Thursday, January 29, 2009

Battle in my brain

I started my watercolor painting class Tuesday. Funny how something as simple as painting can cause quite a turmoil in this brain of mine.

You see, painting isn't something I would normally do. The last time I painted anything or even did a drawing I was in elementary school. That's how long it's been since I've used that part of my brain.

I figured this class would help me unlock my artistic talent. Everyone has it, right? (just nod and go along with me on this one).

Unlocking my inner Van Gogh turned out to be a lot harder than finding the solution to an engineering problem, or working a differential equations problem. And yes, differential equations is an actual class that yours truly took in college.

I arrived at Millsaps early so I could find the location and a parking space. I got out of the car and hurried into the building, carrying along the huge 18" by 24" pad, my purse, and the supplies. It was quite a comical sight. I managed to get into the building without knocking the wind out of a poor student and without too many people laughing at me.

The teacher is one of those people who inspires you to do your best. Very nice, and very encouraging, just what I needed. She set up a bunch of things on a table for us to replicate. Here is where the battle began.

I'm an engineer, and I analyze everything, including how to replicate a metal can and a rubber ball on my pad. I kept watching the people in the class happily drawing, while I struggled trying to figure out the right angle, making sure the distance between the objects was precise. You get the idea.

I was beginning to get frustrated when the teacher (who probably noticed my eraser had been put to good use in the last 5 minutes) said "we all see things differently, how boring would this world be if we all drew the same thing the exact same way".

That was my "aha!" moment, my epiphany. Unlike most of the class, painting isn't something I normally do. I haven't taken other classes, I didn't take art in college. The way I see a simple metal can is completely different from everyone else's, and that's perfectly fine.

I finally began to relax and started painting. I felt like a kid with a new box of crayons, ready to create my own masterpiece. I started to have fun.

I finished my painting last night, and as I looked at the finished product I realized it reflected who I am. Isn't that what art suppose to be? Shouldn't it reflect the way the artists saw the subject?

Anyone with any bit of artistic flare would probably see all the flaws in the picture. I see myself in those metals cans, and rubber balls. But I also saw something new, I dared myself to think outside the box, to mix colors that I would not normally put together and to even color "outside the lines". I dared myself to try something new and I stepped outside my comfort zone.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the classes, and see how my paintings progress as I become more comfortable with that other side of me. In the meantime, I will keep reminding myself it is okay "to color outside the lines. "

Monday, January 26, 2009

Random things about me

I've seen several of my friends doing this on Facebook. I'm still trying to figure Facebook out, so I'm going to blog about it instead.

25 Random things about me.

1. I have never broken a bone.
2. I began wearing glasses when I was in 6th grade.
3. I hate mushrooms. Same goes for peanut butter.
4. I was a cheerleader in HS.
5. I graduated 3rd in my senior class.
6. I've been to Niagara Falls during the winter. Amazing!
7. I've lived in 3 countries (so far!): Panama, Costa Rica, USA
8. I don't know how to swim.
9. I collect elephant figurines.
10. Growing up, I wanted to be either an astronaut or a lawyer.
11. I was a very good orator in elementary school. Won a lot of competitions.
12. I don't know how to swim
13. I was a RA at a freshman dorm at Ole Miss. I loved it.
14. First time I went to Washington DC, I drove. Longest trip ever.
15. I danced for several years with a group that did traditional Panamanian dances. I miss it so much, even now.
16. My first trip to Canada (Toronto), I was in a car accident, on New Year's Eve. Quite a memorable trip.
17. I've been in one beauty pagent, was 2nd runner up.
18. I've been camping only once, right after I got married.
19. I love to cook. I love trying out new recipes or inventing new ones.
20. I love to watch soccer matches.
21. I played softball and basketball in Jr. High
22. I don't know how to play any instruments. I hope to learn piano before I die.
23. My first trip abroad was in 6th grade. Our class went to San Jose, Costa Rica for a week.
24. I would like to travel to Europe for my 40th birthday.
25. If I could have a chat with one person today, it would be my cousin Jose who passed away 8 yrs ago. I miss him every day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mission Statement

Until last year, I had never heard of a personal mission statement. I knew organizations and companies had them, but it never occurred to me that people could have them to. It wasn't until I was attending the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" seminar that I heard about it.

Part of the seminar required that we start writing ours. There were a set of exercises that would get you into the right frame of mind, basically asking you how you would want others to remember you.

