Perspective

I was at my brother in law’s wedding this weekend in Maryville, Tennessee.

My husband drove for about 13 hours from Miami with me and 4 of our kids—our 3 oldest and my little sister/oldest baby girl. (She’s 26 btw.) 💖

Most of the family was coming in, some driving, others flying, to join in celebrating Greg and Courtney’s special day.

FFW>> through the “Are we there yet’s?”, check-in, unpacking, bathing.

THE CABIN

We found ourselves at a beautiful cabin set in a quiet nippy wooded area of Maryville. A shallow river looped around the back of the picturesque cabin. A family of geese flew down and waded around in the chilly water, although it didn’t seem to bother them.

The BBQ was running hot, full of hot dogs, sausages and burgers. A bottle of Sazon Completo waited anxiously by the fresh unseasoned patties for Abuelo Gaby to spice things up.

Cousins and uncles grabbed beers, hogged the couch, watched basketball, and over analyzed the playoffs.

The kids built skyscrapers with dominoes; repeatedly colored out of the lines; giggled and yelled excitedly through a couple of rounds of UNO! with some of the older cousins. 

Wedding chatter filled the kitchen, as Tia’s prepped and cooked the feast for the Cuban themed rehearsal dinner for the next night, Lechon, congri, yucca, arroz con leche…

Yea, let’s fast forward a bit before I get hungrier.

FFW >> to the next day, unloading the car, set up, last minute stops at the liquor store and market, more loading and unloading, bathing and the prepping kids, aaaand we’re back!

THE REHEARSAL DINNER

This night, like many other traditional rehearsal dinners, would be the first time that most of our (Greg’s) family, met Courtney’s family. And let’s just say Tennessee and Cuba, I mean Miami, are pretty much worlds apart. 

It was a wonderful night though. Of course the Cubans suited up in their guayaberas, thank you VALSAN (Los Que vienen, No se Van… except for short weekend trips to Tennessee). Point is, we got the party going quickly.

The only empty tables were ours, because we were busy at the domino tables, getting mojitos at the bar, tootsie rolling on the dance floor (there was no candy involved), and exposing ourselves at the photo booth, I mean waiting for the instant pictures to expose themselves from the Fuji Instax camera. 

Lauren had thought carefully through the playlist, and it paid off because soon everyone was stomping on the dance floor, literally jumping off a small stage at the end of the hall and stomping the dance floor. 

But alas all good things must come to an end. And like every good party, when the liquor runs out, the guest run out, literally they run for the door. Im just kidding, but where did they go off to so quickly? 

FFW>> Clean up on aisle…EVERYWHERE.

THE WEDDING DAY

The next morning was a whirlwind of showering, makeup, white stockings that would be black in a couple of hours, dresses and heels. 

After failing to find film for my Fuji Instax camera at Walgreens (I swear I don’t get any bonuses for mentions O_o, camera and film sold at Walmart and Target.) we continued on to …
THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

No one would be murdered there, as creepy as the name sounds, but I do have a shadow filled polaroid of the house to back up that initial sentiment. 

It was literally just that, a house IN the middle of the woods beside the Maryville College. Quiet & peaceful; lush greenery everywhere. The house was a classic white, 2-story, wood frame house. It smelled of eucalyptus and hospitality, and came complete with a creepy attic. 

Actually, it wasn’t that creepy at all. The would be menacing attic turned out to have the most perfectly awkward curvature of grey wall and atypical fluorescent lighting that became an impromptu backdrop for family photos. 

Cue the aunts and uncles and cousins and kids who took turns practicing their chin ups, and shoulder drops, before settling on final poses for pictures. Marta snapped away while the groomsmen and bridesmaids took traditional pictures outside with the bride and groom. Separately, of course. Can’t have the bride and groom spooking each other before the big moment. 

FFW>> After 367 pictures or more, depending on whether or not u count the ones deleted to make additional space, it was finally time to head to the church.

I DO. 

