Of Friendship, Goodbye…..and Hope

Friendship brings so much into our lives. True friendship, I mean. Life would be a desolated place without our friends. Many would argue that family comes first and I would agree, but many of us have either lived away from family or have families that are not supportive or caring. It’s a fact, not a judgement.

This new year has brought friendship front and center for me already. It has been expected, but it is still difficult. It began last year with the celebration of our 50 years of graduating from high school. I have become involved again with those girls I went to school with so long ago. It has been wonderful!!!

With all the excitement of the week of celebration, I got even closer to my best friend in school. For years we were inseparable, knew each others’ secrets, supported each other in our crises and laughed and cried when needed. We have kept in touch and have shared the ways our lives have changed in these past 50 years.

Since she lives in Panama and I’ve lived everywhere, it has not been easy, but we have managed. Her mother was originally  from Curaçao and somehow I couldn’t get her to visit while I lived there. I now regret I didn’t try harder to convince her, but that is water under the bridge. Not important anymore, so I have to let go.

A few months after our fabulous week of celebration, she was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable cancer. There was talk of chemotherapy, talk of giving her quality of life, giving her more time. There were tears, but there were also laughs and a new closeness. We have been on our phones chatting away, sending funny messages, calling at all hours even during her chemo treatments.

I held up hope this could be beaten or at least it would give us time to have more moments together. I had planned to go see her for a week and do only what she wanted to do: out for lunch, car rides, ice-cream, beauty parlor visits, girl talk, reminiscing, just enjoying each other company.

This week, her doctor cancelled the chemotherapy when her body gave up and she was hospitalized. Now I am traveling to Panama on a different mission. I have no idea when I will be able to visit again since this will be a very hectic year for our family. So I am going to say goodbye to my dearest friend.

I am going to say goodbye now, when she still can enjoy my company and I can enjoy hers. Now that we still have the time to  laugh and talk about our friendship. Now when we still can sit in silence at times because we both are fluent in that language. Now when we can both look at each other and smile, laugh or cry. Now when we can embrace and hug and kiss.

As I get ready for this visit, my heart cannot help but be hopeful. After all, I am only human. So against all that I’ve been told, against all that my mind says is true,  there is a small voice that tells me: “Hope is the last thing we relinquish“. I know this is true, in my heart, where it counts. So I am taking this trip, for our friendship, for her and for me. May we be granted many more times together and then may it be as it must be.

Photo: Dreamtime Credit Commons Zero (CCO)

 

 

Why Not? It’s our time…..

 “Tis the Season, the season to consider the rest of our lives. It might not be the traditional Christmas giving, but it is something we must give ourselves. We have been daughters, wives, mothers, friends, lovers, caregivers. We have done everything required of us and more. We have put our dreams and our goals on hold for family and friends, husbands and lovers, aging parents and demanding children. What have we got in return? Well, some would say we have the satisfaction of having done our duty. Or we would feel at peace with ourselves.
 All that is good and personally rewarding, but don’t you feel sometimes we deserve better? don’t you feel we have the right to expect some palpable recognition? I do!!! Sorry, but we are human and there is nothing wrong with that. I am not going to get it from others, I will make my reward, my own Christmas present. Personal and wonderful and we deserve it.
From now on, let’s be realistic. Accept that we have more years behind you that we have in front of you. Unless there is a medical development I do not know of, we are not going to live another 50 or 60 years! Then, we have to put our foot down…we will live the rest of our lives as we want. It will be marvelous!!! Do what you always wanted to do. What a gift that would be……and why not?
Go places you always wanted to visit, even if it is the museum in the next town…….travel farther if it is possible. Remember when you wanted to take a cruise or walk at night along the Seine, or spend time in a Tuscan town, an English village or a Caribbean beach? Well, do it… why not?
Are you interested in painting, photography or pottery making? Do you think you want to explore your artistic side? Go for it! There are classes and groups and clubs that encourage all those things, right there in your city or town….why not?
Do you keep journals? why not publish your memoirs? We all have something to say, share  your experiences.  Do you think you can tell a story? or have you been told you are a storyteller? why not put that in writing? It is so easy today to get your work on the internet. I wrote a book and started a blog at an age when others are thinking of retiring. So, why not?
Have you been called the life of the party? do your friends laugh out loud at your witty comments? Start a blog, share your wit and your humor. Remember, laughter is the best medicine and is side-effect free! Gather your thoughts and start writing! People love to be entertained. So, why not?
Do you love to cook or have a knack for organizing events? are your parties always well attended because nobody wants to miss them? Do your friends ask you for advise when buying clothes? Do you get compliments about your garden or your home? Then consider doing this….a hobby that can bring an income! Besides, if you love it, you’ll be great at it. So, why not?
Most women my age have retired or their husbands have, they have no children at home…..at least not the ones that need care….they know themselves well, they know what they like and what they want. What they need is the will to do just that….and why not?
Now, whatever you decide to do, do with flair, with passion. These are the best years of our lives because the only person you have to please now is you. It is Christmas after all, give yourself the best present:  Go out and get the most out of the rest of your life!!! WHY NOT?
photo: @creativecommonsstockphotos
ID 85156331/Dreamtime Stock Photos

