Category Archives: Photo blog

Sunday haiku

Ah, Brussels airport.

Nice quiet haven for me.

Introverts unite.

introvert chair Brussels airport

Taken by mexi minnesotana in Brussels airport May 19, 2018

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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Out of hiding

short-and-sassy-front.jpg

Yup, it’s me.

I took the plunge yesterday and went much shorter on the hair. My stylist told me it takes a strong woman to pull off short hair effectively. I like that. I am going to rock the short hair. It is a symbolic way for me to “signal” the changes to my work colleagues, since I will be seeing several on my team next week in Belgium.

I have decided to come out of “hiding” here on the blog as well, since I aim to integrate the work and personal worlds I inhabit, gradually, at a pace that works for me.

About 8 years ago, I was going through another big life transition and was not as attentive or focused at work as I strive to be. I felt burned out and my boss was blithely dumping more work onto an already full plate. I had no sense of boundaries or how to say no. I had not yet learned how to communicate my distress effectively, to ask for help or to push back.

In addition to that, I had moved out of the home where I had been living for a few years with my partner and his children (part-time, as they also spent time with their mother). I had not yet grieved the loss of that life, even though my soul was relieved that I had left.

Perceiving my lack of commitment and energy for a few weeks during my move, my boss asked me what was wrong and suspected there was something outside of work bothering me. In fact there was, and I explained to her (in a vague way) what was going on. Instead of having empathy and giving me some understanding about my need to heal, she put me on a performance improvement plan.

short-and-sassy-back.jpg

This is WAY shorter than I have worn my hair in about 2 decades.

For those who do not know, this is code for “you’d better shape up and get into gear or you will get fired.” The letter she gave to me outlined the ways in which I needed to improve my work within 90 days or I may be terminated. It was a shock to me. I was also bitter about the fact that she seemed to use the personal information I shared with her against me.

Looking back there are many other ways to interpret her actions. But it was the time I began walling off parts of my professional life from my personal life, as much as I could. I had been “hiding” my a.d.d. from her as well, even though I had seen it as an asset to the position, my flexibility in catching whatever was tossed my way, up to a point.

I gathered my energy, went to see an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor at my workplace, and tried to figure out how I was going to make this work. He helped me see that I was suffering from a minor depression and that I needed to take more proactive steps to communicate with my boss on the work overload. He explained that managers at this workplace like it when employees come to them with potential solutions, not just problems.

He helped me figure out more effective ways to communicate, rather than the passive-aggressive (i.e. Minnesotan) tactic I had been using to push back. He also referred me to the book The Chemistry of Joy, by Dr. Henry Emmons, which helped me proactively manage my depression through both Western and Eastern wisdom. Wow, am I ever grateful for his support and help.

I worked my ass off to get out of the PIP. Even though my boss was not yet thrilled with my work, she said I had improved substantially. It was not until the year after that, when we hired a second person to help with the growing workload, that she really appreciated my skills. It was really hard to find someone who knew clinical research and who was also bilingual! We were not just a dime a dozen. She began treating me differently and better, appreciating my unique constellation of skills.

For the past three years I have held (and rocked) the manager position that she left when she opted to go to a different department. I am a better boss because of that experience, even though it was hellish at the time. I want to come “out of hiding” with my struggles because I want others to know you can get through tough times and come out on the other side. It is important to find support, and to realize you are not alone.

You will get through it, and you will develop amazing resilience in the process. Peace and love, readers.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday haiku – 2 verses for Buenos Aires

Oh, Buenos Aires.

At last I return again.

To receive your gifts.

***

dog-playing.jpg

Dog playing in Plaza Libertad, Buenos Aires, Argentina.  © mexi-minnesotana March 24, 2018. Copy with attribution to the author.

Dog splashing in pond.

Sun embracing us all now.

Blessings flow our way.

 

 

 

Holiday weekend haiku (2 verses)

Three days, my love. Ah!

I am ready for a break.

January blues.

Muerte con colores

Sculpture on Isla Holbox – taken on our trip September 2017. Copyright mexi-minnesotana. 

Mexico beckons.

Minnesota is TOO cold!

Be patient, darling.

 

 

 

Frosted window pane

Candles gleaming inside…

You know the song, right? It is a lovely one, a favorite Christmas song.

frosted window pane

But now Christmas has passed, and this final weekend of 2017 we in the Twin Cities (and north) we are under a wind chill advisory. When I got out of bed this morning, it was -16F with a windchill factor of -30F. Where my parents live, it is -24F with a windchill factor in the 40’s below zero.

The window panes are indeed frosted and I post the photo evidence here. Fortunately, I think we have enough food in the house that we do not need to leave here before Monday.

I feel a little restless, having stayed up the last 3 days while my husband had to work. It was nice, and I truly enjoyed it, but I also enjoy some fresh air now and then.

