Tag Archives: family

My favorite guy

My husband is an amazing man with a kind heart and a wicked sense of humor. Last year we were apart on Valentine’s Day because I was traveling to Peru for work. Actually about half the past few years we are apart, because I tend to travel in February. This year I managed to postpone my trip until Feb 19-24 so I could be home on Valentine’s Day.

While I was headed to dinner with my work associates, I happened to check the email on my phone and he had sent me a series of 7 messages called “7 reasons why I love you.” We had been together nearly 7 years, and it brought tears to my eyes to read these beautiful messages.

Hubby typically expresses his love through acts of service. If any of you know Gary Chapman’s “5 Love Languages” you know that people tend to express their love in particular ways. I tend to be in the “words of affirmation” camp, and we both express love through physical touch as well. But this surprised and pleased me so much, when he expressed his love for me in my love language.

Valentine

This is the first year we are celebrating Valentine’s Day as a married couple. He surprised me by having some luscious chocolate dipped strawberries and a dozen red roses delivered to me yesterday. He has always been so thoughtful and kind. He is terrific at picking out gifts I will enjoy, and he is generous with his time and talent to our families in so many ways.

Last February when we set our wedding date and began planning for the big event, it was a big breakthrough for me. I had been processing some of my old baggage about marriage in therapy, which is something I highly recommend when necessary.

But one day it was like a switch flipped in my brain. I realized what a great privilege and gift I had been given: this man loves me, despite my flaws and imperfections. He wants to commit to working through our struggles and being with me for the rest of my life. Sometimes I’m not even sure *I* have the patience to be with myself to work on my own neuroses. If I miss the boat on accepting his love, and giving it freely in return, I will miss the universe’ invitation to really grow in our relationship and develop spiritually.

So today I want to express gratitude for my favorite guy in the world. He is a great partner and is patient with me and with my struggles. I am so honored to call him my husband and I am so happy we get to be together.

I hope you have someone in your life that you love, and that someone that loves you. Tell them how much you love them. Being loved and accepted begins with yourself of course, but it is such a sweet bonus when you find someone who loves you for you. What an amazing and delightful miracle.

 

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SKOL!

The Vikings had awesome playoff game and though I am a fair weather fan, it sure was fun to watch!

Vikings

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.

CocoVisually 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.

Capitol women's march

Photo taken January 21, 2017 – St. Paul, MN

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.

Period.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaginary delegation

Last February I read a book that changed how I think about women in leadership, and the gap between household responsibilities for men and women. It was called Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu, and I have written about it before.

One of the concepts that hit home for me was the idea that we sometimes get resentful of our spouses, partners or even coworkers about things that have not gotten done, even when we never made a specific request about those tasks. We all have those times. Maybe you wish your spouse would decide on the meals and grocery shop for a change. For some reason, you have always done it (maybe like me you are pickier about the foods you eat than your husband) and things get busy at work, so you do not have the energy this week to do it.

But rather than ask your husband to do it, you just sigh, feel sorry for yourself and think: “Why doesn’t HE ever make the decisions about this stuff and offer to shop?” Well, probably because you are the one that usually does it, without any prompting. You may think, “nobody has to ask ME to do this!” and sulk because you know that it saves money to shop at the grocery store instead of eating out.

When I asked my husband if he could go to the store, he willingly and cheerfully did so, and asked what was on my list. Instead of spending energy being resentful and getting annoyed about it, I could have saved myself the trouble and just asked for help, instead of assuming I had to do it. Since people have an easier time hearing your actual words than reading your mind, opening your mouth to graciously ask for help is a better option.

We all have habits and patterns in our relationships and roles which we play both at home and in the workplace. Sometimes these roles and “job descriptions” need to shift and change depending on our overall workload. When we take on a new challenge at work, or commit to something important to us, we may need to ask for help from our spouse on household tasks. This is very hard for me, I realize.

I grew up in a household where Mom stayed home until going back to work when my sister was in middle school, and I was in high school. She and my Dad had a very different division of labor than I aspired to in my life. So I sometimes forget that women are not necessarily “supposed” to grocery shop, plan menus and take responsibility for food prep at home. Indeed I know a lot of households where the opposite is true.

At work this applies when I have a task that could easily be done by a colleague and perhaps they are better at it too, but somehow it ends up on my to-do list. I realize that, if I do not ask anyone else to do it, nobody will “take it away” from me and get it done. I need to use my words, not my imagination to ask for help, and I need to be specific about what needs to be done, though not necessarily how to do the task. I do not enjoy micro-managing, so delegating the responsibility involves stepping out of the way to allow someone else to bring their own approach to the job.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. It allows us to do what we are best at doing, without getting bogged down in a lot of details or menial tasks that may deplete our energy and time. But some of us who are still learning how to not take on too much, or who lived happily as single people, need to question our assumptions about who does what at home and at work. If we have a spouse or partner that supports our growth and development, and someone who understands that household management is a shared responsibility, we can probably negotiate these matters.

