Falling in love with your life

We human beings have overdeveloped the ability to make life more difficult than it really is. To defeat ourselves before the war begins, to be our worst critic. If we just take a moment to recognize the people around us we could realize that we are all in the same river, fish swimming in the same stream, some against the current, others in favor of the current, but all trying to survive, to stay afloat.

Prioritize what is important to you and your love ones

We are busy bees working to pay out our bills and at the same time fueling the need to have more, to go bigger, to keep up with the people we follow in our social media, and at the same time working towards getting people to follow us.  

“It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.”

by Fred Rogers

Some of us work towards taking seriously the responsibility of raising decent human beings, provide to our kids a better life of the one we had, but without spoiling them into becoming self-absorbed people.  We work hard on giving them all they need (and want), but with the resentment that our efforts are not appreciated. 

We want to believe in love (the one that grows with time and the one that is instant), but we are not willing to put in the work.  To be patient, to be forgiving, to be kind, to learn to be a team that will have defeats and victories, but which goal is always to pass the finish line regardless of the distance of the race.

“Difficult and meaningful will always bring more satisfaction than easy and meaningless”

by Maxime Lagacé

We are all, at times, walking contradictions, and its ok, we are just trying to figure it all out.

And what if, at this moment we decided to be more present in our lives?  To relax the competition with the person next to us, and nod and congratulate them for their success, or to relax and enjoy a board game with our growing kids while they tell us stories that will make absolutely no sense to us but for which we will still nod and laugh.  To relax the arduous task of following the masses (which is always in disagreement) to revisit our lives, our goals, our dreams, to make the list of things we can be thankful for today. Take a deep breath… and take another.

Ways to practice mindfulness as a family

Mindfulness is, without a doubt, a source that can help us lower our stress level and allow us to recharge when our tanks are running empty.  Day after day we focus so much on “getting things done”, sticking to the planner, and dealing with the unexpected. As part of our mindfulness practice, is important to practice it as a family so that as a family we can be aware and grateful for the life we are living.

Below are options that can get you and your family in the mindfulness path and the rewards are worth the try.

  1. Go for a mindful walk or hike: I like doing this a lot with the family. We take a very short walk (or loop) but we do it practicing awareness. We walk and talk about the smells, the colors, the sounds, how the trees or leaves are to our touch, how the sun feels if its cold, or hot, or humid. We take turns pointing out what calls our attention.  This has been a great practice, especially for my husband and kids as a way to incorporate mindfulness into their lives as well.
  1. Do yoga for beginners class: Nowadays you can find tons of Yoga tutorials on Youtube or other apps and these are great to do with the family, especially with younger kiddos.   Taking a yoga class for about 10 to 15 minutes will help you and your family to connect through a healthy activity that is fun as well. We would usually clear up the living room and each one takes a spot.  We let it be fun so laughing is allowed!
  1. Cook a three-course meal as a family: There are times in which cooking at home is just a necessity (maybe you have small kiddos, or you are budget conscious), we try to cook at home as much as we can and usually the cooking is done by me. Lately, I have been incorporating cooking as a way to mindfully connect with each other.  From picking up the menu (each one in the family propose an option) to cooking it and finally to eat it. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated, a simple appetizer (like homemade hummus or bruschetta), easy meal (like veggie tacos, pastrami sandwiches or chicken wings) and a delicious dessert (chocolate mug cake has been the one to go lately) are sufficient to make any afternoon a mindful moment with the family.
  1. Listening to music!: This works! We are four members in my family, and we all have different music styles so we each get to pick the “next song”, no matter what we pick we need to listen to it.  It is so fun when my 12-year-old picks a Bad Bunny song, followed by Gavin Degraw (my 9-year-old favorite artist), followed by Journey (my husband pick) and finishing the first round with Paul Simon (because I want to). We would do up to 4 to 5 rounds and it is all fun. We get to dance a bit, we get to sing out loud, we learn to appreciate the differences between us and respect our unique artistic preferences.
  1. Do a guided breathing mediation as a family:  This has been a great practice as a family. We only do 5 to 10 minutes, but I really enjoyed watching the kids taking the time to do the breathing exercises. They do recognize that it calms them down, that the mind feels lighter, and they are more relaxed.  
  1. Practice gratitude:  We have been practicing gratitude as a family for a while, I even have a post on this blog just about this.  It is really life-changing to hear your kids and your husband says out loud what they are grateful for. We usually say two to three things and can go from the chicken wings they had for dinner to be grateful for having a bed to sleep on tonight.  Making your kids hear you saying that you are grateful makes them recognized that although there are things that they want, what they have is enough to be happy.

