Have/have-not, all rolled up into one

glass-half-full

I worked a job once that I hated but that I was really good at. Ever had a job like that? It’s a very weird feeling to go to work each morning and feel it will instantly bore you, and then get a compliment for it.

In this particular job, I had developed a plan my boss really loved. So much so that he told me, “Hey, you’re really good at this stuff.” I’m sure I smirked my best smirk. Not strategic, but hey, I was in my 20s and my “filter” was far from developed. Might still be.

After I gave him that look, he pensively and disappointedly said, “You know, I honestly can’t tell if your glass is half-empty or half-full.”

Our meeting was over, and I shuffled out to my office, silently bawling my eyes out. He’d called my bluff.

Maybe it’s turning 50 (aren’t you going to welcome me to AARP?) or maybe it’s having gone through some humbling experiences in the last few years, but I really think I spent much of my earlier years dwelling on what I didn’t have, rather than on what I did have.

Today, I don’t have the fast-paced career or the bigger paycheck or the jam-packed inbox (I don’t mind this one at all), and I’m not in the middle of all the action like I used to be. Well, not at work, anyway.

But you know what I am in the middle of? I’m in the middle of my own life for a change. I have a sense of calm and peace and availability for relationships that I didn’t have when I was in the rat race. I have time for my family, especially in a pinch. I just took a trip with my mom and husband that would have seemed logistically near impossible before. Heck, before, I’d never have dreamed of taking a vacation at all.

I just wish I’d spent more time in my earlier years valuing what I had, rather than what I didn’t have. I feel like the trip we just took opened my eyes to that, giving me a new perspective on how precious life and relationships are.

I’m figuring out how I’ll recap this treasure hunt of a trip we just took, but I can give you a hint about what I’ll be writing about soon: Let’s just say I’m finally getting to know Braulio.

Whole30: The end of the tunnel

street-car-italy-porsche

For me, Whole30 has been more about focusing on finding answers. So this image represents coming into the light more than coming out of the dark.

Well, it’s down to the wire.

Down to the end of my Whole30, anyway. I can’t even begin to tell you how worthwhile this process has been for me. What a gift. (I didn’t feel that way during the first week.)

Between all the prepping and cooking and what I’m going to call foraging – not to mention starting a new job – my plate has been full in more ways than one.

So now that my Whole30 is nearly over, I decided it was time for an update.

Actually, it’s not really over until I’ve reintroduced key foods back into my diet. So in another 10-12 days, I’ll really be done. And this is where it gets really interesting.

Po-tay-to, po-tah-toh

One example of how this works comes from my recent decision to take in more white potatoes. I was looking for sustained energy for tennis and, let’s face it: I missed something filling and starchy.

Anyway, last year, the Whole30 authors allowed potatoes into the diet, however reluctantly. In the last few days I found myself eating more of them, and it became very clear very fast that they are not my friends.

So we are breaking up.

Not the one for me

It took about three days to realize my fatigue, mental fog and pronounced aching in my joints (which I hadn’t felt as much since before Whole30) were all tied to my increased potato consumption. That’s how it is with Whole30 – and this was with on-plan food.

Other things I’ve learned on Whole30
  • So many new cooking techniques. If Whole30 doesn’t make you creative in the kitchen, I’m not sure what does. It’s been great in teaching me new things – flavorful and easy.
  • I’m stronger than I thought. Actually, I wanted results from this so badly, it became my sole motivation, and that beats will power any day. So it was easy to say no when I was around off-plan foods.
  • Eating out is really hard on Whole30. Many say it’s impossible, but in the right restaurants – sometimes mom-and-pop shops and at least at our local Carrabba’s – the staff will happily custom-make your meal. Our Carrabba’s went out of their way to make sure my Johnny Rocco salad didn’t contain any sugars or dairy. Made my meal so much more special.
Things I have fallen in love with since starting Whole30:
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut milk
  • Sweet potatoes
  • My new energy level
  • Looser-fitting clothes
  • New lifestyle-changing knowledge that is likely to help me sustain gradual weight loss over time
  • Good, healthy food. I told the hubby today that not only am I eating better than ever, I’m enjoying what I eat more than ever. Not too shabby, eh?
Bringing it all back?

Not really. As part of my reintroduction, I am on the fence about how much I really miss alcohol and dairy.

But my smart hubby reminded me that since I’ll be traveling soon, I should know how I’m going to handle the dairy, at least.

