Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Scratch test

“This indecision is bugging me…” “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” The Clash

“When something itches…the natural tendency is to scratch.” From The Seven Year Itch

In the last decade, I have worked in three different schools and held three different jobs. Every three to four years, I search for something new. I refer to this as my three and a half year itch. Fortunately for my familia and friends, this pattern seems centered around career.  I served in ministry in my last parish for six years. I have actively volunteered with Girls Inc. of Alameda County for five years.  I have been running half-marathons for nearly nine years (with a few health-related breaks). I don’t lack the ability to commit, especially when I find an activity and/or organization purposeful and positive. But once the itching begins, calamine lotion won’t help.

That three-year mark is a test. I analyze the pros and cons of moving onto something new.  I evaluate my progress and areas for improvement. Mas que nada, I ponder the value of change. I refuse to be complacent for too long. If I’m not learning or I begin to become negative (i.e. resentful, cynical, unmotivated), then it’s time for me to move on. Change is difficult yet it moves me forward.

I don’t worry that I will always be on a quest for the next best thing. 

I have surrounded myself with friends who have fostered my growth for years, if not decades. I pursue my passions. My family is my foundation. The challenge is to find that(job/activity/organization/fill in the blank) which helps me be at my best.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mindful eating, the first chapter

When I decided I would have my gallbladder removed this summer, I asked about diet changes.  I know four friends/colleagues who had their gallbladder removed and know of countless others. Some folks are back to eating as they did before their surgery; others decided to forever modify their diet. I am part of the second group.  In the month that has passed since my surgery, I am much more mindful of what I eat.

I am an emotional eater. Food has been a painkiller over the years. Recent example: June is a crazy time for educators.  End of year and graduation keeps you busy and stressed. Mix in characters that probably shouldn’t work with other people(especially not children!) and you have a volatile environment. 

One afternoon, after a long day that ended with an unpleasant meeting, I walked into the house, grabbed the can of Pringles my daughter and her older sister had saved after their sleepover, and sat on the couch for a solid ten minutes. No praying, no meditating, no strategies learned in CBT or DBT. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

 As if every chomp could eliminate the foolishness of others. As if my tendency to internalize others’ nonsense could be swallowed like so much salt and grease. I won’t be seeking comfort from binging on chips anymore. 

 My lifestyle change isn’t about solely about giving up processed snacks or fried food or avoiding emotional eating; it’s about an overall change to my cooking and eating habits.  At home, I am making more stews and soups with less chicken. When going out to eat with friends and family, I now choose different meals. Vegetable-based soups like tomato basil paired with salads with honey mustard dressing or vinaigrette make for a satisfying meal. Most Asian restaurants offer plenty of vegetarian options. The Bay Area boasts great vegan restaurants including one of my faves, Souley Vegan, and a new discovery, Gracias Madre.  Even a trip to the ice cream shop with the kiddo hasn’t been torture: fruit sorbets are tasty.

At the moment, my body is letting me know what is best. I still feel queasy if I ate too much animal protein in a meal.  Trying a piece of birthday cake at a party is probably not wise. Dairy is off-limits for now.  For the most part, I am back to my normal routine. I have resumed daily exercise, light morning cardio for now, and have begun taking a Zumba class with my dance mom friends. I look forward to running and dancing with SambaFunk in the next few weeks.  Yes, I am at my lightest weight in twenty years, 125, (lighter than the weight discussed during my last weight loss journey: )  I am committed to sustaining my health; that is the ultimate goal. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Friday with Frida

The postcards came from my college apartment to my house in their cheap Pier 1 Imports frames: a black and white photo of Frida, pretty and feminine, in her bedroom and a reprint of a self-portrait,    Frida with shorn hair, headstrong and masculine. Frida was todamujer and still is. Long before she graced every Mexican restaurant wall and was silkscreened onto hipster tees almost as many times as Che, she was one of my heroes, right up there with Wonder Woman, La Virgen, and Rosie the Riveter. When it came time to buy an art piece for my living room, I settled on a Santana album cover because by the late 90s, art by Frida had become ubiquitous. Still, once I knew I was carrying a little Xicana, I knew Frida would make her way into our lives again. 