After the class, I finally sat down and start writing mine. I wanted it to be simple, easy to remember. Some people have long paragraphs, others have one word. It's personal, it should reflect what you want your life to be.

I never shared mine with anyone. Until now. The 35th anniversary of my birth seemed like the perfect time to remind myself of what I want my life to be.

My Personal Mission Statement

I will love with all my being

I will lead by example

I will live without regrets

I will learn at every opportunity

I will leave a legacy in the lives of my children

Some people don't really like to celebrate birthdays. I'm not one of those people. I am thankful for every moment of my life, even the tough ones. They taught me invaluable lessons that I can now pass on to my kids. I'm thankful for the rough spots because they made me value my blessings even more.

I don't ever want to take this life for granted, or the moments I get to share with those I love. I don't want to get caught in the superficial, worrying about what I don't have. I want to enjoy life as it is, with its ups and downs.

I hope that one day, when I'm no longer here, I will live on in the heart of my kids and in the lessons I taught them. Hopefully they will pass them on to their kids, just as my mom passed down those lessons my grandfather taught her.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


On my way to church this morning, I realized how my childhood has truly shaped my spiritual life.

I am "cradle Catholic", born into a very large Catholic family, raised in a country where the majority of the people were of the same faith. It would be easy to assume I know no other form of worship.

By the time I was born, my father no longer attended the Catholic church. He was searching, looking for the "something" he felt was missing from our faith. Even though he no longer considered himself to be Catholic, we were enrolled in Catholic school and participated in all the activities and took all the Sacraments of the Church.

Dad kept searching, and with him, we would attend other denominations. I was five when I realized my dad didn't worship like we did. It was my first year in Catholic school. At night and during the weekends, Dorothy would come to our house and talk to my parents about her faith. She was a Jehovah's witness. She looked like a teacher, with her hair on a bun, her skirt and white blouse, and always so well mannered. She told all about her beliefs, and we listened and respected her faith.

Dad didn't find what he was looking for there either. Then came the Mormons, one couple in particular has remained on my mind. One of them was from Guatemala, the other one was American. They knew we were Catholic, and they respected that. They told us about their church, and even taught us hymns, one in particular I can still sing: "Blessings, count your blessings and you will see, how many more blessings you are yet to receive".

There were other denominations: Adventists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Episcopalian, Lutheran... we probably covered most of the Christian denominations before Dad started to head down the Buddhist path where he is today.

I didn't realize until this morning, how lucky I was to have my childhood. I learned at a very early age about respecting other people's beliefs and ways of worship. I learned that although our services are different, we worship the same God, and we all want the same thing.

After I became an adult, it came time for me to also begin my search. I didn't want to worship like my mother and family did simply because that's what I was taught. I didn't want to follow my dad's path either. I had to find my own way. So my search began.

Mine brought me back to my beginning, it brought me to the faith of my grandmother, great grandmother, and my entire family. It is more than the faith of my ancestors, it is my faith now.

If I hadn't had a father who encouraged me to think outside my comfort zone, I probably wouldn't have been tolerant of others who didn't worship like me. I learn about tolerance and respect simply by allowing others to share their faith with me.

From time to time, someone will say something demeaning about Catholics in front of me without realizing I am "one of those people". Most of the time, my first reaction is to become defensive, but thankfully that passes very quickly. Most of the time, the person making the comment does not know anything about my faith. If only they would ask...

I look at my family now, and see the same opportunity for my kids to learn tolerance and respect towards others. My inlaws are Southern Baptists, my father is a Buddhist, we are Catholic. I hope one day they will realize how blessed they are to be surrounded and be a part of such a diverse family, just as I did this morning on my way to church.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just call me Bette

Deanna had this quiz in her blog, so I figured it was perfect for a Friday blog. Just call me Bette

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Bette!


You are a Bette -- "I must be strong"

Bettes are direct, self-reliant, self-confident, and protective.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Stand up for yourself... and me.

  • * Be confident, strong, and direct.

  • * Don't gossip about me or betray my trust.

  • * Be vulnerable and share your feelings. See and acknowledge my tender, vulnerable side.

  • * Give me space to be alone.

  • * Acknowledge the contributions I make, but don't flatter me.

  • * I often speak in an assertive way. Don't automatically assume it's a personal attack.

  • * When I scream, curse, and stomp around, try to remember that's just the way I am.

