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 Ignore the Small Things!!!

Getting to a certain age gives us a new perspective in life. Having lived more years than some of us want to admit, we look at everything through the eyes of experience. Others will say, we are just rediscovering everything, so we should behave accordingly. I have to agree with this.

Stop sometimes and look at children playing. Anything holds fascination, everything makes them laugh and nothing goes unnoticed. They go about the business of living with bright eyes and open hearts. I firmly believe we go back to this, but refuse to acknowledge the fact. Most of us think it is silly, for sure we should be serious and dignified……whatever that means. Well, I refuse to do that, not anymore.

Very few of my friends and family know I suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Contrary to what the name implies, arthritis is the least of our problems, even if it is the most painful. This is an autoimmune disease that affects your whole body in many ways. I will not go into details, RA is not who I am, but you can read about it HERE.

As I have learned to cope and accept this new reality in my life, I have decided to be aware of every little pleasure that comes my way. I am taking time to stop and enjoy what makes me happy and what brings me joy. I have stopped getting involved in arguments and have stopped trying to change anyone’s mind on anything. I still have strong opinions about a lot of things, but I have decided I am not going to change anyone’s mind. So why argue?What I can do is nurture the other things I have in common with people I care for and love.

First of all, I am grateful for all I have and for the people in my life. I keep in touch with friends and family, even if they are some times too busy with their lives to reach back out to me. I avoid anyone with a negative outlook or a grudge, even if I truly care for them. There is no need to get into discussions about things we cannot change, not in the near future. Arguments only bring bad feelings and who needs that.

I go out and look around in wonder, I laugh any chance I get, I tend my orchids and rejoice in the fact that I am able to get them flowering. I take walks, I enjoy my family and spend as much time as I can with them. I am reading every book I get my hands on, I am decluttering my home until I have only what gives me pleasure and makes me comfortable. I have even started to enjoy shopping!!! I try to find ways of helping others, be it donating to charities or keeping in touch with people I know are lonely. Life is not easy for many, trying to help, helps me.

Nowadays, I watch less television, read less news, smile at strangers and love it when they smile back. I give myself a break or a nap when needed. There are some difficult things I’ve still to overcome: stop before I am going to snap at someone, try being considerate and non judgmental, ignore rude comments made by people close to me, feeling I have the right to correct someone…….It is a work in progress!!!

As I often say, we have more years behind us than in front, I have no intentions of squandering the small things that bring me joy. I try, not always successful I must admit, not to get involved in other people’s lives, not to care about what others do or have. Each one of us will do and say living our lives as we feel. The only thing I would say is: give this a try!!!

P.S. The inquisitive toddler is Anaaira, my friend Seema’s adorable granddaughter. Thank you for letting me use her picture!!! The other photos are mine: a cobbled  sidewalk in the Grove, the view from my balcony, a small brook at Fairchild Botanical Gardens and my orchids in bloom.


 

Lessons Learned and High School Reunions

Just came back from my 50th High School Reunion!!! It was a wonderful week of celebrations and reacquainting myself with old friends. What an experience!!! We went to an all-girl school and most of us were together from kindergarten to our high school graduation. Our class had only 30 students, so you can imagine. We had the well-behaved, the mischievous, the studious, the fun-loving, the glamorous, the quiet ones, the I couldn’t care less ones, the stylish, the care-free, you name it. Most of all, we knew each other rather well and were on friendly terms…….most of the time.

Attending an all-girl school has advantages that are now being discovered by different studies in American universities. Seems girls who study together have a healthier approach to education, have a higher interest in subjects like science and math and develop self-esteem early in life. Well, apparently our parents knew this and gave us this great advantage!!! Not a shrinking violet in the group, I am glad to report. Five doctors, engineers, writers, business women, nutritionists, university professors, partners in international firms, well-traveled, speakers of several languages…….amazing women each and everyone.

Once we graduated, we went our different ways to study, get married, develop careers and raise families. We gave to our communities, and still do, by working with local charities and spreading goodwill. We have taken care of ourselves and have many years to enjoy what we have sown. Life has been good and this celebration brought together a group of women who are seriously talented and full of life. They have learned from their mistakes, moved on and can now flaunt their successes without shying away.

The Organizing Committee had a year to plan and they did a fantastic job. They even started a chat on WhatsApp to keep us informed of the ideas as they developed. This brought everyone together, before the celebration even started.

