July 19th, 2007 feels like just the other day and yet my life has expanding from that moment. Ten short years ago, my now sweet hubby surprised me (the only one out of two times he ever has, which I enjoy reminding him of) with a little get away just around the bend. I don't remember much of that day except that I had a feeling something magical was going to happen but I wasn't sure exactly when. He told me to grab a few outfits and a bathing suit or two and we were off. A short drive to the Venetian Islands in Miami Beach and we turned into the historic Lido Hotel now known as the chic mid-century modern boutique hotel, The Standard Spa. I had been obsessed with the hotel since my best friend had taken me it's Lido Bayside Grill for lunch the previous year to tell me she was getting married. And here I was about to check in, already elated.
I don't remember every detail from that night but what I do remember is the picnic basket filled with wines and a charcuterie waiting for us in the room along with a beautiful floral arrangement. Without hesitation I told Ernie to grab the basket so we could wait for the sunset on the bayside dock just a few steps away from our room. We noshed, drank and talked and talked (nothing new for us two). Somehow, we had almost finished the second bottle right as the sun was setting, the sky splashed in pinks turning from purple to dark blue (those would end up being our wedding colors)., it was absolutely beautiful. It felt as though some of my favorite things just hung in time for a few moments, long enough to be engraved in my mind's eye forevermore. The sky, the light ripples of water against the seawall, the causeway lights starting to come on, the Miami skyline, and my love, intently listening to all my ramblings. I paused for a second and remember declaring, "I am so lucky" and has I began to lose myself in my own thoughts for a moment I realize, from the corner of my eye, that Ernie is moving out of his seat and onto one knee as he replies, "No, I'm the lucky one". And there was this most beautiful little box perfectly placed in his hands.
Now, you'd think that the first thing I would've said was, "YES!" but nope, not me because my mind races way to fast for normal replies to just about anything. What came out of my mouth instead was, "Oh no, I'm not even wearing the pretty dress I packed for this!". Ernie didn't even flinch, instead he gave me his sideways smile, the one he reserves just for me to see, and gave me a few seconds more to finish my crazy train of thought. And then, once I realized what I was doing I grabbed him by the face, kissing him all over coaxing him back into the seat besides me. I don't remember saying "yes" or even looking at the ring but the feeling of that moment still chokes me up as I feel my soul jump with glee from inside me.
Perhaps, not many people celebrate engageiversaries but we do, every year. In fact. we don't even celebrate our wedding anniversary as consciously as we do this moment. It's the moment we both decided to make our first commitment to each other, just us two with only the universe to attest to the love exchanged between us right then and there, privately as love ought to most times be. There were no pictures, no spectators, just the sound of the bay and the birds as the skies turned to grey and began to rain on us. It was magical. A moment in time we can never recreate but a memory as strong as any. And so, in honor of that moment, we book a room at the same hotel every year close to the date itself but sometimes even a month behind, we get some wine and cheeses (this year it was Sargento snack packs because that was all that was in the fridge when we were packing) and we enjoy eachother's company without the distractions of sightseeing, fancy meals or expectations. Just us two in a place we love and which feels a part of us, by the water and with sunset views. I am so lucky.
I've started this post so many times and each time I end up losing it thanks to the nuances of technology. Going for it once last time.
So many times before people ask me, "how do you do it?" in reference to our travel habits and the fact that we get away more often than most. I could share with you all the websites I use to book cheap flights, list the tips that make vacation spending more manageable, and go on and on about little tricks you can use here and there to maximize your experience, bookings and travel dollars but honestly, that only helps one trip at a time (and it would have to be the same exact trip that I took which takes away the fun and adventure of exploring).
Ours is a way of life. Perhaps we view money a bit differently than some and so we see travel as a right that we earn not a luxury. It starts with what you decide to spend your money on from the most essential thing to the "frivolous". For example, my husband and I have not had a new phone in years. Instead, we use phones others in our family deem old when they want the new upgrade but realize they don't get much for turning it in and so we reap the benefit. As the saying goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure". That might not seem like a huge savings but when you consider that most new phones cost upwards of $300 and most families are buying a new phone annually that would average about $600 just for a couple and that doesn't include the ridiculous prices these cell phone companies charge you to then use your brand spanking new phones on their network. Because we use old phones we are also able to have them unlocked and streamed onto an affordable network such as Net10 or H2O. Our monthly cell phone bill is about $110 for two lines with unlimited minutes and data. If you run those numbers really quickly that's already one more vacation a year that I am able to financially plan for that the average person "can't afford".
