Fearless Parenting

Since my husband and I married, I have embraced the role of my family’s chief event planner. I particularly enjoy planning family vacations for my family of three. My goals for every family vacation include the following objectives:
 
  • Exploring a place that our family has never visited;
  • (On road trips) introducing my husband and son to new audiobook; and,
  • Participating in some outdoor adventure.
 
Thanks to this formula, we have enjoyed excellent vacations and created long lasting memories. We have done activities outside of our comfort zones and that is a good thing. Life requires adventure. Without it, you spend your life in a never-ending loop of wake, work, and sleep.  
 
Many think we pursue outdoor adventures for the adrenaline rush. Personally, I seek outdoor or extreme adventures because they can teach you lessons that you carry throughout life. I force myself to be adventurous. I have been canyoneering, skydiving, rock-climbing, and white-water rafting, to name a few. These adventures, have given me insight that helped me in life. The have helped me examine problems. They have helped in my growth. I hope they can guide you too.
 
Be an active participant in your own rescue 
I sat at the front of a yellow, six-person raft. A rush of water splashed from the river. I was drenched. I thanked G-d that we had opted to rent the scuba material suits; the water was freezing. And, it was moving fast, faster than it had first appeared while we stood at the side of the river waiting to checking in.
 
Our raft began to move through some intimidating rapids. Rocks jutted from the river bed, creating the white peaked waves that pushed us downriver. Then, I heard voices yelling from the rafts ahead. Nervous energy built up across all six rafts in that excursion. A young man of approximately thirteen years had fallen out of his boat. I began to feel worried. His poor mom! I tried to recall the advice given by the river guides that morning. Point your feet down river. Swim to the boat closest to you.
 
“Come on kid. Get back into a raft. Any raft.” The river guide yelled from his position in the back of our raft. “Remember, you must be an active participant in your own rescue.”
 
Years later, those words stay with me. These words have deep implications in how I move forward in life. They imply several ideas. They are so powerful and profound that I find myself from time to time, contemplating them. In fact, they are words that I instill on my stepson. 
 
First, learn to look out for and save yourself. One of the most important things we must do as adults is look out for our own safety. This means many things. It means maintain situational awareness in your day to day life. In large crowds, keep you eyes off your phone and moving around observing everything. But, it means more than looking out in the physical world. It means, that you must be aware of your circumstances. How do you do this? Ask for help when you need it. It means be your own advocate. And, it means that you do not rely on anyone without first doing what you can for yourself.
 
And, these words translate into the career world also. when situations place us in peril we must work to protect ourselves. For example, a problem arises with a work project. You must ask your employer how to correct the problem. You could go to your boss throw your hands up in the air and say “not my fault and I don’t know what to do.” But handling different could garner better results.
 
Instead, tell your employer about the problem and provide solutions. In this manner, you are being an active participating in your own rescue. Plus, you have demonstrated great skills to your employer. You have provided insight into your strategic thinking. Moreover, you have shown initiative providing solutions not only problems to your employer. You have demonstrated an ability to be coachable or trainable. This is crucial.
 
Rely on your tools & training
 
My family first learned to rock climb at a gym in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you have never been rock climbing, know that it is hard. It requires lifting your body from the safety of the ground up onto the edge of a rock formation by a small piece of metal and some rope. Tough to wrap your mind around. But, worth it. 
For me, rock climbing helped clear my mind in a way that my many attempts at meditation have never been able to do. When I begin to ascend the side of a mountain, I cannot think of anything but the task on hand. Maybe it is because I am afraid of falling to my death. But, I prefer to think that it is because at that moment I am Zen.
 
Rock climbing has taught me that at that you have to have faith in your preparations. I learned the tools of the trade- helmet, harness, carabiners & belays plus some rope- are enough to secure your safety. But, preparations and thoughts are not enough without action. At some point, you have to get to climbing.
 
Let go & enjoy the view
 
Fifteen years ago, I decided that I wanted to experience skydiving. I have a sibling who is much more adventurous than me and he had been itching to try this adventure.
 
