Grandmas & girl power

Wasn’t planning on writing about this today but I do want to be intentional about sharing the “big things” I learn through researching my family’s history. I mean, if we don’t learn about our future by remembering our past, then why spend all this time looking at dead people?

One thing that has jumped out in the last few days is the suffrage and increased liberation of women during the period of time I’ve been researching – late 19th to early 20th centuries.

From my paternal grandmother’s entrepreneurial spirit, her ability to capitalize on new technology to create a business and her marriage choice (as well as my maternal grandmother’s), I’m learning that both of my grandmas took the opportunity to express important life choices under great pressure.

It turns out both of them had been committed to men for marriage before they actually married my grandfathers. Same story, different family: both ended up marrying for love – and eloping.

Love this one: One of my grandmas was given the choice between a piano – you know, something big to win over her heart – if she chose not to marry my grandfather, an illiterate ranch hand (whose father had been shot while playing music in a nightclub) for whom she had immense compassion and, eventually, love.

Last I heard, my grandfather wasn’t made up of a big, wooden box and 88 black and white keys.

Dots

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 9.33.48 PM

From the game Two Dots, Level 42, where I continue to suck.

Ever played Two Dots? I’ve never seen two dots that could mess me up so good.

So here I am, at Level 42 (pun definitely intended), where I plan to hang out awhile. Mostly because I can’t connect enough dots to get any farther. I think this is where my usual ability to think and plan ahead comes to a grinding halt.

For years, that’s just how I have felt about connecting my family’s “dots,” too. Until this weekend. 

For 20+ years – all I knew was that my great-grandfather’s birth family wasn’t his birth family at all.

In the last week, I’ve found the dots he connected to originally and then those he connected to later, leaving me to investigate when and why he changed families. I have theories, of course. But I’d rather have dots – the connected kind.

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of talking with my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. She set me straight on who said what and the origins of my blog’s name.

She also put me in a better position to locate records about their father – not that far back in our ancestry, of course. But between that and my other recent findings, I can actually start connecting dots that have sat unattached for far too long. Much better than Level 42.

What Poor Mexican Gone really means

Weekends are for fact-checking. In fact, I’m thinking of using them to write more about my family’s history, since I have more time on weekends to do research.

I’m more fascinated every day by how the world, as it evolved, was a macro image of things happening in my own family and in the fast-changing Mexican and Mexican-American cultures.

For now, I got one fact wrong – an important one. And I love the correction!

Today I learned that the “poor mexican gone” saying didn’t come from my my mom’s mom, although she was known for making up some pretty funny ones.

It turns out this phrasing came from my paternal grandfather – my dad’s dad.

So what started as this:

Cuando hitty con un cartucho
No come back
Cuando de repente pún
Poor Mexican gone

Actually meant this:

When you pull the trigger [on the gun],
The bullet doesn’t come back
When it hits the Mexican,
He doesn’t come back [either]

I love that, as facts come together with more clarity, the surprises keep coming, rearranging the pieces of this puzzle.

As with many things in life, sometimes it’s just not as important to see what it all looks like in the end, when the journey alone has so much to teach us. I’m grateful for the rich lessons along the way.

(A) Weed by any other name…

I’ve noticed our cat, Fritz, getting into more fights lately.

We thought at first it was because we’d rebuilt a fence backing up to our alley, which he doesn’t climb well but neighbors’ cats can get over with relative ease. Maybe that makes him a little cranky and he kicks into protector mode.

kitty-weed

Witness the happy side of kitty weed, and the pudgy underbelly of my cat, Fritz.

We often forget, however, the volume of wild (?) catnip growing in and around our yard – even in the winter. We call it kitty weed. I think the feline guests know that’s what it is, too.

Maybe the last homeowners planted it to get some four-legged traffic in the yard.

But what they may not have intended was causing trouble in the neighborhood.

After the latest bout between Fritzy and an uninvited guest this evening and a little snooping into where that noisy, howling battle took place, it occurred to me his visitors may be coming for companionship, but more likely for the kitty weed.

True story: This is now the second cat we have that has gotten hooked on weed. We accidentally detoxed our last cat – a story for another post, perhaps.

Do you and your team complement each other?

I confess, I’m an assessment freak.

I like to know “how I’m doing” and where I stand – sometimes on my own, other times as I compare to others. I just like to learn more about how I’m wired so I can be better in whatever I do.

Also of interest to me is finding out what makes other people tick and how they’re wired. Most of the time, I like to sit and listen to them and hear them talk from the heart. You learn a lot when you let other people tell their story.

But often you just don’t have that kind of time.

Take job interviews, for example. If you’re lucky, you get maybe an hour to get to learn first-hand whether a candidate is compatible with you and/or your team. That’s not a lot of time, especially when you’re covering technical skills and other competencies.

I remember trying to get a read on potential hires during interviews. I’d ask a few Either/Or questions to candidates to get an idea of how they operated and, consequentially, how we might work together. Not that everything about us is either/or, but we typically know what we like or don’t like.

That’s all I wanted to know. So my questions went something like this:

Which is your preference:

  • Fast-paced or slow?
  • Details or big picture?
  • Dreamer or closer?
  • Starting or finishing?

If the candidate and I were wired similarly (fast, big-picture, dreamer, starter), chances were good the combination wouldn’t work as well as it could. We might get along socially, but why have two starters when you could start well and finish well – with a really strong closer? So I typically went for my opposite, or at least more of a complement.

For what it’s worth: In my experience, visionaries or big-picture folks can report to each other pretty peacefully, as can details people. And details people seem to work well when reporting to a big-picture person. Just not vice-versa, for some reason.

What do you think? Have you experienced the same?

One theory I have is that the latter combo can be less-than-ideal due to the vastly different languages visionaries and details people speak. It’s like apples and oranges.

