Category Archives: Pondering

Missing

It’s been a month since Tata’s passing. They are holding a mass for her in Miami later tonight. I’m here, in Chicago, so I can’t go. Plus, I teach tonight, so I’ll be in class while the mass is going on. More often that I would care for, these past years, it’s been abruptly brought to my attention the constraints work has on personal lives. Especially when work is located so far away from family.

Living abroad, living away, being separated from those dearest and loved seems to transfer into reorganizing priorities in a way in which the urgent tends to take precedence over the truly important. I’ve had to think about this often these past two years, first when my mom was ill, and I was able to fly to Miami and be there with my parents, but then had to fly back because I had work responsibilities and classes to teach, while she was still hospitalized.

Now with Tata’s passing, this has become once again evident to me. I was too far to just grab a plane be there for the funeral and then back in time to teach my weekly classes.  It simply wasn’t possible, timewise, to be in both places at the same time. It also didn’t seem possible to be both physically present here and fully engrossed in the emotions that would be palpable there. I said before Tata’s death hadn’t hit me yet, and I think more than not haven hit me, I didn’t let it hit me. The timing was not right.

I am a very calm, cool, collected type of personal, some would say rational. I am in touch with my emotions and don’t think I come across as a callous, uncaring, insensitive person, which I know I am not, but I can often be more rational than emotional. Perhaps not more practical or functional than form or aesthetically driven, but I am definitely more of a thinker, an intellectual if you will, than driven uncontrollably by emotions and feelings. I’m not very impulsive. I prefer to think things through and make decisions when I am calm, as to not regret any action. Although, I can feel emotions like sadness, happiness, and angry as fully as the next person, I can probably control them and keep them in check better than your average Joe.

But today, it’s been a month since Tata passed away and the sadness is more palpable, less controllable, a little more real. I miss her. I miss living close to her. I miss visiting her, talking to her, learning from her. She would say “you learn something new every day”,  and she was right. I was always and still am, on the lookout for what I could learn today. I know she is in a better place. I just wish I could visit her now and then, as I used to when I was back home.

How do you define yourself?

I’ve been listening to S-Town this past week. It’s a podcast I discovered through a recommendation made by a YourTuber I occasionally watch. It’s a production of This American Life and Serial, which I was hooked on in 2015.

In one of the last episodes, there are seven of them, one of the secondary characters makes reference to herself as not as bad of a person as others may be perceiving her to be, based on her recent actions. It got me thinking, in how our definitions of ourselves can be so ingrained, that we can’t understand that sometimes not only can we waiver, but also, that being good does not preclude us from occasionally doing wrong. It also, seemed interesting to me the internal struggle of being a Christian, and being called to be good, and how that superposes itself with doing what we believe to be right, which might necessitate doing wrong to others, sometimes a specific person.

Another character, I think in the same episode (chapter 6, I believe), asks the reporter what he thinks of him, in a way that is looking for approval, or perhaps trying to gauge how others perceive him, in order to better define himself. He doesn’t want to be a bad person, I think he doesn’t believe he is, but by asking this it seems as though he needs reassurance through the perception others might have of himself. Maybe even more than a corroboration, but allowing for a glimpse of possibility, that his own perception of himself might be mistaken.

As I navigate the tribulations of this academic year, I find myself remembering the words a colleague shared with me recently, “Don’t let idiots define you”. I tell this to myself everytime I feel I’m losing north, or I’m wavering in the absolute confidence that I am who I believe and know myself to be. But what if those trying to define you are not idiots? What if they are people whom you respect and have even admired at points? Do you let them define you? Do you take their opinions of yourself to heart? Do you revise your definition of yourself to include their offerings? Or do we take a John B. McLemore approach to life and just say “this glass is neither half empty, nor half full, this glass is full of piss”?

Giving Thanks

I’ve been extremely busy these past few weeks, so I am very glad to be able to stop a bit tomorrow and take stock of all the things and people I have in my life. I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to have family, friends and colleagues that support me in ways that consistently surpass my expectations. For them, for you, I am beyond grateful.

I want to take a minute here to say, thank you. A true, deeply felt, and sincere thank you! I would not be where I am or who I have become as a person, without you. Thank you!

I hope as we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow (in the US), you all also have many things and peopl to be thankful for. Keep safe, keep happy, and keep full. And as I frequently tell my niece and nephew: be good, be kind, be awesome.