Most still live in Panama and have kept in touch through the years on and off. For the ones, like myself, who live abroad it has been harder. So this was a brilliant idea. Here’s to Social Media!!! We immediately clicked again and it was as if time had stood still. All those years melted away and we had so much to talk about, to reminisce, to laugh at and even to shed a tear or two while sharing stories and details of our lives. Let me not forget about hugs……there were more hugs given and received than I could count.

Each activity throughout the 5 days was wonderful. Did I mention that our school was run by nuns? Yes, so the first order of business was attending a special mass, followed by dinner at the Club Union, best one in town. We danced, sang at top of our voices, ate and drank and were merry. Only us girls, as we were all those years ago. Even better, since this time there was no thought of boyfriends or flirting. One day we walked along the cobblestone streets of the Casco Viejo, Panama City’s historical neighborhood. Then dinner, drinks and dancing. The next day, we went by bus to see the works of the new addition to the canal on the Atlantic side of the country. Lunch afterwards. The trip was part of the fun we had that day.

The last day we travel to a mountain resort town, El Valle. Stayed in different homes, got together for dinner, drinks, more singing and dancing and fireworks!!! The next morning, we had brunch with everyone high on the side of the mountain. More hugs and goodbyes, promises to get together again soon. Plans are already in the works. I will not miss any of them for the world. The adventure will continue. Hats off to the organizers for taking time off from their busy lives to make sure our celebration was fun, unique, warm and just perfect!!!

 

 

 

 

Why Happy Holidays….

Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year. Also marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Most people don’t even realize the importance of this day throughout history, but we sure take part in celebrations born in those ancient times!!! I am sure you are wondering what does this have to do with the holidays. Bear with me.

Back in those days, the solstice marked the rebirth of the sun. In other words, this marked a reversal: shorter days and longer nights, but also the promise that from this day forward the sun would stay in the sky a bit longer every day. Celebrations lasted for days involving everyone. Sharing food, an important part of the celebration, was meaningful because it represented faith in the return of the sun and the harvest.

Many cultures practiced this reversal. Romans had the Saturnalia, a seven-day celebration. Men dressed as women, masters as servants. There were greenery decorations, lighted candles, exchanges of gifts. The Celts had the Yule Log burning brightly for days to encourage the sun to come back. Druids gave mistletoe as blessings. In Scandinavian countries, presents of apples and oranges decorated with cloves, huge pine trees decorated with lights were part of the celebrations. Everyone was served mead and ale, or wine and beer depending on the country.

Aside from the celebrations, there were other activities designed to help the people survive the cold months. First, the slaughtering of animals because they would not have to be fed in the winter. So fresh food was plentiful for days. The rest of the meat was preserved to last through the cold months. Second, fruits and roots were stored in dry and dark places for the same reason. It was a matter of survival to monitor the food stored for those months ahead. Ancient people took this very seriously.

Regardless of our spiritual or cultural heritage, if we live in the Northern Hemisphere today, we find ourselves caught up, perhaps out of habit, in the commercial swirl known as the holidays that leaves us depleted in more ways than one. I don’t have to remind you of our endless trips to stores, supermarkets and such to prepare for the celebrations to come.

In our quest to please ourselves, our families and friends, to follow tradition or simple go with the flow, this is why we mark this event. In our cultures, this is ingrained one way or another. So many religious and pagan and cultural traditions begin around this day. A good reason for calling these days: Happy Holidays!!!

It’s December, be Generous

img_7608November was to be thankful, December is to be generous!!! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, isn’t it? Everywhere we see decorations, hear Christmas carols, see the SALE signs. We have decorated our homes and are busy buying our presents. Of course, some of us  already have them. I am not that organized.

img_7600I love Christmas, but it has never been my favorite holiday. It is, though, an important part of my family’s celebrations. They simply love the whole package: from buying the tree, to decorating, to planning to spending time with loved ones, to figuring out what to give to whom. I have made it my job to organize this time every year. It’s what gives me the most pleasure, and I do it all for them. It’s a warm feeling, a feeling I revel on.

