First post coming soon. Until then, be kind, be respectful and make someone smile today!
First post coming soon. Until then, be kind, be respectful and make someone smile today!
Sometimes it feels a little weird saying that I am a city girl when I have been living in a somewhat small city for most of my life. But it is true what they say: once a city girl, always a city girl. Well, not sure if anybody says that, but if you grew up in a big city, you understand what I mean. That is not to say that I don’t like where I live. On the contrary, I love it! It is on the coast – which is something very important to me, it is historic, there is always some type of art or sporting event going on, and tourism is at an all-time high. So I guess I can say that I live in a small city with a big city feel. Actually it had been feeling more like a big city than a small one for a while … until a little over a year ago, when we moved into our new place.
Five years ago, my husband and I decided to buy a lot on the water (river to be precise). We came across it while at a party at the developer’s house, and really liked the area, especially the view. It was quiet, surrounded by live oak trees, and the view of the river was stunning. It was also a good deal, so we bought it and three years later started construction. After 12 months, our house was, for the most part, finished. We fell in love with it from the moment we moved in. What I wasn’t counting on were the “country living” experiences I was about to have.
Four months after moving into the new house, I was making myself a sandwich during my lunch break and started hearing the sound of a rooster crowing – you know, that cock-a-doodle-do sound. I had no clue where it was coming from and started searching the house for it. I figured it was a toy that suddenly went off, because our alma matter’s mascot is a Gamecock and we have some Gamecock stuff around, but I couldn’t find anything. Then I heard it again … and again. So I decided to walk outside and to my surprise, there was a rooster on the vacant lot next to my house. It was the first time I saw a rooster in the area and thought it was a bit weird, but I assumed it came from somewhere nearby and went on about my business. Later that night, I was preparing dinner for my daughter while she danced around the house. As she danced her way towards the front door, I heard a small scream and thought she had fallen down. I asked if she was OK and she replied “yes, mommy, but there is a chicken on the porch”. I thought to myself “oh, no, she fell and hit her head”, but as I walked towards her, I realized she was telling the truth. The same rooster I had seen earlier that day was back, and this time it was on our front porch. I tried to shoo it away – nothing. I cracked the door open and let my dog peak outside and bark – nothing. My daughter grabbed her duck call toy thingy and started using it – nothing. I actually asked her to stop immediately because I was afraid ducks would come over and join the chicken. This was all happening and my husband, of course, was out of town for work. My luck! He laughed as I described the situation and I guess it was pretty funny. I finally gave up trying to get the rooster to leave and we all went to bed. In the morning, the front porch was covered in chicken poop and the rooster was nowhere to be found. Must have gone back to his coop, I thought. WRONG.
Later that night, the rooster came back. He also came back the night after that and the night after that. By the second night, my husband was back and we could not figure out how to get it to leave the premises. Poop was everywhere and the sound of that thing crowing was driving everyone crazy, especially our dog. At the end of the week, as we were getting ready to go on a road trip, the guys who were doing work around our backyard showed up. My husband approached one of them and said that there was a rooster roaming around, it was not ours, and jokingly added that they were welcome to take it if they wanted. By the time we got back from our trip, the rooster was gone – for good this time. We are not exactly sure why or how the it went away, but have a pretty good theory.
Don’t worry, my Country Living story does not end here. That rooster was not the only bird to pay an unwanted visit to our house and it was certainly not the only “wild” animal around. More to come on the next blog. Stay tuned.
Have you ever had one of those days when everything goes wrong from the moment you wake up? You are late for a meeting because your alarm didn’t go off – then you spill coffee on your lap while driving – and when you finally get to work someone has taken your reserved parking spot – kind of day? If you have, then you had what I call a pretty decent day. After reading this post you will understand why. And next time you think you’re having a bad day, come pay a quick visit and read this post again. It should make you feel better right away. You will remember that you could be having a day like the one I had the other day. The day I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Literally.
This is how it all started: my husband got up early to go to a staff meeting and I rolled over to his side of the bed at some point between 6:00 and 7:00 AM. I had been having some trouble sleeping all week because of a bruised – possibly fractured – tailbone from snowboarding the weekend before and it was hard to find just the right position to sleep in, so I must have wandered over to his side of the bed (which pretty much never happens). When I opened my eyes and saw the dog bed on the floor, confusion took over. “Holy crap, I’m in Freaky Friday!” I slowly turned my head to my side of the bed to see if my body was there……nothing but the white comforter. “OK, let me just make sure. Where is the mirror?” My panic subsided when I got up and saw my own face and upper body in the mirror above the dresser. “Good…”. To my relief, I was still me and it was actually Friday – TGIF! What I didn’t know at that moment was that I was about to have my own Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad day. It was going to be Murphy’s Law at its finest.