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Dreams

I’ve been having these somewhat confusing dreams about wedding ceremonies gone wrong. In some of them I was the one getting married, and in others I was present at other people’s wedding. The commonality seemed to be that all the dreams had a lot of drama around them; drama about marrying the wrong person, or not wanting to get married and having to, for whatever reason. Mike says I’m getting cold feet. And it might as well be. I’ve always understood marriage to be HUGE commitment and as one ventures in, one has to comprise quite a lot; which might have been the reason I hadn’t really had the conviction of getting married before now. I take it seriously, too seriously perhaps, which could explain the nightmares.

Last night though, I had a different kind of dream. I was with Mike and some of my family, cousins, some friends too perhaps, and we were sorting something out, holding a discussion of some sort around something, that seemed to be banal, or at least from an outsiders perspective, it seemed trivial. And suddenly we hear this loud noise, we look back and this wave of people running, surrounded by bursts of fire, chaos, screaming and just complete mayhem was heading our way, like a tsunami taking over everything. In the dream, I quickly understood it as the end of the world, and the instinct was to run for dear life. In the dream, Mike took my hand and we started running away from this wave of madness that was taking over everything. I woke up, startled and a bit out of breath.

Japan-Tsunami

I’ve had chaotic dreams like this one before that turned out to be premonistic. So, I thought maybe if I shared this one, it wouldn’t happen. You know, like when you tell others your wishes they don’t come true, because you somehow jinxed them? Well, I thought, maybe if I shared this dream, I’d jinxed it too. So here it is. I have no desire for the world as we know it to end, not now and probably, not ever. The dream felt real in a way though, and it made me think about how if something like that happened right now, all our worries about petty little things would suddenly end, and shift to, literally running in order to stay alive. It gave me pause, for a minute there.

I do believe we, I, spend too much time consumed with the little things, the mundane, the material, the non-transcendental day-to-day aspects of life. But I don’t think we, I, need the world to go through such an awful event in order to gain perspective of what is truly important. Do you? Which is why I’m hoping this is not a premonistic dream, and just a wake-up call, to pay attention to the truly important things in life, for me: how we relate to and take care of our own and each others’ souls and spirit.

At the hair salon, the other day, I read in a Self magazine, an article by Deepak Chopra’s daughter Malaika. In it she shared her struggles to stay centered in what is truly important and how going back to meditating 10 minutes a day helped her gain back that perspective. I haven’t been meditating for quite some time now, and I think that was why reading that article rang so true for me. And now this dream, I think is trying to remind me to stay focus on what is meaningful in my soul’s experience in this life, and stop consuming myself with the minute, the mundane, and the inconsequential. Are you on that path? If so, how do you make sure you are taking care of your soul? I think I’m going to start meditating again. I can afford to invest 5 to 10 minutes a day on my soul; I definitely need it, look at all the signs!

Where did we fail?

I worked from the library close to Mike’s new place today, and I planned to go back tomorrow. I’m spending some time in the suburbs and, as much of a city girl as I am, I’m embracing it. The boys bark like crazy during the day and want to go out for a walk ALL THE TIME. So getting out of Mike’s apartment to work somewhere else, somewhere dog-free, is best for me.

Today I was there only two hours. I arrived around 11 am and left a little over 1 pm, because I was hungry and wanted to go get some lunch. I decided to go back home after lunch, which work-wise was a mistake, because I didn’t get much done after that. Between the crazy barking and demanding dogs, and the shots in DC’s Naval Shipyard, there was no much work I could complete.

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So let’s talk about these random shootings, basically all done by insane men, because theses crazies have all been men thus far. What are your thoughts? I’m mostly numb by all this by now, but the numbness does not make it less scary to think that this can happen to anyone of us, at any point, because the fact is these victims were, as many of the others, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I mean, there’s always a motive, there’s always a reason why these guys go off the deep end, most often than not they weren’t all there to begin with. But the victims are random. It’s not like they go after their life-long bully to get even, it’s random people at a movie theater, at a school, at a marathon, at work…and for what? The shooter most often than not ends up dead, so why do it?

