on culture adjustment

Today I stayed home sick with a terrible cough and sore body. It’s been awhile since I’ve stayed home and it’s been more than ten years since I’ve been to a doctor’s office in the U.S.

I was reminded about how long I’ve been gone when I didn’t know how to schedule a doctor’s appointment or what my co-pay was going to be. I never had to worry about that stuff in Mexico because we just paid the doctor in cash as needed.

At one point the office assistant today asked me who I wanted for my primary care physcian and I remembered back to when I was a child and we had a family doctor. But I didn’t know that she would direct me to a wall of photos and I would pick out a face that pleased me. It just seemed strange since I was used to recieiving medical attention and prescriptoin receipts from the nearest community doctor located inside the back of the pharmacy in Mexico. I never had a choice about who I would see and it didn’t seem to matter since they were all doctors.

Then came the multiple steps required for me to leave the office with a prescription. This same process took 15 minutes in Mexico from appointment time to prescription in hand.

And even at the pharmacy here in the U.S. I was reminded of my tendency to “not fit” when the clerk recieved my papers and simply stated, “you wanted two…. there is only one” and I began silently grasping to undertand what she meant by that comment and I said that I was only given those papers and she responded, “ok and are you in the system? I replied with embarrassment, “No, I’m not in your system”. And she reponded, “Did you have them send the paperwork to me?” I responded, “I didn’t know I needed to have them send you anything since I had these papers”. She replied with a sigh, “Ok… I’ll look for you in the system”. After many clicks and punches on her keyboard she was able to find something from the doctor and then she looked at me as if I was doing something wrong again and then she said, “You can go now… it won’t be ready for another 30 minutes or more”. And I responded with a confused look, “Ok… thanks I’ll come back later”. I don’t remember waiting 30 minutes for prescriptions to be filled in Mexico.

The only familiar thing I encountered today was the exam room. I recognized the same instruments and exam tables from Mexico. But other than that I felt out of place in every other step of the process today. I’m tired of feeling lost at times. I’m tired of wondering what people mean by their inside jokes and references to politics and government. It’s in those moments that I’m reminded how I completely missed my “young adult” experience in the U.S. and at times it’s overwhelming to bridge that gap.

I learned to be an adult in a different place with different systems, different values, and different expectations. It’s like I’m going back to school to learn how to be a 35 year old adult in a new culture. Yet this culture is my culture and I feel as though these systems should be imprinted on me but somehow they are not. It’s just different that’s all. Not wrong. Just different.

dad and gramps on kid duty

This week my wife is gone at a conference and it’s up to me and my dad to take care of the two boys in preschool and 1st grade. We are both a little nervous and excited at the same time. The hardest part by far is the morning wake up and eat routine. Such a struggle to get the clothes on, food in the mouth, hair to the side, and toothbrush on the teeth. I know we are going to make it but change in routine is hard for us all. Here is a photo of the lunches that mommy packs and we have been using these photos as reference to put together their lunches this week.

boys lunches 1 boys lunches2

Inclusion conference for high school students

Inclusion: Diversity and sexual preference in the work place. This was an excellent training that involved both students and teachers. We invited three guest speakers to join us for the training day and we spent the time working in small groups and then reflecting in the large group sessions. I learned that it is important to not shy away from student questions when they are searching for understanding. Often times our students may come across as offensive but we need to remember that they are learning how to express their opinions responsibly and our role is to gently guide them during this process. 

on work and family

I often spend too much time thinking about how I could streamline a particular task at work. I often break down each click, decision, and keystroke into an if/then scenario. My goal is to finish the boring tasks in a short amount of time while still maintaining the accuracy. In general I severely under utilize the power of my computer to perform monotonous tasks. Over the past three years I’ve identified and created workflows for hundreds of things that I do at work each day. One of the best examples is using an Apple Script to recognize text in all downloaded PDF documents and then set multiple rules with Hazel to organize those files in the appropriate folder with the date and title. This workflow is triggered by a single click.
The other day I was researching and practicing the keyboard shortcuts for text editing in my Gmail messages. I decided that it was taking me too long to edit emails by using the mouse so I learned to use keyboard shortcuts to move the cursor between words, insert bullets, or delete frontwards and backwards. I’m sure that the total time spent learning these shortcuts may be more than the time it would take to edit with the mouse, but I believe that the time invested was worth it. Becoming a power user with Gmail, with Evernote, with TextExpander, and with my Mac saves me more time in the long run. I enjoy finding new ways to automate the tasks that would otherwise cause burn-out in my job. So why am I so obsessed with automation?
I believe that if we discipline ourselves to automate tasks then our minds will be ready to handle the work that requires critical thinking and soon we will find our selves breezing through challenging work in less time. This increase in productivity will provide more time for living and learning with our family and friends. I include two photos below of the boys who motivate me to work hard and work smart so I can feel successful at work and then dedicate quality time with them when the work is done.
work and fam work and fam2

slackline and balance training

Three weeks ago I purchased a 1 inch slackline made by a local juggling shop in Guadalajara. I had just finished reading the book Eat and Run by Scott Jurek and he wrote about how the slackline can help to improve running technique and strengthen the core. I had seen teenagers playing on slacklines before but I always considered it something for young adults with too much free-time.  I never considered it as something that a world class ultrarunner would use for training.