As we are all trying our best to work our schedules, checking items to our to-do list while adding more it, it is important to recognize that the journey we are on is a shared one and our family is directly impacted by our actions, reactions, and inactions.  Working together as a family to be mindful is an opportunity to share more time together, create memories and make love simply flourish.

Tips for your Morning Routine that works!

Mornings can be tough… The eternal juggling of managing people, pets, and oneself so early in the morning can be quite overwhelming. I remember getting out of the house and sitting in my car thinking… I’m ready to call it a day, and I still have to go to work!! With time, I started to pay more attention to our routine , and with practice my family and I were able to make it work. Of course it is still hectic, but not as chaotic as before. It has a flow that we have gotten used to as a family, and when I get into my car to go to work I can catch myself smiling, choosing a new podcast for the drive with a sense of accomplishment.

So what are my tips? I’ll share them with you and hopefully it will give you focus during those early hours of the morning.

  1. Get Up Early: IT IS IMPORTANT! Waking up thinking that you are already late is THE MAIN INGREDIENT for a recipe for disaster. Waking up early helps with my sanity. There are several ways I use this “extra” time; for example I do exercise (yoga, HIIT workout, or a treadmill walk/run), meditation, check calendars (mine and my family’s), check my social media (Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook), or read a self-help book. You can use this extra time for anything that is personal, or use it to do stuff that you don’t have enough time to do during the day.
  2. Pick your clothes (and your kid’s clothes) the night before: I pick my clothes the night before, including shoes and jewelry. I even make the decision on how my hair and make-up will be. I make it to where there’s NO decision to make in the morning. My kids have to pick their clothes too. Their shirt, pants, socks and underwear are ALL picked up the night before.
  3. Pre-prep the lunches: I prepare three lunches( for my two kids and my husbands). I make all the sandwiches and put them in the fridge the night before. In the morning I just put all the items together in their lunch boxes. I doubled the time I have in the mornings just by doing this simple night-before prep.
  4. Decide what you will eat for breakfast the night before: Just like the lunches, we know exactly what the breakfast will be. We usually choose either oatmeal, veggie/fruit smoothies, or energy bars. Just something simple we can prep the night before.
  5. Make the beds: It sounds like something that would be at the bottom of your to-do list, but it adds a sense of accomplishment once it is done. Not to mention that when you get back to your house after a long day and you see your bed done, it’s inviting and relaxing.
  6. Go to bed early: Studies show that the average person should be sleeping 6.5 to 7 hours every night. So if I wake up at 4:30 am I would go to bed at 10:00 pm. I do put the kids to bed by 8:00 to get time to reorganize the house, prep lunches and breakfasts, take long showers and do some reading or blogging.

Not every morning will be perfect , and we know it. A spilled glass of water, a grumpy/sick kid in the morning, even we can wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes, but when we put the organization into it, even the bad mornings become manageable, and most importantly LESS STRESSED!

Sometimes I do think that one day when my kids have gone to college, I will look back and see all those morning with gratitude. Each one of your mornings are a segment of your life timeline and should be enjoyed to the max. Maybe one day it’ll be just me and my husband waking up to a cup of coffee and those moments will surely be cherished and remembered.

By Marisabel A. Park

Practicing Gratitude with the Family

My husband and I have been trying our best to practice gratitude at night time.  With time we have noted how been grateful influences our day to day thoughts and feelings.  From being grateful for the big things (the health of our kids) to be grateful for the more ordinary things (My new recipe worked).  As the night sets in and we are resting in our bed we name two things for which we are grateful, it makes us smile and sometimes laugh, it makes us feel the complicity of knowing that we are lucky, that we have enough, that we have what we need. We are grateful.

A few weeks ago we started including the kids. They are 12 and 9 and we thought they were up to the challenge.   We work hard to try to have a “dinner time” every day, the four of us, with a home-cooked meal and a mandatory conversation, so we decided this was the right time to do it and it has been surprising to see what our kids can be grateful once they feel comfortable enough to open up to us.

They are grateful because we took them to soccer practice or swimming clinics, grateful because the dinner tastes good or because they had good dreams the night before, they are grateful because they got good grades or did well in a school assignment, they are grateful for cold weather, and rainy weather, they are grateful we give them extra 15 minutes in the Ipads or we left them to watch a TV show.  They are grateful because we do nice things for them and because we love them. Every time they say they are grateful out loud it becomes real to them and it becomes real to us.

As the new year starts I challenge you to practice gratitude. To practice it with your family, with your loved ones, with your close friends.  Practice gratitude so that your mind can remind your soul of the great things around you.