I am working on recognizing those times when I feel resentment but the real battle is going on in my own mind, rather with another person. I have a situation at work where I realize I used to take on responsibilities that are actually the job of the other manager. He has been blissfully ignorant and relying on me to do these tasks, but I now aim to be more specific with him about his responsibilities. I realize this will go against my “go along get along” attitude at work, and my concept about being a “team player” but I have enabled his blissful ignorance for too long.

As I am less tolerant now about certain things at work, given my overall dissatisfaction with the role I am in, I realize I have less to lose. So what if he gets annoyed that I am asking him to do his job! I respectfully do not care. Wow, there’s power in that.

 

 

 

Intention vs. Attention

I was reflecting this weekend on the topic areas I have written about for the past few months on this blog versus the original intention I had at the beginning.

Sunrise from my window

Sunrise from my window this morning as I wrote – gorgeous!

One intention was to comment on politics and privilege from my unique perspective as a bi-cultural Latina woman. I still do that now and then. But more often, I have shared about topics like mindfulness and taking care of my health. So I wanted to consider why the blog morphed as I committed to more of a daily routine of writing. Here’s what I came up with. I would love to know what you think.

  1. It is best to write about what we know. Since I know myself better than I know anyone, writing about my own experience, and my own journey seems to be a good way to start. It limbers up my writing practice, and allows me to reflect on what I have learned from a personal perspective.
  2. “Research is me-search.” I am a clinical researcher by training, but the topics I find most interesting are my own little n=1 experiments in health. For those of you not familiar with this terminology, “n” is the number of subjects/patients you include in an experimental sample. When I experiment with a new wellness practice, I am the sole participant so n=1. There is no control group, so it is not a “valid” sample in the methodology we typically use. But of course, there are subjective measures we can use to validate our own experience. I rely on those rather than on statistical work to conclude whether I will continue particular wellness practices I try.
  3. Taking care of ourselves well is a radical act. I believe we do not live in a culture that does not properly value taking care of ourselves, and women struggle with this most. We give lip service to taking care of ourselves, but we also cut corners on sleep and fill our lives with unnecessary obligations and distractions. We must step away from the “busy-ness culture” that is supposed to signify our importance in the world. This helps us have space to truly thrive. But so few truly commit to this path.
  4. Until we care for ourselves, we will not have long-term resources to help others. I began finding in my personal life about 2 years ago that I was putting my work and family ahead of taking care of myself. It was taking its toll on my health. I did not like the results. I did not like constantly feeling tired and strung out. But I felt desperate to make a contribution “to the world” because I saw political and economic systems I did not feel were serving people. A decade before that I had been very involved in political campaigns. But that had burned me out, and required much personal sacrifice that I simply could make at this stage in my life.
  5. We are in this for the long haul. Any type of societal change is slow-moving, and requires sustained effort. What is done in one day has fairly little impact. But what is accomplished over time, with many small efforts (and many people) daily is what creates a movement. If more of us were to look inward, take care of ourselves and our needs, and thrive personally, we would likely have more time and energy to care for others. This includes our families, our communities, and our society as a whole. Not that we can stop caring for others as we care for ourselves, but just that we cannot care for others at the expense of our long-term health. This will serve nobody.

So these are my initial thoughts on why my blog has morphed from its original intention. I may come back to writing more about politics and other topics about which I am passionate. Right now, I write about what I most want to learn and master. That is where my attention is most focused, and writing about these topics clarifies my thinking.

Thanks for reading. Hope you have a wonderful week!

Sunrise 2 from window

Sunrise a few minutes after the other photo – I just LOVE the colors of morning!

Desires

Were you taught from a young age that desires are dangerous?

I think many of us who grew up in a Judeo-Christian background probably absorbed this lesson early in life. Those of us who have struggled with food issues or with other addictions may stop trusting our desires, since they seem to lead down a path that is destructive.

Last summer I started working my way through a book by Danielle LaPorte’s book called The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul. She sets out a process to examine 5 major areas of life, Livelihood & Lifestyle, Body & Wellness, Creativity & Learning, Relationships & Society, and Essence & Spirituality.

Since I opted to put the process away in August in order to focus on planning details for my wedding in September, I thought January would be a good time to return to it, and complete the process since I have some big goals this year. Reading back through my responses from the summer, not a lot has changed.

But one thing that stood out to me was my response to the prompt “Pleasure feels:” At risk of being a bit vulnerable here, I wrote down the words: amazing, forbidden, dangerous, excessive, tempting, all-encompassing, elusive, desirable, moving, shared, exciting and peaceful.