The ceremony was beautiful of course.
The music played. The Bible was read. She cried, he cried, we cried. Thank God for the boxes of tissues at the end of every aisle. Even Vicky my youngest sniffled and had to dab at the corners of her eyes; although it may have just been an allergic reaction to her flower girl bouquet. 

We lined up outside the church to send them off with a cheer in the traditional manner, except for the rice; we didn’t pelt them with anything except love and good wishes. They waved and drove off (circled the parking lot until most of the guests had left).
We took more family pictures before heading to the reception. That is really all that remains once we get back to the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.
THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS REVISITED

Fiesta, Fiesta.

The setup for the reception was perfection. The entire property immediately around the house, including the house was used in one way or another.

The cocktail hour was around the back of the house, which was actually at the front of the house when you drove up, so that was a little confusing. There was a delicious Biscuit, Bacon, Ham and Jam station, which was phenomenol. I mean it doesn’t just sound delicious; it was heaven.
There was a bar on each side of the house, obviously lots of people congregated there. The food was set up downstairs in the large main living space of the house. Low shelves lined the walls; antiques and old books scattered throughout.
The cake table was an old barrel! SO VINTAGE! And it was smack dab in the middle of the hallway torturing everyone who walked by.
At the rear, or should I say “front” of the property, you immediately came upon the dance floor surrounded by Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez’s table, guests tables, the DJ, a cigar smoking sitting area, and lots of space for kids to run and dance and play hide-and-seek.
Dinner was served, and shortly after it was time for the first, but not last, dance for the newly annointed Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez. Father/Daughter dance followed. And then mother and son graced the dance floor. She wrapped her arms around his tall shoulders, and looked up at him. He had looked up to her for so long. They smiled and laughed, reminisced.
Soon the dance floor would begin to fill. Flower girls twirling, bridesmaids twerking, laughter of friends and family, impromptu karaoke, and the flash of iphones and my Fuji instax camera. My kids took turns toting it around and blinding the guests, inadvertently cutting off peoples feet and or heads. Nevertheless, there still were many great shots.
FFW>> through hide and seek with the kids (mostly seeking), dodging ditches, and bug repellent.
I stood before the house near the edge of the dance floor. From this vantage point I could easily look around to spot my wandering kids, and catch a glimpse of my niece here and there. I watched my family-some chatting, a few spectators like me, but the majority were breaking it down, carefree on the dancefloor.
There’s something magical about weddings. Maybe it’s the idea of a new beginning, the dream of eternal love, endless possibilities, two people building a brighter future together.
Whatever it is, it brings people together, even if just for a short time.

I pulled up my cellphone to capture the moment, the angle was awful. I could only get the people who were right in front of me. Everyone was all cluttered together. You couldn’t see all the fun that was happening in the middle, or the people who were dancing in the back, barely staying on the edge of the dancefloor.
I needed to get higher.
I looked at the surrounding trees that towered above us. Yes, for a second I thought, if only I could get up in one of those trees.
I quickly discarded the idea but as I looked around me at the house, my eyes came upon the solution.
I walked into the house and straight up the wooden staircase. Just my luck, one of the rooms at the top of the steps had a small window that overlooked the dancefloor head on.
I unlocked the window and pushed up on it. Now someone had noticed me in the window.
They are on to me!
Just when I thought it wasn’t going to budge, the wood creaked and it slid open.
I leaned on the edge of the window and pulled up my iphone and everyone realized what I was up to! They started cheering and jumping and dancing even more!
Realizing what all the comotion was about behind them, one of the hired photographers sprinted up the stairs hoping to catch the same shot.
********
Life is all about perspective.
You’ll notice I did some fast forwarding through this post (although it is STILL rather long).
You can sit around and look at all the things that annoy you; make lists of everything that is going wrong; nitpick at all the things that you are unhappy about; criticize others decisions; waste your time being negative; being a victim.
Or you can look for the positive; see other peoples joy around you and feed off of that; focus on being happy; doing good; spreading
good vibes and uplifting sentiments.
Taking pictures.
Sometimes your vision gets clouded. You have to separate yourself from a situation, and look up for a better perspective.

