Monthly Motivational Mantra

 

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February Watchword- Fearless

I am not superhuman. But, I am a Latina, which is nearly the same thing. When I begin to feel fear, I acknowledge it. “Yeah fear. I see you. I hear you pounding the inside of my chest trying to break me apart.” I close my eyes, take a deep breath. I get myself ready. I look fear straight in the eye and say, “But, I’m still doing it anyway. Now, step aside!”

 

*This photo is of my first rock-climbing trip in Colorado. I took the photo so that I could examine the hook and cables sixty feet above me. I would be putting my entire weight… and faith on them.

Re-evaluating Your Relationship with Money

I have to admit something… I am frugal; a penny pincher. I will call businesses to inquire about discounts. I give myself time to contemplate purchases before I follow through. In sum, I am careful about spending money. I have more to confess, I’m proud to be frugal. It was not always this way.
 
I grew up knowing that money was important and that my family did not have a lot of it. It’s not as though we were impoverished. No. Both of my parents worked full time in a meat packing plant. They worked their asses off. They made sure that we had all the essentials- shelter, food, clothing. They made sure we even a few niceties. We had annual family vacations. We had four bedrooms for five children to share. But, I knew we were not rolling in it either. I was wise enough to ask for as little as possible.
 
And I grew up knowing something else, that I would make enough money to get whatever I wanted. I thought having an all-American Girl’s life was all about that. You see, I grew up with something else too. I grew up with American teenage girl messaging. To me, being an All-American girl was about having a perfect closet setup like Cher in Clueless. It was finding love and being able to tell bitches to go to hell like Vivian in Pretty Woman. It was ruling a nation with an extensive wardrobe for your jewels like Mia in Princess Diaries. And I endeavored to live my life similarly.
 
As soon as I could, I obtained employment so that I did not have to rely on what my parents could afford to give me. When I finished high school, I attended a junior college full time and worked full time. I lived with my parents. My life was pretty damn good.
 
I did not have rent or groceries as an expense because my parents still took care of all that. I provided only for myself. When I transferred to a four year college six hours away from home, I was finally on my own. I learned the true cost of living- rent, groceries, everything. My disposable income to live the all-American girl life I wanted shrank. What did not shrink was my want for the pretty things.
 
Unfortunately, I did not have the knowledge to understand money management. My parents never discussed money, finances, or budget management with me. None of it. I knew nothing about credit cards. I knew nothing about checking accounts. My parents, first-generation immigrants, did not have either. I know that they did have savings accounts. I knew that on Thursdays were pay days. They would go into “town” to buy money orders for bills they paid via USPS (pre paying online.) They paid for all local bills by driving to each business. I never saw financial problems in our home- cut utlities or repossessed vehicles. Oh no! My parents were responsible.
 
The problem is, they did not share this knowledge with me. So there I was, wanting to live an “all-American Girl’s Life” as seen on TV. Once I got to college, I got the key to the city and it was madeof plastic. Credit Cards. The first week on campus there were credit card companies encouraging co-eds to sign up. I did. Credit cards. Credit cards took me to a whole new level. They elevated my taste for expensive things. Of course, back then I was lucky if I had a thousand dollar limit. My finances did not get completely out of control. But, I still had no knowledge about how and why to fix my finances.
 
The time finally came that I completed my schooling and entered the workforce. Once my career got started, I bought the beautiful things I associated with my new career girl status. I bought anything that caught my eye. I felt empowered by designer name tags and emboldened by the sound of a cash register ringing me out. Shopping became a mood lifter. Lousy day? Don’t worry; something beautiful will make it better. Break up with a guy? Go shopping! A Coach bag will never break your heart.
 
You know where this story leads to… Disaster, Debt, and Doubt. That’s right, I created a disaster of my financial situation. I had debt. And, I doubted my ability to create the life that I had long envisioned for myself. It was a shock.
 
When it finally dawned on me that I was being careless with my money and my future. I took a step back. First, I stopped shopping. I stopped going to stores. I began to enjoy time all to myself that included getting back to reading, writing and thinking. Finally, I learned some important things.
 
I learned that pretty things do not bring happiness. I learned that unless you are whole on the inside no amount of pretty stuff on the outside can fill the hole. I learned that, if you are not careful or honest with yourself, the things you own end up owning you.
 
I cannot say that I am improved or evolved. Even now, I like pretty things. But, now I do not buy everything that I think is pretty. Though I do not enjoy the tedium of shopping, I do find the acquisition of property to be satisfying. But, I know that I am not better because of the things I own. I know that my worth as a human is not based on the car I drive, house I own or money in my bank account.
 
