Thursday, April 28, 2011

4-28-11 - did I run a marathon and forget about it?

I had a private tennis class on Monday that nearly did me in. And then I had a tennis class with a girlfriend on Tuesday, and that really nearly did me in.

The tennis coach made us do all these squats in order to hit low balls. If I heard "bend your knees, Susana, bend your knees" once, I heard it 62 times over the course of 1.5 hours.

By the time I got home, I could barely climb the stairs to our second floor to take a shower. And forget about sitting down for any period of time and then trying to stand back up. My thigh muscles were just seized up.

By the time I rolled out of bed on Wednesday morning, it hurt just to touch my thighs. Don't get me started on how much it hurt to walk. I effected a very strange gait that involved hoisting each leg up without really bending my knee because when you bend your knee, you streeeetch that thigh muscle out. OUCH.

Wednesday was a rest day from tennis, but I didn't feel nearly recuperated enough to return to class today. But I went and immediately started complaining about my aches and pains as soon as I saw Jose. I needed for him to know that we weren't doing squats or any such nonsense today.

We had the best class yet. After a few days of feeling like I'd lost my entire tennis game and conditioning during a 2-week vacation, I needed/wanted a boost and this class gave it to me. All we did was hit the ball for an hour and I wasn't half-bad.

Well, there was that one time the ball went over the court fence and scared the gardener, but I think he had it coming because he was being very distracting with his weedeating.

For a great tennis class that I really enjoyed, I am truly thankful.

P.S. My thighs still feel like I've run a marathon, but thankfully all I have to do tomorrow is watch the Royal Wedding on the couch! I am so excited about this wedding but more on that later!

4-27-11 - an ordinary day

Today was an ordinary day of breakfast with girlfriends followed by a group trip to the best butcher shop in town. No drama, no histrionics. Just normal life in nice company on a nice sunny day in Bogota. For all that, I am truly thankful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NYR 4-26-11 - chicken bog

Jimmy is the chicken bog cooker in our family. If you don't know what chicken bog is, you aren't from the lowcountry of South Carolina or you haven't traveled to the lowcountry sufficiently to partake of this yummy comfort food of rice, chicken and sausage all cooked together.

In the last 6 months or so, Mac has come to love chicken bog. That pesky sausage used to upset him, but now he eats it with great relish.

So on Saturday when we returned to Bogota, he wanted Jimmy to make chicken bog that very night. We canned that idea in favor of a quick meal at our local Italian restaurant, and I promised to make it this week to make him happy.

Yesterday I made a big pot of it, part of which Mac and I ate last night while Jimmy was out at a work dinner. Jimmy called to check in just as we were finishing dinner, and I told him that we'd eaten chicken bog but that it wasn't as good as his.

Mac butted in and said "it was just as delicious as Daddy's".

For being just as good a chicken bog cooker as Daddy, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brazilian vacation photos!

To check out our photos from the Brazil vacation, please go here.

(I hope the link works like Facebook says it does!)

NYR 4-25-11 - the worst tennis lesson in history

I really am meant to live at sea level. I love being able to take deep breaths and feeling like my lungs are completely full. I love running around on the beach, playing paddle ball, and never gasping for air.

Needless to say, living at 8500 feet is not my cup of tea.

Coming back after 2 weeks away at sea level STINKS. (Coming back to this altitude stinks, not just coming back in general. I am happy to be back home.)

Today I had my first tennis class in more than two weeks and it was miserable from start to finish. For starters, I couldn't catch my breath. For seconds, I couldn't hit the ball. I'm sure this is a direct result of a lack of oxygen to my brain; the synapses were unable to fire to make my brain tell my arm to swing the racquet at the right moment.

It honestly was, I'm sure, the single worst tennis class in the history of tennis classes all over the world.

There was one point where I wanted to cry.


It was that bad.

And I'm going back for more punishment tomorrow.

For the ability to play tennis, even poorly, at 8500 feet without collapsing into a big heap, I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-24-11 - Happy Easter!

I love Easter. I love spring and newness and that fresh, pretty green that's recently emerged after a long winter in the US.

Easter, to me, represents hope and rebirth and great promise, and for that, I am very thankful.

NYR 4-23-11 - all good things must come to an end

Today we got a 5am flight back to Sao Paulo for our return flight back to Bogota.


A perfect vacation ended.

Part of the point of our trip to Sao Paulo for me was to get over the enormous nostalgia and sense of longing that I still have for there. As they say in Portuguese, I wanted to matar saudades, or kill that deep nostalgia/missing/void.

In short, that didn't happen.

We had such a great time catching up with a lot of the people that made our two years there so amazing.

Even though we didn't matar saudades, I am truly thankful that I still love the place and the people as much in reality as I do in my memories.

NYR 4-22-11 - Good Friday

Today was Good Friday and as in previous Good Fridays that we spent with the Freitas family, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of bacalhau (or cod fish). This is Jimmy's most favorite holiday meal in Brazil, so he was especially pleased. And I was especially pleased because I think I sort of learned how to make it for future Good Fridays that may not be spent in Rio Preto!