How to get away with Mur…MARRIAGE!

How to get away with Mur…RIAGE!

Ha! Marriage!
Yes, I almost said Murder; but both go hand in hand if you ask 40-50% of the population.

MARRIAGE: It’s supposed to be a “Merry-Age”? But for a lot of people it’s more like a slow torturous death.

The plus side is you can always just pull the plug and get a divorce, RIGHT?

NO!!! This totally annoys me.

If you inherently believe that you are gonna fail at something the whole while you are attempting it, don’t you think that negativity will filter through? At the first sign of trouble, you just throw in the towel and bail?

Gosh, we’d probably still be pushing boulders around and beating each other over the head with clubs if we gave up on everything so easily.

Yes, some issues arise because people get married for the wrong reasons, or without getting to know each other well enough, and so on. But for the purpose of this blog post, let’s assume both parties are in love and genuinely believe they WANT to spend the rest of their lives together.

I always hated the phrase “Marriage takes work.” If marriage takes work, then I guess parenting is unpaid overtime, with no breaks or benefits?

I only kid (if you are single and not a parent yet).

If you ARE married and/or also in the parenting phase of your life/relationship, have Faith; be Steadfast; YOU CAN DO THIS!

How? How can I get through another day, you ask? How can I be happy, make my partner happy, and be a good parent at the same time?

Well this post has all the answers you’ve been looking for, you just have to read the whooooole thing to find out.

Okay, I lied.

It’s not easy. It takes a lot of slapping yourself in the face, and saying “Snap out of it!” And “Stop whining like a lil B—-!”

Hi. My name is Carmen.

I’m 17 years into my relationship; almost 11 years into my marriage; and 8 1/2 years into the parenting phase.

And I’m very happy with my life, marriage and family up till now. Many will say I’m happy because I haven’t gotten to the bad part yet. Why do people always wanna have a worse story than you? Wether it’s relationship stories or the horrific labor stories women tell, we are always trying to one up with the bad vibes or bad news.

Well, thankfully, we passed the “7 year itch” without a hitch. We’ve got four kids, all natural labors, 3 with epidural. And although our oldest is only 8, she is frightfully maturing at the speed of light.

Unfortunately, there’s no epidural for marriage, but you shouldn’t need one.

Here are 10 other things you can do be happy in your marriage. I say other because there are so many factors that contribute to a happy marriage.

1: Play hide & seek.
Or, as I like to call it: randomly hide from your husband and scare the crap out of him.

WARNING: while this is EXTREMELY fun, and HILARIOUS, be warned that I cannot be responsible if you get punched or kicked in the face by your frightened significant other.

Whenever I hear him coming down the hall, I find a quiet place to hide and then wait… And wait… And wait. Sometimes for several minutes.

Sounds sinister, I know, but it makes for a great laugh for the both of us, after the initial scare that is. Thankfully he seems to forget to get me back.

2: Serenade each other randomly. 

You don’t need a fancy guitar or Mariachis. Just sing in the car or at home when “your song” comes on. Or text them randomly if you hear your song or any other romantic song on the radio. And don’t discriminate if it’s “Bump and Grind”; it’s the thought that counts.

3: Say I love you when you’re just going to another room.

Say I love you a lot! NO, it does not take the meaning away! Sometimes we don’t say it enough to avoid overuse.

Are you kidding me? Do you know how many times we use the word “the” or “and” everyday? Try taking that out of   rest of this blog post see how odd it would be.

Say “I love you” often as you can.

4: Make time to be Intimate.

This should be number 1, but the order doesn’t really matter.

This is especially true once you have kids, but even before. You get married, and have jobs and responsibilities, and before you know it you could be in a slump! Do not give in to the slump. As tacky or unexciting as it may sound, set aside time to be intimate. Literally, count the days and plan for it.