Of course, if you like apples and oranges, I suppose you can always make smoothies.

Some days (or nights)…

It’s just better to have a glass of wine with someone you love and get offline. Tonight is that night.

Tennis Lesson: Do over!

I’m an avid tennis player, and I like to work on my game whenever possible. So I practice. I drill. I play doubles and singles – anything to make me a more well-rounded player.

But like anyone who plays sports knows, the game can really get inside my head.

When it’s showtime – during a match – it’s really easy to get hung up on the last error I made. It happens to a lot of players.

Once we screw up, it’s like we can’t forgive ourselves fast enough to move on and play our best, even though, in Someone Famous’s words (Bruce Lee?), every new point is an opportunity to win.

The quote sounds trite, I know. But it completely turned my game around by helping me let go of the last point and move on.

Lucky for me as I get older, a concussion from my junior year in high school makes my short-term memory even shorter, so that’s pretty helpful too.

By the next point, that error is all behind me. Once that next serve crosses the net and kicks off a new point, I’m all there and ready to play, with bells on.

Lesson learned: Every first chance deserves another – in tennis and in life. We don’t always get it right the first time – or there’d be no need for a second serve, right?

So I’m vowing to go easier on myself and on others. We can all use a little a do-over now and then.

Blog comments: Where to share?

After returning to blogging last month for the first time in a long time, I realized so much has changed, thanks largely to how “social” media has become.

I didn’t realize, however, the number of hoops a blog reader now has to jump through just to participate in a conversation. We’re not talking just Captcha anymore, although it still makes appearances (like the “I’m Not a Robot” check box).

It also didn’t occur to me that blogs may or may not be where conversation really happens.

And none of this was even on my radar until:

Hyatt admits his decision may not be right for everyone, but there is some really strong rationale around why he did it – especially with numbers like his. He was, after all, named one of Forbes’  “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.”

Since Poor Mexican Gone is very young, I feel I have time to make this decision based on where the traffic comes from and where the ongoing conversation ends up.

Wanna be startin’ something?

I’m entrepreneurial by nature and by birth. From a legacy in my family of “starters”  — from grocers to gas station owners, seamstresses, ministers to musicians and marketers, bootleggers, accountants to attorneys and retailers — there’s a lot of startup in my blood.

metate1

Making meal for corn tortillas went from 16th-century low-tech…

The best part: my grandmother owned a molino de nixtamal, a corn mill for grinding maize to resell to markets that sold tortillas. I just learned that having the kind of manufacturing equipment required to run this operation was pretty cutting-edge for the early 20th century – anywhere in the world.*

Ha. My grandma was high-tech! Sigh. One more story to run down. But back to business.

molino

…to high-tech, with marked advances in the early 20th century.

Working for the man
While I’ve mostly worked for “the man” (The Man, actually) much of my career, I’ve had to find ways to feed my need to build new things, wherever I was. I’ve been fortunate to be in rapid-growth environments and fill in critical gaps due to the growth.

But here’s what I learned: If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and work in a larger company or business that’s not yours (yet), learn what you can where you are. Make the way you’re wired work for you and your employer. And then take it up a notch.

Here are a few ideas on how to “be startin’ something” right where you are:

  • Find an important problem that needs solving and perhaps that no one has “discovered” yet. If you’re one who spots trends or opportunities early, this is where you use it. Get some traction by taking on a project you know has a start and a finish – something that’s measurable, with tangible output.
    One project I worked on a number of years ago capitalized on what was then “new” RSS technology – the ability to syndicate content. We needed to distribute globally gathered story content from a team of field reporters — a good solution for our customers, who were also globally distributed. RSS was a seemingly small solution, but it had a big impact on productivity and opened up great opportunities for me to contribute more.
  • If you are ready for a bigger challenge, identify an initiative that meets an ongoing business need. How about that new CRM idea that’s been kicked about for so long? Got a knack for tech? Maybe this is your thing to drive for the business side of the house.
  • Heck, it could be something that has been broken for so long, everyone has just accepted it and learned to “work around” the “broken” state and call it good. Fix that. Think big.
  • Next step: Mention the idea to your supervisor and measure the warmth of her reception. If it feels good, come back with a more thought-out solution and a high-level plan. You never know – you just might be onto something.

It is possible to carve a niche for yourself by spotting opportunities and showing you’re self-starter who can help advance the business and your team’s credibility while growing your personal toolkit. My grandmother did it. She spotted an emerging opportunity and seized it – by making tortillas highly reproducible.

You can do the same in your space.

The fact is, you know your work and understand the types of problems that need solving or are trending. Chances are also good you’re pretty familiar with what good solutions look like, now and in the future. So find them. Offer them.

If you don’t do it, who knows when anyone else will get around to it?

p.s. I’d drafted this post (the one that blew up) before coming across this one from Seth today. Love his wisdom – don’t miss it!

* Source: Goods, Power, History: Latin America’s Material Culture, Arnold J. Bauer, p. 190.

The more I learn, the more I don’t know

Working on today’s post, I was amused (again) by how two previously written drafts started merging into one. And then there was the third one, creeping in entirely uninvited.

It was starting to get messy, and my post was getting bigger than I could handle. Not just longer, but bigger, like in-my-head bigger.

In an attempt to add a little “color” to the story, I did a bit of fact-checking. And that’s when it all blew up — a can of worms with a whole new set of questions and more to learn. Always, more to learn.

So I’m putting that post down for a nap. It’ll come out to play when the time is right. Until then, I’m done.

p.s. One of the best parts of #YourTurnChallenge – along with the great community – is how much we are growing through the process. Our desire to explore, ask more questions – it’s actually overwhelming some days. But once we step back and look at what we’re learning through new eyes…it’s a beautiful thing.