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Posts tagged ‘Dominican Republic’

Raindrops on Roses

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The weather has shifted over the last few days. In a blink of an eye our beautiful spring has abandoned us, leaving us in the midst of a scorching hot summer.

It’s not the heat I mind so much, but it’s sidekick, humidity. It soaks into my bones, saps my strength and we won’t even get into what it does to my hair.

So you can imagine my delight when I heard rumblings in the distance yesterday afternoon. I love a good thunderstorm, especially if it serves to break the heat. (Which, granted, had only been upon us for about 48 hours, but still…)

At first the storm was more bluster than substance. The skies darkened, thunder rumbled…and a spattering of heavy raindrops fell. It was entertaining, to be sure, but didn’t really have the impact I was hoping for. (There was no breeze to speak of, and humidity was actually climbing.)

It was in the middle of this lackluster display of Mother Nature’s might that I looked out the window and started jumping up and down with glee. The rosebush outside my kitchen window was blooming!

Now, I should say that while many flowering plants thrive in the sea air and tropical climes here on the north coast, roses are not one of them. I’m not sure if it’s the soil or the salty air, but they struggle while others shine.

One of the few exceptions is this rose bush, sheltered on the leeward side of the house. With minimal care, it blooms year round. And I’m absolutely enamored by its velvety hot pink roses.

I’m not ashamed to admit I wept openly two weeks ago when I returned home to find that Armando had taken a rather heavy hand to it while pruning. While I knew it was the best thing for it, it still broke my heart to see this regal plant so diminished in size.

Within a few days, though, Armando was proved right. The decimated bush seemed to grow a foot of new growth overnight, and its fresh new limbs were loaded with buds. I’ve watched it every day, waiting for those buds to open.

So when I noticed, in the middle of the storm, that one of those buds had chosen to unfurl, I raced outside to get a better look. Because that’s what you do when you’re slightly obsessed. To my delight, I discovered perfect raindrops clinging to its delicate petals.

Raindrops on roses.

Yes, they truly are one of my favorite things.

And Julie Andrews makes a good point, doesn’t she? About changing your mindset when you find yourself mired in negativity.

The humidity hasn’t completely broken, but you’ll be happy to know the storm did realize its full potential last night, and I have a feeling it isn’t done with us yet. But I don’t mind, because my roses seem to love it.

Now, please excuse me while I try to get the Sound of Music soundtrack out of my head. I’m tempted to start singing and, well… You might not want to stick around for that.

Las Cucarachas

I woke up this morning to find a giant cockroach dead next to my bed. It put a smile on my face. Especially when I realized it was still in its death throes. Never in my life has the suffering of another of God’s beings caused me such satisfaction.

Now, in general I’m pretty live and let live when it comes to creepy crawlies. But everyone has their limits. And therefore, I cannot extend to the freakishly large roaches indigenous to the tropics. Nor centipedes. Nor egg-sack carrying spiders. Or ticks. Or…ok. Perhaps I’m not quite as ‘live and let live’ as I make myself out to be.

Which is why I called Armando in to fumigate about 32 ½ seconds after I arrived home from Cabrera.

No offense to the beautiful seaside community of Cabrera, with its stunning coast line and close proximity to some of the most amazing beaches on the North Coast

No offense to the beautiful seaside community of Cabrera, with its stunning coast line and close proximity to some of the most amazing beaches on the North Coast

For the record, I had not seen any roaches in the house. It was Cabrera’s fault. Well, not the lovely seaside town, but rather the apartment Andry had arranged for my stay there.

It was nice enough, despite the damp. The problem was, it was already occupied. Although, in true horror-movie fashion, we were blissfully unaware of this fact when we arrived.

In retrospect, the signs were all there from the very beginning. Like the remains of what looked like a prehistoric monster in the bathroom. And the large cane spider who was so curious about our dinner preparations, that he decided to watch the whole thing from a vantage point above the dish drainer. But you know, you take those kinds of things in stride after a couple of years in the Caribbean.

