New Year’s Revolutions

New Year’s Revolutions… Yes, I’m a little, a LOT, late on this post.

And yes, you read right. New Year’s Revolutions.

What started out as wrong word usage, actually became an idea for this post.

Instead of Resolving to do things, this year we should REVOLUTIONIZE the way we think!

rev·o·lu·tion·ize
/,revә’lōoSHә,nīz/
▶verb change something greatly or completely.
– synonyms
transform, shake up, turn upside down, restructure, reorganize, transmute, metamorphose; humorous transmogrify.
Copyright © Oxford University Press 2003, 2009

Let’s Revolt and do things that actually change our lives! 

1: Baby steps. 

Start small. Set little goals for yourself. Instead of saying that you will lose 30 pounds, say I want to lose 1 pound a week. Or even better, don’t focus on the weight, and instead focus on how to get there. Set a goal of 10 mins of exercise a day for a week. Then bump it up a bit. Shoot for 30 mins a day by the end of the month. 

Setting small weekly goals will give you lots of little victories to help you feel better about yourself, and keep you motivated to stay on track. 

Or, as in my case, let’s say you want to write a book. You can’t just start writing a whole book, (unless you are a masterful genius, i.e. Stephen King), but you can just start writing, a little bit at a time. Writing every day will help you get the creative juices flowing.

See this article about Jerry Seinfeld on writing.

2: Mums the word. 

Stop telling people that you are going to do something. As cliche as the phrase has gotten, Just do It!

Let the results speak for themselves.

Too often we think that by telling others what we are going to do that we will feel more accountable. Instead, when we are constantly judged by others for eating the wrong things, skipping a workout, having a drink, cursing or whatever vice you may be trying to overcome, we are easily disappointed and get down on ourselves. You need to care about yourself and be accountable to YOU before you ever try to please others.

3: No more “I’m Sorry”.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Nobody cares! Unfortunately, EVERYBODY has stuff going on, some are just more vocal than others (or more about posting it on social media than others). We’ve all got stuff going on, but when you allow the negative things in your life to become your focus you lose sight of all the good things that already surround you.

4: Thank you.

This is a continuation of the previous section. Stop saying I’m sorry, and start saying Thank you. We all have so much to be thankful for, if we try. It is easy to mope about the countless issues one may be facing, but what about all the things that are ALREADY going right in your life. This is not to say “pat yourself on the back, you are awesome”; on the contrary, you should be grateful for all the things that are going right in your life that are out of your control. 

5: Don’t spend a dime.

Improving YOU doesn’t HAVE to cost a dime.

You can’t BUY happiness, weightloss, success, a family, health; although you can buy happy pills, diet pills, lotto tickets, and mail order brides…

These are are just short term solutions to a bigger problem, and most of the time they turn what feels like an unmanageable situation into a black hole of issues.

Taking a walk…FREE

Keeping a journal…FREE

Getting up early to eat a good breakfast, and get to work on time or even early…FREE

Spending time with your loved ones…FREE

All these things do have 1 thing in common and that is that they take TIME! Time is one of the most expensive things in our lives, even though it is also technically, FREE! You have enough time, if you get your priorities straight and make good use of it.

And last but not least…

Don’t ever say that you are finished. You are not done living until you are 6 feet under. You are a project that will never get done until you reach those pearly gates, or turn into worms or mulch or whatever. So in the meantime, continue to strive for greatness and self improvement. As you hit your goals, make new ones. Always look up and move forward. You can be grateful for everything you have and feel accomplished, but do not be complacent. Never tell yourself that you have made it. 

There are no limits.

Start a revolution in your life TODAY!!!

rev·o·lu·tion
/,revә’lōoSHәn/
▶noun
2 a great and far-reaching change…

False Alarm

This is a late post from my trip to L.A. last week.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of a false alarm, I envision a negative pregnancy test.

PHEW! ::wipes brow::

I had my tubes cut, burned, damn near ghost busted 2 years ago, yet I still worry about false alarms. Or rather, real, live, blaring baby alarms. I imagine with a middle name of Maria, Jesus could potentially send me another baby.

But today wasn’t about THAT kind of false alarm.

I had just gotten off the phone with my dad, explaining to him how turn on the shower in his hotel room.

Seems simple enough, but this shower handle just sort of sticks out. It looks like you have to pull on it, when in reality you have to twist it. But it gets stuck, sooo by the time you figure that out, you’ve twisted it so hard the wrong way that it seems like it won’t budge at all, and you start to think it might just pop off in your hand.

I know that was an awkward explanation but there was really no way around the lingo. So if anyone reads this in 10 years, and I’m running for President or some other form of office, I hope they won’t be offended.

So any who.

“A la izquierda papi. Como el reloj, pero alrevez.”
I’m gesticulating in the air as if through the phone this will make him understand. 

