Thursday, January 31, 2013

I've moved my blog...

And all its contents over to my main website, which has a whole new re-vamped look and where I decided all my writing and information should now be.

If you care to continue reading my stuff you can grab a cup of coffee and mosey on over there and make yourself comfy.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa Visits the Bartells (as told by William)

This is my transcription of Santa Visits the Bartells as told by Wil to me on our drive home from work...

And Santa comes down the Chimney and William asks, "who's that there?" and Santa says, "it's just me."

"Oh Santa!  Its just you.  You bring presents?" 

"Yes!" Santa says.  And Santa gives William a present and he rips it open and its a boat.  Santa gives a present to William and says, "here this is for Midnight."

But Midnight can't talk, she says "meow".  So William takes Midnight's present and rips it open and its cat food.  And he gives the food to Midnight and she says, "meow", thank you, because she can't talk because she's a cat.

Then William rings the bells to wake mama and dada.  And mama and dada say, "what's that noise?!?!?  Oh, it's just William."  And they come to the livingroom and they see Santa.

William takes dada's present and he rips it open and its a plane.  "Here you go dada," says William.  And then he takes mama's present and he rips it open and its a truck, "here you go mama."

Then Santa goes up the Chimney and he asks William, "you want to come to the North Pole with me?"

"Yes, thank you!" Says William and he goes up the Chimney with Santa and he goes to the North Pole.

I'm guessing there's a sequel since I was never told the second half of the story about what happens when William goes to the North Pole and his return.

Merry Christmas everyone!  It's been a fabulous year!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Memory

It was right around 4 am when I woke up startled from the haze of the bad dream.  From my open window, I smelled bagels cooking from the bakery distributor a couple of blocks down.  I made out the smell of cinnamon raisin braided in with the onion and garlic that overpowered all the smells.  It was early September.  The afternoon before it had been pouring rain.  On the ride home from Manhattan on the Express bus into the Bronx I wondered if we were even going to make it home.  Rivers had formed on the Bruckner Expressway making our bus driver weave and swerve to get around it and get us home.  I got home an hour later than usual, but by then the rain had tapered off.

I did my usual routine of Chinese take out from the restaurant across from the bus stop and walked the two long blocks home to my apartment.  I watched the evening news.  Primaries were tomorrow, some schools had their first day of school and the weather was supposed to be much better - cooler and sunny.

Now here at 4 am with a nice cool breeze mixed in with the smell of bagels.  I tried to remember why I woke up so startled.  

I dreamt I was back in PR in our old house on the family compound.  But the house was huge this time, a few stories tall.  We were on one of the other floors, second floor maybe, and were told we had to leave.  The house was on fire and the floor was starting to crack.  I've always had vivid, odd and disturbing dreams, this was no different.  Other than the house burning everything else in the dream seemed so perfect.  The air was warm, the rooms in the house were bright from the sunlight entering through the large windows.  The light gave everything a yellow tinge.  It was a surprise when someone said there was a fire.  The only indication of trouble was the cracking sound from the floor.

I tried going back to sleep but it took almost 2 hours.  My alarm went off 20 minutes later. I hit the snooze button a few times up until 7:20.  Finally had to drag my butt out of bed and get to work.  It was cool out but not chilly.  I had the TV on and Al Roker said it was going to be a beautiful day.  I put on my sandals and wore a knit light purple top.  Quite the combo.  Eh, I wasn't trying to impress anyone.

I decided to take the Subway in.  The Express Bus at this hour was going to take longer in peak rush hour traffic.  At least the train would be easier.  I always got a seat since I lived at the second to last stop and could take it all the way to work.  I stood by the back part of the platform and looked over the railing to the street below.  The light this time of year always bought me back to childhood and the first few days of school.  I remember the smell of the new school supplies -- new book bags and pencil cases have a distinct rubbery smell.  I remembered walking to school eager for a new beginning.  The yellow light of that morning vaguely reminded me of my dream from the night before. It glowed against the buildings and the reflected off of windows, bright but warm.

My train pulled in and I sat towards the back of the car.  We made our way through the North East Bronx.  We paused in Parkchester, as usual, it was the switch over for those that wanted to take the local train through the South Bronx.  We were going express into Manhattan from here.  There was an announcement on the PA, something about an incident in lower Manhattan and our train's final stop being somewhere before Wall Street.  It didn't matter to me.  My stop was in mid-town.  We finally got moving again.  We pulled up and over the curve before going underground for the duration of the ride.  

It was such a perfectly blue and cloudless sky.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A wish for the future (for my son)

A wish for the future (for my son)

I hope that someone’s ethnicity and race don’t matter – where people are blind to skin color and everyone gets a chance to be known for who they are.

A world where all religions are respected equally and it doesn’t matter what someone believes, but that they are judged by their actions, deeds, and compassion.

That he gets to be surrounded by people of integrity.  Where people mean what they say, do what they say and live up to the same standards that they place on others.

A place where people are no longer judged by who they love.  Where everyone understands that, just as they haven’t chosen who they fell in love with, it’s also the same for everyone else.

