Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

“Son los años compadre”

Mom and Dad feeding corn to the visiting cranes.

Lenten Reflections #20

Lately I’ve been hearing the line, “I’m becoming my mother” more and more from my friends. Luckily I scored with a mom who nourished us with love and common sense. She measures her words like a baker uses a knife to level the flour across a measuring cup, precise without an ounce of overflow. If she says it, she means it. One of the many traits I’ve picked up from my mom is threading “dichos” or sayings in my conversations.

So when I was home with my parents, I made a list of all of the Spanish and some “Spanglish” sayings they use. One that I hadn’t heard my parents say to one another is: “Son los años compadre.” It’s the years, my friend.

This came up numerous times as my parents went about their day.

That 24 hours that was once filled with trips to the dentist, poker games or the commissary is now a memory. Not only due to the restrictions COVID has imposed, but as the saying goes, “Son los años compadre.” Aging takes its toll on all of us. I complain about arthritis and then I see my Dad’s fingers who my mom teases because anytime he tries to point at something, the tip of his finger points south. “Watch Dad point” she tells me chuckling…it’s always something on the ground he needs.”

Their routine continually changes, zipping around in the truck to run several errands, and detouring to yard sales just doesn’t happen anymore. They still spend much of the day working in the yard that they are so grateful for, yet the amount of work wanes with the years. “We feel like if the sun is out, we should be out.” says Dad. So they plant and prune, check on each other, feed the cranes, rearrange the woodpile, take apart anything that has metal and can be recycled, and breathe in the fresh air.

Once back inside, the aches and pains kick in and through all the “Ay, yai, yai’s” I can hear Mom say, “Son los años compadre.”

Dad replies, “Yo se, pura ay, yai, yai.” (I know all I say is ay, yai, yai).

They have a good laugh, a glass of water, Pedialyte or Boost and decide to rest and play solitaire on their Ipads.

On Faith and Fitness

Today try to do some push-ups. On the floor, on your knees, wherever. Dad does at least 5 every morning up against the wall right when he wakes up. Then count your blessings.

My father’s wit, and my mother’s tongue, assist me!

William Shakespeare
Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Play ball! Even during COVID

Lenten Reflections #19

Exactly one year ago today –  sports, life and the overuse of toilet paper came to a halt.

365 days later, and I’m sitting at my son’s baseball game and life is on the brink of spring. A blossoming cherry tree with chatty chickadees hovers over the bleachers where I am situated deep on the right field baseline, a party of one, enjoying a mask-free moment outside. In the distance, behind home plate, parents set up chairs and snacks and all have a similar look that seems to ask, “What pandemic?”

When I peer over my reading/texting glasses, I locate my son, in the dugout – not yet in the lineup. Like always, my eyes take a bit of adjusting to focus through the black fencing encircling the baseball field. It’s especially tricky to see in the dusky evenings when the light plays peek-a-boo and glances are inevitably fuzzy.

Of course the teenage boys playing are accustomed to watching double plays, errors, and curve balls through the steel wire fence, its diamond-shape serving as a lens to the coveted baseball diamond.

Most of these boys have been ball players since they were four or five. They’ve played through summers, swung their bats across state lines, and sacrificed birthday parties, weekends and time with friends.

Our son fell in love with tee ball, yet he still scooted from soccer to lacrosse, basketball to tennis and dabbled in gymnastics and swim team…only to find his way back to the view of the diamond-shaped fence.

Travel ball players and their families have always blown me away with their dedication. To the sport, to the teams, and to the coaches. However, no matter how much time, money or volunteer hours one has dumped into the baseball cauldron, every parent knows their child will NEVER be guaranteed playing time. So parents wait and watch and wait some more.