When it comes to eating out, well, let's just say that when you're in the business you know the cost of things and so eating out becomes a bit bothersome. Even before we had our own restaurants, Ernie and I found it difficult to spend money at chain restaurants with frozen or pre-made foods that didn't even come close to the food we could prepare at home and at a cost that would put any spendthrift to shame. If you take a few moments to average how much you and your family spend eating out monthly (including school lunches and coffee breaks-we pack our kids' lunches daily and never drink coffee on the road) you'd realize rather quickly a big difference between someone like myself who only allocates money for eating out on special occasions versus someone who eats out daily at one point of the day or another. Just a daily coffee at $6 a pop for a month gives me enough for one night at a hotel.
We don't use credit cards. Those convenient little things pack quite the punch when you start calculating interest rates, late fees, the loss of financial accountability being able to spend money you don't necessarily have on hand. I pride myself on the fact that my husband and I have zero credit card debt. If you see me whip out a piece of plastic it is one of three cards, debits or American Express which we pay off monthly (and honestly, the points/mile rewards program isn't even worth it anymore). Take a moment to make a note of all the different interest rates you pay per card along with the balance you owe and if there is any introductory rate see when it expires. Jot it all down in a little notebook and start appropriating a larger sum to the card with the highest interest charge. Notice I didn't say rate, you need to calculate the balance with the rate to determine which card is costing you the most. The calculation will change ever month as you go paying down your debt so you should allocate money accordingly till you are debt free. Trust me when I tell you that travelling is all the more enjoyable when you know you don't owe anything to any company for the expense.
Meal planning is key in keeping your spending on lockdown. Most people think that meal planning is a diet regimen thing and rarely think of it in terms of spending/savings. Think back on the days of hold (or try to recall a movie from the 50s). Mom would make a pot roast on Sunday which she would then use for meatloaf on Monday and perhaps get a few meatballs out of it for Tuesday. There was never any waste or expensive ingredients to make culinary marvels a daily occurrence. I spend about $125/week on groceries and that's being generous at the moment.
Ok, well I have to cut myself short and figured it was better to post something than nothing at all. Heading to the airport once again so this post is....
To be continued........ ;)
It's been over two weeks since our return from Spain and the fact that I won't be moving there immediately is starting to settle in so, for now, I will do my best to share our experience in hopes of inspiring others to visit and eventually become my ex-pat neighbors.
This post will be followed with a second blog listing budget, detailed itinerary and more tips on how to save and make this a realistic trip rather than one tagged "that of a life time".
Since my first visit to Spain in 2004 I remember thinking, "this is something I hope to share with my girls one day but when I do, it won't be in a hurry". I've never been a fan of zipping though cities for an hour or two just to check the place off my list, I like to get a bit immersed. Granted there are many places where there are only a few things to see and do before you feel like you've done all you can do or places so similar to each other that in choosing one to stay in and the other to visit in passing you still get a pretty authentic experience. Anyways, when I thought of sharing this experience with my girls I always thought it would be a summer long.
Unfortunately, co-parenting is a little bit tricky, especially when it comes to international travels, my dreams of teaching aboard for a summer and enrolling my girls in the same school where I'd be teaching, having them strengthen their Spanish, were crushed with a simply but hard NO and then the clock was set and we continue to wait for the magical number 18 to be free of those obstacles. But I digress. We had 17 days to travel during our winter break & I was ecstatic (even though I will forever wonder if I should've figured out how to make it 21 but this was not my once in a lifetime so there is time).
I spent many sleepless nights overwhelmed by the vast amount of options from cities to visit, landmarks to see and places to stay. Pinterest, Travel & Leisure.com, chef sites and tv shows suggestions, I ate it all up. But, two days before our departure (thanks to the holiday mayhem) I had 5 plane tickets to and from Miami to Madrid and nothing but a vague idea of where we were headed. I did know one thing for sure, we would need a car.
