TBT: Feliz cumpleaños, Papa

mexico flag country
Photo credit link

It is my Dad’s birthday today and so in his honor, I am posting an edited version of last year’s tribute to him.

My Dad’s choice of vocation as a bilingual teacher fundamentally shaped the way I look at the world. His countless presentations to school boards on language learning and the value of bilingual versus ESL-type programs shaped my thinking about social justice and education. He and Mom did highly influential work together to defend and protect educational opportunities for children of (originally) migrant workers in our small town.

Dad was called to serve these children and their parents, who needed a strong advocate for their education. He worked with them to help ensure they could get the best education possible. He believed in their potential and was ready to nurture it every step of the way, building a strong base of skills and also self-confidence. His work as an elementary level teacher touched so many young children’s lives in a powerful and profound way.

We used to go to the classroom late at night, my Mom and Dad and my sister, to put up bulletin boards at the beginning of each new month. My sister also remembers how “cool” it was for Dad to have a key to the school, and he and Mom could work there after hours, when it was easier to get work done uninterrupted. Having special access to the school meant that we could run down the hallways while nobody was there! So much fun. We could never get away with that during a school day.

father daughter reading
Photo credit link

I remember Dad teaching me to read by the time I was 4 years old. That made my kindergarten experience boring, since I was amazed we had to go back through all the letter books. Really?!? Can nobody else read yet? I got to skip my  reading classes in favor of going to the bilingual classroom several hours a day. This saved me from the torture of repeating what I had already mastered.

Dad nurtured that spark of learning within me, and that has been a constant throughout my life. I learn quickly, and greedily, reading books as fast as I can. Of course, having a bit of challenge with attention, I sometimes read a book twice in order to fully absorb it.

Both Mom and Dad believed in reading to us when we were young, and this may be one reason I still love to read. I also enjoy audio books because it is a sweet memory to have someone read to me. For sure, my Grandmother had great influence as well. She was an avid reader and consummate learner.

Dad was amazingly patient with classrooms full of children. They behaved well for him. He almost never sick days but when he did, the substitutes were always amazed by his class. He created partnerships with parents and got to know them well throughout the year.

Hispanic parents typically do not tolerate misbehavior by their children in school. One call from “el Maestro” was enough to get a student to realize they could not misbehave in his classroom without having consequences happen at home. Their culture still has high respect for teachers. Sometimes Dad brought in psychologists as guest speakers to talk with the parents about how to help their kids at home, and was devoted to helping those young minds open and bloom.

Dad faced racism in his experience as an educated Mexican living in a small town, a very “white” town. The parents of his students respected him a great deal, but some of the teachers he worked with did not. Indeed some of the administrators did not, but he did have good principals. One particular school superintendent took special interest in his classes. This leader, noticing how respectful and well-behaved my Dad’s classes were, made sure that the direction from the top was to expand the bilingual program, not to cut back, as some school boards had tried to do.

respect

One of the greatest lessons I learned from my Dad (and Mom taught me this as well) was that you should treat everyone with respect. A person’s “station” in life does not matter. Whether they are a teacher, a principal, a janitor or a cook, you must treat each person with dignity and respect. This is fundamental to the way I interact with the world, and is something I strive to emulate as well.

I am truly grateful to my Dad, and for all the lessons I learned through the way he and my mother live their lives. Teaching is a vocation, not just a job. I like to say I come from a family of teachers, and it is true, multiple generations. I am immensely proud of that.

Happy birthday, Dad!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Deeply flawed

I heard a news program today describe the two presidential candidates in 2016 as “deeply flawed.” They were commenting on the fact that a lot of millennial-aged people who voted in 2012 did not vote in 2016.

I get it. I do.

I was a big fan of Hillary, and I knew she was a flawed candidate. You know why? Because nobody is perfect. Because anyone who has been in politics for any length of time has made lots of public mistakes. I guess I’ll argue that a candidate that has openly bragged about assaulting women, or has committed treason by inviting Russia to hack our democracy has deeper flaws than Hillary. But that is a matter than can be debated, and I am biased.

People are messy. People are imperfect. Democracy is messy. And yet, I still prefer it to any other alternative. We need to show up and make our voices heard. 

deeply flawed

Democracy is a team sport. Even if you are on the bench, you still have to take a position at least during elections. Abstaining means the same old, same old people.

If you want that, fine. If you want to maintain our democracy and assure that all people continue to have their rights protected: VOTE!