This is one reason so many Minnesotans plan a winter vacation (escape) somewhere warm, usually in January, but February is a good month for that too. I realize it reflects privilege to be able to do this, and not everyone can afford such an escape.

Actually this year, hubby and I are trying to be frugal, and are not planning a winter vacation. We would like to buy a house in the next year or two, and that involves prioritizing our down payment savings. I have to confess that I am a “winter wimp” and I do not spend any more time outside in winter than is required.

Oh sure, when the temps are above 20, I will take a walk or something if the sun is out and the ground is not too icy. Back in 2008 I took a bad spill on the ice, broke my shoulder (hairline fracture) and injured my rotator cuff. It was painful, and I had a really hard time not being able to run or walk on a treadmill, or do yoga class.

It is incredible what a difference exercise makes to someone who struggles with a.d.d. or with the winter blues. Fortunately I have a gym that is only 1.6 miles away from home, and I can get over there if truly needed. I feel some guilt over wasting a lot of gasoline to warm up my car sometimes, but desperate measures, folks.

When I look back at my facebook feed from last year, I notice we were on Kauai for a wedding of two of my long-time friends. My imagination reaches back, and can access some of the warmth from that time. Aw, I really am a lucky chica. I found a photo from our motorcycle day trip into Waimea Canyon that I am sharing. Ah, sun!

Waimea Canyon

Stay warm, friends.

 

Motorcycle, open road and 2 fresh-air junkies

This Tuesday as my hubby and I escaped weather that was -20F (windchill factor -30F), I had an impulse to revisit a favorite trip of ours from almost 5.5 months ago, when the weather was quite different. Photos are either from his phone or mine, and/or grabbed from the web with attribution where not original.

This past July my husband (then fiance) and I took a trip around Lake Superior, starting on the Minnesota side from the Twin Cities and running clockwise. It was a wonderful journey, made precious by the fact that we had never made that trip before, and the fact that my husband had taken care of 95% of the planning beforehand.

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Camping trailer, VTX, and our bear canister.

He even re-furbished a motorcycle camping trailer that we were able to use for 6 out of the 10 nights we were away from home. It would have been 8 nights but we opted to upgrade to a hotel on two of the nights when the campgrounds seemed to soggy for us as 40-somethings who enjoy comfortable beds. With hubby doing 100% of the driving, it was important for him to get adequate rest. See how good I am at justifying my desire for comfort? 😉

We wanted to explore one of the wonderful treasures of our Midwest home: Lake Superior. We love Canada and have traveled many times to Thunder Bay and that area. The first time we traveled there was just after we had gotten engaged, and we stayed in the McVicar Manor B&B. I am sad to see when I look online that this may have closed. I know Dorothy and Tom, the owners at the time, were planning to retire.

Perhaps it is a seasonal closing, as I know they do spend some months of the year traveling.

In any case, hubby found many great camp sites where we could stay all around the lake, as well as a B&B in Sault Ste Marie and some other hotels where we spontaneously stayed when we encountered rain a couple of days in July.

At the start we arrived in Canada during their national holiday, just before the U.S. Independence Day holiday. It was Canada Day, eh! And we found an abundance of people camping, with Canadian flags on display at campsites. The provincial park system in Canada is amazing, and has generally more secluded sites than the typical American camp groud.

My favorites were Sleeping Giant Park and Lake Superior Provincial Park. Hubby took this wonderful photo from Agawa Bay in Superior Park, where we camped right along the shoreline. It was gorgeous, and quite warm that evening. But we started a camp fire anyway, because it is our tradition.

Agawa Bay - Superior

Original photo taken by husband of mexi-minnesotana. Use with attribution only.

The views from the Canada side were rather spectacular and hubby has hours of unedited video from his Go-Pro which attached like an antenna to his helmet. I kept teasing him about looking like a Martian with that darn thing stuck to the helmet.

Awww, but this is why I keep reading that spending money on experiences rather than things proves to be the most satisfying. There is the excitement and anticipation of the event, then the event itself and then recalling fond memories of the event.

As we cope with the dark months of winter, and I recover from the last dregs of this winter/holiday cold, these thoughts of an enjoyable vacation in the summer of 2017 warm my heart. Where are you planning your next vacation? 

O Canada

O Canada! Another view from a similar vantage point, taken by mexi-minnesotana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(W)oh… Mexico

Do you know the James Taylor song “Mexico”?

You can look it up on You-Tube if you have not heard it in a while. I looked it up recently because I could not remember all the lyrics.

I don’t like the line about “sleepy señorita” with eyes on fire.  That feeds into a cultural stereotype that rings dissonant and untrue to all the non-sleepy Mexicanas I know, that work harder than 99% of the Americanos I know. But other than that, Taylor’s song is a dreamy fantasy on his idea of what Mexico must be like:

Woh, down in Mexico, I’ve never really been so I don’t really know.

