EE - Exceeds Expectations 

EE was equivalent to an A in elementary school. I remember getting all EE's on my report cards. I always exceeded expectations. I was great at math, I kicked ass in reading comprehension, and my writing was so good that my teachers would often have me read my stories at the front of the class.

For years, I was pulled out of my afternoon classes to go to a special gifted class at the school library. At those classes, we got to do really neat projects that were somewhat guided by adults, but were mostly based on questions we asked. We were allowed to be curious and to find answers to our expanding list of questions. While other kids stayed in class gluing bits of colored paper to a larger colored paper, we got to do things like create micro sets of a city to film mini movies, or work on science labs that most kids wouldn't touch until high school. One year, I was even singled out to take a solo field trip to the local high school to meet with the newspaper team and learn about journalism.

Please note how much I underlined the word "special" in this clip. Reading it in print meant a lot to me.  Note: The sports editor was dressed up for senior pics. It was 1978. Ruffles were cool.  Also: Cinthya is my real name. What? You thought my conservative Catholic mother would name me after a stripper? Come on...

Please note how much I underlined the word "special" in this clip. Reading it in print meant a lot to me.

Note: The sports editor was dressed up for senior pics. It was 1978. Ruffles were cool.

Also: Cinthya is my real name. What? You thought my conservative Catholic mother would name me after a stripper? Come on...

So many adults in my life believed in me.

And then suddenly... it ended.

My mother, worried for our everlasting souls, stuck us in Catholic school. Worst. Decision. Ever. I was still one of the smarter kids in class, so the other students were impressed, but the nuns and B-team teachers favored the kids that behaved well and sat quietly. From reading my blog, you must have a few assumptions about me, one of which is that I probably wasn't the kind of kid to sit quietly. Your assumption would be correct. No, I was the kid that argued religious dogma and questioned why we were praying more than equating. My only other ally was a girl named Shannon Smith. We had a bit of a rivalry, always vying for the best grade in class. If it wasn't for her and our sometimes unfriendly competition, my brain would have turned to oatmeal. Eventually, we left Catholic school, not because my mom saw the error of her ways, but because she and my step-dad were heading towards divorce and finances would be tight. Tuition was no longer a luxury we'd be able to afford.

Plus, Catholics frown upon divorce.

I entered a public junior high at a school that I wasn't supposed to go to using a friend of the family's address. My mom didn't want me to go to the school where I had toured the newspaper at because, in her mind, there were too many bad kids there. By "bad," she meant Mexicans and Blacks. I always reminded her that A) we were Mexican, and B) there were rumors that my dad had a not-too-distant African ancestor, so technically, she was taking me away from the very things that I was. She just shushed me and sent me to the whiter school anyway. This move planted a tiny seed of self-hatred that would eventually blossom into the bleaching of my hair and denying my own ethnicity for many years.

I didn't know ANYONE. I was surrounded by Barbies and Kens, and I felt out of place as a fat, wiry-haired Mexican kid in my Waspy/Mormon surroundings. My only redeeming quality that saved me were my blue eyes. Those gave me a pass. The hairy legs and arms of my people? Not so much. But I eventually, I shaved my legs, made some friends, and started to fit in. 

Middle school was the start of being ushered from class to class by bells. Each forty minute increment was lead by an overwhelmed teacher who had too many kids to deal with. Nobody even bothered to find out how smart I was. Nobody had time. That was something that needed to happen at home, but the adults in my life were even more overwhelmed than my teachers.

By the ninth grade, I was ditching class a lot, mostly because nobody was paying attention. I'd show up only to beg forgiveness of the teacher to let me back in. I had found a couple of sisters with parents that didn't pay attention, either. They left joints and pills laying around after mid-week binges and the sisters would imitate that behavior. I learned to smoke Marlboro Lights and Virginia Slim Menthols, the same cigarettes that the girls' parents smoked.

I remember one afternoon, putting a cigarette out just as I rounded the corner to come home. I caught a WASPy woman's eye inside the house a few doors down from mine. She gave me the "tisk tisk" look and shook her head disapprovingly. For a split second, I felt the warmth of shame cover my face. It quickly faded to a resentful and arrogant this-is-what-you-guys-expect look that I sneered back at her.

I remember my mom and grandma yelling at me every time I got in any trouble. They'd go back and forth between "this is what we expected" to "how could you let us down?" I was as disappointed and confused as they were. How COULD I let them down? They were both struggling to keep me fed, housed, and clothed. I never once thought about the fact that they showered me with such negative expectations.

I was exceeding their worst expectations because that's the bar they set.

Whatever it was I wanted, any idea or goal I had in my mind, my family would just shoot down. Instead of cheers of support, I heard:. "Oh sure you will" or "And then you'll think you're too good for this family" or "With what money?" But the little girl who got pulled out of class for special projects just because she was smart... that little girl never gave up. She got quiet for a while, but she was always there, in a tiny little box, waiting for someone to let her out again.

It wasn't until half way through the tenth grade that I met people that told me I could achieve the things I believed. And they helped me regain what I'd lost. But a kid's mind is impressionable. In the back of my mind, I still believed some of what the short-sighted adults believed. There were so many years that I just wanted to give up, but that spark that had been lit in grade school always fanned the flames and helped me get back on my feet.

My family meant well. They were afraid for me. That fear paralyzed them and in turn, they tried to paralyze me, not because they didn't love me, but because they DID love me. They just loved me the wrong way.

I thought about this today when I read Seth Godin's post about The Tragedy of Small Expectations. Tragedy is the most fitting word, isn't it? What we expect of the kids in our world is what they eventually expect from themselves. If we expect that they won't go to Pepperdine because the family can't afford it and the student probably won't get a scholarship, but rather end up pregnant, well guess what? She'll give up, get pregnant, and never go to Pepperdine. 

