Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's December 1st..and who is Miguel de Vasconcelos..

It's the last month of the year...unbelievable as it may seem, the year is almost over. It's been a busy few months, and with Christmas coming up, even more busy. Today I took the afternoon off and took my mom to do some shopping. It's the first time she has "shopped" in a long time, due to her cracked knee incident, but although she was a little slower, she was feeling no pain. My mother LOVES to shop, so it's good to see her back in her element, not slowing down. I thought she wanted to do some Christmas shopping, but she seemed more content shopping just for herself. (Looks like I'll have to take her shopping again a few more times..)

So, today is December, 1st. When my mother was growing up in the Azores, she had to learn about Miguel de Vasconcelos who died on this day in 1640. In the car, on our way home, she started to recite a poem about poor Miguel de Vasconcelos, but could only remember the beginning of it. Apparently, back then, children were expected to recite important dates in history by memory. My mom said that it was very difficult, and half the time the children didn't understand what they actually reciting, but the dates had to be correct, and wording exact in order to pass exams. Back then in the 1940's children were expected to finish the 4th grade at the very least, and graduate at age 10. My mom "graduated" a year behind at 11--due to her losing a year of school due to her being sick when she was 8, as I previously mentioned in my earlier blog entry. After graduation, you were given the choice of continuing your education and go to high school for another 6 years. Most girls her age completed the 4th grade, and stayed home where they were taught the "domestication's" of life such as sewing, crochet, embroidery, cooking, washing and ironing...etc. My mother loved to iron, but enjoyed theatre. My mother participated in various community activities, which included acting in various plays, which involved a lot of rehearsing and dance routines...etc..etc.. My mother's father was a very well known playwright/poet on the island, who wrote various plays (dancas) and who died in his 30's when my mom was a baby. He would organize and direct plays, with my mother in his arms. Naturally many people expected my mom to continue in his footsteps. Although my mom was unable to know her father, her mother told her endless stories of him, and she was raised by a loving step-grandfather, who just happened to have been her father's best friend. My step-grandfather was also a first cousin to my paternal grandmother--but, that is another story. My mom sang, danced, and was told by a distant cousin, who had seen her perform, who was visiting from America that if she had been born in the U.S. she would have been another Marilyn Monroe. I think my mom wishes she hadn't disclosed this information (she has been teased about it quite often,) but back then, my mom at 13 my mom didn't think there could have been a better compliment.



My mom is the the second to the left, as a bridesmaid, 1948. If you look closely at the bottom right, you'll see a young man with a tie, and a older man below where the wedding party is posing. The young man would follow my mother everywhere wishing to be her boyfriend and future husband. If my dad hadn't showed up a few years later, according to my mother, that young man would have gotten his wish.


Okay, so what happened to Miguel de Vasconcelos on December 1, 1640? I just had to look it up:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miguel_de_Vasconcelos

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Just A Coincidence...

I'm finding that the only time I have to post nowadays are Saturday mornings, when the house is half asleep, and I have my morning coffee at my side. My husband Rich is sitting on the couch watching his recorded T.V. programs, and I'm tapping away on the computer. Quiet uninterpreted time. Before I hear: "Mommy!" I better continue while I can.

Earlier this week my cousin, Carlos--the college professor, historian and writer, posted the above picture on his wall on Facebook. Carlos is the little boy in the picture. He is standing between my mother who is looking to the right, and his mom, Fatima. The woman on my mother's left, holding on to her arm, is Fernanda, a family friend, and the woman on the other side of Fatima, is my dear aunt, Aida. I had never seen this picture before, so I printed it out and showed it to my mom, the first chance I could get.

The story behind this picture is interesting to me. According to my mom, this picture was taken at Fatima's house before my mother was married to my dad--she is about 18 here, and the man behind the camera is my father. I find this very interesting because my dad had just met my mom for the first time when she was 15, so this was taken during his second military stop on the island three years later while wooing my mother with love letters. I guess my mom finally wrote him back before this picture was taken. My dad would write letters to my mom in English, and her cousin, Fatima's husband, would translate them to her. After many unanswered letters, I guess my mom finally responded! Fernanda started visiting my mom more often after my mom starting "dating" my father because her father was a cousin of my dad's, and would accompany him sometimes with her dad for visits. I guess she was like a sort of chaperone? In the 1950's that was the norm. The year must have been early in the year, 1953? It would explain the winter clothes, and why my mother is wearing her "blue gabardine" coat. My mom went on to explain that during that time, she was fulfilling her mother's "promesa" and was wearing her white dress underneath.

My grandmother's promesa: When my mother was 8 years old, she became extremely ill. I'm not sure what type of sickness she was ailing from, I just know that it was a fever that eventually sent her to the hospital. As a result of the fever, my mom lost all her hair. My grandmother was understandably upset, she had lost two babies previously before my mom was born, and her own husband had died when my mom wasn't even a year old. My mom had actually stopped breathing at one time in her home, and the doctor who was visiting at the house pronounced her dead. This sent my grandmother running out of the house into her garden crying for a miracle to the Virgin Mary to save her daughter. Believe what you may, but the doctor met her outside, and told her that my mom was breathing again, and that is when she was sent to the hospital. The doctor who was tending my mom called it nothing less than a miracle. As a result, my grandmother then made a "promesa" : a promise to the Virgin that my mom would wear a white dress and blue ribbon (what the Virgin Mary wore when she appeared in Fatima, Portugal). My mother would have to wear this attire for approximately one year in Mary's honor.

Well, years when on, and my mother never full filled her mother's promesa, so finally at 18, my mother decided to wear the white dress and blue ribbon for a year. She didn't want to fulfill her promesa when she was a married woman. Her God-Mother also made a promesa to Santa Teresa, which involved wearing a brown dress for a year (an idea that my mom did not like at all), but the village priest gave her permission to only fulfill one promesa. My father must have seen her wearing her white dress and blue ribbon, but had forgotten about it until many, many years later, when my father was in the hospital, and was, in the hospital nun's own words: "At the gates of heaven." He came back from being out of consciousness, to tell my mom that he had seen her wearing that white dress and blue ribbon in his dreams. My mom was astonished. My dad had been so forgetful lately, he could hardly remember where he last put his shoes, to remember something that happened 40 years previous, was incredible. It did give my mother peace of mind that things were going to be alright, which prompted her to make her own promesa, but that is another story.


Will post again soon---I need to make breakfast now!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Madness Begins!

Unbelievably, the year is coming to an end. It's that time again where the stores are stocking up on their Christmas supplies of wreaths and stockings, and sweaters and coats. I took a little trip to the mall yesterday, and it was nice to see all the left over Halloween decorations finally taken down. Christmas is everywhere at the stores now---the commercial Christmas anyway. I found myself going down the aisles with my cart at Target, looking at all the "necessities" of the holiday season, wondering to myself, "Should I start shopping for Christmas? Should I stock up on these cute little stocking stuffers before they run out?" The anxiety has started, and it's a cruel game the retailers are playing! And it's not at the store either, it is at home as well! My mailbox was filled with sales magazines and coupons of important "DO NOT MISS SALES", and all of them have deadlines! My computer email has 230 messages, most of them from telling me the same, with the subject matter starting with: "Hurry! Sales Ends Soon!" or "Don't Miss This One!" It's getting a little overwhelming.

I confess, I bought two presents already. I'm just waiting for the Christmas paper that I bought from my son's Christmas fund raising drive to arrive so I can start wrapping. But where I'm I going to put them once I do? I don't have a tree yet, but I bet those neighbors that live two blocks away, who have their Christmas lights up already, have theirs up! (crazy people--wait until Thanksgiving--I still have pumpkins and scare crow on my porch, you are making us all look bad!) I probably have some wrapping paper in the attic though, along with my boxes and boxes upon boxes of Christmas stuff. I stopped myself from buying some REALLY cute Christmas plates yesterday. They are still on my mind: The smiling Santa Christmas candy dish is still calling out my name, and the snowman cookie dish, and those cute little Christmas tea kettles-the Christmas tree one, and the one with a squirrel... They are still on my mind, and it's driving me crazy... I confess.

What happened to just a nice simple Christmas? No deadlines...no madness, just plain old fashioned fun, and spiritual joy?

I remember one of those long ago. Let's go back to 1981, shall we? It was the year I took the picture at the top of this page. That year we spent Christmas in the Azores, and I remember the simplicity of it like it was yesterday. The choir group from the church would come to our door, with their violins and guitars and sing for "Menino Jesus" (baby Jesus), and we would give them all sweets and liquor. And we would eat sweets and liquor, and everyone had rosy cheeks and big smiles on our faces! It was apparent that they were purposely following my sister around, so there were many giggles; it was pretty humorous. (No one knows what happened to that secret love powder she lost in the church the Sunday before---that is another story in itself.)