Lessons Learned and Decorating for Christmas

Finally it is time to start decorating for    Christmas. Thanksgiving is behind us and the Season of Giving is here. It is the time of the year when we do start getting our homes ready for the coming celebrations. Never mind that the world started doing this weeks ago…….it is now when we should apply ourselves to the task. I have started decorating just this past few days.

Every year, I haul out my well packed decorations. For years, they were in carton boxes, moved from one home to another, from one country to another. Last year, I bought heavy-duty storage plastic boxes. It was time to have more protection for our Christmas things!!!

They include mementos of our lives, small and precious made by the children when they were small. We added a special ornament every year on our trips.  We have figurines from birthdays, first pictures and small baby toys all lovingly wrapped and then displayed every year. There are real treasures in those boxes. Not for us a change on our decorations, a new color scheme or an artificial tree. That would not do.

Our children have come Home for the Holidays, almost every year since they went away to school, work.  So, I decorated the same every year. It was a ritual. This year is different. For the first time in years, I am not decorating in the same way. After all,  they have homes of their own and partners and new traditions to make. It is time to make changes, I realize that, and things have to change.

First, we will have no Christmas tree with hundreds of light, will not decorate every room or will haul out all those precious mementos. I have bought some new and different decorations. Of course, I might use some of those things I have bought through the years, but not the real sentimental pieces that always bring tears to my eyes. It’s about time, I have decided, to start a new tradition just for my husband and I.

I bought a small lavender tree and decorated it as a Christmas tree. I still made my wreath, but this year I used plastic decorations, a wire cloth hanger and shiny ribbon. It looks great against our black door. A few scented candles and the orchids that are in bloom will decorate the rest of the house. Looks wonderful to us!!!

Whichever Holiday you celebrate, hope your decorating will bring you as much joy. It is never too late to make changes, to move forward and to enjoy the process. That is the beauty of learning!!!

 

Thanksgiving, a Feast of a Holiday!!!

We are ready to travel to Houston to celebrate Thanksgiving with our children. Cannot wait!!! Thanksgiving is the holiday the can be celebrated by anyone and everyone, the holiday that has no religious affiliation, no symbols that need to be displayed, no commercial value (unless you count supermarkets and food stores). There are no presents to buy, decorations to drag out and arranged, no repetitive songs playing at all hours, no frantic countdown. I know it is not as popular around the world, but it should be. We all have something to be thankful for, regardless of where we live or who we worship or who we are. Thankfulness is universal.

