Feeling Stupid Is So…Stupid

21 Nov

Before I retired from the Texas State Health Department, I worked at a job that I loved. It was creative, meaningful, and funded by a federal grant. With the shift toward conservative politics, the funds dried, up as did my job. I was moved to another department that had an empty position. After years of a hiring freeze, I don’t think anyone even remembered what tasks were associated with that position. As a result, I was given no assignments. None, zip, zilch. I begged my boss to use my grant writing and organizational skills. In spite of promises to do so, I sat twiddling my thumbs and planning my escape to Mexico.

Our prompt for the week, NOT KNOWING

One day while perusing the department website, I noticed that the program material was outdated, wordy, and poorly organized. I asked and was given permission to take training to work on our section of the larger Health Department website. Web editing and development were far outside of my wheelhouse.

Adding my own graffiti.

The training was challenging and went a long way to stimulate my mind and teach me that I can pretty much do anything. So when this week had me spilling frustrated tears over failure to figure out an Application that is part of my art class, I needed to be reminded of my ability. Like many people, being called or thought of as “stupid”, especially by oneself, is the lowest of the low.

Ms Bossy Pants, Stela supervising in the studio.

The truth I learned is that I have judgement about people who don’t have basic computer skill. One of those people is my brother. He has an old phone, no texting, no exchange of photos, nada. I finally figured out the application, more or less. And just in case you wondered, I am stupid about a lot of things. Aren’t we all?

DOS TORTAS

Creating Our Own Happiness

15 Nov

When the high point of my day was reporting both dogs’ bowel movements after our morning walk, I knew it was time to take action. The daily routine of COVID isolation was getting to me. When an invitation showed in my inbox for a Zoom “Painting Circle” with my friend and teacher, Connie Solera, I didn’t hesitate to sign up.

Gazing at the far horizon.
Night time musings.
Not Knowing.

I have also subscribed to Audible, audiobooks. Laying in the hammock to read, makes me feel lazy and puts me to sleep. Listening to The Secret Room by Corrie Tenboom or some equally interesting book, both inspires and motivates. I can prep dinner, clean out the refrigerator or give the dog a bath, all things I tend to put off, while feeling accomplished and lifting my spirits.

I have also picked up my crochet hook and am working on a colorful afghan during the evening TV time. I have told my mother-in-law Alice that the blanket is a gift for a friend who is expecting a baby. That way she can ooo and aaah without knowing it is a gift for her.

As Covid quarantine stretches on for months and perhaps years, reading about what the Jews who hid out during WWII experienced keeps me humble. I suppose reading The Diary of a Young Girl could also be added to the audio list. Keep occupied, look out for your neighbors and please, wear a mask.

DOS TORTAS

When Communication Is Not Your First Language

8 Nov

Sometimes a comedic line on a TV series can hit a bit close to home. As was the case when Patrick’s said to David on the Emma Award winning series Schitt’s Creek, “I understand David that communication is not your first language.

A must watch tale of love.

While I had a good laugh, I’ve also had to ponder (as my wife would say) communication as a language skill.

A relationship takes a commitment to love and communication.

Since moving to Mexico, I have been daily studying Spanish as a second language. My foray into learning Spanish began in high school. It continued during a junior year abroad in Mexico and with additional college coursework and a job where I spoke Spanish daily.

Regardless of how hard I work, I am clear that I will never pass as a native speaker. Between idioms, accent and constructing new cognitive frameworks, I have a lot to learn.

I think the same can be said of communication. When my kids were little, I used to teach a course called, How To Talk So Kids Will Listen. Also for ten years, I have been a student and coach of Real Love by Dr. Greg Baer.

Learning the language of communication takes daily effort and attention. Remembering that most people have never worked to improve the skills that mom and dad taught them, helps me to have patience. It also reminds me to not take things personally and lower my expectations. I don’t think communication will ever be my first language either, but remain a lifetime study for as long as I live.

DOS TORTAS

It’s Not About the Words

29 Oct

I’ve always been a word person. In seventh grade Mr. Oldfield taught us to diagram sentences…verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, gerunds. The more complicated the sentence, the more I liked it.

Eighth grade age 14 and high school graduation 1970

When registering for high school classes, the counselor signed me up for a semester of Latin. I had no idea why. I was so lost in that class. I passed the course by copying test answers from the girl next to me. It took me a long time to understand that taking Latin was one of the best things I ever did and that I actually learned a lot. Not only is Latin the basis for English but made learning Spanish that much easier. I don’t think schools offer Latin anymore.