It was a nice, cold Christmas that involved old fashioned values--like being with family, going to mid-night mass, opening a few presents around the tree, and later celebrating the new year, dancing until 3 am in the morning, and getting really dizzy from too much champagne. I still remember seeing my mother's room spin on New Years Day, and I think the neighbors rather enjoyed are laughter at 4 am, even though we apparently woke them up. It all gave them something to talk about the next day. We were there for their entertainment. We went to my cousin's high school dance in the city of Angra, and I wore the gold stitched burgundy shoes my mom got me for Christmas, along with that creme colored, gold stitched, gold belted, dress. (It was 1981/82 gold stitching was IN back then--if you wore it you were automatically cool, okay. OH, and if you wore Lois jeans, you were even cooler.) You remember these details when you are 15 years old--back then they seemed to be very important. I didn't get to dance with the guy I had a huge crush over because apparently he went to another dance looking for me there. Sorry, Luis... Oh well, but I got to dance with the cutest guy I've ever seen on the island. His name was Silvano, and little did I know he was my ex-husband's very best friend. I didn't know my ex-husband at the time--oh well, small island. It was just one dance, and a nice kiss on New Years Day, and good thing, cause later I learned he got in trouble with the law that sent him to prison. OH well, a pretty face isn't everything is it?

I have no idea why I'm remembering all that right now, but it sometimes is fun to look back. It was the first Christmas we spent without my dad or my brother around, and that was pretty sad, but my father sent us all cards-which was very unlike my him. He must have missed us very much that year. My father never was a very sentimental person, until he got much older, but I made a point of keeping that card. We didn't have a phone at the house--we would have to go to a cousins house or my aunts house to make a call, no internet, only the mail that usually didn't get there until 3 weeks later. People just don't send letters in the mail anymore. If you sent me a letter, I probably have it still. It was a bittersweet Christmas, but it was nice, and no one really cared what they got, as long as there was some gold stitching somewhere. I remember going shopping with my sister for a gift for my mom, and we found her a really beautiful scarf with blues and greens, and white polka dot, along with gold stitching... My daughter found it later in a drawer somewhere, and she likes wearing it now. See---gold never goes out of style.

Sigh... Looking back on all this is keeping me sane today. I swear, I'm not going to shop online for the rest of the day, no matter how BIG the sale is, even if I can save over 60% on select clearance items. No, I refuse. Black Friday is swiftly approaching. Are you going? Are you going to be part of the madness? Are you going to stand in line at 4 am in the cold for the doors to open? Or are you going to sit in the glow of your computer monitor? I may just wake up the neighbors and watch the room spin--I haven't seen it do that for awhile now.



Sunday, October 31, 2010

Footsteps From Beyond



Happy Halloween everybody!

I've decided to re-tell a true family story that happened quite a few years ago. It didn't happen on Halloween, but on another cold and winter night. When my mother first told me this story, I got chills and goose bumps all over. When you personally know the people involved in the story, it is even more bizarre, but lots of odd and unexplained things have happened in my family, so why am I really surprised by it, I don't know. 

It was a cold, rainy night, and Tia Rosa had just managed to get all of her children to sleep. Her six children were more restless that evening, so Rosa decided to stay with them and sleep in a bed beside them. She had really enjoyed being with her children that night because she was feeling lonely, more than usual. Cold and rainy evenings like these were especially hard for Rosa. She had lost her husband only a year previous, and the nights were still hard.  She felt more alone than ever when the children were feeling restless. She wondered if  they could sense her own fears and doubts.  Raising them all alone without her husband by her side was not easy, and the absence of their father was heart wrenching.

After finally kissing her children goodnight, she started reciting her rosary, softly sobbing to herself. Understandably it wasn't the first time she had done this. At the end of the each day she often felt overwhelmed with life. Her children gave her the strength to carry on during the day, but the quiet nights alone, without their chatter, were sometimes unbearable. She cried out to her husband, Francisco, like she would often do, and prayed that one day he would respond to her. Perhaps he could give her a small sign of hope that her situation would get better.  She needed to know that he was still there watching after all of them.

As she lay there upon her corn husk mattress, sobbing quietly, a strange quietness come over the loft. The soft rain that had been softly tapping on the window had suddenly stopped, and now the moon shone into the room more brightly than ever before. The familiar sound of the crickets outside also ceased. The silence is almost too over bearing.  Rosa found herself feeling an unexplainable uneasiness now.  She quickly got up from her bed to shut off the small kerosene lamp sitting on the night stand, cautiously getting back into her bed carefully trying not to wake the children. She went back to lay there, listening in the quiet, waiting for the crickets outside to continue their evening song. The sound of the crickets helped her sleep but, now there was nothing.

The sudden quiet made her steadily feel more uneasy and perplexed. She was almost tempted to wake her oldest son, to only break the silence, but at the same time, she did not want to get out of bed. A sense of foreboding seemed to surround her in the room. Had her prayers to her dead husband been heard? She wondered, and trembled with the thought under her blankets. She tried to lay there in the quiet and sleep, until finally the silence in the room was broken. Something outside had caught her attention. She could hear a noise of some kind coming from outside.

She soon realized she was hearing the sound of footsteps, coming from the mouth of the road in front of her home. They were loud footsteps and they sounded as if they were stomping intentially in the puddles of mud left by the rain. They were deliberate footsteps of someone slowing marching outside, with a distinct slight drag in its step. She could distinctly recognize the footsteps, of a man-a man with a limp, very similar to the footsteps of her late husband.

Rosa could not believe what she was hearing or thinking! She tried to dismiss her fears, and tried to think rationally. Surely, it was not her dear husband Francisco! It must be a neighbor outside coming home from work, or perhaps it was a neighbor who loved to spend a late night drinking, or may be it was a large dog, or may be again it was all in her imagination; all in her head. Then again, may be it was all a dream. Perhaps she had fallen asleep and had not realized it. Rosa tried to relax, and decided to gather her rosary beads and recite her Hail Marys to calm her mind.

The footsteps did not cease however. From the sound of them, they had finally reached the front of her house. Rosa stopped her praying and waited patiently. She waited for the footsteps to walk past her house to her neighor Isabel's door. Rosa held her breath in silence. The footsteps continued. They did not proceed to her neighbor's door, but instead, they were heading down the walk way of Rosa's house, past the small veranda, heading slowly towards the kitchen door.

Rosa continued to pray, this time more loudly than ever, her rosary beads falling from her trembling fingers, until they finally fell onto the ground. Rosa quickly made the sign of the cross on her chest, and desperately called out to the Virgin Mary. She pleaded for the footsteps to stop, until suddenly, Rosa felt paralyzed with fear. She could no longer speak, her trembling lips were open, and her voice had all escaped her.  All along her children kept asleep, as if they had fallen into a spell themselves.  Rosa fell under utter shock, as the footsteps slowly made their way to the kitchen door. The knob of the locked door turned effortlessly, and it was now in the house, in Rosa's kitchen. The door closed quitetly, and the steps continued towards the loft.

Rosa quickly surveyed the room around her. Her children were all sound asleep, their angelic faces undisturbed by what was happening around her. Rosa was terrified! She called out to the stranger, who had now made it's way up the stairs to the loft, and told him to leave her home.

"Be gone with you!" She called out. "For the love of the Holy Spirit, please leave my home!"

The footsteps continued up the stairs. Rosa then called out to her late husband.

"Francisco! If this is you, I now know you are now with me. Forgive me for doubting myself! If this is not you Francisco, please demon set out of my home! For the love of our children, please leave us all in peace!"

Rosa let out a scream, and covered herself with her blankets. The footsteps were at the door now, and they were silent. Her children were quiet, all was quiet. And suddenly, the cricket outside of her window broke the silence outside. The crickets song seemed to thunder throughout the room, to a point to where Rosa held her hands over her ears. The anxiety of the evening was too much for Rosa to bear and called out to the Virgin for protection.

Following this, the sound of the footsteps again returned, but this time, they were rescending down the stairs. Slowly, proceeding down through the kitchen, out of the door, and back into the darkness. Gasping for breath, and in relief, Rosa continued to listen to the footsteps slowly leave her home, into the night towards the dirt road towards the river, stomping away in the wet mud outside.

Since that evening, Rosa never questioned her husband's prescence ever again. Although she never knew who had actually visited her that evening, she remembered the moment of peace she had felt early that next morning; a peace she had never felt since her husband's untimely death. The kitchen door was found locked that morning, and there was no evidence left on the floor of any visitor who may have come in from the rain. It may have been all a dream, it's true, but she was never certain. It was said she loved the sound of the evening crickets outside her window, and could not sleep at night until she heard the crickets sing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back to the keyboard..

Whew...

It's been awhile, please forgive me.

I have been using this line quite often lately. What can I say? Life has been particularly busy lately. It's funny really.. When life seems like it can't get even better, I always hear a little voice in my head telling me, "Okay, this is too good. What is going to happen now to screw things up?" I try to tell that voice to shut up, but it has a way of forewarning me for the not so best situations. Well, all I can say right now, is life has thrown a curve ball, but things are getting better. Let's just say mom keeps our lives exciting. She is back home and doing much better, the full leg cast has been cut off and disposed of, and as of late she is sporting a much more comfortable knee brace. She won't be sporting high heels anytime soon however, but that is okay. Summer has come to an end, the "festa" lights have been dimmed, and it's time to brace for winter.

