About the Author


Victoria Estrella Worch 38 years old
pencil lose the map

Checking In As Fall Arrives

Today, the wind is cool and you notice the leaves more on the ground than in the trees. A sweet reminder, Fall is upon us.

Reading: I recently went back and finished The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon. Loved how she ended it. Before that I was able to finish The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig and passed it on to a friend who bakes cakes. Now I’ve dived into Steps Out of Time One Women’s Journey on the Camino by Katherine B. Soper, and I’m at peace. Over Labor Day weekend, I got to visit Powell’s Independent Books in Portland, Oregon and found her book on display. I must still have Spain on the mind. Camino pilgrimage stories to me are great ways to remind yourself to carry only what you need and to believe things always have a way of working themselves out.

Watching: Sam play soccer. It’s the first time he is playing for a local team. Love it!

Listening to: Five A.M. latest album Broken /// Beautiful

Looking forward to: Decorating the house with pumpkins :) One of my favorite times.

Sam Update: Sam has been in kindergarten for over a month now and you can see a huge change in him. I think its because everyone in his class gets their own desk. He now comes home and tells me what he is learning about. How important it is we prepare for an earthquake (last week’s lesson). And he wants to write more. It’s amazing.

Twin Update: The twins started attending preschool. They go twice a week and the biggest lesson they are learning is they too can be away from mom. Today, I could tell Lily was trying to hold back the tears but they came and it was okay. I gave her a big hug and she smiled, and started playing with the letter blocks.

Meaning of home: I live in Northern California and over the weekend, a fast moving fire took a small town just less than two hours north from me. Us Californians have been used to forest fires all summer, but now it is getting even more serious. The drought is very real and fire is now finding its way to peoples’ homes. Losing your home has to be one of the hardest things to experience. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost their homes and to all the firefighters fighting fires across our state. Thank you.


The Field of Stay-at-Home Parenting: A Vocation Worth Receiving

Seven stay-at-home parents share what they love about their work and the biggest challenges they face.

“Today I understand vocation quite differently – not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received.” Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

With Labor Day upon us, Americans are about to take that final summer vacation, host their annual BBQ, and toast to the amazing gift of work we get to do everyday to keep our country thriving. Maybe you are fulfilled in your career and could not even imagine leaving. Maybe you are searching for a new field or purpose, or are feeling burned out. Or maybe you are a recent parent and wondering what it would be like to stay home with your child or children?

arrow on wood

Leave A Yellow Arrow for Your Students. Reflections From My Hour on the Camino

arrow on vinesHave you found your way? The Way that feels right. That feels good. The way where you get to walk towards peace, knowledge, passion, success? Or are you walking and looking for a sign, maybe an arrow that tells you to keep walking, you’re going the right way.

Now think of that future student who is deciding right now to choose the way of higher education. Are you ready to really help them?

The Fall semester is fast approaching and many college advisors, professors, and student affairs professionals are asking our young people, adults in need of direction, anyone who wants to register at our local colleges and universities to find their way with us. That we will show them the way. That we will provide direction, guidance and support towards their current dream.

I’m realizing more and more that providing the way is a huge responsibility. Students are putting their trust in us that we will do our part. That our class schedules will line up. That we will teach what we know and they will understand. That the right text books will be available. That there will housing for them. Because trusting takes courage. Doing anything on your own takes courage.

Finding The Way in Spain

I recently returned from an amazing trip to the North Coast of Spain. I was in Spain for my close friend Marta’s wedding. It was my first time traveling alone to Europe. I had been to Germany many times with my husband who was from there. Yet, venturing alone was a new adventure for me. While in Spain, I spent time in the fishing town of Getaria and the beach city of San Sebastian. Both amazing places, with beautiful food, warm temperatures and views straight out of a post card.

arrow in zarautzWhile there, I had magically found I was also in towns that went through the Northern Way or Camino del Norte. The Camino path from San Sebastián to Gijón, Ribadeo and on to Santiago de Compostela. When I planned my trip to Spain, I knew I would be at least an hour car ride from the French Way, the most popular way, which is located in the middle of Spain that takes pilgrims through the mountains of Spain.

