It has always been very difficult to gift my husband, first because it really seems that he has everything he wants and deeds, and second because “I don’t want any gift” is his favorite phrase. So every Christmas, every anniversary, every birthday and every St Valentin represents a puzzle that I have to solve. Over the years I have scored as many goals as I have failed. But every time that special date approaches, I always start looking … hoping to narrow my search for something that “he will like even though he doesn’t need”, or that “he will use even though he doesn’t want”.
I would like to share the 10 gifts that after a long search is in my list to give to my husband, or (or my dad) and hopefully, they can serve as inspiration for that special gift for that even more special person and all thanks to Amazon.
I am of the opinion that we all have something romantic inside us, romanticism may manifest itself in different ways from the most romantic (dinners with candles and rose petals in bed ), to the most subtle romantics (coffee made in the morning), we are all romantic, but we all are to different degrees.
When I met my husband right away I realized that he was one of those “most subtle romantics”, he grew up without really knowing what romanticism is, and over the years we have learned to, by my side lower expectations and by his, put a little more effort.
After 18 years together we know more or less how romantic days like Valentine’s Day, Anniversaries, and Birthdays will unfold, usually by me planning something romantic and he trying to support me. I know that waiting for him to plan it all is not a fair expectation, but it is only fair that he be enthusiastic if I am the one who is planning the occasion.
When our partners are less romantic than we are, we have to have patience and understand how their minds and emotions work and work with communication so that they can understand what that special planned moment means for us (the more romantic kind).
For example, I may receive flowers once a year (if any), but he writes and calls me during the day, every day. He makes coffee early on Sundays and take care of the children or household chores so that I have my free time and enjoy them as I please. Those are the details that I have learned to appreciate because they come from a genuine loving place in his heart, and all the little candles in the world melt when compared to his daily attention to me.
My advice to you in the event that your partner is not so romantic is not to press for romanticism, but learn to see romance on a day-to-day basis and if you want your movie night, or fancy dinner, or bathtub filled with rose petals, then plan it yourself together with your partner and enjoy every minute of it.
This question has been on my mind for a very long time, the reason I think this question often pops in my head is that I have vivid memories that are strongly attached to specific songs, each time I hear these songs, my soul goes time traveling back to that moment and I feel encapsulated with all the colors, people and places of that time. Which song/moment combo comes to you when you think about it? It can be a sad, happy, lonely, coming-of-age moment, or just powerful enough to find its place in your memories. My Top 3 moments and their songs are:
1.Place: Street Car in New Orleans Band: Duncan Dhu (all songs)
I studied Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the University of New Orleans and one year into my studies I moved to an apartment in uptown New Orleans with my best friend. While living in uptown meant we were closer to our Panamanian friends and Bourbon Street with all its glory, it meant also that I was far from where the University was and had no car, so for a full year, I took the Streetcar (from beginning to end which is approx 1 hr) and then a bus that would take me across the city until reaching the University campus. I went back and forth every day while listening to Duncan Dhu, a Spanish band and one of my old-time favorite’s. I had a big collection of their records so I was always changing the CD on my CD player (oh yeah!!) and never ever getting tired.
I have one perfect memory of being in the Streetcar, passing through Audubon Park in Saint Charles Avenue while listening to A Tientas, with my head resting on the window. Its been 20 years since that time and the memory remains the same. It is one of my favorite memories because although I felt tired, lonely, and overwhelmed with the studies, and uncertain about the future, the song lyrics and melody allowed my soul to sing giving me profound hope for the next chapter in my life.
2. Place: New Orleans Song: Late in the Evening by Paul Simon (in Concert)
When I was 14 years old my dad introduced me to Simon and Garfunkel and was love at first sight. I barely spoke English but the album Bridge Over Troubled Water had a special place in my music collection. With the years I was able to slowly collect more albums and the album The Concert in Central Park became my favorite. In 2001, when I was living in New Orleans Paul Simon came to Jazz Fest and he was giving a concert and of course, I wanted to go. I could not get one person to come with me so I asked my then-boyfriend to drop me off and pick me up after the concert to which he agreed. I remember I had bought the cheapest ticket and was on the second floor, but since I was by myself I slowly moved my way down and placed myself in the center of the fourth row. It was magical. Seeing all these people singing Paul Simon’s songs was unbelievable to me. And then he played Late in the Evening and the people exploded and I was there, dancing, singing, seeing Paul Simon singing while playing his guitar was unbelievable, it was a moment of excitement, of pure joy, of pure greatness. No matter where I am, every time I hear this song, I smile… I fill myself with love and joy and happiness… Thank you, Paul Simon.