As you have noticed, I've finally changed my blog picture. Sorry Manny for keeping up your picture up so long! It wasn't my intention. Instead I've posted a picture that was sent to me by my cousin Adelaide's sweet daughter. She's the little girl sitting on the wall covering her ears. I'm wearing the red dress, with my son Andrew standing next to me. Yes, this picture is at least 12 or 13 years old, but my dad is in it, and he looks good. This was taken in 1999, the last summer we were there together. Weird how many years have passed, although it doesn't seem that long ago. I was single back then; thank God those years are over. Don't get me wrong, they weren't the worst of times by any means--they were just lonely times. After a year of being "free" and single, I decided to date again, and damn, did I meet some real losers--but, hey--that's in my past. What matters now is i'm with the right guy.

The past makes us who we are. If given the opportunity, I wouldn't change it. I love who I am today. Sure there were some missed opportunities that I should have taken perhaps. For example that one interview for a technical writer. Yeah, may be I should have taken up that. But I have a good excuse: The man who called had such a think Asian accent I couldn't understand him. He gave me the address for the interview, but I couldn't understand a word of it. That's my excuse, and I know it isn't a good one, but I didn't get a phone #. Oh well. I wanted to be travel agent back then. No, that didn't pan out either... Oh well..

Back to the picture: This was taken during the church procession in Vila Nova, Terceira at my cousin's house. It's a custom to take out your most beautiful and colorful blankets and display them out of your windows or walls and verandas when the procession passes by your home. Please note: This blankets were made in old fashioned looms back in the day when people made them by hand. These aren't the blankets people normally sleep with today-they are kept in closets and bunks and taken out only during the summer time. I'm not quite sure WHY this is a tradition there, but it's one of the customs of the island. If you happen to know, please inform me. I'm sure it has something to do with showing off your best linens out of respect. I know my mother always took pride in having the first house in her neighborhood to hang out the laundry on the close line each morning. Apparently that was a big deal in the neighborhood. People would judge you back then about how white your laundry was, and my mom was very proud of her good reputation. Times have changed, but not really. I swear that washing machine at her house back there was working 24/7.

I'm looking outside my sliding door window, and it's grey, windy and cold out there. A good day to do some laundry, pull out the blankets from the closet. A good chance and opportunity to REALLY get back to the routine!

Have a good week!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Aguas Vivas = Jellyfish!


A jellyfish (agua viva) from the Azores. Basically, Agua Viva translate to alive water---due the transparency---hard to see in the water if you aren't paying close attention.

Is global warming the reason of the abundant amount of Cagarros and jellyfish to the island of Terceira? Some people think that it is, or it may be the result of the last large tsuami. From where I see it, it’s less chickens and more jellyfish!


At most all of the beaches and swimming spots on the island, you will see a large flag pole located at the center easily visible. The flag pole will have either a red, a green or yellow flag waving. Red indicates: lots of jellyfish. When you see a red flag waving, it’s best to stay out of the water, because the “salvadors do mar” (lifeguards) have spotted large quantities of jellyfish, aka: “agua vivas” in the water, and most likely more than one person has already been stung. If there is a yellow flag, it usually means, there were a few sightings of jellyfish, and to use caution. If you see a green flag waving, that means, no jellyfish sightings have been reported. Bottom line, however, don’t rely on the flag too much. If it’s green, that doesn’t mean it’s free and clear.

Sometimes the “salvadors do mar” just are too lazy to change the flag. The lifeguards we saw were a band of teenagers in bright yellow swimming shirts huddled together with their jellyfish nets and surfboards. They look especially cool wearing their Ray Bans, catching the summer rays. Now and then the would get up from their chairs, and actually go into the water, floating on their surf board, or walking near the water with their jellyfish nets on hand. Most of the time however, if a jellyfish is spotted, it's usually by a swimmer or by someone who just got stung. Once the lifeguard is alerted of the situation, he will change the flag, but again, that doesn’t always happen.

No one knows this better than “our friend” Roxanne. Roxanne made a surprise visit to the island, and stayed with us for a short time. Ironically, she was in the ocean for a period of time patrolling the waters for jellyfish, with a kind stranger she had befriended in the ocean. We all thought that Roxanne was looking for more than just a random jellyfish-if you know what I mean. Of course the man thought Roxanne was serious about getting “to know him better” as well, but Roxanne proved to be only a tease. We don’t know what Roxanne was thinking, because this guy looked like a very tan, plump, bald version of Elliot Goule. Whatever the reason, she was caught off guard and got stung not once, but twice by an agua viva on the two days we took her to the beach. May be it was due to the fact that poor Roxanne was very pale and her feet looked a little too appetizing for the jellyfish (agua vivas), or perhaps they thought she was one of their own? Whatever reason, she got stung, and the salvadors were less than sympathetic. They didn’t change the flag for her, but they did direct her to the numerous aloe plants surrounding the beach.

She was not the only person who fell victim to an agua viva! On the second day of the beach, Roxanne was more cautious, and stayed out of the water a little more and enjoyed the “sights”. One of the sights she was enjoying were the two men sun bathing to her right. Little did she know that those men she was admiring were in fact my ex-brother-in-laws. My cousin pointed them out to me, and while I and my son Andrew went over to talk to them, Roxanne volunteered to watch Nicholas in the water. Little did I know, her kindness would be rewarded by another sting of a agua viva. Of course I felt badly, honest I did. I could have offered Nicholas' assistance and have him pee on her sting, but I didn't my son would like the idea.

After I sat down helping her with more aloe plants, my ex-inlaws walked by and said goodbye in a hurry. Apparently another jellyfish had stung one of them on the chest. My poor ex-brother-inlaw was not very happy to say the least. That is when Roxanne confessed that she was admiring them from a far earlier. After she said this, I really didn’t feel too sorry for Roxanne. (I’ll have to write more about Roxanne in another entry-let’s just say it was an interesting visit.)

Still, the flag was still waving green, and the “salvadors” were still looking cool looking out into the ocean…


A Salvador do Mar, "hard at work..."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cagarros - flying creatures that make weird noises

I'm posting this because the first video I shared didn't have sound--kind of defeats the purpose, hey? Well, make sure my music on the side is on mute as well, or you won't be able to hear the Cigarros.

This video I found on YouTube--not mine, but the lady is right, they sound like "flying frogs"...

Chickens, Roosters & Cagarros….Oh My…



Chicken and roosters are not as common as they used to be on the island. I remember distinctly there were a lot more here when I was a child. Both of my mother’s neighbors had a family of chickens, and often at times, when relatives and friends would visit us during the summer, there was always a “Tia” (aunt) of my mother’s who would either bring us a bag of sugar, or a chicken to give us fresh eggs in the morning. There was one chicken in particular that I was very fond of, I named her Jenny—but that is another story. Anyway, unfortunately, all of my mother’s Tias have since past away, and now I guess giving chickens is simply not done anymore. Whatever the reason being, they are still around, and the rooster still crows every morning starting at 4 am.



I know that the rooster crows at 4 am because I was always awakened by it every morning, at 4 am. This went on for the first two weeks of my stay. Apparently the rooster lived in the neighborhood, and it when it started crowing, the other rooster who lived on the other end of then neighborhood would then chime in afterwards. I swear these roosters were having a conversation among themselves. By 4:15 a third rooster from where I suspect was up the hill from my mom’s neighborhood would join it. The crowing would stop 10 minutes later, and then resume at 5 am. By the third week, I was so used to it, that I was able to sleep through it.

Yes it was hard to sleep sometimes at night. There were days that were so hot and humid, the kids wanted to go out at night to the beach and sit at the outdoor cafes, and grab a “galaos” “lattes”- it was our nightly ritual---galaos at midnight, sometimes later. You would be surprised how many people on the island are still out at night at that hour. We were definitely not alone. Coming home, afterwards, unable to sleep, and reading my summer reading selection: Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire, did not help of course. Oh yes, and don’t forget I was fighting a jet lag, of 7 hours difference from California time. Yes, I felt like a vampire, and would curse that rooster each morning at 4 am – I confess. If it wasn’t the rooster, it was my mother’s washing machine—but that is another story.

On the day we arrived to the island, my daughter and I decided to take a late night walk around my mother’s home in Vila Nova. It was a nice evening, and there weren’t very many people around, and I was kind of wondering why we were out there, but Lizzy insisted on exploring the little winding neighborhood streets, and I didn’t want her to go venturing out on her own. It was a nice, warm night under a full moon, and the sounds of the evening were soothing and a little unsettling…

We heard the dog barking madly across the street as we passed along side the tall cement wall of his backyard, and we could hear crickets, the soft clucking of hens, and the humming of the neighborhood street lights, and then out of no where we heard the strangest sound…

What was that?! I thought it was a goat at first, or may be a grunt of a pig, but it couldn’t be because it was coming from overhead. It had a strange alien like sound that I don’t remember ever hearing before! It sounded like…something saying: “Ke Hey, Ke Hey..” in a high pitched nasal voice. It kind of freaked us out, and we decided to head for home.




