Tag Archives: mexi minnesotana

Feliz cumpleaños, Papa

Today’s post will be in English but I wish I had the confidence to write it in Spanish. I  think I will take up a more serious study of Spanish again. I want to master it so I could be considered fluent, not just at a “business functional” level. I wrote this piece on the plane on Monday on my trip to Mexico in my hand-written journal. I was able to edit the piece down to less than a thousand words, but if I ever write a book someday, my parents will each have their own chapters.

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

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.

I think back to my early memories of the schools where he taught, of being in the classroom late at night with 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! Awesome, until Dad accidentally knocked my sister over in the hallway while he was carrying a large stack of boxes and did not see her. But all was well, she was fine, just a toddler so the fall was not so far from the ground.

I remember Dad teaching me to read by the time I was 4 years old. That made my kindergarten experience a little boring, since I was amazed we had to go back through all the letter books. Really?!? Can nobody else read yet? School was a bit frustrating in my early elementary years. I got to skip some boring 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, absorbing books. I typically read 3 to 4 times what was considered “A” level by middle school, when we had to keep reading logs of the books we read. 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 I think this is why I still love to read. I also 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. I previously told the story of her going back to college in her 50’s and earning her bachelor’s degree alongside my Mom.

Dad was amazingly patient with classrooms full of children. They behaved very well for him. He did not often take sick days but when he did, the substitutes were always amazed his class. He created partnerships with parents and got to know them well throughout the year. Hispanic parents typically do not tolerate misbehavior in school very well. 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. 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.

I know 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 and one particular school superintendent took special interest in his classes. This particular 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 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 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 by the way he lived his life, and his partnership with my Mom as we grew up. 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. Even though I do not have children myself, I know that I am responsible for passing these lessons onto others, in service to all.

 

 

 

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Integration

As I was sitting in savasana today at my morning yoga class, a concept kept arising into consciousness. It was Integration.

I have been wondering if my search for balance and equilibrium is actually a search for integration. Bringing together my personal and professional lives, uniting my body, mind and spirit, accepting the positives and the negatives. It is all part of one rich and fulfilling life, after all.

Why do I find it challenging? Perhaps my scientific training works against me here. I strive to isolate variables, to design proper controls, to decrease “confounding factors.” It is a noble pursuit, when we want to understand a mechanism for how a system works.

I then consider another concept from a similar root: Integrity. These concepts both relate to a state of being whole. Stemming from a similar Latin root, these words express something I continue to seek.

Yin Yang Wikipedia image

It is not so much about work/life balance, which always reminds me of a seesaw. It is more about bringing it all together, not having to isolate parts of myself in certain  contexts, but rather bringing my whole self to every situation. I like the yin/yang concept, and the idea that we have complementary parts within us. I have written about this before.  Perhaps that is what this blog is about, to integrate the “mexi” and the “minnesotana” parts more meaningfully, in every part of my life.

What if we viewed the entire natural sphere as an integrated whole, all part of some vast and intricate web? Everything, everyone and all of the in between is connected. We are not binary – one against another, us against them. We are all part of this vast universal story, ever changing, ever growing, ever recycling the parts that need to evolve to something new.

This brings so much peace to me, embracing both my darkness and my light. It means acceptance of what I am, where I am today in my journey, not chiding myself that I am not further along. Change unfolds gradually and when I “push” instead of allowing, it often sets me back. I am eager to know what is next, to see around the next corner, but I need not worry.

My soul works and plays at finding integration, and it seems to accomplish this better without the fretting of my ego or mind. When I pay attention to this sense of ease and the grace that comes from sitting still or small movements, I notice progress toward integration. At the same time, I notice myself acting with greater integrity in the world. This feels like a true definition of success for me.

I am enjoying the rays of sunshine streaming into my window and want to walk outside in the fresh air, to be at one with the loveliness around me. So I will close this post. I leave you with a song by Scott Orr called “Slow Down” which I discovered in a yoga class this past week. May you, my dear reader, experience a beautiful and integrated weekend and slow down enough to notice the integration and grace all around you.

slow-down-youtube-snip.jpg

Snip from the Music Video by Scott Orr  posted September 19, 2013 – Link

Taking off

Today I am heading on a work trip to Miami for a 2.5 day team meeting with my clinical research staff from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Our director lives near Miami and the LatAm headquarters for our company is here, so it is the most logical place for our semi-annual in person meeting. I have led the clinical research specialists on this team for ~4 years, since my previous boss left, though I have only held the manager position officially for ~2.5 years. It has been both a joy and an enormous challenge. I believe this will be my last team meeting with this team in this position.