3. Place: Driving in our car Song: Everything will change
We have been fans of Gavin Degraw’s music for years. We have all his albums and we constantly listen to him in the house or while driving. My husband and kids are huge fans too which makes it super easy to ask Google to play his music at any time. He is our to-go-artist when the four of us are together. My husband always dreamed of buying a convertible and after saving money for a couple of years we were able to buy one. One beautiful morning, we went for a ride, with the top down, the wind blowing, the sun shining, and Gavin Degraw’s Everything will change playing out loud. I captured this moment in video and this moment represents fulfillment, joy, happiness, and love. I catch my husband every now and then watching the video with a big smile on his face, holding on to that moment in time in which as a family, we felt whole, we felt connected and we felt loved. The kids are much older now and although their love for Gavin Degraw and especially this song has not diminished, this moment in time will forever be ours.
I believe in the power of music, on the power of songwriting, from been a teenager and listening to Sublime, to Ruben Blades (of course best ever), to singing Regueton with my oldest son, or reaching for Pearl Jam during traffice time, music plays an important moment in my life. So what about you? Which are the songs that connect you with that special memory time and time again?
Learning to be organized has been a learning curve for me. When I look early on my marriage I wonder how my husband could have been so patient with my slow development into been a more organized person. As I had kids and my job became more demanding, I honestly and sadly can say that my improvement in being organized was minimal. With that said, a lot of things just did not get done and very important areas of my life were just been attended when no longer could be ignored. As I said, I and organization have come a long way… It was on my 10th wedding anniversary, when I turned 35, that a switch was turned on in me… I needed to work towards improving areas of my life that felt chaotic. But where to begin? I turned to books and magazines that were about been organized. I learned to be patient with myself as I learned that it takes time to save time and that been organized is a process that is different for all of us. We all have different priorities and therefore how we organize our lives reflects our day to day as a person, a professional, a parent, a son or daughter, a friend, a spouse, a caregiver, etc. It works differently for all of us.
So below are the areas that at some point or other can be improved by taking the time to be organized:
Meal Plan: Simple but effective. I remember for years I will plan dinner the same day. I will, therefore, have to go to the supermarket almost every day for one or two or ten things that I needed. When I started organizing my meal plan for the week I was instantly rewarded with extra time and less stress. Additionally, organizing a meal plan provides me with the ability to stick to my budget and along the way, save money. It also allows me to be creative in the kitchen and try new recipes. I usually plan my meal plan on Sundays. I search for recipes (usually recipe books, magazines, and websites) and write down day by day the recipe and at the same time make the grocery list that goes with it. I have a planner for this and helps out when all goes into the same place including the recipes that “worked” vs the ones that were not as good or as simple or as fast as expected
Pantry and Closets: Organizing my pantry is a pain that I endured every couple of months. As mentioned I am the opposite of organization so when I do it, it’s great but it gradually tends to gravitate back to chaos, so every few months I have to roll my sleeve and get to it again. However, every time I am done I feel like a champion. Same with cabinets where we keep our kitchen tools, pots, and pans, closets or our laundry room, it all starts great and gradually becomes a mess, and again and again I take the time to reorganize it.
House Cleaning: Nowadays you can find a really good home cleaning checklists and guidelines online. There are plenty in Pinterest, and also apps that can guide you into a daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annual and annual cleaning schedule. I do use my home planner to keep track of what I have done and what needs to be done, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. My kids and husband are part of the planning as well with each one taking on the different tasks as needed. Keeping our house tidy and clean has exponentially improved our quality of life and if we keep a daily and weekly schedule it becomes daily maintenance instead of daily cleaning.