As an educator, I believe my charge is to “form” people, to help them become the best them they can possibly be. My job entails teaching my students skills, passing on my knowledge, and helping them practice until they get it right. But aside from that, my mission is also to help them uncover who they are, what they value and believe in, and to some extent shape those beliefs into a practice which would be considered appropriate. So when I think about these people, who have gone through the system, both the social and educative systems in this society, and turn out to be these random, crazy innocent-people-killers, I can’t but ask myself where did we go wrong? How did we fail so badly, this was the result?

What do you think? Who is responsible, I guess is not what is ultimate important here, but what can we do so this does not continue to happen, is what I believe we need to focus on. What do we need to modify, change, improve? How do we prevent continuing to produce this kind of citizen in our society? Is there something to be done? Can we do it now? Will it have immediate results? Or will we have to endure more of these random shootings until we finally understand what is it we need to address in order to get it right?

Photo taken from here.

Childfree: do or don’t, and why?

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Have you read the Time’s cover page article “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children” by Lauren Sandler? I did, on the plane ride back from Miami, as I sat next to a thirty something dad rocking his not yet toddler to sleep, while he intermittently cried and fought going down. You’ve seen it, right? Right. His wife was on the other side of the isle with their three year old daughter, singing soft lullabies to keep her entertained while she dozed off too. All while Mike and I listened to music, and had a few drinks, while fun-reading our flight away. There was irony in the situation, for sure.

The article quotes different women and couples who have decided not to have kids. These are not people who could not have kids, who tried and for whatever biological reasons couldn’t. These people made a conscious decision to not have kids. They explain in the article, how they love the freedom of doing whatever they want, spend their hard earned money on art, travel, and leisure, sleep in, and just enjoy life. Some even say they knew as early as age 14 that they did not want to have kids. These childless women, also explain though how difficult it is to go about this decision in a society that portrays childbearing as a cultural, or even subcultural, imperative.

Sandler also reports on different research on the matter, and some more commercial books out there analyzing the fact that in the US 1 of every 5 women in her 40s doesn’t have children, and what that means for society. She also offers a list of famous and very successful women who are childless, and posts quotes on what they have to say about it.

In the article, there’s mention of an interesting research study done in the UK, by Satoshi Kanazawa, that asserts that the more intelligent women are, the less likely they are to become mothers. The findings from the analysis of data collected over 50 years, correlates high IQ with adoption of childlessness. Kanazawa found, that an increase of 15 IQ points in women decreased the odds of becoming a mother by 25%.

Other studies report that highly educated white women are leading the childless numbers, but other ethnic groups are rapidly catching up. I particularly liked the woman (Laura Carroll, The Baby Matrix) who explained that she preferred to call herself child-free instead of childless. Childless definitely has a negative connotation, as if women who do not have children are somehow lacking something, are incomplete or less-than those who do.

This all resonates with me, not only because I am exactly the type of woman they are talking about: 40, highly educated, career oriented, and child-free. But because, even though when I was a little girl, different from the women interviewed in the article, I pretend-played house and had tons of dolls and fantasizes with being a mom, I grew up to not be sure if I wanted kids or not, and articles like this, as well as those offering the pro-kid side, are always interesting to me.

I have to say, if you asked me if I want kids, my answer would depend on the day you asked. You see, some days I do, and some I don’t. I like my life. No, let me rephrase that: I absolutely love my life. I have done whatever I wanted to do, and I am truly grateful for that. But I know, the little-girl-me really wanted a baby, so when I think about continuing as is, kid-less, I start to think I might regret it some day, and we all know that regrets are some of the worst things to have. So, I sit on the fence.

Mike says he could do either. He loves his carefree life too, but could also have a kid, if it comes to it. I think he would be a great dad, and I know if it does come to it, we would both be fine (eventually) giving up all we would have to give up for the joys of having a kid.

I love children. I have dedicated my entire adult life to studying kids, writing about kids, working with and for kids. So that’s not the issue. The question is, if I want to have one of my own, with all the responsabilities that that implies. Their lies the conundrum.

The age factor also worries me when I think of having a child. Because no matter what Mike says, that every kid needs a sibling, if we ever decide and are lucky enough to have a child, it’s going to be just the one. Anyway, back to the age factor, it’s an issue. We are on the older side of life, and conceiving naturally might be hard, if not impossible. Once we started to seriously think about this and realizing my biological clock is about to stop ticking in the child-baring way soon, I went to my doctor and had some tests done. Apparently, everything looks good, so, initially there should be no problem if we tried.