Having conversations with your Preteen

I spend I good amount of time with my oldest son who is 12 almost every afternoon.  My younger son plays soccer so he is usually gone with my husband to the soccer field and comes home after 7:30 almost every night of the week. That leaves me and my oldest one home alone.  Although we spent all those hours in the same place I find myself sometimes not interacting much with him. I am busy cooking, catching up with laundry, cleaning, and working. My son would usually do his homework in the kitchen so at least we are in the same “space”, but sometimes he goes to his room and I do give him his time and privacy.

However, as a rule, I try to sit with him at least twice a week and talk. I do put myself in his shoes as a 12-year-old. I was a very alert kid, I was never shielded from popular culture and reality, I was always behaving ahead of my age and I am not expecting him to be the opposite of me.

So what do we talk about? Well, he would usually do the talk, I would listen and ask questions when I am not following the story or I am asked for my opinion.  We make ourselves two cups of tea and we sit down and talk it out.

I ask him questions like:

  • What called your attention at school today?
  • With whom you sit down at school during lunch?
  • What is your biggest challenge at school right now?
  • Do you need anything from me or your dad, for school or for yourself?
  • Do you need anything from me or your dad, for school or for yourself?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • Are you having any problems with a teacher or a classmate?
  • What has been bothering you lately?
  • What lesson are you learning that has really caught your attention?
  • What has been inspiring you lately?
  • What lesson are you learning that has really caught your attention?
  • What has been inspiring you lately?
  • How can I make your life easier?
  • What is your goal as the school years is ending?
  • What have you been curious about?

The intention of these questions is for him to talk. To open up. I don’t judge, and I don’t get upset even when the answer is not what I am expecting.  The intention of the conversation is to see WHAT is his mind and WHAT are his thoughts so that I can better APPROACH and UNDERSTAND him.

There are times in which we would go for a run and 45 minutes later I realized he has not stopped talking, that every question I have asked he has answered honestly and a long story along with the answer.  And there are times in which I feel that no matter how open I present myself, his brain and mood are not there, then I give him time and check with him the next day.

The important aspect is to keep the lines of communication open. Understand that no matter how hectic, tedious, tiring, and frustrating our day has been, it has NO relation with our younger kiddos.  They pick up the clues and keys of our behavior and react to what they feel (or assume) is going on. The initiative of communication should come from us the parents so that they understand how important their growth and development is.

As the conversation with my son goes, we can debate (very common), and we can also joke and laugh. I will listen to his long explanation of why this and why that (usually very wrong explanation) which I will follow with… Ok, I understand where you are coming from, do you think you can hear me out to see my point?  Again it is a two-way conversation, no need to be judgmental or shut down the flow of the conversation. The beauty of the moment is what you will learn from your kids and hopefully, the little bit of wisdom that they will learn from you.

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Summary:

The book summarizes Michelle Obama’s life, from her childhood in Chicago South Side through her journey to the White House.  It is narrated by her, and making emphasizes her perspective, feelings, lessons learned, and opinions. It is an autobiography and as such we are witnessing her life as she narrates it to us.

Her extraordinary journey is told with a modest voice that is full of hope and optimism.  Her faith and commitment to her self-worth, on the belief that opportunities are not there waiting for you, but are there once you embark on the journey to find them.  A truly inspiring book.

My Personal Opinion:

I truly enjoyed this book. As a wife and mother, and working a full-time job as an engineer, her journey was inspiring because it was real.  From becoming an expert multi-tasker to the realization that multitasking doesn’t really work. The ups and downs of making tough decisions that affect your family and the fierce need to protect those around you always with immeasurable love.  Love for the family and love for this country.

I do recommend this book, especially for younger generations, due to the constant inspiring words that are mentioned throughout the book. Chapter after chapter, hope, self-reliance, self-worth, kindness, compassion, and love are constant as much as patriotism, inclusion, and equality.

Favorite quote

“Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”

Becoming by Michelle Obama

“The answer, I’m guessing, is probably the best and most sustaining answer to nearly every question arising inside a marriage, no matter who you are or what the issue is: You find ways to adapt. If you’re in it forever, there’s really no choice.”

When talking about marriage Becoming by Michelle Obama

There are so many other quotes, really my book at the end looked as I was studying for a test, with yellow and orange highlighters all over the book.  It was a constant eye-opening and nodding when reading the book.

The Highlights of the Book

In my opinion, the best part of the books is as she goes in detail with her upbringing.  The honest struggles of her family which were highlighted with deep and profound love, and self-confidence.  The personal commitment to reach higher education. Her perseverance to balance family, her job, and politics.  Her faith in her marriage and her belief that love is ever-transforming and the belief in the ability to adapt to those transformations.

