Do unto others…

As I was driving on the highway to take PJ to playgroup this afternoon I saw a few people hitch hiking. Nothing out of the ordinary. Hitch hiking is pretty normal for Uruguay.

I don’t normally stop. Especially if I have PJ in the car. But it got me thinking about this time when we were still living in Miami and I gave this older man a ride home.

It was a Saturday morning and I had just finished dropping Carlos off at work. Instead of taking my normal route home, I went the long way. It was a bright, sunny, but cold winter morning. I had my sunroof open, blasting music and just enjoying the time alone. As I was driving down Coral Way I saw an elderly man sitting at a bus stop with a shopping cart FILLED with bags. I felt a pang in my stomach and a tiny voice inside my head telling me to go back and talk with him.

After debating with myself for what felt like forever, I turned around, pulled into the gas station next to the bus stop and got out of the car. I approached the man and asked him where he was heading. We talked for a bit and I offered him a ride home. As I helped put his groceries in the back of my car, a man in a brand new BMW approached me and told me that he wished more millennials would be so kind and said, “God bless you.”

Instead of feeling shy or honored by his praise, I was angry. I wasn’t giving this guy a ride because I wanted to be patted on the back, I did it because, well I felt God was calling me to. And if it was really such a great thing then why didn’t HE do it himself? He was at the gas station before I was. He could have easily offered the man a ride home. I ended up just smiling modestly and saying, “Oh it’s nothing, thanks.” Got in my car and left.

The drive home was uneventful. It turned out the man knew my dad when they worked at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach back in the 90s. He was just a lonely man living in a section eight apartment by himself. I was genuinely happy I was able to help him, I was able to do something kind and put a smile on his face. From them on I looked out for him every Saturday at that bus stop but I never saw him again.

Being reminded of this made me wonder if I would ever do something like that again. I think about it often enough but I haven’t. Since I’ve become a mom I’ve put other people on the back burner. I’ve been too worried about my daughter and family to focus on people on the outside.

Sure, whenever I’m on the bus I’ll offer my seat to an elderly woman or if someone has one item at the grocery store behind me and I’m buying a whole cart I’ll let them in front. But I haven’t really gone out of my way to be KIND to someone. I haven’t gone out of my way to sacrifice for someone.

Of all the things going on in my/our life/lives right now, I want to make it a point to forget about us and worry about others. I want to be a blessing in other peoples lives even if it means putting myself on the back burner, even for a little while. Stop waiting for other people to bless you and stop waiting for people to put you first. But don’t do it for other people, do it for yourself. Don’t be that guy in the BMW, fully aware that people NEED help, kindness, and love. Don’t wait for someone to do it in your place. If God, the stars, the universe, etc. places someone in need in your path, help them.

Motto for the week: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. (Again, not because you’ll get something in return but just because).

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Sick momma. Sick baby. No ones happy.

In an attempt to spend some quality time with my sister before she leaves for Italy–whole other blogpost–we decided that we would go for a run. This was about four days ago. Since then I have been bedridden due to the exacerbation of a herniated disc and broken vertebrae from my freshman year of college along with intense sciatic pain.

Normally this would be no big deal. My mom and dad would have to help me a little bit more with Paloma but last Thursday she was diagnosed with an ear infection. Sick baby equals an intense case of mommy-itis.

It’s been a rough few days. For those that don’t know me in real life, I don’t like to show that I’m in pain unless it’s totally unbearable. My freshman year of college I broke one of my vertebrae helping my roommate move into our dorm. I spent five weeks in unbearable pain, even asking my roommate help bathe me, until I finally called my parents and asked them to pick me up in Gainesville to go to the hospital in Miami. The doctors in the emergency room thought I had tried to kill myself from all the pain pills I had been popping.

Anyway, the point is that all I wanted to do was sleep to numb the pain but PJ had different plans. At first we cuddled and watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates. But after awhile she wanted to play hide-and-seek. Normally I’m all up to watch Paloma run around the house like a jack rabbit but I physically couldn’t. That led to tears and tantrums, causing my fuse to shorten with each shout. After about two days I LOST IT. I want to get better so I can go back to running, laughing, and snuggling. But with PJ on top of me it was really difficult not to find myself caught in an uncomfortable position.