As boring as that may sound, it will still be fun and exciting once you get around to it! So book your calendars just as you would a mani, pedi, or gym-time.

5: Leave little love notes for each other. 

This one is more for the ladies.

Ladies, don’t read this and say, “my guy never does that.” You see THAT is YOUR biggest problem. Stop comparing your guy to someone else’s. AND stop expecting things from him just because you do them, or want him to do them. Men are totally different animals than us. They DO NOT think the way we do. So you have to learn to interpret and appreciate the little things they do for us.

Like what?

Well, how about when they fix something around the house; deal with your car problems; maybe they let you pick a movie. Okay, maybe it’s just a show between the commercials of the football game; okay, maybe you just hold the remote. FINE! Who am I kidding, we barely have remote rights.

Also, ladies, men are terrible guessers. Just tell them what you want and stop expecting them to “know” everything.

6: Compliment each other.

Naturally, as time passes and you start to settle into the relationship, you get so comfortable you forget how attractive you once found each other. You forget about the chase because you already caught each other, and even though you still have the hots for each other, you stop saying/showing it.

This sort of goes back to number 4/1, but also leads to #7.

7: Be confident.
Too often we don’t give ourselves enough worth. We get down on ourselves because we don’t like what we see in the mirror and we ASSume the other person is unhappy with us as well.

Well, NEWSFLASH, men are easier to please than you think. NO they are not blind; you ARE NOT Miranda Kerr or Sofia Vergara, and yes they find these women very attractive. BUT nevertheless, your spouse wants YOU! So ACT like you look like Miranda Kerr, just don’t talk like Sofia Vergara (that’s just annoying). Put on something sexy no matter what you look like, and your spouse will be happily surprised!

8: Never keep track of who owes who.

Marriage is a give and take (this also goes back to number 4/1).

It’s about compromising and sacrificing.

Sometimes you will feel like you are giving more than the other person. But you aren’t supposed to keep tabs. It’s not a math equation.

You don’t give in hopes of receiving, although the saying goes “you rub my back, I’ll rub yours.” And who doesn’t love a good back rub?

You have to love the person more than yourself. If you are both truly in love, then it all balances out.

Ask my husband and he’ll confirm, “Happy Wife; Happy Life!”

9: Don’t worry about other people’s relationships.

NOBODY is perfect. No matter how “happy” people seem.

You know what makes for a great marriage?

Discretion.
Keep your problems between the both of you. Work them out together, whenever possible just between you and your spouse. Because your unconditional love will forgive many things, but your friends, family and Facebook will not be as understanding or forgiving.

10: Articles about Marriage are like Fad diets.

Their advice WORKS! But the second you atop dieting, you gain all the weight/problems back.

You see marriage is for a lifetime. There is no quick fix, or one time remedy because life takes it’s own course. You have to face obstacles and challenges as they came. It’s impossible to plan for anything.

I hope this post is somewhat helpful. If I have to pick one out of the ten as thee most important, I would go with number 4! 😉

Like Nike says,“Just Do It!” LITERALLY!

Anonymous Pain

What follows is the story of an anonymous girl.

We will file it under fiction, because it must be, fiction.

More people should tell their stories.

************

Years later, everyone smiled as if nothing had happened, as if she had kept her secret.

Her heart sank each time.

She did not wish him ill, but it was a dagger that plunged deeper with each passing day.

******

She was 13 or 14. She had stayed home with him, while everyone else went to the airport to pick up a visiting family member. It was a joyous occasion, as they had never been able to visit before, and it was suspected that they might stay permanently.

She sat on the bed in her sister’s room, and watched television, while eating Eggo’s. It was about 9:30 at night, but it’s never too late for Eggo’s.

He waltzed through her open doorway, in his brown loafers, red sweatshirt and cargos, with his foolish grin, and Black on the rocks in hand. He stared at her glassy eyed.

She felt her cheeks redden as he approached her; she fixed her gaze on the tv, and took another bite. The syrup, or the knot building in her throat, made it difficult to swallow.