The age factor has other drawbacks, aside from fertility. There’s higher risk of having a special needs child once the age starts hacking up, like ours. Also, the fact that when the kid begins college we will be near our 60s (me) and 70s Mike, is a bit daunting. Can you imagine dealing with a teenager in your late 50s? I can clearly envision it, and it looks a little bit like a nightmare.

So the’s the thing. Are we ready for a child in our lives? Are we willing to try? Like I said before, some days I am, and others not so much. I think I’m driving Mike mad with the indecision. Thankfully he seems un-phased by it, or as we say in Venezuela antiparabólico.

Do you have kids? Why did/did not you decide to have them? How did you decide to have them or not? And if you’re interested, read the Time article, it’s a good one.

Just breathe

I am a doer, an action taker, a go-getter, a thinker, a planner, a problem solver, a pretty good mediator, and a negotiator.

But sometimes all you can do is just breathe, and that is ok too.

Just breathe.

Sometimes you gotta let go, and remember to keep on breathing.

Breathe.

Happy New Year!

I was just looking over last year’s post for December 31st to see what my resolution, goal or wish was back then for 2012, to see how I had fared. And guess what? I had only one goal and that was to BELIEVE. I realized, back then, I had hope things would occur as I wanted them too, but when it came down to it, I didn’t really believe they actually would. So the goal was to trust the plan, let go and let God, and believe.

I don’t know if I accomplished this 100%, but I do know I live in the here and now much more now. I’m not really concerned with the future or what is to come, or if what I want will come at all, and I think I am much happier for it. So if I want, I guess, I could call that trust. Trust in whatever is to come because I’m not really concerned or worried about it. Do I believe? I guess so. I believe I am right where I need to be. I am living the experiences I was intended to, and whatever good or bad occurs, does so for a reason, to fit into the plan, to help me learn from it, to make me, as an end result, a better person. I’ve always believed this in theory, but know I am finally at a point in which I am living it. And I think this is a pretty good accomplishment. Suddenly I feel a little bit proud 🙂

So I’m thinking hard about what I want 2013 to be and I guess I still don’t quite know. I want to be happy, and I know that is entirely up to me, so I guess that could be something I can work on. Letting go of little day to day things bothering me, and just being happy, content with what is, content with the good, the here, the available. And to tell the truth, the here and the available is usually pretty darn good.

I wish you the best for this new year. I wish that you believe that whatever is, is for a reason. And I wish you, above everything else, allow yourself to be happy. Believe and be happy. And Happy New Year 2013!

It is about money

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) continue closed this week, because teachers from the Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) are still on strike. I for one don’t like strikes because I feel they end up causing more harm than good, but I understand how sometimes they are necessary, and can be the only way a group of people have to gain some leverage, especially if the issues are political, and finally be heard and taken seriously.

The issues with public education are many. Too many students per class; budget cuts that don’t allow for enough materials, teacher aids, infrastructure maintenance, let alone AC in some of the buildings; focus on testing that cuts time away from the day limiting the curriculum to only a few subject matters; unprepared teachers, some because they have no adequate teaching training, and others because they are burnout by being overworked and under paid. These are just a few of the issues, but because of them and of the state in which this country finds itself politically and economically, especially in comparison with other developed countries, teachers have been villainized and made to be the culprit of all that is wrong with the US.

Teachers taking part of the strike have made a point to assure the public that the issue is not solely, or even necessarily, about money. It’s not about the crappy salary they make, because as I saw on FB the other day “When has a person gone into education for money?” Never, because that would be a joke. Everyone knows there is no money in education. Teachers go into education to change lives, to form, to educate, to improve, to make a difference in their student’s lives, and as a whole, contribute to making their community, their state, their country a better one by making sure the children they encounter turn out to be the best they possibly can. Right? Well, that’s what we like to think, and in most cases there is a nobleness in entering this line of work, and making a career out of this profession.

But the bottom line is that it is about money. How can it not be in a country like this one? A country where when bankers mess up, they are bailed out by a government that is subsidized by tax paying citizens. Bankers, whose whole purpose in life is to generate money, and not for the country, but for themselves, they get bailed out by the working people.  A country in which success is measured by the amount of money you have amassed, be it through having an education or not, in fact if you managed to make a ton of money and did not go to college, the more admired you are. A country where early childhood education’s national budget gets cut to finance wars, because getting back at the bad guy is what defines greatness. This is not a country that values education or what education has to offer society, i.e. not money. This is a country that values money, success, power; that wants and needs to be number one, and when it is not, it blames it’s educational system, the same system it does not value.