After confirming that I was still in my own body and laughing at myself for thinking I could actually switch bodies with someone, I proceeded to get dressed and get my day started. I walked by my daughter’s bedroom on my way downstairs and noticed she was in bed, fully dressed, with a blanket covering her face. It was not an uncommon occurrence – this lying in bed in her school clothes, pouting because she is still tired happens at least once a week. Eleven hours of sleep is clearly not enough on a week night, but come Saturday morning, she is wide awake at 7:00 AM, sometimes earlier, ready to play and watch Jack Hannah (have I mentioned I love my daughter more than anything?). So after a quick one-sided conversation, we managed to get down to the kitchen. She asked for waffles, the frozen kind, and a glass of milk. Half way through the waffles, she knocked the full glass of milk all over the counter and didn’t say anything. I didn’t notice because I was too busy filling up her water bottle and getting my to-go coffee ready, which I managed to do successfully without any spillage. I turned around, grabbed my purse, and as I walked past her, I realized my phone was still on the charger. So I quickly put my purse down and reached for my phone. Splash! Yep, it was milk. My fabulous purse was sitting in a giant puddle of milk, which had now made its way down the side of the cabinet and onto the wood floor. I took a deep breath. No need to get upset, I thought to myself. There is no apparent damage to the purse and it is Friday after all. Let’s clean this mess up and head to school.
This was one of the few parts of the day without any incidents. I dropped my little girl off and made my way back home just in time for my first conference call of the day, which was long and boring (I work from home by the way). On my way upstairs from the garage, I had spilled coffee on my white pants, but even then I maintained my composure. In between the first and second calls, I decided to do some laundry. I remembered I had a whole bunch of whites to wash, mostly my kid’s clothes, and figured I’d get it done before the weekend. And I could throw the white pants I was wearing in there too. I also thought it’d be a good idea to use some bleach – make those whites whiter! As I poured the bleach into its dedicated compartment, some of it dripped on my brand new laundry mat. A mat I had wanted to by for months, and finally did when it went on sale. A mat that actually made me smile for a few seconds when I entered the laundry room because it was so cute. I quickly got a wet towel, got down on my knees and started fearlessly scrubbing the bleach from the mat, while at the same time experiencing an excruciating pain coming from my tailbone area. I continued scrubbing nonetheless, hoping I could save the mat, but deep inside I knew there was no way it would ever look the same again. It would now have a big, discolored spot on it, which I made worse by smearing the bleach everywhere as I scrubbed, and it would no longer make me smile every time I saw it. Instead, it would remind me of my daughter’s white leggings, which were so dirty I felt the need for bleach. Dang it! Why does she have to get so dirty at school? (I love my daughter!) Why did I decide to do laundry on a Friday? Sunday is laundry day – Sunday! I finally stood up, almost passed out from the shooting pain that got suddenly worse, and after I stopped seeing stars, I walked back to my desk, almost in tears. As I passed by the glass front door, I waved to the UPS man who had just dropped off a couple of boxes. He waived back awkwardly and turned around so fast I thought he was going to fall over. Then I realized I didn’t have any pants on.
I don’t even remember what that second conference call was about. I didn’t have to be on it anyway – it was “optional”. But there I was anyway, with a heating pad under my butt, pretending to listen when I was actually Googling the laundry mat. Maybe I could just buy a new one…but of course it wasn’t on sale anymore. As soon as the call was over, I made my way back into the laundry room to put the clothes in the dryer. I cautiously opened the door with one eye closed and the other one open to check on the state of the mat. “What?!” I opened the other eye and confirmed that the mat was actually intact! It was a Freaky Friday miracle! The bleach did nothing to the mat! Nothing! Great, let me put these whites in the dryer and get on my third conference call of the day. And this time I will really pay att…..hmmmm, if the bleach didn’t do anything to the mat, then it probably didn’t do anything to the clothes either. Yep, the leggings are still stained. And so is this t-shirt. What kind of bleach is this?! It had one job to do, ONE: make my whites whiter! Unbelievable. That roller coaster of emotions made me a little dizzy, but I carefully walked back to the office for yet another call.
