The past week, plus, has been a whirlwind of activity. Our time on Vieques brought to both of us a mind-shift.
Since before our return from Puerto Rico, we have been planning and strategizing how to live on an island before retirement age!! We have discussed other islands we would like to check out and know that over the next 5 years (or so) we will be taking tropical vacations to these places. Each island will be compared to previous ones as we assess where we want to set our compass (and send our few personal items that will join us). We, almost daily, discuss the pros and cons of island-life.
I am more motivated than ever to improve and build on my abilities as a fitness instructor. This is a "job" I can and will take with me anywhere we go! Workouts on the beach??! Who wouldn't join me in that??!! I plan to attain Pilates and Kettlebell certifications. I am going to pursue more training and practice with my own personal workouts to bring the best instruction I can to my own life and to my classes.
I have been working on my blogs, having created a new one about travel immediately upon our return. I am in the process of creating a website, a one-stop-shop, for all of my musings, interests and pursuits.
I am researching health and wellness products that I can offer and that can help create income now and when we are living the tropical life! I continue to read and educate myself about wellness, nutrition, longevity.
But it is very easy to get caught up in this whirlwind!! We are all guilty of going from one thing to the next, day after day, often on autopilot. Sometimes, I need to apply the brakes and remind myself to look around, be mindful, soak in the sunshine, radiate gratitude.
I am fairly certain that many of us grew up with a rough idea of what our "adult" lives would be. For many of you, what you dreamed, imagined, planned for, worked toward is exactly what you live. For others, your life is a pretty close approximation of how you figured it would turn out. The job, the family, the marriage, the home, etc. ~ the "American Dream". And for others still, you had "the good life" but, by mistake or accident, you are in a place you didn't expect. Then, there are a few who could never have anticipated the changes to come, how life would unfold.
I have come to believe, as many of you probably have, too, that what so many share on Facebook (or other social media, but I don't participate on those) is not completely authentic....sometimes, all-out false. And I wonder, WHY?! Why are these people, some I have known since high school (maybe earlier) and others that are more new to me, so caught up in their stories? Why are they so afraid to be real? Why do they only share what makes them "look good" or, more than likely, what makes them look better than everyone else they know!? I often wonder if these are smoke screens, a game of mirrors.
I have recently learned of divorces and serious health problems that have befallen a couple folks whom I know from high school. The same ones who will share all the "look at me, I'm so successful, I have so much money, my house is amazing, I drive only expensive luxury cars"......and on & on! A razor sharp focus on the outward "signs of success".
Often, I have unfriended this type of person on Facebook. I don't need those lifestyle things for my happiness or my health! I can't stand to be assaulted with the Kardashian-esque behavior. I like to interact, even virtually, with authentic, real, compassionate, grateful & truly happy people.
When I make the time to interact with the people I want in my life, I am surprised and pleased to learn of the amazing things they are doing, accomplishing, sharing in their lives! It inspires me! It helps keep me grounded and grateful and hopeful!!
I have chosen, over the years, to live a more minimal lifestyle. I don't find pleasure in things. I like to save my money to spend on experiences with Chris. I enjoy my free time ... that I can have because I don't have to work myself to death to pay all the bills for all of that expensive stuff. I can focus on my happiness, on my health, on my hobbies, on crafting my life and my future.
I never really had a life vision or plan. Well, I take that back! I did intend to move to California after high school graduation, attend cosmetology school and be a makeup artist and hair stylist for movies! I believe I could have pursued that...with Chris in tow! I don't think I ever really discussed it with him, tho, and we both just stayed in our hometown, eventually attending colleges. Coincidentally, Chris ended up attending a school where he obtained a degree in film & video!!! However, it seemed that at that point, when I already had a degree in criminal justice, that any dream of moving to California was dead.
So, my life (our life) over these years has played out in many ways, some expected (in line with the way things are traditionally done: marriage, get decent jobs, buy a home) and others a bit more whimsical (move to Florida where Chris got a job, move back to Indiana without jobs, sell our house for a move to Colorado with no jobs!).
