a curtain. So she closes it and tells me to announce her. And she comes out, and she dances! And she’s very, very dramatic.

My grandson is going to be 2 in 3 months, and he’s just the love of my daughter’s life. His name is Ever, and he was born right after my older brother passed away. Suddenly. And then my father passed away. So we lost both of the men in our family quickly, and it was kind of hard for all of us. My brother went to sleep with his grandkids, and he didn’t wake up. He just went in his sleep. I don’t know – I think he just gave himself. My nephew had gotten in a car accident before that, right here on the 5 freeway. He was in a coma, and he lost his leg. His shoe was on the side of the freeway. I had seen it everyday. My brother had said, ‘He’s too young to go. Take me instead.’ And honest truth, the shoe on the leg that [my grandson] lost, we cannot find my brother’s boot. Anyhow, he went to sleep with both of them, and it’s gone. I don’t know if it’s just coincidence.

I have six sisters, and I had 2 brothers. We had a very big family. So I was, like, the chosen babysitter for all of them. Changed ALL their diapers. Every single one of them! It wasn’t hectic. It was very fun. As long as we weren’t bleeding and breaking things, we were able to do as we please. And then seeing my dad go to work everyday – he was a landscaper, a gardener. And seeing the trees that he planted when he was young, and seeing them grow great fruit. I didn’t know we had to pay for avocados because we had drawers full of avocados and oranges. I still go to West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to see the trees and be like, ‘My dad planted that. And he planted that. And they’re huge!’ Just growing. So I know my roots are everywhere. From here to Beverly Hills, literally! He loved his work. He worked 7 days a week. It was hard, but he loved it. He loved getting his hands dirty. I didn’t get that green thumb though. My brother did. My older sisters did.

I guess we’re not a military family – but all three of my nephews went to the Navy. His son was top in his class. He just excelled. He’s made chief, which is top honor. We’re very proud of him. My other nephew – he’s going to be a police officer in New York. He got out of the Navy, and he didn’t want to go back and re-enlist. I think all boys should go into the military. It teaches them respect and discipline. It’s just something boys need. I believe that because it teaches them independence and teaches them how to be men. Not just boys – men.

Me and my husband watch the History Channel a lot and CNN. We watched a special on China and what happened in Beijing in Tiananmen Square. And the college students didn’t know anything. ‘Cause they were kind of locked out of everything. Which is kind of bad, but I guess that’s what they’ve come to know. And it was kind of shocking that they didn’t even question it. For me, having to speak my mind in this country, we have the privilege, yes. It’s such an honor. Like the generation doesn’t even realize what kind of voice they have. I got a lot of opinions on other countries, but I can’t opinionate myself that bad ’cause I don’t live in their shoes. But I respect them. I respect all people, all nationalities, and believe that every border should be open to all of us. This is the country of opportunity. The world is too big and too small. The more electronics come out, the more people push away from each other, socially. I can’t understand why people don’t just put them down. It’s a beautiful day, and it’s nice to be around all this!

Excerpt may be edited for clarity.