Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Accepted at Harvard!

Marcos has taken some time off of school this semester to work diligently with a start-up company on a medical prototype. There have been four people working on the project, each playing an important role in their piece of the puzzle, from the mathematician working with the raw data at one end, to the graphics man who designs the layout of the screen on the panel that the doctor reads. Marcos has been the software developer; the man who writes the code that commands most of the inner workings to function properly.

And the news of this week? Harvard has accepted the machine! Woo-HOO! The University of Michigan is running pre-clinical trials this week at their medical facilities, and with Harvard on board, we are hoping and praying that this is the beginning of something big. We have a lot to be thankful for this week...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

War Zone

This isn't a message about the future of Afghanistan, or even about Iraq. This is about here and now, in my stomach.

Marcos and I have been inside for almost two days straight, me working on endless papers and preparing for a presentation, and Marcos doing his ingenious programming on the computer in the other room. We have had a few breaks here and there to make life manageable, and they have been mainly spent preparing food and eating.

It's a war zone in my belly, and I have a feeling that it will be a close match. Between the two of us, we have eaten... entire block of tofu... entire head of lettuce...

...and an entire carton of ice-cream. Let the wild rumpus start!

Friday, November 21, 2008

As of late...

Life as of late has been rather busy, and somewhat stressful with the end of the semester and all of the obligatory papers and presentations right around the river bend. During an early-afternoon meeting today (right when my biological system heads out on its daily sabbatical - clearly not the best time for meetings), my eyelids were fluttering, so my supervisor shouted "wake-up!" and threw her hands out in the air. I was shocked. Luckily, nobody on our team seemed to care, and we kept on with the meeting unperturbed. However, I did take a mental note to nudge my co-workers if they are struggling to stay awake in a meeting or training, so that it's not the person running the meeting who has to do the dirty work.

Our calendar for the past few weeks: some days there's barely breathing time. Whew!

So here's a question for you (and feel free to click on the button below this post labeled "comments" to respond if you have any thoughts): How do you stay awake during meetings/trainings/conferences, etc? Regardless of whether or not I am actually interested in the subject - and usually I am because I love to learn - sometimes I feel completely out-of-control narcoleptic. A friend once told me to tickle the top of my mouth with my tongue when I'm feeling tired, but that just feels ookie after a while...

Dear Readers, the space is yours. Please give me some tips so that I can survive this internship!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sweet Dreams Tonight

Not only did we see our FIRST FEW SNOWFLAKES today but we also have a new addition to the Prieto household: a real bed!

A less well-known fact about us is that we have never owned a bed, in the year and a half that we have been married. We invested in a fabulous air mattress right before our wedding that we thought would be great for the first few months of marriage, and I guess we were never uncomfortable enough to make it worth our while to move on.

But there's a time and a season for everything. Here's our bedroom with its new set-up: a smidgen bachelor-pad-esque, but we've been hesitant to commit wall decor to this room for some reason. Doesn't that bed look comfortable? Stay tuned for the updates: one of my next projects is to make new curtains, and Pullock the left wall. Just kidding. But really? We are so excited for a good nights sleep...

Marcos' desk for I-work-at-home purposes, our palacial closet, and mini-bookshelf; another view of the bed.

Our interesting corner. (Eek! We've been exposed! Notice that we actually use a large rustic bookshelf for our clothes! Maybe the next new addition to the Prieto house will be a proper dresser! Nahhh).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Copy Cat

Our dear friends the Angells are moving to the Bay area on Wednesday for Chris to pursue his post-doc at Berkeley, and so this afternoon we spent some time together, eating, taking pictures, creating a blog for their family so that we can always be updated with pictures of our growing little friend Ren, etc., etc.

So, crack me up! Marcos decided to copy Ren for some reason, and we ended up with these photos:

And here are some sweeter ones. A little reminder why Marcos is such a beautiful man:

"I get by with a little help from my friends."
- John Lennon

Friday, November 14, 2008

Square Breathing

Question: Do you ever get angry, impatient, or just like to breathe?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, square breathing is for you! I discovered this technique a few months ago during a lecture I attended on the topic of "mindfulness".