But, I also know that money is powerful. Money can enable you to pursue a passion, extend a helping hand, or assist you in creating memories. And therefore, it should be respected along with the efforts it takes to make it. I still do not keep a tight budget. I still do not pay attention as much as I should. But, I balance immediate desires to use my money in a way that can help me achieve my lifelong goals. More importantly, I have reset my approaches to money. 
 

What kind of relationship do you have with money?

Beware the Boys

The dogs growled at one another. “Behave.” I yell. Why won’t they let me concentrate on this free writing. I try to focus on the thoughts running through my mind. Will I create a next best seller? Will I create a POS? Will I create?

I return to the sounds of the dogs, this time it is the quiet sounds of eating. My pack of three enjoying their meal. I do not ever recall wanting a pet when I was young. My personality was much too cold to want something so warm. And wet.

The little one jumps on my lamp and licks my chin. He is the youngest of the bunch; a blondie bear of a terrier. I can understand why parents let the youngest run them ragged. After a certain point, parents just want to get something done. I squint and focus on my writing while he crawls onto my shoulder. I return my attention back to the task at hand. But it is not easy to do. One by one, the boys ask, no, demand my attention. How did I get here?

My willingness to get a family pet came after my husband and I were unable to conceive. I did not enjoy the hormones that the doctors prescribed to get pregnant. My husband did not enjoy me while I was on the hormones.

A few months after our decision to end the process, my stepson voiced a desire for a dog. Growing up, my family never had pets. My mother and father had five children on their hands. I imagine that was enough herding and wrangling for them. I had attempted pet ownership in years prior. I shirked the responsibilities of my two prior pets onto my more human friends when things got hard. Those two pets spent less than three months total time with me. I was under 30 years old during that time.

About six months after my stepson had begun to ask for a dog, we found our first furry friend in February 2012. Chewbacca was a two month old brown mutt who my husband immediately loved. He made me fill out the paperwork at the adopt-a-dog event because he refused to put “Chewie” back down. Someone else may want him. By February 2013, Shaggy and Baxter had joined our household.

Learning to like pet ownership was not made easy by my three chewing, pooping, peeing, loving lads. By the time we get home from work at 6:00 p.m., they demand attention. Daily, they need walked, fed, and occasionally, washed and groomed. Note, this one, contrary to what you may think, is not always at your choosing. In the last week alone, I have bathed blondie bear Baxter twice because he rolled around in some funk. In short, they are work. If I pick up my computer or a book to read before I have given them enough attention, they will let me know it.

And, you guessed it, my husband and stepson do not contribute as much as I do to the care and upkeep of our furry friends. But here’s the thing, I am okay with that. By becoming my pets’ primary caretaker, I have learned about myself.

Our family pets have given me more than I give them. Examine a photo representation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I posit that I help meet their basic needs- food, water, warmth, rest, security, and safety.

But they do so much more for me. I posit that they help meet my greater hierarchical needs, psychological needs. They provide me friendship and companionship. Every morning before 6:00 a.m., I get up to start writing. Within fifteen minutes, they leave the warmth of our bedroom to snuggle next to me on the couch while I write. When I find myself laid up due to illness, they will remain at my side while I recover. They are devoted. They force me to take good actions. Because I know that their behaviors will be more relaxed, I try to take them out for a walk in the evenings. And, by walking them in the evenings, I am taking an action that benefits me. The walk in the evening benefits me as I have sat all day in an office. I feel a sense of accomplishment for getting exercise and doing something for my dogs.

They are even helping me to become a fully self-realized human being. I have learned patience, kindness, compassion; all thanks to my furry friends. They have even helped me work towards my full potential by inspiring my creativity in this essay. Yes, they fuel my inspiration often. Chewie’s first year with us, I wrote kids’ stories featuring him as the protagonist. Perhaps someday I will even revisit those ideas. For now, they help give me the love and support I need to become a better person every day.

Contemplating the future, I do not know if I will get more pets once my boys die. I do not think that I would want to own three dogs all at once again. Like ever! It is so much work. But, I now understand why pets are so important to people. They give you love and a sense or responsibility. They make things fun and you more patient. In sum, pets can help balance you out. If you are considering a pet, get it. Your world will open up in ways that you could not have imagined.

Now it’s your turn to share. Tell me the story of your first pet and how it helped you grow.

Six Spanish Movies that will make you feel…

I am an avid consumer of popular culture. I love movies and television. In fact, it was thanks to American television growing up that I learned some of the finer nuances of American culture.

As an adult, nothing makes me feel connected to my Latin roots like Spanish based movies and music. If you, like me, like to use your Spanish skills to enjoy this type of media then here is a list to inspire you. This list includes movies from the 1980s to 2000s.