And that is a tragedy.

It's the rare exception that overcomes her circumstances to go on to do great things all on her own. Most people make it because someone, or a group of someones, believed that they could. It's not about a universal secret. It's about instilling a confidence into a young person's mind, an expectation that they will win. When there's a big final coming up, rather than giving up because they probably aren't good at a subject, they'll hear that supportive voice telling them they can and will pass that test. They won't quit just because things got a little harder.

The expectations are set and they have to meet them.

If a little girl comes to you and says "I want to go to this university and study that subject and become a successful person," do her a favor, would you? Stuff all your well-meaning fears down your throat... choke on them if you have to... and then, looking beyond her skin color and her ill-fitting hand-me-downs, ignoring her present circumstances, simply say to her, 

"I believe you can."

And then do everything you can to help her believe it, too.

As the Crow Flies #MyYoga

There may be a slight chance I'm a little OCD. I can obsess over a lot of things in very minute detail. I told you about my obsession with lunch. Now, I'm going to tell you about my obsession with yoga poses.

In the middle of the day, my mind often wanders to things that may not seem normal to you... or most people. In between thoughts about what my life would have been like had I been born into royalty, I think about the physics of certain yoga poses. I wonder what move I need to tweak to enhance the overall pose. 

My family is used to me randomly getting up from the couch or the kitchen table or wherever I happen to be sitting and thinking, and then walking over to my practice spot to try a pose one more time. Sometimes, I'll yell out, "Picture!!!" And most of the time, one of the kids makes it over in time to snap a shot of my pose so I can see what I'm doing.

One of my favorite things to do is to stand on my head. (I know... not normal.) I've been working on this since I was a kid. But in a recent picture that I asked my daughter to snap (for Instagram, of course), I noticed I wasn't in alignment. My body was slightly bent over at the hips, toes pointed at an angle, not directly up from my body. So I did a little tweaking while my daughter impatiently snapped my results. I found that I lined up better if I tightened my core a bit and arched my lower back ever so slightly. It was a slight change, but it made a big difference.

And then I had an Instagram worthy headstand. Because it's all about the 'gram.

Every day I'm head standin'. #myyoga #yoga

A photo posted by Sugar Jones (@sugarjones) on

A few weeks ago, I was in one of my moods and thought that if I moved my elbows closer to my head, I might be able to balance better on my forearm stands. I haven't been able to get my legs up and over my head, but I did a decent attempt at splits. It wasn't Instagram worthy, but it did make it on to Twitter.

Sometimes, no matter how many pictures I take, I can't quite seem to make the pose do what it's supposed to. Like my crow. If you know your poses, you know that my knees need to be tucked in to my armpits and my arms should be straighter. But I'm still learning to fly this thing, so this is my crow.

It's a particularly difficult pose, with the added issue of landing on your face should things go askew. Hence the lovely pillow under my face. If you're wondering, yes... my face DID land in it right after this picture was taken. The way the pose is supposed to end is the yogini pushes her legs back and lands in a plank or chataranga.

I'm not even joking.

But I'm determined. So I found a great instructional video for perfecting the crow in the library at MyYogaOnline. I just added it to my favorites and hope to have this sucker down by the end of the summer.

Psst... this is a sponsored post for My Yoga Online/ Gaiam TV that I accepted because of how well it aligns with my life. Namaste!

My New Obsession with Lunch

Six months ago, I took on a client that sells bento style lunch boxes for kids and adults. My job was to share content, engage with fans and influencers, and grow awareness of the brand. I thought there would be plenty of user pics to share, but after about two weeks, I had to get cracking on making my own lunches to post.

Bento Lunch Box Meal - Chicken Cucumber Rolls

My first attempts were not very creative, but they were still good. It's hard to come up with new lunch ideas every day, so I started taking a look at what other lunch-a-holics were posting and found some really great ideas. That's when I fell deep into the world of making lunches. 

Bento Lunch Box - Chicken on Rice Noodles with Rainbow Salad

I started waking up thinking about lunch. Every day, I'd head out to Trader Joe's or Sprouts... some days both... looking for items to put in the lunch boxes. Sometimes I knew what I wanted. Other days, I'd wander through the aisles, seemingly lost, but really, I was just looking for sizes that would fit in compartments and colors of food that would coordinate. Soon enough, I started making some pretty sweet lunches. 

Bento Lunc Boxes - Mommy and Me Picnic

Making lunches to post on Instagram has made for a great exercise in meal creation and photography.  I like to focus more on the nutritional value of the food than making anything super cute, but I do like to make sure the food is presented beautifully and that the colors balance. In a few of the meals, you'll see that I've thrown in some fun little cut outs, but I haven't really done much as far as making food art. 

This tray pops out of the BentgoKids lunch box. Easy clean up and fun for at-home meals.

This tray pops out of the BentgoKids lunch box. Easy clean up and fun for at-home meals.

I've been posting my lunch creations, some for myself and some for the kids, at least three times a week since then. After so many lunches, I've learned a few lessons along the way:  

  • Blackberries are a bitch to photograph.
  • Green eggs are simple to make and fun to eat. 
  • Spiralizing your veggies make kids think they taste better. 
  • Always restrain your dog before setting up your food to shoot.
  • You can really fill up on portion-controlled meals, if you pack really good food.

Needless to say, I'm really enjoying this part of my job. 

Want your own lunch box?

Click to buy a Bentgo Lunch Box

Click to buy a Bentgo Kids Lunch Box

Not sure what to pack for lunch? Follow Bentgo on Pinterest and Instagram for some fresh ideas.