I hate negative ads as much as anyone, and I am grateful the election will be over in one week here in the U.S. Make a decision. Show up at the polls. Even if you don’t vote for all the offices, at least find out your local candidate race (for Senate or Congress) and vote for that one.

Are any of us without sin?

I doubt it. Which means: we need leaders, flawed or not. If you want better, run yourself. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

(end soapbox rant)

 

 

Farewell, with gratitude

On Monday I learned of the passing of Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, and inventor of the first battery-powered, wearable pacemaker.

I worked with Medtronic for 11+ years, and I got to see firsthand the commitment of so many people to the mission: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. Earl had endless creativity and persistence around the invention of technologies that could help physicians treat their patients.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Cristy with Earl Bakken. Photo taken August 2009 at the Mission and Medallion ceremony. 

For many years, there was an annual “mission and medallion” ceremony where new employees would learn more about the mission and history of the company. We were “inducted” into the Medtronic way, and the important focus on quality and a patient-centered culture.

I used to love the annual holiday party and employee meeting that Bakken implemented, where we would hear from patients who had received devices, and the difference in their quality of life (or in some cases, life itself). It was moving to hear stories of real patients and to connect with the mission on that level. In clinical research there can be a lot of bureaucratic processes to enable to get things done, because of regulations. Keeping our focus on the patients served always kept us striving toward excellence and quality, despite the challenges.

Earl Bakken was a role model and a humble leader in his 40 years at the helm of Medtronic. He hired good people and got out of the way to let them do their jobs, said Earl Hatten (employee #8 of the company that now employs 84,000 people). After he left Medtronic, he stayed involved in many philanthropic endeavors. His focus was on enabling people to live full lives, not just implanting devices.

I am honored to have been part of the company he co-created, and to have shared in that journey for a substantial part of my career. I am grateful for the impact and influence Earl Bakken had on so many people, employees, patients and communities.

Thank you, Earl. Your legacy lives on through the dedicated work that continues today.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Christine and Anita

Reader Warning: the following blog contains profanity and may not be suitable for young audiences. I will try to keep it to a minimum. Or maybe I am just not able to do that. So f*ck it.

My first response to reading Christine Blasey Ford’s opening statement (from a post at NPR News) to the Senate is: WHAT THE F*CK?!?

Kavanaugh
Judge Kavanaugh, photo credit New York Daily News

I have a strong sense of deja-vu in learning her story. This is a reputable woman who has much to lose by coming forward. I admire her courage deeply. She reminds me so much of Anita Hill, and of course the story echoes in all consciousness of women everywhere.

The #MeToo movement happened because way too many women have suffered either sexual assault and some point in their lives or sexual harassment in the workplace.

No more!

This has got to STOP.

Apparently Americans are divided along gender lines about whether they believe Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh, based on polls conducted Sept 22 to 24. But I am pretty convinced that when her public statement is read, and people learn her story, that attitude may shift.

Christine
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Photo credit: sky news

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has two Master’s degrees and a PhD. From her background and the context of her story, it is clear she has absolutely nothing to gain from coming forward with her story. The reason she came forward (and did so anonymously at first) was she felt like it was her civic duty.

Indeed, we must expect exemplary behavior from our Supreme Court Justices, or anyone in a position of such importance. Character is clearly an important part of the selection process, or one would hope the Senate would have that opinion.

What I am hearing from some of the Senators during the questioning process really disturbs me. One of them seemed to imply that a little “innocent” fun when men are teenagers is nothing that should derail someone’s career.

No!
Photo credit link

When will the “boys will be boys” excuse going away? And what is the impact if we dismiss this type of behavior, to someone who denies it and never apologized nor saw it as wrong?T hat is when I lost it and started screaming at my radio! What happened to Dr. Ford is was not innocent fun. It was a near rape. It was sexual assault. What will it say to teenage boys in the world and world if we call that a little “innocent fun?” Wow. No. Just NO! On so many levels.

Unfortunately I didn’t note the name of the Senator who asked that particular question. I would cite it here. Shame on him. What is clear to me is the role of male privilege in our power structures. Women are done with this. An unprecedented number of women have filed to run for office in 2018, 390 for the House of Representatives. This is not unrelated to the election of a “harasser in chief” who does not even deserve the title of President.

Anita
Anita Hill, AP photo credit: NPR

Anita Hill suffered and fortunately recovered and was able to go on to become a professor of sociology, law and gender studies at Brandeis. Hill believes that the current hearing cannot be “fair and thorough” and she told NPR that the hearing cannot provide enough information to reach a conclusion.

Where will we end up in the process of these hearings?