Tonight, at the bottom of the third inning, a tall, polite player from our opposing team ran by me and into the bull pen to retrieve straps for stretching. He stopped for a moment as he untied the cords from the fence and asked how I was doing. “Fine, thanks.” “How about you?” I replied. He looked at me and said, “I really wish I was playing—big pause—but it’s okay.” He trotted off, the words “Have a good night!” trailing behind him as I watched the number 20 on his jersey slip back into the dugout.

Wow. This wasn’t a 5- or even 10-year-old kid wanting to get on a field and make the play of the game, this was a 15-year-old boy who said what he had been thinking since the moment every other player on his team grabbed their glove and hustled to the field while he watched the dust settle.

At that point in the game, our son had not played at all either…and all I could think was please God, please let him have the same attitude as this sweet boy who took running an errand for the coach as serious as he would catching a fly ball in left field.

As our team ran in to hit, I noticed my son dash over to give fist bumps to his teammates as they filled the dugout. I also watched as he leaned over the dugout fence, smiling and holding court with his teammates.  

For the remainder of the game, I scoured the field for number 20 and never saw him enter, but I knew there was another mom like me up in the stands waiting for her boy to run on that field and give her a reason to scrub those baseball pants and prep them for the next game. As I walked over to our side of the field, a foul ball dropped behind the dugout. And there it was…another number 20 sighting. He was the first one out to get the stray ball. Dedicated and ready. The lyrics to John Fogerty’s iconic song rang in my head. “Oh, put me in, Coach – I’m ready to play today.” Much like the rest of us, we just want to get back in the game, back to life without a mask, back to days without so much worry, back to the days when our kids could actually attend school AND play their sport and when parents could sit and talk about what’s for dinner rather than wonder when “normal” will show its face again.

May the spring days help unite nature and humanity, and transcend us from a place of silent isolation to one of growth and renewal.

On Faith and Fitness:

Get your heart rate up and walk briskly. As you do so, count how many different birds do you hear? What is your song?

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Keep Reaching, Keep Writing

Daily Reflections #18 – I reread this older post tonight and relished in the memories of connecting with other parents, friends and families.

It made me realize…

Our times have changed, but our needs haven’t.

We need each other. We need to share our stories. We need the fog to clear, and when it does, let us serve as oars for each other and propel our lives toward the light.

Wednesday Flashback – This is why I write.

I think about writing and the sunny feeling I get when I help others or touch their lives. (With three kids going to college soon, perhaps I should think a bit more about tuition money).

Let’s just say I’m like a Border Collie with a constant head tilt completely engrossed in 50- shades of everything, and the nuances of nothing. I think of stories constantly. Not in an Emerson “Self-Reliance” kind of way, more in a Seinfeld “show about nothing” kind of way.

I am always thinking about how all of us are linked and how sharing our stories helps us celebrate our milestones or hold each other up in our toughest moments.

Maybe it’s commiserating on how tricky it can be to shuttle three kids to three different practices starting at the same time.

Or maybe it’s about trying to help your children with homework as you pretend to remember what ‘slope-intercept’ or ‘rhetorical writing’ means.

Or maybe it’s listening to your own 80-something parents on speakerphone as they recount their day going from church to the doctor and then the grocery store, all the while wishing you were there to drive them, hover over them and hold their hands for balance and warmth.

Perhaps it’s a middle school story about our kids being too shy, too needy, too weird.

Or maybe like me, it’s when you hear the news about a mom you worked with for years on PTA who died in her sleep and how she was too young and won’t get to see her children graduate.

Blogging reminds me of writing my fears and favorites in my childhood diary. It had a green satin cover and that little tiny key I hid and lost, and used a bobby pin instead. Writing to me is a chronicle, proof, opinion, and vulnerability…the more I do it, the easier it is.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, he claims the way to achieve world-class mastery in any skill is to repeatedly doing something correctly for 10,000 hours. It’s this deliberate practice that leads to expertise.

I’m certainly not an expert — and 10,000 hours of anything sounds just awful. My goal instead is to help, share, connect, and tell the funny, sad and wacky moments I know I’m not the only one out there experiencing.