For sharing great family traditions with our Brazilian family, I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-21-11 - lazy days at the pool

Fabio's parents have recently moved into a spectacular home. The whole place is like something out of a magazine spread and perfectly integrates indoor and outdoor living. It's exactly the kind of house Jimmy and I would want to build for our retirement.

If we retire somewhere else besides coastal South Carolina.

Because the bugs and mosquitoes and no-see-ums would devour us there if we truly had indoor/outdoor space without screens.

But I digress.

Anyway, the pool area at this house is the most fabulous pool area ever. I honestly could live out there.

For hot sun, blue skies, and a refreshing pool in which to dip, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

NYR 4-20-11 - our Brazilian "family"

Twenty-plus years ago, Fabio Freitas was an exchange student in Moncks Corner. My time as an exchange student in Melbourne, Australia overlapped Fabio's in Moncks Corner by 6 months so I didn't get to know him until the end of his year there. Jimmy and Fabio were great friends and spent a lot of time together during that year.

One of the first things we did when we moved to Brasilia in 2005 was to re-connect with Fabio who lives in the city of Rio Preto in Sao Paulo state. Fabio and his wife Claudia visited us in Brasilia once and we visited them in Rio Preto once over the course of our time in Brasilia.

Then we moved to Sao Paulo and Rio Preto was just a 4-hour drive away, so we spent many long weekends and holidays with Fabio and his extended family there. It's there that I met Gisele, my BBFF and Fabio's older sister who lives in Sao Paulo. Meeting her and her husband and their girls opened up so much for us in Sao Paulo. It really was a huge part of the reason that we all loved our time in that city so much.

And having our Brazilian "family" was so special. They included us in holiday events as if we were blood. And so it was a no-brainer that when we planned our return trip to Sao Paulo for vacation that we would go to Rio Preto for Easter weekend.

We flew in on Wednesday afternoon, were met at the airport by Fabio, and went straight to Fabio's parents' house to spend a few nights. It was such a special reunion with Dona Amelia and Sr. Daniel, Fabio and Claudia and their girls, and Fabio's younger sister Simone and her husband Caca and their children. Gisele, Flavio and their girls drove in later that evening.

For happy reunions with such dear friends, I am truly grateful.

NYR 4-19-11

Today Mac went with his good friend Andre to his old school for the day. (As a point of reference, Andre and his family were some of the folks we hung out with at Disney World last February when Jimmy was in Afghanistan. They are enormously fun people and Mac adores Andre.)

Mac wasn't entirely convinced he wanted to spend all day - or even 10 minutes - at school, so we agreed that we'd follow Andre's mom to school (with Mac in her car with Andre and her older son), let him say hello to his old friends and then leave. By the time we pulled in the parking lot, he didn't even know we existed. He happily spent the day at school, went to soccer practice with Andre and back to their house until we got there for an 8pm dinner. Another great day in the life of a little boy.

Meanwhile, Jimmy got caught up with folks at the consulate and I got caught up with folks at the apartment complex's salon over a mani/pedi appointment. We reconvened for a lunch date at our neighborhood Italian restaurant, rested a bit and then went to Andre's house for a grown-up dinner with Andre's parents and two other couples who were friends in Sao Paulo. It was amazing food in an amazing house in amazing company.

Again, again, again, for great friends, I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-18-11 - Mac's great day

Mac had the great pleasure to play with his buddy Michael all day long today. Laura let Michael play hooky since Mac was in town and those boys had a ball. Laura took them to lunch at Outback (one of Mac's favorites), they rode scooters on the complex's basketball court, and they played video games together. Mac also had an after-school playdate with two brothers in the complex that he used to go to school with. In other words, it was a perfect day in the life of an 8 year-old boy!

And Jimmy and I enjoyed lunch with friends and a dinner out that included friends from Sao Paulo, Brasilia and Mozambique days. We had such a great time catching up.

For great days with great friends, I am truly thankful.

I am also grateful for being able to show Mac that with a little effort, we can reconnect with people that we've had to say goodbye to. It's a powerful lesson in this very transient lifestyle we're leading.

NYR 4-17-11 - catching up with friends!

We returned from the beach to Sao Paulo in record time and went straight to stay with friends in our old apartment complex. The Tonks family are just good people. They arrived in Sao Paulo the same time as us, courtesy of General Motors. We attended the same church, had many mutual friends, and enjoyed a lot of great times together. And even though their children went to another school, Mac quickly became good friends with their son who is a year older.

For great friends who we caught up with like we'd just seen them yesterday and not nearly two years ago, I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-16-11 - a great day at the beach with friends

On Friday night, my BBFF and her family (really our BBFFs all the way around) joined us at the beach for the weekend. We enjoyed a great sushi dinner our and went to bed early to prepare for today, which turned out to be a perfectly glorious day at the beach. Consulate friends also drove over for the day so Mac had young playmates which kept him entertained for hours, and Jimmy and I had old(er) playmates, which kept us entertained for hours.