European travel TIP #1-learn how to drive a manual vehicle. It will save you over half of the rental fees and lead to various vehicle options. If you only drive automatic (like us) it can get tricky even trying to find a car to rent.
For many years, Ernie and I have discussed taking the kids to Europe as Mia's high school graduation gift and, in turn, making that a tradition. As it is, we typically celebrate special occasions with travel but this would be a "big" trip so we were "saving" it. It didn't quite work out that way for many reasons (i.e. summer flight fares are known to be astronomical) so Mia and I did a mother/daughter trip to the Northwest Pacific Coast instead (and boy, what a trip!). But Europe kept calling to me and so I did what I always do (and for months and months) I scanned airfares. The night I found flights to Madrid from Miami for only $425 (tax and fees included!) I was beside myself. Needless to say, we booked them right away with the only dilemma being how much time we wanted the kids to miss school and how soon after Christmas day we would be ready to leave (Oh! and the whole co-parenting schedule rearranging and notice thing. I can't tell you how much that part SUCKS!!! You are in the midst of a joyous occasion and then you realize, "I need permission from my ex.....and then I need to figure out how to give him "makeup" days for those lost during travel" and so much other mental stuff its not worth mentioning).
After a brief co-parenting delay, we booked our tickets and decided to keep it as a surprise for the younger kids. The drawback here was that for that reason I didn't write it into my agenda. My teen Thespian often writes her schedule in my agenda and I didn't want her seeing it. That is how we missed our flight. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but I don't commit things to memory unless I write them down and read it again and again. I had had a few conversations with family and, for whatever reason, kept saying we were leaving on a Tuesday at 9pm. Naturally, I went to check-in to our flight 24hrs before departure (Monday 9pm on my mental calendar) only to immediately realize, as I sat at my laptop with our bags packed and the pressure of throwing together an itinerary in less than 24hrs, that our flight was boarding. My blood ran cold and I went white in the face. I had to hold the table to keep from passing out. I have never missed a flight. I didn't even loose bobby pins. Ernie looked at me and knew immediately that something was wrong. When I voiced it everyone went into emergency mode, calling the airport, credit cards, the third party booking site, but nothing. We were told there was nothing we could do but accept that we had lost over $2000 on a flight we had just missed. It's safe to say none of us sleep that night (well Ari did because he was already sleeping when the shit hit the roof). I remember someone mentioned that we could just go to North Carolina....this was not the thing to say to me at that moment. I was beside myself with guilt and disappointment. How did I mess this up?
The next morning, Mia, our eldest, wasn't feeling well so as I took her to urgent care Ernie and my mother (the master negotiators) head out to the British Airways counter at Miami International Airport to plead our case. After 5 plus grueling hours, they were able to talk their way through the mayhem and were offered the option to pay a transfer fee of $225 per person to reschedule the flight to that same night. We would be boarding the flight I thought we were supposed to be on at a price but nonetheless, it was lose over $2000 or spend another $1000plus to go. I had a bit of a difficult time conceding to this being the bargain hunter that I am but quickly realized that $650pp during the holidays for a European flight was still quite a steal.
As the attendant and manager and director and hell I think maybe the VP of British Airways prepared our course and starting checking us in a red beacon alerted everyone to one more "little" problem.....mine and Ernie's passports would expire within three months of our return date from Spain so we were not being granted passage. At this point I thought my head would explode! There hadn't been an issue in booking our flight because we were flying into London and then connecting to Madrid; the UK doesn't have that law so we were not previously notified of the issue.
European Travel TIP #2: Check the particular laws of each country to plan to visit and do not assume that your booking agent or airlines will notify you of an issue. During the course of this issue we learned from several people (airline employees, passport office agents, avid travelers) that this is a common and costly occurrence. Had we not missed our original flight, boarded the plane and made it to UK we would've been told at our connection flight to Spain that we were not allowed to move forward in our travels. We would've been stuck in the UK without a flight back home because our return flight was direct from Madrid. I can only imagine what a return flight from the UK would have cost me at that point, my guess is way more than the $1250 we paid for the transfers.
