Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Our Anniversary, Every Day!

Isael and Denise Barreto - 13 years together - 12 married!
I am not embarrassed to let you all know that if it weren't for the Facebook calendar, I may have "missed" celebrating our anniversary this year - after 12 years of marriage. Yes, it was late in the day this past Saturday when I noticed that Facebook said I was commemorating my "anniversary with Isael Barreto."

I had to laugh.

You see, over the last 12 years, it's been sort of a cruel joke between us the whole anniversary celebration. In the early days, I wanted to celebrate and we were torn on which date to actually commemorate - March 27, the day we were legally married in the US or April 27 the wedding date. We whiffed them both, regularly.  You could blame it on the blending of cultures. On me, part cultural brainwashing, growing up in the US where we celebrate everything over the top and on him, growing up in Mexico where it is not as big a deal to celebrate your anniversary at all. You could also blame the fact that neither of us come from families where anniversaries even happened let alone were celebrated.

In 2011, we did celebrate our 10th anniversary with a great trip to Sonoma County California for fun weekend but apart from that we have sucked it big on celebrating our anniversary. And after a little reflection over the weekend, I'm happy to share why.

We enjoy one another, (most) every day of every year. We don't need to only celebrate our longevity on the actual day it started. We laugh and reminisce often, with our kids. They know our story. We live our story of love, daily. So while it is fun to actually have others join in on the celebrating once a year, we don't have a huge need celebrate something we live out and are grateful for daily - our love story. We have a fantastic relationship with our anniversary. It is part of us all the time.  So it's become fun to eek out a celebration on the fly.

No cards.

No gifts.

Just us. And lots of smiles and laughs.

We'd have it no other way.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Film, A Desert and America's Poor Relationship With Race

I had the pleasure of seeing the new Jackie Robinson biopic "42" over this past weekend with my family. It was a great depiction of the rookie season of baseball great Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. It was the first time in a long time that I heard other folks in the theater react and verbally respond to characters in a movie. It was also the first time I'd ever experienced people clapping at the conclusion of a film.

Well done, Warner Bros.

I also applaud Warner Bros and this film for helping me as I have recently come through what I'm calling a "desert" experience personally. My "desert" from the end of February until the end of March was an intensive time of introspection for me as I was challenged to my core - almost daily -  on every thought, action and belief I have related to race, gender, poverty and struggle. The external events that came in rapid fire seemed almost unreal as it was playing out. There were a few days when I literally cried out to God for respite... rest.

But alas that respite did not come. It was clear to me 1/2 way through the 30 days that this "season" I was experiencing had a purpose. It was amply clear that I needed to re-evaluate my response, my reaction to everyday conversations, quips and thoughts related to race. No longer could I ignore this or downplay it. I was literally being faced with extreme racially charged situations regularly to refine my thoughts and my heart about race.

It was rich and seeing "42" this weekend sealed for me what one of my conclusions had revealed late last month.

We have come very far with race relations in the United States but we have painfully far to go. 

Nothing made that more evident than watching this film set in 1947. Dare I say, it was simpler then. Dare I say, at least you KNEW what you were facing in the way of biases, discrimination and outright refusal to extend equality. Today is it much more subtle. Much more covert. And worst, it is vehemently denied now.

People go out of their way to say how unbiased they are all while their daily actions and interactions reinforce just how deeply biased they are in reality. People argue tooth and nail how much "better" it is today for black Americans in the United States. And it is.

But it is still not where it should be.

And it's up to all of us to to make it better. My "desert" experience showed me where I have areas of opportunity to help. I am grateful I was open to learning. Grateful to see 42 with my family to continue the discussion started in our household before.

What will you do?

Are you willing to have open honest conversations about race with others?

Can we take a step toward true reconciliation in our country without those conversations?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Only You Know What Matters To You

Barreto Family at Universal Studios - Studio City, CA Spring 2013

I was recently asked "how in the world do you afford to travel so much with two kids?"

The simple answer is it is our family priority.

And the complex long winded answer is it is our family priority.

We are committed to exposing our kids to our country and many others around the globe as much as possible. It has been a priority since we got married. It was even a priority of mine personally before I ever even had my passport.

As a kid, we did most of our family travel to other family members in states across the Midwest or Eastern Seaboard. It was fun and I enjoyed it thoroughly. But as a voracious reader who'd traveled the globe through my books from a very early age, I vowed to travel.

Then I married my husband who hails from central Mexico and also had tremendous desire to travel. Early in our marriage, we were blessed with a short stint of me working in marketing at United Airlines where we had complimentary stand-by travel and we were hooked.

Over the years, we have made it a priority to see the world.

We don't wear designer clothes.
Most of our furniture was bought used and/or at garage sales.
We drive out of our way to shop for most of our groceries at a bargain local grocer.
Our kids only have two activities each, at any given time.
We buy most of our electronic gaming accessories used.