I recalled the time I had read Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. Menu item number 3 was Desire. She explains that our true desires and yearnings are what lead us to our soul’s purpose. Martha Beck is a genius, by the way. If you are ever facing major career shifts or changes in your life, pick up one of her books (the other I really loved was Finding Your North Star but I will read anything with Martha’s name on the cover).

Prior to desire, she focuses on stillness and truth. If you cannot get truthful with yourself, then you cannot reveal your true desires. I still struggle with this, but I am learning. Many of us have spent years repressing our desires, so we sometimes do not even know how to recognize or voice them. We are out of practice in detecting them.

We think: maybe that desire for chocolate cake is bad and wrong. In fact, the chocolate cake is most probably a “mask” for a true desire, which is to take loving care of ourselves, and indulge in some pleasure.

In August of 2016 I decided that my “desire” for a glass of wine as soon as I got home each night was something I wanted to change. It really was less of a desire and more of a habit, and since our brains like to stay efficient, habits can be hard to change. But the first thing I noticed when I took first a 10-day hiatus was that my anxieties and doubts came up. Yup. Alcohol serves a purpose. It dulls out those feelings.

What I realized is that I was using wine to space out situations I did not want to confront. I also used it as “social lubricant” for work dinners I attended, and other events where I knew I would interact with groups larger than my comfort level (about 4). I realized that I was buffering my discomfort in these situations, and that it was unnecessary.

But I had to come up with a story for why I would decline the wine. It turned out to be this, and it is totally true: alcohol messes with my sleep. Since sleep is precious to me, it just is not worth it. That turned out to be a justification that my coworkers could accept, and regardless of whether they were accepting about it, I was committed.

Since then I have found that I get more sound sleep, I have less cravings for sugar, and I am able to experience “unclouded” feelings. Sometimes that sucks! I have to admit it, our buffers dull difficult emotions. But now that I know I can handle difficult emotions, that they are temporary vibrations in my body, I do not reach for wine. In 2017, I had a drink on probably 5 occasions, usually for a special event and planned ahead of time. I am not an alcoholic and I do not count days of sobriety.

But I have the confidence that this choice, far from dampening my desires, has done more to clarify what I desire long-term than anything else. So it is worth it, and I am grateful I realized how much better my life is without it. The clarity that has come from realizing I have a desire for more creativity and self-expression has led to much more satisfaction with the kinds of work I choose to do. It is right and it is good to take pleasure in that, not a sin.

Cheers, amigos! Toasting you with my glass of La Croix sparkling water. I hope you fulfill your desires for 2018.

 

 

Drop the ball

Drop the ball – and other surgery-related wisdom.

Some of you regular readers to my blog might know that I was hospitalized 10 days ago for an emergency appendectomy surgery. Fortunately my recovery continues to go well, and I am truly grateful for the wonderful care I received, and for my husband picking up the ball as I dropped it.

Last February I encountered a Good Life Project podcast with Tiffany Dufu, who had written a book bearing the title: Drop the Ball: Achieve More by Doing Less. In it she explores the her journey as a feminist woman and the issues she discovered about managing things at home with her also feminist husband after returning to work post-pregnancy.

Women still experience the Second Shift (a term coined by Arlie Hoschild in 1989) which describes the process of the second job many of them work when they return home, to take care of the housework and child care, even after working a full day outside of the home. But Tiffany Dufu helped me see it at another level. She helped me understand that the kind of perfectionism we apply to our home lives does not serve us as women. She refers to it as “home control disease.”

We often fail to ask for help from our spouses or male partners, instead taking tasks on because we “know he won’t do it right” or have higher standards for cleanliness. In my previous relationship, I was very conscientious about learning to put up with mess and clutter. I know that he didn’t care about it, so I wasn’t going to become someone’s idea of a Latina housewife, or maid or cleaning lady. I simply blocked out the mess in my mind.

drop the ball

I was recently noting the Christmas cards I received this year, and the fact that ALL of them (save for one, but he has an assistant who I am sure sent them out) were from women. It is Moms, Aunts and Grandmas that send holiday cards, not Dads, Uncles and Grandpas.

I caught myself chiding myself for not being organized enough to get cards out this year, especially because I was planning to put wedding pictures in there. But then I thought: my husband is not doing that. He has no expectation that he must do things like Christmas cards each year. Most husbands are not expected to do that, nor do they chide themselves for being disorganized. That’s already been delegated (in their heads) to their wives.