“Esta mierda no abre.” 

“Quieres que vaya?” I smack myself on the forehead.

“No, ya, ya.”

I wasn’t sure if he had really opened it, or just gave up. But I went on about getting dressed. My dad, Jose (one of our managers), and I were all on different floors.

Not a minute had passed and the alarm went off. Not my phone which I usually inadvertently set to snooze.

The FIRE ALARM! 

“May I have your attention please. A fire alarm sensor has been activated in the building. Please proceed to the nearest stairwell and exit the building.”

Wahhhhhh. Wahhhhhh.

And the message went on and on. 

Wahhhhhh. Wahhhhhh.

Oh my gosh! A fire! This is just crazy. Dad must still be in the shower.

I looked at myself in the mirror. My morning face and my there’s possibly a fire face, oddly similar.

Alas, no time to remedy! 

“May I have your attention please.”

YES! you have my freakin’ attention!

Thankfully, I was already dressed so I put on my sneakers, grabbed my wallet and key, and left the room. 

Wahhhhhh. Wahhhhhh.

Lady in the hallway had her purse and luggage which she dragged down the stairs. 

Well, she’s clueless!

We were on the ninth floor!

I heard the sirens of the firetrucks.

Oh, my God. Is this for real?!?!

Is there gonna be smoke soon? Is anybody even staying in this hotel? Why aren’t more people running around!

When I got to the 4th floor, there was no alarm blaring.

Nobody in the hallways, except a lady in business attire, suitcase in hand, cellphone attached to her ear, attacking the elevator button. 

Another clueless individual. 

Come on ladies! Get it together! 

I put an ear to my dad’s door, but I couldn’t hear anything but the Wahhhhhh. Wahhhhhh. from the floor above us.

Did he go down without me? 

I called his cell.

“Dime Mima?”

“Donde estas?”

“Aqui en el cuarto. Y tu?”

“La alarma de fuego esta sonando. No la oistes? Estoy en tu puerta.”

“No. Me estaba bañando hasta ahora mismo que me llamastes.”

“Si, esta sonando. Bueno en mi cuarto y los otros pisos si.”

He let me in the room, and went on about his normal business of getting ready, a little too nonchalant for my liking.

So I decided to call downstairs, and double check if the building was about to go down in flames.

“Oh, it’s jut a false alarm. Great. Thanks.” If there were a sarcasm alarm I would have set it off.

“Bueno, parece que fue una falsa alarma.”

“Ok Mima. Nos vemos abajo en media hora.” He said with the same casual tone as before, as I slouched out of the room.

A fire? Big deal, right? -_-

A lady in the elevator, was heading up with a bottle of wine.

That seems like a great idea right now! I thought as I hit 9.

OMG! I forgot about Jose!

There’s no WIFI symbol?!?! 

There’s no shiny blue wifi symbol on the outside of the plane.

Hmmm.

No wifi symbol on the overhead compartments.

Double Hmmm.

There’s NO wifi on the plane?!?!

On this 5 hour long flight!

Well, what am I gonna do now?

Read a book? Write a book? Sudoku? Catch up on paperwork?

All plausible. 

Then of course I could always…

HEAVENS NO!

I can’t say the words out loud, but I can type them.

Talk with another passenger, a human being?!?! I’m just being dramatic, my sister is sitting right next to me. 

Maybe I can find a way to message with her…

Maybe the plane hasn’t reached a high enough altitude, and so they haven’t activated it (the “wifi”) yet?

Why the “finger quotes” you ask? They just make everything seem more conspirital. [Yes, I made that word up.]

The TORTURE as my youngest daughter would gasp. 

::clicks::   SETTINGS. GENERAL. WIFI.

NOPE.

No wifi -_-

We’ve gotten so spoiled in today’s world of technology. Well, I’ve gotten; I suppose I shouldn’t speak for everyone.

But hey, I am just (conveniently) embracing the ever-changing world we live in.

Much as humans accepted fire to keep warm, or the wheel to cart stuff, and then themselves around, technology is now carting us around via Uber. Nobody complains about those wonders that made our life soooo much easier. 

Still no wifi. I could probably ask the steward or stewardess, but I know what they’re gonna say, and who needs that kind of negativity in their life. 

I know we tend to get caught up in technology, but it feels even more so because of the rate at which technology has blown up; so many things are controlled from your computer or phone. 

Computers and phones become outdated so quickly, I mean who still has an iPhone 5, right? 

Probably lots of people actually.

Point is, there’s constantly a newer, better, faster version of everything coming out. 

I have no complaints though.

I love my phablet.

The truth is before there were phones you could pour Cristal all over, before iPhones and iPads even, it was call waiting, double lining, beepers, Nintendo and Playstation. For a long time now there has been some form of technology occupying our free time. We all know in the “good old days” kids played in the street, and rode their bike to school, and were at the neighbor’s house ’til sundown when it was time for supper.