Skydiving is one of the more complicated of the extreme adventure activities. A beginning skydiver takes approximately eight jumps strapped to an experienced skydiver. This is a tandem jump. Thereafter, they are ready to free fall alone.
 
My brother and I were different, or so we reasoned. We could handle it the “right” way. We discovered an eight hour long class at the end of which we would do static line jumps on our own. In a static line jump, your parachute connects to the airplane. After you fall a certain number of feet, the cord connected to the plane pulls your parachute out.
 
During the eight hour class we were instructed on the mechanics of the jump. We learned on the importance of grabbing on to the wing and letting go at the right time.
 
After the training, I thought I had it all figured out. I felt ready to go. Unfortunately, once we got up and my turn came, the practice was nothing like the reality. I had no problem grabbing the wing as I had on the ground. But, I had not factored the wind speed hitting against me as the plane was flying! (I know what was I thinking.) 
 
I am a teacher’s pet by nature and want to do everything “the right way.” I wanted another chance to do it. (Truthfully? I was freaked the fuck out and I needed to wrap my head around this new information.) I sought to re-enter the plane. That was not permitted. My instructor took one look at me, shook his head no, and kicked the one foot holding me into the plane.
 
I WAS FALLING!
I was falling to the ground at such a fast speed that I could feel myself screaming but could not hear my own sounds. My nightmare scenario come to life! After five seconds, five minutes, or five hours, I cannot recall how long, my parachute finally opened. My fear dissipated. I looked around and saw the beauty of the earth without the noisy interruptions of daily life. I felt alive.
 
I have not gone skydiving since then and I probably never will again. But, I have become better at letting go both physically and emotionally thanks to that experience. I still feel the confidence of overcoming such an emotional obstacle, even if I did have to get kicked out of the plane.
 
Except for the skydiving, all outdoor adventures have included my stepson. From age six, he has participated in white water rafting and rock climbing with us. And, although not athletic or adventurous by nature, he has enjoyed the experiences. Whether he has gained as much from them as I is yet to be seen. But, I believe that my adventures have improved me. They have made me approach others differently. And in that regard, I know that his life has been impacted as well.
 
What parenting lessons have you learned from your outdoor adventures?

Building your bucket list

Ever since I can remember, I have had a running list of notables that I longed to accomplish. Nothing written in stone, just a few things that I thought would give my life dimension. Over time, I began to develop a written list. And, I have begun to accomplish those goals.

It can seem obsessive to create a bucket list. You make a plan for future fun. In time, you hope to make enough of an effort to check some of those items off your list. I admit; I love it. It is probably my most American of traits.

If you are interested in developing your list, permit me to impart some thoughts on how to proceed.

Create your list

The purpose of a bucket list is to help you grow. Therefore, creating a bucket list requires self-analysis and contemplation. If you need help creating your bucket list, start by answering a few questions.

Do you like people? Do you like being out in nature? Do you wish to take risks? Do you like to learn?

When I thought of these questions, I realized that I do like people and being somewhat in nature. I recognized that my risk taking days are over but my days or learning are not. Based on my answers to the questions above, I added the following items to my bucket list:

Learn (at least one) foreign language; Travel to every State in the US, Travel to every country in the Americas and Europe; Create a blog; and, Become a published author.

I further defined my categories. For example, “foreign languages” can be identified by the specific languages if there are more than one. I currently speak English and Spanish. During the pandemic, I started learning Portuguese. I can now envision adding French and Italian to my future bucket list.

When creating your bucket list, another consideration should be how the categories are interlinked. For example, one of my goals is to travel throughout the Americas and Europe. Being conversant in multiple languages will make my travels easier. In fact, I see a link with my becoming fluent in another language with the increased likelihood that my spouse and I would live abroad during retirement.

Take active steps

Once you have one or more items on your list, work towards achieving those goals. Your bucket list cannot lay fallow for too long. You will have to carve out time for your endeavor. This is a good thing. Remember, it is important for every person to make time for themselves. I posit that taking active steps to accomplish an item from your bucket list will help you destress.