With that in mind, the idea of walking the Camino didn’t seem possible. Instead, I planned to enjoy a week of traveling and celebrating both on my own and with my friend and her family. It would be the first time I would be away for a whole 8 days from my two year old twins, 5 year old son and husband since they all came into my life. In motherhood and in marriage, it would seem like a once in a life time trip. For this student affairs pro, mom and wife, it was.

Which leads me back to why finding the Camino and finding your way means so much to me. When you are the one leaving the arrow for the next person, you are believing that your way is worth the walk.

There is more than one way

For years, I advised community college student leaders to plan campus events, represent students and to finish their degrees. I advised to seriously consider transferring and when it got tough, to trust their investment in higher education would pay off. Today, I support students and other professionals through my writing and looking towards my own college degrees to provide my next direction. What I’m realizing now is was what I really needed was a yellow arrow.

It was after the wedding that I discovered the Camino Northern Way. The wedding festives were happening at the San Prudentizic Hotel, over looking the Basque Country.

spainish wineAn area know for Geteriako Txakolina wine, and pinchos (fish and meat on bread). Between the views and this amazing food, life was good and we were all taken care very well. I was part of the crew that was staying at the Hotel Itxas Gain, in downtown Getaria. The crew included myself and this amazing group of PhD students from University of San Fransisco, who happen to be friends of the groom.

To get back to our hotel, we would either need to get a ride or walk. Rumors were flowing that all you need to do is walk the Camino back down the hill. I thought to myself, “The Camino? Wait. The Camino is at least an hour car ride from here.”

What I didn’t realize was, there was more than one route to Santiago de Compostela. I followed the crowd out the door and before I knew it I was walking back to my hotel on the Camino. That night, I thought about the Camino. How here I was, finally near a path I had longed to walk.

Do you ever wonder how many college students out there have felt the same way. That they probably had days where they would drive by your college wondering maybe this is the year I sign up. Or maybe this is the year I come back and finish. That night I decided, I would walk the Camino.

Someone has laid the way

The next morning, I went down to the front desk and shared my desire to walk the Camino. Not sure how long or how far, but that I wanted to walk some part of it. The owner of the hotel printed me a map of the Camino, which way to go, and how to get to the next town. He was a little concerned with me being a newbie. (An hour later I would understand why. The part of the Camino I was to walk would take me up a few steep mountains.) I smiled and said thanked the owner for his advice. I headed back up stairs and packed my bag. My good friend Marta drove me back up to the hotel where the wedding was and where the Camino continued. We hugged, she wished me luck and I was off.

road to camino

The first thing you notice about The Camino is yellow arrows. Someone before you has laid the way. To me it was the best test of faith. For centuries, people, known as Pilgrims have walked these paths; following the directions left by someone before them. At the end of the path is the church Santiago de Compostela. I knew I wanted to walk the direction that the pilgrims were walking. You might be asking, what makes the Camino so different than a hiking trail in the mountains? You get a map and you walk. The Camino offers purpose. Direction.

For our students, we ask them to follow our arrows. To gain purpose. Direction. Maybe it is direction towards a passion. Maybe it is direction out of town. Maybe it is the direction towards a purpose they knew in their heart they would be good at. Either way, we leave arrows for them shaped as educational plans to find their way. I love that someone ahead left an arrow to help me find my way. The Camino, the Way was my way that day. As I walked, I thought to myself, whatever I’m meant to do, to have, to live, to love is the Way. The Way that is meant for me. The yellow arrows taught me to never doubt, the way is always there. You will find the next arrow you need. When you need it.