For a beautiful day on a beautiful beach with beautiful friends, I am truly thankful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

NYR 4-15-11 and the tax man cometh

Okay, so I know taxes really aren't due until Monday for whatever reason this year, but I can tell you that I am so happy to be sitting on a beach in Brazil on Tax Day. Hurray for Uncle Sam and all he's done for me.

And no, I'm not being facetious. Jimmy might not be the highest-paid of our friends (and in fact, is in the beginning of a 2-year pay freeze because of all this budgetary nonsense), but our quality of life is pretty good, based on what I'm looking at right now.

For Jimmy's working for The Man - and for actually having a job in this economy! - I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-14-11 - cheesburger in paradise

Last night we ate at one of our old Juquehy haunts, Beach Burger. The cheeseburger was soooooo much better than I remembered. It probably would have been perfect had I ordered a chocolate milkshake to go with it.

For a yummy cheeseburger in paradise, I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-13-11

Today we added a newly-purchased-from-the-grocery-store boogie board to the mix and it made our blue sky day at the beach even better. That, and the amazing fried fish fingers we indulged in.

For another perfect day at the beach, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NYR 4-12-11 - hellooooo sunshine!

For six blissful, blue-sky-filled hours on the beach in Juquehy,

interrupted by the occasional dozing off,
snacks of corn and fried shrimp,
paddle ball wars,
an aborted surfing lesson,
walks down the beach,
and swimming in the warm ocean,

I am thankful in a way that you cannot even begin to imagine!!!

NYR 4-11-11 - Liberdade and the beach

Today we made a quick visit to Liberdade, the Japanese part of the city. Gisele mentioned going, and I jumped onboard because the one thing that I didn't buy before leaving SP that I wanted was these beautiful little dessert places from a market in Liberdade. So today I got my dessert plates and some hard-to-find (in Bogota) Asian ingredients, and some beautiful little bowls to use for serving nuts and whatnot and I was a happy girl, and for that, I am truly thankful.

Lots to be thankful for today because we also took off for my favorite beach spot in the area. We came to Juquehy to spend 6 days and it feels like heaven. We checked into out usual pousada and got a regular's welcome back. It was very nice.

The beach is as beautiful as ever and is practically empty since it's a weekday/non-holiday, so it's ando peaceful, too. It's like heaven, I tell you, and for that I am truly thankful!

NYR 4-10-11 - a day around the city

For the best church service I've been to in nearly two years, for a divine churrascaria lunch with friends afterwards, for a quick visit with consulate friends, and for dinner at my most favorite pizza place in the world (BRAZ!) with the BBFF, I am truly thankful!

P.S. The eating that I did in two days in Sao Paulo was criminal!

NYR 4-9-11 - helloooooo sao paulo!

We landed in Sao Paulo on time, got all our luggage, and after a very, very long car rental check-out, we were on our way to the Spinola household. I have never survived in Sao Paulo without my beloved GPS, aka Norah, and let me just tell you that printed-out maps from Google Maps just do not cut it. We were lost and found and re-lost and re-found, but eventually we got to Gisele and Flavio's house while we were all still speaking - a good thing at the start of vacation!

For a great visit with my BBFF and her family and an amazing lunch at my FARF (Favorite Arabic Restaurant Forever!), I am truly thankful.

For coming to a place that feels like home even after two years away, I am truly thankful.

For being in a place where it's perfectly acceptable to wear flipflops, I am truly thankful!

NYR 4-8-11 - happy trails to me

For absolutely zero problems with flight check-in, for no cancellations, and for a FRIENDLY Brazilian airline agent, I am soooo grateful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

here we come, Brazil!

Just a quick little note to let you know that we're leaving tonight for Brazil for Mac's school vacation. They get 2 weeks off at Easter for some crazy reason, so we are taking advantage! We'll fly out around midnight tonight and spend the next 2 weeks between Sao Paulo, our favorite beach in Juquehy and Rio Preto. I'm sure I'll chat with you during the trip, but just in case... Have a happy Easter!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

the emails continue. oh my.

Jimmy and Mac just checked Mac's email account, and the following email showed up (in big red letters with the same lovey-dovey emoticons as before):

"mac did you read the second sentens on the first email that said I like you
yes or no." (English isn't her first language.)

This is the 21st century equivalent of a "check the box" love note.

Sweet Lord, have mercy on me.

P.S. Jimmy asked Mac if he was going to respond and he said no. Thank goodness for small favors.

NYR 4-7-11 - tennis

For a great tennis lesson that, on one hand, made me feel every bit of my 40 years and on the other hand, made me feel much younger just for being able to keep up, I am truly thankful.

NYR 4-6-11 - a fun book club

Today was not such a great day, but it ended well at a very fun book club. I had a great time (and the delicious tacos the hostess served didn't hurt either). For a lot of laughing after a long day, I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NYR 4-5-11 - a yummy supper

Jimmy's on an overnight trip so Mac and I had our lazy Dad's-away supper. This means cheese burritos for Mac.


