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.

I’m White. He’s Not.

The summer sunshine reminds me of a time, long ago when the shade of our skin was one of a few times color defined Rudy and I.

We made plans to spend the day at Huntington Beach in southern CA. We gathered a few what we thought of as necessary items to enjoy the day: a radio, towels, an ice chest full of snacks and drinks, magazines, and baby oil.

Baby oil?! Seriously, baby oil?!

Well, I’m telling you, at the time it made perfect sense. A quick way to color the skin.

A BIG MISTAKE, to say the least.

For me, anyway.

You see, Rudy has lovely brown skin. I am glow-stick white.

There we were, slathering that oil on, all over our exposed skin. Both of us looking nice and shiny. Feeling satisfied, we horizontally positioned ourselves, side-by-side, each on our own colorful towel, relaxing, to the point of snoozing under that hot sun.

Rudy noticed I was turning pink, said as much, but let the issue go when I said, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m fine. I’m getting a tan!”

As mid-afternoon approached, in the heat of the blazing sun shining brightly in my eyes, it was hard to tell if I managed more than a slight coloring. I felt I should continue to sunbath, just a bit more sun, a bit more color but, it was time to leave. So we did. Plus, we were hot, and tired.

We stopped at a mini-mart on our way home. A cold ICEE, Cocoa-Cola flavor, please! was in order. As I stepped out of the car, my skin – especially behind my knees – hurt. Not too bad. Just a slight irritation.

My reflection spoke to me from the glass of the store window. “Oh, wow, you did get some color. Definitely!”

I looked towards Rudy and noted that he had tanned nicely. He looked all chocolatey-brown, not milk-chocolate but rather dark-chocolate, like Hershey’s Special Dark. He was looking good, real good!

Cold drink in hand, I eased myself back into the car. I could feel the sun soaking in, doing its job of coloring me.

Ah, what a soon-to-be joke!

When we returned home I asked Rudy if he wanted to go to the pool, to cool off before we headed to our little abode, our own personal space. “Sounds good to me!” he said with interest.

The pool was somewhat crowded with other residents living in the apartment complex. The water felt good, soothing. It seemed people didn’t want to look our way, but they did. “Hum, am I looking good with some sun on my lilly-whites, or what?” I modestly questioned under my breath.

Or what? was the answer to my ridiculous thought!

30, maybe forty, minutes later, when we entered our place I immediately walked to the bathroom to shower off the day’s debris. “Oh. My. Gosh!” I sort-of yelled as I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. “I am so red! My face looks like a cherry tomato!”

“You are red. Really red.” Mr. Good-Looking-Dark-Chocolate-Brown casually stated. “Seriously red.”

I’m Red. He’s Not.

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

Moving In… Together.

me and rud

There was no reason for Rudy and I to move in together, long ago. We just did. It wasn’t out of necessity. It was simply an opportunity. Rudy had a roommate. I lived at home. His roommate met a girl and moved in with her. Rudy didn’t need a roommate, nor did I need a new room. Yet, one day as we were walking around the apartment complex he was living in we simultaneously wondered, “Why not?”

By the following month, we had signed a rental agreement for a one bedroom, one bath apartment, top floor.

“Why?” my mom wondered.

“Why?” Rudy’s mom questioned.

“What’s the point?” my mom inquired.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Rudy’s mom stated.

It didn’t need to make sense, we both thought, to anyone but us. We just knew it was what we wanted to do. Live together, before marriage.

The Mask of Unhappiness

Rudy and I went through some difficult times, emotionally, during the three years he did not work, after being laid off from a going to retire from job. Our days were filled with a constant flow of ups but, mostly downs. We weren’t feeling too happy. With each other. With our situation. We argued. A lot. Daily.

One of those days…

I was trying to read. Take my mind off the bad feeling outside my bedroom door. Yet, my head hurt. From a throbbing headache. I could hear Rudy walking my way, down the hall, along the wooden floor boards. I was in the bed, under five layers of blankets. In pain. Unhappy.

“Do you need the light on?” he asked. As politely as he could manage. “Yes!” I said rudely. Bitchlike. “I just thought you didn’t need it!” he raised his voice. I held up the book I was attempting to focus on. Rudy walked back out the door. Slamming it shut. I followed him back out into the kitchen. Feeling I owed him some kind of apology. Rudy didn’t bother to listen to what I had to say. He walked away. Into the garage. Into his man-cave.

My head hurt. More. I walked. Or stomped back to my bedroom. Mumbling angrily to myself. I crawled back under the blankets in the now no lights on dark room. I sighed. Heavily. Under all that weight. I could hear Rudy. Walking my way. Again. He opened the door. “The beef stew is done,” he told me in a flat tone. I ignored him. He walked away. Five minutes later he returned. He flipped on the light. With anger. Stood there. I assumed. I couldn’t see him but I could hear him as he grumbled. Made angry sounds. I did not move. My head hurt. Badly. And, even though I was under a pile of blankets, I felt so cold. He flipped off the light. Slammed the door, and walked away, for a second time.

Again. I crawled out of my haven. Walked slowly back to the kitchen. To Rudy. “My head hurts. I don’t feel well,” I told him. “Everything is falling apart!” he yelled in my direction.
I cried. Uncontrollably. We yelled. At each other. Until neither of us could take it anymore. Rudy stomped back into the garage. I returned, once again, to my room. My headache only got worse. I took a deep breath. Found my spot under the blankets. Didn’t move. Not until the next morning.

