I have recently discovered some insightful books by Dani Shapiro. One is an audio book called Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love. The other is called Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage. Dani Shapiro also has a podcast called Family Secrets, through which I have discovered some other beautiful authors as well.
So this week’s Saturday share is a quote that resonated with me from Hourglass.
Wow. Yes. Time is ever falling away. Be present to your life, as much as you can. And don’t take it too seriously. It’s only life, after all.
My sister and I have been on a road trip in Canada, and it is the first time we have crossed this northern border together. It has been a lovely long weekend and we will return by Monday night to our parent’s home to recount our adventures.
I really enjoyed this time with my sister. She is a wise and compassionate person and as a registered nurse, gave me a lot of insight into the healthcare system. We have talked nearly nonstop the whole trip and I really appreciate her perspective. She has noticed some of the charming peculiarities about Canada that I love so much. And we knew we were in a different country with a different culture.
Many signs were in English and French. In the U.S., they are typically all in English, occasionally in Spanish or some other languages. Temperature is measured in Celsius, not Fahrenheit, gas is measured in liters, not gallons.
Canadians are friendly and welcoming. They seemed to lack the tension and paranoia that people seem to have in the United States. Canada feels relaxed. We are not sure if this is related to their lack of anxiety on health care. Or maybe they have good government?
They sell “Commonwealth mix” in their convenience stores. They have one-year maternity leaves, from 17 weeks to 52 weeks without penalty. Typically the first 15 weeks are paid. In the U.S. FMLA policy provides 12-weeks of unpaid time off.
Gun ownership is somewhat controversial, but because they do not have a constitutional right to bear arms, they seem less ardent on being able to carry guns everywhere.
As Minnesotans, I believe we have a lot in common with our Canadian “cousins.” But there are subtle and fascinating differences. I know my sister will go back again. And now I have new ideas where hubby and I can vacation in Rainy Lake/Fort Frances area. Gorgeous.
Happy week, amigos/as. I look forward to catching up with you when I get home.
The Vikings had awesome playoff game and though I am a fair weather fan, it sure was fun to watch!
My hubby loves football. While I have always thought it was kind of a violent sport, I have gotten a little swept up in Vikings fever. It is an interesting phenomenon, uniting around a team, just because I live in Minnesota. But the thing about sport is that it can unite people of different religions, political beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.
Perhaps that is what makes the sport so American in its popularity. Of course, it is catching on around the world. Several of my Mexican colleagues are NFL fans. They also like soccer, but that requires more patience because it does not tend to be as high-scoring or action-packed as American football.
I am posting this on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I do not have particular activism plans for the holiday this year. I just got back from a visit up north to my folks, so I have errands to do before returning to work. I will re-watch the movie Coco with a friend, because it is a beautiful movie. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. If you are not into animated movies, make an exception and go see it. I am serious, you will not regret it.
Visually it is a beautiful movie. It is all about pursuing your soul’s purpose no matter what your family wants you to do. It is also about the role of music and family in Mexican life and culture. I was heartened by the fact that, while we have a President that hates Mexicans, this movie feels like a delightful tribute to so much that is amazing and unique about Mexican culture.
This MLK Day I am reflecting on the past year and on the fact that I enjoy a great deal of privilege in the community where I live. Last year on January 21, 2017 I participated in the Women’s March here in Minnesota in order to be part of what I felt was a long-delayed movement for change. I met all kinds of people who seemed to be as committed as I was to making sure our political landscape will not look like it did in 2016. It was energizing and exciting. People made some pretty awesome signs and even though it was chilly out (it is Minnesota, and St. Paul tends to be very cold in January) the crowd warmed my heart.
After the march, I had to consider what role I wanted to play in the next phase of feminist activity. I decided to make a monthly recurring contribution to Planned Parenthood. I had donated money to Hillary’s campaign on a regular basis, and respected her career in public service. Even though I agree that she made some fatal errors in her campaign, I found it incredible that the Republicans endorsed a person with zero public service for President.
Obviously it felt like a cruel blow to feminists everywhere, and I was especially concerned that we preserve reproductive freedoms many of us have taken for granted. Many women in their 30’s and 20’s do not fully appreciate the contribution that our mothers’ generation made to the movement. It was not until 1974 (the year I was born) that single, widowed or divorced women could access credit on their own without having a male co-signer (Equal Credit Opportunity Act).
I strongly believe in a woman’s ability to make choices over her own body without interference, safely and for what reasons she deems necessary. I find it incredible how many male lawmakers believe that it is their responsibility to police women’s bodies and choices. But regulating reproduction, far from an innocent wish to “protect the unborn” as they may have you believe, is an effort to dis-empower and control women.
My Mexican grandmother on my father’s side had 7 girls, 4 boys, and probably another 2-3 pregnancies that resulted in miscarriages. If it were not for her insistence that her children receive as good educations as they could afford, they may not have succeeded in the way they did. I find it fascinating that Dad’s two youngest daughters both became nuns rather than having children. My Dad always told me, “don’t get married young and start having children. I want more for you than that.”