I started snapping at her and eventually just left in the playpen with the television on just so I could get a few minutes of rest. It was awful and it’s not like I felt good doing it. A part of my soul died with each frustrating moment. She’s only 19 months old. It’s not her fault that she doesn’t understand that mommy isn’t feeling well either. All she knows is that she’s sick and wants her momma around. Reminding myself of that I would find myself holding back tears every time she would reach up and cry, “MAMA! MAMA! sob MAMAMAMAMAMA!” She would get bored of watching tv. She wants to run and be chased, to be tickled and loved. But my parents and sister had their own things going on and would just put the tv on for her to keep her quiet. I would get so frustrated because she needs more stimulation than a tv.

It’s been a rough few days but today I felt better. Paloma had her last dose of antibiotic last night and overall I would say our collective crankiness has begun to subside. She went to CAIF with my sister today and from what I heard chased a boy and finger painted without being coerced. We took a nap together when she came home and grandma made meatloaf for dinner. Tomorrow my sister and I have a lady date planned where we’re going to try out a new (for us) spa in Montevideo along with a sushi buffet. I’ll make sure to post a review of those places.

These rough days have served as a reminder that while my parents may not parent the way I do, they are my support system when raising my daughter. I may spend most of my days taking care of them, but I’m still their baby and they will do whatever they can to take of me. They changed diapers, gave baths, took care of meals, and were overall picking up my slack. I may whine about being in this alone but I know there isn’t anything further than the truth. We’re an “all for one, and one for all” kind of family.

Putting ME before MOM.

The past few months have been rough on me. Paloma has been getting curiouser, the construction on the house has been keeping me busy, and taking care of my parents has been draining. As the construction has started to wind down (today is hopefully the LAST day!), PJ enjoys playing alone more, and we are finally seeing an end to unpacking I’ve realized that I haven’t prioritized myself since January.

It’s been so easy to get lost on the teacup ride that has become my life. My contractor doesn’t buy the supplies for the house, rather he gives me a list of what to buy and I have to go to the hardware store and pray they have them. If not it’s a whole day trip to Las Piedras (the nearest city) or even further, Montevideo. Once I return home he’ll inform me I have purchased the wrong items, forcing to me grab my already grumpy one and a half year old and make the hour trek back to the hardware store. This doesn’t include the three to four trips to the grocery store–because God forbid my parents know what they want BEFORE I leave the house the first time–,the agropecuaria (a veterinarian pet supply store), the bank, the money exchange, and the vegetable stand. After this I come home, pray I brought the right things so I don’t have to leave again and start cooking dinner. All the while I have my parents telling me the internet/DirecTV/phone doesn’t work and I have to fix it along with my daughter screeching to be let out of her playpen.

Look, I know what you’re thinking. “So? We all have a million things to do as parents and caretakers? It’s our job.” And you’re right. My job is to take care of my parents, my child, and run their/my home. But have you noticed that apart from my incessant grumbling, I haven’t talked mentioned taking a second for myself?

Prior to construction starting in January I took about an hour or two a day to work out/meal plan/write/vegetate online–anything to just clear my mind from my daily pressures. As the stresses started piling up I put my personal time on the back burner, dreaming of the day when I’ll be able to have a minute to myself again. Since then I’ve been getting ridiculous headaches, body aches, nausea, and dear Lord have I been binge eating.

I went to the doctor last week complaining of my gong-like headaches in fear of having a brain tumor and even though she referred me to a neurologist, she told me she believes it to be psychosomatic. As someone with a history of debilitating anxiety and depression (what’s up Zoloft?) I wasn’t surprised to hear it. I’ve taken the past week to take a look at my life, how I’ve allowed myself to unravel at the seams and simply put, stopped caring about myself. But not anymore. I need to create order and happiness in my life. I don’t have anything to be upset or unhappy with. I have my whole family, I have a happy and healthy daughter, I have a marriage that exudes love, tenderness, and respect.

For the past week I have made it a point to get my hour or two a day back. I wake up every morning and make it a point to put on actual clothes. I apply make up even if all plan on doing is staying home–take a look to your left to my Instagram feed for proof. I started eating healthily again and am slowly easing my way back into exercise. I have spent my whole life lying to myself saying that eating like a beast makes me happy. It doesn’t. I always feel sluggish, glum, and bloated afterwards. Whenever I eat healthily I feel light and untroubled.

I need to constantly remind myself that in order for me to take care of those I love, I need to put myself first. Like on an airplane during the safety demonstration. Should your oxygen bag be deployed please put it on yourself first then place it on those traveling with you. Since I’ve made these adjustments to my daily life I’ve been so much happier and better equipped at caring for those around me.

