Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My 2009 marathon

Well, it’s not that kind of marathon. Although I went to the kickoff meeting for Marathon Makeover, I didn’t sign up for training this year. I was tempted but the next time I do it, I want to do give it all and that requires time I don’t have right now. I want to be one of the fast people and run with Mandy, Cindy, Carey, and Kim.

Instead of training for Chicago, this year I’m preparing for my own kind of marathon. My first trip to Panama in 10 years.

10 years. I can’t believe I have not been home in 10 years. Last time, my mom and I went together. We spent Christmas there. I have to admit, it was a stressful trip. Flight had a connection in Miami and the flight from there to Panama was overbooked so mom and I spent the night at the airport.
I rented a car while I was there (so I could take my grandparents on day trips) and someone stole a headlight from the car. It wouldn’t be a big deal, except the rental car agency (a local one) tried to charge me $200 for a headlight. Now, this was a Nissan and these cars are very popular in Panama, so they could easily find one at a reasonable price. I ended up getting pretty mad and having them call a manager because I knew they were trying to overcharge me for the light. I was ready to come back by the time the trip was over.

Aside from the normal travel inconveniences, it was a good trip. This was the last time I saw my cousin Jose. He died in August of 2000, he was just 33. It won’t be the same to go home and not see him. And Abuelo is no longer there. Some of you remember, he died in Feb 07, while I was training for Chicago. He won’t be there either.

I’m still excited to go home. Claude has never been out of the country, so this is my chance to show him where I came from. I get to share this part of me with him, and that means the world. I also get to share it with Candace, who has seen pictures and heard stories about this “familia” she has back home. I finally get to share this wonderful girl who calls me Mami with the rest of my family. And even though the twins are young and probably won’t remember this trip, I’m happy they’ll get to meet their family.

Traveling home takes a lot of planning, even when it’s just one person going. Imagine how much more work it is to travel with 3 kids! There is passports to get, bags to pack, where will we stay, do we need a rental car, itinerary to plan, etc.

But I’m excited. I think this will bring Candace and I closer together. She will have a rare opportunity to see how blessed she is. My family back home is not wealthy. They have very little when it comes to material possessions. I want her to see how lucky she is to have her own room, her own TV, her own toys. I had none of that growing up. I want her to appreciate how hard Claude and I work to provide a nice living for her and her brothers. I think at her age, she’ll be able to grasp and understand this.

I also think this glimpse into my past will help Claude understand better who I am. It is not that he doesn’t know me, but one thing is to hear someone tell about their life, and another to see exactly where they came from.

So I will be blogging more about travel plans as the months go by. I’d like to go sometime between mid May and mid July but we haven’t picked the exact days yet.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Had a birthday on Tuesday. 34 years old. Growing up, I always thought 30 would be the official “I’m getting old” milestone. I think Abuelo was right, age is really not important, it’s how old we feel. Most days I still feel 23!

Birthdays were a big deal in my family growing up. We had parties, and by that I mean more than just cake and ice cream. I remember inviting the neighbors, adults and kids, and having music, food, cake, lots of dancing. The first time I went to a birthday party here I was quite disappointed, no music, no adults. Quite an adjustment. We still try to keep the tradition alive, it’s not a party unless there is dancing. So when we get together to celebrate, there has to be dancing and lots of food.
But since my birthday was during the week, I didn’t have a party. I told the kids I’d get a cake this weekend so they could have some cake. My husband gave me a pretty ring with 3 hearts on it, one for each of the kids.

I need to take the kids to get passport pictures so we can send their applications. I need to get those in quickly before people start planning their summer vacations. Otherwise, they’ll get backed up like they did last year.

I haven’t been blogging much because I really don’t have much to say. I’m going to be at the MM meeting Saturday morning with my brother in law, who wants to do MM this year. I really hope he decides to do it. As much as I miss everyone, I have other plans for this year and I don’t want to sign up unless I can properly train for it. So 2009 it is.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Forever learning

I am still working on getting my office ready for the move. What a task!

