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.

A good leader is a good follower

thomas-paine-writer-quote-lead-follow-or-get-out-of-theYou’ve probably seen this famous quote somewhere along the way.

It seems, in most group dynamics, we each fall into one of these three categories. Either we lead, follow, or … we’re one of “them.” Suffice it to say: anyone behind the leader is presumed to be a follower.

Alpha-Beta Pug

We used to have a cute little black Pug. Before Pugs were cool, people thought – especially when we took this little porker on hikes – we had a pot-bellied pig. Can’t say I blamed them.

Anyway, we took her hiking and camping a lot. Funny thing is, being “Alpha dog” (my translation: only dog), she saw herself as behind my hubby (her alpha) and in front of me (her slave and gamma, at best).

So there we would be, in the middle of some trail somewhere, and I would be fighting for my spot behind my long-legged, fast-walking husband…with an animal the size of a wind-up doll power-playing me right out of 2nd place.

It ticked. Me. Off.

Until my husband and I had the discussion and discovered the relationship between his pooch and his wife. We concluded that, whether animal or human, we are either the one in charge, or we aren’t. There’s really no in-between. In this case, I was definitely not the leader. I wasn’t even the one behind the leader.

And that was OK. We all fill our “roles,” right?

It depends. Some followers may blissfully happy following and making their best contributions in that way. But a good leader also needs to know how to be a good follower. (The above is not one of those examples, by the way.) In my experience, the best leaders know how and when to follow.

It’s a big part of letting other people find their own leadership ability.

Lighten the leadership load.

I saw another interesting quote the other day on leadership. It went something like this: “When the leadership load is lightened, great things really start to happen.”

It didn’t quite click then.

In this context, though, it makes sense. The more leaders are OK following now and then, the more great stuff happens. The more they delegate, the more leaders they produce. In today’s world, that’s the sign of a great future.

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.

Chip off the old block

My mom works hard. As in, she works hard at her job. And she’s 82, going on 83 (I like to talk about age like a first-grader; it’s more fun).

Not only has she worked since she was 12 (you could call it child labor, but she would probably just call it survival); she still shows up 4-5 days a week at my brother’s tennis retail store to manage his bookkeeping and vendors.

When I call my mom during the day, she’s usually at work. Being “all business” like she is, she doesn’t have much time to talk. Usually she just wants to get back to her duties.

Thinking back through my career, I was much the same way – all business. I was “in the zone” all day, every day, sometimes even on weekends. If I got a phone call between meetings, it was always brief. Or maybe it was just me who was brief. Yikes.

Anyway, it’s a few years later and I feel like I’m just now relearning how and when to draw boundaries around my family life, my marriage and other important relationships so I know what’s important outside “the zone.” Heck, even to remember that there is life outside “the zone.”

I’m also re-learning how to work.

A friend challenged me several years ago to consider that work could actually look different than the traditional 9-to-5 workday. I’d wanted that for years.

Still, I couldn’t get my head around it for me. In fact, it’s taken until now to get the picture. Honestly, I’m surprised I like it. I had no idea I could be that stuck in old ways.

Why did I fight it for so long? I love teams and collaboration, and it has been hard to be alone this much. But the truth is, you can be around people as much or as little as you want when you work on your own. I need to get with that program, too.

Work ethic vs. family: A both/and decision

It’s great to see my parents’ work ethic in myself, especially now, without the distortion I added for so many years.

Going forward, I want to value my own life and my family’s as much as I can — not to mention the limited time we have together, never to be taken for granted.

While working hard is something I love to do, it’s also a means to an end. It’s what allows me the freedom to enjoy the many beautiful relationships in my life. And for that I have a newfound, heartfelt gratitude.