Basically, square breathing is simply the practice of inhaling slowly for two counts, holding your breath for two counts, exhaling for two, and then holding again for two. Seem simple? It is, and it's very effective. My personal testimonial is that I have been better at holding at bay angry or impatient reactions when I am interacting with other people because I am trying to use my square breathing. Next time you feel your temperature rising, try square breathing to self-regulate and gain control so that you can disagree without being disagreeable.

P.S. Why didn't I think of this prior to election day?!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I don't have bad days very often; it's just not my style. But a few days ago life was just pushing my buttons. Thing after thing just wasn't working out, and I was late for my class. As I ran out the door, a thought flashed through my mind: "Bring the chocolate chips"...

This should be the illustration for an Edgar Allen Poe poem...

As I ran down the hill to the bus stop, the bus roared on down the hill without me, and I could feel myself start to stress out. Then I had an idea: I would take a picture of myself with a pathetic look on my face, waiting at the bus stop with my chocolate chips, and then I would make a blog entry about how sad my life was. No joke. As soon as that little self-pitying thought crossed my mind, I cracked up laughing, and that was the end of it.

So I came up with the term "blogotherapy" to describe the therapeutic experience of blogging about one's life. It smacks a little of "logotherapy" from Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning", but I figured the term would do for now. I don't know about you, but I find blogging at the end of a long day to be a fabulously creative, expressive, and therapeutic use of my time...

Chicken Soup for the my-pocket-hurts-from-this-economic-crisis person's soul

Hallelujah! Gas prices are going back down! From nearly $4.00 a month ago, we're seeing an almost daily decrease in gas prices at our local gas stations. After clicking my heels and filling up the tanker at this station, my friends told me that at Sam's Club the price is $2.15 a gallon! Dang!

As a side story, I was wearing my boots today with a skirt and a long coat (read: hot, dang hot.), and I stopped at this very gas station to tank up. Since I have been commuting back and forth from Chapel Hill to Durham these days, I decided to listen to Barack's and my boyfriend's good advice and put air in my tires. I reversed through the entire parking lot (read: smooth, dang smooth.) over to the air pump, and proceeded to act like I knew what I was doing by taking the little black caps off of the little doo-hickeys sticking out of the tire.

As I put in my $.75 for air, I noticed that two men walking by on the sidewalk had seen that a white lady in boots and a skirt was in a neighborhood with very few white people, putting her own air into her tires. One nudged the other, pointed at me, and laughed. Internally I laughed along with them, but my inner feminist voice kept up the mantra, "Straight face... Fake it 'til you make it. Fake it 'til you make it". Oh, and did I ever. It took me until about 10 seconds short of my 3 minute air time limit to realize that the first 2 minutes and 50 seconds had been a complete waste of money because you actually have to squeeze the handle for air to come out of the hose, but with a perfect poker face, I dropped another $.75 into the machine, and we were rockin' and rollin'...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friends in High Places

In my life I've often thought about the phrase "friends in high places" and concluded that I don't have any. I'm not on intimate terms with anyone who has extraordinary wealth or power, and those two concepts have always been the foundation of my understanding of the term "high places".

And then recently, my paradigm shifted. A friend told me that her hens were laying like crazy, and that she was going out of town, and... would I come over and take some eggs? I was so excited. As I was walking to my car with a carton of fresh brown eggs a few hours later, it struck me that indeed, I have a lot of friends in high places: they may not have exceeding power or wealth, but I am on intimate terms with many people who are talented, generous, resourceful, spiritual and wise. I have just been defining "high places" wrongly all these years...

Happy American Birthday Danny!

A Boy Celebrating His Birthday, ca. 1940, a classicly fabulous photo by Hugh Morton, UNC archives

This week was momentous in the Prieto family. Marcos' older brother Daniel celebrated the crowning event of immigration to the United States - naturalization and citizenship! On Wednesday November 5th (notice: one day after election day) his wife Marie, daughter Kaitlyn and Marie's family attended his naturalization ceremony in Salt Lake City, and out of the 250 people receiving citizenship that day, Danny was the only Brazilian! Danny received a new birth certificate with the signature of George Bush, and so... it only seems right to wish him a HAPPY AMERICAN BIRTHDAY!