In all honesty, it has given me a chance to declutter my office and get rid of things I no longer need. Before I moved to this division, my area of expertise was air pollution control. I spent 10 yrs learning about regulations, and prevention. 10 years. That pretty much encompasses my entire career.

Making the decision to move to a new division was not easy because I knew I would have to start over. This division deals with the cleanup of contaminated sites, and that means soil and groundwater, not air. So I'm learning a new trade. Although I like it here, it has been hard to adjust. I went from being one of the "experts" to being the new kid. It has been an experience.

But change can be good and I'm enjoying this new area. I still miss doing what I liked best but life moves on, and in this field, experience in all aspects of the environment is a must. So I made the right decision by switching divisions.

I decided to get a new certification. This certification requires both a written and an oral test; and 10 yrs of experience in one area of environmental engineering. If I pass, I will get to add some extra letters to my name when I write letters (BCEE), in addition to the PE (Professional Engineer). I also get a 5% raise. That's 5% of my current salary. A very good raise, considering raises in state government are far and few in between. It also means I have to study hard for these tests so I can pass and get my raise.

BCEE stands for Board Certified Environmental Engineer. It is an accreditation offered by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, and it basically means that if you have it, you are an "expert" in a particular area of environmental engineering.

Why can't I get away from studying? I guess I'm just an eternal student.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Broken Resolutions

One of my new year resolutions was to curse less. A lot less. Well, I’m here to admit I have broken that one already and by a long shot.

Our agency is moving to 2 different buildings. Currently, the agency is housed in 2 separate buildings, one in South Jackson, and one downtown, across from the Federal Building. This time, both buildings are downtown, and from what I hear, much nicer too.

Those of us who were lucky enough to be in the downtown building had very nice offices. At least mine was. Corner office, 3 large windows, plenty of room for the pictures of the kids, diplomas, etc. That is ending soon, way too soon. As of next month, we will no longer have offices, we’ll have work stations.

Unless you are a manager, you will not have a real office. You will have a workstation (we have been instructed NOT to call them cubicles).

Did I mention I hate packing and moving? Yes, I have a phobia of sorts when it comes to moving. You could say it stems from moving a lot when I was growing up. All I know is I hate packing/unpacking, even if it’s just for a short trip. I’m one of those “last minute packers”, not because I’m a procrastinator, but because I dread the thought of packing.

I have issues. Not only do I have to pack my nice office, I’m having to downsize quite a bit. My diploma, the pictures of my kids, my plant, they are all going home because plants are not allowed in the new building, we can’t hang stuff from the walls of our cubiCELLs, and the work space is so small we won't have room for pictures.

And the move is bringing up other issues, among them, the fact I was passed over for a promotion to management last year. Someone less qualified was given the job, even though I was doing technically doing the work while they hired a replacement. Do I have to tell you why he was hired? Let’s just say he had something I didn’t, and it had nothing to do with qualifications. Enough said.

Throw all that in the mix and you have a very cranky me. Woe is me.

It’s not to say I have issues with change. I don’t think I do. God knows I have had to adapt to different situations many times in my life. I think my issues with this move have less to do with the physical part of it, and more to do with the fact some other person is getting a nice office, and he doesn’t deserve it.

Yet I have to continue to smile, and be nice to this person, because maybe, one day in the future, he will be in upper management and I don’t want to have enemies in upper management. I’m not very good at being a hypocrite.

One good thing about this move, it is giving me a chance to reevaluate my career. Am I in the place I wanted to be 10 yrs ago? Am I headed in the right direction? I’m not sure. I’m staying here for now, putting my name in as many leadership “hats” as possible, and waiting. There is always law school, specially now that MC is offering a 5 yr program for people who work full time. We’ll see. At least there are other options out there.

In the meantime, I will continue to pack, and dread the move. And yes, probably continue to curse while I’m doing it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Friendships and Parenting

“Parents of young children should realize that few people, and maybe no one, will find their childrent as enchanting as they do" - Barbara Walters.