Why are you walking

The Northern Route travels through 7 large cities and many small towns. To walk the whole thing, from San Sebastian to Santiago, your talking at least 36 days, over 806km. You can carry your supplies and backpack with you or you can invite in a tour guide company that meets you along the way. There are many ways you can sleep on the Camino. Hotels, hostiles, camp. For the hour I walked the Camino, I was able to travel from the town of Getaria to the city of Zumaia.

zumia on the hill

When I got to Zumaia, I felt like I could just keep walking. And walking. I felt this amazing energy along the Camino. At one point I met two Pilgrims from Holland. They had been walking for three months. Whenever you meet someone walking, you always want to ask why? Why are you walking? What are you learning? How has it changed your life? These Pilgrims have taken a break from their lives back home to walk. To connect with nature, themselves, each other. In away, I was doing the same.

I was walking because I always wanted to. But always wanting to do something can only take you so far. What was it that I was really searching for? I wasn’t walking the Camino with my husband like we always planned. So I felt some hesitant to even walk. Will he be hurt I went ahead without him? Yet, years ago, someone told me that the Camino will call you when you least expect it. For a special reason, it was my time. I was to walk, what I could, by myself.

We often ask students, why are you going to college? Why are you studying this particular subject? We ask, because we know purpose fuels direction. That if you know why you are doing something, you are more likely to follow through, even finish it. Maybe even it enjoy it. We also know that getting a college degree or certificate is truly a journey you walk by yourself. There are moments there are others around you to support you, guide you. And then there are times you are left alone to succeed.

I can see now why a student might not finish. I can see how a student might feel overwhelmed with even the idea of 12 units, 4o units, 60 units, 120 units. The pilgrims that passed me, amazed me. The Camino is a long journey that takes time, energy, money, and the will to finish. Earning a college degree is a long journey that takes time, energy, money and the will to finish. Of course, walking the Camino will end faster than a college degree, but they both provide that direction, the need for purpose.

Lesson to be learned

When I was getting off the plane from Madrid, I discovered I was sitting next to a woman and her daughter who had just walked the whole Camino across Spain. It was the mom’s second time. I asked her, what did you learn. She told me everything works out in the end.

The Camino provides you with direction, purpose, yellow arrows. It reminds you to yes, follow the yellow arrows but don’t worry if you don’t see one. Instead, “let it be”. Unless you really need to say something, find something to do, let it be. Life is meant to be enjoyed, to explore, to love, to be inspired, to share. If for some reason you feel lost, look for the “yellow arrow”. It will be there. And if you don’t see it right away, keep walking. You will see it. Sometimes where you least expect it.

For our students, they are walking the Camino of Higher Education. The next time you are with a group of students, and they seem a bit lost, think about the yellow arrows on the Camino and ask yourself, what can I do to provide a sense of direction. What kind of yellow arrow can I leave for them. For you, I’m leaving you with the yellow arrow I found walking to the Combs in San Sebastian. At the moment I took this picture, I felt a sense of peace. My direction, our purpose is meaningful. Keep following your yellow arrow.

arrow in san sebasitian



Checking In. It is Summer! Outside! Outside!

Wow! I haven’t checked in since April?! It has been too long. Will have to say, its Summer in California which means great weather and all I’m hearing from my twins is “Outside!” “Outside”. Plus, pencil in those mini vacations and time flies by.

Reading:  Airport find: The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig. Picked it up on my way to San Sebastian, Spain. Coming soon a blog post inspired from my trip :)

Watching: Speaking of cake, Chef Gordon Ramsay has hooked us again with Master Chef.

Listening to: Two men meet. Right now, I’m at my local Peet’s Coffee and two men are having a business meeting that I’m pretty much part of because I can hear everything they are saying. Next time, I need to remember to bring my headphones :)

Looking forward to: Writing, hiking and water play! Any chance we get.

Sam Update: In 6 weeks, he will officially be in Kindergarten. I’m so proud because he is ready. Ready to spell. Ready to learn how to read. Ready to be at the big kids school. So proud.