He stood by her side and leaned in close to her face. The smell of whiskey and the bristle of his unshaven face made her wince. As she moved away, he placed his hand on her thigh. She stopped chewing. Her hands shook as she held the plate nervously, but she was otherwise paralyzed.

“Give me a kiss,” he said.

She shrugged him off and said,”No, what are you talking about?”

He turned to face her and persisted, all his weight bearing down on her leg.

“Just a lil’ kiss, right here, on the cheek.” He slurred and pointed, then puckered his lips.

She put the plate down on the bed, and got up, pushing past him. She quickly crossed the hall to her room, and dead-bolted the door behind her.

She sat on the bed and tears moistened her cheeks.

What had just happened? Was she overreacting? Did she misinterpret him?

He knocked on her door.

“Open the door. I’m not going to hurt you. I was just playing.”

He knocked again, but she remained silent.

It was not the first time she had felt that sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach.

******

One time, he and his family, her family, had been over, and he had asked her to give him a back massage. Young and naive, she was proud to show off her skills and began to karate chop across his upper back.

Everything was fine, as she pounded away on his back with her fists.

“Sit on my back,” he suggested.

“Where?” She asked, obviously having misunderstood back for bed.

“Sit on my back. You know, so you can get a better angle.”

She was maybe 12 or 13; young, but old enough to know this didn’t feel right.

“I’m kind of tired, actually. Sorry.” She apologized to him, and walked away to the kitchen where she knew others were talking and snacking.

******

She thought she had been imagining things that first time, but this was something different.

Once the family got back from the airport, she ventured out of her room to welcome the visitor.

Everyone was so happy.

He acted like nothing had happened; wouldn’t so much as look at her.

I’m not gonna ruin everyone’s happiness when nothing happened. They’re just gonna think he was joking around as usual, anyways.

******

She was a month away from turning 17, when her parents went out of town for a week.

He and his family always stayed with her and her little sister while their parents were out of town. He had always been like a big brother, like the son her parent’s had never had.

She wasn’t feeling well, and signed herself out of school early one day.

He was at the house when she got there, checking in on some work that was being done in her parent’s yard.

She sat outside on the patio and looked at the progress they had made. There were 2 or 3 workers clearing weeds, planting new trees, and pouring fresh mulch. She sat on a rocking chair to enjoy the refreshing springtime breeze.

When he spotted her, he went to the patio and sat across from her.

“What are you doing home early?”

“I wasn’t feeling well,” she said, overlapping both hands across her stomach. She was already starting to feel worse.

“How’s your boyfriend? Gonna see him today?” He asked, rocking casually.

“He’s fine. You know I can’t go out ’til my parents get back.” She frowned at him thinking, “you’re supposed to be the adult here.”

“I could teach you things.” He leaned forward, speaking more quietly now.

“About what?”

“I’m sure you guys kiss. Do you do anything else?”

“What?”

She hesitated, but then was certain of what she had heard.

“What kind of question is that? It’s none of your business.” She felt more uncomfortable now, but the workers were around so she still felt safe.

“Don’t be shy. I can show you how to do everything. We can go to a motel, right now. I’ll be gentle.” He reached out for her hand, but she pulled it away from the arm of her rocker just in time.

“I have to go.”

She got up abruptly and headed for the door.

Where’s my backpack? Where are my keys? She scanned the room frantically, blind.

The door closed again behind her, and she turned to see him steps away.

<strong>There, at the end of the counter, my keys. She reached for them just as he reached for her arm.

She tried to pull away, and stared at him, her heart pounding in her chest. He gripped her forearm tightly.

“Come on. I promise it won’t hurt. Nobody has to know.”

“I would never do that!”

She shook her arm free and ran for the door. She drove off crying. She just drove and drove.

She drove, until she knew someone else would be home.

******

A couple months after, she worked up the nerve to tell her family.

They believed her, but…

There must not have been enough harm done?