Now, in the middle of the planning, decorating and organizing, I have another important task. I remember the different charities I support during the year with my donations. I help where I think it’s most needed and there is a lot of need out there. The thought that I can bring a small amount of joy to others besides my family, really makes this the best time of the year!!!

img_7570Of course, you can do this in so many different ways. When I lived abroad, my involvement was more personal, more hands on: helping collect and wrap Sinterklaas presents for children who otherwise would not get any, helping organize a Christmas party for the elderly with the American Women’s Club.  Before that, just getting presents to people I knew needed them more than we did. Didn’t take much, but was so rewarding.

The thought that you can make a difference to one person, makes it worthy. Our lives are so much better than most, our duty is to be generous. It can be anything:  donate to a women’s shelter, volunteer to spend time with the children, visit a hospital and bring some small presents, help at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, visit an old people’s home. Make it personal, see how your gesture makes them smile.

It’s December, it’s the month to share our good fortune, it’s the time to extend our hand in friendship. This month, more than any other, should be the time to get out there and give back!!!img_7571

Rethinking Our Next Move……..

img_6981It is that time in our lives……we want to settle in a place where we can be happy while retaining our independence. It is important to accept that our lives have changed, along with our bodies, forcing us to adjust our lifestyle. We just do not call it retirement…..we are following a new path!!!

img_6983Our last experience preparing for a major hurricane in our ocean front apartment, has made us realize that in a major emergency, it would not be easy to stay safe. Evacuation plans, moving to a shelter, having others decide what is to be done, is definitely not our intention. We want to be in charge, while we still live in the place of our choice. In other words, we have to make our plans now.

In the last few months, we have considered a move. We have visited places and spend time exploring them. Our plan was to decide where we wanted to  settle. Have to report, we did not find anything we that took our breath away. I think this is because there is no such place, but I  could be wrong. Who knows, it might be that we were not looking in the right places or were overlooking something closer to home. In either case, we have changed out tactics.img_6984

About 15 minutes by car from our apartment, is Coconut Grove. A beautiful neighborhood settled in the late 1800s, just on Biscayne Bay. It has survived this long without too many extreme changes. It still has shady streets, parks, a waterfront that allows you to walk right by the water. The library is a historical building, the Women’s Club has a lovely building dating from early 1900s. Peacock Park is still used for games, theater presentations, yoga classes. The Barnacle and The Kampong Botanical Gardens are also in the area. They offer events throughout the year: from concerts to weddings. This neighborhood has a sense of community that no other part of Miami has. Small boutiques, quaint restaurants and farmers’ markets, a nationally recognized Art Festival are just cherries on this pie.

img_1663Now, you would say, what are you waiting for? This is where things get complicated. Despite the work of long-time residents, the long arm of the developers is getting a grip on this peaceful place. Sure enough, rents are higher, real estate prices have skyrocketed, new buildings are sprouting on the street facing the bay and a younger, more affluent crowd is moving in. If they were just looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, I would not worry….unfortunately, they are looking to change the very thing that attracted them to the Grove: it’s casual, laid-back atmosphere. They want it trendy……and that is not a good thing, a trend is just a passing fad.

IMG_1667.JPGI digress, this might not happen right away. In the meantime, the place has an undeniable attraction. You can walk everywhere, you can actually live there without venturing farther into Miami and be perfectly happy. At the same time,  the city is all around you. I would like that!!! So we are looking into it, or I am looking into it. Life, as I always remind myself, is short. We need to enjoy everything that comes our way and start doing it yesterday!!!

A friend once told me, that as we get older, we must look into a place we love and settle there. We can still travel, visit friends and family and enjoy the  what the world offers….but we would be there in our later years when we cannot travel or move around as we want. We will be in place we love and that would make all the difference. Of course, she has done this in her own special way. She traveled around and has settled in Tucson…….for now!!! Her inner gypsy is still restless.

img_6204Following this wise advise, I am exploring everything about this neighborhood. I want to know it well, know what it offers. Walk through streets and parks, attend events, visit art galleries and gardens and sample the wide variety of restaurants. It promises to be a wonderful adventure. I will keep you posted!!!

Matthew’s Brief Visit

img_6824It is a brand new day…Matthew came  and went leaving us not worse for wear. A couple of days of preparations and a day and a half of worrying about its visit was all we had to remember Matthew in Miami. The monster hurricane took its time wobbling its way to us leaving destruction and death in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the Bahamas. Anxiously, most of us, couldn’t stop watching its every move and dreading its visit.

