Tag Archives: privilege

Wanting from a place of abundance

There is an exercise recommended by Brooke Castillo, who produces the Life Coach School podcast, on “wanting from abundance” that I tried this morning as I was considering a dream I had last night. That one went into my handwritten journal. Not ready to interpret that one for y’all yet.

When most people are asked what they want, they immediately jump to a list of what they lack. They start listing off things like a new car, maybe a different job, perhaps other things that the would put on their Christmas list.

But the exercise she has people do is to list 25 things they want, where more than half of those things are what they already have. I am sharing my list with you as an example:

  1. Time to write in the mornings (check)
  2. A caring and wonderful husband (check)
  3. Two cats (check)
  4. A dog (someday)
  5. Cozy place to live (check)
  6. A home of our own (someday)
  7. Time to camp and be outdoors this summer (check – planning on this)
  8. Personal laptop for writing (check)
  9. Enough money so I don’t worry about day-to-day necessities like food, utilities and clothing. (check)
  10. Health care coverage (check)
  11. Travel to the U.K.; travel to Spain (someday)
  12. Time planned with my hubby to do fun stuff (check – upcoming long weekend trip to Arizona 4 weeks from now)
  13. Work outside a corporate environment (someday)
  14. Opportunities to practice my Spanish (check)
  15. Ability to travel to other countries for work (check)
  16. Ability to express my ideas and connect with similarly-spirited people (check)
  17. Ability to sleep 8 hours every night without struggling with insomnia (work in progress)
  18. Live in a safe neighborhood (check)
  19. Access to good yoga classes (double check!)
  20. Close relationships with friends and family (want to put more time into this)
  21. More time to read (define more…)
  22. Healthy body (check)
  23. Plans for our summer vacation (work in progress)
  24. Clean air to breathe every day and clean water to drink (check)
  25. Ability to work from home on occasion (check)
  26. Enough money to pursue my creative passions instead of working full time at a corporation (work in progress)

Okay, that was more than 25. Once I got going, I started thinking of even more things. 16 out of the 26 are things I already have. Some are things I am working on, and a few I have an actual plan sketched out to get them.

What I really love about this exercise is that we want from ABUNDANCE instead of a scarcity mind-set. We acknowledge that many of the amazing things we already have in our lives are also things we want, things we are grateful for. Imagine if I took some things OFF this list! Goodness, realizing the abundance and privilege that allows me to live this glorious life makes me feel rich, fortunate and happy.

When you think about what you want today, consider the things you already have that make your life splendid. Consider not just on what you want someday, but what you want (and have) today. Your entire energy and vibration will change. And perhaps you will start to attract possibilities, opportunities and ideas to add a few of those items from the list that you do not yet have.

Cheers & happy Friday!



Owning our bodies

After my peaceful and grateful post yesterday, I dove into a few blogs based on some recommendations by WordPress. I read about women as superheroes, and encountered some powerful writing about racism and privilege in America. It hit me pretty hard, but the point landed, this idea that white people of this country built their foundation on treating black people as sub-human.

It is difficult to talk about this, to acknowledge it and to understand what it is like to be cast as the “other” when we are part of the dominant culture. As a pale Latina, I pass as white every day. And yet, part of me strongly identifies with this Otherness. When Philando Castile was killed in Falcon Heights, Minnesota in July 2016, I was in shock. This is not supposed to happen here, I thought.

But it happens everywhere. People are mistreated merely because of their darker skin or for their gender. Assumptions are made, and are reinforced. Political campaigns barely veil their “dog whistles” that appeal to the base, racist beliefs of their base.

There is a powerful dialogue from On Being with Krista Tippet, with Junot Diaz that keeps coming back to me on Radical Hope. If you have an interest in understanding racism and the history of oppression in this country and the context in which we have evolved today, I highly recommend it. I want to quote one passage that keeps coming back to me as an empowering framework for re-considering how we view the body.