It is really unimportant where or why this holiday began. Most people hardly remember those first celebrants. Pilgrims and Native Americans are really an afterthought for many. On the other hand, the dinner, the togetherness and the family around the table is all important. Why, we should ask? I find it a simple reason: preparing food, cooking together have always been bonding experiences. We all understand the power of a meal: from the planning of the menu, the gathering of the food stuff, the cooking, the camaraderie around the kitchen to the result of a delicious feast to share with our loved ones. Who doesn’t understand the power of food?

It is food that brings us together, there is no doubts in my mind. Once all the preparation is done, once we sit at the table and look around with gratitude, it is then that we realized how much we have to be thankful for. Who would have thought? The simple act of preparing and sharing this feast is what makes this holiday so perfect.

This is why it’s my favorite holiday, even if I am not a great cook. I enjoy cooking for Thanksgiving!!! Life rumbles along, dispensing good and not so good things. We tend to dwell on the not so good, we complain and feel sorry for ourselves. All along we tend to ignore the small things, the ones that bring us joy: the ones we should be thankful for. This day reminds us, puts things into perspective, gives us the opportunity to celebrate all the good that we have in our lives.

Phot by: Olga Vasilkova/Dreamtime

 

Lessons Learned and Facebook

In this time and age, I would be hard pressed to name a family member or friend that doesn’t have a Facebook account. My husband doesn’t count. Technology is not his thing and sharing personal information and opinions is not his thing either. Other than him, I cannot mention anyone else off the top of my head!!!

When about 11 years ago, my daughter convinced me to give this new Social Media outlet a try, I would have sworn it was not going to last. Well, that is how much I know. I also refused to even consider investing in it.  So much for my powers of observation. Not only is Facebook thriving, it is so influential that it will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Which proves again, what do I know???

I will be remiss not to point out that most of the time I enjoy what comes and goes and passes for information, the personal opinions, the photos of family and friends that live far and wide. The pages that post uplifting messages that somehow fit a mood, a feeling, a moment. It can be fun and informative.

Unfortunately, as the mood in the world has turn to hate and division and more and more people feel free to express those feelings, Facebook has turned into a minefield. You need to be very careful what you say and pay attention to the smallest of details when expressing an opinion, talking about your feelings on a subject or just wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Thanksgiving or Happy Easter. What pictures you want to share, what you would anyone thinks about a page you like, the quote you posted or the people you admire.

Never mind the kind of news sites you prefer, the people you are voting for or anything about a controversial public figure. Everything is black and white and you must be very careful. How exhausting!!! It seems we not only have the government censoring what we can and cannot see, write or express….now everyone you have friended on Facebook feels they should do it too.

I am not even going to mention civil discourse (a very much dead concept at the moment), or differences of opinion, I am talking about plain bullying and plain intimidation if you as much as express the notion that things can and do have two or three sides to them. “Mine, yours and the truth in the middle” is what I believe. Apparently I belong to a growing group that has learned the hard way to keep their opinions to themselves. How very sad…..it seems the only freedom of expression we are allowed is the one our critics spouse.  Both sides of any issue are guilty of this.

So, back to the lessons I have learned on Facebook. At the beginning, I joked about the four wonderful concepts that this Social Media community has taught me were: Ignore, Remove, Delete and Unsubscribe. We were provided with such choices and with cute little signs for : Like, Love, Surprise, Sadness, Anger. Seemed simple enough, not really anymore, things are now very angry, very insulting, sometimes even dangerous.

If we only want to see and want to hear what we believe, we are not improving communication among our friends and family, or the community in general. If only our opinion is true, if we only hear what we want to hear, if we only engage with people who agree with us, we are bullying everyone else into falling in line or just pack up and leave. A very sad state of affairs, especially when it is not doing any good to society as a whole.

I write a blog about things I have learned and things I am still learning, Facebook provides a wonderful platform for this.  My hope is that out there someone agrees with me and will share my posts. Never my intention to impose or to think I know better. I am not holding my breath, but will continue to do what I think is right. It gives me pleasure.

