TBT: Feliz cumpleaños, Papa

mexico flag country
Photo credit link

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

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

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

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

father daughter reading
Photo credit link

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

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

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

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

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

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

respect

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

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

Happy birthday, Dad!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Saturday Share – Brooke Castillo

Hello Peeps!

This version of the Saturday Share will be a bit different than the usual blog share. I want to give a shout-out to a podcast I have been listening to for 2 years now (though it has been around for ~4.5 years). It is called the Life Coach School podcast, hosted by Brooke Castillo.

Life coach school podcast
cribbed from the Life Coach School podcast page

Back in 2016 when I was getting a handle on my eating issues, and also cutting back on drinking, a friend recommended this show to me. Brooke has coached many women on weight loss for over 10 years, but she expanded to include many other topics over time.

Brooke gave up drinking a couple of years ago herself and had series of 3 podcasts called “stop over-drinking” which were awesome and well worth the listen.

Brooke explains how our thoughts drive our emotions, our emotions drive our actions and our actions create our results. Understanding how this works has led to many “ah ha” moments for me.  She presents a model for thought management (adapted from positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy) so clearly and effectively that I look forward to hearing to this weekly bit of wisdom.

Podcasts tend to come and go in my App. There are some I like (see my audio philes page) and others where I find the hosts to be annoying. Brooke Castillo can be a little much for some people. But I love the way she breaks down complex psychology topics and makes them easy to apply to daily life.

If you love podcasts and want a “life coach in your pocket” check this one out. She promotes only her coaching programs, so there’s not any unrelated annoying ad content in her shows. While I have never attended her programs live (a little out of my price range) I purchased an e-book from her a couple years ago that I enjoyed as well.

Cheers & happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

The elevator speech

On Thursday I met a colleague for coffee who I have not seen in a while. We have traveled together in Colombia and Chile, and she has been a trusted confidante. She was eager to hear about my next gig. I have been refining my “elevator speech” for my network in the company that are curious enough to ask about what I plan to do.

Many colleagues are surprised I am leaving my current company, as I was labeled “high potential” and typically the company pours a lot of resources into developing their “high po’s” as we call them. But that is actually one reason I am leaving. They want to invest in their top 10-15%. That is supposed to trickle down to everyone else. In an ideal work, I suppose it works. I want to invest in 100%. Or at least in 90% – maybe the bottom 10% do not belong there, that’s up for debate.

elevator wallpaper
OMG, isn’t this the best elevator image ever!?! I love it. Photo credit link

So I decided to write up a core values statement so I can explain to friends and colleagues in which area I will consult. I realized in talking with a VP who controls a lot of resources, when I mentioned what I was doing, he had about 4-5 contacts at the company that may be a source of business for me. Ding! A light bulb went on. I am networking the he** out of my contacts in the last 2 weeks while I am still here, and getting feedback on my ideas.

But since you, my faithful readers, have also given me tremendous support and helpful feedback, I thought I’d share the draft here. Below is a short values statement (~50 words) boiled down to the 3 main principles that will form the basis of my practice.

What resonates for you? In what areas would you like more information or clarification? 

Give me the good, the bad and the ugly. I want you to ask questions and throw mud! Really!!

Core Values:

Diversity Drives Innovation.

-Women are natural leaders. We as women must define leadership more broadly. Leadership is coach-able, and we all have the capacity to be better at it.

-Everyone (on a team) is a teacher and a learner. It is best when we have opportunities to serve in both of these roles.

I am working on mini-manifesto of sorts (less than a page, probably 400-600 words) to expand upon these values in a more concrete way.  I will post that one on Monday. These will go onto my consulting website when I launch it in September/October, along with a concise mission statement, which is another piece.

Thank you in advance for any questions, feedback or eggs you can throw at it. Truly. 

Happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Feliz cumpleaños, Papa

mexico flag country
Photo credit link

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.

bulletin board
Photo credit link 

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.

father daughter reading
Photo credit link

I remember Dad teaching me to read by the time I was 4 years old. That made my kindergarten experience 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.

