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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with the old and in with the new….

SAM_0585Today is the last day of 2011.  Can you believe it?  Each year, no matter how the individual days drag, each year seems to go by faster and faster.  Today we, Camillo and I, reflect; reflect on the good and the bad of this past year.  I know many friends and family that look back on the old year after passing over into the new.   To me you are taking a big chance by doing this, taking a chance of dragging negative Karma into the new year.  I like to reflect on the old while in the old and enter the new ready for it to be better, grander, luckier, shinier, NEW. 
For the past week I have been going back through ‘Flowers’ reading post I’ve written this year and last.  I especially like to read the comments and to remember friends I have made through blogging.  This process helps me to remember little and big things that have happened this year, to make note of changes, taking a moment to grieve and to celebrate and to put it all behind. 
While I go through the emotional review, Camillo spends hours, days, I don’t know maybe even weeks, putting together a 6 or 7 page spreadsheet:  linking categories, pages, columns, color coding, adding up all the ways that this year has exceeded or come in under budget.   We came in under in the eating out category, and over in costs of maintaining the house in Friburgo AND the apartment in Rio.  Of course, the ‘exceeds’ out number the ‘comes in under’ and on the bottom line we are only R$40K over income.  In his over the top, optimistic view of the world, he doesn’t seem to be fazed by this number,  and I am just happy that I didn’t hear about it tomorrow.  I can put it behind me starting today. 
Now, after all this reflecting and reviewing, I am ready to don a pretty blouse and dig around for some underused jewelry and to go out and have dinner at a friend’s house within the condominium, drink some toasts to “out with old” and “in with the new” come home safe, and sleep knowing next year will be brighter and NEWER. 

Y’all have a great and safe New Year’s Eve.  See you back here for a new year of thoughts and ideas.  Hugs and kisses from Brasil.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blogging ?

I have been reading through past posts and finding lots of spelling / word usage / punctuation errors.  I need an editor (a person not a program).  Yesterday I received a comment on a post I made last week and went back to read what I'd said and found a couple glaring errors.... so I pulled the post back onto Window's live writer - made corrections and re-posted.  I have done this before with no problem but this time a copy of the original post was put out of sequence and on yesterday's date.... another one of those 'flukes' that I don't understand.  If you read the original one, just ignore this duplication.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Signs of the times....

I have been at Patty’s for a week now.  Coming from Adrian and my sister’s household to Patty’s holds the same level of culture shock as when in Brasil Camillo and I go from the quiet and serenity of Friburgo to Rio with its chaos and confusion.   The schedule here is total craziness.  Schedules for two adults (three jobs), schedules for before school study SAM_0024groups and after school training activities, volleyball practice, volleyball games, Saturday tryouts for club volley, a weeknight trip to the mall to shop for a homecoming dress, SAM_0037and amidst it all, meals – did I mention homework assignments? Everyone is in their beds by 9 and up by five to do it all over again. 
Needless to say I have had difficulty with the sleep schedule more than anything else because Camillo and I pretty much adhere to a bed at midnight - up at 8 type of schedule, with maybe 3 or 4 parties or dinners A YEAR mixed into the quiet pace of three sit-down meals at home, a choice of going to the gym and to the grocery store for supplies, a few hours of TV a day, and playing on the computer or reading to pass the rest of the daytime hours.  If you ever wonder why you don’t hear from your kids regularly you have to go and live in their homes for at least a few weeks....become immersed in their lives,  then you will have a complete understanding that this silence isn’t about them not loving you....  but is a sign of the times. SAM_0060
It is possible that my days when the kids were young were of similar chaos, but I don’t remember them like this. When Pat and Marty were in high school, we lived about 3/4 of a mile from the school and they rode their bikes to school – no hauling back and forth or fitting my schedule to theirs. Okay, I might not have been the best parent, totally involved in their activities as parents seem to be today, but I got up and went to a job every day, bought groceries and cooked dinner each night, and like my daughter, kept my own home and gardens cleaned. When they were on the swim team, I made their home competitions but not the away.  I thought what parents did was to provide a bed and cloths, and a place to study, good foods and quiet times and the rest was up to the kids to figure out.   The way of those times.
Yes, Marissa is a highly motivated teenager. Giving her as much support as possible is the right thing to do.   I am just saying that life today is a grueling list of things to do and activities to get past.   Just saying, thank God there is only one teenager in this household and for one or two months a year I can step in and be a part of the chaos (and then step out again). 