Life is short. Everyday there are new challenges we must face, new sorrows to deal with, but also new happiness to share, new experiences we want to talk about. I want to feel comfortable with my friends and family, so I can do just that. Having a Facebook account has taught me many things, the ones I mentioned here are not the best ones. Fortunately, I hold hope that the good things about this site will eventually win the day.

P.S. You have to have some rain to enjoy the rainbow: photo by my niece Ana Gregoria

 

Life Continues……So Let’s Plan!!!

The hurricane season has not ended, debris is still to be picked up from many streets, some parts of Florida are not back to normal and other storms have hit the Caribbean with unprecedented destruction. Seems like a new day has dawned and it doesn’t look promising.

Mother Nature has being more cruel and active than in many years, on the other hand we have a global sense of complete breakdown of humanity and values. There is so much hate, so many hurtful messages. What can we do?? We must give better examples, less extreme opinions and we need to remember, that if we want it or not……life goes on and we need to live with each other!!!

At this time in our lives, we have a clear vision of what we want, how to achieve it and how to enjoy it. Our generation of women has their lives well in hand. We are well rounded and navigate the waters of our lives with ease and determination. We stop at all ports that bring us joy…..the way it should be.

Every time we do, we must share those joys and those experiences. We must be aware of the fact that no matter what people think……women are the ones that can change the world. All of us, but specially the older generation: the Crones, the Wise Women of Old, the Keepers of Memories and the Givers of Hope……

Many would think me naive and even stupid. That’s alright, I am not looking for accolades or acceptance. I am just trying to make, my corner of the world a bit more livable. Let’s plan, let’s look ahead and make it so.

Photo 1: courtesy of Alan Maduro…..crack of dawn in Curaçao

Photo 2: Dreamtime CCO

Lessons Learned and IRMA (Part Two)

We are back home, have been for almost two weeks. Have to say the way back was much better. There was still moderate traffic and we had a hard time getting reservations, but nothing too bad. I was grateful since I could not even contemplate driving back without a place to rest at the end of the day. We stayed in Pensacola and in Orlando.

We took three days and two nights. At the end of each day, we went out for a nice dinner and a drink. Early to bed to start fresh in the morning. There was gasoline most everywhere, so one less thing to worry about.

This time I drove longer to give my husband a break. Somehow we had less stuff to pack…..maybe because we had things to eat on our way up. There were dozens of Disaster Relief trucks, delivery trucks from different companies hauling food stuff and medicines and other necessities. There were also trucks from electrical companies from as far away as Maine, Illinois and Ohio. A welcome sight!!!

There were trees down, others completely bare of leaves, water puddled on the side of the roads, homes with tarps covering roofs. It was not a pretty sight, but it could have been worse. Considering what we were expecting, I would say Florida was spared…….not the Keys and South Florida, though.

These days back home getting back to normal have been a time of reflexion. This is what I have learned:

1- In so many ways my perception of people has changed. For the better and for the worse, as it happens. The sense of community and the help so generously offered have been amazing. There are so many instances of selflessness and true caring, we could write a book about it…and someone should!!! On the other hand, looting, road rage incidents, breaking into abandoned home and taking the few possessions left have rendered me speechless.

2- Our island suffered little, but still is not the same. We who live here can tell. I had envisioned us staying in our apartment on Brickell Key indefinitely. We love the island, we love the neighborhood. High water, downed trees, building materials everywhere, big traffic jams have made us think twice about staying.

3- Since construction in the area is only getting worse and storms like IRMA might keep coming, the area is just a major disaster waiting to happen. I do not believe our city and county government will stop giving permits to build higher and higher dwellings. Therefore, nothing will change that can make this neighborhood safer.

4- Life continues no matter what has happened to us. So you walk or drive around Miami and it seems everything is slowly getting back to normal. Nobody seems interested in the piles of branches, leaves, trees that are still to be picked up. In the news there is a mention here and there, but something else has taken the place of IRMA in the news.

