Adventures within Adventures are What Memories are Made of.

Nine years ago Rudy took a job offer in Honduras, Central America. He had been working there for several months when the Winter holidays arrived. It was December. The kids and I were beginning our school break so, rather than having Rudy come home to us in California, we decided to venture into his native land and explore the country where he spent his youth.

One place Rudy really wanted us to see was Roatan, one of the Islas de la Bahia, so we jumped aboard a charter boat off the mainland, anticipating an exciting trip that’d take us across the sea.

All I could think was,

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Honduras.

Unfortunately,

The. Boat. Trip. Was. Awful.

For me, anyway!

I mean seriously, there I was, hardly ever sick, can handle pretty much anything… vomiting. It was so embarrassing! And I was so obvious, sitting in the front of the boat stumbling to the rear every 10 minutes, to the same bathroom, over and over, during the entire excursion.

Rudy and the kids?  Oh, they were fine! …Okay, well, maybe Roberto had an issue as well. But he did a better job of holding himself together than I did.

Two and a half, three hours later, we stepped onto a wooden dock. I was feeling a bit shaken, but the solid ground helped ease my vertigo.

Our rental car was waiting for us curbside. We were off to our destination (for the next four days). The resort was an almost untouched paradise. Almost, because it was under construction. Once we got past stacks of plant-less planters, still needed painting stucco, and an empty not finished by any means manmade pool this is what we saw:

After we tossed our packed things onto the huge beds, checked out the supersized bathtub, opened and closed every single kitchen cupboard (stocked full of useful items), and turned on, then off, the big screen TV, we ran Outside. Our toes clinched the warm, finely-grained sand as we ran to the water’s edge, where we then frolicked in three versions of blue water. The Caribbean Sea was splashing into a private alcove, a place of complete serenity. Pure bliss!

We spent those several days enjoying the uninhabited land, on the far side of the island. Seriously, it felt as if we were the only ones there. It was so quiet, like it belonged to us.

Easy. Breezy. Beautiful. Roatan.

As days always do, ours came to an end.

On the winding road back towards the wooden dock, to our departing boat, we made a quick stop for some Dramamine. You know, the anti-motion sickness pill. No way, no how was I going to let the extreme rocking of the boat ruin my trip back to the mainland. So, I popped a few pills, as did the kids. Rudy had no need for them.

The drug did the trick. We all felt energetic and content, happy even. The boat was bouncing up and down, sailing along. I took it in stride, observing what I missed on the ride out. I watched Brad as he stood outside the door, stood with some tall guys and just seemed to enjoy the water’s spray as it licked his face. His exhilarated expression told a story of its own. Liz and Roberto were playfully being sarcastic with each other, laughing.

At the same time, people were screaming every time the boat lifted its nose into the air. The kids and I laughed. We thought it was actually pretty fun. It seemed, to us non-Spanish-speaking foreigners, everyone was having fun on the amusement park kind of ride.

Suddenly, it started raining outside, lightly at first, then progressively harder. I began to notice the faces of the people, at least those nearby enough to observe. Their pained looks said they weren’t screaming for the fun-of-it, they were scared. I looked out the door, towards Brad. The ocean was getting out of control. Rudy grabbed him by the shirt sleeve, quickly yanking him inside.

We were no longer laughing, or joking. We were quiet. Rudy began listening to the people, to their panicked concerns. “It’s bad.” he said. They only thing we could do was watch the people’s expressions and wait for Rudy to explain what was happening. I stayed calm, hoping it would help calm Liz, Roberto, and Brad.

All of a sudden someone piped, “Land!” We breathed a sigh of relief but quickly realized… it was definitely land but not the mainland. The boat, for safety reasons, had returned to the island, to Roatan.

We, again, stepped onto the wooden dock.

The  weather worsened. It was windy. It was rainy. It was stormy. It was loud. We had to stay in a bug-filled room for the night. Needless to say, none of us slept. Rudy found a local guy to drive us to the airport way before the sun rose, where we had to sit and wait out the storm before boarding a 12-15 seater plane. A plane that was old, small and loud. Water dripped from the ceiling. I found myself smirking at the entire situation. Part of me thought the whole adventure had been kind of cool, in a extreme way, while the reasonable part of me wondered if that was the day of our demise. It sure felt like it could have been. But, that was a thought I kept to myself.

Late into the afternoon, our wobbly old plane safely landed. We had made it back to La Cieba, the small town where our boat should have docked. And where the kids and I hugged and kissed Rudy goodbye before returning home to sunny California.