Not even cheese quesadillas which require some semblance of cooking.

Just cheese and microwaved tortillas.

And who I am to argue? It means no cooking and relatively little clean-up. He's happy, I'm happy and while he's basically eaten nothing but protein and calcium, it's just one night and one night won't kill him.


For myself, I heated up some refried beans, cut the corn off the cobs we grilled the other night, made guacamole, and added a little monterrey jack for some de-lish little burritos. That grilled corn made all the difference. Well that, and all the guacamole I dumped on. It was just me and a few of my favorite things.

For yummy, simple suppers, I am truly thankful (and full).

NYR 4-4-11 - Mac's email

Yesterday afternoon Mac wanted to check his email account because a girl in his class told him she'd sent him an email.

(For the record, Mac only has an email account because it's required for school. They're trying to teach things like internet safety.)

Mac got logged on and read the email from his friend, which I read over his shoulder with his permission.

It was written in red (which she said in the email was her favorite color.)

It included the words "Mac you are very funny. I like you."

Which was followed by the following emoticons:


Now I'm sure that this is 2nd grader innocence, but my child got an email that has a kissing emoticon with a heart floating up from it, a red rose, and a big smooch emoticon.

The only thing missing was "will you go with me? Please check yes or no." Oh wait. I'm showing my age. These things probably aren't done that way anymore.

And maybe I'm just reading entirely too much into this. Mac was completely unfazed by the whole thing. He answered the email (his favorite color was blue; yes, he had a great time at Fun Day; and his favorite thing at Fun Day was the go-carts). No red hearts, no roses, and no kissing pac-man faces. Whew.

For an 8 year-old boy who is completely oblivious, I am so truly thankful.

Monday, April 4, 2011

NYR 4-3-11 - cock-a-leekie soup!

Jimmy needed to work today to catch up on all those days he missed because of our extended vacation to SC and party preparation on Friday, so Mac and I accepted an invitation to lunch with a Scottish friend and her family. I met Lisa when we first got here, but I don't see her nearly often enough to suit me.

We had such a great time - Mac played Wii with their girls and I enjoyed really funny and interesting adult company with Lisa and her husband. And we all ate the most delicious Cock-a-Leekie Soup. Don't know what Cock-a-Leekie Soup is? Well it's a traditional Scottish soup of chicken (the cockerel part), leeks (the leekie part), and rice. Totally yummy!

For a great Sunday lunch with friends, I am truly thankful.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

NYR 4-2-11 - fun day!

Today Mac's school planned a "Fun Day" at a local amusement park/playground-type place. We had such a great time. It was another beautiful day in the 70s with blue skies. We got to visit with friends, and Mac got to run around and ride rides like go-carts and bumper boats. A good time was had by all and for that, I am truly thankful!

Mac in the lead

super slide fun

old-school fun

fun on the bumper boats

visiting the farm and milking the cow

Saturday, April 2, 2011

NYR 4-1-11 - my 40th birthday!

Today was a GREAT day. Quite possibly the best birthday I've ever had. So good, in fact, that I'm trying to figure out how I can turn 40 every year.

Here are the highlights:

8:00am - I take a shower and because I'm trying to baby my new eyes and not get water or shampoo in them, I obviously neglect other parts of my body and end up stepping out of the shower with the worst kink in the neck that I've ever had. I wonder if things are going to start failing on body so soon after turning 40.

(Note: this is one of only two negative things that happen all day. This is NOT a negative post.)

9:00am - Follow-up with Dr. A where 24 hours after surgery, I'm declared to have 20/20 vision with no evidence of myopia. HURRAY!

12:00 - Most of my favorite Bogota girlfriends take me to lunch at one of my favorite Bogota restaurants. I eat a Philly Cheesesteak with french fries. It is so delicious and I don't worry for one second what all those fat grams are doing to my 40 year-old cellulite collection.

Things start going a little weird after lunch. The girls take me back to one of their apartments where we wait for a driver who drives us all out of town for an afternoon surprise. I have no idea where we're going, but we end up at Guatavita which is where Mac's overnight camping trip was a few months ago. We hike up the mountain and it is beautiful. The temperature is in the 70s, the skies are blue and the company is better - and funnier - than you can possibly imagine!

I even see a rainbow on this rainless day, which I know beyond the shadow of a doubt is my dad singing me "Happy Birthday" from his perch in heaven.

5:15pm - we start driving back to Bogota. I think it's a little odd that Jimmy doesn't call to check in on my whereabouts. He came home early from work to be there when Mac got home from school so I could be on my afternoon field trip.

6:45pm - The girls drop me off first. I go upstairs, turn the key, open the door, and see a whole bunch of people and a lot of balloons in my apartment. They may or may not have screamed "surprise", but I honestly cannot remember because I was so shell-shocked. All I could think was that I probably smelled from sweating on the afternoon field trip. That and I had cow poop on my shoes from the afternoon field trip (unknowingly stepping in cow poop and unknowingly getting it all over Cammy's car floor mat was the second bad thing that happened today).