Maybe they all didn’t know the whole story.

Maybe it didn’t matter.

She never saw him again, except now again through the ills of social media; but many of her family did.

And she suffered in silence…wondering all the time if she did right, if she was right, and if they knew it?

Perpetual Intern

Valsan was born in the back-room of a bodega 67 years ago.

My grandfather had several bodegas in Cuba circa 1940s. My father often retells the story of how he was born on a sack of sugar in the back of one said bodega. My grandmother, who worked quietly and faithfully by my grandfather Jose’s side, told the midwife to start getting the conditions ready because she felt she would be giving birth soon. “Getting conditions ready” meant filling a metal tub with hot water, gathering whatever scraps or towels were available, and clearing a table or floor area in the back.

In this case, my grandmother lay back on some sacks of sugar, sweating and breathing heavily. She bared down, holding her legs back, and pushed. The comadrona (midwife) received my father, Ruben Agustin Valdes, into this world on August 28, 1946. My grandmother Carmen, whom I was named after, put my father to her breast immediately. Nowadays, and specifically in the U.S., we are asked if we WANT to breast feed; but, in her time, as well as present day Cuba, you prayed for the milk to come easily.

It was not the first time a new born was heard crying from the back of the bodega. My father had 6 brothers and 3 sisters, of whom 4 brothers and 1 sister have now passed.

My dad says, Abuela Carmen was back to work the next day, but I can hardly believe it.

******

Like many Cubans, my father and his siblings made the difficult decision to leave their parents and other family behind to pursue a better life in America.

I was born during a short stay in Puerto Rico after my parents first left Cuba. My father worked as a salesman, and later started a company there with his brother. After about a year, my father felt he had learned enough about sales and merchandising, and decided it was time to go to the U.S. and start his own business there.

He would travel weekly to New York to buy merchandise. Often, he’d return the same day because he did not have enough to pay for an overnight stay at a hotel. More often than not, he would leave the house in the morning with only a tostada and cafe con leche in his stomach, and not eat again until he returned. If he had ten dollars in his pocket, it was to buy Cuban bread and croquetas for my mom, my sister and I, and the rest to reinvest in the company.

My father visited local vendors at flea markets and small strip malls to sell to them. Little by little, his clientele grew, until he was able to open his own post in the strip mall. It was between 400-800 sq feet. Valsan sold earrings, bracelets and necklaces, sunglasses, coin purses; many items, but wholesale only. Eventually, with God on his side, my dad’s hard work and discipline paid off, and he moved to a larger location where he also began to sell to the retail public.

******

I have been working at Valsan all my life.

I wasn’t born in the back of a bodega like my father, but most of my earliest memories are of watching cartoons in the office, or Jeff Smith on The Frugal Gourmet*, a cooking show that aired after Sesame Street, or was it The Muppets.

*Yes, I googled the name, I was only 3 or 4 then. None of it stuck, anyhow; I’m a terrible cook.

I remember when we got our first compute—the black screen and green letters, and all the professionalism it represented. I was always eager to play secretary, but I was forbidden to explore this obscure version of Windows.

Instead, I kept myself entertained with the green chalkboard behind our secretary’s door, erasing some important delivery information or other factoid, to doodle trees, clouds and rainbows, maybe an unruly squirrel. The work of an 8 year old is never done.

I only “worked” on the weekends or holidays during the school year, but over the summer I was there almost every day.

I had many “friends” at work. Of course, I was too young and naive to realize they were sort of obligated to be nice to me. But anyhow, I “helped” everybody. I was particularly handy at testing out the toys. A lot of them came with those small annoying “try me” batteries that often wore out before the toy left the shelf.

I helped the secretary most of all, when she had nothing to do. We would play circulitos. Basically, your goal is to connect 2 dots during each turn, until you complete a square. Then, you initial the square, and the most squares wins. She never “let me win”, and I’m grateful for that.

