Monday, May 25, 2015


Adjusting. That's what this phase of my life is all about. For me, for my children, for all of us. We are all trying to pick through the pieces of a marriage that could not be salvaged.

My marriage ended almost three months ago and, as anyone who has experienced divorce can attest, that life change has brought about just about every recognizable emotion known to man. I'm sure the gauntlet of emotions has not been completely run, but I have certainly had enough feelings to last me a lifetime. I have wished many times for a fast-forward button to skip ahead six months to the place where the feelings have dulled a bit, where life has balanced out somewhat and the adjusting has happened, but no one is giving me that button. Crap.

Yesterday I threw my son a belated birthday party. In typical fashion, we had a barbecue, invited some lovely friends and some rowdy ten year old boys, and made some food and drinks. Nothing fancy. It was my first attempt at hosting as a single mother and let me just say that I am in no rush to do it again. My friends are all lovely and there was lots of help, but the underlying reality of being the only one ultimately responsible for the whole scene really stressed me out. I think it was more the emotion of being the only one that made me anxious and edgy, as opposed to the actual work involved, but it was not a great feeling. Today I feel the lingering pulse of anxiety coursing through my veins as I lay low with the kids. It's interesting what will set you off and make you feel this way, because up until now I have been managing the solo gig pretty well.

I think my new reality will involve less hosting. More focusing on finding the calm and less about the action. I feel like there is a lot of internal pressure on myself to continue our lives just as they were, but the reality is that everything has changed, and the adjusting cannot really begin until I accept that truth. Breaking up is totally not a good time, especially when kids are involved, but there is a palpable relief that has accompanied this experience that I cannot ignore. This is the right choice for me, the only choice, and we will keep adjusting, no matter how rocky that road may be.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Tropical Storm Katia

Today I have been a tropical storm of emotions. I was awake much of the night, plagued with anxiety and overwhelming sadness of that which I cannot fix. It's hard to imagine being sad and anxious in such amazing surrounding, but I have so much of my heart wrapped up in this place that it's hard not to know how to feel sometimes. I love this country so much, it has beauty beyond belief, and intense poverty in equal amounts.

Our friends joined us two days ago from my long time stomping ground of San Cristobal, a terribly impoverished city in the south of the DR. The two girls, Sindy and Yari, now ages 21 and 16, were daughters to me and my friend Jane for many years, but over time it became complicated, and we had to let those relationships go in order to forage ahead with our own lives. Cristian, Jane's old boyfriend and longtime admirer and much like a brother to me, is also here with his adorable (but emaciated) 8 year old daughter. It is both wonderful and terrible to see them. I love to have them here, but I wish they would go away so I don't have to think about how much they don't have, and how nothing I could ever do for them could ever be enough.

It is an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, enhanced by the fact that I DO NOT want to leave here in two days. I am not sure if I will ever be ready to come back. I woke up this morning weepy and wracked with anxiety and guilt that is almost impossible to fully explain. Guilt for having left these beautiful girls 12 years ago and not returning, and guilt for the fact that I have to leave them again, and I cannot really ever be their mother.

I am somewhat better now, if not extremely exhausted from the emotion of the day. Our San Cristobal friends go home tomorrow, and then we will have one more day to decompress in the sun before boarding our flight home (sob!) and hopefully seeking solace in our familiar cozy beds.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paradise Found

Yep, paradise alright. Complete and total. And I must add that it wasn't hard to find. We have moved  on to the actual vacation part of our trip and a vacation it sure is. The house we rented was sight unseen, and could have been anything, but turned out to be an a perfect, incredible, heaven, and very cheap by our American standards. The rooms are palatial, as is the patio and pool area. I can't imagine ever leaving this amazing place, and I am beyond happy that we decided to stay for ten days of miserable New England winter. I find myself having visions of leaving my life behind and relocating to the tropics, which of course is very dreamy and romantic when one is vacationing in paradise, and probably a lot more work in real life.