Living in a money valuing country like this one (and don’t get me wrong, I might not be an American citizen, but I have lived in this country at some point in all 4 decades of my life, and love it as much as the next person), how can someone in their right mind want to go into education? I will never forget a commencement speech I once heard that called for viewing education in a different light, the speaker explained “everyone wants the best teacher for their child, they want the very best, but no one wants their best child to be teacher, they want them to be doctors, lawyers, engineers”; if we want a better education system this needs to change. If we want better teachers we need to make it appealing to become a teacher, by providing a better salary, better work conditions, and a little more respect for what teachers do. This is what this strike is really about, the value of the teaching profession, morally and yes, monetarily.

Money is not a dirty word in a capitalist country like this one. Why shouldn’t teachers want to be adequately remunerated for their work, if every other profession is? Why wouldn’t teachers want to live in big homes and drive nice cars, like every other American. Why shouldn’t teachers want to live the American dream? Does working in a noble profession make you less in-tuned with the American values measured in how much you have? I don’t think so, so then why do we expect teachers to do and want to do an outstanding job based purely on altruistic incentives? If you want a job well done you pay for it. And once you receive it, you compliment it. But you have to value it and really want it first.

Do we really value education? Then let’s put our money where our mouths are and stop expecting teachers to work for less than other recognized professions, and give them the recognition they deserve. The minute we start really valuing education, we will have outstanding teachers, and as a direct consequence, outstanding students and citizens.

Providing good education is not cheap. It’s not only teacher salaries and benefits, it’s materials, resources, trainings, infrastructure, maintenance. The minute we understand that it is about money, and we stop pretending that something as important as educating our citizens can be left to the goodness of some people’s heart, the instant in which we stop blaming teachers with full force when as a society we don’t have the desired results when they do not have the resources to provide them to begin with, then the tone of the discussion on the table will begin to change from finger pointing and blame casting, to working together to give teachers what they need to do their job: value and respect. And how do you get those things in this country? With money.

Anniversaries and letting it flow

July and August are anniversary months for me. On July of last year, I got Max. In August of 2010 I moved to Chicago from NY. And this August it will be 1.5 years since Mike and I started dating. Anniversaries have a tendency to make me stop and think, so this is where I find myself now.

Aside from anniversaries, summer has also been the time for me to disconnect, and reconnect. Disconnect from the business of life, and reconnect myself with reflective thoughts. A sort of gathering myself, and taking stock of where I am and where I want to go next.

This summer has proven to be a mix bag of sorts. I had surgery, spent 3 weeks in Miami with family being pampered, recovering, and doing a lot of nothing, I have gone to the beach, explored Chicago, gone to art fairs and baseball games, seen friends, eaten out, read, rested, slept, and spent time with Mike, the boys, and family in general. There has been a little work done too here and there, not all as much as I expected, but I guess that’s ok, I needed the down time. And the free time, especially to look for an apartment since I am moving in September.

But I have also had some time to pause, take a breath and relax. Relaxing helps me get in-tuned with what’s important. When I’m lounging around, reading what I call “fun stuff”, and just seeing the days go by, is when I get my insights of where to go or do next.

I feel like I have a lot on my plate right now, a lot of potential changes and others which are imminent. (1) Mike and I have been talking of where we are going next with our relationship, without much of a next step decided on yet. (2) My lease is up and I don’t want to renew it, because I want to see if I can purchase a place and stop paying rent. (3) I love my job, but I am constantly asking myself if this is what I really want to do, as in forever, so there’s always that. (4) I miss my family and friends, whom all live far away, and seem to be questioning if staying in Chicago is the right thing for me.

But this time I have embraced my pondering by being happy, taking it easy, living in the moment as much as I can, and thinking positive. Everything will sort itself out, and as much as I need “to do” in order to get things to actually occur as I would like them to, I also need to trust the plan, and let things be as they may.

So here I am celebrating my anniversaries, and letting things flow. Because at the end of the day, things do turn out as they were supposed to, and if I just trust that as a fact from the beginning, I can save myself a loft of grief during the process. If we are going to go through the uncertainty regardless, why not go through it with a smile, am I right?