Ode to Chris, my Sis

Chris had always been a person in my life, a sister who, no matter what, came through, was always there for me. Sitting here, thinking about her, how she was a part of my life, my relationship with Rudy and eventually the perfect aunt for my kids, I’m remembering when Elizabeth, was born, and how Chris needed to take charge because Rudy and I, both thirteen years younger than her, were very anxious about me giving birth, an unknown territory for the two of us.

Chris, the oldest of 11 children, knew exactly what was going on (not only because she was like a second mother growing up, but because I don’t even know how many times, she helped feline after feline, dogs too, give birth to their new offspring). You wouldn’t know it, but I’m telling you, those lessons she learned were a definite asset for anyone feeling the pains of labor. She could read the situation and help the process move along smoothly. Chris knew the signs of “It’s time!”

When I was in labor with Liz (yet didn’t realize it) and Rudy, assuming I was just a little uncomfortable (because that’s what I told him “Oh I’m just a little uncomfortable”) was grabbing his jacket and heading towards the front door just as Chris walked into our tiny apartment.

“What?! She looked at Rudy, stared him down. “You are leaving? Going to work? Why? She is going to pop this baby out any moment! You can not leave! I won’t allow it.”

My sister. My older sister. My only sister was the boss. At that moment, regardless of any reason, viable or not,  she was not going to let him leave.

“I don’t think so! She’s in labor. Daphne is going to have this baby today,” my sister said, giving Rudy no other reason to dispute her. “You need to call work! Tell them you will not be in.”

“Alright,” Rudy mumbled, which is not an easy task, trying to sway Rudy to an opinion other than his own. But, I think like me, he sensed arguing was pointless. Chris seriously knew her stuff.

I suddenly felt a jab, a painful ache, something more defined than I’d experienced as the days of Lizzy’s birth grew closer.

Chris was right. Rudy needed to get me to the hospital.

Driving there, a 20 minute trek, seemed to take forever. And the fact that the pains grew stronger didn’t help.

We were both anxious.

Nervous wrecks.

“It will be okay. You will do fine,” I heard Chris’ voice tell me. She was in my head.

“We are going to be fine. This is it!” I told Rudy, cringing as another contraction surged through me.

Within the next several hours, three to be exact, our dark-hard baby girl was born, using every inch of her lungs to cry out, as if telling us, you did good.

And there was Chris, waiting in the lobby, waiting for the news. Is the baby a boy? A girl? Is Daphne OK? Rudy walked up to her and hugged her. Tight.

“Thanks for making me stay home, for making me call into work to say I couldn’t go in.”

She hugged him just as tight.

He walked with Chris to the baby window, arm around her shoulders. They both smiled. Gazing at Elizabeth, a wee child that Chris would spend a lifetime adoring.

Teach Me Teach

IMG_7089

I was sitting behind the reception desk, filing papers, answering the phone, and rubbing my pregnant belly when I decided to leave the workforce and return to school. Without consulting Rudy, I walked into the head-honcho’s office and verbally resigned, giving him two weeks to find my replacement.

Back then, I had allowed myself to somewhat give up on my education because combining a fulltime job and being a fulltime student had become overwhelming. Rudy and I needed me to work more than I needed school, so I temporarily dropped out.

Which meant, I soon discovered, that I was working for the sake of working. Simply showing up day-after-day, earning a bi-weekly paycheck. What I really was seeking, besides a monetary compensation, was the feeling of making a positive difference in someone’s life. I was six months pregnant, with our first child, when I quit the receptionist job, and found myself joyfully walking onto the local university’s campus, ready to fulfill my goals of earning a Bachelor’s of Arts degree.

My daughter was born the day after my first semester ended and on occasion, she continued to tag along, sitting in on lectures with me, quietly coloring or pretending to take notes, absorbing the value of an education. As a transfer student, it should have taken me two years to meet my goal but, being a new mother, I needed to balance my homelife with my academic one, so I cut back on my courseload, in order to accommodate both.

Ironically, after graduating, Rudy and I decided I needed to, once again, return to work. More focused, and determined not to give up, or give in, I found employment working with young children, which filled my days with satisfaction. Fulfilling my dreams of working with impressionable youth.

After three years of involving myself with preschool children, I once again gave my resignation notice, knowing that once-and-for-all I was going to complete the necessary steps it took to earn a Clear Professional Teaching Credential. I returned, to a different college campus, with my second-born, a son, holding my hand, as I walked him to the onsite children’s center, while his sister attended second grade at the near our home local public school.