The five things I didn’t think I’d miss…

1. Gallon milk

At this point I just miss milk that comes in a jug. And that’s that I don’t even drink milk. But having a 17 month old and a husband who is obsessed with milk in his coffee have made me miss it so much. In Uruguay, as I’m sure it is in other parts of the world, milk comes in a bag. Sure, they have pitchers for you to place the bags of milk in but seriously it’s just such a pain in the butt. You gotta worry about accidental spills and if something icky touches the bag while it’s waiting to be opened. It might just be me but seriously I hate it.

2. The Home Depot

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re currently remodeling our house in Uruguay. Our contractor does all the work but asks us to go buy the materials. No problem, right? Wrong. The way construction supply stores, also known as “barracas,” work in Uruguay is that you take a number to be attended. When your number is called you go up to the person attending and tell them what you need. Here is my problem. You are not allowed to view the product you are ordering. If you don’t know the different brands they have they’ll just give you whatever you want. You might get the most expensive thing or the cheapest thing depending on who the sale person is. Obviously I’m not a contractor or a construction worker. I don’t know what I’m asking for but if I have a list and it is in Spanish and you salesperson are working in a construction supply store SHOULD know what it is that I’m asking for. Don’t give me a blank stare when I say, “Hello, this is an itemized list of what I need. Thank you.” I miss being able to just walk along those aisles, staring blankly at a bunch of stuff I don’t understand wishing that someone would help me but in the end being on my own. Because honestly if all you do is stare blankly at me and are unsure on how to answer my questions then I’d rather shop on my own than deal with your sub-par customer service. My failure in picking the right thing pisses me off a lot less than having to deal with your crappy service and haphazard disinterest in dealing with an “extranjero.”

3. Shopping

I miss shopping without depending on someone for help. I’m not talking about the normal greeters when you go into a store. I’m talking about everything you want to look at is kept behind a counter and you need to interact with people to see what you came for. What if I don’t exactly know what I want to look at? What if I just want to window shop? Are you going to take the time to show me every item behind the counter? I don’t think so. (For more complaints about shopping and dealing with crappy customer service I refer to read #2 again.)

4. Mail

This is probably the most ridiculous thing on the list but seriously I miss going to the mail box and seeing a huge stack of junk mail waiting for me. I miss Saturday mornings at home drinking coffee and perusing through the weeks advertisements and magazines. It could be that we haven’t lived here long enough to really receive mail but from looking at my neighbors I’m guessing that mail in Uruguay is strictly reserved to packages and bills. Magazines are something you just buy at the newsstand and even then Uruguayan magazines aren’t the same as American ones (obviously when your population is coming in at nearly 4 million you don’t have the capital as one would when trying to reach let’s say ~100 million).

5. Driving automatic

When I first learned how to drive a stick shift I was SO EXCITED! It was one of the things on my bucket list and it took me about five months to accomplish it (I took driving lessons once every two weeks so it took me awhile). However, after about a year of driving I can honestly say nothing annoys me more than driving stick shift. I hate how sore my legs get after driving in the city. I hate constantly using both feet to stop and go, stop and go, stop and go. What I would give to just be able to put the car in drive and not have to worry about anything else except not hitting anyone or anything.

Homesick for something that doesn’t exist.

Homesickness is a feeling I’m all too familiar with. Homesick while in college, homesick when I studied abroad, homesick for college when I moved back home, and now homesick for the United States.

I woke up this morning craving familiarity. I wanted nothing more to look out my window and see Miami sprawled out before me. I wanted to get in my car and head down to 8th street to grab some cheese pastelitos with una colada–cheese pastries and Cuban coffee. It’s not like I even had those things regularly when I lived in Miami, but I always knew that whenever I DID want some I could just get in my car and grab some.

When I went to Miami this past September I expected everything to have stayed the same. But even just pulling out of the airport I realized that everything changed. The streets weren’t the same, traffic lights were replaced, and new buildings that were being erected filled the once familiar skyline. Life kept going even though I wasn’t there anymore. I wanted nothing more than to just turn back the clock and be in my element. But my element no longer exists. My comfort zone has moved on. And here I am stuck somewhere in the middle.