We rebooked the flight for Wednesday 9pm, two days behind schedule, with the hope that we would arrive to the passport agency and have our passports expedited. A 5am wakeup call, a leisurely lunch in Downtown Miami (and not even at our own café because we had it scheduled to close for the week between holidays) and $320 later, we were back on track. Only issue now was Mia's kidney infection....the doctors cleared here and she was immediately put on antibiotics and insisted she was good to go so we went.
December 28, 2016 MIA-MAD 9pm-7am (overnight arriving on the 29th)
3.5hr layover in London Heathrow where we slept in airport chairs and then pumped ourselves up with overpriced airport coffee concoctions for another brief 3hr flight to Madrid.
Arrived in Madrid, Spain on Thursday December 29th 5pm and from there our journey continued after having to sort out some car rental issues (like the fact that we didn't have one reserved yet for another 4 days).
Day 1-3:El Escorial, Madrid, Spain
Day 4-5: Madrid
Day 5-6: Segovia (Vallaloid)
Day 7-9: San Sebastian
Day 9: Hondarribia
Day 9-11: Ascain, Saint Jean De Luz & Biarritz
Day 11-15: Madrid (by way of Burgos)
15 days, 14 nights just about $8000.00 for a family of 5 people. Included car rental & gas, accommodations, food, entertainment, souvenirs and airfares (with added cost of transfers for missing the first flight, subtract that and this trip would've only cost me around $6500 which is what made me even more upset when I missed it).
How did I do it even with the added cost of paying for airline transfers to make the trip actually happen? Subscribe and get a notification for my post detailing all my tips and tricks. Btw, airfare to Madrid is about $425 again right now but you gotta know where to look. ;)
I haven't learned all that much in my 39yrs of life. I'd like to say different but the truth of the matter remains, right when I think I've got it, I don't. I think this to be true for most everyone and if it isn't for you than you have even more to learn than me. See, the issue lies in that life is fluid, ever changing, shifting, rearranging. The moment you get comfortable , you know, figure things out, BOOM! A nice smack in the face shows you otherwise. There's nothing wrong with it so long as you realize that it's the only truth in this life, change. The one thing you can depend on is that everything changes. Not one sunrise or sunset is that same, not the feeling of the wind on a different day, not a day at the beach or a night in the snow. Never once will you see the same thing in nature exactly the same way again. Change is the only constant.
For so many years I aimed to achieve a certain level of sameness. Striving for the same goals society has taught us to revere. I wanted a big house, nice car, well paying job that also happened to make me happy (ha!), no debt, smart and beautiful kids (check mark that one), a loving & devoted husband (doesn't always happen on the first attempt), an in shape body and the perfect family holidays all while maintaining excellent family health, hefty savings accounts and travelling the world but without taking any risks because, let's be honest, no one tells you about the risks you have to take when you're in college. It would be a perfect life. Secure, well planned, executed flawlessly.
Had my original plans worked out I'd be an attorney making six figures living in the Gables, driving a BMW and shopping at Neiman Marcus on the weekends with my perfectly accessorized and thoughtfully aged out children in tow along with my adorable teacup Yorkie, Gigi, who comes along with me on such trips happy to ride along in my Louis. I'm glad it didn't work out that way. That life is so far from who I am and where I want to be that it's laughable to think that something like that would have even been a dream of mine (it wasn't by the way, I actually don't remember thinking all that much into my future other than me having 3-4 children and doing something I loved but also happened to be naturally good at, at that time law made the most sense for the sole reason that I could typically shut anyone up with just a few factual talking points, I thought that'd be enough to be a good attorney).
I've come to embrace life's uncertainties. Living in the present as much as one possibly can and enjoying the moment of now if it's a good now but knowing that if it isn't it's okay because things WILL change. A quote by Henri Bergson states, "To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly" I dare you to embrace the changes in your own life, to keep moving, creating, and never once settling. Life can be mundane but only if you choose not to change it.
There isn't much written on the matter well, beacuse it's a sensitive issue. Every time you are about to just put it all out there, something is waved over your head (like a threat) or because most of the times you hope that in avoiding the horrible truth you will will it to be better. But the truth is this, you divorced your ex because you didn't get along and so it's likely you wont get along during your course as co-parents (which, by the way, doesn't end at 18).