Yet, the biggest change is one that I would NEVER ~ could never ~ have anticipated or planned. But, Chris and I love each other deeply, so we work on our marriage and our relationship. We live our life. We are thankful for what we have, most especially our health. We aren't consumed by the hype of pleasing anyone, other than ourselves. We won't create smoke & mirrors, putting ourselves into debt, living a falsehood. I don't need to impress anyone.
I feel sad for those people who showed all those photos of how super amazing his/her life was, but who are deeply in debt, divorced, were deceitful (to spouses and the FB community) and, worst of all, seriously ill. The stress of "keeping up with the Joneses" is real ~~ and it will create a giant impact. An impact that will scream for attention and if you continue to ignore it, it will be to your detriment: your health, your marriage, your business, your family.
I seek Abundance in my life, but it is not simply a financial equation. Abundance of health, happiness, longevity, vitality, wellness. An Abundance of gratitude, compassion, love, laughter and adventure. Abundance of insight, of mindfulness, of perspective, of generosity. I seek Abundance for my family and friends, too.
This is just a gentle reminder to stop and smell the roses, I guess! Check in with yourself everyday. Take stock. See how fortunate you are and be thankful. For all the health, love, happiness, compassion and generosity that surrounds you is life, is success, is the bottom line (as well as the starting line and the finish line!!)!!
I have a spouse who is my best friend and with whom I like to spend most of my time! I have my 2 furbabies (who are both cuddled with/near me in bed...my office...as I type), who give me unconditional love and playtime! I have the love & support of my family and so so many friends. I can participate in so many activities because I have my health and it is one of my top priorities. I have enough food to eat and can enjoy a glass of wine, if I want. I have time to read, to surf the interwebs, to hang in a coffeeshop and write. I have more than some, less than others ~ but I don't need much so I don't have much. I can talk with my mom on the phone, usually once a week, to catch up with her and the rest of my Florida family members.
There are so many more things I could list. I find that once I start my list, I can always find more and more to add! I suspect you will find the same! From the "little" to the "big" stuff. Shine the light on the good, the positive, aspects that bring you joy each day.
'Sacred Dimensions of Women's Experience' is the name of a book by Elizabeth Dodson Gray that I read during our travels, filling time on the plane rides. I picked it up at this spot in our laundry area where our fellow apartment dwellers (and ourselves) will leave things, like books, coffeepots, various other household items and, just this week, I saw a ratty sombrero! I grabbed two books; if I didn't like one, then I could try the other!
'Sacred Dimensions of Women's Experience' is a collection of autobiographical stories, written in topics such as: Women's Creativity, Creating Sacred Space, Feeding as Sacred Ritual and Our Bodies as Sacred.
I am not a "traditionally" spiritual person as the women authors in this book are; however, the concept of the sacred, especially as it relates to the divinity within women, is part of my personal spiritual practice.
I would like to share some passages that struck a chord with me.
From the Introduction:
A woman walks the tightrope of her life as an accomplished high wire artist, making it look easy to juggle many balls while riding a bicycle and keeping aloft a pink parasol.
But I now feel that finding my own voice and listening and connecting to the voices of other women so that together we form a collective women's voice, is sacred work.
My power emerges from the wellsprings of who I am and reaches out to touch and connect with the lives of other women on similar journeys.
I am a conscious celebrant of the possible.
What I have come to see is that in our ability to live our creativity daily and in our search for such creativity, we can look as high as our creating life itself and living, and as low as the table set, the meal cooked and consumed, the dishes washed and put away. And we begin in this creativity again and again and again.
Back in the kitchen, I look out the window at the huge maple in my yard. Losing its leaves, it is prepared for another winter, I muse at its majesty and think I, too, must let go of the past season's fruit and growth to meet empty-handed tomorrow.
In describing the wisdom that is available to those who take the time to listen to the aged, (Irene) Burnside points out that the aged can teach us about life, death, courage, love and generosity. They are a "distinguished faculty without formal classrooms, tenure, sabbaticals. They teach not from books but from long experience in living."