Later while watching fireworks on the 4th of July (there is an American military base on the island and we were able to watch fireworks) from my cousin’s porch we heard the sound again… “What is that sound?!” I asked my cousin, Adelaide. Apparently they are birds! They are called called “Cagarros”. (In Portuguese it closely resembles the word: cagado which is not a very nice word that basically means, someone who literally shit in his pants-excuse my vocabulary. They migrate to the Azores every spring and stay until winter. Like vampires, they usually only come out at night. They say that there has been more of them caused by the global warming problem. More cagarros AND more jellyfish--but that is another story I will write about next time.

I found this from YouTube, its from the RTP television station and it's taken from the neighboring island in the Azores, Sao Jorge. There was a rescue mission for "lost cagarros" and that is what the video is about. Hopefully you can see what the sound like by this video--enjoy!:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I Saved A Bird's Life Today


A picture of Vila Nova in the early morning, from my cousin Adelaide's house.

One of the first things I noticed when arriving to Terceira were the birds. The island is full of them! They are constantly singing and chirping from early morning into the night. On any given day, close your eyes and listen to them. You would swear you were in a tropical forest. Just don't do this while walking down a steep hill. (I speak from personal experience.)

The birds are everywhere; in the trees, in the sky, perched on rock walls, telephone and electric poles, at the beach on the sand, in the park...everywhere. We are talking, pigeons, doves, seagulls, swallows, finches. I was surprised to see little birds "andorinhas" flying over in the sand. Surprisingly, I noticed there were more little birds at the beach than seagulls. I don't know if there is an over population of birds,, but we did notice an alarming rate of, "deceased" little birds on the roadways.

One pretty morning, I decided to join my daughter, Lizzy for a nice walk around Vila Nova (my mom's home village where we were staying). We went up the hill to my cousin Adelaide's house, and then past the church, and into the pastures, and then down the hill passing my aunt's house, towards my mom's. We made our trek up to the cousin's house first where we met Adelaide and her daughter, Beatriz who accompanied us on our "power walk", along with their dog, Nemo-a beautiful Dalmatian.

As we made our way around the neighborhood, we were met by various forms of farm life including chickens, goats, pigs, and horses, and of course cows. The island has an extraordinary population of cows, but that is another story that I will touch upon in another entry. They weren't all loose around the street mind you--they were all well kept in the backyards of some of the neighbors, with the larger animals grazing in the open volcanic rocked pastures. We walked past patchworks of green, squared off by decorated by blue and purple hydrenia rock walls up towards the small dairy plant at the top of the hill. During our walk I took in the fresh countryside, and got a whif of the fresh cow manured street. Despite the smell, it was a beautiful morning--one of those mornings when you find yourself wondering why in the world you forgot your camera at home, and regretting the lost opportunity all day long. Although we vowed to take these walks everyday, sadly, I think we only did this walk only a few times more. We had good intentions, but waking up early after staying up until 2 or 3 am, doesn't work very well..

As we made our way up to the dairy, and down the hill towards my aunt's house, I soon learned to walk on the left side of the road, rather than the right side. It is best to face oncoming traffic, than vice versa. Thankfully Adelaide alerted me to this early on. Motorists drive rather fast on these narrow country roads. Once we got to my aunt's house, sure enough there was my Tia Aidinha in the front yard with Uncle Manny, along with a little chirping bird standing near the side of street. It was chirping loudly and it seemed to be in distress! I have no idea how it got there because there weren't any trees around, but I knew it had to be moved from where it was standing or it would surely be ran over eventually. I couldn't just walk away and ignore it's little chirps! It may have been calling for it's mother, but it was alone, so I had to do something.

I took my dear Tia Aidinha's advice and scooped the little creature in the palms of my hands and carefully carried it into the garden of my Tia's front yard. There were flowers there, but nothing else, but there was a little ledge that I thought it might fall from, so I decided against leaving it there, so I scooped it up again and sat the little bird in the pasture next to my Tia's house, near the grape vines, and corn. It slowly made it's way downward into the pasture, and I was happy to see it's little wings fly down to where the grapes were. I don't know how safe and happy it would be down there, but at least he was away from the road, and near food. I hope it's still there, happily chirping away near the corn. I can only hope.

So I'm making note: I've added this event to my list of "Animals Saved". This little andorinha is right there under the gold fish I brought to life. Did I ever write about that? I stroked his little fin, until I saw it open it's little mouth, and put him in his clean fish bowl. Sure I forgot he was in the bath tub with no water when I was cleaning his bowl in the first place, but I did save it eventually.. Hopefully this will make up for all the baby chicks I squeezed to death as a child. (That is another story I'll write about later.)

Next time, I'll write about the chickens and the migrating birds that come here from America--who sound "like aliens".


Andorinhas

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Flying the Friendly Skies to the Azores



Our airline to Terceira - Sata Airlines, sister to TAP Airlines

We got to the Oakland airport an hour early than what was required, which really was a good idea since we avoided the long line of passengers and over-stuffed suitcases-we were not the exception. All I can say is that we were very thankful that my daughter's boyfriend came with us to the airport to help carry my mom's overstuffed suitcase full of shoes to the terminal--if he hadn't been there, I don't know what we would have done. I just don't understand why Oakland International is set up the way it is. You have to basically park your car, and lug all your luggage with you across the street to the terminal. We looked like a band of Gypsies--I'm not exaggerating. Even Nicholas was lugging a suitcase behind him on the crosswalk, and I don't know if you have ever noticed this before, but people going to the airport are not the most courteous people. They are all anxious, and in a hurry, and aren't very patient with you at crosswalks.

Anyway, we got ourselves at the terminal and got checked in. We said our tearful goodbyes to my husband and my daughter's boyfriend. I hate saying goodbye--not a good feeling. I knew my husband would be meeting us on the island three weeks later, but it is never easy, when you are flying so far away, and you begin to think of all the bad things that could happen, but try not to, but air travel can always be a little tense. Anyway, in our state of of sadness we of course passed our gate and found ourselves going in the wrong direction, lugging our carrier bags, and my mom's three purses. (Yes my mom has a thing for purses too.) I got stuck holding my son's skateboard the whole time at the airport, and Lizzy said I looked like I was a "skater girl" from behind, and kept on singer Avril Lavigne's "Skater Boy" the whole time. I liked the idea, even though I have never skated on a actual skateboard in my whole entire life.

We decided to go to the Mexican restaurant and kill some time at the airport and eat something, because we all knew that the airline food was not going to be very appetizing. We were right.

For some odd reason, the travel agent who promised me seats for my family AND MY MOM together on the plane GOOFED once again, and she had my mom sitting by herself 5 rows ahead of me. I was a little worried about how that would work out, but by the time we got on the plane, I noticed that I had a clear view of my mom up ahead of me. I could see the top of her head, and her gold shoes, and her matching gold purse. I helped her store her other two carry ons, and I was happy to see that she was seated by a nice younger guy. She seemed safe enough, and for a moment there I was happy that she wasn't sitting next to me. I know that sounds awful, but to tell you the truth the woman had been driving me crazy the past few days, and I think we both deserved a break from each other, if you know what I mean...

The trip to the Azores was a 10 hour adventure. After 5 hours in flight, we landed in Hamilton for about a hour(somewhere in eastern Canada), the plane was re-fueled, the flight crew was changed, and the toilets were inspected and cleaned, and then another 4 hour flight until landing in Terceira, Azores. During this course of flight we had the usual characters:

Character #1: "The guy who can't stop getting out of his/her seat."

Character #2: "The guy who can't stop calling for the stewardess"

Character #3: "The guy who can't stop talking"

Character #4: "The guy who won't stop blocking the aisle"

Character #5: "The guy who can't stop hovering over the passengers"

Character #6: "The guy who can't stop drinking"

Character #7: "The rude, the bad and the smelly" (my least favorite)

I've written about this experience before, and I should know the drill by now. But every trip surprises me. When you share a plane with 150+ strangers for 10 hours, you best be polite and friendly with them. I wish everyone followed the rule, but sadly, there are still people who believe the rule should not apply to them.

Character #1: This person will constantly get in and out of their seat non-stop! This person of course sits at a window seat, or in one of the middle seats. Fortunately for me, I sat with my kids, at the end, but I was witnesses to quite a few character #1's from where I was sitting. This person will go to the bathroom constantly, and can turn into a Character #5 very quickly. They can also become Character #7-nastiest of them all!

Character #2: I had this one in front of me. This woman was constantly calling the stewardess for various reasons, from "I'm too cold" to "I need an aspirin" to, "Where I can I find a good grocery store on the island?" Although the steward was very nice to her, I could tell by the end of the flight, by thelook on his face, he was more than overjoyed to see this woman finally get off the plane. I wasn't too fond of her either, because she kept on pulling her seat down and then up during the entire flight. I was surprised however when we had landed because she suddenly turned to me and complimented Nicholas for being such a good boy on the flight. Any compliment for my son Nicholas is truly treasured--believe me--that is another story.

