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.

 

Something has Changed……..

There comes a time in everyone’s life when a discovery, a piece of news, a flash of understanding changes it forever. That is what happened to me in 2015. It has been a long 18 months, a time of adjusting, of accepting and of working on moving forward. What I have to share, in the hopes that it could help others, is about living with a chronic illness.

For months, years even, I experienced all sorts of odd symptoms seemly unrelated: low-grade fever, joint pain, unexplained cough, upset stomach and on and on. Everyone told me that we all get some aches and pains as we age and we should not over think that. What do you do? you begin to doubt yourself, you begin to think everyone is right and you are just not accepting your age or the changes in your body.

I kept trying until finally, I found a doctor willing to run tests until she found what was wrong. This is most important. A doctor that listens and is willing to go along until the reason for your symptoms is found. I have been lucky with that and are doing better because of it.

Just before Christmas 2015, I received a call from my doctor’s office. She wanted to see me that afternoon. I immediately thought: this cannot be good. It wasn’t. The tests were back and the doctor said the four words that have changed my life: You have Rheumatoid Arthritis. At the moment, I was not familiar with what all that meant. Arthritis didn’t sound good, thought. Well, it was worst than that.

RA is an autoimmune disease that presents many symptoms and causes untold damage to the human body. It is in the same group as Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease and other illnesses. It causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues in your body. There is no cure and produces painful inflammation not only in the joints, but the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys and any other part of your body.

Pain is your constant companion and fatigue is ever-present. Insomnia, brain fog, dry-eyes, forgetfulness are just a few symptoms. Left untreated can be deadly, but known treatments can slow the progress and help with symptoms. Unfortunately, they could also cause untold damage since they involved chemotherapy and steroids. There most be a balance so you need to research and read, inform yourself. Ask questions and go for second opinions. When you find a doctor that understands you, keep her!!!

Most of people suffering from RA have a hard time explaining the illness. It is difficult because most of us do not look sick, we continue our lives as normally as we can and try not to complain. Besides, not everyone is comfortable  to sharing everything with everyone.

Each day brings new challenges and we deal with them as best we can. We can make plans and cancel them unexpectedly. There is always a possibility of a flare that will take us to bed and keep us there for a while. A day of activity can render us useless for many days afterwards. So understanding is an important part of what our friends and loved ones can do for us.

Taking care of ourselves is a priority, more than ever. Becoming selfish is a most. You cannot help anyone if you are not fit to help yourself. You learn not to feel bad about standing your ground and saying no when needed. RA is something that will shape your days for the rest of your life.

Each one of us deals with this in our own way, but it is important to realize that we must have a plan. Make changes in our way of doing things, our diet, anything that needs changing. Keep active as much as we can, don’t give up on what we enjoy. Also we must accept that we might need help to do the smallest things and must learn to accept it. Finally, love yourself and take care.

 

P.S. “The beauty of life and the reality we live with” — perfectly captured in this photo of a Curaçao sunset by Neelam Melwani. Thank you!!!

 

 

What People think of Me is None of my Business

This is the biggest truth I have lived by. Nothing else can affect your life in such a negative way as paying attention to what people think or say about you. Not only is it a waste of time, but it’s a waste of energy. It cannot do you any good and can cause untold heartache.

When we are young, what our peers think of us is all important. Especially during your teenage years, nothing can unsettle you more. The sad truth is that peer pressure has become outright bullying. This is causing an epidemic of suicides among young people and that is scary.

Now, why is this??? Simple, everyone is too concerned about what people say or think about them. Everyone is very much involved in the lives and actions of everyone else. Bullying is just an expression of this preoccupation. Of course that is my opinion and many will disagree. That is fine.

People would think I am simplifying the issue. That could be true, but all I want is express this idea I have come to accept. It may help. Parents should teach their children that acceptance is not always a good thing. Being yourself, being true to what you like, love, enjoy and who you really are, is the secret of a life well lived.

From a young age, children should be taught to love themselves. Accept themselves because fretting about anyone’s opinion is not healthy.  It all start with parents, guardians, mentors, teachers.

Most importantly, we must lead by example. If you live your life according to your true self, your children (or any child in your life) see that and they could learn early that we are all wonderful in our own unique way. They do not need to succumb to the pressures of others to be happy. You can show them, please let’s all make an effort.

I believe we have let go of our children way before it is time. This applies to the children who are trying to cope and to the ones making it difficult. They are both paying excessive attention to what other people think of them, what they say about them. Let’s teach them this doesn’t matter as much as they think.

Psychologists are trying to find the cause, helping those affected deal with the problem. That is as it should be. Unfortunately, we forget that it is the people closer to them who are the first responders. They are  the ones that can see, act accordingly and save the day. They should be the ones being prepared and ready  to handle the problem.

I have never been one to pay too much attention to what others think. Most of my life I have marched to the beat of my own drum, dance to my own music  so to speak. I never belonged to school clicks, I got involved in what I loved, had little interest in what others did, had no patience for people who thought they were oh so important.

Growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents that accepted me for who I am. Doesn’t mean they agreed with everything I said and did…..far from it. I very often got into trouble. Still, they were there for me and I am most grateful. Looking back, I think I felt safe being myself, it was fine to be my own person. It made a great difference.