 

 

 

Woman as Creator

There is a funny lyric in an Ani diFranco song that I like in her latest album from the song (alrighty):

next time i watch a man give birth
i’ll try to picture the creator as a dude with a beard
’cause right now i gotta say it’s seemin’ kind of weird

Ani Difranco Binary
Album cover from Binary

When we make a meal for our families, it is work. But it is also creation. It is making something out of other raw materials. It is a sacred and ordinary act. And yet, it is de-valued, and trivialized as “women’s work” so often.

What if we saw each act of caring for another human being as an act of creation? What if we considered our interactions with other people as a way to “create” an experience? How might this change our view of being a Creator?

What if we play with the notion that to create is human? To clean one’s space and arrange one’s home is to create an experience for oneself and one’s living companions.

I am not a fan of cleaning. I dislike it, actually. Right now I pay for the privilege of cleaning help once a month. Usually what happens before each cleaning is that I scramble about our rented townhome and spend time de-cluttering and putting things away, sorting and organizing.

I always saw home-caring as an unsavory burden, something that recalls times when my Mom asked me to clean my room. Usually I would go upstairs, begin the process, and then find a book that had been buried in a pile, and start reading.

Hours later, Mom would check on my progress. I had often finished the book and totally forgotten about cleaning my room. Dear Mother: thank you for your patience in raising me. I have been truly blessed.

When I consider that cooking and cleaning are acts of love for ourselves, and for the people who live with us, it creates less resistance for me. I used to joke that I refuse to conform to a “Latina stereotype” and therefore I calmly refuse to clean up after others. I have been in long-term relationships (one was an 8-year marriage) with men who loved to cook for a reason: I had no intention of carrying that load.

J Lo cleaning
Photo credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

These days I am attempting to clean and organize my space because I would like to set up a true “office” at home. Right now my dear husband has ceded the dining room to my home office. But someday I would like to use it as a dining room again.

This means that I will spend time clearing out the spare room and fully cleaning and de-cluttering it. The job is intimidating to me, I admit. I have an interest in minimalism, and I completely cleaned out the closet in my spare room in the Spring of 2017.

Then Summer in Minnesota arrived, and with it, the desire to spend far more time outside, as is appropriate and necessary for a cold-weather people. No regrets on this, none whatsoever. But I am far from achieving a more minimalist ideal.

Now that winter has arrived, with it a bit of snow, and a desire for warm drinks and inside time, I will recommit to the KonMari effort I started back in the Spring. I am letting go again, and clearing space in my home and in my consciousness for the next “big thing.”

Returning to the original theme of this post: think of all the ways in your life that women are creators. For me, I realize I am the creator of my own life, and of my own experience. If I do not like where it is going, I have the power to change it. I can choose different actions, and create different results.

Mother creator
Photo credit link

Women have always been Creators, giving birth not only to babies but to new ideas, to different ways of working in the world. Given that so many have been responsible for the care of our families, with or without mates to share the load, we are by nature creative and innovative.

When we fully own that creativity, and celebrate it, we begin to create great change in the world. We refuse to be caged in a reality that undervalues women. We begin to understand that our value comes from our own sense of worthiness, and that nobody’s opinion of us is more valid than our own belief in our efficacy.

Women of the world, we are Creators. Do not deny it. The world needs what we are willing to share. Let us have the courage not to worry about the “messiness” that occurs in the process of creation. Let us instead embrace the satisfaction we can take in truly owning our creative natures.

 

 

Happy birthday, Mom

Today is my Mom’s birthday. I want to write about her to honor her today and let her know what she means to me. Mom is my earliest teacher and one of my best teachers. She is an advocate who has always been in my corner, and I am so grateful for her. Mom was the youngest of three siblings in her family, 9 years younger than her older sister and ~4.5 years younger than her brother. She was not spoiled as the youngest, and in fact probably had a tougher road than her siblings in some ways.