Yes, Supper.
Yep. They WERE good times, but now we’re living in a time when you don’t want your kids going to the neighbors, we don’t know who they are or if we can trust them. Most homes have working parents, ain’t nobody got time for neighbors and friendly chit chat. 

Well, some people do. Good. For. You! 

Anywho. I lost track of time, thankfully. Watched “Daddy’s Home” and now watching “Mocking Jay Part 2” SO GOOD!

Back to this post. I took a short commercial break to use the bathroom. Pilot came on over the PA to say there was a Severe Thunderstorm “parked” over MIA, and we were in a “hold” position. He also suggested we “should” have enough fuel to stay in said “hold” position, but if NOT then we would have a diversion. 

A diversion? WTF? Like a party trick?

So, I decided to use the bathroom, just to make sure the diversion didn’t take place in my pants! 

The storm moved, and we are about to land. And I won’t need wifi because my beloved 4G LTE speeds will be back!

After rereading my post for unintentional grammar mistakes (the others can stay), I am finally within signal range!

Time to post! 

Technology for President?

That’s a “T” I can accept. 

iKid.

Perpetual Intern

Valsan was born in the back-room of a bodega 67 years ago.

My grandfather had several bodegas in Cuba circa 1940s. My father often retells the story of how he was born on a sack of sugar in the back of one said bodega. My grandmother, who worked quietly and faithfully by my grandfather Jose’s side, told the midwife to start getting the conditions ready because she felt she would be giving birth soon. “Getting conditions ready” meant filling a metal tub with hot water, gathering whatever scraps or towels were available, and clearing a table or floor area in the back.

In this case, my grandmother lay back on some sacks of sugar, sweating and breathing heavily. She bared down, holding her legs back, and pushed. The comadrona (midwife) received my father, Ruben Agustin Valdes, into this world on August 28, 1946. My grandmother Carmen, whom I was named after, put my father to her breast immediately. Nowadays, and specifically in the U.S., we are asked if we WANT to breast feed; but, in her time, as well as present day Cuba, you prayed for the milk to come easily.

It was not the first time a new born was heard crying from the back of the bodega. My father had 6 brothers and 3 sisters, of whom 4 brothers and 1 sister have now passed.

My dad says, Abuela Carmen was back to work the next day, but I can hardly believe it.

******

Like many Cubans, my father and his siblings made the difficult decision to leave their parents and other family behind to pursue a better life in America.

I was born during a short stay in Puerto Rico after my parents first left Cuba. My father worked as a salesman, and later started a company there with his brother. After about a year, my father felt he had learned enough about sales and merchandising, and decided it was time to go to the U.S. and start his own business there.

He would travel weekly to New York to buy merchandise. Often, he’d return the same day because he did not have enough to pay for an overnight stay at a hotel. More often than not, he would leave the house in the morning with only a tostada and cafe con leche in his stomach, and not eat again until he returned. If he had ten dollars in his pocket, it was to buy Cuban bread and croquetas for my mom, my sister and I, and the rest to reinvest in the company.

My father visited local vendors at flea markets and small strip malls to sell to them. Little by little, his clientele grew, until he was able to open his own post in the strip mall. It was between 400-800 sq feet. Valsan sold earrings, bracelets and necklaces, sunglasses, coin purses; many items, but wholesale only. Eventually, with God on his side, my dad’s hard work and discipline paid off, and he moved to a larger location where he also began to sell to the retail public.

******

I have been working at Valsan all my life.

I wasn’t born in the back of a bodega like my father, but most of my earliest memories are of watching cartoons in the office, or Jeff Smith on The Frugal Gourmet*, a cooking show that aired after Sesame Street, or was it The Muppets.

*Yes, I googled the name, I was only 3 or 4 then. None of it stuck, anyhow; I’m a terrible cook.

I remember when we got our first compute—the black screen and green letters, and all the professionalism it represented. I was always eager to play secretary, but I was forbidden to explore this obscure version of Windows.

Instead, I kept myself entertained with the green chalkboard behind our secretary’s door, erasing some important delivery information or other factoid, to doodle trees, clouds and rainbows, maybe an unruly squirrel. The work of an 8 year old is never done.

I only “worked” on the weekends or holidays during the school year, but over the summer I was there almost every day.

I had many “friends” at work. Of course, I was too young and naive to realize they were sort of obligated to be nice to me. But anyhow, I “helped” everybody. I was particularly handy at testing out the toys. A lot of them came with those small annoying “try me” batteries that often wore out before the toy left the shelf.

I helped the secretary most of all, when she had nothing to do. We would play circulitos. Basically, your goal is to connect 2 dots during each turn, until you complete a square. Then, you initial the square, and the most squares wins. She never “let me win”, and I’m grateful for that.