In these moments of deep harmony together as mother and daughter, I was slowly becoming aware of the healing presence of the sacred.
Listening has become for me not only the language of love buy my pathway to an increasing consciousness of the sacred.
From Creating Sacred Space:
We moved to an intuitive response to the potential of water as a symbol of women's spirituality.
Recalling this now, I find myself thinking of God when God made the first rainbow, perhaps asking Herself, Does this color go right next to that color?
If our sensual and sexual lives are a gift from God given to us by the gift of our bodies and our lives and our love, then bedrooms should facilitate by scent (perfume, incense), by sound (music), and by sight a holy and satisfying erotic life.
The rooms my friend created in house after house tracked the changes in her life and spirits as they unfolded decade by decade.
Surrounding the primal pair are whirling lotus spheres, potent with Shakti, female cosmic energy, the activating force of nature.
Even more important, there is the need to acknowledge and honor those biological changes in our bodies which are unique to us as women and which constitute our rites of passage. We need to honor our body changes of menstruation, sexual initiation, and menopause.
It is a tapping into the collective ground water that flows among us; the collective energy of the goddess, the liberating, transforming power which is in each of our sisters and in the sister within our brothers.
We must lift up life-giving symbols and keep them before us as symbols of our woman's identity, symbols of our empowerment, our questioning, our imagination and creativity, our energy and loyalty, our nurturing and love.
From Doing Housework:
Cleaning the house becomes a metaphor for opening the heart; I am literally cleansed when I am working with the right intention.
The linking back in time provided by this kind of knowledge is one of the major benefits that ritual enactment bestows on its participants. In such enactment women celebrate the unstoried pattern of Hestia, goddess of the hearth.
From Feeding as Sacred Ritual:
Woman is as common as a loaf of bread, and like a loaf of bread, will rise.
Such work becomes sacred, I now think, when we focus creative energy into doing something, or making something, that contributes to the health and healing, to the well-being and wholeness, of ourselves and others.
From Our Bodies Are Sacred:
In this bonding women are beginning to accept and affirm our natural diversity of size, shape, weight, handicap, age, race, and sexual orientation.
As she felt the fathomless power of this place, she had a sudden vision, a voice--perhaps ancestral, perhaps her own--ringing in her mind's ear saying, "I am the oldest temple. This, my body, is the oldest temple."
The ending of one family and the beginning of a "family of choice" is just as sacred as traditional definitions of family.
I have learned to trust that when my writing is most open and vulnerable, it is also most powerful, most likely to touch a chord and to influence change in others.
It is not surprising that in Western societies the Crone aspect of the goddess of earlier times has never existed in any of her forms except in a negative way.
However the old witch is not burned at the stake any more. She has been replaced by the benign grandmother who, unlike the witch, is perceived as a useless object.
Yes, my body is myself, and related to the universe. It is indeed sacred.
...rejoicing is the flow of Being in the universe. This rejoicing, this flow of being, is the intention of creation. This is the intention of the overflowing and bubbling up energy of creativity which has brought everything in this 193-billion galaxy universe into being.
It had perfect places but I had to seek them out and enjoy them and make use of them. Then like the birds and their nests, I had to sense changes and know I'd seek other perfect places, other places to sing and to be.
Perhaps we have only to step one microsecond to the side, into our own centeredness, to find that deep connectedness to the whole chorus, and to come home again to ourselves.
Can you say business opportunity??? The few restaurants on the Malecon which offer breakfast don't start serving until 9AM. That doesn't help those of us who are early risers and have no access to a coffeepot or kitchen! The only place we found to get coffee, early, is the panaderia. It is open 7A-11A....but is closed Sundays & Mondays. (Our first full day was a Sunday!!) The panaderia also sells pastries, the only we could find in that part of Vieques, too (they serve breakfasts and sub sandwiches and seem to be a spot for the locals, always a good sign!).
Some of us also like a place to relax, unwind, get caffeinated throughout the day.
Some of us don't want to hit Happy Hour every evening just to have a place to enjoy the outdoors, the ambiance that is the boardwalk of Esperanza.