Even though I loved words, I never understood how to write a term paper. Classes at the University of Texas had a strong writing component. The teaching assistant would return my scribbling with suggestions for improvement marked in red. I made corrections and returned the paper as many times as it took to have an acceptably finished product. I was learning.

Graduate school and a job as a grant writer further developed my abilities. The final outcome was a love of writing. I do my best to hone my craft and produce a blog that tells a story. I am a work in progress.

So that’s the written word. What about spoken? My poor wife frequently looks at me in confusion. She is more of a statistical, black and white thinker. All my finely crafted communications leave her befuddled and give her a headache. It’s a wonder we’ve made it twenty-five years.

Last night I had a dream. An ethereal woman appeared to me and stated clearly, “it’s not about the words, it’s about the feelings.” The message shone through. People don’t feel loved, understood, and accepted by my well diagrammed sentences. I use words to protect myself and distance myself from people. They also make me feel smart. I guess it’s time for less thinking and more heart, a skill I’m willing to develop.

DOS TORTAS

Self Image and Aging

25 Oct

This week I bit the bullet, so to speak and started taking blood pressure medication. This is after years of a vegan diet, daily meditation and an exercise regime. Both my parents had high blood pressure. Apparently one third of hypertension is hereditary. Getting older is definitely not for sissies.

Thanks for the genes Mom and Dad. My parents were married 50 years.

I’ve always had enviable numbers. Through the birth of three children my midwives were in awe of my low pressure. Health fairs and work related screenings evoked comments like, “wow, I wish my pressure were as good as yours.”

Keeping track this month.

During the last year or so of routine doctor’s visits, I’ve seen raised eyebrows and looks of concern. Don’t you just hate it? I’ve hunkered down on my eating but had to finally admit that this is as good as it gets. My battery operated home monitor won’t budge. I’ve even changed the batteries and had Lisa take her BP for comparison. No dice, the numbers aren’t good.

My doctor finally said something this week that clicked. He told me to take the medication and monitor how I FEEL. Hopefully my energy will improve. This is a trial for a month, at least I tell myself. Evidence says otherwise. We live too far from a hospital and a stroke is nothing I’d wish on anyone, least of all me.

Our doctor Oscar. Do you have your doctor’s cell phone number?

It’s going to take awhile for my heart to adjust to the medication. I woke the first morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. It may take even longer to change my self image.

DOS TORTAS

Self image can be a double edged sword.

Life Markers

18 Oct

For most of us, we have life markers, events that forever changed us, our world and the way we look at things. Nine-eleven was a huge marker for many. It’s hard to find anyone in the world who wasn’t touched by it. I realized from visiting the book depository/museum in Dallas, TX that the assassination of President John Kennedy was a marker of my childhood, comparable to Nine-eleven. It too affected many people around the globe. Kennedy was a charismatic and beloved world leader.

November 22, 1963, fifty-seven years ago.

On a more personal level, the death of my youngest brother from glioblastoma/brain cancer in 2000 left a big gap in my life. Our parents get old and we know they will pass, but the death of a child or siblings can be extremely hard. It was for me. I can’t believe December will be twenty years.

On the left, Michael, older brother Ken on the right.
When we were lots younger. Michael on the right. I still tell folks that I have four brothers.

Covid is certainly an historic marker that we all share. There will be many stories of life before and after. And since we are still in the throws of it, it’s hard to imagine what the after will look like.

What are your life markers? This post started out with thoughts of how my life has changed after moving to Mexico seven years ago. It has turned out quite different from what I expected. However, clearly the blog took on a life of its own. Maybe another time.

DOS TORTAS

In Mexico Count on the Motociclistas

11 Oct

Thursday evening I got a call that no one wants to get. My phone said the call was from my wife, Lisa, so why was some guy speaking garbled English? He was telling me there had been an accident. It took my brain awhile to process.

The chariot that brought us to Mexico.

I jumped in the car heading to kilometer 51, about 15.5 miles away. I arrived on the scene to find a band of motociclistas directing traffic and surrounding Lisa who was sitting on the side of the highway holding her head. Her truck was off in the jungle. It was very dark by this time, and all I cared about was getting her to the hospital.