Like Water for Chocolate

Como El Agua Para el Chocolate is a 1992 film based on the 1989 novel by Laura Esquivel. This is an arthouse movie that is set during the Mexican Civil War of 1910.

This story is complex and beautiful. It is a deeply symbolic movie is about star-crossed lovers. It also features a highly toxic relationship between mother and daughter. There is some nudity so don’t be alarmed by the front nudity featuring major 80s bush.

Under the Same Moon

Bajo la Misma Luna is a 2007 journey’s hero movie focusing on a young boy. After the death of his grandmother who is raising him in Mexico, he travels unaccompanied to Los Angeles where he hopes to find his mother played by Kate Del Castillo. You will cry. That is… if you have a soul.

The Motorcycle Diaries

This movie came out in 2004 and it features one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Garcia Bernal. If you do not already know him, you are missing out. Garcia Bernal portrays a young Ernesto “Che” Guevara in this dramatic biopic. The movie is based on the real life events that led to Guevara’s enlightenment and acknowledgment of social injustice.

Belle Epoque

1992 movie.  I watched this movie when I was entirely too young! Belle Epoque is about a young Spanish Army deserter who has sex with four sisters. As sexist and gross as that sounds, this movie was actually highly acclaimed and features a young Penelope Cruz as Luz, the youngest sister who ultimately marries the adorable, army-deserting loser.

Love is a Bitch

Amorres Perros or  (2000). This excellent movie stars Gabriel Garcia Bernal in a dramatic ensemble about a people linked together by a horrific car accident. It is Crash before Crash came out.

Ladron Que Roba Ladron (2007)

This movie is a Robin Hood-esque, heist comedy. In addition to having a premise that will help you justify cheering for the “bad guy” robbers, you will enjoying Gabriel Soto’s beautiful body as he sweats and digs a tunnel.

What is your favorite Spanish-language movie?

Monthly Motivational Mantra

Work towards progress, not PERFECTION.

In my younger years, I was not as wise. I wore the badge of “perfectionist” proudly. As time passed, I realized the absurdity of my self-assessment. I learned, through a much wiser friend, that perfectionism is a form of procrastination. Why? For perfectionist to get things perfect three things have to line up PERFECTLY: Time, Inspiration, Capacity. Impossible!

Now, I think about the ways in which I can move projects along to the next phase. I accomplish a large number of projects, goals and responsibilities when I move towards progress.

I don’t have to be perfect or inspired to get moving. I just need to progress forward.

American Me

 
Recently, I was having a conversation with my spouse about identity designations. The conversation went something like this,
 
“Why are people using Latinx? Why don’t you guys just use Latin instead and omit the need for X?” He assumed that Latin was gender neutral.
 
A brief history of Latin
 
According to Dictionary.com, Latin is a word with three meanings. First, it refers to the official language of the Roman Empire. Second, it identifies the forms of literary Latin- Medieval, Late, Biblical, Liturgical or Vulgar. Finally, it identifies natives or inhabitants of Latium or ancient Rome.
 
Napoleon III coined the term “Latin America” in the early 1900s. It aligned the countries of the American continent where Latin-based languages were spoken. This was important for the French. The goal? To align “Latin-Americans” with “Latin Europe” against “Slavic,” and “Teutonic Europe” as well as against “Anglo Saxon America.” More relevant, by changing the prior description of Hispanic America, it could increase France’s role in the region. This would enable France to invade Mexico and install Maximilian I as its emperor in 1861.
 
So back to my husband’s question, why don’t I call myself a Latin Because I do not connect myself to ancient Rome. But, I do identify myself as Latina, Latinx or Latino-Americana, so why distinguish?
 
In the US, Latinos were not identified differently from whites prior to this time period. This is not to say there was no discrimination against people of Latinx descent. In the US, social movements sought to increase the voices of minority groups in the 1960s and 1970s. To identify the needs of Spanish (here I use it to mean the language) people, a special designation was needed.
 
By the 1990s when I was growing up, Latino-Americano was part of the vernacular. I embrace it because it aligns me with women who have similar life experiences, even if their families aren’t from Mexico. And, I believe that hate reduces when we see ourselves in others. Can you imagine what it would mean for “White America” to realize that the term “American” is not exclusive to them? Imagine if they realized that the term includes all the people living between Denali and Del Fuego? Such a realization would change our society.
How do you identify? Why?
 

Mama Didn’t Mean That Honey…

Words matter. Words have the power to embolden and empower. They also have the power to destroy and denigrate. This is especially true with children. It is important to contemplate the words we say to children. And, people who want to be decent parents try. We stay away from language that will brow-beat, disregard, or mistreat our children. We forgo frustrated statements that will scar children in years to come.  