Just Do It

I walked into the apartment, looking somewhat relieved, yet nervous about Rudy’s reaction. “I quit my job, today,” I told him. He looked at me, not sure what to think. He looked at my tired expression and then at my swollen belly. “Why?” he asked. I knew I had made the right decision for me, for our future yet, I knew it wasn’t fair to Rudy that I hadn’t consulted him about leaving a job that brought in money to help pay the bills. I wrapped my hands under my pregnant belly, six months of baby inside me. “Well, I drive by the university everyday on my way to work and everyday I tell myself that someday I will return to school to finish what I had started long ago.” Rudy approached me, put his hands on my shoulders, and said that it was okay. “We will manage. We will figure it out.”

My first semester as a transfer student was somewhat difficult. Not only did I have to renew my mindset to student but I was preoccupied with the fact that I would soon become a mother for the first time. I was uncomfortable physically, and mentally I felt overwhelmed. Tired, sure, but more than that I was determined to walk a steady line. I completed the semester with all my work turned in, finals finished. The following morning, my baby daughter was born.

me-newborn lizSix weeks. That was the amount of time that Elizabeth and I had bonded, with no distractions. Well, as it always happens, time runs out. In mid-February, semester number two began. So then did a whole new challenge. How were we going to do it all? Rudy was working the graveyard shift (as in 11pm to 7am), so he was constantly trying to adapt to some kind of sleep pattern. A new baby added a new dimension: Will we ever sleep? While he worked through the night, I was at home caring for Elizabeth, waking up every few hours to feed and change her. Then, just before the sun rose, I began gathering my school things while getting dressed. Plus, I needed to do another breastfeeding session, swaddle Liz in fresh linen (cotton diapers, delivered to the house) and soothe her, gently rocking her while we waited for Rudy to return home. Then, he’d take over while I went to morning classes.

He looked exhausted as he walked through the front door, but he reached for Liz, held her close, and began babbling quietly as I rushed out the door.

rud:newborn lizUpon my return, several hours later, I would quietly enter the apartment only to find Rudy lounging on the couch. His feet splayed out in front of him, his head tilted forward, chin against her head, and his arms tightly, yet gently, wrapped around our wee child. I didn’t want to interrupt Rudy’s much needed nap but I knew it was best to get him into the bedroom, close the door, and let him sleep for as many hours as he could manage. Not easy, though, when the bedroom window faced the kindergarten playground of the neighboring elementary school. I then spent the day caring for Miss Lizzy, doing the best I knew how. When she would fall asleep, I would gather my homework and study. As late evening approached, after Rudy had eaten something, anything, he would kiss us goodbye,  and then the cycle would begin again.

liz&meGRADUATEAfter two and a half years of adjusting to our “situation“, the I just wish I could sleep! situation, Rudy tiredly took pictures of me with a cap and gown on, Elizabeth in my arms, smiling at the camera.

I knew I still had an additional year of schooling to complete, in a credential program somewhere, anywhere, before I could teach solo in a classroom. Unfortunately though, I needed to return to the work force, full-time. Sleep deprived or not, I was confident that  eventually I would return to school. “I will,” I told myself.

And I did. I eventually enrolled in a credential program, taking evening classes so I could continue to work during the day. And by this time, our second child, Roberto, was three years old, the same age Liz was when I earned my Bachelors Degree. The day I left for my first day at work, as a certified school teacher, was the same day Roberto began kindergarten.

Here it is, twenty years later and I reflect on those days and wonder how I did it. How we did it, Rudy and I. Well, I’ve determined that we just did because, honestly, we had to.  We tried (very hard) not to reflect on the downside, but rather on how to make the most of our situation, or probably more accurately, we just plowed through it, hoping for the best. Those obstacles seriously molded the way we continue to approach life. With perseverance. Whether we sleep or not.

He Likes Me and I Like Him

rudy:me wedding day
Our wedding day was a simple one. We were wed in a two-story Victorian house. As my maid-of-honor, wearing a forest green knee-length dress, walked down the stairs, she was greeted by seventy-five guests. When the piano player played the “Wedding March”, or more often known by its lyrics ‘Here Comes the Bride…” I, too, walked down the stairs in a traditional white gown wearing a veil, a string of pearls, and holding a small bouquet of flowers. I was greeted by my dad. He walked me to the front of the room, giving me away to Rudy, who, I must say, was looking quite dapper in his black suit and red tie. Rudy’s best-man stood to his right, also wearing a black suit, and my maid-of-honor stood to my left. Our bilingual priest stood in the front, facing us, centered. When the ceremony ended, the small crowd was encouraged to eat the buffet-style food and to simply enjoy themselves. In the most relaxing way.

When Rudy proposed to me, it really was just a question intertwined among the many things we were discussing. Kind of like, “How was your day?” “Fine.” “You want to get married?” “Yeah.” As simple as that. Within three months of that should-be-heavyquestion, we were married. We’ve never looked back. Our decision was our own. So easy. So simple. So us.

When our wedding day ended, when we woke up as a married couple the next morning, we knew that our relationship, our lifetime together, was truly beginning right then and there. For us, it wasn’t about the ceremony but rather about what lay ahead. Good times, and difficult ones, too. Of course, we could only imagine what great times we would have, but there was no way we even discussed any not-so-great times. Why bother when we didn’t know what was in store for us? All we knew for sure was that we both loved each other, and just as important Rudy really liked me (and still does) and that I really liked him (and still do). Loving each other seems obvious but, what we know now is that liking each other is what has cemented our relationship.

Years and years after our wedding day, Rudy and I were walking along, hand-in-hand, when he said to me, “I love you. You are so good for me. You make my life so much better. Without you… I don’t want to think about it.” I responded simply with, “I love you, too, Rud.” Then he continued. “What is really cool, though, is not only do I love you, but I really like you, a lot! I think you are an awesome person. I like the kind of wife you are. The kind of mother you are. I just like you!” I hugged him, hugged him tight. “I really like  you too, Rud.”