She is fine, a slight head injury and wearing a cervical collar. Her beloved truck is likely totaled. I didn’t get to thank those guys, not the guy who scooped her up and carried her to my car, or who went back to the truck to get her purse, nor the one who called me, or who stood on the highway slowing traffic keeping her safe. They were an incredibly sweet and caring group of men.

She had been side swiped while passing a car. Her truck went spinning off the road. The other driver did not stop. Thank you motociclistas. It could have been so much worse.

DOS TORTAS

Mucking About

4 Oct

My friend Jack Scott writes an hilarious blog “Perking the Pansies “. He and his husband Liam escaped the hustle and bustle life of London in 2011 for the expat world in Turkey. What followed are no less than five eye rolling, belly laughing books and a whole new career.

I remember the first time Jack commented on the Dos Tortas blog. I was thrilled to have my first celeb and REAL author comment on the blog. His Saturday posts always give my weekend a chuckle which is especially appreciated these days. I’ve also added some British slang to my vocabulary which feels worldly and helps me translate the movies and TV shows he recommends. This week, it’s muck, as in mucking about. Translated into Spanish, perder el tiempo, or waste time.

Thank you Jack, we can all use a bit of mucking about in our weekend.

DOS TORTAS

Time To Tell Our Stories

27 Sep

Maybe it’s my age, or the absence of my parents and the missed opportunity to ask them questions, that motivates me to write down the stories of my youth. Not spending time with my children and grandchildren, makes oral tradition impossible. So blogging it is.

The little house I grew up in. Two parents, five kids and a dog.

My father was a blue collar worker, something you see less and less in our country. He worked in a “machine shop” milling parts for large machinery. Every year the company had an employee picnic. I can’t tell you how much we kids looked forward to the day.

My dad worked hard, but he also loved to play. He loved the beach and swimming.
William, Tomm, and Me holding Michael.

The event was held at Schwaebische Alb, a large restaurant/picnic/event center in Central New Jersey. It was named after a beautiful area of Germany filled with castles, verdant valleys and the mountains of the Black Forest. It was a perfect location for a day of family fun.

Schwaebische Alb Restaurant CLOSED
1960

The picnic was a magical day. We kids were given free reign to play, eat and participate in a myriad of games and activities. There were unlimited hot dogs and hamburgers. Jersey corn on the cob floating in butter was served in the afternoon. I especially loved the troughs of soda on ice as we could have as much as we wanted, unlike at home where soda was off limits. My favorite was root beer.

Late in the day, chests filled with ice cream sandwiches, cones, dreamcicles, and rockets appeared. It was all the variety that was sold in the ice cream truck that came through our neighborhood in the summer, but Mom rarely said yes. We were in heaven.

I think, better than the food and treats were the games. Watching our parents, and sometimes joining them in three-legged races, sack race, egg toss (tossing raw eggs while getting further and further apart) and more. Seeing our parents relax and play was such a treat for us kids.

As manufacturing jobs slowed, my dad went to work in the “office”. His fellow blue collar workers shunned him.

My father worked many years for a company that valued its employees. There was a sense of family and belonging that produced some of my best childhood memories. I’m not one who longs for the “good old days” and I’m not sure why it came floating to the surface this week. Holding onto happy memories gives me hope for our future. Time to tell our stories.

DOS TORTAS

Life Is Strange And Wonderful

20 Sep

Looking back over my previous blog posts, I see that I have three blogs devoted to my house full of statues, paintings and pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe (I love looking around and seeing her). Of late I am reading a book that was recommended by a friend. It has definitely taken things up a notch.

It is written by a man who began having visions of a woman who told him to pray the rosary. Not being Catholic he was skeptical at the least.

From a church in Cartagena, Columbia.

The kicker for me is that in January we were in Cabo San Lucas during a layover from our cruise. It was a lovely evening, the sun was going down and I went for a walk by myself along the marina. A woman was there with her young son in tow. There were no other tourists about and she looked quite desperate to make a sale. For some unknown reason I bought a rosary from her. I have no idea why. I’d completely forgotten about it until I was introduced to this book.

Sharing this personal shift in my life feels very vulnerable. All I can say is that since I’ve begun praying the rosary I feel more at peace than I have for a long time time. The mantra-like prayers from my childhood soothe the daily stress with their repetitive cadence. Saying the rosary also reminds me to be grateful as I think of the many people who are having a hard time in the world. Life is strange and wonderful. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

DOS TORTAS

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