Tag Archives: positivity

This Post Brought to You by Nina Simone and Pollyanna

14 Feb

At the end of every semester I have a couple of weeks of sitting around the office doing office-y things (grading, paperwork, planning, etc.). It always starts as a nice change of pace, a much-needed break from the normal teaching schedule. On day one I’m like “Yes! No students! Finally I can respond to all my emails!”

By day three I’ve answered all my emails and googled some important matters, such as “why does my 3 year old want sandwiches all the time?” and “lyrics to Beyonce video.” In addition I have most of my grades calculated, half of my paperwork completed. I’ve done some online shopping (did you know I can get cashew butter sent to Mexico!?) but then discarded the items before paying as I calculate how many pesos that is. I’ve congratulated and scolded students on their grades, and made my first trip to the dreaded vending machines.

By day six I’ve read more news than my optimism can handle, know 300 more useless facts about childhood development, and have gained 3 pounds from sitting around snacking all day. My anxiety’s up- between the news and the extra coffee I’m drinking, my eyes are red and strained, my body’s cramped and bloated and I’ve driven all of my coworkers crazy by roaming into their offices to chat constantly. I’m like, “When do classes start again? Where are the students?” Even when I have plenty of office work to do, I can’t stay focused on it for eight whole hours, staring at a screen, alone in my cubo.

2d886f1177bc9ea8853cdc65fc62de7c I ask myself, “How can anyone be productive for a whole 8 hours a day, while sitting the whole time, 5 days a week?” Y’all who do so are obviously made of stronger stuff than I am.


Yoga time at the office when there are no students (this is not really me, but it could be!)


But I’m trying not to be like this:


I mean, complaining about this is a bit crazy anyway. “Woe is me, I’m getting paid to sit down and work and still have some time to surf the internet!” And after I hit my news website, the idea of complaining becomes not just absurd, but also callous, offensive, and self-absorbed.

“I’m sitting in an office while other people are having babies with underdeveloped brains, thanks to Zika virus. Woe is me!”

“I could be getting deported to a home country where I’ll probably be killed, but no, I’m stuck at the office all day!”

“I could be fleeing war and death, watching my family suffer or die on the journey, but instead my butt is going numb in this chair. Damn!”

“My only venture out for the day is going to the snack machine, while folks in some places get to spend all day running around trying to procure safe water. It’s not fair!”

“Other moms are praying that their kids can stay alive if they’re stopped by police, but I’m forced to sit around googling about positive discipline for toddlers instead. Alas!”

You see what I mean.

Thinking about others doesn’t make my butt less numb, but it does change my perception about it. This semester’s end, I’m all about the reframe. “It’s so great that we normally have students!” I exclaim. “We’re so lucky to have a job where we can sit some and stand some, be introverted and extroverted, think and talk and move, all in the same eight hours!” I enthuse to my coworkers (on one of my many trips to annoy them in their office). “I love my job!” I shout, especially when I’m leaving at the end of the day.

I’ve been applying this reframe to other areas of life, too, with pretty sweet results. Here’s another example.

Before my reframe: “Getting up at 5AM is the pits! And it only nets me 20 measly minutes of exercise! I only squeeze out 10 minutes of me-time while I drink my coffee! I’m so tired! When am I gonna not be tired?”

After my reframe: “Getting up at 5AM allows me to have 20 whole minutes where I can feel the power and strength of my body functioning.  I can appreciate my fully-functioning body. I also get a few minutes for quiet, child-free reflection with my locally made, delicious Oaxacan coffee. And I get to see a beautiful sunrise every day. I’m going to be tired for most or all of these child-rearing years anyway, so I might as well make the most of it.”

When I’m mumbling curse words about my children and my bad luck in having children who hate to sleep, I can take a step back and remember that moment 15 minutes ago when one or the other of them made me laugh or knocked something over in their excitement over seeing Mommy (Me! That’s me! I’m a Mommy! Already a win.). I can remember that they fill me to the brim with joy more than they fill me with frustration. The moments of frustration and Mommy-rage are worth it. The fog and delirium of early mornings is worth it. The days at the desk are worth it. My life is freaking fabulous!