“I would remind us that, coming from a reality where our oppression was ineluctably linked to our bodies — that we had, for centuries, no rights to our bodies and that all of the traditional pleasures and all of the traditional freedoms of human agency were forbidden to those of us of African descent in the New World, for a long period of time — the body, in such a murderous regime, under such nightmarish conditions, becomes chapel, cathedral, dogma. It becomes nearly everything…

…for people like us, for people who come out of the African Diaspora in the New World, simply to fall in love, when you have historically been denied love, the right to just connect to the body which you have chosen and that has chosen you, means that an act of love is not only revolutionary, it’s not only transcendent, but it is the deific. It is Godlike. It is a taste of the omnipotent.”

I see parallels here in how slave ownership reflects a framework in which ownership of the body is central. It is a means of control and it is a means of denying basic humanity to people based on color.

I also see the ownership of body as a tool from a woman’s perspective and a feminist one. From our cultural lens, we have transcended a period when it was legal to own the bodies of African Americans. I also recently learned that early in our history, the practice of enslaving Native Americans occurred though was not explicitly legalized in the same way. (Listen to Hidden Brain’s “An American Secret” to learn more.)

Conceptually, I believe our patriarchy claims “ownership” of women’s bodies in a similar but more subtle way. Through creating laws to regulate women’s health, and their choices and ownership over their decisions about their bodies, we legalize yet another form of slavery. By judging appearance and “scoring” women on a scales of beauty or attractiveness, our media participate in this denigration of women’s bodies.

Recent disclosures of male authority figures using coercion and manipulation of women’s bodies against their will has shown the pervasiveness of this idea: women are routinely denied full access and ownership to their bodies. Women are “owned” and traded, consumed and marketed as commodities, products, objects that can be served up at will. 

As I have come to a better relationship with my own body in my yoga and meditation practices, I now see how “radical” it is to reclaim our bodies. For those women (or men) who have endured assault or other violations of the body, there can be a numbness or a disassociation with parts of ourselves. Even for those of us who have not endured physical violence, the objectification of women’s bodies in so much of our daily media have taken their toll.

We disown parts of ourselves, perhaps our hunger, or our sexuality, as an attempt to distance ourselves from what is portrayed as dirty or distasteful.  This is not a coincidence, nor is it a benign reality. Listening and attending to our bodies is a powerful tool. Disconnecting from the body separates us from our truth. 

Churches that advise us to transcend the “carnal” and embrace the spiritual do us a disservice. For when we separate the body from the spirit or the soul, we disconnect what makes us whole as people. Sadly, this is more of a lived reality for women than for men in our current ethos.

What I would like to suggest is a radical and necessary step is for women to reclaim ownership of our bodies, in both real and symbolic ways. I see this not only as a personal and a wellness imperative, but as a political act. This is certainly not a new idea. Back in the 60’s and 70’s when the women’s liberation movement was at its height, this was certainly one of the goals.

Even my own personal weight struggle has been a process of coming to terms with loving and appreciating my own body. I recognize the ways in which I appropriated the body hatred that was rampant around me. It is a bad habit, this criticism of our body, diminishing the instrument of joy we have been given. But it is a habit that can be changed. Accepting and embracing our bodies and our feelings is a tool for empowerment. It is the place we must begin for full political and personal agency.

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? 






Beatriz at dinner

I am about to write a movie review. I have not yet done this, so why not? It’s a Friday post and Fridays are for fun.

Actually the movie is fairly serious, and it explores the relationships between different cultures, classes, and the nature of healing. I watched it once on my way to Mexico this week and three days later on the way back, because I was fascinated by the Latina archetype and also the male “planet rape” archetype.

I encourage you to see this movie. It was released at Sundance and premiered in the U.S. on June 9, 2017. In November it won acclaim from the National Board of Review as a Top Ten Independent Film. It is a shorter film, only about 83 minutes, and most of it takes place on one day of Beatriz’ life.


Salma Hayek is of course brilliant in the role, though I kept on seeing her as “Frida Kahlo” in my mind. No harm of course. Frida was also an “old soul.” Her thesis in the movie is that “the earth is very sick and it needs old souls to help her heal.” I cannot argue with that as an apt metaphor for the kind of environmental disaster we are courting now.

I do not want to give you any spoilers, but John Lithgow plays an excellent greedy and voracious business man. He is a little reminiscent of Trump, narcissistic and self-aggrandizing. But there is a more nuanced look at what may have been pain in his past, which Beatriz can access in her very unique way. In a visceral way, this film demonstrates to us that greed is a cancer. It is a cancer that is destroying the planet.