Another important note, it’s important to know when to stop. If, after you have begun working on a bucket list item, you cease to enjoy it, then let it go. Do not cling to those things which no longer serve you.

Now it’s your turn. How have you developed your bucket list? Share with me in the comments.

Need more ideas?

Needing more ideas to add to your bucket list? I have spent countless hours… “researching” (it sounds so much better than wasting time) online to cultivate the following list:

Learn to play an instrument;

Make every recipe in a cookbook;

Read a book a month for life;

Grow a bonsai;

Be an extra in a movie;

Learn to dance;

Watch the sun set on every continent; or

Become a master craftsperson.

Why Checking Solely White is No Longer Right for Me

In 2012, I visited the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. There I learned that race is a social construct. There are no significant scientific distinctions between people of differing pigmentations. To be more precise, human DNA varies no more than .01% between people of different “races” or skin tone. (For more information, check out this archived NYT story and this National Geographic book review.)


For a long time, race was something I took for granted. Like every other American, I have filled out forms that included questions about my race, ethnicity, gender, and religious affiliation. And, based on my understanding of race and ethnicity, I have filled always my forms out as follows:

  • Race- White
  • Ethnicity- Hispanic/Latino- Yes

In 2017, my husband purchased for me an ancestry kit. Through that process, I learned that I was 44.7% European descent and 41.5% Native American descent. Yet, throughout my entire life, I had only identified myself as racially White. I always understood that my Mexican-ness was an ethnicity, not a race. I now believe that by identifying only one aspect of my lineage, I missed out on an important part of my family’s history.


Why does it matter?


I have pondered this question since I learned about my ancestral history. I have begun to put more thought into it as I contemplate how to answer the census questionnaire that will be hitting my mailbox this year. What is the longterm impact in my life on thinking of myself as a White Hispanic? I am not sure.


But, I do think that it has some impact.


You see, I now believe that it is important to see myself as all the above- Mexican-born, Native American and white, US citizen. In the past year, I found an article on PBS about the shifting nature of the definition of whiteness. And, I came to recognize that many of the same people who now disparage the incoming immigrants, were, at one time, seen in those same terms by “Real Americans.” However, once they got scooped up into the definition of whiteness, they forgot what it meant to be immigrant. They became the haters that their ancestors once faced.

I don’t want to be that way. And, I want to help others not to be that way. By reminding myself of the ties I have to other people that inhabit the land around me, I can encourage others to consider how they see themselves. I think it is worth it to try to relate to everyone. I think that when we see more of ourselves in others, we are able to see the humanity in everyone.

In the time that I have been contemplating this, I have slowly begun to include Native American as part of my self identify on various questionnaires. I have tried to be careful that I do it in a way that is not misleading or distracting from those individuals who have been raised in largely native or indigenous communities. And, I have decided that I will be checking both Native and White in the 2020 census along with Latina and Mexican.

Are there boxes you should not check?

The same ancestry test told me that I have 3% Subsaharan African and 1% Western Asian and North African descent and that 1% of my European descent derived from an Ashkenazi Jewish ancestor. I am excited to learn a little more about these connections. Nonetheless, I do not plan on including black or African American as a box that I check.

I think that in order to identify with a race or ethnic identity one must have had experiences or awareness of that identity in youth.

I grew up speaking Spanish, brought up by Mexican parents in a community that included large numbers of Central Americans. My parents tethered me to that world.

At the same time, I grew up in a primarily white school. All of my friends were of European descent. I went to college in Topeka, Kansas and was in a sorority. I tethered myself to Anglo America.

When I think of those two things- the world I came from and the world I created for myself, I do not believe that my lived experiences enable me to check the box for Black or African American. In other words, I have not lived the experiences of a black person.

Do you have a story of contemplating your ancestral identity? Share it with me.

My Worlds Collide

Ways to incorporate Mexican traditions into your holiday season.

Welcome to 2020 amigas and amigos. I am excited to come back from the holiday season renewed and ready to rock a new decade. How about you?

From reading my blog in the past you may know that I am an immigrant from Mexico who came to the US at a young age (6.) Over my lifetime as an American, I have assimilated into the mainstream, anglo culture. Perhaps a little too well. As a result, I oftentimes find it difficult to incorporate Mexican traditions into my holiday season.