Character #3: Most annoying! These people talk, and talk, and talk... Unfortunately, I had a few of these surrounding me. No wonder I can never fall asleep on these flights! There is always some annoying woman or man talking non-stop for 10 hours in my ear. They have always seem to have the most annoying high pitched voices, and they cackle like chickens. Call me anti-social, but I will not start a conversation with you if I don't know you. I'm on a plane, and I'm trying to sleep, and I don't want to hear about how many cows you own in Modesto or Turlock, and I am not interested to hear about all the family members you know on the island and whether or not we may be related. I had this woman talking non-stop to the guy next to her, and then she somehow convinced the guy to move from his seat so she could have her friend sit near her so she could talk more to her..

Character #4: The guy who blocks the aisle. I could go on and on about these people. They think it's necessary to stand in the middle of the aisle for no good reason. It doesn't matter if the stewards are trying to serve breakfast, lunch or dinner, they have to stand there like a statue. This is most annoying when they are standing by the video monitor, and you are trying to watch a movie, and their stupid head is just standing there near the screen. You want to throw a pillow at their head or something, and you try to stare them down, but they won't budge.

Character #5: The hovering people--oh my God. These people get out of their seats, go search a friend and stand there to talk to them non-stop. They will stand there, over you, just hovering like a hungry seagull, as they talk and talk and talk to their friend. I wish I took the picture of one poor victim to character #5. Poor girl had an aisle seat next to this guy who had a window seat. She was surrounded by 4 different men. One was standing behind her seat, the other was directly in front of her, and there was another guy who was seated in front of her who was standing over his seat. The poor girl was surrounded. What did she do? She was working on a crossword puzzle, listening to her Ipod. I stared in disbelief waiting for this poor girl to make at least one facial expression of dissatisfaction to her plight, but nothing. What a trooper! She must have been a true veteran of such trans-Atlantic flights--Ipod in hand-she was prepared!

Character #6: Yes, character #6 likes to drink. He drinks a lot-probably to calm his in-flight nerves. Fortunately for us, we didn't see much of these, but there was one guy who liked to visit the bar at the back of the plane. He wasn't too happy to learn that there are new rules that include a limit in alcoholic beverages to be served on the plane--especially two hours before landing. He settled on 7-Up eventually after being told more than 3 times that they no longer had more wine. Yes, character #6 can also be Character #1-because he/she is constantly in line for the bathroom as well. He can also become all characters simintaneously at the same time which can be quite scary! The stewards and stewardesses tried to make everyone happy however, with their constant walks up and down the aisle offering "cha" (tea) or "cafe" (coffee) in small little plastic cups...

Character #7: The rude, the bad and the smelly.. Yes, while standing in line to use one of the 3 working toilets on the plane, one woman thought she needed to use the bathroom more than I did, and literally tried to push me aside. I told her however, that I was in line, and I haltered her before she took my toilet. It amazes me how some people act in planes sometimes. I guess being in a plane for 10 hours makes everyone less polite, and smelly.. Why don't planes carry deodorant in the bathroom? Why? I mean, it would be so much better. Some people sweat like high heaven on planes--especially the characters #1, 3, & 4.. Please someone take note! The bathroom line is the worst. People will cut in front of you, and if you are so fortunate to be sitting near the toilets, you have the "pleasure" of hearing the conversations between the people who are waiting for the toilets. You also get to be hovered. OOhh..and let me not forget the RUSH to the toilets before the plane arrives on the final destination, when all the ladies have a need to run to the mirror and "pretty up" before they see their relatives at the airport.

After 10 hours of flight, how can anyone look good? Really? I tried to sleep as much as I could, but I think I only had 45 minutes sleep if any. I was constantly interrupted by the noise of the plane, and it's people. I tried different methods to sleep--even sleeping on my elbows, only to find two enormous red spots on my cheeks. Not very attractive. On average, everyone on the plane looked like hell.

After a round of applause once we landed on the island, we all bustled out of the plane, down the stairs to the bus that awaited us at the bottom of the runway. The bus would take us to the terminal where our passports would be stamped, and where the luggage was waiting for us. The first person we see at the bottom of the stairs was my niece Joana, who is an employee of the airline. Lizzy and Andrew were not expecting to see their cousin Joana directing them towards the bus. They both did double takes, and upon realizing who they both were, starting hugging and kissing.
It was a nice hello from such a long journey.

Once we got into our bus (there were two full buses loaded by the passengers of our plane), we got to look at the people we shared the last 10 hours with, and we all looked like hell, but it didn't' seem to bother the loved ones that were waiting for us at our final destination. We all got kissed and hugged just the same...

It's always fun to arrive to your final destination--especially when you have happy, pretty people waiting for you there.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Island Chronicles...



Lizzy, Andrew & Beatriz in Escaleiras - a natural ocean, swimming hole on the coast of Vila Nova
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Praia_das_Escaleiras,_Vila_Nova,_Praia_da_Vit%C3%B3ria,_ilha_terceira,_A%C3%A7ores.jpg

I purchased a small notebook from one of the neighborhood "vendas" (small mini mart type store) in my mom's village (Vila Nova), and in it I jotted a few stories and experiences of my visit. I confess that in one day I highlighted the first two weeks of my adventure, and the rest of my two weeks are still in nestled somewhere in my brain. Sometimes there just isn't time to write; there are far too many distractions, too many streets to climb, flowers to smell, clothes to hang, and sand to hide your toes in.

So, for the next few weeks, I will be making entries about my trip in Terceira. Please note that although I'm writing about it, I'm not really there anymore--although there are some days already, I wish I was.

Don't get me wrong--it's nice to be home, but when I'm there I'm always in "vacation mode". Who doesn't like living in vacation mode all year long? I couldn't really tell you how it is actually living there outside of vacation mode because I've never really experienced it, so please keep in mind that not everyone lives there as carefree as I interpret it. There are people who actually have 9-5 office jobs, and work the land...etc. Although, some people may argue why on earth shops close at 2 pm, restaurants close mid week..and why shop keepers and business men take hourly breaks to jump in the ocean for a swim, and take a coffee break.. The roosters crow every hour on the hour starting at 4 am, and like the crows, the church bells continuously ring accordingly until 22:00 hours - (10 pm). After awhile you realize that island life is pretty awesome--I won't lie.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading about my little adventures on the mysterious island of Terceira. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back From The Rock...

I'm back from the Azores; the island of Terceira, the birthplace of my mom, and my maternal and paternal grandparents, and their ancestors. I've been away on this island for the last four weeks, and there was no time to sit at the computer to type blog entries. Rather, my time was spent with family and friends near the rocky ocean side and sandy beaches, sitting in an outside cafe, walking along century old cobblestone city streets, and white and black mosaic sidewalks, glorious gardens and marble floored homes, bustling restaurants and nightclubs, and majestic steepled churches.

Terceira is an island belonging to the Azores; a nine island chain located in the mid-Atlantic. It is not known particularly as a tourist destination, nor is it written up very often as a place to be or be seen. It is a place that some people have never heard of, and it can't be found very easily on any world atlas, unless you pay real close attention. My eyes are drawn immediately to those nine islands. Whenever I see a map, or atlas, I must look for them. On some maps, they are only dots-unnoticeable, and unassuming, but to me they represent part of my world. These little specks mark my home away from home. It is the home of blue, white and purple hydrangea, black and white cows, rock walls, and green farmland, music, sweet wine, and the people I love.

I'm home now, and I'm happy to be back in California, the place of my birth. I missed my home and my day to day--I even missed doing my own housework. It's good to be back, but I miss the faces of the people I spent the last four weeks with. The tears shed at the airport are still fresh on my mind. Seeing the same tears streaming down the faces of my children as they said their goodbyes were bittersweet to me. They have their grandparents to thank, for they instilled in their children the importance of knowing these people we call family and the island. I have my parents to thank. Thank you for sharing your past with us so we can share Terceira to our children. For this I will be forever thankful.

I'm now feeling refreshed, with my luggage filled with souvenirs, and a heart full of new memories of the good times shared. I'll be back with the stories soon...

P.S. The month of August is for my cousin, Manny whose picture is posted under my blog title. He is pictured here with a lovely Portuguese mannequin who he met at Caneta - a lovely restaurant in Altares. He told me that he often reads my blog, and likes listening to my music I have on my Playlist. Apparently, he is one of my biggest fans - so, Manny - this one is for you!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's June---this month is going way too fast...


Rich and I at his nephew's graduation picnic in May.

I'm not going apologize for not writing an entry as quickly as I should, because that is all I seem to write about in each of my entries.. It's getting old! You know you have a problem when you actually FORGET your login password to Blogger, huh?