What I Like About Being a Bette

  • * being independent and self-reliant

  • * being able to take charge and meet challenges head on

  • * being courageous, straightforward, and honest

  • * getting all the enjoyment I can out of life

  • * supporting, empowering, and protecting those close to me

  • * upholding just causes

What's Hard About Being a Bette

  • * overwhelming people with my bluntness; scaring them away when I don't intend to

  • * being restless and impatient with others' incompetence

  • * sticking my neck out for people and receiving no appreciation for it

  • * never forgetting injuries or injustices

  • * putting too much pressure on myself

  • * getting high blood pressure when people don't obey the rules or when things don't go right

Bettes as Children Often

  • * are independent; have an inner strength and a fighting spirit

  • * are sometimes loners

  • * seize control so they won't be controlled

  • * figure out others' weaknesses

  • * attack verbally or physically when provoked

  • * take charge in the family because they perceive themselves as the strongest, or grow up in difficult or abusive surroundings

Bettes as Parents

  • * are often loyal, caring, involved, and devoted

  • * are sometimes overprotective

  • * can be demanding, controlling, and rigid

Take Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz
at HelloQuizzy

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back in First Grade

All of a sudden, I've found myself back in first grade. I'm not too happy about it either. Don't get me wrong, I want to help my daughter do her best in school and to have fun learning new things. But I need a manual just to get through every week of school.

Has school gotten harder as the years go by? Is it more demanding now that I'm a mom, or have I just forgotten what it was like?

Part of the curriculum for this year includes the accelerated reader program. Those of you with older kids probably already know about this. It is a noble program because it gets the children interested in reading, and it keeps them reading. What I don't like it's the point system and the competition factor.

The school has an "honor" award to reward those kids who have achieved the goal for the year. This year the goal is 20 pts, that's probably 40 books because each book is worth half a point.
The kids have to take a test on the books they read, and if they pass, the score counts toward the total points.

Sounds simple enough, right? What's wrong with wanting the kids to read and become interested in reading?

I wish the focus was more on reading than on getting points, or reading approved books. We have several good books that are not on "the list" that are probably going to be put aside until summer simply because we have to get through the AR books. Then there is the test part. Where is the fun of reading a book if you know there will be a test afterwards?

I hated history while in school because of all the reading. I didn't care to memorize dates, history was, well, history. Until I became older and started reading about it for fun. It became something I wanted to know about. I didn't have to remember dates, I could just enjoy the books now.

I don't want Candace to become so focused on reading to pass a test that she will miss out on the joy of reading. I watch her read books because she "has to" that may not interest her; only because they are "approved" on someone's list.

I've found myself creating spreadsheets and cataloging books according to their AR status, and picking out of the "good" ones for her to read. I read them myself so I can ask her questions and make sure she understood what she read, so she can take the test.

How do I balance all this out so she can read what she likes and still have time to read the required books? I'm not sure. For now, we are going along with the required books. Hopefully she will begin to enjoy reading the books, and forget about the points. I hope.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Helping the children

There have been a lot of commercials and even an hour long fundraising commercial about children in other countries. The poorest of the poor.

Last weekend, as I was tackling the mountain of clothes that needed to be folded, my daughter came in the room crying. At first, I thought maybe her brothers had decided to team up against her, and had hurt her. I asked what was wrong.

Still crying, she tells me she just saw a commercial on TV showing all these poor children all over the world, who have nothing to eat, some don't even have any parents. She said it was so sad it made her cry.

I held back the tears. She asked me to call the number on TV so we could send them some money to help these kids. I told her we would, but I wanted to make sure these were good people who truly help the kids, so I would do some research and together we would pick who to send the money to.

I was touched. She is only 7. I wonder how many adults watched the same show, and flip to another channel so they wouldn't have to see what being poor in another country looks like. I wonder how many felt nothing when they see these commercials.

There are tons of different groups who help many different groups of people, here and abroad. Whether you want to help with literacy, hunger relief, support research efforts, the list is endless. I personally support a few that are close to my heart, maybe because someone in my family suffers from a particular disorder, or because I have witnessed first hand the work that group does.

My daughter has not forgotten about the promise I made or the children she saw on TV. She asked again last night when we are going to pick a group to send our money too. I am happy to see she understands and appreciates the blessings God has bestowed upon our family. Perhaps it is more than just the commercial on TV.

Part of the reason I wanted her to go to Panama was that I wanted her to see how other people lived. How I onced lived. I wanted her to see first hand what it meant to be poor, to struggle, and still to wake up every morning, thankful to see another day.