Signs of the times - 2

“Home is where the heart is”  and other notes

I know that I am not of the norm.  Living outside the United States, in a foreign country keeps me living outside the average lifestyle of Americans.  There are people, though, that are born, live, and will die in the same town.  Their family and friends are close.  Their lives circle around the dynamics of one community.  You could consider them the lucky ones but in these times they are also the exception not the rule.  
During the 50s and 60s and maybe even into the 70s this live-in-one-place life DSC_0580was still the norm.  It has slowly become the standard for families to split up, move apart, to live great distances from each other.  I was going to use my family as an example of this slow change in family dynamics, but really it has not ever fit into the norm.  For our family, starting in 1944 and 1946, my two oldest sister were born in two different states while my father was still in the Army.  They may correct me at any time but I am sure at least that they were not born in our ‘hometown’ of Adrian.   Judy and I were born in ‘48, ‘50 in Adrian, Michigan.  Then the two brothers in (or around) Kingman, Arizona and the last, the baby, in Cottonwood, Arizona.  My family lived in Cottonwood and area until I was a freshman in high school then we all seemed to gravitate back to Adrian. 
When I married and had my children, my husband and I lived in Morenci, Michigan; moving all of 20 miles away and only living there for 3 years.  Then we lived in 3 cities in 3 years:  Phoenix, Virginia Beach, Dallas, and finally landed in Houston in the mid 70s.  I left there in 2003 for Brasil.  Twenty-eight years in one place, a miracle.  In a few more months, I will have been in Brasil for 9 years.
My daughter and her children still live in Houston,  my son is in Phoenix, my mother is now back in Adrian living with Candy, one of the ‘older’ sisters.  Candy is one of the lucky ones, having lived in Adrian for the past 45 years.  All her children live within a max 4 hour trip home.  I also have a sister in Virginia, one in S. Carolina, a brother in Colorado, and a brother in Prescott and a sister in the Phoenix area.  Where all of their children and grandchildren are is a list too long for me to type into one sentence.   You can start to see my dilemma for where I would call ‘home’ or to define that place as ‘where the heart is’. 
The longer I live in Brasil the more transparent the concept of HOME becomes.  Slowly, I am moving away from who I was, and what my life was when living in Houston.   Friends have died, left or lost their spouses, remarried or just moved away.  The large group that I used to meet to dance has disappeared, the ones left have gotten old..... OLDER – sorry!  Not me, of course.  This visit to Houston I have felt almost disoriented trying to fit myself back into the feelings of being HOME.  Shopping hasn’t seemed as much fun, I’m not driven to see and eat everything.... well that’s not completely true – but creative license allows me some wiggle room.  Now I find myself visiting Patty’s home versus returning home and have to conclude that this is just another sign of the times.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Jardineiro

Sometimes the only way to get a thought out of your head is to put it down on paper.  A few years ago this would have meant to take out a pad of paper, a journal or even just a scrap to be tucked in a book and a pen, and write down your thoughts.  When I first left the states and came to live in Brasil I wrote often in my journal.  Now I open ‘flowers’ and post.  Under the label ‘Culture Shock’ I’ve written about things in my new life that contrasted with the old.  Things that had to be thought out and resolved, or not.  And if I did it well enough you might find it interesting, thinking about what I’ve written and what I didn’t say, the blank space that you can fill in with your own experiences and you might spend some time thinking.  These are my favorite posts.  Here are more words that need to be written.
The day after I arrived back from the USA this November we received notice that Manuel, our gardener, had died.  Manuel had worked for Camillo practically since the house in Nova Friburgo was first built, nearly 25 years.  He kept our garden immaculate.  He was paid a lump sum amount for the month and had the freedom to come when DSC_0015he needed to, to keep the gardens to his and Camillo’s standards.  He arrived most weekdays at 6:30am and left around 9:30am.  He often came through on Saturday and Sunday to make sure the flower pots were watered and the trash was taken down the hill.  He brought me orchids and other flowers from the forest. He never looked directly at us.  He never took anything away from the house that he hadn’t ask first.  In twenty-five years, he never made assumptions of friendship; in his own mind he was the ‘jardineiro’ and Camillo was the patron.  The garden that we enjoy so much is the fruit of his labors. He was a part of the fabric of our lives.  He was an alcoholic.
Ironically, when the floods and landslides came through here last January, his little house had just been completed. It took him nearly 10 years to finish the house. Rushing water did not destroy it, but moved it a bit off the foundation. Camillo and I help to pay to have a large retainer wall to be put beneath the house. He was going to fill in between the house and the wall and put in a garden area. He survived the floods. Ironically, on the Sunday he died, he began to drink as he sometime would. Drink until unable to walk or to talk. He made his way home along the dark dirt road and either lay down to sleep, or fell, or stumbled; no one really knows. It began to rain hard. The ditch filled with mud and water and he drowned as he lay. Not an accident, but a tragedy, a waste of life that could have been avoided. I almost said prevented, but it was really a tragedy waiting. In all of his loneliness, he would never have imagined how much space he filled in our lives. We will miss seeing him in our garden.