We have a neighbor that is well into her 80s. We are always conflicted as to how involved we should get. We have had a couple of good conversations with the lady and have learned lots about her life. Every time we have offered help she has been polite to decline it and seems to be a private person even though she has shared some of her life story with us. The conflict comes from both Bea and I coming from a society where our elders were not just part of our lives, they were integral parts of our formation as human beings. Elders are not just respected but rather revered. I cannot forget the first time I went to an “old folks home” back in Colombia when I was a kid and thinking about how it was like an orphanage but for older people. I never imagined that in the society that I would become an adult, a “retirement community” was not the exception but pretty close to the rule.

This society is geared towards individualism and youth. Every day industries promote the fountain of youth and how people are living longer, but also how obsessed people are with staying young. The 40s are the new 30s and so on. Many people are scared of getting older in all societies, but getting older in the U.S. can be right down terrifying.

My paternal grandfather passed away in 2006 and my maternal grandfather is getting older each day. My Mom and I have talked about how my grandfather’s light is not shinning as bright as it used to. This is the man that taught me how to play chess and was always very assertive and successful business man. Now his days are full of anxiety about his illness and all he seems to look forward to now are his yearly trips to Colombia to escape the winter. The cold that to him is killing him might be related more to the coldness of this society has towards the elder rather than the temperature on the thermometer. He would gladly spend the rest of his life back in Colombia, but my grandma who is over a decade younger than him wants to be here where all of our family is. Read more…

I Know Nothing

Welcome to the Decade. Surprisingly enough, my new years is pretty free of resolutions. I have spent the last couple of weeks recounting much of the past decades and the changes that come along with such a long period of time. I look back and see that I am not in my twenties anymore and I could not be any happier.

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
- Socrates

I was still very young when Y2K make my metabolism “non compliant” anymore. I thought I had everything figured out and all of my plans were in motion. I still thought I could make people happy, even if I was unhappy myself. I thought that everyone had good in them and that time will bring it out. I thought that everyone wanted to strive to make themselves better and there was no such thing as unwanted advice. Read more…

Christmas Eve

I like learning about other cultures, specially traditions. I am now an American and have participated in many of the holiday traditions here, mostly the face stuffing goodness that this holiday season brings. I do miss the Colombian Christmas celebrations back in the motherland. My family in Chicago still keeps some of the traditions and has added some new ones from here, but missing the smell of fireworks during perfect 75 degree nights is hard to recapture.

Christmas in Colombia was a neighborhood affair. People take their sounds systems to the street and a block party is on. Fireworks big and small are going off all around while everyone stays up until midnight. It is truly a time for friends and family to share and get together to celebrate the meaning of the holiday.

This will be the first Christmas while living in Chicago in over six years and it could not be any sweeter. My wife loves the concept of family as much as I do. My cousins are almost adults and very cool people to hang out with. I now have a nice and nephew to spoil and cannot wait to see them opening presents.

It was pointed out to me over and over that I talked way too much about Chicago. While I have missed the food and places I like to hang out with, what I truly missed was the people. My family and friends mean the world to me, and having my family close for these occasions is great. I do miss the people both in Michigan and Kansas City where I have been for the past six years. I never thought being back would feel so much like coming home, but it does.

I hope you are spending the holidays with the people that are important to you. Cherish those relationships, because my friends, that is the true definition of wealth, having people to share special times like this with you.

Happy Holidays!

Asking For Help

My Grandfather was a wise man, one of the many lessons he shared with my father and made it all the way down to me was the saying “bring me a sick man, not a dead man.” It was a simple way to rationalize that you don’t let problems get out of hand before you ask for help.

I grew up being very independent and it is a big part of my nature. I experienced life for many years just trying to do things on my own and professing self reliance as the best way to accomplish things. American society certainly fosters the growth of individualism and can do attitude. Then different events in my life made me realize that I was never alone and that even when someone says “you can do it!” just the simple fact of cheering you on is help you are receiving. There is no rule that you have to accomplish everything in life alone.

Community is a concept that I think was lost completely during the 80s and 90s. When Hilary said “It takes a village to raise a child” and people nodded someone should have slapped them. We need to be able to know these common sense things and not have them feed to us by politicians, we should be getting them from our own family or support structure. Our society should not wait until their kids get to college to get their “world view” and learn about diversity, community and other people. We need to recapture our sense of community.

I had a very interesting conversation with Melinda’s husband that left me with many thoughts, one of them that I wish we would have had more time to chat. We discussed how agricultural communities needed one another throughout the year and self reliance was not part of the deal. You needed your neighbors during harvest season. The true kicker though is that community is more significant than just someone to help with the heavy listing. Your health and quality of life are improved thanks your community.

I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell as an author to the point that I was even accused of joining a cult after reviewing Blink. On his book Outliers talks about the phenomenon of how a community made a group of people very healthy. I have also read an article about how having a true friend to have a beer with and discuss your problems with makes you happier than being rich. All of this is pretty irrelevant if you don’t know how or when to ask for help.

Relay on those around you, share your thoughts and gain perspective. I believe blogs and online interaction are changing the word by creating new virtual communities that provide not just a sense of belonging but a group of people that care. I am super excited that my friend Dan is having a child this week, maybe even as soon as later on today! and thankful that he is one of the many people that are part of my community and extended family. Don’t wait until your problems or worries become to big, share them with those around you. It is one of the keys to happiness.

Another Week

Another bunch of posts that will be turned into something coherent some other time.

Hi, my name is John and I have too many things on my mind right now.

The holidays are coming and my wife is turning… well, she can tell you if she wants, but her birthday is tomorrow. I got her some cool presents throughout the year :) I did find a very cool place to take her for dinner and she will get her first Chicago true Italian restaurant experience. (Yes I did try Italian in KC and everything was meh, and unless you have eaten at a Chicago Italian restaurant here, don’t challenge me… seriously.)

Work is crazy busy, and not just a little crazy, really insane crazy… but I do get tons of time off and will take the last week of this month off! Yey, I need the brain reboot for sure.

We will be meeting a blogger this weekend that I first started to follow because of the KC peeps… but anyway, that is for another post or her to reveal.

The weekends are filling up way too fast, there are holiday parties sprouting like chia pet seeds… and that is not even counting my family “must attend” events.

I need to find a lap pool quickly. Even though I seem to not be ballooning with all the good food now available, (Bea’s and my Mom’s home cooking paired with the proximity to a Trader Joe’s and various eateries… see my Facebook gyro face stuffing picture for detaisl) I do need to get some exercise in and a regular Gym is just not going to happen after having to fight Gold’s Gym to cancel my “month 2 month” membership… how so I attend a gym just a couple of weeks, pay for 2 months in advance and they still want 2 additional months just because it is their policy to rip you off?

I do miss KC, especially the Plaza that now has their lights on. We did find a great Indian restaurant that has great food, but not the service we used to get.

I have been downtown a couple of times already and being able to get there by train in 20 minutes is just a whole new world. How lucky is it that there is a express train right to our stop. Walking to the downtown office was not all that bad, but wind tunnels and cold weather might just make me take the shuttle when I have to go.

The cafeteria in our building is probably the reason I am maintaining my round figure instead of expanding it. They have food at good prices and I have healthy choices.

We have not enjoyed our back porch as much as we should have, in fact I had not set foot on it until one of my cousins came to visit. Pretty peaceful to sit there and stare at running water. Which also means that we have a couch and started to have people over. We will probably take some pictures soon.

So this is what you get for a Friday post, disjointed paragraphs because I guess I don’t twitter enough.

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