On Faith and Fitness…

Write down a story, stretch your body.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Do you judge others? We all do…

Lenten Reflections #17

I repeat myself…a lot. Today my self-talk took a road down Judgement Lane way too many times. In fact, I told myself – out loud, “Stop being judgey!” at least 12 times.

Who knows if “judgey” is even a word, but it rolls off my tongue almost too easily. Sometimes I use “judgey” as an introduction to a critisism, like this: “I don’t mean to be judgey, but…”. Or I may say, “Here I go getting judgey again…”. Eloquent lines? No. Unnecessary? Yes.

So I thought back to one of my favorite things Pope Francis has said,

Honestly? He’s right.

Here we are…muddling through a pandemic, lost jobs, hunger, emotional stress, worry, fear, and so much more. Let’s not judge but rather carry each other through these troubled waters as He leads us on.

On Faith and Fitness:

Think about this while you go for a walk today:

God Himself doesn’t propose to judge a man until he is dead.
So why should you?

Thanks for reading.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

“Shhh! Don’t help her, let her fail!”

I’m a travelling teacher this year. By travelling, I don’t mean, “the world” but rather, the hallways. I push a cart from class to class teaching Spanish to little ones. I load up my cart so it resembles that of a first class flight attendant, except instead of pretzels and soda, I tote around a stuffed cat named Gloria and burnt sienna crayons.

Once inside a classroom, my lessons typically involve comprehensible input using songs, stories and games. But like anything else, the plan can only be as good as the implementation…and when technology is involved, it can make you or break you.

If you let it.

Some days just signing into the computer or screen in another teacher’s classroom is crippling. “Do I sign out of all the other accounts? Open a new browser? Close all browsers? Shut everything down and count to 10…in Spanish?

Meanwhile, behind me are 16 five- and six-year-olds pining to help. Because they “know EXACTLY what to press.” Shouts of “Señora! I’ll help! I know! Just press THIS button!” Some tech-savvy kiddos rush toward the screen like 20-somethings to a BTS concert.

So when technology attempts to derail my lesson, I first halt the screen rushers, turn to the class and say, “Please don’t help, just let me fail…I can’t succeed if I don’t fail.” While most of the kids glance at each other with the “she IS crazy” look on their faces, they patiently wait for me to noodle through passwords, tabs, or Google Slides, all the while we count in Spanish or sing a song. After a few minutes, the screen turns to blue, Google’s rainbow brightens the room and Voila! We did it!

There was one particular day when my back was to the class during that moment of struggle when the big screen froze, and I tapped like a downy woodpecker everywhere to make it work. Then I heard a quiet boy in the back of the room say,

“Shhh! Don’t help her, let her fail!”

I turned and thanked him, and miraculously, the screen clicked on and service was restored.

All of us, teachers, parents and kids alike have to struggle, fail, struggle more and succeed. As a parent of three teenagers, I need to let them fail, fall, get up and try again. Because right now, we’re all under the same roof and I can still be their safety net if they need me. Succeed, fail, succeed, repeat.

On Faith and Fitness:

Pray, plank, pray, plank, pray.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Why do people do stuff? What’s your next move?

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Lenten Reflections #15

Everyday we’re posed with decisions to make. But how and why do we make the choices we do?

Why do some kids decide to go to college and others trade school? Why are some people vegan and others pescatarian? Why invest in a hybrid or a big truck? Or a home with a three-car garage and a lake vs. a tiny house?

According to Psychology Today most of our decisions are based on human motivation drivers such as: the need to belong, anchoring new habits to current habits, and using your personal beliefs and traits to help connect you to the decision being made.

Growing up we had a path: school, college, more college, work.

My mom always said, “There is life beyond Bridge Street” – this was a bridge that crossed over the Rio Grande river into the city of Albuquerque and ultimately the world. Dad wanted us all to get our Master’s Degrees…because it was proof. Proof of education, proof of time dedicated, proof of mastery.