Sure there are those exceptional occassions where the exes get along so well that they still spend time with eachother, new husband, new wife, new children, all in tow but that's not the reality for the most of us. Heck, there are even circumstances where one parent is such a disaster that they are no where to be found, the present parent claiming that it's tougher on the kids this way bc, well, that whole absent parent thing can really screw with your head, I not disagreeing. But...no one talks about the shit show that is trying to get along with your ex, who is your ex for many reasons, for the benefit of the children all the while your children are torn from limb to limb as pawns in the game of "civilty and getting along". Sure they are blessed with the love of 2 plus parents but lets get real here, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and it couldnt ring more truth than here.
Co-parenting sucks, period. There is nothing awesome or even remotely nice about it. Imagine your life is a constant group project where you walk on egg shells, ask for permission (even though you're doing all the work but because you need that "Team" grade thing), have to report setbacks and progress, have to put up with someone purposely looking for errors in your work to prove their worth, assigning responsibilities and scheduling dates only to have to put up with whining or slack or kickback because, well, that's how group projects go. Only when you complain or share a frustration with people not in that class, people sympathize with you knowing how much group projects SUCK. Not in the co-parenting project. Nope. Instead you get crap like, "just get over it", "why can't you guys just make it work", "seriously how long has it been", "think positive", "you could make it work you're just not trying" or, my personal favorite, "you just like the drama".
Ok, so back to the group project analogy...Imagine that you were paired with a team that sucked so freaking hard you asked your teacher/professor/God to do anything and everything to change your group and so they did but every class assignment, test and project after that you were paired with them again and again, and again and again and this time there was no "get out of jail free card" but rather your teacher told you, "just get over it", "why can't you guys just make it work", "seriously how long has it been", "think positive", "you could make it work you're just not trying" or, my personal favorite, "you just like the drama". Ok, now take away silly things like grades and points and add in family trips, holidays, special occassions, birthdays, expenses, curfews/discipline (you know, child rearing, the stuff the "mean" parent gets stuck with while the other one gets to be the "cool" parent but who is actually working against mean parent by pointing out how difficult mean parent is and how so cool they are but, then calling mean parent to make sure they are doing their job bc they don't want the kid to be a fuck up but they don't want to lose their connection with said kid). Are you still pushing for that A, would you settle for a C+ because you can't drop out of this class (well, I guess, technically you could which, quite honestly probably makes you the not so great parent where walking away from it all would truly alleviate the other parent so, just go, it wasn't a graded assignment anyways).
This is the part where some of you are thinking, ugh, bitter ex-wife momma drama. Think outside the box people. But who am I kidding? Life has taught me enough times to know that people don't really care about other people's problems so this isn't for you. This is for those of you that know the frustration of living the life of the songless co-parent. Those that have suffered restless nights wondering if their kids are safe or being cared for as they would be at home while at their "other home". Those trying to find the balance between setting boundaries and fostering a blended family. Those tossing and turning wondering am I being too strict, too inquisitive, too demanding, too paranoid, too overbearing, too forgiving, too hopeful, too stupid, too bitchy, too easy, too complicated, too yielding. For the ones that don't take the credit and bite their tongues. For those that show up and make vague excuses for the noshow parent. Heck, for those that say it how it is. For all the ones in between that sprinkle the truth here and there, just enough to instill valuable lessons but not enough to jade.
I always wanted to be a parent. For as long as I can remember, I wanted 4 children, close in age and best of friends. When I became a parent, at the age of 19, I wasn't scared one bit because I knew I had it in me from the beginning. I went head first into everything parenting from laboring options to college scholarship opportunities with sights set for Ivy. But, co-parenting....no one prepares you for that one, even still there is a haze around it's reality. And truth is, it's a lot harder than unmediacted vaginal birth and it lasts a lot longer than 18yrs.
Fidel Castro died and although I didn't quite feel the gusto to get out my pots and pans and celebrate I did feel a sense of relief. One less tyrant to walk among us. One less evil genius to sway things to the dark side. One less asshole to see on any sort of media. He was a symbol of ultimate oppression, only he was quite diplomatic in his ways. In fact, his diplomacy is what I find to be most infuriating. See, the thing is the world rarely recognizes the hard fact that the wolf always comes in sheep's clothing.