Garage: We have a three-car garage and our goal was to be able to put our three cars on it and we did. We had to move things around, choosing between what we “need” and “don’t’ need” and going to Ikea and other places that specialized in small spaces to come with our own system, but it worked. Between labeled bins, bikes on the wall and tons of wall hooks we have three cars in the garage. Mission accomplished
School and Sports Activities: As my kid’s weekly newsletters from school are posted and sports emails are sent with all the upcoming practices and game schedules, I put everything on my calendar. I set reminders 2 days in advance for any signup or volunteer activity I sign up for. I check upcoming tests, projects, homework that my kids have and put it on my calendar as to be aware of and be sure it gets done. I work hard on trying to make my kids organized as well, asking them to keep tap of what is coming up in their agendas. My google home is great at making a quick introduction every morning with what is to be expected or done that day.
Home Finances: This was a big learning curve that unfortunately took too many late payments fees to make me pay attention and be organized. I have used several apps, but I usually use my bank app and a Google spreadsheet, as well as a home planner (the same as the meal planner). I take two days a week to sit down and do the math and maintain taps on our spending, as well as make sure that bills are up to date and our saving goals are on track. At the end of the month a review all the info and make a smile or frown depending on the end-of-the-month results.
These are the main areas that have provided me with a rewarding feeling. They were not easy and is a daily, weekly and monthly task that I am committed to. Ever since improving my organizational skills the house is more functional, the family is working in a more efficient manner, we are saving money and time, and most importantly, I am not so overloaded with last-minute errands that could have been planned and executed in a more productive way.
I have been thinking about ways to engage with you, the reader, and have decided to do, every Thursday, a “Question of the Week” segment, in which I will ask a fun, insightful, interesting and hopefully smart question that will challenge you to answer it. You can answer it out loud on the spot, use it for your journal entry, or just reflect on it for the next couple of hours or days.
The intention is to invite you to reflect and make you aware of your thoughts and feelings while you answer the question… creating a mini mindful moment.
The question of this week is: If you had an extra hour every day, how would you spend it?
When we ask ourselves this question, we tend to gravitate towards those actions or activities that we “keep putting off” mostly because of the “lack of time”. Some of the most common answers are:
I would exercise
I would cook a healthy dinner
I would take time to converse with my husband and children (or parents or friends)
I would study to further my education (go back to school or a work-related course)
I would practice meditation or work towards mindfulness
I would start my own business
I would start a hobby (or go back to it)
This question, when we answer it honestly, can reveal things that are sincerely important to us since we are no longer blaming the “lack of time” as the culprit for not doing them.
Think about that extra time and what you would do with it. Maybe you will realize what is truly important to you, and rearranging your schedule to make it happen can be something worth looking into. All is possible within our reach and our time schedule. Yes, we do need to rearrange and prioritize, but we can do it.
Today is our 15th Wedding Anniversary. It has been a crazy, wonderful, inspiring, and daring journey. When I first think about it it seems like the time has flown by, but when I look deeper it has been a long ride to where we are now. During these 15 years we have accomplished greatness and loss greatly, we have been the happiest and also the saddest, we have been the strongest and also the weakest, we have grown and therefore we have changed.
We have changed physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. We survived losing it all to Hurricane Katrina and kept it together when moving to Houston. We have learned to rely on each other, to make strong the walls of our self-made family bubble. We have seen and felt our priorities change over and over, we have made unforgivable mistakes and we have forgiven them.
We became parents and made us humble, made us grateful, made us vulnerable, but we built a front with a one-parent unit, always making decisions together, always on the same page, always supporting each other. We have learned to talk through issues, listen to each other minor complains and pay attention to the major concerns.
I can remember clearly that January 8, in New Orleans, in our newly bought home with scarce furniture, with our closest family and friends gathered around us, completely clueless of what was to come, but certain that you were the one.
We have changed, hopefully, we are now wiser and kinder, we have more wrinkles, more white hair, more fashion mishaps that we want to accept…
We learned that to maintain our love together we need to adapt and readapt to ourselves as we grow and change our perspectives and interests. We understand love will always be fragile and delicate, but strong enough to propel us to an unknown tomorrow with confidence.
I love you, 15 years later, you are still the sexiest man in the room and the butterflies, maybe they migrate from time to time and with no specific pattern but always come back, fluttering inside of me, reminding me of my love for you.