I am going to save you some time and give a quick summary of how the afternoon went. I got on that third conference call and about 9 minutes into it, heard a weird noise coming from the living room. I walked over just in time to watch my dog throw up on the tracks of the sliding doors. Not the floor, not the rug, she threw up on the hardest place to clean in the whole house! If you have sliding doors, you know what I mean. So after 20 minutes of attempting to clean everything, I finally gave up and decided to wait until my husband got home. My tailbone was on fire and I think I even blacked out for a few seconds while cleaning. Then I suddenly remembered: “I was in the middle of a call 20 minutes ago”. By the time I limped back to my desk, the call was over and I had a new email in my inbox with an action item and my name next to it. Probably punishment for not answering when someone called my name. Sorry, folks, I was cleaning dog puke!
I still had two more conference calls that afternoon, but decided to call it a day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate anyways between the pain and the thought of dog puke drying out under my sliding door. I just needed to get that heating pad under my butt again and rest. Maybe a quick nap until my husband and daughter get home. As I lied uncomfortably on the couch, sure enough my eyes started to get heavy. I was about to fall asleep when I heard a chirping sound – the chirping sound. The sound that everyone fears: the smoke detector. At that point I concluded that it was time to self-medicate. By the time my husband and daughter got home, I was on my second glass of wine and getting ready to pop a couple of pain pills. An hour and another half a bottle of wine later, I kissed them goodnight and off to bed I went, hoping and wishing that Saturday would be a better day. Not great, not good, just please – pretty please – better than today. But I couldn’t just leave it to chance. On my way up, I grabbed a couple of those foam pool noodles to put under the sheets, right in the middle of the bed, separating my territory from my husband’s. “Tomorrow I am going to wake up on the right side of the bed!”
What will you do if one morning you wake up and realize you are on the wrong side of the bed?
These thoughts inside my brain
The lights, the touch, the sound
Will an answer ever be found?
Will all the kindness be in vain?
Children smile with hope
We must not pass on the fear
Just keep them close, keep them near
And they’ll be able to cope
A simple word of wisdom
A true moment, eye to eye
We simply mustn’t lie
For they will be our freedom
It should be no surprise
They do what they see
So be all that you can be
Be kind, be strong, be wise
…Together we rise
I can’t quite recall why, but I started taking English classes back in Brazil when I was only 6 years old. The English school was a 2-minute walk from my apartment building and I loved, loved, loved going there. I still remember one day when the English teacher said that we would be reading and interpreting the lyrics to “The Time of My Life”. Yes, that song from Dirty Dancing! I was so thrilled! I loved that song so much and could not believe I would actually get to learn lyrics. If you grew up before the Internet was invented, you understand and appreciate how truly excited I was. See, back then, you couldn’t just Google something and have it magically appear on your computer/phone screen. Heck, we didn’t even have personal computers when I was little. Or cell phones. I actually kind of miss those days sometimes … life was, in many ways, simpler then.
So back to learning English. I took formal English classes from age 6 until about age 13. After 7 years of going to class twice a week, I got a certificate that said I had “graduated”. I still took English in high school, because it was mandatory, but by then, I already knew how to speak it fluently. Or so I thought.
This is no joke: at 13, I really thought that I was fluent in English, and I guess compared to most of my friends and family, I kind of was. So imagine my surprise when I arrived in “the south” 5 years later (see my previous post for reference to “the south”) and could only understand about 50% of what people were saying. No, actually I think it was closer to 35%. Yep, I could barely understand when people talked to me. After all those years of hard work and memorizing many song lyrics, what I thought was my second language was nothing more than just a foreign language.
Now, it is true that people talk a little differently in the south. Words roll into each other, you all is pronounced y’all, and “I am fixing to…” does not mean that you are going to repair something. But even though I knew I was surrounded by a hard-to-decipher southern accent, I was very shocked to discover that I still had a lot to learn. My vocabulary was very limited and what I thought was the proper way of structuring sentences sounded almost silly when spoken out loud. Not to mention the prepositions and my inability to use them correctly. On, off, in, out, into, onto, at, under, underneath… WHAT? I give up! Or is it give in? And then, of course, you have those words that, to us Brazilians, can be very tricky to pronounce sometimes: beach vs. b!tch. Sheet vs. sh!t. Liter vs. litter, among others.