Then I considered the fact that I always clean up and de-clutter before our cleaning service arrives once a month to clean the kitchen, living room and bathroom. Usually this means excess clutter gets dropped in the bedrooms, where we do not ask them to clean. I continue to cut down on clutter, but it still seems to multiply, maybe when I am not looking…

But why is it that I run around (usually frantic) trying to clean each month? This time, my surgery recovery really slowed down that process and I had to think it through.

I realize it reflects a lot of privilege on my part to have someone to come in to clean. My husband and I do not even own a house together yet, but I knew this would be a non-negotiable if we moved in together. I simply will not become someone’s housewife, and I know that would be my temptation.

But I still de-clutter and ask my husband to do the same each month. He has no worries about others’ judgment of him for his messy habits (as I do, apparently). But he usually obliges unless he is sick or something, in which case I pick up the slack.

Holidays are like this too: how often is it the women you see planning the holiday meals, decorating and making things festive? How often do we come down on a guy for not hosting a party, or not picking up his home? And yet, as women, how often do we self-criticize for a bunch of household chores that really are voluntary to complete?

I realize this is a bit of a rant, but I think it deserves some thought. What is it you REALLY have to do today, and are there places you have not thought about sharing the load with a spouse or partner? 

 

 

 

 

 

Take me to Regions Hospital

When I arrived home from my trip on Thursday night I started having abdominal pain and nausea. I attributed it to something I may have eaten in Mexico, and did not think much of it until the next morning when I still felt crappy. Hubby texted me in the morning to tell me I should see a doctor. I had canceled my calls and meetings for the day, and just collapsed on the couch to rest. By noon I was thinking: this is not good.

Regions Hospital

I have a fairly high pain tolerance but not wanting to get up off the couch because of the pain and because I still felt nauseated was a warning sign. I texted hubby and asked if he could drive me to the doctor. He left work immediately and drive me to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. From the moment I walked into the emergency room (around 2:15 in the afternoon) until I checked out an hour ago, the care was excellent.

Every nurse, physician, surgeon, PCA, CT tech and all other staff who attended to us were friendly, professional and kind. They explained everything they were doing, the tests, what they indicated, and how long things would take. Once a diagnosis of appendicitis was confirmed, they explained the procedure to me, and asked if I had questions.

Later, when I was scheduled for surgery that same night, other residents, and health care professionals (HCPs in my world of clinical research) asked me to explain what I understood would happen in my own words. As someone who reviews informed consent documents as part of my work as a clinical researcher, I really appreciated how much they checked my understanding at various points in the process.

I was prepped for surgery starting around 8:15 and then taken in around 9 p.m. My husband tells me the surgeon came out a little before 10 p.m. to let him know the status of the surgery. Fortunately it was a laparoscopic appendectomy with only three small incisions (about an inch long each). The appendix was intact, so the procedure was standard and without complications.

regions waiting room

I woke up around 11 p.m. and the people around me told me everything went well. They planned to keep me overnight for observation, so my husband said goodbye and let me know he would return in the morning. A couple of times during the night a nurse checked my vitals and blood pressure, but for the most part I was able to rest and sleep. I woke up around 7:30 a.m. as the hospital staff were switching shifts, and my care team introduced themselves.

I was able to order coffee, which I had not wanted the day before (another sign something was off for sure – I love my coffee first thing). Around 9:30 I had some breakfast which I was able to order from the patient menu (like room service!).  Having fasted for ~40 hours, I was happy to feel hungry again, a sign of healing.

I am so grateful to have high quality healthcare and good health insurance coverage so I did not worry about that during the process. Also, the entire health care team was amazing, without exception. There must have been 15-20 people who interacted with us over the course of the ~21 hour period we were at the hospital. If you are in the St. Paul, Minnesota area, and you have a choice of hospitals I recommend Regions without exception.

The woman in the bed next to me while I was in recovery did not speak English, but the nurses and doctors accessed their on-call translation service, which was a little box like a phone where the translator could speak and listen to the patient in Spanish. Later, when her family arrived, someone in the family helped to translate, but I really liked knowing that service was available to remove any barriers to excellent care.

Now I shall stay home and take it very easy over the next few days. My hubby is already off to the grocery store and pharmacy to pick up a few things. He is a good man. I am glad I finally listened to him when he said ” you can’t mess with this shit” and drove me directly to a hospital. While I was waiting for surgery, I let my sister know the situation. She is an RN, and she explained to my parents what was going on.

My father almost died from a burst appendix about 45 years ago. While my case was less severe, it was an excellent reminder that good health and access to excellent care are so important, and such blessings. I realize the privilege of having good care comes from an employer that pays for ~80% of the cost of premiums, and a philosophy that employees deserve good benefits.

I will write more on my views of health care policy in the future. For now, I will put the laptop away, get out some books, sit and drink so tea with my kitties and give thanks. The healing journey continues.