Well, it's official! School is out for all my children! Nicholas has graduated from Kindergarten and is officially a 1st grader since Thursday! Since this important milestone, Nicholas has had a few questions and concerns. Here are a few that he disclosed last night: "Mommy, now that I'm in the first grade, does that mean I have to get rid of any of my stuffed animals?" I assured him that no, he did not have to get rid of any of his toys, and that he could keep as many stuffed animals on his bed as long as he felt he could share his bed with them. Then, after tucking him in bed, he gave a look of deep concern, and with a sigh he said: "Mom, I just don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Do I need to decide soon?" I tried my best not to laugh, but reassured him that he had many years ahead of him to make that important decision. He responded this way: "Well, I guess I'll be a mail man." You heard it first folks---my son is going to be a mail carrier!

My older son Andrew has other inspirations. Now that he is out of school, his interests are mostly into his music. He has actually been approached by a local agency (we aren't talking major contracts or anything folks, but it's a start) who wants to produce his music, so now he is working on a demo CD with original soundtrack. His school work was taking a backseat to the music, but his lowest grade this semester was a C, so I'm pretty happy...you can't complain when your kid brings in a report card with 3.6 grade average, can you? So, yes I'm proud of my him. He is looking forward in performing in the Azores this summer...the legacy lives on. Of course my mother is claiming that he has her genes in the entertainer department.

I don't know if I ever mentioned this but my mom was quite the performer on stage in her village. When she was a teenager, a cousin of a relative of ours that was visiting from the States told her that if she was in the U.S. she would be the next Marilyn Monroe. When you are told this when you are 14 years old, it kind of stays with you, and of course she loved telling us this fact to her children while we were growing up, and my daughter Lizzy just thinks it's the most hilarious thing she has ever heard her grandma say. Lizzy loves to disclose this little tidbit of trivia to everyone, and of course my mother denies it all sometimes out of shyness. It is pretty funny to hear her deny it when we all have heard her say the story one million times before.

My mother is all packed and ready to go to the Azores. She has packed EVERYTHING and will only wear the clothes she has left in her closet. There are plenty of clothes in that closet along with dozens of shoes, so I think she'll be okay. She was in desperate search for a navy purse, and for the life of us, after dozens of sweeps to various stores, we could not find a navy purse. All the purses that looked navy to my mother were really black-we are convinced the lighting in the stores were the culprit. Well, she gave up her search for it, thinking she would never come across one. The other day, while Liz and I were shopping at JCPenny, out of the blue, what did we come across sitting there on a random pile of blue jeans, but a pretty, navy little cocktail purse complete with sequins! It was as though it was placed there by a higher power (Thank you Jesus) for us to find! My mother could not be more relieved! Purses have to match shoes--that's her rule. Now she can wear her navy heels with a matching purse! All is good in the world!

My daughter Lizzy has been enjoying her summer to the hilt so far since school break. She has already went to Disneyland with her friends, and now is looking forward to a cruise to Alaska with her boyfriend and his family. My, things look serious, huh? I don't think she has any serious plans, but she did disclose to me that she wants to plan a family in the future-a family of pets. She wants a teacup pig for a pet,as well as a dog (a pug) and a cat. She already has picked the names. She wants to call her pet pig BLT. Is that cruel or what? She has even found outfits to dress her pig online. I couldn't believe she was serious, but apparently, she is. OH well, what can you say? When she comes back from Alaska, we are leaving for the Azores. Me, the kids, and my mom. In July, my husband will be flying down for a week for the wedding of Tania and Ruben..

The month started with quite a boom.. We took Tania out for a bachelorette party--videos and pictures are on my Facebook page--we had a great time, and I think she forgave us later for blind folding her in the car once we got into San Francisco. We got some really funny looks from people we passed in the streets. It looked like we were kidnapping her...too funny.

As for me, work has been keeping me busy--too busy. We are getting a new case management computer system and guess who was selected as one of the "trainers". Lovely. I'm not as computer savvy as people may think. I know the system I work on right now quite well--mostly because I've been working on the same system for the past 22 years. Yes, I've been working for county government for 22 years! I started in 1988 when I was prego with my daughter. Three more years...three more years... Then it's FINI! Until then, my work is going to make sure I won't leave for vacation until I'm thoroughly exhausted. That's okay. By the time I get back from vacation, someone will have to train me. I honestly don't know how much I will be able to retain after being away for a month, but I will try not to worry about it.

Well, that is your update for the week--will try and get back to you soon!

Monday, May 31, 2010

May Potpourri

Okay, since it's the last day of May, it is only appropriate to dedicate an entry for this month! I haven’t been diligent enough keep up with my blog, I know. It has been a non-stop month so far, and I have a feeling that June is going to be the same if not busier. I've written the following---bits and pieces of it all month--so sorry for the very long entry. I'm sure most of you won't be patient to read it all, but if you do---Thank you! Perhaps by the end of June things will be different—when school is out again.




It just hit me the other morning while I was walking my youngest to school. Everyday, for the last nine months, the morning ritual of waking up early, and getting the little guy into the van is coming to an end soon once again. My little car pool buddy will be out of school and can now soon sleep in. Oh, now isn’t that the life? Remember those days of your childhood when the most joyous thought in the world was waking up in your warm bed, realizing that you could sleep in until noon because school was closed for the summer? No cares in the world really. Yes, those were the days; waking up in the morning to the smell of eggs and bacon, or the promise of “sopas fritas” (French toast) from downstairs in the kitchen. The familiar sounds, smells of childhood and that ride on my dad’s shoulders down the stairs… Oh the memories. (Deep sigh).




Summer IS approaching fast, and in a matter of weeks, I will be taking off to the Azores for a month, and there is just so much stuff to do before then, and my weekends are incredibly booked solid. I have some shopping to do, I have my son’s summer camp/daycare to plan, and my mom constantly is there to remind me that she needs to make another shopping trip because she “needs at least 3 more pairs of shoes!”



This month I’ve had a bridal shower at my house, a nieces’ wedding, a birthday party, a visit from my husband’s brother and his wife who were in from New York, and a graduation barbecue. Today, was another shopping day with mom on her quest to find three more pairs of summer shoes to add to the other 20 pairs she has purchased since February… I'm happy to say, MISSION COMPLETE!



Okay, I'm ready for June... BRING IT ON!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Are You Listening?


It’s the month of May, and I’m sitting here wondering how in the hell it crept up so quickly. I mean, the weather has been pretty much lousy until recently. It had been feeling like a prolonged month of January for the longest time, but suddenly, the heavens have opened up, and there are flowers blooming, and birds are waking me up each morning..

May began with a bridal shower tea at my house for my cousin, the bride to be. I was happy with the results, and Tania seemed to be happy, and my guests seemed to be having a good time, so I pretty much think it was a success—just one problem. It was a tea party, but I don’t think there was more than one person who actually had a cup of tea. I had coffee and lemonade---it seemed to be the popular choice. Oh well.. My daughter announced that for her bridal shower (no plans of one of yet—we are talking years into the future) she wants a Mimosa party. Okay, that seems tame enough—this is from the same girl who wants to invite Elton John to her wedding. She wanted Michael Jackson to be there too-but we all know that will never happen now.

We had a nice turn out, of course some people who said they were coming, didn’t, but that is okay. I invited my two aunts to come to the party, and although they didn’t know my cousin personally, they rather enjoyed themselves. One aunt, who had never met the groom to be even won a trivia game about him, which was pretty funny.

All of this brings me to an odd course of events that happened a week previous..

I’m not sure if I had mentioned this before, but my mother has been worried about traveling back home from the Azores by herself this summer. I booked her flight early with the understanding that her flight coming home could be rescheduled to when my brother could come out and return with her. Well, that was not the case. Azores Express had one seat available for the flight home in August, for over $800.. My mom had already bought her ticket for $700, and they wanted an extra $800 to change her flight. Of course, my mom didn’t want to pay it. I was at the point of paying for half it myself to give me the peace of mind that she would not be traveling alone, but a week later, I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to because the plane by that time was completely booked—no seats available. So I would have to deal with this issue when I was there, and pray for someone to perhaps cancel.

Well, last week, I had a very restless sleep. I was tossing and turning, because I was thinking of all the things that could go wrong with my mom’s flight coming home. Of course, there really isn’t a reason to worry—I mean, she would not be ALONE—she’d be surrounded by another 100 Portuguese people on the plane. Well, I didn’t sleep very well. I remember having a few off the wall dreams with my dad, driving around in his car. I couldn’t tell you now what they were about, because I don’t remember, but I can tell you that each time I have a dream with my father in it, he is usually trying to send me a message, and that morning I woke up not remembering what that message could have been other than: “Oh no, my dad is really upset that mom is traveling alone. He is telling me this from the grave!

The day before, I get a call from my Aunt Addie, telling me that she and my other Aunt Cecilia were planning on coming to the bridal shower. We got to talking about the summer trip to the Azores, and I mentioned that if she was thinking of going there again, that she should really consider it, and hinted that my mom would be traveling home alone. My aunt said that she would really seriously think about it, but I really didn’t think much about the prospect. I mean, she had been there before and really loved going, but planning a trip unexpectedly for the summer didn’t seem really realistic for her to do, but I had my hopes.