This Christmas, I experienced the joy of having my parents in my home. That helped because when they are around, I feel more authentically Mexican. See, I don’t spend every Christmas with my parents. Every other year, they travel to Mexico during the holidays to see my paternal grandmother.

During the holidays when my parents are in the US, we make tamales. This has been a tradition for my family since I was a child so it absolutely helps to make me feel more authentically Mexican. But, this year, we did not make tamales. So, how did I end up feeling that this was my most authentically Mexican holiday season? Check it out…

Let the magic happen

As I shared earlier, my parents visited our home during the holidays. This was wonderful but can prove challenging. When my husband and I spend time with my parents, I become the de facto translator between them. I am not complaining. I enjoy nothing more than to help my parents communicate with the English speaking world. I have done that since my age was in the single digits.


But, as you can imagine, translating is mentally exhausting. Additionally, I don’t enjoy what happens when I serve as a translator in a conversation between my parents and my husband. It seems to me that when I am around, my parents speak to me and at my husband.

However, this wonderful thing happened, my worlds collided. I stepped away to my bedroom for a few moments and suddenly… Magic. Rather than relying on my translation skills, my parents and my husband began to communicate and interact with one another. My parents used their English speaking skills to converse directly with my husband.

It was wonderful. My husband instantly became more attentive and focused on what they had to say. The people I love the most were sharing in laughter and fun. I sat and listened to them for about ten minutes just talking with one another. I will treasure that memory always.

Explored other Mexican flavors

As you know, we did not make tamales this Christmas Eve. However, we did explore another Mexican delicacy. Beef tongue tacos.

This was a fun experience because we invited a few non-Latino friends to our home during our Christmas Eve celebration. Since I know that food likes are based on what people grow up with, I did have an alternative meat to the beef tongue (for a good recipe, click the link) that was more traditional American fare, ground beef. After all, my non-Latino husband does not like the idea of eating a beef tongue.

At least in my family, there are several philosophies about whether or not you should tell your non-Latinos guests that they are eating a beef tongue. My brothers just tells people it’s beef, shut up and eat it. On the other hand, I believe that full consent is necessary.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is some value to just telling people it’s beef. For some reason the fact that it is a tongue freaks most non-Latinos out. But the reality is that beef tongue, when prepared correctly, is just as soft and tasty as beef filet. I personally find it weird that the same people who are grossed out by beef tongue are the same people who have no qualms with eating an American hot dog. But, I digress.

I notified my guests what was on the menu. I am happy to report that those that did try the beef tongue found it enjoyable. In addition to having a delicious taco bar, we played Spanish Christmas music all night. It was one of the best Christmas Eves we have had.

Found new holiday classics

One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is enjoy all the holiday movies. From classics like Scrooged (yes, Bill Murray’s Scrooged is the best rendition of the Dickens classic and don’t tell me different or I will fight you) to the cheesy (this year’s fave? Netflix’s The Holiday Calendar), I love to watch them all.

This year I shared my new favorite (which I found last year thanks to a great Remezcla article) with my husband. Nothing Like the Holidays. It was a wonderful experience. My husband loved the movie as much as I did. We agreed that it would be added to the list of holiday classics we watch each year.

In sum, my holidays season was wonderful. Thanks to giving my family the opportunity to interact, I witnessed a beautiful moment between my husband and my parents. I found an alternative to the heavy work that tamales require by trying another Mexican foodie favorite, beef tongue tacos. And, I shared a great movie with my husband and son that also gave us some insight into the beautiful traditions that Puerto Ricans incorporate into their holidays. In sum, I was blessed.

How did you incorporate your family’s immigrant traditions into your life this holiday season?

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, they 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 to go out, walked, fed, and occasionally, also washed and groomed. 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.

I posit that they help meet my 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. They have 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. It is work. But, I now understand why pets are so important to people. They give you love and a sense of responsibility. They make things fun and me 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.

Tell me the story of your first pet and how it helped you grow.