Weaknesses:

At times, politics took a bigger role in the narrative, and although I enjoyed the book during these intense political stories, it was a bit dense for me, and at times, disheartening to read about the conflicts in our country which are not aligned with the political agenda. Fewer politics and more Michelle Obama would have been ideal.

Information as found in Amazon:

  • File Size: 113863 KB
  • Print Length: 428 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (November 13, 2018)
  • Publication Date: November 13, 2018
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English

Goals for the Month of March

As the months roll by us and we start feeling the pressure of how “fast the times go by” it is important to recognize that we are bound to enjoy our “now”, to get the best of it, and to accept our schedules and hecticness as part of our lives.  Having a month based goal is important as it allows us to keep track of what is important for us now (versus what was important to us back in December), it is important that we analyze ourselves at the beginning of every month, as our interest, passions, relationships, beliefs, and habits changes and therefore our goals may change as well. Oh, and it is also fun!

1.Read a self-help book.  I am currently reading the Power of Self-Coaching and I cannot recommend enough! It is truly a great book to jump-start the pursuit of an improved and better life and to learn how to change those bad habits that are holding us back.

My current read

2. To complete an exercise routine. Any routing involving anything that you would like to do. I started today March 2, 2020, my half-marathon training, and my 12-year old started a stretching routine. It can be yoga, pilates, afternoon walks or hikes, just commit for one full month.

WeekMonTueWedThFrSatSun
1off3 m3 m3 moff3 m4 m
2off3 m4 m3 moff3 m4 m
3off3 m4 m3 moff3 m5 m
4off3 m5 m3 moff3 m6 m
5off4 m5 m3 moff4 m7 m
6off4 m5 m4 moff4 m8 m
7off4 m6 m4 moff4 m9 m
8off4 m6 m5 moff4 m10 m
9off4 m6 m5 moff4 m11 m
10off4 m5 m4 moff4 m12 m
11off4 m6 m4 moff4 m6 m
12off4 m4 m3 moff2 m13.1!
My actual training

3. To do a food journal… I am not good at this specific action, but I keep trying to stick with it.  The intention is not to count calories or see how much you eat, but when and how it makes you feel. I do believe that Intuitive Eating is real and a food journal is a window that helps us understand why we eat (and the food choices as well).

4. To make at least 6 new recipes.  It doesn’t matter if it is vegetarian, or for breakfast, or dessert, just try 6 new recipes that can expand your cooking abilities and repertoire.  I usually use the Yummly app, which is pack with thousands of recipes and you can save them in MyYums sections. The website is http://www.yummly.com, but there are others including just asking googles for specific meal you feel courious about trying in the kitchen.

5. To start looking for summer vacation possibilities.  We are currently booked for a Cruise, but last year was a road trip to three natural parks here in Texas where we live.  Start planning. I would usually start with reading travel blogs, then going to expedia bundles and see how much the overall is about to be and proceed to make the final decision by using trip advisor… yes, I am a travel junkie!

6. To accomplish meditation at least 3 times a week. Yes I know, it should not be that much of a commitment, but it is for me. I am sticking with it thought, at least three times a week. I use the app Headspace and works great with me. My husband usually will just put a Youtube video. Whichever way works for you the best, in my opinion Meditation is very personal.

7. Take the time to find new musicians and their music.  So much talent out there and great songwriters and singers are not truly recognized. My goal is to support new musicians this year. I use the google and pandora stations to guide me through music I have never hear of before and then find out more about the artist and their music. Also there are plenty blogs and music website trying to showcase new talent coming up.

8. Just like with music in Number 7  above, my goal is to find at least 3 solid Podcast specifically about Soccer (my passion), that I can listen during my driving time. I do search podcast also for improv, comedy, blogging, and even quilting. However, the goal this month is to find and follow Soccer dedicated podcast.

I challenge you to create your short term goals for March 2020. It can be 3 goals or 10 and can be as simple as drinking more water to more complicated as to complete educational courses, the important is to find motivation within ourselves to start and complete a goal within this month.

A poem from American poet Adrienne Rich

I have been reading The Norton Anthology Literature by Women (from when I was in college) it is a huge book and once in a while when I fill down or deflated (had to cancel my next week Mediterranean Cruise trip due to the ongoing Coranavirus outbreak) it is the best companion to get lost in the minds, hearts, souls, and creativity of amazing women whos poems, short novels, novels, essays and more, are full of hope, power, courage, sensitivity, sentiment, and just beauty.

Among the pages of the book, I found myself loving again the poems of the American poet Adrienne Rich.  Ther poems do speak to my soul, to my heart. Her writing is real and yet delicate, it is honest, and has so much sentiment.