On the day of the bridal shower, the door bell rang and Tania and I went to the front door to greet our first guests, and who should be there standing at my door, but both my Aunt Addie and Aunt Cecilia. As soon as she came into the house, Aunt Addie turned to me and announced, “I’ve decided to go to the Azores and come back with your mother.”

Of course, my mother and I are thrilled! My aunt booked the trip that following Monday, and arranged to be seated on the plane next to my mother. It was then that my mother confided in me how she had a very restless sleep the week prior, and how she was up all night, worrying about flying alone, and how she prayed all night that God give her some good news. Yes, it was the same night I couldn’t sleep either. Well, I guess God was listening…

Monday, April 12, 2010

Embarrassing Moments




I’m having a slow day. Don’t ask me why I’ve come up with is, but I couldn’t think of nothing really to write about…

The following is a list of some true embarrassing moments that I have experienced throughout my life.. There is one that happened quite recently. Can you guess which one?

Having my young daughter, shout out loudly and point out the man dressed as a woman at the grocery store aisle.

Leaving a large wholesale warehouse store holding my son, as he is sobbing uncontrollably, while he is throwing chocolate chip cookies at the other patrons.

Standing in line at the grocery store, and have my under slip I’m wearing fall to my feet.

Walking down the street, and feeling my underwear slip to my knees.

Walking down the street, and having my nylons fall slowly to my ankles.

Finding myself in a parking lot, not knowing where my car is.

Laughing so hard, and actually peeing my pants in public.

Bursting with laughter in the middle of church service.

Hearing the stomach sounds coming out of the older parishioners during church service.

Seeing a lady bug stuck in someone’s big up hair do during church service.

Taking my son to a restroom, who is refusing to stand in the same handicap stall, and having to walk around the store with wet underwear.

Having both of my parents come into a crowded discotec looking for me.

Discovering my parents hiding in the parking lot at night, to check out the guy I was dating.

Walking out of a restroom with toilet paper stuck on my shoe.

Forgetting a co-worker’s name, and thinking they are a client.

Going to the women’s bathroom at the workplace, and stopping in my tracks thinking it’s a man in the restroom, when it’s a woman who looks like a man from behind, and getting caught with that look of shock on my face.

Having to witness your cousin’s wife say to another woman (who is dressed like a man) that she is in the wrong bathroom.

Going to your brother’s wedding, and watching your drunk husband dance non-stop with another female guest at the wedding. (No, I’m no longer married to this one.)

Trying to prevent drunk husband from jumping out of the hotel window, while he is only wearing bikini underwear. (Yeah, same guy—not married to him anymore.)

Answering the front door after playing “make up” with my 5 year old daughter.

Pretending you didn’t hear someone you respect fart in public.

Having unexpected out of town visitors use your bathroom before you could pick up the National Enquirer you left on the bathroom floor, in front of the toilet.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Importance of Being "Ernest"



Today, I was covering the reception desk for about a hour, and it was pretty uneventful, but I had two clients come to the window, one after the other within 10 minutes time. Both of these young men went by the name of Ernesto. I thought that was a little odd. Then I get a phone call for another client, named Ernest. What are the chances of that anyway? I had no idea that Ernest or Ernesto was such a popular name, did you? I guess it's just something else for me to wonder about...let's just say that it's been an odd week.

You know the saying: "Things happen in threes."

Well, the other day I went to close my mother's door with her keys (3 keys are on the key chain by the way), and when came back home, and it was time to open the door, for the life of me, the keys were GONE. They had disappeared! I have no idea where those keys are. I've looked high and low in the family van---not there. My mother has gone through her purse over and over again, but to no avail. When I got home, I thought I found the keys--but I was wrong--it was my own set of keys to her house--the set that doesn't work. Luckily I was able to get my mom's back door open, otherwise I would have had gone through the window.

Later, that same day I get home, and I'm met at the door by my older son, who is a little frantic. "I think I lost my phone again, mom!" Great. My son has lost or broke at least 3 phones in the last year.

About 15 minutes later, I hear the garage door open, and I see my daughter coming in the garage, with an equally distraught look on her face. Apparently, her look of distraught is the same as her look of relief. She went on to explain how she thought she lost her wallet at the gas station, and she was pretty upset when she couldn't find it, mainly because I had given her my credit card for gas money. She apparenlty thought the poor guy at the gas station misplaced it. Luckily she found her wallet under her seat.

Well, happily, my son eventually found his phone, and my daughter found my wallet and my credit card, but, sadly my mother's set of keys are still gone. Strangely--all of these misplaced items happened within the same hour. Weird.

The other day, during my lunch break, I was driving around town, wondering what I should pick up for lunch. I didn't want a big meal, or a sandwich, so I decided to go to Jamba Juice and had a strawberry smoothie. Later that day, Rich comes home, and we started talking about our day, like we usually do, and then he starts telling me about his lunch hour. Apparently, he wasn't too hungry either, so he stopped at the Jamba Juice that day as well, and --- yes, you guessed it --- had a strawberry smoothie. Of course this happened at the same hour--just different cities. Weird.

Not too long ago, I went to one of the drive in car washes, and the guy behind me, stepped out to alert me that my fuel gas door was open. I was very grateful to know this, and I mentioned it to Rich later that day. He looked at me, with disbelief and informed me that the very same thing happened to him that day as well. Weird.

Can someone explain all the weridness to me? Do these things happen just out of coincidence? Is the Earth a little off it's axis, or is it because the strong connection of the people I surround myself with? Is there a guy named Ernest at the Jamba Juice right now making me a strawberry smoothie at this very moment?

I went to the grocery store to get a sandwich. No, the guy who made my sandwich was not named "Ernesto" or "Ernest". I checked his name tag, his name was Carlos. If his name turned out to be Ernest or Ernesto, I don't know what I would have thought. Anyway, I went to buy my sandwich at the register, and the guy there ringing up my sandwich said something very profound. Don't ask me WHY he chose to tell me this, but he said this, word for word: "Sometimes our dreams are windows to our futures." Okay, that was weird as well.

It's Friday - this all that really matters right now. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter.... Happy Day!

Okay---- Tis the month of April, and I've been meaning to post an entry days ago! See the change of my picture above?

April is a month of birthdays in our family... I was born this month, as well as my sister and my brother, and my brother's daughter who happened to pop out the same day as his birthday. Yes, July was a "hot" month for my parents. No surprise it was their anniversary month as well, so they must have done "it" three times. Okay, may be 4--I had a brother who was born in March too.

Today, this year, my birthday happens to land on Easter, and being a "Coelha", naturally I'm thrilled! Although, Easter to me does involve more than Easter eggs and chocolate bunnies. It's a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ--my savior. It's a good day to be alive. I woke up in bed with Rich on my right, and my son Nicholas on my left, with hugs and kisses, and warm wishes coming from both sides--that was pretty awesome.

The weather outside however is pretty dismal looking and it looks like rain. Better now than later. Tomorrow the "tree people" will be coming over to take what is left of the trees that were once in our backyard. Two more trees are coming down tomorrow, and six stumps. I would be lying if I told you that I didn't miss the trees. They gave shade, beauty and privacy. I can now see my neighbors across from me. I can now see them in the kitchen--it's a little weird. Bob the Gnome, who had a home sitting on it's swing on the cherry blossom tree, now sits on our backyard deck. My plastic rabbit and squirrels are sitting in front of my kitchen window, and I swear I thought I saw the rabbit's whiskers move. The real birds and squirrels in the neighborhood are equally confused. I see them coming up to the tree stumps--looking up and down.... Oh well..better things are coming...

The "pool people" will be digging our backyard hopefully by the end of this week. Yes, my childhood dream of having a pool in my backyard is actually coming true! Unbelievable. Hopefully by the time we arrive back from Portugal, it will be completed! I can't wait to drop my luggage at the door and make that big splash into that pool..or maybe I'll go into the hot tub first... Yay! Can't wait!

Until then, looks like we will have a pit of mud in the backyard for awhile. I'm forgetting about plans for the bridal shower for the backyard. I may cover the deck, and have some of it on there...we shall see. Meanwhile, Tania's wedding is keeping me busy with bridal shower favors. I have been to Michaels almost every weekend. My daughter thinks I may be going a little overboard. I'll be posting pictures later.

So for today, it's off to church, and boiling eggs. I made two puddings last night, a rabbit cake, cookies, and I'm bringing it all to my sister's house along with a big bag of Hawaiian Bread (sweet Portuguese bread) and lots of wine. My mother is making Alcatra (regional Portuguese dish---like carne asada that she cooks in a clay pot in the oven). There is nothing better than eating Alcatra with sweet bread--believe me.

HAPPY EASTER!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Black birds sitting on the telephone wire..