Of course things aren’t perfect, and they’re not supposed to be. Everyone has their own struggles, and even when they’re not dire, sometimes you need to vent about them sometimes to get it off your chest. However, I don’t want to spend more of my life entertaining thoughts about the negative than feeding thoughts about the positive. I’m working to stop and think before I complain out loud, to decide if it’s something worth complaining about or not. I don’t want my main conversations (with myself and with others) to be full of complaints. It makes me so much lighter to reframe my complaint in my own head meanwhile and see if I can’t find the upside.

It works a little like this: I think something like, damn dirty dishes! But instead of saying that I cancel it out and say “That was a great meal!” Never ending laundry? I’m still so happy that we have electricity and a washing machine! Sweating like a pig? I’m not cold! I love the sunshine! Screaming children? We have screaming children! (That’s good right? They’ll be vocal and opinionated like me.)

And when that doesn’t work, I can listen to this Nina Simone  song and dream of one day being as vibrant, brilliant, beautiful and alive as she was.




A Little Dose of Positivity

8 Oct

ImageThis blog could use some positivity, as could I. To take some time to focus on the good things in my new environment. Because some days you might believe- and I might, too- that it’s all difficult and crappy. And it’s just not true. (And yes that rainbow is in our backyard.)

So I made a little list of things that make me feel like sunshine on a cloudy day. Number one on that list is my family here- my daughter, my partner, my awesome mother-in-law. But this is more of a cultural list, stuff that I like specifically about this place, not about the people around me.

Granted, the things that I love are mostly food-related. But I am, after all, that girl that prefers the kitchen above all other places in the house. “The kitchen is the heart of a home” said my friend Luis de Leon, and food is like glue that further binds people into loving friendships and family relationships. So I hope you enjoy my little rainbow list, and I’ll cook something for you if you come to visit!

Please not that my list is not in order of importance.

-Epazote… And you thought cilantro was exciting. Epazote is another fragrant and delicious herb that for some reason I could rarely find in Louisville. I especially recommend it for chilaquiles and for black beans. And while we’re on the subject, yerba santa (especially in black bean tamales) is pretty exquisite as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_auritum -go here for more yerba santa info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysphania_ambrosioides -go here for more epazote info.

-Chepiles… Looks like spinach, tastes like artichokes. Not like vinegar-soaked canned artichoke hearts- like artichoke leaves. If you’ve never had a whole artichoke, you need to immediately go buy one. Boil for 45-60 minutes. Melt some butter and squeeze the juice of a lemon- a real lemon. Add salt to the lemon juice. Take an artichoke leaf, dip the edge in either butter or lemon juice, then scrape off the meaty part, now dripping in butter, with your teeth. Repeat until you get to the heart, which is a seriously orgasmic example of a vegetable. Then you’ll have an idea what chepiles taste like. Here’s a chepiles tamal:


-Tropical fruit…. including mango, pineapple, coconut, different kinds of banana, and much more are all close by, accessible, and fairly cheap (definitely cheap compared to Kentucky).

-Organic produce is cheaper than commercial pesticide-covered, genetically-modified shit…. Although it’s not labeled or anything, (and there’s no supermarket, either, but this will NOT be a complainy post), the ladies who sit on the ground in the plaza to sell produce are selling the stuff that they grow in their town, which is chemical-free, delicious, local, and cheap.

-The view of the river and the mountains from my window is gorgeous. Look! The picture doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea.


-Almost everything is local business…. People put whatever business they feel like in the front part of their house. This is how many families make a living. So while in the cities you might have a supermarket or other big corporations, most businesses there and all businesses in towns are the businesses of the people who live there. I both love and hate the chaos and randomness of it, trying to figure out where to go to buy what we need. You might have to ask around and get sent to several different places before you find what you’re looking for- like a mosquito net we got to put around Lucia’s bed. You might have to go to a place 3 different times before you catch them open, like when we wanted to get a key made. You also might have 10 different places in the plaza that sell practically the same thing, which is just a little ridiculous. But at least it’s local. And in some ways, it’s more convenient- like you can count on there being all kinds of necessities (basic food products like tomato, hot peppers, rice, beans, eggs, etc.) right around the corner- most of the time.