I want more too. And something different. I have one sister, and neither of us have aspired to having children as part of our life goals.
I respect and honor other women’s choices for their lives, their bodies and their families. We should expect nothing less.
Bringing this post back to the original excitement about Vikings fever, I was thinking through the women’s roles in cultures throughout history. Grandma on my Mom’s side was Swedish in origin, a tough, smart and stubborn woman who lived to be 101. She went to college in her 50’s after raising three children. She was principled and strong, and she never backed down from her beliefs.
The spirits of my grandmothers are with me now, as I honor their sacrifices and continue to protect the legacy they fought to establish.
I often tell my husband how grateful I am that I can work from home a couple of days a week, when I am not traveling. One of the great benefits of working at home is that wardrobe choices can be a tad more casual. I am a morning person and I have some daily practices that I enjoy in order to help me be more present and grounded throughout the day. I make my coffee (usually half decaf, as I am trying to cut down on caffeine) with full-fat cream or coconut milk. I sometimes listen to an inspirational podcast, with my coffee, possibly a cat on my lap. I meditate for at least a few minutes, and right now I am trying to ramp up my practice to at least 30 minutes a day. After that, I usually spend 15-20 minutes on a hand-written journal entry.
Some mornings (like today) I can fit in a brief run of 2-3 miles, which really gets my synapses firing for the day. After that, a second cup of coffee – make it decaf this time – and then a shower before sitting down and starting the work day. When I work at home, the attire is typically jeans and a t-shirt, or a tech long-sleeve shirt if it is chilly.
In the summer, sometimes I have a casual dress I wear, made from super comfy t-shirt like material. Or if I really need to write before my shower, because I had an inspiring idea on my run, I sit and work in my robe and get the words out before my shower interrupts my thoughts.
Working at home gives me the luxury that I have time for all these preferred daily activities before I have to give myself over to my “real job” and all the attention it requires. On days when I go to the office, I need to leave time for picking out something to wear that is appropriate for a clinical research operations manager at a large medical device/health care services company. I have done some culling of my wardrobe in recent months after suffering far too much decision fatigue on making these choices in the morning, and having that indecision slow down my morning too much.
When I officially became a manager in my current role, I decided to upgrade my wardrobe, because I wanted to come across as confident and in-charge. I was called upon to speak more in big meetings, and I wanted to appear as someone to be respected, but also comfortable in her own appearance. Since I was under some stress that first year, I gained some weight and did not like how I looked in clothes that were too tight.
In previous posts, I have referred to my weight loss journey, but suffice to say that a 15+ pound weight loss helped me to feel more confident in a variety of clothes. But that led me to narrow down on which clothes really felt like “me,” which was another matter entirely.
I work with a team in Latin America and so I often travel to Miami and to cities likes where my colleagues and direct reports work. I have always admired the fashion sense of particularly my Latina colleagues, who always look sharp, but often seem utterly comfortable with their fashion and personal style. For me, this is not a natural instinct and has been an evolution.
I rejected the notion of style or fashion in college – liberal arts undergraduates at Swarthmore were comfortable in their t-shirts, flannels, jeans and Birkenstocks on campus, and I was no exception to that. The notion of standing out was never a goal to me, but I do not think I was truly comfortable in my own skin at that point in my life either.
More recently I have come to realize that our personality can be reflected in the types of choices we make in our clothing, and I now have a better sense of what styles reflect “me” versus some new trend. I hate shopping for grown-up clothes so much that I used Stitch Fix and MM LaFleur to send me selections that I could try and then send back the items that did not work.
While it was a somewhat expensive process, reflecting on what to keep and what to donate during my KonMari de-clutter this past Spring was a good way to recognize my own taste. Grown-up (work) clothes fit for a corporate setting have never really been my favorite, and this perhaps reflects my ambivalence about being in a corporate setting at all, but I now have a set of clothing that seems to fit more of who I have become.
When I get home from work, I typically change right out of my work clothes immediately. This comes from my Mom’s admonition to change out of our “school clothes” and into our “knock-around” clothes when we were young, to keep the nice clothes from getting dirty or worn out too soon. Also, having two cats at home pretty much guarantees that anything in black will pick up cat hair immediately when I sit down, so it just saves me time not to wear my work costume around.
When given a choice, I prefer to work at home, where I do not worry about selecting grown-up clothes versus my comfy jeans and tech shirts which feel more authentic to me. When I go to the office, I still feel a little like I’m playing “dress up,” something I seldom did as a child, because it was not my interest. That helps me feel a little more playful about the clothing choices rather than stifled by the culture of corporate fashion. But I am still evolving those choices, and I still dream of a time when I do not have a separate work wardrobe from my “in real life” wardrobe. That seems to me a supreme luxury and something I continue to seek.