Sometimes I laugh out loud when I think about the many times that I pronounced words incorrectly. One time I went to a Ben and Jerry’s and decided to order a pint of ice cream: “May I please have a pint of the chocolate peanut butter ice cream?” Sounds just fine, right? Well, not really. The problem is that I pronounced “pint” the same way you say “mint”, just with a p instead of an m. The guy behind the counter had a blank look on his face and it finally hit him. “Oh, you mean pint“. My face turned red instantly and my first instinct was to run out the door when he turned around to get the darn pint. But I didn’t. I just decided to never go back there again, which sucked because it was within walking distance from my house. Then later I found out (the hard way) that he also worked at the used CD store, which was, of course, within walking distance from my house as well. It was time to move…
So after many other similar situations, I eventually learned English (for real this time) and, more importantly, got used to the infamous southern accent. Just like with everything else, it takes practice – a lot of practice – to learn and be fluent in a second language. I am going through a somewhat similar situation now with my daughter. She was born in the U.S. and her dad is American, so we speak English in the house. I have, however, been talking to her in Portuguese since she was born, so she understands basically everything I say in my native language. The hard part for her is speaking it, because she is not exposed to it anywhere else, unless we travel to Rio. But our time in Brazil is always so limited that it is not enough for it to stick. So I am working on that now, teaching my daughter Portuguese – or “Por-cue-jeez”, as she says it. And let me tell you, it has been a process. I often wonder if she will ever speak it, and get frustrated by the idea that she may not. But then I remind myself that she is only 5. I was a year older than her when I started learning English, so there is no need to push her too hard. Otherwise she may not want to learn it and that is definitely not what I want. So for now, my plan is to try to make it fun, make it natural, incorporate it into every day play, and one day I am sure we will be telling each other jokes and secrets in Portuguese and driving my husband louco!
So, I thought that my OCD was what led me to Google “OCD” before writing this post. I was wrong. But, boy, am I glad I Googled it. It turns out, I don’t have OCD at all! I’m a little obsessive compulsive, sure, but who isn’t?! Not only that, but people with OCD take the term very seriously (as they should) and I am not about to upset a whole bunch of people after only 3 posts. No, no, no. I have to have at least 90 to 100 posts before I make my first enemy. And hopefully by then I will have my 2 or 3 loyal followers who will know me well enough and come to my defense! They will confirm that I didn’t mean any harm to those prospective angry readers. But, I digress…
As I mentioned before, I am a bit obsessive compulsive. OK, very. I like things organized a certain way, I obsess about the number 9 a little too much, I sometimes break into hives when someone incorrectly writes “your” instead of “you’re”, and the toilet paper is ALWAYS over – never, under any circumstances, is it under! And if you disagree, please don’t leave me a comment, because it is simply impossible to change my mind on this subject. Just ask Diane Sawyer. She tried really hard, and you know how persuasive she can be.
Anyway, if you are obsessive compulsive (let’s call it OC from now on) like me, you will agree that the worst thing an OC person can do is have a baby. Well, that came out wrong, but you know what I mean. I hope you do. The amount of stuff that suddenly appears everywhere when you have a baby is absolutely maddening. I was always one to secretly judge my friends who had babies before I did. You walked into their houses and there were toys everywhere, diapers, diaper bags, butt wipes, hand wipes to be used after you used the butt wipes, hand sanitizer to be used after the hand wipes that you used after the butt wipes, baby snacks, bibs, oh, the dirty bibs! I would leave their place saying “How in heaven’s name can they live like that?! I got dizzy just looking around for a clean place to sit down. Have they turned into cavemen? Are they starting a new reality show? From Chanel to spit up smell in just 5 days or How to lose your child-less friends in one quick visit: three simple steps. And the noise, the godawful noise from those annoying toys. They were loud and bright and just plain obnoxious! If I ever have a baby, I will tell everyone to never, ever give my child toys like that…”. Hold on, did I just say “If I ever have a baby”? Why would I say that? Why would that thought even cross my mind? I can’t handle a baby and the giant baby mess that comes with it. I am OC! I just can’t! No way, not possible, there is not enough Xanax in the world! But then, as unexpected as seeing my friend’s dog eating a dirty diaper (and enjoying it!), it happened.