Christmas and Mother’s day meant lots of work and big sales, but were usually followed by a slower season which meant personnel cuts. I recall one January, clasping my hands together and begging my father,”Papi, please don’t fire Mary. She’s my friend.”

I don’t know if it was my somber look, or if he really had no intention of letting her go, but Mary’s been with us for about 20 years.

As I got older, I got more and more involved in the day to day operations, like the register. Customer service was not my forte. I was a magnet for belligerent customers who wanted to return something used (that was working perfectly fine), or who had some other “important”, yet unfounded suggestion.

“This is cheaper at…”, “Everything here is crap”, or “You only have two cashiers?”. Mind you, there were, literally, 3 people in line at the time.

What I could never understand, but was unequivocally grateful for anyways, was the fact that despite their complaints, they still handed me money.

******

Between schoolwork and homework, Monday through Friday, and work-work on the weekend, I was “overworked”.

I once argued that it was against the law to make me go to Valsan, because I was a minor, and I couldn’t be forced to work more than x amount of hours. My father, who was driving us to work at the time, glared at me through the rearview. His look was worse than a swift kick in the pants; I dropped the issue…for the moment.

I had already decided I was going to be a lawyer. Apparently, recalling some Charles Dickens novel, I would stand up for minors and uphold the child labor laws.

I didn’t want any part in the wholesale or retail business my parents had built from the minivan up. Who wants to work six or seven days a week, even on holidays, and day-a-way hurricanes? Apparently, we weren’t Jewish, Christian, Catholic, or Muslim. Atheist, I suppose; although, I often heard my dad say,”Gracias a Dios.

Over the years, as the business grew, we went from staying at my uncle’s house, to a 2/1 townhouse, to a house-house where my sister and I each had our own room. My dad had progressed from a large red Ford van to a sleek black four door Mercedes.

Thankfully, we always had enough of what we needed, and were blessed with many things that we wanted.

My complaints consisted of,”Why do we have to work?”,”I wanna stay home and sleep,” or “Can’t I go to the beach with my friends?”

My father was very strict with my older sister and I; although, I got permission to do more than she did. Like I said, in my heart I was already a lawyer. I argued with my father on the why’s and when’s of my social life. Each time, I was ready with several points and examples to back my case. If I had been a little more computer savvy, I could’ve prepared a compelling PowerPoint on my Gateway.

I often failed and cried from frustration, but other times, my logic and or perseverance won him over.

I was very clear on one thing—I was NOT going to be a slave like my parents. I was going to be a famous lawyer and make the “real money”, not work all the time, arguing with customers over nickels and dimes.

All along my father told me I could study and work wherever I wanted.

******

Today, I am president of my own Valsan location. My older sister also runs one of our six locations. We are involved in almost every aspect of the business—schedules, payroll, accounting, advertising, purchasing, pricing, etc.

Our youngest sister handles the social media aspects of the business, website development, and other marketing tools, in addition to sharing many of the tasks I mentioned before.

My father is still the head honcho. He works from our headquarters, where my sister and I grew up playing hide-and-seek-and-knock over as many boxes as you can in the warehouse.

I visit that location 2-3 times a week. On those days, I am basically, my father’s intern. He does everything and nothing all at once.

My father used to do everything, whether it was carrying boxes or writing the checks. Eventually, 30 boxes became 30 pallets, and 30 pallets became six 53′ containers. Valsan went from a strip mall kiosk, to six locations amassing over 150,000 square feet of retail space. Now, he does more of the managing than the hard labor, and the mental stress is definitely much more exhausting.

It is pretty unnerving being with my dad all day.

“Get me this, fax that, call so and so, bring me those, take me there, walk with me, listen to me, tell me, sit with me, did you email so and so, what did they say,” and so on. The “right now” is implied, and usually comes while I am mid-meal, walking to the bathroom, or completing one of his other requests.

The other day I burst out in laughter, as he interrupted my bite into a sandwich, to ask me to make a call. I said, “You’re messing with me, right?”

His genuine look of confusion when he asked me “why” led me to believe he is completely unaware of the level of stress he so easily, albeit inadvertently, imposes.

******

Recently, my father, two employees, and I walked through Miami International Airport towards the terminal where we would soon be departing to Los Angeles, where we purchase a large portion of our goods. My father walked ahead of us with his hands behind his back retelling some anecdote from his entrepreneurial past. He was walking slowly, yet we struggled to keep up, listening intently like interns doing rounds. I wanted to write down everything he was saying. To absorb every piece of information regarding work, life, or other, that came from his mind.

******

Everyday that I am with him, trying to juggle ten tasks at a time, trying to learn from him and impress him all at once, and still listen for his next instruction or piece of virtue; all the while, I wonder when I’ll get to take a break for lunch.

And I hope, I can have lunch with him.