The film was beautiful visually and the characters each played very convincingly in their roles. I am glad there are films like this being made. Though it will probably make a quiet splash, as a movie lacking in violence and sex, I hope it makes an impact. Our psyches need to be touched and healed by such films. It is how we will eventually heal the planet, by waking up to all the ways in which we have abused it.

Namaste, amigos y amigas! Enjoy your weekend!

Bienvenidos a México

I am in Mexico City today to conduct three interviews for our clinical research specialist opening in the local office here. I also get to visit with a colleague who is no longer in my group but is one of my favorite people in my company. I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with her, and she agreed to help with the interviews.

It will be a busy Tuesday but I wanted to check in and say: if you have never been to a big city that is constantly alive and awake, come to Mexico City. You think New York City has options? Pshaw! It has nothing on this city. I’m serious! I am in Colonia Napoles which is a nice part of the city, near where my office is located, and the neighborhood of Frida Kahlo, apparently.

novit chocolates

Look at this adorable little bag of chocolates from the hotel. I know, I get excited about small things. But it’s the little things that make me happy, you know?

I started reflecting on the fact that having a U.S. passport is a privilege I should not take for granted. Then I started thinking of all the potential leadership development projects I could undertake with various Mexicanas and other Latinas I know. I got really excited thinking about this possibility and a little chill down my spine.

Oh, I have to pay attention to those signs. And I do. It is good right now that I have a job that affords me the luxury of traveling down here. I do not take that for granted. I’m starting to re-frame what I am doing and think about other ways I can execute my personal life goals in a way that is meaningful to me.

Cheers & have a great week. If you love Mexico as much as I do, check out my previous post on this topic which has better pics. Adios, amigos/as!

Where is home for you?


Courtyard in Saltillo, Mexico, where my Dad’s family still lives (2014)

Where is home for you?

This is a question my mother-in-law asked me once, thinking perhaps that I would answer “Bemidji” where my grandparents had lived, where I spent my summers growing up, where my parents had retired.

But I did not answer, and had to think about that question.

I moved once a year from 2010 to 2014, pulling up my lightly rooted self, trying yet another location to see what might feel more like where I belonged.

I have lived in Neillsville, Wisconsin, Delavan (WI), Swarthmore (PA), Bemidji (MN), Mountain View (CA), San Francisco, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Roseville (MN), New Brighton (MN), Eden Prairie (MN). Now I live in White Bear Lake, where we moved three years ago when my now-husband was leaving Mankato, to join me in the Twin Cities. I lived in St. Paul at the time and we wanted to compromise on living in the city, or a more “small town” type of environment.

Fox Lake Park

Park in White Bear Lake adjoining our town home

Our rented townhome adjoins a lovely wooded park area where we often see deer, turkeys, and some type of pre-historic sounding large bird which we have not yet conclusively identified.

It has been home to us for over 3 years now, and we comfortable here, but someday we would like to buy our own home, so that we do not have to answer to a homeowners association, and to have a bigger garage that my husband can use for a workshop.

Delavan felt like home to me from age 2 to age 18 when I lived there. My parents and sister and I lived in a two bedroom townhome apartment in this small town, in a safe neighborhood. But during the summers (my parents were teachers) we would go north to Bemidji, where my grandparents lived, and we spent time on the lake. So during my childhood, we was fortunate to have an escape from being close to our neighbors.

When I left for college, I wanted to spread my wings and get outside the Midwest, even though I almost chose Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I’m a Wellstonian politically, and I had an affinity for Carleton after spending a summer there at a Writing Camp.

Fortunately I had enough financial aid to be able to go to Swarthmore College, and I loved the four years I was there. The final one I struggled with some depression, and I understand this is not so uncommon for college seniors about to embark on the “real world” and trying to figure out their true identity outside of being students. I had the help of a wonderful counselor in the student health center, who got me through changing my major, and some fairly big struggles with eating issues and identity questions.