Woh, Mexico, I guess I’ll have to go.

Muerte con colores

Muerte con colores (taken on Isla Holbox, Mexico – Sept 2017)

Next week I will travel to Mexico to interview some clinical research specialist candidates for an open position on my team. I always enjoy visiting, even though I prefer the country-side and the beach to the big city. I feel at home in Mexico in a way, even though my skin is lighter than most people (thanks to my Swedish grandmother) and I am also taller than most people there, at nearly 5’8″.

I guess you could say I have a romance with Mexico. It makes sense. Half of my blood ancestry is from there, and when I speak Spanish, it is with the same accent as my Dad, from whence my language skills arose as a young child. When I speak with my colleagues in Latin America, sometimes they ask me where I am from. I am sure they are thinking: “Her accent sounds authentic, but her grammar sucks! Where the heck did she learn her Spanish?”

Well, perhaps they judge me less harshly than I judge myself. But since it takes me about 48 hours down there to “flip on” the Spanish module in my brain, my grammar usually takes a little while to catch up with my communication intentions. My “lengua materna” – my “mother tongue” is English. Typically for children our mother tongue is our primary language, our base from which other languages can grow, if we speak more than one.

Early in my childhood, I visited Mexico. When I was 1, 3 and 7 we visited during the summers (my parents were teachers). I was “mariposa” and “reinecita” to my grandparents there, butterfly and little queen. Early photographs of me with them show their pride in me. They loved how I looked at my wrist as though there was a watch when people asked me “qué hora son?” (what’s the time?) even before I could really speak. They knew I understood.

Courtyard in Saltillo

Courtyard in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico

When I was 7 years old, my Dad his lost his Mom to cancer (the same year my Mom lost her Father to cancer) and after that, he did not have the heart to visit his home town of Saltillo again for decades. Dad is not fond of airplanes, and he prefers to drive down. I flew down in 2014 to meet him there, while he drove the long journey after a stop in Texas to visit with his sister and her family.

I spent about a week there, and I was fascinated to discover how musically talented my family is, and how beautifully they sing and play the guitar together. My Dad has been a musician for much of his life, playing on weekends and during the summer as a “side gig” even though his main profession was as a bilingual teacher. I wrote before about how my Mom first met him when she studied in Mexico after graduating from college in less than 4 years to teach Spanish.

I called Mom from Mexico during that trip, while I was staying in the duplex where my four of my aunties live. Two of my aunties are nuns, one of them is a widow and one is married with two beautiful children. Mom asked me if now I knew why she fell in love with Dad and his whole family. Indeed I did. They are lovely people, and their hospitality was amazing. I connected with aunts, uncles and cousins I had not known before. Some of us also connected on social media and still stay in touch that way.

Returning to my roots and knowing them better helped me know myself better. I have always been more connected to Minnesota and my Mom’s family. As I keep returning to Mexico periodically for work or vacations, I continue to experience a sense of re-connection within myself. I was born in Wisconsin, and identify myself now as a Minnesotan, having lived more than half my life here if you count summers in my youth.

Isla de pajaros

Isla de Pájaros  (Bird Island) near Holbox, Mexico

Yet Mexico continues to call to me, a siren song that enters my consciousness when I consider leaving my current job. I try to imagine what other kind of work would allow me to keep visiting there regularly. This is a kernel I need to keep in mind as I consider my alternatives.

I love exploring many countries, cultures and places. This is one aspect that keeps me in my current position, these precious international travel benefits. But I am especially interested in cultures that speak Spanish, since this is a part of my origin and ancestry as well. My husband and I have plans someday to honeymoon in Europe, but we are saving up for this. I do not like to go into debt now that I am in my 40’s. My husband has always wanted to visit the U.K., as have I (my grandfather on my mother’s side is from Cornwall). I also want to explore the Spanish countryside. Someday perhaps I will get to Sweden to see where my great-grandmother was born.

But a big part of my heart is in Mexico, and will never leave there. My feminist grounding tells me my role in empowering women (and men) I work with currently is a an important investment of my time. Then I consider other ways I can contribute to the country of my ancestors, while bridging the gap in understanding among the people I know here in Minnesota.

I am still figuring out what the next step on the path will look like for me. And some part of me tells me it will not be a well-worn path, but rather one in which I will need to bring a hatchet or some clearing tools to get through dense vegetation. It may need creativity and a clearer vision of what is possible.

I have been consulting mentors, teachers, peers and wise leaders on advice and thoughts about how to think about my future vocation. But ultimately, I will need to enter into the quiet wilderness of my soul to discover what she means to me, this Mexico that calls to me both in sleeping and waking hours.

Yum Balam protected island

Sign on a protected island we visited while on vacation – Holbox, Mexico (Sept 2017)