That he gets to live in a place where everyone understands that we all want the same: to feel secure; to give and get love; to laugh and experience joy; to express ourselves; to be heard and respected -- and that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience these things.

Above all else, to live in a world where everyone really, truly, deeply gets what a gift this life is.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Believe what you want as long as its your own...

This thought has been on my mind lately.

It can be taken in regards to almost anything: religion, faith, politics, child-rearing, social interactions.  But, it doesn't mean to make up your choices and decisions just based on what you think you know.  We need to be open to what we don't know and the possibility of facts going against our reality, beliefs and truths.

When I use words like Truth and Belief they're not the same concept as we're taught growing up.  How can two people believe two opposing things and both things be true?  How can we believe two different things and both of us be right?  I'm not saying that its always the case that everyone is right and could never be wrong - relativism.  Truths and beliefs do need to be balanced out with a sense of morality, ethics and compassion that transcends through all societies. But, at a different level, we can both have a different approach for the same end result.  There is not just "one way".

I can't accept that someone will believe what someone tells them at face value without having gone outside of their comfort zone to see if there are other opinions and facts.  Just because someone you respect says something, doesn't make what they say true, and it doesn't mean that you have to take it as truth and convert it into your own beliefs.  You can still respect someone and look up to someone, even if you don't agree with 100% of what they say.  Isn't this what friendship and marriage is about?  Same holds true for people with positions of authority in our lives.  We can respect, but not follow blindly.

The strongest ideas and beliefs are those that came about after we were nudged enough to make us uncomfortable.  We learn some information that pushes against what we think is true.  We finally realize that what we believe can stand the test or needs to be re-evaluated.  The strongest convictions come from not taking just one point of view, but looking through the different ideas and deciding for ourselves what is true for us- which may not be the truth for someone else.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Leyéndole a mi hijo aprendo yo...

Leyéndole a mi hijo aprendo yo...

Algo que yo quisiera que fuera más acostumbrado en nuestra cultura es la lectura.  Especialmente en cuestión con nuestros hijos.

Unos de los mejores momentos en mi día es después de haber bañado a mi hijo, cepillarle los dientes y ponerle sus pijamas, nos acostamos en su cama y leemos un libro.  El escoge lo que quiere - muchas veces es el mismo libro por un par de semanas (huy como enzorra, pero es para él) - y nosotros lo leemos.  En ese momento, todo lo demás no importa.  Los trastes en el fregadero, la ropa para guardar, todos los que-hacerse toman el lado y el enfoque es todo para nuestro momento juntos. El y yo y nuestra corta aventura (a veces es papi que va con él).  Es nuestro ritual que ayuda llevarlo a dormir sin protestas porque tuvo su tiempo a solas con papi o mami.

No tan solo es el tiempo para compartir y crear una union mas fuerte sino también el aprende lo importancia de la lectura y tomar el tiempo para leer.  Le hemos leído desde antes que cumpliera el año.  Empezamos con "Good Night Moon" (Buenas Noches Luna) .  Y a lo que pasaban las semanas, el reconocía mas y mas objetos en el libro.  Siempre recordare leyendo la parte sobre el globo rojo y el señalándolo en la pagina.    Ya nos hemos graduado de "Good Night Moon" a "Arthurs Birthday", "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go", "Busy Town Fire Station" y ahora "Harold and the Purple Crayon" (Harold y el Lapiz Color Morado).

Me encanta leerle un libro que yo disfrute como pequeña, es regresar a mi niñez por los ojos de mi hijo.  A lo que leemos el me enseña diferentes partes de los dibujos, o dice algo que yo no hubiese pensado.  Me hace reír y apreciar lo buen niño que es y en que se está convirtiendo.

Es increíble ver lo que esa mente tan joven se imagina.  Y es que son ojos nuevos que no están empañados con todos nuestros años de malas experiencias.  Es ver de nuevo un mundo lleno de posibilidad y que aunque el dragón es feo, no hay que tenerle miedo.

A mis amigos y familiares, saquen el tiempo para leerle a sus hijos y a los niños pequeños en sus vidas. Hagan la lectura con sus hijos parte de la cultura en SUS familias. 
Buenas noches.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Being Present - My View

This is my speech for tomorrow's Toastmaster meeting.  My speech's focus is "Get to the Point".  The speech needs to have a specific purpose and be conveyed in such a way that the audience can understand.

I decided to work on something that's close to me and thet I'm constantly working on.  The idea of being present and living in the now. 

I won't be reading it word for word.  Hopefully I'll be able to remember enough of it to convey my general idea.
“Having spent the better part of my life either reliving the past or experiencing the future before it arrives; I have come to believe that between these two extremes is peace” --Anonymous

What does it mean to be present and how do we get there?

Being present means focusing on the here and now. 

Part of being present is not dwelling in the past.  Our brains aren’t capable of thinking about the past and being mindful of the current moment.  You can’t think of an apple and an orange at the exact same time.  You can think of either an apple or an orange, but not both.  Go ahead and try it.  We end up switching back and forth between the two. 