Photos follow of the grand entrance as captured by Jimmy. (Clearly the shock is so great that I cannot seem to close my mouth.)

I greet all these wonderful people, quickly change clothes into my new dress (that I thought I would wear on Saturday night which is when I thought we were having the birthday dinner out), put on some fresh deodorant, and enjoy my party. Jimmy completely outdid himself. He ordered a huge paella and even hired waiters! Great food, great cake made by my dear and multi-talented friend Kerali, and great friends. How can a girl be so lucky?

the paella

the very delicious and very appropriate birthday cake - I LOVED the thought that went into this!

For happy birthday celebrations, I am truly and exuberantly thankful.

NYR 3-31-11 - NEW eyes!.

Me as Super Fly with Mac for back-up support

Today was Surgery Day and I was sooooo nervous. But having paid the fee the day before and not being one to lose a significant amount of money because of nerves, I had to go through with the procedure.

Jimmy took me to the surgery center at 8am for surgery that was supposed to start at 8:45. I had barely checked in when they told me to take off my jewelry and leave it with Jimmy and come on back. This was a good thing because there was no time to sit around and think about the lasers that were getting ready to burn my corneas up.

I realized very quickly that this was more serious than I expected. They made me change into scrubs, complete with that hairnet thing and booties to cover my feet. They'd said to wear comfortable clothes and so I assumed I'd just stay in my clothes and not actually look like I was going into surgery. (As a side note, the scrubs were very comfortable and pretty high-quality and I kind of wished they'd let me take them home.)

Next step was getting all these eye drops put in my eyes. Some were topical anesthetic (to which I said "double up the dose please") and some were antibiotic (or at least that's what I think she said). They took my blood pressure, which must have been normal despite the fact that I honestly felt like I couldn't breathe.

Then they escorted me back to the operating room. I saw Dr. A scrubbing in outside the room, just like he was on an episode of ER. He even had that little surgical hat thing on that George Clooney always wore and ripped off his head when something went wrong in the ER.

Where I got the idea that I was just going to be in street clothes, sitting in a opthalmaologist's chair, with Dr. A in his suit, wielding what looked like a dental pick, lasering up my eyes, I REALLY HAVE NO IDEA. None of what I saw looked like anything in my surgical daydreams.


Like very medical and sterile and high-tech.

I asked before going in if I could listen to my iPod (on low volume, of course) because I really thought some Enya would relax me and I could practice deep breathing as if I were in a yoga class. (I'd already asked if I could take a Valium and Dr. A said no to that.) The nurse said no to the music, but assured me that I wouldn't need the music because they play ambient music in the operating room.

Let me tell you there was no Enya playing. It was this very futuristic, Star Wars sort of music that made me feel like I was in a science fiction movie.

I had to lay on this table with my head nestled into one of those things that you put in a baby's crib to keep him from rolling over in his sleep.

The instructions were simple: all I had to do was focus on the red blinking light, which was in the robot-like thing stationed over my head. If I had lifted my head up quickly, I would have busted my forehead open. I.WAS.TRAPPED.

Dr. A is so soothing and confident and keeps telling you that you're doing great and that everything's going perfectly that you feel a sense of peace.

But then he tapes your eyelashes open and puts this separator in your eye so it can't close or blink. And you know you're really trapped. And that your eyeball is getting ready to be burned. And that if you try to escape, you will likely require stitches in your forehead or at least have a bloody nose. And your eyeballs will be burned forever by the laser striking the wrong part because you moved.

You feel pressure on your eyeball, the laser starts, you smell burning, the blinking red light is suddenly splayed into a million blinking red lights and you think at that moment that your cornea is cut open, you stay very still then because you don't want to ruin anything at this critical moment, Dr. A dries out your eye, you feel him poking around the center of your eyeball and assume he's pressing it closed (or whatever you do to get that corneal flap to stay shut), and then he announces that one eye is done.

It seemed like it had hardly even started.

The second eye goes as smoothly and painlessly.

Dr. A announces that the surgery is all over and has gone perfectly. Your eyelids are taped shut, you get mini cups taped over your eyes for protection which means you can see nothing, and you realize how terribly awful it will be to be blind and you pray possibly harder than you've ever prayed for anything in your life that you're not blind when Dr. A takes off the bandages this afternoon. Your blood pressure is checked again and it must still be normal because they say you can leave. You're escorted to the dressing room where Jimmy helps you get dressed in your clothes because sadly they don't let you keep the scrubs. And then they send you home.

Just like that.

Not 10 minutes after the surgery is over, you're being led like a blind person to the car and you vow to yourself to give money to every blind panhandler you ever see again in the future. Being blind stinks.