I remember rainy, cold days where I would look out my window and watch the black birds line up on the telephone wire outside. I would count them, and wonder about them. Where had those birds been to? Why did they enjoy sitting out there on a rainy day? Were they talking amoungst themselves? Did they see me staring out at them? My bedroom window glass was wet, and dewy, so I would proceed to draw on my windows with my fingers. I would draw happy faces to pass my time hoping for the boredom to stop, and then continue to count the black birds sitting there on the wire and wonder about them.

When the rain stopped I would get on my bike and scope the neighborhood for the best puddles I could find. I scoped the neighborhood for the biggest puddles where I could make the biggest splash. The black birds would watch me from their perch and cheer me on until mom or dad would call me inside. Simplier days, simplier times. No computers to blog in, only numerous written journals, and loose binder paper stashed underneath by bed. No cell phones to talk into, just the yellow phone, with the long curly extenstion cord.

Rainy weekends, if my parents would let us, involved taking the bus downtown to watch a movie or the Goodwill where my sister would look desperately for old Monkee records. Suprisingly, I think she collected all of their albums that way. At lunch we would head for the Woolworths across the street from the movie theatre. The store was full of the aroma of moth balls, intermingled with the scent of french fries from the store's cafeteria. There was also a few questionable and colorful people inside as well-especially on a rainy day. This all made the place more exciting. I remember seeing The Rainbow Lady taking a break from dancing in front of the Cooper House in line holding a large box of red vine licorice-my favorite. I wondered what else me and the Rainbow Lady had in common. Of course we bought our candy at Woolworths and hid it in our pockets when we entered the theatre. The theatre was big, and I tried not to stare at the ceilings at the painted Roman looking women holding jars. No naked men on the ceiling, just women, but Richard Gere, and his naked scene on the big screen made up for it.

It's raining outside, and for some reason, the rain and the birds outside are reminding me of these simplier times and simplier days where the biggest worry was if I would be able to pass my math test next week, or what I should wear for school the next day. I remember laying on my bed at night, with the window open, watching the curtains billow softly hearing the rain tap at my window. If I listened quietly enough, I could hear the sound of seals crying in a distance near the wharf, and a cow in the distance mooing softly. The familiar sound of my father's car arriving in front of the house, and the sound of the door, told me that all was now safe and quiet.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

February Recap!

I realize I only made one blog entry for the whole month of February, but to my defense, it was a short month.




Okay, this is not a good excuse, I know. I feel actually guilty for admitting this to you. It’s the same feeling I get when I am sitting down on a Sunday, realizing that I missed going to church. Oops. Well, here are the highlights from the month of February that I forgot to mention:



Nicholas lost his first baby tooth! Yes, it finally happened! We were wondering when our six year old would finally loose a baby tooth. Nicholas was preoccupied by the thought of actually losing a tooth out of his mouth, thinking it would hurt and the blood that might be involved, but surprisingly to him, (and to us) it came out quite easily with low amounts of blood shed. It immediately went into a sandwich baggy, and underneath Nick’s pillow that evening. Yes, the tooth fairy did arrive and leave some cold hard cash that went directly into Nick’s piggy bank the following morning.



The concert that Lizzy and I had been anticipating to attend since the month of September of last year, that was cancelled due to a case of influenza for both Elton John and Billy Joel finally got rescheduled in February! Lizzy and I finally got to see the two perform live, and I can truly say, it was the best concert I’ve ever attended. We laughed, we cried, we sang… It was a great night!




As previously mentioned, Rich and I attended our first, live Nascar race! We flew into Los Angeles, and had a nice stay at the Hilton there. It was a more fun experience than I originally anticipated, and although Rich really enjoyed it to, I don’t think he would trade his recliner chair view at the big screen T.V. for an eagle eye view at the race track. We won’t be going to Fontana again anytime soon, but possibly Phoenix or Vegas if the opportunity is there. It was a cold and rainy weekend, but it was fun to be away for awhile, and the kids did not miss us at all. Word was Nicholas was having too much fun playing video games on the big screen and singing karaoke with Lizzy’s friends, and Andrew was enjoying his sister’s homemade hamburgers she and her boyfriend barbecued in the backyard. Yes, there are benefits having older children with younger aged siblings.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Weekend of Nascar!

A Weekend of Nascar…

February 20th & 21st…. Fontana, California



My husband likes watching Nascar auto racing. May be I should say he loves it. He waits in anticipation every year when February comes around, and dreads November when Nascar season comes to an end. He isn’t a Nascar fanatic or anything. He doesn’t wear Nascar gear– wear—like the race jackets, or own a Dale Earnhardt Jr. beach towel or anything---no, nothing like that. He does own a Mark Martin (his favorite driver) hat and a Nascar shirt. He just enjoys watching Nascar on T.V. He likes watching the race cars go around, and around on the track, and a race isn’t a race without a crash or two. He had never seen a Nascar race in person—only from a reclining chair, so last Christmas I got him tickets to finally see an actually race, in person.



With much anticipation, we ventured over to Fontana Raceway from our hotel near LAX, in our rented Hybrid/Nissan. (That was quite an experience in itself. It took us awhile to realize that the car engine was running---it’s sooo quiet!) We only had tickets for Sunday’s race, but since we were there, and it wasn’t raining (rain was predicted for Sunday’s race) we decided to head on over just in case of the possibility Sunday’s race is rained out. After a 45 minute drive to the raceway, we got out of our car, and we could immediately hear the cars. Yes, we got there a little late, and it was general admission only. We bought our tickets almost half off from a friendly looking guy selling tickets from his wind breaker.



As soon as we got into the stands, the smell of diesel and rubber hits you in the face almost immediately. Surprisingly, after awhile, the smell goes unnoticeable. Oh, and yes, we got our ear plugs. They helped some, but as we quickly realized, it is really hard to have a conversation with someone during a race. Rich and I used hand signals pretty much the entire time. The bloody mary’s that they were selling behind the stands were pretty tasty. It was freezing out there, and it really helped warm you up. The big names of Nascar were not racing that day, but there was Danica Patrick in her Go Daddy car. Of course she looked like a Barbie doll walking away in the far off distance, but so did all the race car drivers. They are all pretty much already short to start with-you have to be in short stature to fit in those cars to begin with.




I was warned about some of the characters I may see at the race way… One of my boss lady friends told me about the area, and had a first account of another supervisor who had a daughter who used to sell beer in the stands wearing only a string bikini. The weather was pretty cold, so I didn’t see any bikini clad girls walking up the stands with cups of warm beer, but I did see a few characters that looked like they just crawled from the woodwork. We noticed a lot of men with beards. Not short, groomed ones, but long beards—think of Santa. There were also a few people who have course looked a little rough around the edges... Let’s just say, it wasn’t the same crowd you would see at an Elton John/Billy Joel concert. (That’s another bog entry in itself.) I saw a lot of people wearing serious NASCAR gear. You could tell that many of them got new NASCAR racing jackets for Christmas, and they were proudly wearing them for the first time. They all looked like they came out of a NASCAR gear catalogue.

Sunday’s race was a lot more exciting. We went to the sports store Saturday night and got ourselves some spectator cushions to sit on, and rain slickers for just in case. We also rented serious looking NASCAR ear sets, and the hand held broad band, so we could see the statistics, hear the race car drivers, and see them race on a little screen. All the big names were there, including my husband’s favorite racer, Mark Martin. I must admit, he is my favorite too. You have to give credit when it’s due----the oldest racer out there who really stood his ground for the whole race. Of course Dale Earnhardt Jr. was there, and Jimmy Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya….etc.. Andy Garcia was there to start the race, as well as the members of Styx who performed for a short time behind the stands, David Austin, pro-wrestler, now movie star (haha), members of the Blue Angels, who flew over the stands afterwards, after the prayer was said, and the national anthem was sang quite beautifully by country star singer, Katharine McPhee. Afterwards, sky divers jumped out carrying American flags. It was all a very patriotic affair. There were even more bearded men, and rough type looking people at Sunday’s race, but I must admit, I didn’t look much prettier wearing my plastic rain poncho, and my husbands black windbreaker. I think I looked pretty scary too. Did I mention that the bloody mary’s were quite good as well?

All in all it was a fun, memorable weekend. I’m not saying that I’m a die hard Nascar fan now, but it was fun to share the experience with my husband—his first Nascar race. There aren’t very many first time experiences we have shared together-we have known each other only 10 years, and it was nice to share a 1st time experience. Of course, it was just fun just being away alone for awhile. I could have gone fishing and still had a good time. My only regret is not having bought the tickets for the following weekend race in Las Vegas, but it may get rained out anyway, so I’m not going to ponder over it. May be next year?

I know Rich had a good time, but was a little disappointed as well. You just can’t see a race as well as you can in front of a big screen. Also, there were no real crashes either. Crashing cars are the best part of a race! I’ve come to the conclusion winning a race is dependent on many things-including strategy and just pure luck… Kyle Busch won the first race-almost stealing it from Joey Logano who held in first place almost for the entire time, and due to a yellow flag, and a lucky pit stop, Jimmy Johnson, won yet again in Sunday’s race.

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