5- It is not that I am insensitive to the other tragedies in the Caribbean, it’s that once something is out of sight is out of mind and the party continues. Until when are we going to ignore what is happening around us?

6- Last, but not least, I have learned that there are so many signs of what unite us, so many things that can bring us together, but we only notice when there is a tragedy. How sad!!!

Lessons Learned and IRMA (Part One)

Yes, we left Miami behind and with it,  “IRMA“. This was not an easy decision to make, but we now know it was the right one. Our apartment is as secured as we could make it, we followed all instructions…..but I am still worried.

We drove without stopping to rest until we left the Florida peninsula. The governor had lifted all tolls, so the Turnpike was a bumper-to-bumper, slow-going ride. At time we were going 8 to 10 miles an hour!!! We did not witness any incidents of road rage or major accidents. People, I am sure, were too involved in their own flight. It was more important to continue moving than to cause more delays.

Gasoline was available in all service stations. They were crazy, but we did not witness any altercations, everyone waited in line for gas or food or the bathroom. State troopers and police were on hand to make everything run smoothly. Still, it was incredible stressful and nerve-wrecking. An experience of a lifetime!!!

It took forever to get out of the Florida peninsula. Turning West, we found as many cars as there were cars moving North. We had reservations at a hotel in Pensacola, but never dreamed we would take that long. When we finally arrived, it was all we can do: take a hot shower and collapse……slept like logs. We got late check-out and after that we sat in the lobby still resting before moving on.

Drove to New Orleans, still encountering heavy traffic. Lots of cars with Florida licenses, I wondered if they had a place to stay along the way. Every hotel, motel and B&B along the way was full to capacity. It was strange to keep driving knowing we had no clue when we can get back home.

Thankfully, we had a special place to stay in the city. The daughter of a dear friend, family really, who opened her home to us. We had a lovely time and are so grateful!!! After that, we arrived in Houston, to spent time with our son. Here we are for the forseeable future…..a short time, we hope.

Now, here is what I learned from my first major hurricane experience:

1- Always plan to evacuate, even when you are securing your home and getting ready to stay. You never know what Mother Nature has in store, all weather forecasters can do is predict. That is not criticism, it’s a sad reality…. look what is happening in Jacksonville, never even mentioned when Irma was approaching Florida.

2- Once you have decided to leave or ordered to leave, plan on flying out. Do not even consider driving, unless you are young and healthy and full of energy. Trust me, evacuation by car is no picnic. You can be stuck for hours or days on the road. Now, if flying is not an option, please make reservations in hotels along the way, it will be impossible to just walk into any of them and get a room. Reservations can always be cancelled!!!

3- If you decide to stay, listen to all directives from authorities. If you don’t lose power, keep tract of the storm as it moves into your area, take cover when needed and make sure you have all you need with you when you do. This can safe your life, stuff in your home can be replaced!!!

4- There is nothing you can do once you have evacuated or decided to stay. Keep calm and relax, you have done all you can. You now have no control of the situation, only of your reaction to it. That will make the difference.

5- It is a sad truth, but I have now reaffirmed my belief that it is in dire situations when humanity is at its best. I cannot thank enough our family and friends who kept in touch, offered help and prayers and kept us hopeful. I saw calm and helpful folks on the road and service stations, people helping people…it was wonderful. Wish it was the same when times are happy!!!

Finally, I am certain that this experience will help me continue with my project to give away, throw away and donate things I really have no use for anymore. I am more convinced than ever that a simple lifestyle will be a happier lifestyle for me and my husband. At the end of the day, we are safe, we didn’t lose our home, we are healthy and grateful. We’ll see what our way back brings, what lessons will teach us and what we will find when we get back home.

P.S. Photo 1: view from my balcony…..Photo 2: my balcony, my happy place…hoping it has not been too badly battered.