A year of daytime, and nighttime classes, resulted in my receiving a credential. Finally, I would be able to structure a classroom not only filled with academics, but also a safe haven to instill a belief in all children that they are valuable.

Several years later, I became a student once again. Yet, this time, I was a student simply enhancing my skills as an educator. I had another personal goal to meet. I earned a Masters of Science degree, while attending to not only child 1 and child 2, but also while caring for my third, and final, child.

Not only am I happy that I pursued, and met, three major educational goals for myself, my hope is that I have instilled in my children to never let any obstacles block their way and that they live life the way they choose, regardless.

My Daughter, My Friend

Elizabeth Cecilia

me and liz, 2011

“Who are you looking for?” the unfamiliar preschool teacher asked me. “Elizabeth,” I responded. Miss I can’t remember her name checked me out, looked me up and down, and stated rather bluntly, “Are you her babysitter?” Surely, you pale-skinned and overly-done blond-haired person belong to some other kid, she seemed to be thinking. “I’m her mom,” I said, with a smile. “She’s mine. Definitely my daughter.” Elizabeth ran toward me wearing clothes full of dirt, her dark hair dangling into her face, her small hands pushing it away. Elizabeth’s olive-toned skin glistened in the sunshine.

elizabeth, baby girl

The first time I took Liz out into the world it was her spirit and her happy smile that caused people, generally women and young kids, to claim “She’s so beautiful” and “She must resemble her dad”. I laughed and wrapped those compliments around my expanding heart and admitted that, Yes, she got her father’s Honduran looks. Little girls and boys would hold Elizabeth’s hands, touched her baby-soft skin and coo to her. All she had to do was smile and the people fell in love.

little liz

When Liz grew into a toddling child I had purchased a variety of my style clothing. 6 outfits in all. I figured if she didn’t look like me, maybe she could at least dress like me. I put one outfit on her after another. And click click went the camera. There was something dark-purple with polka dots and lime green tights, pin-striped blue-and-white overalls, a light pink like cotton candy sweatshirt dress, a barely there pink jumpsuit, a second jumpsuit, this time green, and turquoise shorts topped with a tie-dyed all the rage t-shirt.

Well, in the end, dressing like me didn’t pan out too well because as she grew older, I quickly discovered, for the most part, Liz’s choice of clothing is the opposite of mine. I wear jeans, t-shirts, and either a sweatshirt or a cardigan all the time. My hair is always pulled back. She prefers dresses. She allows her hair to flow gracefully over her shoulder.

I like the comfort of tennis shoes. Elizabeth? Heels.

How about when it comes to exercise? I love, and I mean love, to wear baggy too big for me workout gear. Liz? Well, of course, everything is fitted nicely and looks so modern. So hip.

So, it may seem that Elizabeth and I are different. In looks, sure. Clothing, yeah. Mostly. But in how we feel about each other. We are equals. I love her. More deeply than she will ever know. She loves me, unconditionally. Faithfully. This world is a better place because Liz is in it. Her smile enhances life as we know it daily. Elizabeth is my daughter. Elizabeth is my friend.

Dear Elizabeth,

I brought you home with me, 27 years and seven months ago. I held you in my arms while you slept. Fed you when you cried. Bathed you, soothed you. Your smile has grown with you, never wavering. You have maintained a kindness I wish the whole world could embrace and make their own. When you were a young girl, you would hold my hand – knowing I would always be by your side, guiding you. You looked up at me with a love I had never known before, a love only a child can give. So innocent, yet full of life. As you grew into your teens, you continued to open up to me, let me be a part of your life. You trusted me, I trusted you. I cherished the fact that you would come to me, talk to me, tell me everything knowing I would help you figure things out. You, Elizabeth, have made mothering a wonderful experience for me. I am very proud of the road you travel. The calmness you possess. The friendships you hold close. The love you share. Everyone should have an Elizabeth in their life.