So over the next 10 or so days, I’ll be testing the following:

  1. Legumes (I can’t wait to eat edamame and hummus again.)
  2. Non-gluten grains (Man, I miss me some oatmeal.)
  3. Dairy? (I don’t miss it at all, but it might be my only coffee creamer option when traveling over the next few weeks. I guess thin-crust pizza with some cheese would be nice, too.)
  4. Gluten grains

Before Whole30, I was like the Pillsbury dough girl. I have always loved bread and bready carbs. Now, I might appreciate them now and then, but not every day and hopefully never again in the quantities I consumed them before. This decision will just make me feel better – pretty much a no-brainer.

As a way to discover what foods work and don’t work for you, I strongly recommend you and your medical provider look into Whole30.

While I always hate claims like “let us change your life,” I’ve gotta say: This one really did.

Glancing in the rear-view mirror

rear-view-mirror-1182330-640x480Welp.

It’s going to be a lot harder than I thought to recover my blogging rhythm, but I need to start somewhere. It’s time to admit I may not be able to research, write, polish and photo edit like I am used to doing.

But one thing I can do is share what I’m learning along this new path – the path to gratitude for full-time work again. It couldn’t be a nicer arrangement with more rewarding opportunity. I’m pretty excited to start the new gig next week.

I hate to say good things come to those who wait, but waiting can really bring about the right thing, at the right time.

I do have to say, I’m really thankful for the season leading up to this, which I was so sure was empty and purposeless. (Yeah, I know – oh ye of little faith. Don’t tell me you haven’t been there, too.)

But God planned this time for teaching me some of the most important lessons of my life. Here are a few:

  • “Stuff” doesn’t matter. People matter.
  • We can get by on much less than we think. Anything besides the basics are wants, not needs. We confuse them a lot.
  • Learning can happen in any environment. We just have to want it.
  • Family is everything.
  • Kindness: Friends, we’re going to have to try a lot harder at being kind to one another. This world and all its challenges and distractions fool us into believing we’re that different from one another to be able to love each other — when in reality, we’re so much alike. Let’s focus on that.
  • Oh. It’s not about me.

Corners

house-appartement-corner-pmg

Corners are meant for one thing – for getting around to another side. They’re made for turning.

I’ve encountered lots of corners lately, and I’ve been trying to make sense of them the last few weeks.Here are a few of them and what I’ve learned.

  • Cooking: On a limited budget, you get better at a lot of DIY things. My experience making meals from food we grow has been so great. I’m so glad we know what it’s like to know the benefits of fresh, garden-to-table food. Even for meals that don’t come from the garden, I’ve found cooking to be incredibly relaxing.
  • Sewing/Making: Something I never thought I’d take on, especially since I’m building on skills I first gained in, oh, 7th grade. Time to quilt is getting slimmer, but I am promising myself that I’ll make it work. I plan to keep that promise.
  • Writing/Blogging: One of my best experiences in recent years. For all the hiccups that can cause someone to come to a full stop when blogging, my activity has slowed a lot lately (more about why in a minute), but I have no intention of stopping. I just hope Poor Mexican Gone will keep being about learning, discovery and connecting dots.
  • Employment : You may know I’ve been freelancing for the better part of the last handful of years – something that followed me more than I pursued it. Still, I took it as a smile from God during a season of intense questioning of my identity.

Which leads me to this: I start a new job at the end of the month. As good as freelancing has been for my freedom, healing and, heck, my tennis game, I’ve truly missed the social interaction that comes with being part of a team. So I’m joining one.

It’s not just one corner that led me to this. It’s more like a long series of four corners. You might even call it a full circle.

After a busy freelance season this summer that included shotgun international travel, it’s time to settle into a job offered to me on that trip. I couldn’t be more pleased, humbled and grateful.

I fully expect to pivot around a few more corners in my lifetime, but for now, this one is a great turn at a great time and, I hope, with the potential for great impact in the lives of others.

Remembering my dad(s)

dad in flight jacket

My dad, proudly donning his flight jacket. He served our country for five years in the Air Force as a flight engineer.

The things I remember most of my dad are our conversations.

One time, I can think of asking him what he would want me to be, if he could ask for anything at all.

His answer: A pilot.

Really? Me?

Then I remembered how he’d been a flight engineer in the Air Force during the Korean conflict. I remembered pictures of him in a bomber jacket.