One of the coolest things about Vieques, besides all of the pristine beaches, of course, is the presence of wild horses. They will be strolling down any street, grazing in the grassy areas (or picking thru garbage bins when there hasn't been enough rain to keep the grasses lush), sipping water from tiny pools amid the shade of trees. They are so beautiful and I don't think it is something I would ever get used to or take for granted, if I live there.
On the flipside are the homeless dogs. They all seem so friendly and I wish I could give them food, shelter and love...but that is impossible when on vacation. It is funny, however, to see them trying to figure out if they can compete with a horse for a mango lying on the ground!!
Roosters!! And hens & chicks. But the roosters, as is their nature, are the noisiest little things around! I think they crow (is that the right word??) just to hear themselves! A conversation of one! If you are unlucky enough to be staying near a home with a rooster, I hope you are lucky enough to have an air conditioner for your room to help you sleep at nite. But they make noise night AND day!
Bring more cash than you think you need!
Our original travel plans included rental cars, which we would have paid for with a credit card. We changed to taxis, which were cash (just under $200). We decided to rent a scooter for the day, $55, and their credit card "machine" was down. More of our cash stash we had to, unexpectedly, use. Many of the businesses, like excursions, will charge you $5 (each) for using your credit card over paying with cash. While $5 or $10 won't break the bank, I really don't like to waste my money on service charges (especially when they are being passed on by the merchant, for whom this is a cost of doing business). We used our credit card for all meals and were watching our cash closely by mid-week.
Yes, you can drink the water (on the main island, Puerto Rico, and the smaller islands, Vieques and Culebra)!!! So bring those refillable water bottles and stay hydrated!
Use sunscreen. At least SPF 55. Apply it liberally. Reapply it often! Avoid sunburns, which might ruin or, at least, hamper your trip. While also warding off the peeling that will follow once you return from the island and are loving your golden glow (which is making all of your friends and coworkers so green with envy!!)!
Have an idea of what you would like to see and do while on the island. Time can easily slip away while you are walking the Malecon, dipping your feet in the azure waters of the sandy beaches and sleeping your nights away under the dark sky lit only with the stars (there are no streetlights). There are so many beaches to see (and you, like us, might not get to every single one), historical spots to visit (former US Navy pier, old pineapple factory, former sugar mill, site where a 2000-year old skeleton was unearthed), excursions to take (scooters, catamarans, scuba, stand-up paddle boarding) and ways to just wile away the hours (this one is up to your own imagination!). Mix it up and do a little bit of each every day, if you can. Or....if what you really want is to lounge on the beach and laze in some calm waters, then get thee to the beach early with plenty of provisions (most of the beaches do not have food/drink facilities, or bathrooms).
There is no "wrong" way to enjoy Vieques. Chatting with locals and other tourists, like yourself, could lead to an opportunity! Mama Nature might not give you the weather most preferable for all of the outdoor activities. Craft a visit around your needs & wants ... but also remain flexible. You may not see and do everything on your list, but that just means you enjoyed some relaxing down-time ~~ and, really, isn't that what vacations are meant to be??!!
In my previous post, I wrote about our travel issues getting out of Denver. While waiting for our redeye flight out, I had to do some land travel rearranging. We were going to rent a car at the airport and drive to Fajardo for the ferry to Vieques. A one-way rental for just a couple hours. When I contacted Enterprise to let them know we would be picking up the car several hours later than the original reservation, I was told the cost is over $60 more!!! I am looking at my email AND at my reservation online while talking with the representative....somehow, she is NOT seeing what I am seeing! So rather than about $56 for the one-way, we are looking at $120! Uh....No! I scramble and do some searching on the internet for other options. I knew there were taxis with a cost near $100 (not per person, but for about 5-7 people...so this is a very good option if you have a group as you can split the cost). I stumbled into a forum that began back in 2008 and read many of the posts over the years, with the most recent being in 2013, if I am correct. Someone mentioned a guy named Henry or Henri or Enrique (Enri) and said he was great and charged about $80. I figured I would give him a call to see if he is still running his service. To my delight, he answered the phone and said it would be $70! I got online and cancelled our one-way rental car! When I called to let him know we had arrived at SJU, he let me know that he wasn't feeling well and sent someone in his place. During that same phone call, I asked if he could pick us up from the ferry on Thursday and drive us to Old San Juan, to which he agreed and said it would be $80. (When I next got a chance, I cancelled the other rental car reservation.) He gave me the driver's name and told me that the white van would have it's lights flashing. We easily found Victor when he arrived and off we went to Fajardo.
