Salud!

We are not big drinkers. We never have been. It doesn’t mean we don’t go out and enjoy a beverage, or several, with friends and family. But, as a general rule, we drink more water, coffee, iced tea or even Coke than we ever do some form of alcohol.

It’s probably a good thing. I’ve always been a lightweight. I know this because one or two glasses of wine is fine. The third glass? Well, I’d give you the location to a treasure map, reveal my darkest secrets, or the launch codes to the whole arsenal. I’d have made a terrible pirate, and it’s probably why I’m not President of the United States. Right?

Jeff doesn’t drink wine so if I open a bottle it will take me two weeks to drink it. Even then, I’ll invariably end up throwing out the last bit in the bottom. So moving from a country where people don’t drink Breakfast beer, or put a ‘little something extra’ into their morning coffee at the local cafe, to one where alcohol consumption is a daily thing  can feel strange at times. But we’re not Amish. The Spanish must know something because they enjoy record breaking longevity.

We just had our annual physicals and the Doctor suggested Jeff drink more liquid on a daily basis.

‘Now, it doesn’t have to be just water.’ He assured him (I was sitting right there or I wouldn’t have believed this) ‘You can mix in some beer too. As long as it’s light in color. No dark beer. And you can drink vino blanco, but no vino tinto.’

Jeff turned to me with the smile of a child on Christmas morning. The Dr. looked confused so I explained.

‘You’ve now become his favorite physician, EVER. Maybe even his favorite person.’

When we were walking home from the appointment, Jeff had a spring in his step.

‘Finally, a Dr. who has common sense and gets me.’

I knew there would be an unlock to moving here. I just didn’t know it would take the form of his annual physical to do it.

We walk in the Turia a lot (the old riverbed like Central Park) . There are ball fields for every kind of sport you can imagine. Rugby, Soccer (futbol), Baseball, Cricket. If you can throw something or swing something – you’ll find it there. And there is always, always a game going on. We like to stop and cheer people on periodically. Especially the semi-pro baseball teams.

And we’ve noticed a pattern. When the kids are little, the Dad stays at the field, with the other Dads, and watches the older kid in their chosen sport. The Mom is in the adjacent play field watching the younger child climb things, with the other Mom’s. Then, as the kids get older, the parents retire to the cafe/bar that is connected to EVERY sports field, and they watch both kids from there. And those bars/cafes have full bars in them. You can get lit with the other parents while your kids battle their rivals ‘The Bumblebees’ or another viciously named team, for league dominance.

When our kids were younger and played team sports, there were parents who brought hot toddies to early morning games, or margarita’s to summer baseball. But those were for a small clique of the hard core and it was all on the down low. Those parents would be freaking out to see how open people are here while cheering on their 6 year old on the futbol pitch. 

Back home, we bought booze for pool parties or Halloween or holiday parties. Afterwards, it just sat there, until the next get together. And before we moved, we threw a ton of it out. But I’m sure we’ll restock for our new friends in Valencia. G & T’s are all the rage here. But that won’t change a thing. I’ll still be a lightweight. But now that Jeff has been prescribed beer as a substitute for water? Who knows. He’ll probably live to be 120. 

A Fresh Perspective

The change of seasons blows in new ideas and new ways of looking at things. It’s never the big stuff that makes the difference. It’s always the small, subtle things that push us – sometimes kicking and screaming – in a new direction.

Our new furniture arrives tomorrow. So it required a little re-thinking our layout. And with the addition of our Christmas tree, well, it would have happened anyway. But now I find myself looking out a different window from my chaise. In a completely different direction than I did before. And I see different things. 

No more dog park and palm-tree lined tram way. I no longer look out across to the balcony of the guy we have called ‘Captain Underpants’ for the last 9 months. Guessing if today would be a ‘boxer or brief day’. I’m looking down the road to Alboraya now. More Spanish flags hanging from balconies. More established terrace gardens that are still hanging on, late in the season.

Before we left for Brazil, I insisted we hang the tapestry we got in Greece many years ago. It is quite large and used to hang on 20ft. high staircase heading up to our bedroom in the Snoqualmie house, so we hung it sideways here. But until today, my chair had its back to it so I didn’t really get to appreciate how lovely the design really is. Now I can look at it while I write – or continue to practice my driving tests online.