I brought up the topic with my parents this morning over breakfast and I asked them if this feeling was normal. The void I feel in the pit of my stomach. And my dad just looked at me and said, “I’ve been feeling that since before I left Cuba. I don’t think anyone actually feels like they fit anywhere. You just have to make the best of it.” And it struck me. I should’ve known that my dad must have felt like that when he lived in the States. He had it easier than most immigrants because he lived in Miami, the cluster of Cuban culture outside of Cuba itself, and he always seemed to effortlessly navigate his way through Miami. Could be that as a child you don’t really think about those things but I just never really took note of my dads own homesickness.

I don’t think I could ever call Miami “home” again. I think I’ve changed too much to find a place for myself and Miami is growing exponentially. I am so proud of the progress and development taking place there, but it’s just not what I remember. Uruguay is where I need to be right now. I’m still trying to figure out how to make this place home. Less because of the language barrier or the cultural differences, but because I’m slowly realizing that unless I live in the NOW no place will feel like home.

I can’t keep looking at my past craving something that isn’t there, and I can’t look towards the future if I’m too deep in self pity to make the most of it. There are going to be days where yes I’ll still miss my forever home, but I need to make the conscious effort to make Uruguay my home now. Even though it doesn’t feel like home maybe one day it will. And if it doesn’t, then I can only hope that one day I do find a place that feels like home.

Merry Christmas!

This was our second Christmas in Uruguay. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to spending the holidays in the summer but I don’t really have much of a choice.

Most Hispanics will tell you that REAL Christmas is on December 24th, aka “Noche Buena,” and the 25th is really just a day to recuperate from all the drinking and eating the night before. In Miami I used to spend Noche Buena,  again like most Hispanics, bouncing from house to house. I would always start with dinner at my house, then head to my in-laws houses, and proceeding to go to my husbands extended families houses. It was a long night of eating and trying to gauge on how to stay sober enough to drive (this was obviously pre-baby).

Christmas in Uruguay, while yes they celebrate the 24th, is a bit different. The 24th is dedicated to spending time with family but the real party starts on the 25th. At midnight they shoot off fireworks and open their presents from Santa, aka “Papá Noel,” and do whatever else they do. I wouldn’t know what they do after the fireworks because I’ve been in bed by the time the fireworks go off two years running. On the 25th they usually have barbecues with friends and spend the time talking and eating. Some families spend their day at the beach or lounging in their inflatable pools.

Since summer starts a few days before Christmas here, a lot of people spend their Christmas on vacation in Punta del Este or Brazil. Lounging on beaches and enjoying the sun doesn’t really FEEL like Christmas to ME but I’m sure most people on the north side of the equator would feel the same.

This year while sure we ate our traditional Cuban meal of lechón with white rice and black beans, it just didn’t feel like Christmas. I can say that I loved that Paloma loved her gifts. This year we got her a slide, puzzles, one of those pull string walking toys and a scoot car toy. I love her reaction every time she goes down the slide! She laughs and laughs and has now tried climbing UP the slide. I would have taken pictures but let’s be real I was too busy trying to control my panic attack. Christmas morning we had breakfast and watched Disneys A Christmas Carol and Home Alone. Home Alone was the first movie Paloma actually sat and watched the WHOLE thing. She’s got great taste.

It was nice to spend time with my family without worrying about other things, which at the end of the day is what the holidays are about.

Merry belated Christmas!

Paloma enjoying our Charlie Brown Christmas tree!
Paloma enjoying our Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

Day in Montevideo: Trip to see Santa

I’ve got Christmas on the brain! It’s one of my favorite holidays and I want to share that with my daughter. Last week my husband and I decided it was the perfect time to take Paloma to visit Santa Claus. Friday was the last day of school in Uruguay until February so we thought going any later in the season would result in long lines and overly excited children.

On Thursday, my husband and I packed the baby bag and headed out for Montevideo (from now on referred to as MVD). We live in a small town called Sauce–pronounced saw-ou-seh–which is about an hour and half bus ride away from the capital. Since Paloma was born, I’ve only gone to MVD a handful of times because it’s too long of a ride with Paloma since she starts to squirm not being able to run around. It’s funny though because if we take the car to MVD she can handle it but the bus ride is just too much. I think it has to do with the new people, new sites, new sounds thing.

Anyway we took the bus to MVD, and got off at Tres Cruces. Tres Cruces is a bus terminal in MVD which doubles as a mall. They just opened a new jungle gym in a park dedicated to the Armenian Genocide of 1915 across the street and we decided to take Paloma there to use the swings. She loved them! She loves seeing the older kids run around the park and tries to chase after them but she’s just too young. I always tell her one day she’ll be able to play with them but you can tell it’s not good enough for her. After a few minutes we started on our way for the taxi stand to head to the mall.