People are always asking me why I spend so much of my life vacation planning, but here it is. I am right where I want to be, tanned and happy, with bachata playing on the stereo and a pina colada in the blender, and it didn't cost me and arm and a leg, or really more than a fraction of what most Americans pay to go to Disney World. (And I don't have to spend my days at a theme park wearing Mickey Mouse ears). I'm glad we spent so much time in the hot, dirty countryside at my mother-in-law's house enjoying the people and feeling crowded so that we could come here, spread out, and feel incredibly fortunate. Makes it even better than coming straight from home.

My mother-in-law, Erma, has been staying with us, and will do so until tomorrow, when some old and dear friends are coming from San Cristobal, the town I first loved here in the DR. Erma has done remarkably well here, considering she is so out of her element and, much like her son, doesn't particularly like to leave her house. She spends our beach days at my brother-in-law's house, claiming she is allergic to the ocean, and we pick her up on the way home so she can make a Dominican dinner as she likes to. Today we are all home by the pool, and thinking about some grilled chicken for lunch. I am not-so-secretly scheming about ways to make my life here, we'll see how that works out, I'll keep you all posted.

Grit, Hot Dogs, and Waterfalls in Pina Vieja

We have been in the Dominican Republic for five days now, in my mother-in-law's small village of Pina Vieja, where not only does everybody know your name, but everybody is also related to your husband. This part of our trip is a mixed bag of joy and headaches, as it always is. I have loved this country for a long time, it feels like home. It's gritty here, dirty and loud and completely third world, without a hint of tourism. Fortunately I have been coming here for as long as I've known Francisco, and so the people are jolly as Dominicans are, and happy to accept me as one of their own. I do wish we had a little house of our own here, as staying as a guest for this long wears on everyone, although my mother-in-law would never admit it.

We've had a few hilarious moments, like my mother waking up at 2 am to a cockroach crawling on her leg and screaming like she was on fire, and then again when she thought she felt the cockroach again, only to find out it was just the mosquito netting that canopies over our beds at night. Or the pudgy and somewhat dumb-witted girl that lives next door who is aptly named Juleisy (pronounced You Lazy) We are serenaded almost every night with the sounds of dogs fighting in the street outside our window, and blasts of music every now and again as a car rolls down the street. Trying to nap here is like trying to nap in a tent inside of Grand Central Station, just not a realistic plan.

I went dancing two nights ago with a friend who lives next door, and that was indeed a treat of epic proportions. Dancing the night away to the sounds of La Banda Gorda, something that only someone who came here with me in 1997 would appreciate. We left the disco in a rum soaked haze, ate a Dominican hot dog from a street vendor (read: hot dog buried underneath a delicious pile of cabbage and condiments), and then couldn't find anyone to take us home, poor planning at best. So we walked (or perhaps stumbled) the two or so miles home where I promptly puked up the hot dog (sorry for that bit, but that is what usually happens when I eat them, but they're soooo good) and felt into a coma until the rumble of the neighborhood woke me up. Totally worth the hideous hangover the next day. Totally.

Today we took a journey to the far off town of Jarabacoa, a mountainous region in what's known as the Dominican Alps. We had planned to visit one of the famous waterfalls, although it took us many turns to find the one that didn't involve us crossing a hanging footbridge to get to. When we finally found Salto Baiguate, a waterfall deep in the countryside, my mother-in-law (Erma) was completely horrified at the complete and total isolation of this place. I thought it was amazing. Peaceful, quiet, with a short walk down to the cascading falls. It did involve about 50 steep stairs, and I was pretty sure Erma was going to die of a heart attack or out of spite for us bringing her to such a place. We took some pictures, and then made the climb up and out of there, even more to her dismay. We couldn't swim at that spot unfortunately, so we had to head out to somewhere better. Our driver for the day, Lilo, took us to a river called Acapulco, which was great, but nothing like it's namesake. The kids swam in the cool deep river, which was sparkling clear and a lovely treat.

This is the part of our trip that I don't call a vacation, I call it an adventure. I love it, but it's not for everyone. I'm pretty happy to be in this chaotic third-world tropical place today and not buried under four feet of snow back home.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Preparing to Shovel on Out of Here

One week and two days!!!! That is how long before I hit the tropics once again. Nothing gets me through winter better than knowing I have a warm weather trip right around the corner, not even the two feet of snow outside my window and on top of my car can bring me down today.