Twin Update: Art, art, art everywhere! Can’t keep up :) Oh and amen for Washable Markers!

Meaning of home: Remembering it is home.

As a writer and stay at home parent, I’ve have been more and more aware of how important it is that I get out of the house before I start my day. I want our home to be home. That even though my work right now is raising our children full time, in our home, it is still home. Home is not meant to be a place a work. Home is home. Home is where you come back to relax, refuel.

It is so easy to wake up when you are raising kids and and feel like, bam, your on! When your work is outside the home, there is a break you experience. You leave and then you come back. I probably have written about this before, but I’m going to keep writing about it because it’s a working progress. Remember, home is home. My husband and I are gifted that we have offices that are built into our garage so we can physically leave the “house” part and go into our office. For those who don’t have that. Finding that break between your home and your work is always a working progress until you figure out what works for you. If you haven’t found it. Find it! :)

Two new things that have worked for me: walking/running in my neighbor before my husband goes to work and making sure I take time for myself on Saturday mornings.

check in blog difference to be made

Checking In with Chicka and Ninjago

Reading:  Finished The Confidence Code The Science and Art of Self-Assurance–What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. It was the book of choice for the Women in Student Affairs Spring Twitter book chat. Loved it! Highly recommend it. You find it is a fast read, great data and stories, and leaves you looking at confidence in a whole new light. Next book: when I’m in and out of books, I always go back to The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon. For those who love dogs, you will love this story.

Watching: The sun shining through the morning fog.

Listening to: The kids watching Sprout. They love the Chicka show!

Looking forward to: The beach.

Sam Update: He currently loves Lego’s Ninjago. Building them, watching the show, and bedtime stories are now us reading the comic books of Ninjago.

Twin Update: They are almost two. Two! I still can’t believe it. They are great eaters, repeating words and love books! Lily, big on talking to you. Face to face. She even makes sure you are looking at her. Ellie, is all about sharing. Making sure everyone has a toy to play with, something to eat, however whatever you do don’t change the channel when she is watching something. I think she gets that from her mom 😉

Meaning of home: After months and months of crayons drawings all over our walls, my husband repainted. Just in time for his parents visit. There are still a few spots you can see the girls circles and lines. There is something about letting your kids imagine go. Makes me want to create a drawing station and a place to hang their art. It also reminds me that “there is a difference to made today”, every day. In our home and out in about. Raising kids, in our home, daily, makes the meaning of home even more valuable.

Close up view of the income tax return

The Year My W-2 Said Five Dollars

It’s tax season. You’ve either finished yours, doing them right now or thinking to yourself “I better get on that, fast!” It is also the time in the year where you reflect on the work you did, where you made big changes (kids, marriage, divorce, homes), and how you did financially. As I sat with our new tax person, with all our stuff organized, I remembered that my financial contribution was only going to be $5.00.

2014-11-09 16.17.54

Aggie in Argentina Returns. Transfer Student Studies Abroad Part 2

The Transfer Student Interview Series continues with Lexie Munevar, past community college student leader and now university transfer student who recently studied abroad.

Back in September 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing UC Davis undergraduate Lexie Munevar before she went on her first study abroad experience at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mednoza Argentina. You can read part 1, Aggie in Argentina, here. Before she left on her trip, I asked Lexie some questions about what she was looking forward to, what she hoped to learn, and I promised that I would interview her once again when she got back. Now she is back and I’m happy to share my second interview with you.

In this interview, Lexie provides us with some excellent insight of her life now, great advice on what to do before you study abroad, and insight on the American habits she was happy to let go of when she was in Argentina. Enjoy!