We didn't have to travel far during our trip to Panama to see poverty. We didn't even have to look for it, as my own family is poor. You could call us the working poor, I guess. They may not have all the luxuries my daughter has, they have their basic needs and their love for life remains intact.

I am proud to see that even at her young age, she is able to appreciate how fortunate she is. Even more so, I'm proud that she wants to reach out to those children who are suffering and help them out.

I'm now tasked with finding the right group to sponsor. I have many different ideas, perhaps I should just pick a family from Panama and send them the money directly, perhaps I should contact a group in Panama who does this type of work. I'm weighing all the possibilities.

In the meantime, I am thankful that my daughter has reminded me how fortunate I am, and how it is now my responsibility to give back to those who need my help.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I've been hitting a "blogger block", so decided to google ideas to spice up my blog (you know it's bad when you get bored with your own blog!). I found a blog with many different topics. They seemed silly at first, then I thought, yeah, why not. I chose to write about my worst subject.

The minute I tell people I'm an engineer, they immediately blur out "wow, you must be very smart" or "you must really like math". Well, I'm not smarter than the average person, and my IQ would prove it.

So imagine their surprise when I tell them, my worst subject, the one I hated the most throughout my entire educational experience, was math.

I vividly remember one night in Elementary school. I think I was in second grade at the time, and we were learning long division. My sister Joyce had volunteered to help me (she is way smarter!), and show me an easy way to do it.
We sat at the dinner table, and she started to show me how to work the problem and gave me a couple of problems to solve. As I became more and more frustrated, I began to cry, and as I began to cry, I became angry with myself because I was crying. You get the idea. I was a sobbing mess. I could not understand how anyone could think learning long division would be beneficial to anyone. Had they ever heard of calculators? Joyce patiently kept waiting for me to stop sobbing, and finally I "got it".

After it was all over, I recalled making a promise to my mother, I was never going to study anything that required me to do math. I was going to choose a career as far away from math as possible.

Little did I know I would end up breaking that promise.

Perhaps I am a masochist, I don't really know. I liked school from the very first day my parents dropped me off in kindergarten class. I liked making good grades, other subjects came easy for me. I wasn't about to let math ruin my grades, so I made it a point to study harder for that subject than for any others. I wanted to maintain good grades, and by golly, math would not get the best of me.

So it began, my love/hate relationship with math.

My senior year in high school came and it was time to think about college, and possible majors. I really liked chemistry, more than any other subject, but I didn't want to work in a lab. As fate would have it, my teacher at the time took our class to a conference about women in science and engineering. That's where I had the most brilliant idea of my life: I would study chemical engineering. It involved chemistry (which I loved ) and math (which I loathed). Besides, the salaries were appealing, why not give it a shot?

So I embarked into a long journey with my worst enemy. We had our rough times, but I would not let "it" get the best of me, or get in the way of achieving my goal. I would not quit because of it. I have scar battles ( and several dead brain cells) but I won the war. I finished my degree in engineering.

In second thought, maybe I am a masochist. As if one degree in engineering wasn't enough, I went back for more. A master's in engineering. Maybe hate turned to love in the end?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On my way

I'm a believer one must state their intentions out loud in order to make them real. So here is one on my list of intentions for this year,

I am on my way to a healthier me.

There, now it is real.

I have known (for a while now) that I have put on a few more pounds than I'd like to admit. I have been in denial, mostly because I figured as long as I fit in my clothes, I really don't care about weight all that much.

Then reality came calling. In a few more days, I will be turning 35. I'm no longer the college kid who survived engineering school on Milky Way bars and Coca Cola. I cannot longer eat the way I used to and be healthy.

That's not to say I'm not healthy. My cholesterol, blood sugar, and other things are within the "normal acceptable" range. But those are just numbers. I know I can do better when it comes to my nutrition.

So with the help of a group of coworkers, I am determined to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
This won't be easy. Giving up things that you really, really like; and adding things to your diet that you really, really could do without, is never easier.

One of the people in the group asked me why would I join this group of people, where the majority are trying to lose weight, since I have no weight to lose? In reality, I could afford to lose a few pounds. But it is not about the pounds for me.

I need more energy. As my children get older, my life gets more hectic and more demanding. I work outside the house fulltime and my "other job" begins when I walk in the door. I also need to know I'm setting a good example for my kids. They will do what I do, and not what I say.

So in order to achieve my goal to a healthier lifestyle, I decided to make myself a list of things I will start to do to get me on my way.