You come home, lay on the couch for hours and doze off and on with the Food Network on in the background. You know that time is passing only because every time you wake up, you hear a new host's voice. Ruth keeps checking on you and keeps layering blankets on top of your slumbering body until you are not only blind but trapped under pounds of wool.

Finally it's time to go back to the doctor's office to get the bandages off for the moment of truth.

Jimmy came back from work to escort me to the doctor's office and since he didn't know where the entrance to the building was and he didn't understand my blind girl hand directions, we went all the way around the building for absolutely no reason. I learn quickly that wasted steps are a terrible thing to a blind person. And I know people are staring at my cupped eyes and wondering what terrible fate struck me. Which makes me even more self-conscious.

We entered Dr. A's office, he removed the patches, and I.COULD.SEE.

Like I could read his Emory University diploma from across the room.

What a miracle. What a marvel of modern medicine.

For renewed good eyesight and the kind, caring demeanor of a lovely doctor, I am truly thankful.

NYR 3-30-11 - glad to be home

For flights that worked, for a successful pre-op doctor's appointment and for sleeping in my own bed, I am truly thankful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

NYR 3-29-11 - great haircuts and fast cars

Before our trip started, I rented us two cars. Jimmy was to drive this teeny little rental from his Thursday night arrival until Saturday afternoon. I had rented a slightly bigger car for Mac and me to pick up on Friday night and keep through our departure on Monday morning.

Jimmy got to the airport rental counter and the Budget guy saw a sucker in front of him. He said that they had a brand new Mustang in the lot and he'd rent it to Jimmy for just a little bit of an upsell.


Jimmy bought it hook, line, and sinker and paid the upcharge because he "is 40 years old and has never driven a Mustang before".

Jimmy cancelled my rental car and extended the Mustang rental through Monday, which turned to Tuesday, which turned to Wednesday. Needless to say, we made a car payment for a 6-day Mustang rental. But it was fun to drive, even if it looks like a mid-life crisis car.

Did I mention it was red?

And still had the paper tags on it?

And it only had 300 miles on it when he got it?

Can you say MID-LIFE CRISIS?

So while we got to drive a fancy car for a long time during this extended vacation, there was one major disappointment for me in all the discombobulation: my haircut appointment with my fabulous hairdresser, Luanne, was cancelled. Luanne doesn't normally work on Saturdays but she'd graciously ofered to come in and cut my hair at 9am on Saturday morning. I got that appointment cancelled on Friday afternoon in Bogota when I wasn't sure whether we'd make it to CHS by Saturday morning. I hated the idea of her getting up early and coming in on her day off just to find out that I was stuck in Miami.

The salon is closed on Sunday and Monday, so there was no way to reschedule since we were supposed to leave at 6:15am on Tuesday morning.

The singular bright, shining benefit of the Tuesday flight cancellation is that I got my haircut on Tuesday afternoon. I was soooo happy that Luanne fit me in. The stress of the trip was almost erased by those 40 minutes in the salon chair.

So for fast cars and great haircuts (and the best hairdresser ever), I am truly thankful.

NYR 3-28-11 - another day, another dollar (spent)

When the outbound trip got so bungled, we decided we'd spend an extra day in SC to make up for the day we lost in Miami. So today, Jimmy spent the day with his mom and Mac, and my mom and I went shopping and out for lunch.

While we were eating lunch, Mom's cell phone rang. She wasn't going to answer it because it was an unknown 800 number, but I insisted.

Turns out it was an American Airlines automated call, telling us that our new flight on Tuesday was cancelled but that we were confirmed for flights on Wednesday.

We came home and I called American to see if we could be re-routed any other way. I got one of the three nice people who work for American Airlines on the phone. She checked all our alternatives (even flying from New York to Lima to Bogota), but everything was booked solid because there were so many people from the past few days already rebooked on these flights.

I had to send Mac's teacher an email to tell him that we were stuck and to please not let them kick Mac out of school because of unexcused absences.

And since we didn't have to go to bed early to get up at the crack of dawn for an early Tuesday morning flight, Mac went back to Jimmy's mom's to spend the night and Jimmy, Mom, and I went to see "The Adjustment Bureau" and to eat wings at The Kickin' Chicken.

For some QT with my mom and for a night at the movies, I'm truly thankful.

NYR 3-27-11 - shopping and eating!

Today, I shopped and ate lots and it was all wonderful. We caught up with family and celebrated early birthdays at Wasabi, and that, too, was wonderful.

I'm not really a negative person (contrary to how these posts are sounding), but the weather in the lowcountry was really just another indication of how ill-fated this trip really was. The week before, it was in the 70s and sunny, but our weekend weather? Rainy and in the 40s. Really glad that the one weekend in 8 months that we came home, the weather was worse at home than in Bogota!

YAY for us again.

For good deals and good food and good family, I am truly thankful.

NYR 3-26-11 - another travel day

Mac and I woke up, ate breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express Boca Raton WEST, and headed out in another $140 taxi to the Miami airport.

I've gotten used to very cheap taxis in Bogota, so to me, $140 in a taxi should have really taken me almost to the Georgia border.