 

Wedding Planning

Yes, it has come. My daughter is getting married and the planning is on. I am sure it is not only me……mothers are all the same when it comes to planning their daughter’s wedding. I have no illusions that the planning it’s done by me. It is, after all, not my wedding but hers. Camille will plan, I will be consultant-in-chief.

Why do we need as much as a year to plan a wedding? I planned mine in a couple of days, had only eight people attend and we are still married. Have no idea if one thing has anything to do with the other, but I figure I would mention it. After all, we are  living in a world where everyone plans weddings with the precision of a military operation. I mean this in the best way: precise, detailed, perfectly executed.

I am fortunate that Camille knows what she wants and has a supportive and helpful fiancé. Still, there is so much to do and, it seems, so little time. Nevertheless, I am refusing to rush, get in a tizzy or run for the hills. This is a joyous occasion, a wonderful event and I intend to enjoy everything!!!

So far, we have gone through venues, music, menus, decorations and hotel reservations. We have a clear idea when it will be and where; the numbers of guests, and where are they coming from. We have discussed if children should or shouldn’t be invited, who would the bride and groom want there, what faces they want to see when they turn around after the ceremony and face family and friends.

Of course, there is still much to do.  Weddings, for some reasons are never considered so easy to plan. Everyone tells me, I am only starting and should be prepared for disagreements, crying spells, arguments. So far, we have not run into any of these. Should I be worried??? I don’t think so. This is too important to just let small things interfere. I want to be there for my daughter, it is her wedding after all. She needs to know I will be there to make her achieve her perfect wedding.

Now…what is the perfect wedding? Is there some kind of model to which everyone subscribe that tell us this? Or is the perfect wedding something each bride knows in her heart? I’ll wager it’s a very personal thing. What seems perfect to you might not be perfect for me. Rules people have developed throughout the years are not necessarily what this bride is looking for. Let her find her way, let her plan what her heart tells her is the perfect wedding!!!

I will keep you posted on this, my latest aventure. We will see what is the process she follows and the final result. Knowing my daughter, I know it will be just perfect. Something as special as she is and just as wonderful. Cannot wait, in the meantime, break out the champagne and let the planning continue!!!

 

Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously…..

After all, not everyone does. How many times have we heard this? How many times have we really consider that fact? For one, I have and countless times. As you probably do, I ignored it. Now, that has changed, like so many other things in my life. It is simple.

We, as a society, are so self-involved, so preoccupied with our self-importance that we fail to see that others do not really care about our opinions, our rules or our dictates. In this time and age, you would be ignored unless you are a celebrity, or a trendsetter or a politician. Yes, people imitate and take seriously the most unlikely people.

Most people have strong opinions about everything and assume others do. If not, they assume those others do not know anything. These opinions are taken very seriously and expressed in no uncertain terms. Unfortunately, those listening also have their strong opinions. I have learned that there is nothing to gain by admonishing anyone on the right or wrong way of doing things. Nothing to gain about expecting others to adhering to rules you find essential. Really, is it a wonder why some of us are not laughed at out loud more often or worse.

Yes, continue to do things as you seem fit or as you like. By all means, you have to live life in your own terms. Do not expect everyone to admire you or follow your lead or accept you are right. On the contrary, most may just roll their eyes, laugh condescendingly or they will yell and insult you. It’s the way it is, accept it and move on.

Never mind what others think, dress as you like, do what you love. The problem is not that, the problem is that we do not respect anyone’s opinions, we don’t allow anything we disagree with to be expressed. People want to be taken seriously all the time. Their opinions are the right ones, their views are sacrosanct. Anything else must be excluded, made fun of and suppressed.

How sad!!! How are we going to grow intellectually and spiritually and socially if are never challenged or contradicted? How are we going to make this a better world if do not engage with the ones we disagree with? So, yes, be yourself, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Above all, respect others and their right to differ with you. It is that, in my humble opinion, the cause of all the hatred in the world today. Do not tell me it’s the lack of love, you cannot love what you do not respect.