-Loudspeaker announcements… okay I don’t actually love this but it does amuse the hell out of me. The local government has a loudspeaker that they put on top of a car and drive around making important announcements. Unfortunately, to my untrained ear (and Conan’s too), it mostly sounds like the parents on Charlie Brown. I hear something like “wha wha brr wha arrr importante…. Wha wha brr ig colonia 3 de mayo…. Wha wha pa arr 20 de septiembre ” The other day I caught  only the words “papanicolau” (pap smear) and “mamografia” (mammogram). But I have no idea when, where, or for whom. Oh, well.

-The products people sell via drive-by/walk-by…. First of all, there’s a bunch of fantastic street food- tamales, chiles rellenos, breads, sweets, etc.- that passes by our house every day. People walk by selling whatever it is that they’ve made (including fresh tortillas twice a day), which is unbelievably convenient when we need a snack or don’t have time to cook. And then there are the things that get sold via truck- the gas we use for the stove and the hot water heater, the big bottles of drinking water, pizza, mattresses, and more. We woke up our first morning in Mexico to a car driving by announcing “Atole! Atole!” (which is an oatmeal-based drink), and realized we were definitely in Mexico after all. Selling heavy stuff via truck is great because we (and many other folks) don’t have a car to go pick stuff up and bring it back. The downside is you have to be home and paying attention to get those things. The gas truck at least makes a weird moo-like sound, then plays some music, and announces “gas de Oaxaca”.  I refuse to buy pizza because the announcement/song is too irritating. But many things aren’t announced- you just have to watch for them, which is how we missed the water truck that has the water that tastes good for like 3 days in a row.

-Cheap(er) access to medical and dental care. What’s not to love about not stressing out about whether you can afford to go to the doctor or not?

-There’s not a lot of processed food (also a downside occasionally!).

-Breastfeeding wherever, whenever, with no dirty looks, rude comments, or even the bat of an eye…yep. I know, all you breastfeeding moms in the U.S. are jealous now.

-Street-life exists…. The town feels alive. There are always people walking to get places (and horses and cars, too). Big events happen outside, usually in the plaza. Houses are open. The environment is more public, open, not private, shut out.  

-Handmade, fresh tortillas every day…. Yes, I mentioned this in the products people sell via walk-by section. But it’s worth mentioning again. It’s pretty great.

-No lawnmowers- only machetes… First of all, people don’t have stupid lawns like they do in the U.S.  (and not a lot of grass that’s not eaten by cows and such anyway). But when there is excess grass you cut it with a machete. That’s right. No lawnmowers. No leaf-blowers (the bane of my existence/the epitome of US waste and laziness, in my humble opinion). None of that ridiculous noise and poor use of petroleum. And you can even hire someone to cut your grass. We had some insanely overgrown mess all around the back of the house and a guy cut it down for like 15 bucks (US).  I know, you wish you had a machete.

-No tornados…. That’s right, I can finally enjoy a storm in peace. No sirens. No National Weather Service beep beeps giving me panic attacks. It’s just a simple storm.

-Patriotism is reasonable and for a limited time only… Mexican independence is celebrated in September, and the whole month you’ll find flags everywhere, and other signs of patriotism. But then, it’s over. October 1 rolls around and all that blatant national pride disappears from view. Sure, people still love their country. But they’re not all up in your face about it, and they don’t go around insisting to everyone and their mom that they’re country is better than everyone else’s. It’s patriotism I can respect. Fancy that. 

….I’m sure there are other aspects of life here that I appreciate and enjoy that haven’t occurred to me in time for this post, so I’ll keep you updated, and try to keep busting out these little rays of sunshine from time to time. Since we’re almost out of the rainy season, and I’ve been here over two months now, I’m sure sharing the positivity will get easier. Stay tuned!