Below is one of my favorite poems from this book:

From Twenty-one Love Poems

XI

Every peak is a crater.  This is the law of volcanoes,
making them eternally and visibly female.
No height without depth, without a burning core,
though our straw soles shred on the hardened lava.
I want to trkeavel with you to every sacred mountain
smoking within like the sibyl stooped over her tripod,
I want to reach for your hand as we scale the path,
to feel your arteries glowing in my clasp,
never failing to note the small, jewel-like flower
unfamiliar to us, nameless till we rename her,
that clings to the slowly altering rock -
that detail outside ourselves that bring us to ourselves,
was here before us, knew we would come, and sees beyond us.

As I read it over and over again, I could not help staring at my husband, my love may be at times overbearing and overwhelming, but I am mindful of our path together with the infinite source of energy that propel us forward. 

Below are were you can find the book I have and the other one that I would recommend. Yes, this is an affiliate account so I would get some comission in ordered from the links.

Lo Mein with Steak and Veggies

Since I was 5 years old my parents had the tradition of eating out EVERY Thursday!  No matter what was happening during the week or the weekend, the three of us knew Thursday meant going to a restaurant (most of the time to a new one or one we have not gone in a while), it could be Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Panamanian, Seafood, or it could be a fancy restaurant or a diner, Thursday was a day in which the three of us will sit down and act like a family who enjoyed eating dinner out.

As I grew older, and my friends started getting together on Thursdays nights, I did not break the rule. I would go out with my parents and THEN meet my friends to study for a test, or to go to a party, or just to hang out. On Thursday’s family came first.  Even today, after 20 years of not living in Panama, I still call my parents on Thursday’s night to ask them where are they eating? Yes, they still go EVERY Thursday.

So usually, as a rule, on Wednesdays I take it easy for dinner. I would usually make one of my Buddha Bowls with whatever veggies or meat I have available, but Thursdays… I try hard to make it special.  We cannot go out to eat, truly the logistics between one kid’s soccer practice and the hectic school schedule of the other one would make it impossible. So I cook on Thursday and make it special by taking my time to make something delicious.

Today, Thursday’s menu was Lo Mein with Steak and Veggies: And this is how it was done: 

First cook the noodles. I have been using this brand ________ and I am in love with it. I will put a link at the bottom of the post.

After the noodles are cooked, we move on to the veggies, for this particular one I am adding carrots, cabbage, snow peas, garlic and shallots

The steak is next and I cooked in high heat for 3 minutes on each side and then I cut them in small pieces

Then I make the sauce by adding: 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp of rice vinegar, 1 tbsp hoisin sauce, 2 tsp of sugar, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp Sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes.

Putting all together

Enjoy your at home (but could be a Restaurat) Lo Mein. From my kitchen to yours.

Below is the noodles I use, they are organic and come in many varieties, for this recipe I used the ramen, but the udon is delicious too.

Memories from an “all girls” Catholic school

My son, following the public education of where we live, will go through four schools before graduating from high school. He is truly unfazed by the system and is already looking forward to going to his third school, I,  on the other hand, cannot help but feel anxious that he is not creating roots and love for the “alma mater” the way I did. You see, I went to the same Catholic School for 13 years, 13 years in the same building, with the same teaches, with the majority of my classmates year after year, simply growing up together like sisters.  It was an “only girls” school, and it was awesome!.

My school logo

After spending 13 years in the same school, an immense love develops for the building that saw us grow, for the teachers who witnessed year after year our development. We learned to admire the Patron Saint of my school: Santa Rafael Maria, who we knew her entire biography from beginning to end, and to which we prayed and sang during our religion classes. We grew up in an environment of love, servitude, and peace, and above all, of friendship.  It was as if each of my classmates had something special and specific to offer, we all together, all 72 of us, were a unit. A unit of solidarity, of understanding, of acceptance, of complicity, of fun.

me in the circle!

We still in contact, through Facebook, and and we are currently 66 in our Whatsapp group. We congratulate each other when one marries or becomes a mother, and we support each other when illness and pain knock on the door. The school joined us for 13 years and 25 years later we still have the ability to remember our adventures and pranks with love and with the tenderness that great memories of the past can make us feel.

The picture below is in our 20 year anniversary. We were almost the entire group including the ones that live outside of Panama, like me. We did our effort to show up and catch up after 20 years, it was an amazing night!

My hope is that my son will develop the same loyalty to his high school, that his schoolmates will become an intrinsic part of his upbringing and he will have is own wonderful, long-lasting, and honest group of friends with whom he will learn that no matter what life throws your way, you have shoulders to lean on and a strong core of values that the school has also planted in his heart.