Let me say, NOT getting a rental car was a great decision! Our messed up travel plans, while taking away 7 hours of our vacation, did keep us from driving in the crazy traffic, along a route that, at times, is not well marked! Also, after such a frazzling trip of flights, waiting hours in two airports and only getting snippets of sleep here & there, we know that trying to navigate the highways and byways from San Juan to Fajardo would have left us rattled. Letting someone else take the wheel was needed at this stage of our travels. The costs were very comparable, too: Enterprise ~ $56 + gas and $109 + gas on the original reservations tho I suspect they would have thrown a bunch of other fees at us and forced us to pay them (to include the $60 drop-off fee for the one-way); Henry ~ $70 + tip and $80; Taxi to the airport ~ $25 with tip. I am happy to give you Henry's contact information. He also lived in New York and is a US veteran!!
Victor dropped us off at the ferry dock, let us know where we needed to go to purchase our tickets (I got round trip) and pointed us in the direction of some food & drink. We paid him and he was on his way...maybe for another roundtrip to the airport and back.
Having a bit over 2 hours to kill before the next ferry arrived at 4:45, we did a quick freshening up in the ferry terminal bathroom and drug ourselves to the bar, where we enjoyed cervezas while sitting on the patio under the shade of a tiki-style umbrella, looking at the water. Into our second cervezas, a couple locals sat next to us. One of them, William, was born in Puerto Rico, but went to the States as a young boy, growing up there and getting a degree, then coming back to the main island about a year and a half prior. He was fun to chat with about many things, to include the UFC! As we parted he said it had been a pleasure for him because he got to speak English with us!!
We got to the ferry station and noticed two roped off areas, one looked to be filled with darker-skinned locals, the other with pasty non-residents like myself! We got in line and as we got closer to boarding the ship, we were told to wait as we were not residents....who are given preference for boarding, which means tourists may not get on the ferry they hope to catch. We acted as if we were going to follow her instruction, but when she turned, we got on the boat. There was no way in hell we weren't getting on this ferry! The next one did not leave until 8:15!!! And it is an hour & a half trip...to go 8 freakin' miles! We should have been on the 1PM ferry, but now we were on the evening one with so many Viequens headed back from the main island. It was rather noisy with lots of kids who had played sports games that Saturday afternoon. That said, Chris napped for most of the trip and I for a bit (those 2 beers, while thirst-quenching, weren't sitting all that great in my empty stomach on this choppy ride). Unfortunately, you cannot be outside the boat to enjoy the sun and sea air; however, inside is air-conditioned.
Once off the ferry, a publico driver asked, in Spanish, if we needed a ride to Esperanza. I asked how much (Cuantos?) and agreed (Si!) when he said $3 each. This publico was what we use in the States as shuttles to/from airports. Once he had about another 7-9 people on board (gotta make the money!!), we headed south to Esperanza. We were almost ~finally~ at our accommodations!! In Spanish, I told him where we were staying and, also in Spanish, we found it together! (I didn't recall the house being called Coco Loco, so when the driver said it as we were having a hard time finding the house number, it didn't click with me. I called our host's number and the voicemail said "Coco Loco"!! I informed the driver that, "Si, Si, es Coco Loco!!")
During our drive from the airport to the ferry, we were able to look around and take in much of Puerto Rico. Our first impression: Third World. Our drive from Isabel Segunda, the town on Vieques, to Esperanza, the southern area where we were staying, we maintained the same impression. We have only been to Mexico, back in 2006, so we don't have many other countries with which to make a comparison.