I Love You truly,

MOM

P.S. Hug me all you want. Warmth is a wonderful feeling.

valuable values

i value my parents, and how they modeled what it means to be a good person

i value love, patience, understanding
happiness, health

family, friendships, relationships

diversity, freedom, independence

nature

warmth
kindness
smiling faces

children and cats

i value simplicity
living like there is no tomorrow
teachable moments
making a difference in someone’s life

i value laughter, loud cheerful laughter

i value quietness

i value rudy, liz, roberto, and brad

i value me, the mirrored me
public and private

i value honesty
open-mindedness
concern for humanity

kisses
caresses
and hugs

i value life

A Boy, A Girl, Their Aunt, and Some Barf

The phone rang. My mom answered. All I could hear was my mom’s  side of the conversation. She said, “Uh-huh…Yeah… Oh, sure.. When?… Alright… Ok… They’ll love that!” Then she hung up. Aunt Marge had asked my mom if my brother Andy and I, ages 10 and 13, respectively, could take the train down, to visit her and my uncle for several days.

Aunt Marge and Uncle Bill lived in a gated apartment building, in a small, but elegant living space. The fridge was full and the TV was turned on. One night they had plans with friends. Not us.

“Kids, Uncle Bill and I are going out tonight for a few hours. Will you be alright on your own?” our aunt asked.
“Yes,” we both answered, politely.

As the front door closed behind them, Andy and I immediately started antagonizing each other. We knew each others weaknesses. Scary stories and scary movies. We told each other gruesome tales and watched even more frightening thrillers. Suddenly, and I am not sure why it happened, Andy felt sick. Maybe it was because we just told too many, over the top, could be real life stories, or simply because we overate all the junk food we could get our hands on.

“I think I am going to barf!” Andy choked out.
“Hurry! Go. Go into the bathroom!” I demanded.

He threw up, that’s for sure, but not directly into the toilet bowl. His aim was awful. Vomit was everywhere. On the seat, on the floor, on the lovely bath mat.

“Ugh! I feel gross!” Andy moaned, his face cherry red. His eyes teary.
“Ewwww!” I responded with the only vocabulary I could think of.

Then I walked him to the couch, sat him down, covered him with a blanket, switched the channel to a comedy with the laugh track on full blast, and plopped myself onto the opposite end of the sofa. An hour had passed when I heard a key jiggling in the lock.

“Hello. We’re home!” Aunt Marge exclaimed.
“Oh, hi,” I said. “Andy got sick. He threw up.”
“Are you okay?” she seemed concerned, walked over to him. Felt his forehead.
“Yeah. Daphne was telling me scary stories. I guess they literally made me sick!”

I laughed, doubled over, cracking up, admiring my little bro’s sense of humor.

Aunt Marge walked into the bathroom. “What the ____?!” Well, she didn’t really say a bad word, but she said something with an angry tone.

“Why didn’t you clean this up?!” She was staring straight at me. The older kid. The one who should have known better. The one who should have known to scrub away all the bits and pieces of Andy’s regurgitated food. The one who should have understood the value of cleaning up before the owners of the pristine apartment returned home after a fun night out. Without a word I shrugged my shoulders, opened my eyes wide, and pinched my lips together. I had nothing to say.

Later – minutes? hours? days? – after Andy and I had returned home, Aunt Marge called the house, talked to my mom. All I could hear was my mom’s side of the conversation. “Uh-huh… Yeah… Oh… Alright… OK… I will tell them…”

“Aunt Marge says she thinks you are a brat,” she told me. “And that you lack common sense.”
“Really?” I was actually surprised, and hurt, because never in my life had I been referred to as a brat. I sighed, felt tears pooling against my lower lids. I told my side of the story.
“Being a brat doesn’t sound like you at all, but I do understand Aunt Marge’s point of view,” my mom stated. “Sadly, she says no more visits for the two of you. None.That’s it. Done.”

Andy and I lowered our heads, ashamed. We felt dumb. But then we looked at each other and tried not to laugh. But, laughter ruled. And, thus, we let loose.

MOM in memory

When I was a little kid.
Old enough to walk to school.
With an older, by one or two years, brother.
We did just that.
Walk.
To school.

When the rain fell down.
Heavily.
Soaking us to the bones.
My mom would warm up the big ‘ol car.
Some kind of giant machine.
And she would gather us up.
All our things.
Load them in the car.
And drive us.
To our school.
Keeping us nice and dry.

On some of those days.
My mom would pull over.
At the bus stop.
And ask the kids standing there.
Soaking to the bones.
If they’d like a ride.
To school.
Instead of waiting for the bus.

Yes they did.
Want a lift.
So they’d jump into our car.
Our big ‘ol car.
And my mom would drop us all off.
At the curb.
In front of our school.
Ready to learn.
Instead of worrying about how cold we were.

My mom made those days easier.
For me.
For my brother.
And for the other kids who wanted a ride.