This is the placard for the park. It translates to, "Tribute of the city of Montevideo to the 1,500,000 Armenians victim to the first genocide of the 20th century. Starting on April 24th, 1915 by the Turkish Ottoman empire. Montevideo April 2005"
This is the placard for the park. It translates to, “Tribute of the city of Montevideo to the 1,500,000 Armenians victim to the first genocide of the 20th century. Starting on April 24th, 1915 by the Turkish Ottoman empire. Montevideo April 2005”
On the swings with mommy!
On the swings with mommy!
With daddy :)
With daddy 🙂

I don’t know about you but whenever we take a taxi with Paloma, I’m freaking out about the lack of car seat in the taxi. I mean sure we don’t have one on the bus either but the bus drivers aren’t as crazy as taxi drivers. Most of the time I’m holding onto her for dear life, cradling her head to protect it from the plastic/glass barrier.

Anyway, so once at the mall we decided to eat lunch at a small café around the corner called Philomene. I wish we would’ve snagged a picture of the actual café or the food but we were too distracted. It’s a quaint little place on the corner of Solano Garcia and Miñones. The inside of the café is small but not crowded, and I fell in love with the bathroom. It’s upstairs and tiny but it didn’t feel cramped. When and if you ever visit Uruguay you’ll realize why one would notice the bathroom. After we finished our meal we headed straight for the mall again.

Punta Carretas Shopping is my favorite mall in Montevideo. It actually used to be a prison at some point in Uruguay’s history but I don’t know much else about its time as a prison. When we walked inside you couldn’t help but notice the Christmas decorations. I was in heaven! They had a three story tree in the middle, surrounded by little Christmas scenes like Santa in his workshop, carolers singing, and an animated Mrs. Claus in their living room talking to the visitors. I couldn’t get a good picture with my phone so I’m borrowing a picture from the local paper.

Picture credit to El Pais.

Paloma went crazy running around so I couldn’t get a good picture of her here either but just so you can get an idea I’ll add some more from the paper.

Santa in his kitchen making some Christmas goodies. No gender stereotypes here! Photo credit: Sociedad Uruguaya
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Paloma with her daddy in front of the giant teddy!
Paloma in front of Santas kitchen.
Paloma in front of Santas kitchen.

After getting lost around all the beautiful scenery looking for Santa, I caved and asked one of his “helpers” (a.k.a. two high school aged girls standing around looking at their phones giving off a “GO AWAY” vibe) where we could find him. Third floor. Food court. Seriously, you have this beautiful scenery and you put Santa on the third floor next to the food court? But I digress. Off we went to visit Santa. Luckily there was no line. We paid our $130 pesos for our picture (roughly USD $7). Paloma is usually really good with strangers so I didn’t think twice about just handing her off to Santa for the picture. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Paloma HATED Santa. I’m talking full blown crying, screaming, and just overall awful. I will say this is the first time I’ve experienced/heard a Santa hand a screaming baby back to it’s mother before the picture. I swear through his bushy white beard and long hair his piercing eyes were letting me know he wasn’t having any screaming baby on his lap. I already paid for my picture so we made it a family “portrait” instead. Paloma sat on my lap while I sat next to Santa and Carlos sat on his other side. The elf was really nice and helpful but Santa was just not having it.

This needs no caption.
This needs no caption.

After our encounter with Santa we picked up our picture, were welcomed to Uruguay by the guy manning the printer (which doesn’t happen often, seriously he was SO NICE), and walked around the mall aimlessly. After about half an hour we decided we should head for the bus stop to head home to avoid afternoon rush hour.

The bus ride home was no longer or shorter than the bus ride there, but I will say that the lady sitting next to us was nice and understanding of my hyper toddler. She played with her for about the first forty minutes, allowing Paloma to pull her hair, touch her mouth and scream for attention. I wasn’t too excited about it but honestly I was too tired to care at that point. After the lady got off the rest of the bus ride was spent playing with Daddy, looking out the window and trying to touch the head of the man sitting in front of us.

The light of our lives.
The light of our lives.

Overall we had a really nice day out as a family. It doesn’t happen too often since we don’t have our own money to go out. But when it does, I really enjoy spending the time alone just the three of us.