1) Now that you have been back for 2 months now, what have you noticed about yourself? What has changed? (Lexie spent her 2014 fall quarter at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina)

What I’ve noticed about myself is that my outlook on life has been altered a bit.  I definitely experienced counter-culture shock upon arriving home – I wasn’t ready to leave! I compare my adventurous life there where every minute seemed well spent to my routine life back in the States. Yet like all things, you simply get back into the flow of past behaviors even though it had been months since I had driven a car, shopped at a chain grocery store or used a smartphone to get in touch with friends and family. These and many other luxuries were things I forgot about the first week being abroad and not until it was over did I notice that I never missed these things to begin with. I can say I now view and value things differently from the way I used to before my experience living abroad.

2) There is a trend on Travel Blogs to share what American habits they lost when they moved to a new country. What were some of yours?

  • Stopped Checking My Phone. I definitely stopped checking my phone as much as I am used to doing in the States. In order to avoid any security issues, I left my smartphone and laptop at home and would go out with my old flip phone provided by the program. Because I didn’t have much of an interest in it, I wasn’t much of a texter and would actually look at my watch to check the time! I also found myself talking a lot more to people around me because of this and was more observant of my surroundings.
  • Being Fashionably Late. A habit that I obtained being abroad was being fashionably late everywhere. It was definitely part of the culture and as our time there progressed our outings would start later and later. We all got used to this eventually.
  • Started Using Cash More. An American habit that I lost was the famous card swiping habit! Because a lot of places only accepted cash, I got used to carrying pesos around with me at all times whereas in the States I never would have cash because I would always rely on using my card everywhere.

3) What did you learn about international education? Were the classes harder? Same?

I absolutely loved the public university I attended while abroad. My favorite professor there was one of my Argentine professors that taught our Literature & Culture class and Argentine Cinema, both in Spanish. She really engaged us into the material and brought us to all be confident in using the language to the best of our abilities. My two professors that came with us from UC Davis were also excellent professors and proctored the classes just as they would if we were at our campus. The courses were dense, but a lot of it was participation and practicing our literacy skills. Although they were demanding, the professors were understanding that we were abroad and wanted to sightsee and travel as much as possible during our time there so they were somewhat lenient with deadlines. I was proud of myself because despite the heavy load, I was able to pull a 4.0 while abroad.

4)  What did you learn that has changed your life?

This one is a tough one because every time I travel somewhere it always makes me feel like I’ve changed in some way although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how. Argentina was an interesting country because although I was in Latin America there was a strong European influence. The Argentines definitely prided themselves in being of Italian descent. I was prepared for not my typical Latin American experience (or so I thought) but I definitely learned that you can’t really expect absolutely anything to be one way or another when you travel. You just have to go with the flow and try everything! I’ve traveled to Colombia for several consecutive years now and it is familiar territory. Argentina was the first time I was “on my own” for I wasn’t staying with family, had no idea how to navigate around the city upon arriving, and had to learn the new dialect of different words here and there. It was an amazing growing experience and for the first time I felt like I could travel anywhere in the future. It’s all about your mindset and letting go the fear many people, especially women I might add, have of traveling on their own. There is a lot of false misconceptions around Latin America and I think it is important to stress that it’s all about educating yourself prior to travel and utilizing common sense upon arriving.

5) What advice would you give to someone who is planning on studying abroad this summer or fall?

Advice to those going abroad in the future:

  • Research where you will be going! Although there is the folk that loves to dive into the unknown, a little background information never hurt anyone! Take advantage of review websites such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet for helping you choose where you will stay (if you are not doing homestay), what is worthwhile seeing, conversation hour exchanges, etc.
  • Look up how their economy is doing. It’s a good idea to see what their currency is valued at and figure out the exchange rate beforehand – You don’t want to get ripped off in a taxi upon arriving! I used OANDA.com which you can also download onto your smartphone.
  • Have a backup plan in case you run out of money abroad! Take some cash with you and if possible also take at least ONE card with you to use abroad in case of an emergency. If you run out of money a great website to transfer money to yourself or have parents send you money is Xoom.com.
  • Have copies of all forms of identification. I strongly recommend making copies of all forms of identification you take on the trip with you – Passport, drivers license, etc. To play it safe, I would leave my IDs at home and take the copies with me when I went out.
  • Keep in touch with family members and/ or loved ones back home! It is very easy to get carried away in your adventures and forget to keep in touch. But you don’t want to leave on a 10-day excursion where you will be without communication to the States and have family members frantic over your whereabouts!