Finally, I want to reinforce this idea: “What anyone thinks of you, is none of your business“. Apply it to your life, work on living your life as you want without bothering about what anyone thinks. Believe me, it will make you happy!!!

Of Moving and Goodbyes

This past week my daughter moved again. Camille has lived in different cities, countries. She has studied here in the States, in Europe and has worked in both places. She adapts easily, as a third culture child, to circumstances and places. She makes friends and truly blooms where she is planted: the first rule of a happy expat.

For the last 4 years, she has been with us. Working and living in Miami, it’s never easy for a young single woman. Camille adapted, but was never in her element. This move will be wonderful for her. Not only is she moving to a Caribbean island, but she is moving to be with her fiancé. She already has friends there, a job and all she wants at this time in her life.

This makes moving sound very simplistic, but we know for a fact, nothing is this easy. Moving and uprooting yourself take a toll on you. It is not as if we pack, get there, unpack and we walk into our new life. It is not as if we just wake up in our new home and we feel at home, if you know what I mean. There are steps we go through and some of them are not easy.

I am not an expert by far, but I have moved a few times. It was hard the first time and was hard the last time. So, first thing: be prepared to deal with heartache, exhaustion, anger, denial, elation, happiness, excitement and so many other emotions. It is part of the game.

Then there are the situations you encounter: locating a good mover, packing or letting them pack, what to take, what to discard or donate or sell. This is followed by regretting not taking this or that once you get to your new home!!! Getting and filling countless forms and lists would make your head spin.

All along, you have been saying goodbye, promising to be in touch (much easier nowadays), trying to see all your favorite spots, accumulating memories. This part is emotionally draining, no matter the reason you have for moving. The last round of parties, lunches and such will help get you through the last days. Enjoy them, take photos,

Once everything is settled, boxes packed, container filled and tickets bought, there is a lull in the process. You are able to breathe. For some reason, when this all is done you’d feel you are going to enjoy the move. There is the emotion and excitement of going to a new place. In a way, it is starting your life again. Go with that feeling!!!

Finally, the day of departure arrives. Try to relax and concentrate on what needs to be done. Go over your lists and forms, get your documents ready, make sure all your bags are labeled and easily recognizable. Leave for the airport with plenty of time, it’s better to wait there.

Once you are in the air, look forward. Concentrate on the trip, the plans for arrival in your new home, then breathe and try to relax. Regardless of the lenght of the flight, take the time to rest. Close your eyes, listen to music, watch a movie.  You’ve made it, you are on your way…..goodbyes are part of the past.

Lessons Learned and Yard Sales

Last weekend, my daughter organized a Spring Yard Sale. After spending weeks getting everything together, pricing, etc., we dropped all the goodies for sale at her cousin’s home on Friday. On Saturday, earlier than my usual wake up time, we left our apartment and headed to Vivi’s home.

She had already set up the tables, chairs and was waiting for us. Everything was unpacked and displayed. Water containers with lemon slices and plastic cups were set up in the shade……it promised to be a very hot day. People were already waiting to check out the stuff for sale.

I have to admit, garage or yard sales are not my thing. Staying out in the heat and sweating are completely against my better judgement, but this was important for Camille. What else could I do, but enjoy the adventure. I was also in charge of the money, sort of the banker. Big responsibility, but it allowed me to stay out of the sun and try to sell anything. Not very good at that and haggling is another trick I have not mastered.

So I took a large cup of lemon water, put my chair in the shade and observed the girls in action. Soon, they were selling, haggling, taking money for me to give change. Camille was smooth and collected, very friendly. She talked about everything with the potential buyers, got to know a bit about them and tried to find out what she could sell them.

Many came already for some specific item, others browsed and looked things over. Those were the ones that bought more!!! Haggling, as I said, it’s not my strength and I cannot sell water to a thirsty man, but my daughter can do this with such ease. I was impressed.

Once we got back home on the Sunday, counted our profits and ready to give away what was left…..I reflected on what did I learned. We always learn wanting to or not. So here it is.

I learned that you must never underestimate the power of young women out on a mission. Never, ever think you can teach them, but not learn from them. It was something I am sure I have learned before, but after years of being a mother…..I have conveniently forgotten.

I learned that a glass of lemon water in your hand can lead to conversation. Can start an exchange of ideas and can make you wonder why didn’t you think of that before.

I learned that sitting in the shade, under a canopy of trees, can offer more than comfort. It can attract others and soon laughter and chatter will surround you……you’ll be completely at easy with strangers.

I learned that no matter how much you think you know about something, there are people who would present you with another view, another twist to the story or another solution to a problem….and you just met them!!

I learned that age has nothing to do with anything and at the end of the day you have found so much in common with young women that could be your daughters. Just listen, watch their passion, it’s refreshing.

I learned that politics can be discuss in harmony, without offending anyone. There is not need for insults of any kind, there is a better way because we all are looking for the best for those we love.

I learned that I would do this again in a second because life is short and everything we enjoyed should be repeated.

Thank you, Camille, Vivi and Karina