One of our hosts, Joe, greeted us at his gate and took us right back to the casita, the once former shed that had been converted into a small efficiency, where we would spend the next several nites. He gave us a quick rundown of things and let us be. We did a bit of freshening up and headed down to the Malecon, in search of food! We walked the stretch to see what was offered and made our way back almost to the beginning to share a chicken skewer meal at Belly Buttons. Picnic tables, fresh air, cooked-to-order food, nice staff and the sea just steps away...we would eat 3 of our 4 breakfasts here and another dinner.
I will share more details about how we spent our days in upcoming posts. I am also going to start a separate travel blog to give more general information mixed with our impressions. I will post a link here when I get the new site created and post my first blog entry. I hope you visit me here and there!
We left our home at 4:30P to head to the hotel where we are parking our car during our vacation. We were shuttled to the airport about 6 and our flight was to leave at 8:06. We had a very small window, about 25 minutes, for our connecting flight from Houston to San Juan. We were able to get our seat assignments moved up 17 rows in order to get off quicker, so that we could hot foot it over to the boarding plane.
Then, our departure time was changed, slightly, to 8:18. We were on one of the last "blocks" and while waiting for our number to be called for boarding, we were informed that NO PILOTS were on the plane and none would arrive for over 2 hours!!!! This flight would now leave at 10:45.
Our connecting flight was leaving at 11:55.
There was absolutely no way we were making it to San Juan by 5:30A!!!
We had to wait in line at United customer service to see what flight we could be rerouted on.
We ended up with a new flight, connecting through Newark....on a redeye!!!
Then, we discover that Chris was given Standby!! The Newark flight was overbooked! We had to sit and wait until everyone had boarded to see if Chris was going to get a seat. I wanted to vomit! I wanted to scream! I wanted to cry!!
After the scrambling we had to do ~even debating if we should just scrap it all~ here we were in the most tenuous of positions.
Fortunately, a seat was found and we took off!
We are remaining positive that our checked bag made it to this flight and off the Houston leg!
We decided to cancel the one-way rental car, and found some great online reviews about a guy, "Enri", to drive our tired asses to the Fajardo ferry terminal. Not having any real inkling of the route from the airport to the car rental office in Fajardo was a bit off-putting already...trying to do it utterly without sleep, is more than daunting.
We should be arriving for sunrise in San Juan, Puerto Rico, any minute. Rather, we are sitting in the Newark airport. Our connecting flight doesn't leave until 9, leaving us over 3 hours to kill here.
We are exhausted with no where to lay our weary heads and we are arriving in San Juan at midday, catching the ferry almost 3 hours later than we had wanted.
I guess this is a lesson to teach us the patience we might need once we begin foreign travel. I suppose I have handled it better than I would have a handful of years ago.
Looking on the bright side....we are heading to Puerto Rico! We have beaches on our horizon! We are going to sleep under the sun on the sand, lulled by the sound of the waves. We get to kayak for the first time together, at nite, under an almost new moon, with the bioluminescent dinoflaggelates illuminating our path.
They say it takes a village to raise a child and I agree, wholeheartedly!!!
I have been fortunate to be "raised" by so many amazing women in my years! My parents divorced when I was in elementary school and my mother moved from Indiana to Florida when I was in 6th grade. I definitely needed women in my life to help me with "stuff"!
My dad had some girlfriends and other wives over the years, but only one really & truly brought meaning to my life, Judy. Judy started to teach me to drive. She and I joined a health club. She showed me how to be both silly & generous when driving the highway and going through toll booths (this was back when there were actual people in the toll booths!!)! She was light-hearted and carefree!
One of my dad's sisters would take me shopping for school clothes. My Aunt Marla
was quite the shopper, too! She knew deals and helped outfit me with some nice clothes that saved my dad some cash! A win-win for us both!!! She would also give me many of her hand-me-downs, which were always name brands!
When I "became a woman", as they say, my gifted & talented teacher, Mrs. Hanson, had to take me to the nurse. The next day, she gave me a felt rose with a beautiful note welcoming me to this important change in my life.