This past year, when our income has slipped back to 2009 levels we saw a few less movies in the theater.  We ate out a few less times per month. Our normal "celebrations" and family traditions toned down a bit.  We are currently exploring ways to drop cable and find more creative solutions for our small box viewing pleasure.

I could keep listing innovative solutions our family engages to stay 100% aligned on how we live in order to fulfill our collective desire to travel and "see things."

It is definitely tough especially this past year. The conversations we have had as a family caused us to rearrange priorities over and over until we got the result we wanted. Living the life we all could enjoy daily as well as occasionally.

My hope that we are laying the framework for our kids to have a great relationship with priorities. Our life examples give them clear messages; it is no one else's responsibility for you to have the life you want. We own the decisions that make our lives fulfilling or not. Our short term and long term priorities are fluid enough to adjust to conditions yet solid enough to give us goals to work toward. They work for us. And I love to share that with folks who may somehow think I'm sitting on a fortune over here that allows us to travel at our whim. It takes work, planning and refinement to live the way we live and I would not change it.

What about you?

What are your priorities for life? What action are you taking to make your priorities realities?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Reality Based Evidence vs. Fear Based Evidence - Which Will You Choose?

Yes, that about captures the face I had last week when I got the final look at the finances for Relationships Matter Now's  first full-time year in business.

We made money.

We were profitable.

We just didn't make as MUCH money as we set out to.

Not a bad problem to have in a new business but a problem nonetheless. Fortunately for me, I have a great relationship with disappointment. We acknowledge one another and I take the time to feel my disappointment. Rage and cry, if necessary and this time it was a cry.

A scary,  I-so-need-to-grow-my-business-and-grow-it-now-but-I'm-working-as-smart-as-I-can burst of tears. I took the time to look at how we fell short in 2012. I re-visited the 2013 plan and took a moment to assess Q1 and where I think we will finish based on what I know now.

Why am I sharing this with the world? Because you need to know that adventurous people who step out in faith battle demons just like those of you who have not dared to step out. We fight fear and disappointment, just as you do. We fret over numbers and projections, too.

The only difference is we continue to believe we can do it. We retool plans. We acknowledge our fear and we push through it. We build plans B, C and D when plan A fails us. We also look at the evidence.  The REAL evidence and not the fake evidence our fear feeds us.

Look at the subtle differences:

Fact:   My company did not make enough money
Fear evidence:  You didn't make enough money, perhaps you need to reconsider entrepreneurship.
Real evidence:  You have a profitable model, you need to make more people aware of it.

Fact:   My company turned a profit
Fear evidence:  It may take a long time to turn a bigger profit.
Real evidence:  Each project helps you refine pricing and profit structure. Just need more.

Fact:   Momentum for 2013 is greater than momentum for 2012
Fear evidence:  Less possibilities have come to fruition in Q1
Real evidence:  More possibilities are building daily for remainder of 2013 and beyond

Fear is never on our side. It always feeds our doubts and it's up to us to decipher what we will listen to, consistently - reality or fear based evidence.

I choose reality based evidence. That is the difference between those who dream and do and everyone else.

What about you? How can you dissect fear based evidence versus reality based evidence in your life today? What will you believe?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Grow Anyways Facing Drought Conditions

It is an extraordinary thing to be able to grow in a drought. Can you?
Recently, for 25 consecutive days, I'd say I was in a "drought" of sorts.  Literally, every other day from February 27 - March 22, I was challenged to my core on many topics related to race, gender, conflict - you name it - I was facing it.  But an amazing thing happened along the way.

I did not wallow.
I did not complain or whine.
I just felt it.
Absorbed the stress.
Resisted the urge to "runaway" or lash out.

I carefully and considerately asked with each blow - what is my lesson here? What am I to learn from this? How will I be different next time? Each incident revealed to me a nugget of wisdom, a clue of purpose and a theme that tied them all together.

Was I discouraged? Absolutely.
But more importantly, I was determined to grow in spite of what was happening to me. I was clear on how I'd make the most of each discouragement or disappointing situation. I was tuned in 100% to what I could do the next time I was faced with a similar situation. This stretch lead me to a glorious vacation where I was able to reflect and pinpoint almost EXACTLY why I'd just experienced such a season of turmoil.

I simply needed to adjust my coping mechanisms. Coping mechanisms can also be described as "survival skills." They are strategies people use to deal with natural changes in life, stresses and pain. Mine were outdated on several topics and the stresses and occurrences I faced over that 25 day period were simply a signal to me to re-evaluate them and adjust them to my current needs.

Ever feel like you are facing something over and over and over and you don't know why? Chances are you need to adjust the way you cope to that situation and the universe is giving you practice to realign your energy around it. That's exactly what happened to me recently. And because I didn't fight it or throw my hands up, I was able lean into the adversity and come out with a clear solution.

Change your relationship with adversity and you will change your life.