I should mention that I wasn’t feeling myself when we arrived in Cabrera. I thought myself overheated from the drive and overwhelmed by the mildew smell in our accommodations. It wasn’t until I got into the shower – and the cold water was actually painful against my scalding hot skin – that I realized there was more to it.

You'll be happy to know, the worst of my fever was gone by the time May 9th rolled around. We had an amazing anniversary.

You’ll be happy to know, the worst of my fever was gone by the time May 9th rolled around. We had an amazing anniversary.

The 72+ hours that followed were a roller coaster of high fevers and crushing headaches. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Our anniversary was but a couple of days away, and the whole point of me being in Cabrera was to spend some long-overdue time with my husband, whose job has taken him away from home since the beginning of February. Oh, and my biggest client was getting ready to go live on three new websites. So I was working around the clock on top of everything else.

Some time in the middle of that first night, I got up to get some water. In a feverish haze, I rounded the corner into the kitchen/living area and hit the light switch.

There are a few universal truths ingrained in us from a young age. One of them is that when you turn on the light, things that lurk in the dark – creepy crawlies, evil spirits, etc. – are supposed to scatter. Yeah, well not these $*&#^#!

Have you ever wandered into a real locals bar by mistake, and all the heads swivel in your direction? Well imagine that, only with antennas.

Even in my delirium, there was no question who was trespassing on whose domain.

I don’t know how many there were, because I didn’t have it in me to count. (There are some places my brain just refuses to go.) Suffice it to say I was outnumbered. And to get to the refrigerator, I’d have to put myself in the middle of this platoon of king-sized cucarachas. I glanced at my feet and fervently wished I’d gone for Andry’s tactical boots rather than my own flimsy sandals. The odds were definitely not in my favor.

With one last, longing look at the refrigerator, I did what any intelligent woman would do in this situation: I backed slowly out of the room and hightailed it back to bed.

The light? That stayed on.

And once I got home, I wasn’t taking any chances. Let this be a lesson, little cucarachas. This is my domain.

Welcome to my Dominican life!

One more beautiful shot of Cabrera. It really is an amazing place. Cockroaches and all...

One more beautiful shot of Cabrera. It really is an amazing place. Cockroaches and all…

The Panty Raid

I knew something was wrong the minute I walked in the door and saw the gold tissue on the floor. I use the delicate paper to wrap some of my rarely worn jewelry. Which had been safely stashed last I checked.

Oh God, I thought, we’ve been broken into.

I followed the trail into the master bedroom, where I found the bag that had once contained that tissue-wrapped jewelry ripped open. Its contents, along with half of my wardrobe, were strewn across the floor.

My heart hammering in my chest, I tried to take stock of what was in front of me. A quick inventory revealed that my random assortment of purely sentimental pieces appeared to all be present and accounted for. Which was a relief to be sure.

It was then that my attention was drawn to a pile of sodden fabric. I stooped to inspect it more closely and it clicked. It was my favorite pair of panties.

Or at least, what was left of them.

I was equal parts relieved and disgusted. This wasn’t a burglary at all, but a panty raid. And not the first, either.

I thought I’d found the perfect hiding place for my underthings to avoid further incident, but these perverts were craftier than I thought.

I turned to face the culprits who, at that very moment, were yipping excitedly at my heels.

Puppies.

They’re lucky they’re cute.

The culprits, Monstro and Pechita.

The culprits, Monstro and Pechita.

When you know, you know.

My first glimpse at the beach in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic.

My first glimpse at the beach in Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic.

It all started with a trip to Monte Cristi. I was nearing the end of my second trip the DR, and my friend Elena insisted on taking me to what she promised was one of the most beautiful beaches on the North Coast, and quite possibly the world.

Elena enlisted José to drive us. The same José, a retired policeman turned taxi driver, who had picked us (Mumsy, Kathie, Nona, Julie and myself) up at the Santiago airport on my initial trip to the DR that January. Just as he had on that night, José brought his friend and former partner along for the ride.

“Our bodyguards,” Elena joked, as we headed out early that morning.

The ride to Monte Cristi and back again took us through the Dominican Republic's central Cibao valley.