When I left college I moved to the Bay Area of California for a while. I had read Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, and I had also spent a summer doing research at Stanford in Palo Alto, and I’d fallen in love with California. I truly enjoyed the two years I lived there, riding my bike everywhere, taking public transportation every where else and embarking on “grown up” work and life. I rented my first apartment (since I had lived in dorms in college) and met a man who would become my husband (for about 8 years, the remainder of my 20’s).

I had many friends who lived in the area as well, most of them who I knew from college, and we had many good times. I had worked in a lab at Stanford on the good graces of my research professor for a while, but without a graduate degree, work in the sciences did not seem like the most interesting option at the time. I had no trouble finding temp offices jobs (it was the 90’s). They were plentiful but not lucrative, so I found myself going into debt while trying to live well and keep up with the lifestyles of my friends, who were mostly techies, so had disposable income.

When my grandma got sick and had heart surgery in 1998 I decided that I had spent enough time away from the Midwest of my youth, so my husband and I opted to move to the Twin Cities. It is a 4-hour drive to Bemidji, close enough to family, but with a buffer of privacy which I always seem to crave.

After only two years of saving aggressively and living in a cheap, garden-level apartment we were able to wipe out our debt and buy our first home in Saint Paul. I fell in love with Saint Paul and got very involved with political campaigns there, where I met neighbors and made a lot of friends. I started graduate school because work bored me. Working toward a Master of Liberal Studies degree part-time while working full-time was a way to keep learning while paying the mortgage.

When my marriage broke up in 2005, I bought myself my own town home in Saint Paul, a cute little Spanish-style end unit in a 4-plex in Highland Park. I probably ought to have rented for a while instead of buying on the high side of the real estate boom. But I loved the place while I was there, and I relished being happily single again.

So back to the question (asked in 2016): Where is home for you?

Jazz and Cocoa yin yang

I had only one answer. Home is where my fiance (at the time) and kitties are. I have lived so many places and had the luxury of traveling and visiting many countries in my life. I will say that I feel at home in some ways when I am in Mexico, but it is not MY home. The photo at the beginning of this post is the beautiful courtyard of family in Mexico, and I certainly felt at home when I visited in July of 2014.

Minnesota is my home now, and where I see myself living for the foreseeable future. I have lived here more permanently since 1998 and that is nearly 20 years now. I made some bold pronouncements during the Trump campaign when I declared that, if he builds a wall, I will go live SOUTH of it.

As a daughter of an immigrant parent and a parent who lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin in her life, I feel freedom and privilege to declare my home as anywhere I feel loved and safe. The world is my home. It is our home. I have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.

Home right now is Minnesota. Even though I am not the biggest fan of winter, I love the change of seasons. Summers are lovely and Spring and Fall make my heart sing. I often dream of retiring to Mexico, or perhaps living half the year there, and living on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the Spring/Summer/Fall. I am trying to convince my husband this would be a good idea; he does not argue too much, though he would like to find an expat community in Mexico, since he is not fluent in Spanish as I am.

I realize this reflects the privilege I enjoy as an American, and as a person with enough means to be able to live where I choose. And I am deeply grateful for this. I am always home. I will always be loved. I am grateful to be safe in this place.

Lake Superior at dusk

Lake Superior at dusk; taken June 2014 at Larsmont Cottages





I write for me, not for you

If you get some value out of what I write, then it is a bonus.

But I write this blog for me, not for you. That probably sounds selfish, doesn’t it? Yes, I agree. I used to think blogging was the most selfish, narcissistic thing to do. Probably roots back to a decade ago when I lived with someone who blogged three days a week and had difficulty keeping a day job.

He was pretty selfish and narcissistic, come to think of it. Hmm. I now forgive him for the ways in which he took advantage of my kindness, and I appreciate what I learned in the process.

Some people like to talk, and like to hear themselves talk. It gives them comfort when words spout out of their mouths, and they get to “be” out in the world in this way.

Some of us prefer to write, and it gives us comfort when words spill out onto the page or a screen. But it is not so much about “being” in the world, as it is a way to figure out what we really think, what we really want.

What is the difference, then? As an introvert, I prefer the latter. I used to work for a boss that told me she figured out what she wanted to do by bouncing ideas off someone out loud. It was a way of brainstorming and getting to a solution.