History proves that the most powerful of oppressors are often the most complimentary and beautiful story tellers. It starts like this, they befriend you and ultimately their communities by listening to your qualms intently, making sure to take note of that which is most often desired throughout a general people, equality, recognition, resolution, ideas, sometimes just simply being listened to and acknowledged or praised (mind you, this is not only true for world dictators but also for the most basic of hypocrites). They gauge their power based on their connections and their reach in terms of information, information which they stifle, misconstrue or manufacture for their own benefit. Those who don't know any better (lack of education, ignorance, arrogance, prejudice) follow suit because, well, why not. The person at the helm is eloquent, intelligent (to a certain degree or maybe in the sense of an evil genius but I like to consider true intelligence as a balanced mind not an oppressive one) and offers solutions to the problems they didn't even realize they admitted they had. The oppressor stands tall and confidant (because a lie is only believable if the teller believes it themselves) and weaves a web of lies that would make a person feel stupid to question. So now there are followers. The hopeless believers who support without question or interrogation (because questioning requires effort and rationale and that is often too much to ask of anyone) they chant alongside the malicious master revering and applauding the victories being fed to them and all without scrutiny of the chosen one.
You might be wondering, what is my point, exactly. Well, I recognize that a step by step analysis of what I believe was Castro's evil but perfect plan to destroy the beautiful island nation of Cuba, my family's homeland, would be somewhat irrelevant at this moment because it would be diving into a deep pool of the past and would offer little to no condolence to my people. I know these words will be lost on those that simply just don't understand oppression or those that face different monsters believing their plight and their woes to be worse. The point of my writing today is to ask you all to heed the lesson of Cuba's ugly history. Fidel was a master of words, a diplomatic adversary if you will, who gained followers and built an army based on his promises. He instilled fear and stifled truths once his power grew beyond the scope of one community. Castro's regime grew out of lies, it's as simple as that. Why aren't there more stories, movies, novels, tv shows, because the Cuban people are an optimistic people, forever believing that the blessings bestowed upon our lives, even in the course of tragedy and misfortune, far outweigh the horrors of the past. Our people teach our children to forgive and forget and move forward, that nothing will come from vengeance. That the thousands of lives lost at the hand of one of history's greatest Goliath is something that cannot be altered so why dwell upon it if no change will come of it.
Well, the story of David's bravery against Goliath would never have served as an example to us all had we never heard the story in the first place. To quiet triumphs and silence victories as well as injustices simply to appease the weak at heart is to devoid the world of hope and inspiration. Those that attempt to quiet the truths that need be spoken are a different sort of monster but, one just as strong in their power to change the courses of history and perception. Do not be deceived by the stories best told for often times those stories are more fiction than fact and as beautiful as a lie may be, the ones we most want to believe are the most dangerous kind.
Yesterday I had a strange encounter. One that left me thinking quite a bit. I started my day in the usual fashion, the morning hustle to get lunches packed, water bottles filled, breakfast ready, some quick house chores squeezed in and everyone dressed in the right outfit for the day (since when did schools have SO many different theme days). Finally out the door and on our way (we've been on time to school almost every day this year so far!). After school dropoffs I typically head to the gym for about 45mins before taking a quick shower there and then heading to work. I've upped my water intake so I went straight for the restroom as soon as I walked through the gym doors.
Now, this is the part that was a bit different. As many moms know, most handicap accessible restrooms offer added comforts. When my children were little, I often chose this restroom stall for things like breastfeeding when I was a young and embarrassed mother (although I outgrew that rather quickly), packing three kids in a restroom with me while everyone took care of their business, using the changing table which is often located in this stall, taking advantage of a private sink for many feminine reasons when flushable wipes are not at your disposal. In the four years as a member of this gym I have used that stall maybe 4 times, and, yesterday was one of them. Now let me add, during the same four years at this overloaded Hialeah gym where literally hundreds of people frequent at any given hour, I have never once seen a person who would be restricted to only using this stall. People at gyms tend to be routine in their arrival times and during those 4 years I have learned the faces of almost every frequent member. But I digress.