The ride to Monte Cristi and back again took us through the Dominican Republic’s central Cibao valley.

But I wasn’t so sure. Oh, this young cop was nice enough, if a little shy. The problem was that he’d already made it known that he was interested in me. And, while I thought I’d made it pretty darn clear that I wasn’t interested in him, well… I had a feeling it was going to be a long day.

And, sure enough, it didn’t take him long to make his initial play to hold my hand. I swatted it away with a laugh and a bit of an eye roll. The activity in the back seat did not go unnoticed by Elena and Jose.

“When you get married, I want to be the best man,” Jose said, grinning at us in the rear view mirror.

That little prediction earned another eye roll from me.

But at some point during the day, my attitude started to change toward this man, whose name I didn’t really know. Was it Andy? André? Only later did I finally come to understand it was Andry.

IMG_1626Maybe it was how seriously he took his role as my bodyguard. Or how he insisted on coming in the water with me, even though he was clearly uncomfortable with the size of the waves.

Or maybe it was when I noticed the color of his eyes exactly matched the surf pounding around us.

Or when I went to use the public restroom on site, only to discover I had been a bit too generous with my emergency stash of tissues. (You’re welcome, Elena.) And he handed me his shirt. An offer which I found incredibly chivalrous, but declined.

Or maybe it was the beach itself, with its steep rock walls and terracotta sand. It was stunning and we had it all to ourselves. (It still blows my mind that this place barely makes the foot notes of most guidebooks, because it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.)

Maybe it wasn’t one thing, but rather an accumulation of all of these small items that set the carefully constructed wall around my heart to crumbling. All I know is that at some point the attention he was paying me stopped being bothersome. And on the return trip, when he reached for my hand, I wasn’t so quick to brush it away.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. And the next morning, I woke up with a poem rattling around my head, waiting for me to spill it out on paper.

I did. And then I did something completely crazy: I translated it into Spanish and shared it with him.

José, our best man, looks on after we said our (first set) of I Do's.

José, our best man, looks on after we said our (first set) of I Do’s.

The following day, March 26, we had our first official date. It was another trip with José and Elena, this time to Playa Grande in Rio San Juan. It was another gorgeous beach, and yes, I dragged him into the ocean with me again.

A little over a year later, on May 9, 2015, Jose’s little prediction came true. And yes, he was Andry’s best man.

Here’s the poem I wrote that long ago morning, when I knew I’d found someone special.

Because when you know, you know.

#

Lost in the moment…

 

Your voice rolls over me

smooth and seductive

like the surf.

It’s not the words,

but the cadence,

I understand.

 

Your fingers trace lazy circles

and I shiver,

shy like a school girl

with her first crush.

 

The brush of a kiss

on my temple,

feather soft,

draws my attention to your eyes.

 

Grey-green

against the caramel of your skin

I’d lose myself there,

if not for the tug of a smile

on those perfect lips.

 

Would they taste like salt

from the sea?

I wonder, reluctant to break

the spell of this perfect moment

even for the pleasure

of finding out.

 

MS March 25, 2015

 

Perdido en el momento…

 

Tu voz me vuelca

suave y seductor

como el surf.

No son las palabras

pero la cadencia

entiendo.

 

Tus dedos traza círculos perezosos

y tirito,

tímido como una muchacha de la escuela

con su primer amor.

 

La caricia de un beso

en mi frente,

suave como pluma

me llama la atención a tus ojos.

 

Gris-verde

contra el caramelo de su piel.

Me perdería

si no fuera por el tirón de una sonrisa

en esos labios perfectos.

 

¿Saben a sal

desde el mar?

Me pregunto, reacio a romper

el hechizo de este momento perfecto

incluso para el placer

de descubrir.

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Farrell Family Favorites: A tribute to a favorite uncle and his amazing daughter

Two of my favorite ladies!

Two of my favorite ladies!