Our Christmas tree I shipped from the US is up. All our family ornaments are on it and, as is tradition, I have only knocked it over once and broken one ornament – so El Compartemiento is well and truly christened, like all our other houses (I used to blame it on the cats!). Hanging the ornaments brought back so many memories of Christmases past. Things made by our kids in kindergarten, or just because. Trips we took, or some made by my sister-in-law during lean years when those were the only gifts that were exchanged. Some from when I was a kid – so they’ve been on more trees than I’d like to count.

Benimachlet Christmas

We have been lured out by some of the Cyber Monday deals. I finally have a good bread knife and a sharp paring knife. And a counter edge bamboo cutting board that covers my entire counter top. I even bought a KitchenAid mixer to replace the one I left behind in the US. El Corte Ingles and I are fast friends this holiday season. Let the Christmas cookie baking begin! Our neighbors will soon find family cookies on their door steps of all my Mom and Grandma’s recipes – with ‘Feliz Navidad’ notes (+allergy warnings in Spanish). 

So today, I’m looking in a new direction. But also back. To the traditions and memories that make up our lives – no matter where we live. And at this moment, I’m glad I shipped that stuff from back home. This non-traditionalist is pretty happy to be celebrating some traditions right about now. Maybe that’s the fresh perspective I needed after all.

Red-lines and Edits

Writing is my passion, and I’m looking to make it my profession. To that end, I now have an editor in the UK who is helping me shape my first novel. It’s a hard process. I wrote the first draft in 8 weeks, after I got back from my Camino. When I was in the thick of writing, it was as if the characters spoke through me. There were days it felt like I was just taking dictation. And I’ve spend the last year editing and polishing and, well, stalling. It’s OK to say it, I know myself.

At first, I thought I would have a bunch of friends read it. I pretty much made the offer to anyone willing to put in the time to give me feedback. But then I realized it wasn’t so easy. Writing a book is like having a baby. And giving that baby over to someone who will tell you that parts of your baby are ugly? Well, that requires a lot of trust. You certainly learn the friends who you really trust to hand over your manuscript, and who you don’t.

But more than that, I’ve always been a person who was brutally honest. I am who I am and I’ve never tried to hide that. And sometimes that makes other people uncomfortable. Because most people are not this way. And that’s fine too. But you’ll rarely wonder what I’m thinking, and I’m well aware there are upsides and downsides to this.

And when you write a book – if you write from the heart – it gives the reader insight into even deeper parts of you that you might not normally show, no matter how much of an ‘open book’ you usually are (excuse the pun). It cracks open your heart and your brain, and lets people who know you see inside. More than they ever did before. And also, strangers who have no context or even a small appreciation for your origin story. This is probably the hardest part for me. How do you publish your writing, tell the story, and protect your own heart from those who might break it?

But I’m going through that process now. The ‘This doesn’t make sense’ and ‘I’m not sure what you’re going for here’ and the ‘I would cut this section out entirely – it doesn’t move the story along’, when I think it’s a pivotal part of the arc. The red lines. The slashing and burning. I’m welcoming it from a pro.

This next phase in my writing process, I’m trying to approach like it’s a whole new story. Sure, I know the arc and what I want the ending to be, but I have no idea how I’ll get from here to there. Sharon, my editor, will have to lead me through it. Like my book, this path will reveal itself over time. And hopefully, in the end, the hero of my own story won’t have a broken heart.

Happy Gratitude Day!

I’ve said it before. I don’t love Thanksgiving, for a host of reasons. But I’ll admit, it does feel weird to be walking around and it’s just another day in Valencia. It’s also weird that the ‘Black Friday’ signs are every where here. In Brazil the signs said ‘Black Day’, but its the same thing. Most retailers had a sale that has lasted all week. No ‘Destructor de Puertas’ here at 4 am on the Friday after Thanksgiving. There is no way the Spanish would get up early for that nonsense.

But in honor of the holiday I did cook a roast chicken and vegetables – we don’t like turkey. And I passed on my family recipe for Scalloped Potatoes to our oldest child. He’s clearly cooking up a feast in Boulder with his girlfriend and their cat. I was happy that someone in the next generation asked for the recipe.

While the chicken was in the oven, we ventured out and enjoyed a beverage and waited for it to cook. And we did our usual ‘What are we grateful for this year?’, that we always do. And with this being our first Thanksgiving in Valencia – a new country and a new city – we have plenty to be grateful for. So here goes:

I’m grateful we live here this year. Last year, it was still just beyond our reach. This year, we’re here, we’re settled. We’re home.