Very long story, short: Neither of us became a pilot per se, but in Dad’s last days of life, it was clear he didn’t know yet whether his future involved staying or going.

Probably 6 weeks before we lost him, I remember him looking out his hospital window from his bed one morning and declaring, “You know, mija, if I don’t walk out of here one day, I’m at least gonna fly out of here.”

So in a way, he did finally get his wings, and he flew away from us. But just for a little while.

Dad, I will always love and miss you. You were the best dad a girl at 20 could have asked for, and a great, great friend. I am so blessed to be your daughter. Can’t wait to see you again.

P.s. There’s a great postscript to this: I married a Navy rat: he grew up with his dad away at sea 6 months out of many of his  growing up years.

So much of what I lost in my own dad, God gave me in my father-in-law, to whom I owe so much love and gratitude and honor. If I ever want a pilot story, my father-in-love’s got ’em in spades. So we got wings and a pilot! Still, I love him mostly because he is the (next-to-)greatest dad I’ve ever known.

Happy Father’s Day to my dads.

Struggling with winning

farrah-tennis

Remember Farrah Fawcett? She was a pretty accomplished tennis player. She also went to my high school.

It’s easy to think that one or two setbacks necessarily equals many setbacks, or setbacks forever.

Our team’s main tennis season just ended, and I have to say, I really struggled with winning. Translated: I lost a lot.

In the end, I came out  4-3, but still the momentum of loss took its toll mentally on me in a way it hadn’t before.

I love to think that, like a Bruce Lee mantra I heard in a biopic about the legendary martial artist, each new point is an opportunity to win.

Thankfully, I won the 4th match last night in a 2-hour singles match that was scheduled for 6pm, then 6:30, then for Wednesday (we’ve had lots of rain), then back to 6pm yesterday. Oh and then outdoors before having to go indoors thanks to nightfall and all the mosquitoes that survived the great flood and the ark.

Still, for some reason last night, every time I goofed – mostly my serves – I almost couldn’t erase it next time I gave it a go.

But there were a couple of huge differences too from recent struggles to win.

It was a singles match. It was all on me – scorekeeping (for which I’m notoriously terrible in doubles), calling line shots, ball girl (of course – this ain’t Wimbledon). I alone owned the outcome (scary and exhilarating at the same time).

Good thing I had done some pre-match self-preaching, mostly on the basics of tennis:

  • Play my game,
  • Watch the ball (turns out this is tricky in the dark),
  • Visualize winning the point,
  • Move my feet; and
  • Don’t be afraid to change things up (pace, strokes, serves).

I also reminded myself to play one point at a time. Eventually, the score would tilt in my favor, right?

Also last night, I learned something about myself and my mental game:

  • I can, in fact, adjust on the fly – assessing what’s not working and either change my approach to it or eliminate it altogether.
  • When I’m “in the zone,” I know exactly what to do, and if I stay focused, my envisioned solution is usually effective.
  • Settling into the match and to my rhythm is crucial to winning for me. If my heart rate is up and I’m distracted, it’s going to be an uphill battle. If I play like I’m in practice, it’s all good.

Maybe the curse has come to an end? I’m going to say it has and that now I’m in a position to keep it that way. On to the next season and another opportunity to win.

A tribute to the crazy who married me

wedding-dayIt’s my wedding anniversary today, and while it’s not a “big” one, it sure feels big to me.

I’m so blessed to have someone who has known how to be my friend, boyfriend, lover, confidant, soulmate, teacher, parent (sometimes – I’m not always an angel), reason-seeker, godly partner – for all this time. Because believe me, those roles rotate like spokes on a wheel.

It’s as they say – you really know who your friends are when you go through hard times. For all the friends I thought would “be there” during my darkest days, no one comes close to how much my husband has been there. Sometimes a silent partner, sometimes a sounding board. Always available. Always patient. Good Lord, is this man patient.

When you’re younger, it’s easy to see all the ways your partner isn’t the saint you thought they were. In fact, we idealize and idolize marriage so much, it’s hard not to feel let down when we find out we’re not married to the perfect human being.

But that smooths out over time, because all of us are more sinners than saints, and if someone’s willing to stick with us through thick and thin and all the crap we often bring upon ourselves – that is saint enough for me. In fact, it’s like the face of God to me. And I get to see it every morning.

Here’s to more mornings, weeks, months and years together. It is the biggest privilege to say that, given the choice, I would choose this man all over again.