I opened Facebook today to find two of my favorite ladies smiling back at me. I was so excited to see that my cousin Coleen had chosen one of my favorites from my wedding day as her new profile picture. It’s a candid of Coleen and Mumsy, in their respective roles as maid of honor and mother of the bride, taken as we were waiting to be collected for the beachfront ceremony.

As I looked at those familiar faces, smiling back at me, I felt so incredibly blessed. I am blessed. Blessed to have found the love of my life and made it official before family and friends on what would have been my parents’ 56th wedding anniversary. And blessed, also, to have these two amazing women in my life.

For the last 40 years, they have cared for me, comforted me, supported me, cheered me on, laughed both with me and at me, and helped me celebrate all of life’s milestones – big and small. And even though we’re a few thousand miles apart at present, we all carry each other in our hearts every day.

In a family of 35 first cousins, it’s a dangerous thing to go picking favorites. Difficult, too, since the Farrells are a pretty amazing bunch. But Coleen and I have always had a special bond. The fact that more than a decade separates us in the roster of Farrell descendants has never been a factor.

It was Coleen who dropped everything and drove from New Jersey to Syracuse the night before my surgery a few years ago, so that Mumsy wouldn’t be alone during those tense hours.

Fun in Philadelphia for AFSP's Out of the Darkness Overnight walk to prevent suicide.

Fun in Philadelphia for AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Overnight walk to prevent suicide.

Who walked 18 miles from dusk to dawn with me to raise money for suicide prevention, a cause that has hit both of us far too close to home.

Who, quite literally, held my hand to keep me sane when a nasty infection in my leg had to be lanced. It was painful, yes, but worse was my fear that it would keep me from making it back to the DR in time for my own wedding! (Something I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if not for Coleen’s sister Jean, who diagnosed the problem and started me on a course of strong antibiotics before sending me to the clinic.)

It was she who moved heaven, earth and the passport office in order to stand up with me on my wedding day.

That’s just a sampling really, of the thousand and one ways she has been there for me over the years. This despite all of the challenges life has thrown at her along the way. You’d never know it though, the way she’s willing to drop everything for everyone around her.

While we have always been close, it was during my father’s illness that we went from being cousins to sisters. She, her husband Steve and their three phenomenal offspring (Jillian, Bret and Eric) were such a comfort to my dad during those three long years he battled cancer. And by a comfort, I mean an excuse to shoot off automatic weapons, adventure out on 4-wheelers or snowmobiles and engage in epic Wii tournaments. They brought a lot of love and joy to a man doing his best to hide his Stage IV cancer from the world. And they’ve helped us find the strength to get through even the most difficult of days leading up to and since he took his last breath on January 26, 2012.

Through all of that, I vowed to myself that I’d do the same for them if ever they faced a similar situation. That unspoken promise was put to the test this year, as both Steve’s mom and then Coleen’s father, my Uncle Bill, fell ill.

It has been difficult to watch both from afar, knowing there is little I can do from this distance. But I know that’s nothing compared to what they and our families have gone through.

I vividly remember the night of August 30. As I tossed and turned, I was overwhelmed by thoughts of my Uncle Bill. I finally gave up trying to sleep and decided to write down all the memories swirling around my brain. I was determined to tell him just how much he meant to me and to all of us Farrell cousins that had been privileged to grow up in his shadow.

My mother has seven brothers, but only one big brother. He was everyone’s big brother, in fact. I can’t imagine the pressure he felt – the responsibility he had – being the oldest of 12. At what it must have been like to lose his younger sister Agnes at such a young age. To have been closer in age to his mother, than to his youngest siblings well before the last of the litter, my Uncle Tim, came along.

One of my favorite pictures of another of my favorite ladies, Aunt Cecilia.

Our angel, Aunt Cecilia.

He would also be the first to go off to join the Navy and, later, to start his own family with the talented nurse who nursed his father back to health after losing his leg in an accident on the tug boats. This last was his coup de grace, in my opinion, because Aunt Cecilia – like her daughter Coleen – is a walking angel in my eyes.

It was from Uncle Bill that I learned to appreciate the Pecan Sandie above all other commercially available baked goods. And I’d wager I’m not the only Farrell cousin that swore never to get a tattoo after being weaned on the story of how he contracted hepatitis from those he’d gotten in the Navy.