I pondered the hidden messages that children may hear in or between our words. Communication is a two person activity. It is not only the intention of the speaker that matters. Interpersonal communication requies listeners to interpret the message. I have contemplated the benign words we use that unintentionally impact children. I came up with three types I wish to explore.

Unsaid Statements

Sometimes, we communicate positions and expectations to our children without even knowing. Most often these unsaid statements are due to defaulting to assuming the status quo. Contemplate the following example:

A young man embarking upon high school is nervous about dating. His parents tell him that he is a smart and handsome young man and any girl would be lucky to date him.

If the young man in question is gay then our affirming statement may create the wrong impression. He may now assume that his parents demand heterosexual behavior from him. The young man may feel rejection of who he is. Instead, his parents intended their words to be supportive of his likability.

This is tough because the parents may not have a problem with whom their son chooses to love. They may not expect him to default to a status quo relationship. But, he know assumes that; unnecessarily so. Language conventions need words have specific meanings which distinguish them from other words.

As my son has reached high school, I have tried to work outside of the status quo. When he has felt bad about himself, I remind him that any person would be lucky to date him. I have said, “once you meet a boy or girl you like.”

To which he replied, “oh mama.”

“I want to make sure you understand that who you like will not impact how much I like you.” I said and walked away.

Blanket Statements

Blanket statements, overgeneralization, stereotypes. All these words fall under the logical fallacy known as hasty generalizations. Hasty generalizations are statements without adequate supporting evidence. Hasty generalizations illicit assumption, stereotyping, unwarranted conclusion, overstatement, or exaggeration. I know all this because I took too many philosophy classes in college. And yet.. I find myself committing the fallacy of hasty generalization with my own child. Like, always. (see what I did there?)

When I make blanket statements to my son they usually have to do with house chores and begin like “You Never…” or “You always forget….”

It may feel like he never does X or always forgets to do Y. Those all or nothing words serve to undermine the impact of the message. Even if there were truth to such a statements, how does stating that truth help you get the result you want? I posit that it does not.

Young people justify actions when situations seem hopeless. And negative thinking can lead to future negative actions. Thus, we must prove that for every problem there is a solution.

“She never notices when I do things right anyway.”

As parents the key to raising children that think like you is to make them want to emulate or please you. When we act with good and maintain high self-expectations, children will rise to our level. To this end, I am going to change my words. When I want to say,

“You always forget to throw out the trash.”

Instead, I am going to try to say,

“I do not like it when you forget to throw out the trash.”

Regrettable Statements

The final type of statement to curb are the statements we make that we later regret. I have been guilty of it. I am horrified to think about the number of times that I may said something that I should not have said to my child. I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease because I am temperamental and impetuous. A dangerous combination.

I do not have any examples for statements in this section. Because I cannot think of any now. And, likely because it is too embarrassing to recall the ugly words I may have said to my sweet stepson. But, I have begun to develop a technique for lessening the number of time that “Amada Piranha” rears her ugly head. (And yes, my bite can be so sharp that my family’s nickname for me is in fact, “Amada Piranha.”)

When you feel those ugly words making their way out of your mouth. Bite down. Cover your lips with your hands and run away. Do not talk. Use a two to one ratio for this practice. In other words, “for every one minute of talking you are about to do, think for two minutes first.”

How do you prevent from making these types of statements with your children?

 

A Way With Words

A book review of Isabel Allende‘s, “In the Midst of Winter.” 
 
winter-en
I read this book at the end of 2018 in preparation for my first book club meeting of 2019. There are few things that can stir me in the way that a well written book can. Among the authors that I have read, there is but a handful that I can count on to meet this need. Isabel Allende is one such author.
 
This is a beautifullywritten story. In this book, Allende takes the lives of three individuals. She braids the stories of their past to help explain their present actions. To me, it felt contrived. The premise- two people help a stranger with illegal tasks- is far-fetched. Among the other members of my book club, the feeling was the same. Most were unable to overcome this issue and enjoy the book.  
 
I did. And, I am glad that I pushed past my initial reaction. Allende is an author who surprises me. She managed to do that in a few places in this book. Plus, I enjoy her way with words. And this skill remained present.
 
If you are an Allende fan, I recommend this book. You may like it. If you are reading Isabel Allende for the first time, don’t pick this book as your representation of her work. You may be disappointing. Rather, I recommend starting with the books Daughter of Fortune, Paula, and Eva Luna. A qualifier, I have not read the books Paula and Eva Luna. Those were recommendations by mi amiga Marta Alfonso Durruty.
 
Have you read In the Midst of Winter? What did you think about it?