Christmas and Mother’s day meant lots of work and big sales, but were usually followed by a slower season which meant personnel cuts. I recall one January, clasping my hands together and begging my father,”Papi, please don’t fire Mary. She’s my friend.”

I don’t know if it was my somber look, or if he really had no intention of letting her go, but Mary’s been with us for about 20 years.

As I got older, I got more and more involved in the day to day operations, like the register. Customer service was not my forte. I was a magnet for belligerent customers who wanted to return something used (that was working perfectly fine), or who had some other “important”, yet unfounded suggestion.

“This is cheaper at…”, “Everything here is crap”, or “You only have two cashiers?”. Mind you, there were, literally, 3 people in line at the time.

What I could never understand, but was unequivocally grateful for anyways, was the fact that despite their complaints, they still handed me money.

******

Between schoolwork and homework, Monday through Friday, and work-work on the weekend, I was “overworked”.

I once argued that it was against the law to make me go to Valsan, because I was a minor, and I couldn’t be forced to work more than x amount of hours. My father, who was driving us to work at the time, glared at me through the rearview. His look was worse than a swift kick in the pants; I dropped the issue…for the moment.

I had already decided I was going to be a lawyer. Apparently, recalling some Charles Dickens novel, I would stand up for minors and uphold the child labor laws.

I didn’t want any part in the wholesale or retail business my parents had built from the minivan up. Who wants to work six or seven days a week, even on holidays, and day-a-way hurricanes? Apparently, we weren’t Jewish, Christian, Catholic, or Muslim. Atheist, I suppose; although, I often heard my dad say,”Gracias a Dios.

Over the years, as the business grew, we went from staying at my uncle’s house, to a 2/1 townhouse, to a house-house where my sister and I each had our own room. My dad had progressed from a large red Ford van to a sleek black four door Mercedes.

Thankfully, we always had enough of what we needed, and were blessed with many things that we wanted.

My complaints consisted of,”Why do we have to work?”,”I wanna stay home and sleep,” or “Can’t I go to the beach with my friends?”

My father was very strict with my older sister and I; although, I got permission to do more than she did. Like I said, in my heart I was already a lawyer. I argued with my father on the why’s and when’s of my social life. Each time, I was ready with several points and examples to back my case. If I had been a little more computer savvy, I could’ve prepared a compelling PowerPoint on my Gateway.

I often failed and cried from frustration, but other times, my logic and or perseverance won him over.

I was very clear on one thing—I was NOT going to be a slave like my parents. I was going to be a famous lawyer and make the “real money”, not work all the time, arguing with customers over nickels and dimes.

All along my father told me I could study and work wherever I wanted.

******

Today, I am president of my own Valsan location. My older sister also runs one of our six locations. We are involved in almost every aspect of the business—schedules, payroll, accounting, advertising, purchasing, pricing, etc.

Our youngest sister handles the social media aspects of the business, website development, and other marketing tools, in addition to sharing many of the tasks I mentioned before.

My father is still the head honcho. He works from our headquarters, where my sister and I grew up playing hide-and-seek-and-knock over as many boxes as you can in the warehouse.

I visit that location 2-3 times a week. On those days, I am basically, my father’s intern. He does everything and nothing all at once.

My father used to do everything, whether it was carrying boxes or writing the checks. Eventually, 30 boxes became 30 pallets, and 30 pallets became six 53′ containers. Valsan went from a strip mall kiosk, to six locations amassing over 150,000 square feet of retail space. Now, he does more of the managing than the hard labor, and the mental stress is definitely much more exhausting.

It is pretty unnerving being with my dad all day.

“Get me this, fax that, call so and so, bring me those, take me there, walk with me, listen to me, tell me, sit with me, did you email so and so, what did they say,” and so on. The “right now” is implied, and usually comes while I am mid-meal, walking to the bathroom, or completing one of his other requests.

The other day I burst out in laughter, as he interrupted my bite into a sandwich, to ask me to make a call. I said, “You’re messing with me, right?”