Throughout most of high school, I lived with my aunt and uncle. My Aunt Nita became a second mother to me. She fed me, cleaned my clothes, gave me my own bedroom, helped me get ready for prom, threw us a small wedding reception and my college graduation party....among so many other things. She introduced me to coffee. We, along with another of my aunts, binged on Fannie Mae chocolates, just for the sheer lunacy of it! She was there for me when we put my brother on a plane to live with my mom in Florida. She was there for me when my dad was off doing his own thing. She was there when I married Chris. She was our place to go for every holiday, when we lived in northwest Indiana!!
My friend John's mom, Dolores, was a gem in my high school years, too. Lucky for me, they lived just around the corner! I almost lived with them, actually, before we moved in with the family. She and I had private jokes and she just has the sweetest soul! I love the whole Stillson clan, to include Dolores's sister, Dorothy! Dolores is the epitome of what any girl would want for a mother-in-law! (Ellen, John's wife, is one lucky gal!)
For many years, I was the youngest wherever I worked and at many places I was blessed with women who gave me advice and support, in a myriad of ways.
My grandma is incredible when I visit my family in Florida! She makes my favorite cookies, no-bake chocolate! She brings them to the airport, along with a sandwich and other goodies, for my car ride! She will also send me back to the airport with provisions! And she & my grandpa just take amazing care of feeding us when we are their guests!!
My uncle's wife, Betty, is the consummate hostess! She was always at the ready when anyone dropped by and, when most of us still lived in Crown Point, theirs was the house to gather for any and all events! Chris and I lived with Uncle Mark, Betty, Kyle & Matt for about 5 months when we returned from Florida in 2001 (just before we bought our house in Hobart) and Sundays were a day we all congregated for a meal. Betty always turned it out! It reminded me of the movie "Soul Food" where the extended family gathered on Sundays for a big meal at the grandma's home. We began calling our Sunday meals "Big Betty's Soul Food for White People"! Which also became the name of her personal cookbook!!! Even after they moved, visiting their home was like staying at a B&B! No lie!!! I wish I had a tenth of her innate hostess abilities!
Now, here I am, early 40's with years of life & work experience under my belt. I feel it has become my time to return the graciousness and the wisdom shared so generously with me by the variety of goddesses brought into my life at certain times and for specific reasons. The goddesses who taught me without necessarily knowing they were giving a lesson.
Like today, my aunt and her husband (she is no longer married to my uncle) are arriving for a visit in Denver, to see her son, her granddaughter and us! In advance, I helped her find a place to stay that wasn't a hotel. Also, I know how hard travel days can be, so rather than waiting to take her to the grocery store, I bought a few staples (bread, PB&J) and shared some of ours (butter, water, ham from Sunday's Easter meal, eggs, mustard & mayo...and the chocolate mousse cake) for something to eat (that wasn't fast food!) the moment they got to their rental place. This I learned, picked up, from the women in my life!!
May we all be the community who shares our gifts, teaching valuable lessons, even when we aren't aware we are doing it. May we be The Village!
Another family meal shared with my cousin, Matthew, his now fiancee, Megan, and Hushpuppy!!
Just the family for this gathering! We enjoyed a simple meal that started with bacon & jalapeno deviled eggs, made by Megan, and baked almond-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates, made by me. Mmmm!!!
Chris and I made a spiral-sliced ham, mashed cauliflower and mixed veggies, which we ate with rolls M&M brought.
Dessert.....well, since Chris works at a university with a strong culinary program and where the chefs are very appreciative of the IT support he provides, we had a professionally-prepared chocolate and peanut butter mousse cake!!
After all this good food, we headed across City Park to the Denver Zoo! On this sunny & not-too-warm day, we enjoyed an hour & a half walk in fresh Colorado air.
My aunt, Matt's mom, and her husband are arriving tomorrow for a short visit. When we lived in Indiana, it was her home where we gathered for the holiday meals. We sure do miss her cooking!! I am going to share some of our leftover ham, plus pick up a few other grocery items, so they can have a meal once they arrive at their airbnb rental.