It is no secret that I love to vacation. It is an addiction of the best kind, albeit pricey and sometimes unreasonable. I would spend most of my life on vacation if I could, but being as I am not independently wealthy I settle for a few times a year. This, I realize, is probably more than most, but we all have different priorities, and travel is what fulfills me unlike anything else.

Fortunately for me all of Francisco's family happens to live in the tropics, and none of them have the money or the visas to come and visit us up north, so we must go down there to visit them, and let our kids spend time with their abuela and get to know their heritage.

Next week I am taking the kids, and my mom, and we are going to the Dominican Republic for three long weeks, in the hopes that a longer stay will help grind in some of the Spanish that Francisco and I are terrible about teaching them at home. People are constantly judging us for our lack of Spanish at home with our kids, and I wish it weren't true, but we have not found a way to consistently speak Spanish to our children without complete and total uproar and rebellion. So for all of you who are constantly criticizing me for not raising bilingual kids, here you go. Three week immersion, of which I plan to spend the entire time speaking only Spanish. Learn or starve, the same way I did. Hopefully this will be the first of many trips like this one, to set in motion the seed that has been planted in their minds for years.

So hurry up and get here vacation! I don't want to shovel out my car one more time before the big day, but that seems like too much to ask from the weather gods, so I'll just pray for a sunny day on the 11th as we make our long trek south. See you all in March!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Into the Woods: A musical lost in translation

Last night we went to see the movie Into the Woods, a whimsical yet action-packed Disney film with a new twist on several different fairy tales, combining all of their happy endings into a not so happy and somewhat unpredictable ending. We went as a family, with our visiting El Salvadoran friend and his teenage son. What I did not know about this movie before heading into the theater was that it is a musical. And what I did not know about musicals was how confusing they can be when English is not your first language.

Francisco's reaction to the flick was hilarious. "That was theeeee worst movie I have eeeebbbeeerr seen, you could pay me all the money in the world to go again and I would say no! I jam more confusing than eeebbbeeerrr..." and so on and so forth all the way home. He was so baffled as to why any movie would ever involve so much singing, and why did they have to have five story lines going at the same time? And what exactly happened anyway? Who would ever pay money for such a complicated bunch of crap? Hysterical.

So Disney, let me advise you. If you are going to make a musical, let people know when you show the previews that the movie will be nothing but song, as this does not always translate well for some. Or maybe I would have paid the $48.75 anyway just to see the look on my poor husband's face as he scratched his head all the way home. Also this movie, while entertaining, was three too many songs, and at least 15 minutes too long, tra la laaaaaaaaaa!!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Graceful Beginning

I am delighted to report that earlier this week I was lucky enough to attend the birth of one of my closest friend's first baby, and what an extreme honor it was.

Working in the birth world I see women labor and deliver all the time, so much so that I probably take the miracle for granted sometimes, although I never get over the gorgeous sound of a healthy newborn baby crying for the first time. Maternity nursing is almost never boring, it keeps us on our toes and has us always examining the unpredictability of nature. Nothing pleases me more than watching a woman pull her infant up onto her chest, heaving a sigh of intense relief as she cradles her little one in her arms. That is all very wonderful, but this time was different.

 There is something so magical about being present for a birth when it's someone you really love. Your heart races with adrenaline as you secretly keep your fingers crossed and pray that everything goes the way it's supposed to, and that she won't end up like the women you occasionally see with complications or unexpected outcomes. The joy that I felt when that little person took her first breath was second to nothing. My beautiful friend easily brought her daughter into the world with a huge smile on her face, radiating with joy that was palpable. She was nothing but grace as she welcomed her girl into the world, and Grace is the name she gave her.

 My mind is still swimming with joy over being part of such an important life event. No matter how many times I help women through labor and birth, and how much I love and cherish my work, it will never compare to being there in that moment for someone so dear to my heart. I welcome her with loving arms into the circle of motherhood and all the powerful ups and downs that come with it, and with this birth I remember that life is a miracle each and every day.