I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met who are part of my life now. Both in person and virtually. They’ve enhanced it in ways they can’t imagine, and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I’ve needed to this year without them.

I’m grateful for letting go. Sometimes in life we let things build up. Old hurts or old baggage. Sometimes it takes us longer than we’d like to leave that stuff behind. No amount of compensation can speed up the process or grease the skids. I guess it takes as long as it takes. But I’m grateful I am making progress in that direction.

I’m grateful for old Friends. People we’ve known for years who are still in our lives. People who, no matter the miles, are still those we can count on. Who accept us for who we are – foibles, warts and all – and who know we will be there no matter what. And who will be there for us. There is comfort in that.

And, I’m grateful for Family. Both the one I grew up with, and Jeff and the kids; the one we made together. Families aren’t perfect. They can drive us crazy! But in the end, they’re ours and no one else knows us quite like they do.  But they love us anyway, and we love them.

My wish for you – all who read this blog – is that you know I’m grateful for you. Your suggestions and help has been invaluable over the last year. I hope you’re spending this day with people who make your life better. And that the next year brings many more blessings than the last. Happy Gratitude Day!

Time to Circle Back

When we moved here last spring, the furniture I bought for our living room was more stop gap than what I really liked. My sofa was on it’s way from the US – it’s took the long way around –  and I was going to build around that when it arrived. But for those who read this blog back then, you know it was 3/4 of an inch too large to fit into our apartment – by any means contemplated, and I contemplated them all. So, I sold it to some people we know from Seattle. Boo hoo. But this means our furniture ‘stop-gap’ has leaked into the Fall, and we’ve been making do with stuff I was OK with when we spent most of our days outside or on the other side of the world. Now? Not ideal.

I have very specific requirements for a sofa (my previous one ticked all the boxes) and I’ve had my eye out for a new one that meets most of those. The most important requirement being that it fits into the apartment. Miraculously, I have found just such a sofa, tailor made for me, and it will arrive next Tuesday.

It’s funny. I was trying to get them to deliver it by Thanksgiving. I’ve done this before with a new dining room table back in the US – squeaking it in before a big Thanksgiving dinner. But then I remembered, Thanksgiving is an arbitrary measure. There is no ‘Thanksgiving’ here. And it’s never been my favorite holiday, anyway. So it’s more important that it actually arrives before we leave for Ireland in a few weeks.

I also ordered a new arm chair and a buffet for the dining room – Yay! More storage. And even more important that those things, a console for the entry way. We have been managing our house keys by leaving them in coats and jeans. I find them in the laundry and we hunt for them before we leave the house each time. All because we haven’t had the wooden bowl in the entry hall to pop them in when we come through the door, like every other house we’ve ever lived in. 

Its funny. I love living in a smaller space. We have what we need and no more. It’s weirdly zen, and there’s freedom in that. But it requires us to ensure our storage/organizing systems are, well, more organized and more systematic, apparently. Jeff has been all over that lately.

We went to El Corte Ingles at Nuevo Centro. They’ve got a great kitchen department and we needed some things for the kitchen. I had a list and started making my selections. I wasn’t going crazy with the superfluous. But I noticed Jeff in front of one shelf in particular as I finished up my selections. He looked into my basket and shook his head.

‘What are you getting? It’s all mismatched stuff.’ He pointed out with disdain.

I looked at what I had chosen. ‘I got each item for a purpose. I know what I need and what we’re lacking in our small kitchen. I don’t care about matchy matchy.’ 

He shook his head. ‘But it’s not a system. Look at these.’ He indicated the containers and jars on the shelve. ‘Now these all go together. And they open with a half turn.’ he demonstrated and turned the lid so I could see the inside. ‘And they have a gasket. They’re not going to leak and moisture isn’t getting inside. It’s an actual system.’

I looked down at my hodge podge of jars and what-not and shook my head wondering how many times he could possibly use the word ‘system’. Of course, he was assessing the engineering quality of kitchen storage. But it was more than that. It was all designed to go together. The pieces were interchangeable and the care and thought that went into it appealed to his sense of order. So we bought his system and now my kitchen is perfectly organized, and he feels a small sense of accomplishment when he opens the jars of coffee beans and cardamon every morning to make me my cafe con leche.

But I get it. We all have our things. And my ‘thing’ will be arriving on Tuesday, when I’ll be stretching out on my wide seat sofa, drinking said coffee. And finally, the world is back to normal; for which I am very Thankful this year.