His genuine look of confusion when he asked me “why” led me to believe he is completely unaware of the level of stress he so easily, albeit inadvertently, imposes.

******

Recently, my father, two employees, and I walked through Miami International Airport towards the terminal where we would soon be departing to Los Angeles, where we purchase a large portion of our goods. My father walked ahead of us with his hands behind his back retelling some anecdote from his entrepreneurial past. He was walking slowly, yet we struggled to keep up, listening intently like interns doing rounds. I wanted to write down everything he was saying. To absorb every piece of information regarding work, life, or other, that came from his mind.

******

Everyday that I am with him, trying to juggle ten tasks at a time, trying to learn from him and impress him all at once, and still listen for his next instruction or piece of virtue; all the while, I wonder when I’ll get to take a break for lunch.

And I hope, I can have lunch with him.

A Shooting Star

November 25, 2012

Last night I saw a shooting star.

Bright & hopeful, it ascended.

I followed its orange-gold trail as it
rocketed across the sky, and smiled in wonderment at this message from Above.

A few, too brief seconds.

I thought about my wish as my eyes descended upon the lake.

They followed the icicle lights along the fence, past the luminous Framboyan tree, until I was looking around the patio.

Music played.

My newly-wed sister, danced by the pool, carefree, with her equally jubilant husband.

Laughter resonated from the bar where friends exchanged, drinks, numbers and mustaches.

Cigar smoke billowed near my father’s table. Whiskey and tales of yore I can only aspire to.

Floating candles and rose petals highlighted the dessert table. Strawberries, brownies, rum cake – pure decadence.

One of the kids ran back into the house “before” I could spot them outside barefoot.

My husband walked towards me.
I hugged his arm and said,”I JUST saw a shooting star!” He smiled & kissed me.

In that moment, I realized my wish was already true.

Matthew 2:10
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

Buried Treasure

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Yesterday morning, was the first of three days I took off from work to enjoy my daughter’s spring break with her and her younger siblings.

I had lots of fun activities planned for those three days: the Youth Fair, I couldn’t wait to eat an elephant ear, though not literally; the Miami Seaquarium; the Zoo, where we’d actually see elephant ears, and hopefully the rest of the elephant, but not eat them; maybe catch a movie, eat some junk food, and finally, goof around at Chuck E. Cheese, PLEASE!

It seemed like a lot for 3 days, but I rarely took time off, so really it was just like Make-up Work at school.

We had eaten breakfast together and decided to go out to the lake to see if there were any fish or turtles.

But you know kids, they are easily distracted and find joy in the little things: a gift bag, an empty toilet paper roll, an old box. So, of course, the many sticks and branches the wind had been snapping off the Flamboyant tree instantly became swords, bats, and golf clubs.

After many a close call swinging at an old tennis ball, I decided it looked more like they were aiming at their brother’s head, and called the game. Instead, we started digging for treasure with the fallen branches, I mean shovels.

We poked around near the fence, and I heard a rustling in the neighbor’s hedges.

I probably saw about half of it before it’s charcoal grey body slithered away beneath the brush.

Not wanting to frighten the kids, or end up with a snake up my pants, I calmly watched the bushes, leaves & shadows for signs of the snake’s destination or return; but there was no second act. It was gone. Before I could even see the whole thing, identify it, or examine it, it had slipped away.

“Mommy, help us find the treasure.” They called me back to the small dirt pile we had been digging through. We’d found nothing more than snail shells, small rocks, more dirt, of course, and some beetles.

I smiled at my son and daughters as they grew more and more joyous over these little discoveries. I couldn’t picture a better time or place to be than here in the crisp fresh air, getting dirt in my nails and on my jeans; pondering the impending danger of an anaconda from my neighbor’s bushes; and just playing treasure hunt with the kids. I wanted to hold onto them and this moment, forever.

Life is gone in an instant; before you have a chance to weed out what you are doing wrong, or dig up a way to do it right.

Don’t let it slip away.

Originally posted March 28, 2013