Isn't that the truth? I love my kids but I also know everyone isn't going to love them as I do. The truth is, I'm not a "kids' person". I never was the person others asked to babysit, I didn't like to play with kids, I can honestly tell you I didn't like kids. Maybe I still don't?

I love my kids, and I also like them. They are funny, and charming, and I enjoy having them around. But I also know they can be disruptive, and they still have a lot to learn when it comes to good manners. And it's up to me to teach them how to be polite and likeable people.

This weekend Candace was invited to the movies by her friend V and her parents. V's parents have been our friends for years, long before Claude and I even met. So we are glad that our daughters are friends, for the most part. Candace came home upset after her outing. They had invited another school friend too, and apparently V alienated Candace during the outing to be with the other kid. It hurt my kid's feelings. I don't have to tell you I wasn't too happy about it, but what could I do?
Then, as she was getting ready for bed, Claude saw that she had holes in her pants, and asked her what happened. She said V had pushed her down and she fell. WHAT? Needless to say, I was beyond mad.
I had to compose myself and explain to Candace why I was mad about the incident. It is not OK to treat friends that way and she should not allow her friend V to be mean to her. I'm not sure if I got the message across, how do you teach a 6 yr old what's acceptable in a friendship?

This isn't the first time V has done this. As a matter in fact, she hit Candace in the face once before, at our house and in front of me. I immediately stepped in and told her that behavior was not acceptable because we are not to treat friends that way. She was not pleased, as a matter in fact she rolled her eyes at me. I did tell her parents about the incident and how I handled it. They were less than pleased.

Was I out of line?

Growing up, every time we left the house our parents reminded us about the rules and how they applied anywhere we were. We knew if we misbehaved at someone's house, we were in even bigger trouble than if it had happened at home. We were a direct reflection of our parents and as such, we were expected to be polite, and well behaved at all times.

I wonder sometimes if I'm a misfit because I'm culturally different from other parents. Other times I think culture has nothing to do with it. V's parents are Hispanic too, just like me. We speak the same "culture", so why do we have such different parenting ideas?

When they dropped Candace off that night, they came in the house to visit. They also have a 3 yr old son, whom they admit behaves pretty badly. I blame the parents, not the child, for his behavior. The boy took some of twin's toys and started to play. Braden, being his social self, went up to the boy and wanted to play with him. The boy PUSHED him! His parents were sitting right in front, and did nothing! I was beyond mad, and told Braden to go and defend himself. As if that wasn't enough, he then proceeded to throw a toy at my child.

I'm sure you are wondering what the parents did. The mother told him "honey, please don't do that, please", in the sweetest tone and that was it. Had it been my kid, I would have taken the toys away, told him to stop being a brat and put him on time out right then, after giving him a good pat on his butt.

I know times have changed. These days spanking is no longer practiced, and we are all zen about raising kids. I agree that children deserve respect as any other person, and should be talked to rather than talked down to. BUT at some point, we have to be the parents and provide guidance for those kids.

I don't spank my kids often, and when I do, it's a pat on the butt to get their attention. I discipline often like my parents did, I take priviledges away and explain to Candace why I'm doing it. With the twins, even though they are young, they get a time out (which usually lasts a whole second but at least they are getting the idea), and they have to hug whomever they hurt/offended.

I'm not a perfect parent but I have little tolerance for children who have no manners. I expect my kids to respect all elders, anyone who is older than them must be respected, whether it's their cousin or their grandparents. I don't care if I'm not there, they are expected to be polite and courteous, specially when we are at someone else's house.

Does it always work? Of course not, but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up. My parents didn't give up and I am thankful for that. I finally learned that some behaviors are not acceptable, whether at home, school, or work. I believe I'm a better person because they weren't afraid to show me the error of my ways and point me in the right direction, and even more so, they weren't afraid to discipline me.