I had a non-eventful pregnancy and 40 weeks and 5 days to plan for the next phase of my life. I knew I had it covered. Of course I did. And at that moment, when I saw my child’s perfect little face for the first time, all my worries seemed to disappear – poof! What was I so concerned about? This is a tiny human being and I am OC, there is just no possible way that my house will look like my cave-friends’ huts. Come to think of it, they were pretty messy already, before the babies came. I will be just fine…
And fine I was. The baby slept, I cleaned. The baby slept some more, I cleaned some more. Nurse, burp, put down for a nap, clean up, repeat. That was my daily routine for the first several weeks – I felt like I was in Groundhog Day. And then, sleep deprivation kicked in, and I went from Andie MacDowell to a zombie on cruise control. The house looked great though! You could tell the moment you walked in that no cave people lived there! That’s right! I was right! I was soooooo……….wrong! It was easy at first to keep everything somewhat under control, even with a giant spaceship-looking thing called a mamaRoo in the middle of the living room. But then the baby turned 6 months, then 9 months, then a year old. More toys were needed, more baby snacks, more bowls, more sippy cups, more toys, more and more toys. Suddenly, without a warning, my den became a smaller, slightly more civilized version of Toys ‘R Us on Black Friday. I felt this overwhelming feeling of defeat coming over me. But then, to my own amazement, I grabbed my wooden club with one hand, rocks with the other, proudly lifted my arms up in the air, grunted, and embraced the inner cavewoman in me.
I am a city girl. Born and raised in the New York City of Brazil – the prettier version, in my opinion – in an apartment building, surrounded by other buildings, rush hour traffic (which with the turn of the century has turned into 24-7 traffic), noise, pollution, noise pollution – yes, there is such a thing – people bumping into you in the crowded downtown streets, you know, all those perks that come with city living. But despite the daily frenzy, I really did enjoy growing up in Rio. Not that I had a choice, but… city life was fun. THE BEST PART: the beach! And I guess the fact that there are no natural disasters was a plus too. But the beach, oh, the beach. In particular, Ipanema Beach, my favorite hangout spot.
Life was grand when I was 18. I could finally drink alcohol (legally), drive, I had the best friends in the whole wide world, nothing could stop us … and I now that I come to think about it, I have a slight suspicion that Sex and the City was loosely based on our lives, sans the sex part. So, at what I thought was the peak of my life, this then 18-year-7 1/2-month old girl hops on a plane to “The South“. I knew very little about the town I was going to live in for the next 4 years and for some reason made no effort to learn more about it before leaving home. I guess I thought I already knew what it would be like. After all, I had been to the U.S. before. I was in Orlando for 10 days when I was 15. Disney World. Sure, that is the same. Silly little me.
It’s hard to describe what that change was like. I guess you could say it was like moving from Manhattan to Boise. Maybe not that extreme, but at 18, I felt like I was in a different world. A world in which people you don’t know say hi to you in the streets. It’s true. I am walking down the street and… what the hell?! Did that guy just say hi to me? Have we met? Well, he is kind of cute. He must be in one of my classes, or in my dorm. Oh, I wonder if he is my roommate’s boyfriend. It was kind of dark when I met him the other night. Wait, why is that old lady smiling at me? I know she is not in my class and she definitely does not live in my dorm. Why is everyone nodding and smiling? Oh, God, do I have a booger hanging out my nose? A giant pimple? I better go find a restroom.
It took some getting used to, but now I am one of the weirdoes saying hi to people I don’t know. It is the polite thing to do, the southern thing to do. I also say y’all. Yep, y’all is part of my vocabulary. I haven’t been able to say “I’m fixing to go cook dinner”, “Bless your heart”, or learned to refrain from using my horn, but maybe some day.
Speaking of horn, that was one thing that was so hard to get used to, and still is. See, in Rio, people have to have their horns replaced every 18 months (think NYC or LA traffic), because they get used so often. But here, people only use their horns when they drive by someone they know. So one day I am a passenger in my friend’s car, we are at a stop light and the light turns green. The car in front of us doesn’t move and we just sit there. “Use your horn”, I tell her. She responds with a confused tone “Why?” (she probably didn’t even know where the horn was). Look, I know people live at a slower pace here, but do I really have to explain why? Because that car in front of us is not moving, of course, and we just wasted 9 seconds of our lives sitting here. I didn’t actually get to respond because she finally got it “Oh, don’t worry about it. He will move eventually”. And he sure did, after the light turned red then green again. As soon as that sucker turned green the second time around, I slammed my left hand against the horn and there went the car in front of us. There, done, easy, now we can go on with our busy lives. My friend was so shocked that she never allowed me in her car again. I never quite understood why, after that day, she always asked me to drive separately whenever we went to the movies, or shopping… until I ran into a friend we had in common a few years later. Somehow the horn subject came up and she mentioned that our friend was so traumatized after that day that, after she graduated, she moved to a small rural town about 3 hours away, where they literally have ONE stop light.
Bless her heart…