161004-hurricane-matthew-cr-0517_1090abcfc45fe31e5b9f0e73c31f9a90-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000Like an unwelcome guest, Matthew, made us cringe at the thought of its visit. Sort of like when we have to receive in our home some relative we rather never came. We know it’s inevitable, but you still wish they stay away. Unfortunately, with Mother Nature, we have no say in the matter. If it heading your way, you better prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That is what we did.

Of course, the constant updates only cause people to go overboard with their preparations. Seriously, there is so much you would need even if the emergency lasts more than a week. Rushing to the market and buying everything you think of, it’s not the way. Preparing without a plan, it’s like not preparing at all. On the other hand, the updates are needed to make everyone understand what to do…….or at least most of us.

img_6826Which brings me to that group of wise guys who think they know best and literally do not prepare or plan a party or go surfing or worse: take to the streets and put their well-being at risk. They are sure nothing is going to happen, the meteorologists have no clue what they are doing and the government only wants you to spend money. They do not realize that when it comes to Mother Nature, you can predict, but cannot ascertain anything for sure.

Going out to enjoy the hurricane is very stupid and very selfish. If anything happens, First Responders will have to go get them and risk their own lives for these irresponsible folks. So, no, it is not alright to just do as you please. Period!!!img_6815

Miami was spared this time. There was rain and winds and some downed trees. Some people lost power and some got water in their homes, but nothing major. This doesn’t mean that next time we should disregard the warnings of the meteorologists or the government. Each case must be evaluated on its own merits, each case should be taken seriously until the danger passes. Today, the sun is shinning on my little island, the sea is calm and the birds are singing. That in itself is a blessing!!!

img_6834I am so grateful for all our friends near and far who took the time to wish us well, who monitored the path of the storm and celebrated with us when the danger had passed. Thank you!!! Hopefully, Matthew will not cause more death and destruction before it fades into oblivion. Take care, everyone!!!

Matthew Comes Calling…..

img_6802After rampaging through the Caribbean for the last 10 days, Hurricane Matthew is on its way to Florida. Leaving destruction and death in its wake, the powerful storm has its sights on us. It is a sobering thought, a grim reality. Nothing to do, but prepare and pray.

Since we moved to Miami, more than a decade ago, we have experience several hurricanes. Of course there was little impact on the area and they continued to cause havoc in other parts of the country. Charlie, Jean, Hugo, Katrina, Wilma, Sandy…..all passed by, but left their marks in other places. We prepared for them, stayed inside, even saw coconuts flying by our windows and survived it all.

This time, it seems, we are in Matthew’s path and it’s a huge and powerful storm. Even if it stays offshore, the devastation it can cause is frightening. We are under Hurricane Watch, which means we can experience hurricane force winds, lots of rain and high ocean surge. Since we live on Brickell Key, a small man-made island at the mouth of the Miami River…..you can imagine how that will play.

Today, we are just getting our apartment ready: all furniture and plants  will be moved inside, we have enough food and water for 3 days for each of us, medications, flashlights, batteries, candles, matches. Our cars have gas, our phones and tables are kept charged….we are just waiting. Unnerving!!!

img_6805Outside, it is calm. This morning it was sunny and clear. Now, we have a few clouds, calm ocean and not a sound: birds have flown away, very smart little things!!! You would never believe anything that big and dangerous is approaching us. Still, it is coming. I just wish it would come and we can get this waiting over with.

We have nothing else to do, but wait, pay attention to the warnings from authorities and NOAA. Keep us all in your thoughts and prayers. May Matthew spare us the worst!!!

Of Extended Family and Endings

10151194_10153250732136766_5871828394969407407_nIt could be that I am wrong putting these two things together, but my experience has taught me differently lately. My immediate family, husband and children, is the center of my life. My sisters and their families come a close second. I imagine it is the same for most of us, never mind our background. We also have extended families. They are important, they fulfill a role that is necessary in society, especially where I come from. That is what I always thought and how I always believed. Could it be that I was wrong? Let me tell you why.