M loves Frida. She loves Frida’s face even if she has yet to truly understand the images and symbols in her work. M likes flowers, bright colors, sacred hearts of Jesus, and being Mexican. She sees herself in Frida. So you can imagine how thrilled she was to be able to become Frida, if only for an evening.

I noticed the Maiz Frida 9.5 event on someone’s Facebook feed earlier this summer and knew we had to attend. My daughter deserves to explore Frida’s legacy in a way that doesn’t deserve a Kermit meme like this recent Vogue article does:

Vogue, I do believe that's side-eye.
Located in the heart of San Jo, or Mexican Town as M dubbed it as we drove to the Mexican Heritage Plaza, the fundraiser raises money for Maiz San Jose’s work to combat domestic violence against Latinas. Two Ni Una Mas scholarships were given out so that Latinas might be able to pay rent, utilities, or use the funds in other ways to extricate themselves from dangerous situations. What better way to honor mujeres than to celebrate a mujer who truly made her mark on the world?

Altar for Frida

The evening included music, dance, poetry, and costume contests for children and adults.

 For dinner, we enjoyed chicken tacos from a taquiza and some fruta sprinkled with Tajin. Music was provided by DJ Sonido SJ Clash.  The silent auction featured various pieces of local art.
I had admired a bracelet on Facebook but ultimately came home with a handmade pillow. We also purchased raffle tickets and we won two tickets for the Children’s Discovery Museum. 

We were surrounded by families; no hipsters in sight!  We definitely look forward to next year.  Gracias Maiz San Jose! 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Twelve days of Christmas(in June and July)

“Our lives change when our habits change.” Matthew Kelly

During the summer of 2004, I was fortunate to be awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. As a high school teacher, I would study the Renaissance in an intensive institute at Columbia University and create curriculum to be used with my students as my final project. I also moved into Carman Hall, one of the dorms.  After checking out the campus gym, I explored my new neighborhood and found the local Catholic church, Notre Dame. At that point in time, they had Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and I thought it would be a nice start to the day after my morning workout. Before I knew it, I was a daily Mass attendee.

Prior to my summer in Morningside Heights, I had only ever attended Mass on Sundays. Daily Mass is different. It has a different pace and overall vibe. It is a much more intimate experience than Sundays or holidays because it is often more quiet and the people who attend may be “regulars” who attend consistently. I like to attend daily Mass during Lent and other times I’m not bound by my work schedule. I am not surprised that many spiritual advisers recommend daily Mass as a means to reconnect and revive your faith life. It certainly has that effect for me.

About six days after surgery in June(and once I was cleared to drive) I spent 12 consecutive days in church. I attended daily Mass at the three local parishes I visit. Initially I had intended to do a novena, nine consecutive days of prayer and devotion, in gratitude for my health.  But once daily Mass became part of my daily routine, I made an effort to get my day started in this way.  It allowed me to focus on hearing the Gospel and being in community with others, rather than analyzing the aches and pains of my body’s recovery.

Now that I’ve had a week of not attending daily Mass, I can tell the difference. I am more connected to technology (phone, computer, TV) and less focused in the mornings and therefore back to my last-minute, oh-man-I-forgot-my-charger-my-medication-the-entrance-passes ways.  I am reading for leisure less. I’m skipping my prescribed daily walks. I have not followed through on my plan to write more often.  Yet I’m encouraged by one positive change daily Mass helped bring about in a mere 12 days.  I have committed to serving as a lector in my parish. After 7 years, I will be returning to a ministry I loved.

Health isn’t simply about the body but the soul. No hay mal que por bien no venga. My physical health challenges have pushed me to seek healing in many ways. The key will be to commit to healing habits.