My sister’s and I all found our way over bridge and into Master’s Programs. But I must admit, I did everything I possibly could before I decided to fill out the application for a Master’s Degree. Travel, work, and more travel. It was ONLY when I decided to apply, did I succeed in getting that degree.

Which leads me to yet another thing my father said the other day,
“People are more likely to do something if it is their idea.”

-Dad

Here’s one more example:

Back in the 50’s, mom was offered a four-year scholarship to St. Johns College in NM. However, since her dad was sick at home and couldn’t work at our family’s ranch, she decided she needed to supplement my grandmother’s hair salon salary and work to support her family.

She tells us this story often and recently said she was very pleased with her decision, “It was the right thing to do at that time and I’m glad I did, it was MY decision.”

She found her inner peace with her decision. She owned it and she was proud of it.

May you always believe in the decisions you make and move forward, leaving all regret behind.

On Faith and Fitness

Will you decide to pray or move today? It’s all up to you.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

“Step off the wood, Jesus needs the cross.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lenten Reflections #14

I worked in a sports bar in DC for years. Managers came and went as they do, hoping to climb the exhausting service industry ladder or better yet, open their own establishment. Like most bosses, some had a lasting impact, others shuffled through so quickly, I barely recall their names. But like most workplaces, life lessons came from teammates, supervisors, customers, and experience.

After working at a non-profit health organization from 9-5, I knew when I arrived at the bar, I had to wipe the day’s slate clean. During the day, I managed various health programs including a smoking cessation project for Hispanic youth. Ironically, I would then schlep over to a bar with a cigarette machine and a cigar bar upstairs. Needless to say, when I swiped into the time clock, I REALLY had to stop thinking about my day’s work, and focus on service.  

As in most jobs, there are always complainers, and I’m no different. Inside this smoky bar where I spent so many hours, there was one manager named Daryl who did not tolerate moaning. When anyone griped about  the minutia – rolling silverware , making a pot of decaf, bussing an extra table, he would always say,

“Step off the wood, Jesus needs the cross”. 

His words sent an instant reminder to quit complaining about first world problems, and be grateful for the work we were doing. It certainly squelched a lot of my own grievances and others. It helped all of us realize a bad day didn’t have to tether us but rather guide us to what makes us happy.

So today, be grateful. Grateful for what you can do, grateful for who you have around you, and especially grateful to Jesus for carrying that cross for us. Even when things are at their worst, nothing compares to His sacrifice. Step off the wood, be thankful and make every day better than the last.

On faith and fitness:

Take a minute to call a friend and check in. Let this be the day your body rests and your love for others is shared.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

5 Pain solutions for seniors (or anyone)

Lenten Reflections #13

My father always says, “Getting old isn’t for wimps.” No matter the age, aches and pains tap dance through our bodies like Tommy Tune in “Bye Bye Birdie”. One day it’s the hip as you step out of bed, or the back as you bend down to tie your shoes. On winter mornings, arthritic hands barge in uninvited straining to type or grip or hold. Perhaps it’s the strain to see the small print on the newspaper you’ve read the last 50 years or the emotional pain to remember what day it is. (TIP: Use the date on the newspaper to help, mom does). Bottom line, pain stinks but can be managed.

Pain is sensed through special nerves, carted over to the brain where the pain takes a number, is then registered, processed and perceived. What happens next is all about who we hire as our pain project manager.

I’ve spent the last few days with my parents and as my dad says, “when one ability goes away, another one pitches in to help.” He said this while driving, so I didn’t question it as he crossed through an intersection he’s driven hundreds of times.

According to The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, for “pain management to be effective in the elderly, physicians need to be skillful in pain assessment; capable of recognizing the importance of a holistic, interdisciplinary team approach to care; and knowledgeable of both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches to management.”