Despite my initial doubts I was hooked from the start. I remember as I unrolled the webbing and strung it across the 30 foot gap between a post and a palm tree in our garden area I felt young again. I felt that genuine smile of little kid glee as I maneuvered my body in search of balance while suspended two inches off the grass. The new challenge was exactly what I needed to get my mind off work and start enjoying life more.

Of course during the first two weeks I could barely stand on one foot without getting bucked off on both sides. My legs quivered and jostled back and forth as I slowly learned to breath, tighten the core, and focus my eyes on the trunk of the palm tree. The photo below shows how far I’ve come in three weeks. My legs are stable, my hands move slowly, my eyes remain fixed on the post, and my core has become notably stronger. All these skills combine to make slacklining super fun and addicting!

20130407-215105.jpg

Learning to run better – what is CrossFit?

So I have four more days until Spring Break is over and then I’m back to work. So far the break has been a mix of everything: fun in the mountains, running in the mornings, listening to podcasts, but mostly just taking care of my two boys and my wife who injured her back muscles while lifting our youngest. I’m not sure what is more difficult, working 10 hour days with a never ending list of tasks and problems or taking care of a four year old and a one year old at home. It’s a toss up.

Anyhow… this post is not about work or spring break. It’s about the new book I’m reading titled, “Power, Speed, Endurance” by Brian MacKenzie. The first section is dedicated entirely to correct running technique and the idea that runners don’t need to injure themselves in order to run faster and longer. The author talks about CrossFit and how the best athletes are well rounded individuals who could perform well in almost any physical challenge with a little practice. I’m a complete newbie when it comes to CrossFit. Sure I’ve heard the term and seen conversations on Twitter about CrossFit challenges. But now that I’m immersed in this book and really considering the potential benefits of a holistic approach to training it all seems to fit nicely into the research and knowledge I’ve been reading for the past few years.

To begin,  I’m making it a point to learn how to use gravity to my advantage when running in a race and practice tilting my whole body forward in order to increase speed. This morning I went for a run and took my jump rope along so I could practice the tilt. It wasn’t nearly as easy as I had hoped and it was obvious that I’m not tilting my body enough when I run. I tend to overextend my leg in front to reduce the feeling of falling on my face and that places extra strain on my legs and joints.

natural running with forward lean

These children run naturally with the correct forward lean. We just need to remember how we learned to run as kids.

Pushing for change with unanswered questions

“The essence of leadership is being aware of your fear and seeing it in the people you wish to lead. Awareness is the key to making progress.” – Seth Godin, Tribes

Many times leadership requires me to push in a direction that still has unanswered questions. I’ve been given advice from other leaders who say that you must lead from your experience and if you haven’t walked the road yourself then you can’t expect others to follow. In some cases I agree but in most cases I would say that isn’t possible. I would say most of the time leadership is stepping in a new direction with unanswered questions. The change we need requires the whole team to move in the same direction at the same time. I can do my best to learn from other teams who have made similar changes but I can’t accurately predict how our team and each member of our team will react to the change. For this reason I think it’s enough to identify the needed change and then move ahead with the best available strategy. Then along the way I can listen to the team and either make small adjustments to the plan or accept that the plan is not going to work and start again from the beginning.

I am currently working with our team of high school teachers and students to practice grade level consensus meetings in which topics are generated from students and teachers and each member’s opinion is given equal importance. I’m convinced of our need for this change but my fear of the unknown makes me doubt that we will have success. The change requires a considerable amount of patience and flexibility since the meetings are scheduled for one hour and on average only two topics are addressed during the hour.  These two skills, patience and flexibility, are exceedingly difficult for me to do in my personal life and even more difficult in my professional life. I take pride in my getting things done work flow and disconnecting for an hour interrupts my fast paced day. Although I’m confident that these meetings are key to building a positive school culture, I fear the loss of time and slow progression towards change. I also fear the increased workload that will come when I need to make deep changes to our traditional school practice.

Despite these fears I cannot stand still and do nothing. Now that I’m aware of our need for student voice I must move in that direction.