Delta plane

My soul is calling me toward other work and my deadline is 6-12 months from now, my intention to be in a different position. While I am not sure the exact trajectory of my next career move, I know it must be done. In the past year and a half, our crew of 8 clinical research specialist was whittled down to 4 (we still have one open head count and I hope to hire in that spot in Mexico by end of November, bring it up to 5). Restructuring is the name of the game in large companies, and while I understand the philosophical intentions of this particular re-organization, the volume of work versus the scarcity of people is unsustainable.

In the past year, I was able to participate in leadership development experience for an 8-month period that helped me explore other interests. Though I am not an engineer, I realized that I am “lit up” by the design side of the work, and also market development, and the leadership/education areas. I have a long list of people that I have been nudged toward interviewing, to learn more about their work and how they arrived in their positions. So far, I have been doing this slowly, but also compelled my positions outside my company.

I am attracted to the small company “world” in terms of its agility and lack of bureaucratic hurdles. Back in the days when I aspired to work in leadership of nonprofits, this was one quality that I appreciated. I enjoy mentoring and developing other leaders within my company, helping people fulfill their career aspirations. I think this is what has made me a solid manager in this role, but I also crave much more “think time” and solitude during the typical work week. Since my role is a nexus point for every business unit (there are something like 11 by one count, 15 by another) in the company, it can get a bit overwhelming.

As an introvert, coping with all of the people time and meeting time is draining. I have learned to block off time on my calendar for “think time” and this has been life-saving. But now I am readying myself to close a chapter of this part of my career and open a new one. While I am not sure I know exactly what that is, I trust that I will know what decisions to make as certain opportunities emerge. I am operating on that faith right now, trust that I know myself better, and can follow my curiosity as it leads toward my next big thing.

Some short posts on the way this week, amigos, as I fit in small bits of writing time in the next few 12 hour days. Hasta luego!

 

Being mexi minnesotana

The time draws near for that infamous anniversary, when we realized that all the pundits and many of the news networks were wrong, and that a seemingly impossible result could in fact happen. I remember being worried, very worried last year at this time, and checking the Five Thirty Eight blog rather obsessively. I remember wondering, as I door-knocked neighborhoods in St. Paul to remind voters to get out to the polls on election day, whether we were in for a long and troubled time.

vote

It seemed impossible to me that someone with no political experience, not even minor political office could end up running the country’s executive office. But my conversations with people, even lifelong democrats on my likely voter list, was not convincing me that Hillary could win. I had done some sporadic volunteering on her campaign during the summer and fall before the election, and I was not getting the kind of reception I had received in other campaigns. I was worried about all the millennials that told me they were not sure they would vote, that they thought Bernie Sanders had been dealt a raw deal by the Democrats.

Surely they did not believe that staying home and allowing the Republican nominee to win was preferable to having a seasoned and competent leader in the role? It baffled me, how little the sexism and racism that fell from The Donald’s mouth could be ignored. But I was also bothered by Hillary’s characterization of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Clearly not all of the people who were voting “against” her were sexist, racist bigots. It was not until after the election, when I read JD Vance’ book Hillbilly Elegy, when I began to understand what the Democrats (my own party) had missed.

There is a lot of pain in “middle America” and in vast swaths of our country. The recession and financial crisis of 2008-2009, precipitated by years of financial deregulation, dramatic breakdowns of corporate governance and excessive borrowing by households and Wall Street had devastating impacts on people and families. But even before that, several decades of decline in union membership and power, decreases in real wages for working families, and other changes in the stability and security of families has led to anxiety and apprehension about the future.

rural

While I was shocked on election night and the next day, I was also somewhat prepared for what might happen. The result felt particularly bitter to me because I am half Mexican. Trump kicked his campaign off by insulting Mexicans. I will not spend time repeating his words, which were clearly spoken to incite people and their emotions. What I do want to contribute is a perspective that is somewhat unique in that I was born here in this country, to a Mexican father and a mother from Minnesota. I grew up in southern Wisconsin, after my parents moved us when I was two years old from small town in northern Wisconsin that had an active KKK chapter.