Here’s the caveat: finding a physician that possesses all of these qualities. However, whether you have a doctor who excels in prescribing or one who is homeopathic, here are 5 remedies that have helped my parents and are worth a shot. Of course, always see your doctor when needed…these are simply ideas:

  1. DISTRACTIONS – **HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**

On their website, StopPain.org, the group, Net of Care, discusses symptom management and makes another useful suggestion, and that is to use distraction “as a pain management technique in which patients focus their attention on something other than their pain and negative emotions.”

Whether it’s movement, meditation, prayer, conversation or interactions, distraction is the spoonful of sugar we need to help the medicine go down. In fact, don’t underestimate the spoonful of sugar, my sister brought by some 2-inch thick fudge and my mom finally sat down, forgot about the pain and enjoyed.

Here are mom and dad’s recommendations:

  • pull out a puzzle
  • listen to Helen Reddy, Anne Murray, whatever warms your heart, and sing along
  • do a crossword puzzle or jumble
  • take out a photo album
  • tell stories
  • talk on the phone
  • “play outside” as dad says – prune, stack wood, plant, water or just have happy hour
  • watch TV – Alaska shows for Dad, Downton Abbey for Mom, Golden Girls for both (they never disappoint)

2. Heat – Step aside Yule Log.
My parent’s home is about 85 degrees at all times. If not, the fireplace will be lit. Yet another reason to sit, relax and enjoy the view of the fireplace. As dad says, “it’s better than TV.” Also try a warm shower or bath, heating pad, or sunshine. All will relax muscles and spasms.

3. Deep Breathing

Slow, quiet breathing helps relax the body and mind and soothe pain. Lie or sit with one hand on your belly and take a deep, slow breath. Close your eyes and picture your belly filling a balloon with air. Exhale and let all of the air out of the balloon, letting go of any unhappy thoughts and listening to the sound of your breath as you inhale relaxation. Repeat six times.

4. Feed the birds!

This is another favorite I will elaborate on later. There is an amazing effect birds have on people, the calm surrender of sitting and watching someone else do the work when our bodies are just too tired.

5. Move!

Get outside. It’s that easy. Mask up, suit up and go outside!

No matter the age, our bodies need rest, and care, and strength.
No matter the age, our hearts need love and hope and faith.
No matter the age, our minds need rest, whether they forget the day, the face or the moment; they need rest.

On Faith and Fitness

Mask up and go to church or meditate outside. BREATH.
Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

“The years go by as quickly as a wink…”

Lenten Reflections #12

Last year at this time, I had just spoken to my Madrina (Godmother) over the phone wishing her a happy Leap Year Birthday. She turned 85.

Exactly one month ago, my dear Godmother passed away suddenly and was not able to celebrate her 86th birthday. Thankfully, she did not die from COVID, nor was she ailing for long. She fell. She was alone.

I had spoken to her just a month before she passed and she told me she had started walking again, going to church, and enjoying the days in her home by the mountains. I immediately thought of an old Doris Day song my mom sings over the phone to me quite often as she reminisces. It’s called, “Enjoy Yourself”

Enjoy yourself
It’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself
While you’re still in the pink
The years go by
As quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself
Enjoy yourself
It’s later than you think

This is one thing my Godmother always told me, enjoy yourself, enjoy your kids, enjoy your family, and enjoy life.

In honor of my Godmother, I am reposting last year’s Leap Year Baby story about her.

Mi Madrina

On February 29, 1935, my Godmother was born.

IMG_1288.jpeg
This is my baby book given to me by my Godparents. The picture of me (above) was placed on the first page by my Godmother.

In Leap Year math terms, she’s had 21 true birthdays. So today is especially busy for her. Let’s just say if an angel got their wings every time her phone rang today, the halo business would be booming. I was among her callers who sang the traditional Happy Birthday and a few lines of Las Mañanitas, her favorite birthday song.