This remains to be seen.

What I know is that we need to denounce this kind of behavior. Unequivocally, and no matter what the result is of any investigation. We cannot say or even imply that this behavior is acceptable. Ever.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

Windows on the world

Arty colorful kitchen
Kitchen of the Airbnb with Yoshi and Yello

Yesterday was a long travel day. Longer than I expected. By the time we arrived at our final Airbnb we had been “in motion” for 8.5 hours. This included a ride to the train Doune station, a train ride to Edinburgh, a tram ride to the airport, some time eating lunch there, a short flight to London Luton, a train ride to the tube station. A couple tube transfers later, we finally made it to Canary Wharf, up three sets of stairs to a lovely and artistically decorated renovated warehouse flat here.

attract fun
mantra on the mantel of this Airbnb

Having been out & about among people for so long (and in such confined quarters on the tube) with people, I was feeling ready to shut out the world, not visit with our hosts. Hopefully they understood. My introvert self wanted to retreat, spend time alone or just with my husband. On day 13 of this vacation, I now feel relieved we will be going home tomorrow. I miss my own bed, our quiet townhome, our kitties who will no doubt be a bit miffed with us for being gone for 2 weeks.

every-moment.jpg
This applies to our trip.

I enjoy doing the Airbnb experience because it gives you a window on people’s lives in another part of the world. While I am not wild about the times we have had to share a bathroom (about half of the lodgings on this trip), I still think the experience beats staying in a standard, traditional hotel. You must read the descriptions carefully and the reviews to make sure a place fits your needs.

On the eve of returning home, sitting in this lovely apartment and enjoying some solitude, I would still do the trip this way. I may be a little more selective on locations, and try to stay at least 2 days (sometimes 3) in each, instead of the few where we only had one night en route. Given the limitations of not driving here, I would say I did fairly well.

I may have a little “armchair” sociologist in me, getting this window on another person’s life and home, getting fuel for my future stories and books I will write. And part of me enjoys the adventure of not knowing exactly what we will find each time. Not only do you save some money off the expense of regular hotels, but you also gain the benefit of receiving an inside look at some of the real ways people live.

I am taking home with me a treasure trove of new experiences, ideas, inspirations and some lessons as well. How grateful I am for all of it.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Unsung art
Unhung art from the living room of the final Airbnb in Canary Wharf.

 

 

 

 

 

Travel notes to self

Hello Friends,

My usual Saturday share is on holiday as I am traveling on my honeymoon/1-year anniversary trip with my husband until the 19th. As I work out final travel details for this trip, I thought I would reflect a bit on the best and hardest parts of this trip so far, and what I am “filing away” for future reference.

We had a lovely visit to Loch Lormond, Glencoe, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness yesterday. I definitely recommend a visit to the Scottish Highlands if you travel here – the beauty of the landscape is worth it. We used Timberbush Tours, because I found a brochure in the train station in Glasgow that offered some options we could consider. Definitely worth trying to book a few days in advance or a couple weeks, since a couple of the tours we considered were already full for just one day in advance.

It was definitely a satisfying day though quite long, starting at 7:45 a.m. to meet the bus and not returning to the city center until 7:30 p.m. at night. But the drive was worth it. My hubby got some excellent photos and I will be sure to share them in future posts.

Urquhart Castle
Castle Urquhart, taken September 14, 2018.  Use only with attribution to mexi-minnesotana, please.

This morning I woke up thinking about how to modify our trip to perhaps cut one long(er) train trip out and replace it with a short flight. We have one night in Edinburgh, one night in Manchester and two nights in London reserved via AirBnB for the final days of our trip. I realize that having only one night in a place versus two can feel too rushed on a trip like this.

In our first 6 nights here, we had two nights in each location, and that felt like a good pace, time to settle in and also time to explore. Then we only had one night in Liverpool, and I could have used two. Arriving in Glassgow I felt very tired and trip weary.

I am researching a change to two nights in Edinburgh, and two nights in London, canceling the visit to Manchester and flying directly from Edinburgh to London, making it a shorter trip back. I am considering that idea, though it looks like our Edinburgh host does not have a second day available so we would still have to find a 2nd night there.

What I am learning is that my exuberance in seeing so many places needs to be balanced with our need for rest and relaxation on a trip. I think in the future, I will try to book 2-3 nights in each place and be more selective about the number of locations we visit. It is so hard to choose! I want to see everything and go everywhere!

But in the end, I do not want to arrive home exhausted, feeling like I need a rest to “recover” from my vacation. So I will make mindful choices after this trip experience and with our needs and desires in mind.