This concept also holds true for the future.  We can’t think about what we’re doing right now and the future that may or may not be at the same time.  By doing this and focusing on the future apple, we miss enjoying the present orange since we have left no room for it in our minds. 

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t plan for the future.   We always need to plan and set a path for the direction we want our future to go.  But, once we set our plan, we need to release it and let it go on its way without dwelling on the “should dos” and “should haves”. 

Something else to consider is that in different times of our lives we switch between focusing too much on the past or thinking too much about the future.  When a loved one passes, the loss of a job, or an argument with a friend, we go over and over the things we should have said or done.  When planning a major move, starting a new job or going on a vacation, we think about all the things that we need to get done, the people we need to speak to and the “what will they say”.

The reality is that we’re human and it’s in our nature to think about the past – this is how we learn from our mistakes and learn and grow for our future.  But the past and the future don’t exist without the present. 

Then, what should we do we find our minds racing in one direction or another?  When we’re being pulled away from the now?

I’m going to go over a few simple steps to help keep you grounded.

One – pause, breathe and as you do, take a count of the time.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. Slow down your mental clock.  Count to ten.  You’ll be surprised to find out that before this exercise of counting your version of ten seconds was probably much shorter than reality.  We live in such a hurried society moving from task to task that we tend to shorten our minutes.  I read in the book Timeshifting how the author recommends that we tape the word now over our watches.  This helps us realize that this is the time we’re living in – now.    Most times when we look at our watches we’re doing so to see how much time we have before we have to move on to some future task.  We’re not being present.

Finally, after taking in your breathe and counting to ten, focus on what you’re doing at the moment.  Right now you’re listening to me speak, but your mind may be racing thinking about the errands that need to be done, the dirty dishes that were left in the sink, maybe about some family or friend you miss and want to see, or how wonderful the day is and you want to be outside.  Get the racing thoughts out of your head and think about the present moment.  Be aware of the thoughts that come in, but just as quickly let them out.  In practice focus on the task you are working on.

I’d like to give an example of how being present works in my day to day.  One of the hobbies I have is sewing.  This requires that I’m focused 100 percent and that I’m completely mindful in what I’m doing.  When I sew, I need to be present – which reminds me, I need to set some time aside to do it, but that’s a topic for another day.

After the more complex task of cutting the pattern pieces out from the fabric, putting the pieces together is almost meditative.  I need to focus on what I’m doing. I need to be aware of how much tension the presser foot is under.  I need to make sure that the stitches are going in straight and that the feeders are moving the fabric along smoothly.  The seam allowance needs to stay consistent; otherwise the pieces will not come together correctly.  I need to be present with my task.  

To bring yourself back to the present focus on the task that you’re doing.  Narrate the steps you’re taking – not necessarily out loud! 

Another thing is to travel light.  Choose what you’re going to carry in life, not physically but emotionally.  Remove any baggage that you’ve been carrying in life that you no longer need.  There are experiences and people from our past that aren’t worth holding on to.  If we keep holding on to that old suitcase (a bitter memory or an old friend we’ve outgrown) we keep opening it and rummaging through it, bringing up old memories and resentments.  Let them go.  It may not be easy at first, but once we’ve liberated ourselves from that old weight we leave room now to enjoy the present and enjoy our current experiences.

I’d like to end with a sweet example from my own recent experience of why it’s important to be present.

As I mentioned before, it’s very easy to fall into not being present.  Even Children that are usually very good at living the moment can fall into thinking too much about the future—as any parent on a long car trip with a kid asking “are we there yet?” every few minutes can attest to. 

Last Saturday, we went to our friend’s house for Saint Patrick’s Day.  Our son is really good friends with their son.  Early that morning we told him that later that afternoon we were going to Jack’s house.  That was a big mistake (lesson learned).  All morning it was all he would talk about.  “Going to Jack’s house!” this was all he said, even on our way to dance class.  I kept saying, “Later, later”.  I’m sure that it was the only thing racing through his head.  He didn’t nap and it was a very difficult day until we finally made it to Jack’s house.

The same thing happens to us adults.  We get so caught up in some future event that we can’t get anything done in the present.  We stress and dwell and go over all the different scenarios.  We fill our present with worry.  Yes, it’s important to plan and to make sure that we take care of our future but don’t dwell.  Many times we get caught up with the future because of bad past experiences.  But, just because something happened in the past doesn’t mean we’re doomed to repeat it again – and even if we are, worrying about it won’t help change it.  Just do something in the present to prepare and then let it be.

Remember, to work on your future you need to do so in the here and now. 

If you find your mind racing between the past and the future…
  1. Breathe and count.
  2. Return to the now, think about the task at hand and your breathing.
  3. Recite what you’re doing (to yourself).
  4. Repeat as necessary.
--Joanna M. Bartell
March 20, 2012

Footnote: those that know me must be scratching their heads because I am very guilty of not living in the present.  This is something I’m working on as well…breathing and counting, breathing and counting, breathing and counting…