mi pueblo

June 15th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Living abroad, I introduce myself in the following way…

Spanish speaking person:
Where are you from?

Me: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (phonetically spoken, “PEETS burr geh, pen seal BANE yah”). Do you know it?

Spanish speaking person:
This is the Steelers?

Me: Yes, also, the Pirates.

I rarely get into New York, Colorado, my stint in Texas, up and down the east coast, Italy, the boat… So many words. I don´t have all that vocabulary, and who has that kind of time? When I am being asked this question, I assume people are just looking for a general “what type of gringo are you” answer. Something that helps them know how to deal with me, not a dissertation on my journey through life.

I was in a market in a pretty remote area and I saw this guy across the checkout area with a Pirates t-shirt on. I was just smiling and waving him down like we were dahn the Iggle or something. (We were NOT. This was a stranger in a strange land.)

Nonetheless I went over and was like hey man, I am smiling because that shirt is from mi pueblo. Which, could be a confusing statement on its own, so I generously went on explaining about how the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins all have the same color combo – Black and gold! See? –  and how seeing that gear so far from home makes me happy. Either that story was a real stunner, or my new bud was just letting the clock run down until F got through the checkout and came to collect his girl. And you know, standing in silence with another person takes real grit.

F sees this – high key talking to strangers in combination with wandering off –  as a genetic trait passed on from both – BOTH, I say – of my parents.  In the simplest telling of the story, its just the way of mi gente.

 

purge

October 29th, 2017 § 2 comments § permalink

In my various glancing blows with success, I have had the most humbling experience of rising to the level of my own incompetence. These moments of exposure to my own shortcomings and blindspots are seared into my memory along with the moments of professional bliss, those days when projects came to fruition, grants were awarded, awards were granted, or teams carried ideas further than I could have ever dreamed on my own.

I keep the dark days there, in my mental trophy case, as triumphs on par with the days I stood in the sun.

How else would I know the precise tone and timber of my own internal voice? How else would I know the sublime relief of amending a misstep? Would I have ever grown confident enough to take on risk without (extreme) fear and panic?

Today we lost a job lead to crew on a Swan. We don’t know and we may never know why, but the overall negotiation was dysfunctional, and we already understand that we partially dodged a bullet. When I do recover from this – go all the way through the disappointment, shame, reflection, and acceptance – the experience will ultimately go up on that shelf. But before I can do this, there is a bit more to wring from it.

Having had a rather non-linear career well into middle age, I largely missed out on the benefits of performance review from senior professionals. One of the best opportunities I ever had was to attend a Rockwood Leadership Institute training and receive a “360 degree peer review”, which was simultaneously one of the most uncomfortable and valuable experiences of my professional life. From a packet of anonymized feedback on Day 3, I learned that I could be tough on my colleagues (which at times was motivating and other times wearying), that I took professional defeats quite personally, and that I was not very confident doing fundraising.

I saw much of this emanating from a central lie that there is something “less” about my work, so that I have to continuously put in more and minimize what I ask for in return. This has something to do with working while female in mostly male-dominated spaces, as well as formative experiences in the more behind-the-scenes realms of advocacy. Both factors made my work invisible in certain ways, and it became my desire to be a mission-driven magic-maker who needed nothing yet could do everything.

The wheels fell off on that type of thinking long ago.

Today, having side stepped this trajectory, I have somehow taken control of the role of money in my life and the value of time. Financial health has gone from being a topic I dare not speak of to an exciting project I get to unwrap, examine, debate, and tinker with. Day to day, I focus on living with maximum freedom and minimum expense. As we have less stuff, we somehow end up with more time. I am very proud of this, because it was terrifying to change course. I had to trust another person (my husband), which was also new and weird.

I once described this chapter to my Dad as “economic stasis”, which I believe describes it well. But at a certain point, we will have to find a way out of it.

When I work now, I pay close attention to where I feel stress, and where I feel purposeful. What type of work “flow” comes readily, what requires more self discipline, and where I may succumb to procrastination and self-sabotage. I try to compare this info with what professional goals I have left for myself and chart a path from here to there.

In the interest of being totally transparent here, which may or may not be a smart move on such a tumultuous day, my current professional goals are:
1. Work on an expedition or research vessel;
2. Publish more papers, personal writing, and ultimately a book of non-fiction about sea level communities;
3. Live and work in a land management capacity doing conservation (ecosystem, wildlife, foodways, remediation, water quality) at a watershed scale;
4. Be intentional and overt in my commitment to intersectional justice while doing any or all of the above.

When I lay it all out like this, I can see how the opportunity lost today was not a direct link to any of these goals. If I continued to look at it sideways, as I was doing, or if I added a few more items to my list, as I am totally open to doing, it would have made more sense.

What weighs more heavily on me today, is that it definitely lined up with the goals of another person (my husband), who is going through a recovery process of his own.

grandmother’s memorial recap

December 6th, 2016 § 2 comments § permalink

This past weekend, we memorialized Helen Zidar with a Catholic mass, placement of her ashes, and a brunch with all the cousins. Her life spanned the coal patch, several wars, public housing, the rise of the unions, raising two kids, the unexpected death of her husband (my grandfather, Luke Zidar), the unexpected death of her daughter (my Aunt Audrey) and ultimately receiving her four grandkids and four more great grandkids for many visits, as her surviving son (my dad, Bernard Zidar) expertly managed her care and affairs.

These are the photos shown at her memorial brunch, as my dad narrated and those gathered joined in with memories of our ancestors and the great lives of Helen and Luke. At the end are a few photos I took from my vantage in the room, as well as a few shots of us at the house. I wish I would have gotten more photos of everyone, but I was too thoroughly enjoying meeting “new, old” cousins and catching up with people face-to-face.

Hooray and bon voyage to Helen, and say hello to G-pap for us.

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