Once I truly understood her process, and that it was enormously helpful to her, I could stop running off and trying to implement all of the ideas that flowed out of her like a fountain.

For me, an introvert, I like to let words flow out on paper, or leak out from my fingertips onto my screen. Then I can go back and edit, select, revise and “mine for meaning.” I accept the concept of shitty rough drafts – thank you my dear Anne Lamott.

Not all words are precious, and the majority of them are not. (Thank you, Liz Gilbert.) But words can be a process for us, a way to dig down into the marrow of a situation, really an exploration and an excavation. The provide clues to what we desire and our buried hopes and dreams can re-emerge this way.

Decision fatigue

Other creative media can do this too. Sometimes I engage in whatI call “color work” with my pastels and sheets of newsprint paper. It involves choosing colors I want to work with, using broad strokes on the page, and then smearing the colors with my hands and fingers in a way that is pleasing to the sensations in my fingers.

Writing (in black and white) seldom provides this pleasing sensation. Though it comes much more easily to me than “color work,” my right brain yearns to play with my left brain sometimes. When I indulge it, my soul seems to reward me with deeper insight now and then. When I hear an internal dialogue about how I am not an artist, or that people would laugh at me if they could see this, I quiet that critic and realize it is not about them, it is about me.

It is about bringing my whole self to more of my daily life, my logical parts and my creative parts. It is about bringing the inner fountain to outer manifestations. When we generate and create a lot of ideas, a lot of them will be crap. No worries, mate. That is the nature of ideation and innovation. A few of them might be decent, and maybe a tiny number of them will be brilliant.

But the practice of generating and letting those ideas loose? That is where the magic lies. It is the flow and the discipline of doing this every day, or every Saturday, or twice a day or whatever your preferred rhythm.

This is what brings me joy these days, creating color work that nobody will ever see, and generating words and ideas that please me, or sometimes challenge and annoy me. What a gift, the privilege of doing this. I am eternally grateful that this universe has seen fit to grant me this opportunity, as I know not everyone has as much freedom to do the same.

May you write and read for you, dear reader. If it touches others in some way, invites them to do the same, may we celebrate this incredible privilege together.



We get to do this!

Some days I struggle with being kind to myself. I have a pretty strong inner critic, and she has high standards for me. She tells me I should be brave and find the courage to leave my corporate job and leap into my next thing (whatever that means, I’ll let you know when I figure it out). Or she wonders if my ambition is too spread out between too many things, and divided in trying to fulfill others’ expectations of me. She complains that, if I were more organized, or more focused, I would be achieving my potential. She spins tales of doom and disaster about my periodic insomnia, and chides me for not yet learning how to take better care of  myself.

Then some other, deeper part of me reassures me that I am just fine as I am. I need not worry about paths not taken, plans not completed. All of these life experiences and decisions I make are here to teach me and guide me to what is next. I just need to be here, and make the next decision, in the time it is required. There is no “wrong” choice that is made out of love and generosity, just the next step toward the next phase. There is always some fear – change requires our brains to figure out new things, maybe new ways of being or acting in the world. Because it is unfamiliar, our brains tell us “wait, wrong move, be careful!”  But as Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us during creative endeavors: it’s okay, it’s just a poem (or a story, or a piece of art). It’s not going to kill anyone. Thanks for keeping us safe from predators and harm throughout our evolutionary history. Now you can ride in the back seat of our journey. You do not get to drive or choose the music.

cat at laptop

When I start getting whiny about my job and down about the fact I have a lot less writing time than I want, a re-focus on gratitude can pull me out of that. I begin to embrace the gift of what it means to be alive today, in a time when we can start our own blog, write every day, and share our thoughts with the world. We do not need to have published a book in order to share our stories. We get to create, and shape and develop ideas and thoughts on paper, and on the internets. We get to create communities around our interests if we want to do this. We get to try and fail to get an idea across, to try again, and see what works, see what resonates. We get to be here, those of us who have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, shelter to keep us safe. We get to use our time how we choose, if we have the privilege of living free in a democracy.

How amazing and rich to be a human being on the planet living this life right now. May all of us embrace it, and realize it to be the gift that it is.