My parents needed to find a place where they felt safe, and fortunately my Dad was able to find a job teaching bilingual students in a small town that had a number of migrant workers. I was fortunate to grow up in a small town where we were safe. Though my Dad and various members of my family endured some episodes of racism, as a respected teacher and upstanding member of the community, he demonstrated strength and courage to me. My Mom was a pillar of the community as well. While my sister and I were young, she stayed home with us, and she was a “mother” to our whole neighborhood in a way. Many of the children had both parents working outside the home, out of necessity. Mom sat out on the back porch to watch us play, and by extension she watched over the whole neighborhood.

Many families today do not have the stability and connection that we enjoyed while growing up. While my family had to make certain sacrifices to raise us with only one income, I was never hungry and I never went without basic necessities. My parents were kind to one another. Even though they argued sometimes, as normal adults do, in the course of their relationship, we did not witness violence in our family. I grew up feeling like I was meant to be here, that I had an important place in this world, whether or not I fit into various social groups or cliques at school. My parents instilled in me a sense of belonging.

There were a number of Mexican families in our school district, as well as Puerto Rican families and others who worked on local farms and in local factories. I never felt quite like one of “them” nor did I feel like one of the white kids, exactly. Since my skin color can be described as more like my Swedish grandmother than my Mexican Indian grandfather, to my chagrin, I am paler than I want to be. In those days, and even today, it means that I often “pass” as white. Usually, until people learn my last name, they have no particular suspicion that I am Mexicana. I have no accent, having been born here and learned English as my first language, though Spanish without accent as a close second language when I was young.

multicultural

This gives me a strange amount of privilege because, while I cannot claim to speak up for Mexicans, being a daughter of one means it is a part of my identity. But I am white, so when people talk about identifying as a “person of color” I feel somewhat like a fraud in that regard. Granted, I am who I am, and being multicultural is a source of pride rather than shame. In that vein, when I considered what to do as a result of the 2016 election, I realized I needed to reach deeply inward, and then begin to write and share my experiences. I feel an obligation to speak, to write, to use my voice to help others enter into important conversations about class, culture and race. Those of us with privilege must deeply support those who do not have their share of these same freedoms that allow me to do this.

I have deep empathy for those who cannot use their voice, for those who must live in the “shadows” of this great country. Some, through no fault of their own, were born here but are undocumented. Many came from other countries to build better lives for their families and to have hope for future generations to be educated and free to choose their paths and their identities. This is the great hope of what America means, in my view.

Granted, if I were a white person in rural America, facing joblessness, a broken family, a hopeless situation about the future, I would have a different perspective. Those brown people that do not speak my language are starting to move into “my” town in greater numbers! They don’t even speak English, for god’s sake! I can see how threatening this might seem, especially when the future is uncertain for everyone, and we are given messages of “fear” all around us in our media. I have deep empathy for this fear, for this state of feeling not valued.

Every human being on this planet is worthy of love and forgiveness. I believe this deep in my bones. In fact every living being belongs here. Being “mexi minnesotana” is an evolution for me. Understanding myself, my true identity and fully claiming ownership of that has not always been easy. It can sometimes be exhausting, in fact. I am a minority within a minority. But now, even more than ever, we need voices to come forward in our community that could not be heard before. We need to establish Tribes based on commonly held values rather than just ethnicity or gender, or even political affiliation.

So this brings me to the original reason I started this blog. I often write about my personal journey to health and wellness, though I originally intended to focus on politics and privilege. But a focus on wellness is one I believe everyone needs, to focus on their own wellness and wholeness, before serving others (or simultaneously if possible). This helps us gather strength for the long road ahead, for the “battles” we have to fight but also the conversations that will help knit back together the fractured communities in which many of us live. We must do this, the world depends on us to speak our truths, to be our authentic selves. It is vulnerable and sometimes scary, and it is what is demanded of these times.

I thank you for reading, and appreciate all of the wonderful bloggers out there who I read more and more. You are moving the world and human consciousness in a brave new way. Thanks for allowing me to be part of this conversation.