I do not know a lot about Mom’s childhood, except stories of mean cousins that bullied her sister, her brother and her. I know she loved to play outdoors (as people in Northern Minnesota tend to do) and that she had a wicked case of poison ivy once. This led to a fierce allergy, and treatment via layers of calamine lotion, which could be scratched off with a hair brush.

Mom attended college in the 60’s and one of my favorite stories was how my Grandma had decided to attend college at that same time as well (when Grandma was in her 50’s). For Mom, college was an expectation, from her parents who knew that education was an asset. She did not love school, but she enjoyed studying music and Spanish. In contrast,  Grandma had always wanted to go to college, but raising a family starting at age 23 during the depression did not leave resources to be spent on college. Also: women were not expected nor encouraged to go to college in the 1930’s.

So my mother had to cope with her own mother attending classes with her, and Grandma being absolutely intrigued and engaged with the opportunity. I daresay Grandma was probably a teacher’s pet in some ways. Because this was a path Grandma chose, she wanted to maximize the experience, so she was one of those students who did ALL the reading, and sometimes challenged her professors with her questions. Mom was not quite 18 when she started college, much younger and probably not as devoted.

However, she was devoted enough to study to become a Spanish teacher (and perhaps music as well) and she completed her course work quickly enough to finish in only 3.5 years. Since she finished early, she bravely determined she wanted to go to Mexico in order to study Spanish on a more immersion basis. In 1965 they opted to spend a summer (or maybe a year, I will have to check) there to truly experience the language. Since Mom also wanted to be able to teach her students music someday – songs are a great way to learn a second language – she sought some guitar lessons in the town in Northern Mexico where they lived (Saltillo).

I keep reflecting on what a brave thing this was to do in those days, to go to a foreign country and to sign up for classes in another language! We take for granted in our generation the ability to Google things, to research everything we want to know on the internet. In the 1960’s that just was not a possibility. One had to have a certain amount of trust that things would work out in order to embark on these sorts of adventures. But embark she did, and of course there is a story I may tell at a different time of her meeting my Dad, who was her first (and possibly only) guitar teacher.

There are a good many stories about their time in Mexico, my Mom and my Grandma, and perhaps I will ask Mom if I can write more about those. Suffice it to say, my Mom taught me this early lesson in being brave and following my curiosity, by her early example. Mom has always had a generous heart, and she fell in love not only with my Dad but with his family as well. Not all of my Dad’s sisters liked Mom. After all, he was the oldest brother in a family of 7 girls and 4 boys. The younger ones were particularly suspicious that Mom was going to “kidnap” their beloved brother and take him back to the States with her. Indeed that is the story my Dad sometimes tells, but the storyteller weaves the tale they want to tell.

My Mom taught me to be grateful for what I have, and to express that gratitude openly. To this day, I tend to write thank you notes for birthday gifts, Christmas gifts and most recently, wedding gifts. I do not always get around to this, and usually I feel a bit guilty about that, but I have compassion with myself. It is actually a rare art, hand-writing thank you notes these days, but I am glad it is a practice she instilled in me.

Mom taught me to be kind to people, no matter who they are or what their station in life, and Dad very much reinforced this message as well. She still is one of the kindest and most generous-hearted people I know. I only wish she could be kinder to herself sometimes. She is the type of person you can rely on when you are down, to try to cheer you up. She has deep empathy for the suffering of people, and she is thoughtful about sending cards to friends, in good times and bad. My sister and I thought she should own a greeting card store, she had such a knack for picking out the right card to say just the right thing when it is needed.

After spending a few years teaching after her return from Mexico, and after my Dad got his degree here in the States (a second bachelor’s after his first one completed in Mexico), she decided to stay home. She wanted to raise her family and devote her time to this endeavor. In the 70’s that was a somewhat radical act, given that most women were insisting on working outside the home, even with children. But Mom really wanted to BE a Mom, and I am still grateful for all the time and energy she gave to my sister and me. I could probably write an entire book (and someday I might) on the lessons my Mom has taught me over the years. For now, I just want to express profound gratitude and wish her a happy 73rd birthday. Thank you for everything, Mom.

Happy birthday, Mom