After getting the taxi driver to stop at an ATM for more money, we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

We found a nice American agent who assured us the flight was confirmed and that our luggage was the appropriate size for carry-on (DUH!), and we found our way to the gate.

Because the plane was a little plane, we loaded a bus which took us out to the tarmac to get on our plane.

Except that when the bus parked by the plane, the bus driver told us we needed to wait on the plane because there was a maintenance issue. It might take 10 minutes or 1 hour. If it was a 10-minute fix, we'd get right on the plane, but if it was a 1-hour fix, we'd go back to the terminal to wait.

At this point, I was muttering the Serenity Prayer.

Turns out it was a 10-minute fix and we loaded the plane.

As we were preparing for take-off, the flight attendant announced that due to the fuel situation, we had to stop in Ft. Myers to re-fuel because the plane didn't have enough gas to get us all the way to Charleston.

At this point, my poor sweet Mac rubbed my arm and said "it's going to be okay, Moma" so I wouldn't start crying again. Poor kid.

We took off and landed 25 minutes later in Ft. Myers (and as we landed, I could see the beach and it was so beautiful that I was tempted to stay right there). We ended up getting to Charleston around 3:45pm.

Mac went off for a night with his cousins, and Jimmy and I went off to Charleston for a night with friends. I'm sure I didn't enjoy the evening as much as I should have because I was so tired and emotionally spent.

But for being back home for the first time in eight months, I am truly thankful.

NYR 3-25-11 - the trip that didn't want to be

So today was the major unveiling of the surprise for Mac. We were all going to spend the weekend in Moncks Corner and Mac had no idea. Jimmy left on Thursday night for what Mac thought was a normal business trip and we were following on Friday.

The office driver came to get me at 10am as planned and then we were going to school to pick up Mac and head straight to the aiport.

Except that I got in the car and the driver told me the flight had been cancelled.

So I cried.

And then I re-grouped.

The office magic-worker, officially an "expeditor", was already at the airport to get us checked in and get our boarding passes, and so he was the first to find out that the flight was cancelled.

We knew on Thursday that a big fuel facility at the Miami airport had blown up. But Jimmy's flights went off without a hitch and quite frankly, I never gave that jet fuel fire another thought.

Apparently that jet fuel fire wreaked havoc, though, and created an enormous shortage of fuel for the airport. Our American Airlines plane wasn't able to fly out on Thursday afternoon to spend the night at the Bogota airport to rest up for our Friday morning flight. No airplane = no way to fly to Miami on American Airlines.

So before we left the apartment building driveway, the expeditor and I had both gotten confirmation that we could fly to Miami on LAN. The connection would be very tight but we weren't checking bags, so we were assured we could make the connection to Charleston.

We drove out to Mac's school, I told his teacher what we were doing and I went out to find Mac on the playground. He was very confused as to why I was there and even more confused when I told him we were leaving school and going on a little trip. He wanted to get his backpack and violin but I told him we were leaving them behind.

We started out for the airport, and while my intention had been not to tell him where we were going until he figured it out, I wasn't entirely confident we were going to end up where we were supposed to end up. When he asked for the 12th time where we were going, I told him we were flying on LAN. We've only flown LAN to Argentina, so he automatically guessed that we were going to Buenos Aires.

WRONG. (Although in hindsight, maybe that's where we should have gone!)

I asked him where else LAN flew and he answered "the United States". I then asked him where he'd rather go in the United States more than anything, and he answered "home". I told him we were going home and his eyes immediately got red and watery, so to save face in a good show of maleness, he put his headphones on and looked out the window (but I could see him wiping his eyes).

We arrived at the airport, met the expeditor in the LAN line and made our way up to the counter to get our boarding passes. This is when I knew the trip was ill-fated. We came face to face with the meanest airport agent I've ever met (and I've met A LOT!).

For the first time ever in my life, I'd packed everything we needed into two carry-on bags. We are talking bare minimum. No extras, no "what-if" contingency clothes. I had measured these bags and knew they were within the 45" limit to be considered carry-on for American. There could be no question as to whether these were legal carry-ons.

And then we met the most heinous, meanest agent ever (thanks LAN for that great HR decision) who said the plane was full and that we had to check one of the bags. I told her we had two tickets and were entitled to two carry-on bags. I begged and pleaded and told her that with the change in flight, our once-long layover was down to one hour and 15 minutes and we wouldn't have time to wait for a checked bag. She told me that was American's problem and not hers and that we were only going to be able to carry on one bag so pick which one we wanted to check. I cried to no avail. Ultimately I checked a bag, knowing that unless a miracle happened, we wouldn't make the connection.

And alas, the universe must have been fresh out of miracles on Friday night because we missed the connection.

We got to Miami, cleared Immigration and would have had time to make the connection had we not had to wait 35 minutes for that little bag to come out. Ours was the last bag to exit the plane.

Coincidence? I think not.