 

 

Gratitude for my teachers

I woke up this morning so excited to write and start this blog process. For many years I have been a journal writer and my personal, still hand-written journal will likely remain an important part of my (nearly) daily practice. I notice a distinct difference in the quality of my days when I write versus when I skip the writing. My journal is a way to clarify my thinking, sometimes to process thoughts that do not serve me, sometimes just to record the latest threads of my life that I am attempting to sort, to weave together, and to understand. I wrote this morning that my journal is like a “lab notebook of my evolving consciousness.” I like that line… it appeals to the scientist in me, the part of me that has always loved to catalog and make sense of data. I suppose making sense of ourselves and our reason for being is the ongoing spiritual quest of all humans.

I feel intense gratitude in these early hours today, and such powerful energy. It is fitting, on the first day of school for so many young people, that I thank to the many teachers in my life. From my parents, my first teachers and actual teachers (their chosen vocation) to friends, professors, wise people, mentors, authors who I read and “converse” with, I have been blessed with such wealth. I delight in ideas and new ways to understand the world, and I am constantly on the search for voices of wisdom, mentors and teachers who share their beliefs, practices, adventures, and struggles. It helps me feel less alone, when I realize the commonalities we all have as humans, and the reality that our these commonalities can unite us in a profound way.

Some of the authors I have read (and re-read) in the past year include Martha Beck (ever present in my library since I read Finding Your North Star so many years ago), Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Krista Tippett, Adam Grant, Liane Moriarty, and Louise Erdrich (and many others, but these are the first that jump out at me my from my bookshelf). How interesting that so many of those voices happen to be women. I have also been listening and consuming a lot of podcasts in the past year, starting from a recommendation toward Brooke Castillo’s Lifecoach School podcast, and continuing to Hidden Brain, Only Human, Magic Lessons (another Liz Gilbert creation), the Robcast, and a number of health and wellness related podcasts that have taught me from many perspectives.

Learning_schooling image

I am grateful to all of these voices, and to what I have learned about the process and necessity of creation, of creativity to human flourishing. Any endeavor can have a creative component, as I now realize, even navigating a large bureaucrazy (I always mis-spell this word automatically. I believe it is my soul’s way to communicate truth to my brain, which can be slow to catch on.) I also realize that I am part of this dialogue, this interaction with ideas, this attempt to make sense of our world, and to create something new.

Why create the mexi minnesotana blog now? I am overwhelmed ubiquity of social media and differing opinions floating out in the blogosphere, and I expect you may be as well. I had to severely curtail my Facebook habit for some time after the 2016 U.S. election because I realized that, while social media fosters an ability to connect with other like-minded people around the world, it can also be an echo-chamber that amplifies negativity. The democratization of media, the way in which more people can have a voice by opening up shop at a domain, is a fascinating phenomenon to watch.

We have a natural questioning of authority, a real and evolving process of learning to make choices about what we follow, who we choose to believe. Facts, which used to be considered sacrosanct in journalism, are subject to a myriad of interpretations and misrepresentations. While this has always been true, the amplification of some of these notions can have troubling implications for our culture. As a firm believer in democracy, I see this as an evolution for us, and for myself, a realization that I am also search of some “authority” to help me make sense of it all.

While spirituality will be another aspect I explore in the future, this need for authority, one emerging truth has been the validity of my own experience. In the past year and a half or so I have developed a very consistent meditation practice, a process of going inward and forgoing the distractions of the outer world. (Thank you to Nirav Sheth and Rajinder Singh for teaching me as I committed to the practice more fully in 2016). My own voice is but one of many, but it is a unique one, and I have felt increasingly moved to share my voice, to write about my observations of the cultural zeitgeist from my point of view.

My goals are largely personal, in understanding the broader world around me, and perhaps inviting dialogue on topics I believe are important. It can be a vulnerable experience to put one’s thoughts out there, to enter into “the arena” as Brene Brown (Daring Greatly) would say. But something tells me it is right to do this now, to start this process, and see where it leads. I am not expecting a particular outcome, but my hope is that, if someone reads and the words or ideas resonate, that they will feel less alone, perhaps less lost in this cacophony of voices. We all must find our own way, but with our wise teachers and mentors, we do this knowing we are surrounded by a powerful tribe, and one that bravely shows up and defends the values we hold most dear.