1) I will drink one glass of milk every day.
Seems simple enough but I do not like milk. I have had issues with lactose intolerance and since then, simply cannot bring myself to drink it. But I need the calcium, my bones need it, and well, it just has to be done.

2) I will eat more vegetables.
I am not a veggie eater. I will eat a green salad, I will try zuchinni, and even squash, but the rest, I rather not put on my plate. Give me a side of potatoes instead!

3) I will limit my caffeine intake to one cup of coffee per day.
This is a big one. I love my coffee, gotta have my coffee every morning. It's all fine unless you drink too much of it. With a family history of osteoporosis, I really need to limit mine, and get more calcium in my diet.

4) I will exercise at least 30 min 3 times a week
I trained for a marathon in 2007. I survived running 22 miles in the MS summer. I woke up at 3 AM so I could join my running buddies for our long runs at the Rez. So why is it so hard now to get up 30 minutes earlier and workout? Because I've become lazy. There is no excuse.

5) I will pack my lunch at least 4 times a week.
With Keifer's and Basil's a block from me, it is very easy to stop bringing lunch.

There are more, I'm sure I will think of more as I go along this journey. If I lose weight in the process, fine. If I don't, fine too. I just want to feel good when I get out of bed in the morning, energized, and ready to start my day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy 2009!

It is a new year, but the old left a lot of lessons to be learned.

I got this from a friend, rather than email it to everyone I know, I'll just put it here.

1) What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
I started teaching Sunday school to a group of 3rd-4th graders. They are such amazing kids and they have helped me increase my faith.

2) Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make any for last year. This year, the main resolution I have is to have fun, laugh often, and step outside my comfort zone.

3) Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Terri gave birth in August, then my friend Mari gave birth in time for Christmas. and Mandy, she had Ethan this year!

4) Did anyone close to you die?
Some of my husband's family died but we weren't very close to them.

5) What countries did you visit?

6) What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
More alone time with my husband

7) What date(s) from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Our anniversary (May 20), kids' birthdays (May 1 and September 12).

8) What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I visited my father after 10 years, and my kids had a chance to meet him.

9) What was your biggest failure?
No failures, a few disappointments

10) Did you suffer illness or injury?
Illness, some. No injuries.

11) What was the best thing you bought?
Dual screen DVD player for the car. It was a lifesaver during our trip to Panama.

12) Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My husband's, who made the decision to be a stay at home dad.

13) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
One person comes to mind, but karma will catch up with her eventually.

14) Where did most of your money go?
To pay all debts (finally debt free!) and medical expenses from Cade's ER visits.

15) What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Signing up for watercolor painting class (starting in 3 weeks!)

16) What song will always remind you of 2008?
Jesus Loves me, because it was the first one Candace learn to play in the piano.

17) Compared to this time last year, are you:- happier or sadder? happier.- thinner or fatter? fatter- richer or poorer? moneywise, the same, but richer in the things that truly count.

18) What do you wish you'd done more of?
Taken time to step outside my comfort zone.

19) What do you wish you'd done less of?
Get frustrated when things don't go the way I planned.

20) Did you fall in love in 2008?over and over again

21) What was your favorite TV program?
Brothers & Sisters.

22) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I don't hate anyone. I may dislike some people, but I don't hate anyone.

23) What was the best book you read?
Strange Sons by Portia Iversen. It's about her autistic son, her journey with him, another mother she meets with a child very similar to hers. Very powerful.

24) What was your greatest musical discovery?
High School Musical songs. ha.

25) What did you want and get?
a day of pampering

26) What did you want and not get?
the lottery

27) What was your favorite film of this year?
Sex and the City movie, because that's the only one I saw this year.

28) What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I worked, turned 34

29) How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Same as 2007, shorter hair, if it fits, I wear it.

30) What kept you sane?
my husband (while simultaneously driving me insane some days).

31) Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Brad Pitt

32) What political issue stirred you the most?
The whole thing, people questioning the candidates ability only because of gender or race.

33) Who did you miss?
My family back home.

34) Who was the best new person you met?
My daughter's piano teacher. She is 94 years old, and still has her mind intact. She loves music and loves kids, and her passion keeps her going. She is such an example.

35) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008:
Take the time to laugh, forgive, and enjoy life.

36) Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

“Tell everybody I'm on my way, and loving every step I take...with the sun shining down, yes I'm on my way, I can't keep the smile off my face"