So I rush into the coveted stall, which is typically occupied for the reasons I listed above but never once for its handicap accessibility. I am a multitasker in everything I do, so even in the restroom I am quick. I'm typically not even done and I already have my t.p, in hand ready to wipe and go. Right when I'm about to wrap things up I notice an electric wheelchair move up to the stall door. I'm immediately horrified by my own lack of consideration. I call out instantly, "I am so sorry, give me a minute and I'll be out". No response but the chair moves in closer so that I can now see the person's feet. I'm reaching for the t.p. only to realize, to my horror, there is none. I repeat my apology a second time and add the fact that there isn't any toilet paper. No response. I scurry over to the sink with my pants around my ankles and am relieved to find paper towel in the dispenser (doing this is never fun but you do what you gotta do to get things done). If a timer was set, I'd swear that I was out of there in less than 25 seconds.
As soon as I open the door I apologize once again but I am already being yelled at. She begins to tell me, in Spanish, how inconsiderate I am and starts yelling about the fact that I have no business in that restroom. I apologize in Spanish and let her know of the missing toilet paper situation but she's not hearing it. She continues on to tell me that it is illegal for me to be in that restroom which is designated for the old and disabled. I repeat again that there isn't any toilet paper and if she would like for me to get her some. She forges on to belittle me with insults refusing to hear me. Now, I start to get upset. Most people that know me well know that I can be very nice and understanding but also am intolerant of arrogance and entitlement. Had this been a one stall bathroom this person would have had to wait till I was good and ready to be done to use the restroom as one stall restrooms at any establishment are also the handicap accessible restroom.
When she starts quipping laws I start losing my patience. The one remark that set me off was when she stated that it was illegal for me to use "her" restroom. I had already moved on to washing my hands (which I didn't do inside the stall, even though there was a sink, to give her access as quickly as possible). Instead of hurrying into the stall to do her business she turned her chair around to face me, while I washed my hands, to scold me, with absolutely no rush on her part to actually use the restroom. This is the point when I decided to dry my hands and walk out completely aware of the fact that there was no toilet paper in the stall she was about to use.
Sometimes not everything is our problem to solve. Sometimes you just have to turn around, walk away and not feel sorry.
My father-in-law loves to share stories and tell jokes. He often surprises me by sharing a joke that relates perfectly to my day without knowing it. Today he insisted on an Alvarez Guedes oldie.
Two couples met after quite some time and immediately start catching up. "What have you been up to?" "How have you been feeling?" "What about your parents?"....
One man asks the other, a father of two, "hey, how are your kids? They must be grown with lives of their own." To which the other replies, "Ugh, my poor son. He's been married for some time but to a lazy woman. She doesn't work, stays home all day and constantly goes out shopping. Meanwhile, my son, who graduated with an engineering degree and makes a pretty decent salary, has to work all day only to have to help with the children while his wife takes a break. It's insulting really, the gull of this woman to squeeze my son in this way but he is in love and allows her to do as she pleases. Can you believe that she has him get her a new car every three years?".
The other man then asks, "but what of your daughter?".
To which the father replies , "My daughter?! Now she struck gold! She married a surgeon who makes a ton of money, doesn't allow for her to work and is constantly spoiling her with gifts and jewels. The guy is head over heels for her. This month he bought her a new Mercedes, it's the third one she's had since they married. My girl is a smart girl.".
The jokes that are best to laugh at are the ones that resonate truth. Often times, the same exact scenario is interpreted in two ways and it doesn't even mean that one is the truth. Why? Because both sides of the story are still presented with prejudice no matter how hard one tries to stay neutral. It's not in our nature or in the way our language and culture was built. There are irrevocable tendencies to one side or another in delivery and reception. These interpretations form the relationships we have with others. Should you chose to have a particular fondness for the person then you are likely to interpret their communications, actions and intentions positively.
The problem lies in those relationships that are strained from the get go and require quite a bit of self reflection to progress. When we fail to recognize the truth of others and their efforts for what they are in reality rather than what we perceive because of our own predispositions, we cast unwarranted judgement and negativity to something that can very well be the same thing we find positive in another. Our current post-election situation is a perfect example. People revere their candidates for reasons they feel to be sound but fail to recognize that those on "the other side" are doing the same. Rather than acknowledge differences of opinions, instill love and understanding and fortify communication, we point the finger at each other with an over zealous need for blame.