So my question is, do you discipline your friends' kids if they are misbehaving in your presence? Or your nieces/nephews? I do. Maybe that's why I'm not very popular with some parents. Then again, my 16 yr old niece, whom I have disciplined plenty of times, loves me and we have a very close relationship. Perhaps I'm not all wrong after all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Resolutions for 2008

Quote of the day
"Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds." Albert Einstein

So here we are. Friday. Looking forward to the weekend, even if it includes doing chores. I have Mt. Laundry growing inside my house and it has to be tamed.

Since this is 2008, I thought I list my resolutions (some are more like guidelines).

1. Tell my kids I love you all the time. It's so sad that so many kid shows send the message that parents just don't care for their kids. I want to make sure my kids know I love them.
2. Yell less. even if I'm running late and Candace is still lollygagging around the house, I can't find my keys, and the twins are hiding in Candace's room.
3. Read more, specially more of the "classics"
4. Stop cursing, even when I'm stuck in traffic, or my boss is driving me nuts.
5. Take my kids to Panama, and my husband too. I want them to see where I come from. It'll help them better understand why I am so adamant about not wasting food, or helping the needy.
6. Go skydiving.
7. Run for fun.
8. Be a better friend
9. Do more charity work with my daughter. I want her to see how rewarding it is to do things for others.
10. Laugh more.

Yesterday morning, on our way to school, Candace was looking through one of my Runner's World magazine and found an ad that showed kids running in a race. She turned to me and said "I want to do that". I don't have to tell you how proud I was in that moment. So I told her we are going to find a race this spring that has a 1-mile fun run that she can participate in. I have been looking at the MS Track Club's website and trying to decide which one would be a good one to do with her.

I guess that means I need to find her some proper attire too. Do they even make running clothes in kids' sizes?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

You may not know...

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." -Albert Einstein

I think I did this in my old blog, either way here it goes.

~ I am 1 of 5 girls. I'm the middle child.

~ I found out recently my name is Turkish
~ I have an irrational fear of the ocean. I get very anxious when I am near the ocean.
~ I love the mountains and would live near the mountains if I could.
~ Coffee is one of my favorite things. I like trying new blends, different roasts.
~ I love to cook
~ Growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut or a lawyer. I still do.
~ I love to dance
~ I hate mushrooms, peanut butter, and pickles.
~ I'm terrified of snakes.
~If money was not an issue, I would be a "professional" student. I love to learn.
~ I'm shy, stubborn, and bossy.
~ I want to move back to Panama one day.
~ I lived in Costa Rica for 2 yrs
~ I believe actions speak louder than words.
~ I have no tolerance for racism or bigotry
~ I don't care for people who believe their way is the only way. What works for someone else may not work for me. We were meant to be different.
~ I voted on my first election in 2000. I wish more people understood how important they are to the democracy in this country.
~ I'm a practicing Catholic, (even if I disagree with the church on some issues. ;) ), married to a Southern Baptist, and daughter of a Buddhist. Needless to say, I have a lot of respect for those who worship in a different way.

~ I like to debate on different issues (religion, politics, etc) in a civilized manner. Hence the reason I don't discuss religion or politics with people I don't know very well. I respect other people's opinions and expect the same. Unfortunately, when it comes to some topics, people can't agree to disagree.
~ I have "discovered" wheat beer and love it.

Don't you just love how I go from talking about politics/religion to beer? Randomness is my middle name.

New Year, New Blog! Welcoming 2008

I decided a new blog would help me keep in touch with the wonderful people I've met this past year, as well as family and friends. We all live busy lives, and I am not very good about picking up the phone and keeping in touch. So here it is, a brand new blog. I have to say I love Goggle, because it allows me to have this blog without losing the old blog from my MM 07.

Anyway, let's get started, shall we?
Title and quote at the top My favorite writer is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He is Colombian, and winner of the Nobel Prize of Literature for his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.
His latest work is his autobiography Vivir para Contarla (Living to tell the tale). I thought it fit this blog. Plus, I am going to be attempt to write a book this year, about my family, my life, emigrating to the US, finding a new home in a strange place, finding true love, starting a family, etc.

disclaimer Since this blog is about everything, not just running, I feel I should warn you, it could get boring.