When my sisters and I came to college in the States, our parents stayed behind. Of course, you would say. I am also sure you know that in those days traveling back and forth, calling home and keeping in touch, was very different from what it is today. Traveling, actually, was the easiest part. Now, calling home was another story. You needed hundreds of quarters, dimes etc, you needed to know the right operator for International Calls and you needed patience. Let’s not even mention keeping in touch. Letters would take more than a few days: write, then mail and deliver. Yes, I am that old!!!

Boston is not around the corner from Panama, but we managed. During those years, we visited our parents, our parents came to visit us and we spent many hours trying to conduct long distance conversations from a pay phone in our college dorms. It also happened that we all fell in love with boys we met there and going back home after college was not to be.

Of course, then, we didn’t stop to consider that our lives would be changed forever and going back and forth to Panama was not going to happened as we thought. That’s youth for you: we were happy, everything else took second place. We see that now, but our parents saw it then. Still, they never tried to change our minds or made us feel guilty about it. Their lives changed as well and in many ways not always for the better since their children were living far away and the grandchildren were not there for them to spoil and cuddle and love!!! .

We were busy with our lives, our families, but we visited them regularly……or they came to us. Life continued. Our children adored their grandparents, but had lives so different and so far removed from them. My parents grew older and my father passed away in 1984. He was younger than I am today!!! It was a wake up call and very difficult to accept.  In the years that followed, my mother grew more and more attached to her family in Panama.

They took our places in her everyday life, but we never minded. We kept in touch, visited, took her on our vacation trips, she visited us. Those were happy times in many ways, but hard times too. Saying good-bye was harder and harder. We could see she was getting older and all those family times would become difficult to arrange. Our children went away to college, another step in the never-ending march of Time.

My mother’s life made her happy. Every time we visited she had a new project or she was moving to the beach house for the Summer. She kept active and was with people she loved. Her peace of mind and her happiness had no price. She was happy and that was enough for us.

Yes, she was happy helping everyone. Her family, even today, say how wonderful she was and how she took care of everything, no matter what. Then she had a massive stroke. No point talking about that since I have before. As she got progressively worse, we discovered that extended families are not always what we thought they were. Ideally, everyone should be able to talk and express their opinions without arguments. Resentments never solved anything.

Slowly, our extended family shrunk and this is what I mean by endings. What was is no longer and that tells me it was not real. With this ending came another realization: we do have some wonderful people in our family. Finally, we are left with the ones we love, the ones that were there for us. We have the time and the openness to get to know them again, to enjoy their company. As someone who loved her family, my mother would have understood.

My mother’s illness made us stronger. Her passing made us free of whatever attachments we thought we had. The peace of mind and serenity we now enjoy is priceless. Endings are a beginning and for that, we are grateful.

Orchids

cropped-IMG_1692.jpgIMG_3358If you know me well, you know I don’t have a green thumb. When I had a beautiful garden, I had a lot of help and I contributed to the local economy!!! When I moved to Miami, we settled into an apartment, so no garden. I do, however, love plants….go figure. I used to buy them, tend them for a while and when they could not be helped…out they went. Worked very well through the years. Still, it seemed such a waste.IMG_5086

23_23When a dear friend, Guido, gave me an orchid for Mother’s Day in 2003, (there it is on that day!!!) all that changed. He passed away a few months later, 12 years ago today. I didn’t want to lose the plant. So, my quest for trying to keep it alive led me to buy more plants, trying to get them to bloom several times a year, finding the best place to help them thrive.  I Googled how to care for them, I asked questions where I bought them, bought fertilizers and blooming-food. I still have that first one (there you have it on the right!!!) and it blooms twice a year. In other words, I became a bit obsessed……and I love it!!!IMG_4712

My efforts have paid off; haven’t bought a plant in ages. Right now, I have 10 in bloom and others that are almost ready. Still working on variety, trying to get colors and shapes that catch my eye, but not overdoing it. After all, I am just a beginner at this; but my daughter calls me the Orchid Guru!!!IMG_1773IMG_0501

I just went on holiday for Easter Week. Left them all inside just in case there was too much sun or heat or wind. Came back and they are fine, some went back outside to get the morning sun. Those in bloom are all over the apartment. It feels great to know I can do this. Simple pleasures, simple joys……part of life. The difference is that I now sit back and realize they were here all along. Wonderful!!!

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This has just been a short post, just to show off my beautiful flowers.

They are something that gives me such pleasure. Life is good, my orchids tell me so.

Don’t you agree?

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