I filled her in on the kids and our treks from swim meets to tennis matches, and then baseball games. In lockstep, she reminded me to enjoy every moment of their childhood, because it goes too fast. “What are their ages?” she asked. When I said, 17, 15 and 14, she jumped in and as if reading from a mom script, said,  “Oh college is coming up, that’s expensive.” She continued, “It’s when they go away that’s hard.” I knew she was referring to the outrageous cost attached to out of state tuition, but I also knew from our previous conversations that her statement meant more. She’s always been candid and honest about being a mom.

When we chat, her kind, subtle NM accent reminds me of home. I listen to how she recalls life as a mom…and I can hear how quickly life’s pages turn, the moment you’re suddenly not going to baseball games or PTA meetings anymore but airports to pick up your kids who are “just visiting”. I can’t help but think of how she felt the first Sunday morning when she stopped looking for a large section on a church pew, but instead, was able to slip in at the end of a row because she was alone.

She tells me she prays for me every night and every morning. When she says it, I feel my body relax. Somehow simply knowing someone whose faith is at their core is thinking of me, makes me feel cloaked in love. To me, she’s like one of the saints Catholics have for everything. We pray to them when illness, accidents or a loss occurs and we know they have our backs. That’s my Godmother. I know her prayers for me are deep, no-nonsense and true.

Chances of being born on a leap day are about one in 1,461, according to the BBC. In fact, some astrologers say leap year babies may possess special talents and luck. I agree. When I look at the picture of the day I was baptized, I think about all my Godmother has taught me: to cherish time with my family, knowing they will eventually live under different roofs; keep faith at the forefront; and hope our kids will thrive with credence, compassion, and kindness.

Gracias, Madrina.

Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

COVID-19 Travel by plane

Lenten Reflections #11

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So if you’re wondering what travelling by plane is like during this phase of COVID, here it is:

I arrived to a bustling in the Atlanta airport at 5:00 a.m. 

Kiosks were lined up with passengers scanning and tapping screens. Signs and printed directions guided me as I placed the checked bag labels on, which is trickier than you’d think but I was able to make out the “peel off part 1 then adhere to part 2” instructions as my glasses fogged teetering on my double masks.

Airport employees facilitated luggage check-ins waving and pointing, travellers seemingly understanding the hand gestures and muffled directions. Starbucks and Chick-fil-a lines resembled the drive-thru lines by our home, social distancing was forgotten as people leaned into the next, tired, hungry and thirsty like the Statue of Liberty was calling them in the form of a Frapuccino.

Security was stringent and efficient, just long.

Hearing multiple languages over the loud speaker is always the sunny side of any day for me. Of course, the announcements were reminding us to wear masks at all times. Thankfully the multilingual nudges seemed to work as toddlers to seniors were masking up, some of them even covered their noses rather then “half-masking”.

The flights were notably packed and the Southwest Airline flight attendant, in true character, focused on maximizing humor and creativity. During his spiel, he told everyone to wear their masks the duration of the flight. He went on to say, “Eating is fine, however, it should not take you two hours to eat a Chic-fil-a chicken biscuit…we all know you don’t want to wear your mask.”

With middle seats filled, the flight was not the most comfortable, nor comforting, but we made it. As we taxied to the gate, the flight attendant announced to “Remain seated until we are safely at the gate and please pretend to social distance as we exit”.

My last flight to Albuquerque was nearly empty, quiet and as always bumpy through the mountains. Both flights were smooth, and I did learn pandemic flights are certainly more calming when you don’t have to share an armrest with a half-masked neighbor.

Safe travels wherever you go. When you arrive, contact Walgreens and you can get a COVID test there quickly.

On faith and fitness…

If you are flying, say an Our Father during take off and landing.

Also, take comfortable shoes and walk around the airport. If you need to stay by the gate, find a quiet floor spot and do light stretching. Don’t worry about people watching, if anything, they should want to join you in your healthy endeavor.

RESOURCE: Here’s a link to information on COVID travelling from the CDC: TRAVEL DURING COVID-19.