This is the part where I am supposed to draw a conclusion based on self reflection and which offers an insightful solution. The only thing I can say is this, don't be a prick because, truth is, what's good for the goose should be good for the gander.
As we prepare for the first serious Hurricane to threaten South Florida in well over a decade, I can't help but realize the correlation between serious storms and co-parenting. See, as a Miamian, we have been raised to expect the worst and hope for the best in almost every situation from walking to your car at night after a fun time on the town, to being hurricane ready. Co-parenting is quite similar. In fact, it is exactly like tracking hurricanes during season.
Starting on June 1st and running all the way through November 30th, Floridians are on pins and needles when the weather channel flashes an advisory. We know the only thing that can pop up on that Doppler during those months is something that affects us. When back to school season comes upon us we half forget the threat and half remember that August-Oct are typically our most threatening times. As seasoned hurricane and tropical storm "survivors", most of us have become a bit cynical about the advisories. Shoot, last season felt like it was sponsored by Home Depot and Walmart with 3 threats and, thankfully, no hits. So when the week kicks off with hurricane talk some tune it out while others become obsessed. I'm one of the "tune it out till school is cancelled" kind. Basically, until I see there is imminent danger, I continue my days as usual. But when it's go time, I go! Fortunately, I am a planner, so storm threat or not, I always have what I need in case of an emergency on hand (this planning is what helped us during our house fire, used a fire extinguisher to try to stop it, had documents and some albums on hand as well as an exit plan that was perfectly executed). When word hits that we are in danger of something big, I don't fret because we are always as ready as anyone can be for catastrophes, sorta like the Griswolds, we roll with the punches and amuse ourselves in the interim.
How does this relate to co-parenting, you must be wondering. Well, I am just as prepared for threats, destruction, change of projected paths, financials, storms that come without warning and even the ones that are perfectly forecasted with my "co-parents". Only those that are faced with a co-parenting situation will understand this so if you do not share children with another family this will be most difficult to comprehend. Much like people who have never experienced an actual hurricane will never understand why the entire county can go into a frenzy in less than half a day. Praying doesn't save you from destruction, preparing only helps you ease the stress a bit but really, nothing can throw a storm off it's course. All there is to do, most of the time, is clean up the shit-feast that is left behind and hope that it doesn't sweep back around and hit you again before you've had enough time to rebuild. It ain't pretty, you can't do much to divert it and people who have never experienced it can't do much with their advice to help avoid it, stop it or get over it. When a category 4 is off the shore line, you just gotta hunker down, arm yourself with provisions and pray that your roof doesn't blow off.
It seems that some weeks, or even months, bring about more sadness than others. This week in Miami has been a particularly rough one. With the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez and his two companions, Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias, Miami was left in shock. It is never easy to fathom the death of those gone too soon. Within a day of the tragic news, the community of Hialeah was faced with the loss of a long time political figure and well known Miami business maven, Herman Echevarria. Both incidents confusing and heartbreaking.
It is not enough to say that we should live every moment fully or that we should hold on tight to those we love. It is unfair to simple state there is a lesson to be learned in the face of tragic events or that there are some hidden blessings to be found. Some things are just irrevocably awful with no silver lining. Those four mothers faced with the loss of their boys have every right to delve into the anguish and pain that no one wants to even begin to imagine. Let us honor them by allowing them their pains. Positive words and encouragement as well as memories of a beautiful past are wonderful and help enlighten but too many of us quickly resolve to that and often dismiss the honest truth behind love and loss, it is painful, ugly, dark and it needs to be because there is no reprieve when faced with such tragedies.
"If we could see the fullness of our tomorrows, how many of us would take desperate action to change the future? What if our far seeing showed us the loss of our homes, our families, our very lives, and to save it all we would need only to barter away our most precious souls. Who among us would give up what we cannot see for what we can holding our hands? I believe many of us would peel ourselves away from our immortal selves as easily as the skin from a boiled plum if it meant we could remain on the earth for a while, our bellies full and our beds warm and safe at night." -Kathleen Kent The Heretic's Daughter
Let us live fully, yes but let us also allow room for the pain and suffering of others.