I think that mean woman at the LAN counter put a note on it that said to put it in the darkest, deepest part of the luggage hold so it would be the last one to come out.

With our bags, Mac and I took off at a sprint. But we had 12 minutes from the time we got the bag to the time the plane was supposed to take off to go back through security and make our way to the boarding gate. We gave it our best shot. We ran, hitched a ride on one of those airport carts and made it to the gate at 9:18 for a flight that departed at 9:15. (More tears ensued.)

Our next encounter was with a very surly American agent with whom we tried to re-book. The next flight to Charleston was the next afternoon at 1pm so I tried to get a connection to Columbia or Charlotte or anywhere remotely close, but was told that everything was already booked up because there had been so many flight cancellations due to the fuel shortage.

Before we re-booked anything and because my mind was shot and very discombobulated, I decided I needed to talk to Jimmy or my mom. I no longer have a US-based cell phone so we went to a pay phone bank. Do you remember pay phones? Well you should put them out of your mind from here on out because they don't work. I tried to place a collect call to my mom and Jimmy's mom, but their phones don't accept collect calls anymore. I tried to tell the AT&T man that I was sure my mother would accept a collect call from me, but he said her number was blocked against collect calls. I didn't have any US money on me at that point so we had to then find a bank machine, get money, go to a store, and buy a $4 bottle of water so I could get some quarters in change. We went back to the phone bank and the stupid change slot was blocked. I could not get the money to go into the phone to make a pay call.

Now on the plane from Bogota to Miami, Mac and I had discussed the possibility that we might not make the connection and we decided (knowing that we wouldn't get to SC until the next afternoon which would mean we'd have about 36 non-sleeping hours there) that if we didn't make the Friday night connection, we'd blow off SC and go to Disneyworld for 2 days. We even decided we'd spend one day in the Magic Kingdom and one day in Epcot. So I was ready to blow off this snide woman at the American counter and find a rental car to drive to Orlando, but when push came to shove, Mac got upset and said he really wanted to go to SC. So then I had to go back to that mean woman to re-book us on the 1pm flight to Charleston the next afternoon.

After we'd re-booked, I asked her if I could get a hotel voucher from American. She informed me that they were all out of those because they'd had so many stranded passengers. She went on to tell me that there were no hotel rooms available in the Miami area because there were so many stranded passengers. I asked her where I was supposed to spend the night and she said she didn't know, that that was my problem. (Thanks, American Airlines, for that great HR decision.)

I then asked her if there was Wi-Fi anywhere in the airport so I could at least send emails to people to tell them what was going on and to try and find a hotel room. She informed me that the Admirals Club had Wi-Fi. I told her that I didn't have an Admirals Club membership and could she give me a pass. She told me I could buy one. (A big fat double thanks, American, on your employee-of-the-year hiring decision.)

It might have been at this point that I wanted to jump over the counter and hit her. I'm not sure because the flashbacks of wanting to throttle somebody on this trip are so numerous.

I cried (again) and told her I just wanted a little help. She - in a very surly voice - told me that she was trying to help me. Wow, don't do me any favors, lady.

We then set off for the Admirals Club where I intended to cry my way in. Mac asked me on the walk there to please stop crying because I was embarrassing him. Whatever.

Once we got to the Admirals Club, I found the only sympathetic person I met on the whole outbound trip. I blubbered through telling this woman that we were stranded, I couldn't use the pay phones and needed internet access and could we please use a computer. She said without hesitation "of course" and then called upstairs to tell them that a "very upset lady" was coming upstairs. (She was very discreet in her whispering, but I heard her!)

We used the computer and found no hotels in the greater Miami area. I also emailed Jimmy, my mom and Jimmy's mom. Jimmy was with friends and they managed to find us a hotel room in Boca Raton. I don't know southern Florida very well at all, and I assumed Boca was just around the corner from the airport. Had I known how far away it really was, we probably would have just crashed in the Admirals Club for the night (which was staying open all night due to all the cancellations). But I really felt like we had a big "X" on our backs since we'd crashed the club and I kept waiting for somebody to come escort us impostors out. Plus I was sweaty from all that running and the idea of a hotel sounded great so I could take a nice, long shower.

Once we got all our communications taken care of, we went to the taxi stand to catch our $140 taxi to Boca.

Yes, you read that correctly.

140 smackers.

To spend the night at a not-so-nice Holiday Inn Express.

That was in Boca Raton WEST.

West being the key word to indicate that the beach is nowhere nearby.

Yay for us!

When I was thinking about what I'd write for this day's "attitude of gratitude" entry, I have to tell you there wasn't a whole lot that I was thankful for on this travel day. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Literally.

It was one of those travel days where you think that maybe God is trying to tell you not to get on the plane.

What I am thankful for, though, is a travel buddy in Mac who never lost hope or faith that we'd make it home. He was such a great sport about everything and never once complained.

Well, except when he told me to stop crying. That was sort of a complaint. But other than that, he was the ideal travel partner, and for that I'm truly grateful.