Final Thoughts? These are all common sense tips I learned abroad that I think are very useful and worth emphasizing. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity of traveling anywhere due to fear of the unknown or stereotypes the country may have. There are so many beautiful countries out there with so many things that are worthwhile living and seeing for yourself!

Thank you Lexie! To read more from Lexie’s study abroad experience, you can visit her blog at Aggie in Argentina


The 4th Semester Sweet Spot

If my 21 month old twins were one of my community college AS board members, then I’ve just hit the 4th Semester Sweet Spot. You know that moment when it hits you that you have a number of students who will be graduating or transferring next fall and this semester or quarter will be your last with them?  They are the students in your group who have started to hear back from colleges and universities and/or are nervous every day because they know this could be the day they hear something and their life is going to change forever. And for you, the reality has really set in that they probably won’t be on your board next year.

You either feel a wow, I’ve been advising them for a 1 year and 1/2 now or more and they are amazing. I really got through to them. Or you might be asking yourself, will I ever make a difference with that student? But you’ve hit the sweet spot. The moment you know your time with them is getting shorter, so you cherish the good stuff. You look ahead to the Spring and know you and your team are going to rock it.

My twins will be 2 in May and can officially start preschool. I’ve hit the sweet spot. It’s been pretty amazing to know I’ve been their mom, plus their first advisor, teacher and friend. I’m going to miss spending my days with them. However, this mama is going to be proud, the way I’ve been with all my past students.

So fellow advisors, take a moment and take in the 4th Semester Sweet Spot. You deserve it! Every student who comes into your life has a story and a journey, and you get the honor of being part of it.

checking in feb 14 photo

Checking In

Reading:  This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Was at the library and did a quick check on new arrivals and found her book. I remember how much I enjoyed her NPR interview. Looking forward to the book.

Watching: The Big Bang Theory. I’m so proud of my husband and I. Through work deadlines, raising twins and now a five year old. We could easily just crash, but thanks to our love of Big Bang, we made couch time happen. Which meant we got some us time. Yay!

Listening to: right now, nothing. Sweet silence before the twins wake from their nap. Only the sound of the washer going in the garage.

Looking forward to: the weekends. I stopped doing laundry on the weekends. I know I will be home during the week. Now, I fill more and more like a break happens. Where before, I couldn’t tell the difference between a Monday and a Saturday. The photo above is from one of our weekend road trips. The ripples were made by twin Ellie, throwing a rock into the water.

Sam Update: he’s officially 5. So close to taking those training wheels off and even more and more amazing to know, thanks to his love of telling us what’s he now knows.

Twin Update: help! 21 month toddlers times 2! Running, climbing, happy, sad, frustrated, loving sometimes at the same time, sometimes not. Wow!

Meaning of home: Most nights, I read this book to the girls called Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel. Lily loves it because she gets to say the word “Steve”. Towards the end of the book, there is this great sentence that sums up the meaning of home for me: “Through the years Mom and I have tried to show you, in a world filled with strangers, the peace that comes having things you can count on and a safe place to return to after a hard day or a long trip.” Wishing that feeling for everyone.

8 days a week photo

8 Days a Week x Twins: Planning a Schedule for Toddlers

First published on November 28, 2014 on Twiniversity.com

It’s Wednesday. The girls are looking at me, looking for something to do. On Saturday, they turn sweet 16 months. I’m looking back at them. “Now what?” They have torn my house apart. My days have turned into weeks. My exercise has turned into me bending down to pick up a toy, a sock, a piece of food all through the day. I’ve got to find us something to do or I will be cleaning for the rest of my life.