Cheers & happy weekend, all.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Throwback Thursday – This moment, this breath

The following is an edited post from this blog originally posted in March 2018. It seemed appropriate as I stay as fully present as possible during my travels, noticing as much as I can around me. ‘Hope you are having a great week.

***

All we have is this moment. The past exists only in our memories. And the future exists only in our imagination.

Neither the past nor the future exist, except in our minds.

All we have is this moment, right now, anchored to the body by this breath, and our awareness of being HERE.

By awakening to this moment, developing the awareness to keep coming back here again and again, we develop gratitude and wonder for the abundance around us.

People and companies from all channels, from t.v., and the internet, try to sell us happiness. As though it could be found in a can of Coke, the latest shoes, or car or whatever accessory they urge us to buy and consume.

In the meantime, when we are aware that nothing outside of us can bring us true joy, and that we can tap an inner well of joy at any time, we are truly free.

We give thanks for our existence, for that miracle of being born in a time when we can create, as a species, more than we will ever need to survive.

We become conscious of over-using resources of the earth without regard for consequences. By not cultivating ecological harmony for future generations, we short-change gifts we received with no work on our part. Many were granted just by being born on this earth.

As we sit in stillness and awareness of this moment, let us realize this great gift. Let us restore and heal our mother earth and honor her for how she has fed us and sheltered us. We thank her for granting all the raw materials we need to apply our human ingenuity and work to transform into tools for better living.

She has not failed us and continues to give generously. Let us pledge never to fail her.

divine feminine
Photo credit link – The Divine Feminine and Return of the Sacred Wisdom of Creation

Love and blessings,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

(a prayer/meditation to honor the divine feminine, handwritten by mexi minnesotana on March 1, 2018, transcribed March 2, 2018.)

Barbican to Cornwall

Window onto the sea, Cornwall
Window from Cornwall

On Sunday we took the Plymouth Ferry from the Barbican to Cremyll. I was excited to arrive in Cornwall. This is where my Grandfather (Jim) was born, and where my great Grandma Tizzie (Elizabeth) and great Grandpa (James) lived before they emigrated to the New World. Great Grandpa died when Jim was very young. He’d been a coal miner, according to his marriage certificate. It is probably not a mystery why they chose to leave England. Opportunities in the early teens of 1900’s were slim where they lived.

Welcome to Cornwall
Cremyll upon disembarking the Plymouth ferry

Tizzie raised her two boys mostly on her own. She was a proper English woman, though not of noble birth. She loved her tea and scones.

She was a practical woman, and I believe she was thinking of her health and wellness when she re-married in her 70’s to a man in his 50’s. It was a bit scandalous at the time, but given that she lived well into her 90’s, I believe she chose well.

I dearly love this coastline and the English countryside. So far, this has been my favorite part of the U.K. trip. While in London, it was fun to see the historical sties and to enjoy the city life. But I much prefer the more open spaces and the charm of the coastal towns of England.

Mount Edgcumbe Castle
Mount Edgcumbe in Cremyll, England

There is plenty of history here, and Saturday evening my husband and I found the Mayflower steps, where the Pilgrims first set sail for the new world in 1620. I love thinking about what that might have been like, to get on a ship to a land which scarcely anyone (except the First Nation people, who already lived there) had seen.

I thought about the courage and blind faith of people who sought religious freedom and better opportunities for their families. I considered all of the things that could (and did) go wrong on board the ships. Disease, storms, failures of navigation, starvation aboard ships, and all manner of risks beset travelers in those days.

Cawsand from the Coastal walk
Cawsand, Cornwall: view from the Coastal walk

With odds like that, it is a wonder that so many made the journey. Tossing caution to the wind, early immigrants dreamed of a future that would hold more freedom their past.

It makes me distinctly proud of my heritage and the people who brought me here, particularly my grandparents. I consider the brave choices that they made that allowed for the privilege of my life as it is and I am profoundly grateful. It makes also me sad that today we seem to have a political climate that seeks to isolate rather than welcome immigrants today.

Since I am a mix of English, Swedish, Mexican, possibly Spanish and some German ancestry, of course my bias is that mixing cultures is a good thing. I realize not everyone feels this way. But I hang onto that vision of the “new world” that my ancestors held in their minds as they traveled.

Then I contemplate how we might extend this privilege to more people in a world that is more polarized than ever, yet globalized at the same time. I do not have the answer. I just wonder if it might be possible. What do you think?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com