The Least Favorite Assignment Gone GOOD

Gina Marchando Photography

Recently, to my surprise and pleasure, my least favorite assignment of the semester crossed over from the dark side and became useful. Maybe I'd even say enjoyable.

Last week in one of my classes we were required to videotape ourselves doing a very brief snippet of "family centered" therapy, and I have to admit that I was less than thrilled to videotape myself as a therapist. Granted, in my field work I am required to videotape myself nearly every week for the sake of fidelity to the Parent Child Interaction Therapy model we use at my agency, but the layout of the class assignment required a family scenario outside of my comfort level. During the 15-minute videotape, I was supposed to focus on the goal-making segment of my work with a family, and focus on empowering the family to set the goal, ask about previous attempts to solve the problem and use all of my mad skills to help the family feel good about the new goal, and optimistic about being able to accomplish it.

The real catch? After critiqueing our own videos, we had to exchange videotapes with another classmate, and do a peer review of each other doing family centered therapy. That part was also not a highlight of the assignment, but luckily we weren't graded on our performance as therapists, we were only being graded on the quality of the critiques, and for the concreteness of the improvement plan we created with all of the feedback.

So, what was initially a really negative experience crossed the line to being positive. Not that the feedback from my therapy was all puppy dogs and rainbows, but I now have some solid and specific things to work on that will help my future me be a more therapeutic clinician, and that's worth videotaping any day...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Get out and VOTE!

For three weeks now Marcos and I have had a note on our calendar for Tuesday, November 4th: "Obama wins!". After staying up late for the past few months watching rallies, debates, interviews, and even the SNL spoofs, it is clear to us that Obama is level-headed, thoughtful, insightful, intelligent, direct and genuine, and that he will make a great President.

However, regardless of your political leaning this election season, please get it together tomorrow and participate in one of the most exciting and historical elections of your life! Remember that voting straight ticket (a box you can check that will automatically select all democrats or all republicans) does NOT include voting for president, so don't forget to bubble in your presidential choice!

In celebration, Marcos and I are going to an election party tomorrow night and we are SO excited! There will be prizes for those who bring the most accurate electoral maps filled out, and we will watch the results come in and play election games! Woo-hoo for democracy!

Halloween on Franklin Street

Anyone who knows Chapel Hill, North Carolina knows that downtown Franklin Street is a zoo on Halloween night. Both this year and last year, Marcos and I went downtown to check out the madness, and take pictures and watch the parading goons. Last year about 80,000 people came to Franklin Street dressed up or just to watch the colorful mess of costumes, but this year the town launched a strategic plan for keeping the party to a reasonable size (= keep out the Duke Students), and it worked: only 35,000 showed up on Franklin Street this year. With a security/law enforcement crew of 400 lining Franklin Street and barring weapons, etc. from getting into the one-night pedestrian zone, it actually felt quite safe... although 9 people were taken to UNC hospitals for intoxication-related issues, so there is still some room for improvement.

I'm actually not sure what these guys are supposed to be, but I loved the Pippy wigs. You'll notice that the majority of these photos are of men. I didn't notice I was taking only pictures of men until I was at home looking at the pictures on the computer. My two theories of why I unknowingly took mainly pictures of men are: 1) As a woman I felt more comfortable asking men if I could take their picture, and 2) many women let out their inner floozie on Halloween night, and I wasn't really interested in pictures of their costumes.

Convincingly German!

Look at the joy people radiate when I ask them for their picture! People really get into character!

Yay! Marcos shaking hands with our next President, Barack Obama! We voted for YOU!

Just to give you a taste...

All about Ren...

I just can't get enough of little Ren Angell, and he just becomes more and more perfect as time goes on. We visited with Kokoro, Chris and Ren over at the Empeys this afternoon, and I had to get a picture from every possible angle of the Little Man's face. And now, I can't decide which is the absolute cutest one, so I'm doing you a favor and including all of them. You're welcome...