Uncle Bill’s family newsletter, Farrell Family Facts, drew something of a cult following among my college friends. A few even angled for invitations to the Farrell Family Fun in the Sun Social, another brainchild of my dear uncle. And when it came time to plan a Winter Break trip to the sunny Florida Keys, a pit stop in St. Augustine to visit Uncle Bill and Aunt Cecilia was considered a given.

This is how I'll always remember Uncle Bill, dancing with Aunt Cecilia.

This is how I’ll always remember Uncle Bill, dancing with Aunt Cecilia and finishing each other’s sentences.

He was recovering from a stroke at the time, and my mother wanted a full report on his progress. But what I remembered most was how he and my Aunt Cecilia finished each other’s sentences. Not out of necessity, but out of habit. I thought to myself at the time that someday that’s the kind of relationship I’d like to have. And I do, with Andry. Although, granted, my fledgling Spanish may have something to do with that. (A topic for another blog, I promise.)

The last time Uncle Bill was at our house, he mentioned that visit to me and I was so touched. Until I realized, that is, that the reason he remembered it so vividly had more was because Liz and Melissa, my traveling companions for the trip, were both close to six feet tall.

It was these memories and more that I endeavored to put on paper that night. It was just a first draft, which I intended to polish up in the morning. I never got around to opening that document again, though. Because at a little before 6 a.m., a message came through from Coleen.

“He’s gone,” it said.

And with that, I knew I’d already said my goodbyes without realizing it.

It reminded me, though, how important it is for us to show our love, appreciation and gratitude while we can. So this isn’t a eulogy for the dead, but an ode to the living. Because he does live on in each and every Farrell.

Coleen, I love and appreciate you more than you know. You are not just my cousin, but a true sister and friend.

To you, Aunt Cecilia, Billy, Timmy, Jean, Cecilia, Terry and your families; My mom and the rest of the Farrell siblings; and rest of the extended Farrell clan – I send all the love in my heart and strength in my body. Because I know that even now, especially now, we reel from the loss of the man who was at once husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, sailor and friend.

Uncle Bill, I hope heaven welcomed you with an unlimited supply of Pecan Sandies and old Hollywood movies on-demand. Don’t let my dad and Uncle Rich take your last nickel at cards. Give Mom Mom a kiss for all of us.

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Boris and the Baby Spiders: Why I won’t be sleeping again…ever.

This is Boris. Not the Boris from tonight's adventure, but one I was on more civil terms with. He lived in our bathroom for a few months, before meeting an untimely end in the bath.

This is Boris. Not the Boris from tonight’s adventure, but one I was on more civil terms with. He lived in our bathroom for a few months, before meeting an untimely end in the bath.

I don’t like spiders. I don’t know many people who do, but I REALLY don’t like them.

However, I’ve made peace with their presence here in the Dominican Republic. As long as they are big enough for me to keep an eye on, aren’t too active in their movements and pull their weight around the house (i.e. do their part to decimate the mosquito population), we can peacefully co-exist.

I consider this position to be incredibly adult given my gut instinct is to shriek like a little girl. And did I mention the spiders I’m referring to are cane spiders. The smallest I’ve seen are the size of my palm. The SMALLEST.

And I’m willing to co-exist with them. Pretty bad ass, right?

Yeah. Not so much, as it turns out.

Earlier this evening, I spotted one of these cane spiders. We’ll call him Boris. Because Boris is a good name for a spider, and for my own sanity, I like to think all spiders are male. I should think the reasoning behind that is self-evident. It’s cute that they call baby spiders ‘spiderlings’ and all, but there is no place in my world for them.

This Boris was a little more active than I would have liked. He also appeared to be holding something. That thought made me uncomfortable, but I wrote it off as poor lighting. Because seriously, who’s ever heard of a spider carrying anything.

I was willing to keep to my peace agreement, but Boris made a fatal mistake. Rather than staying put on the wall, he scurried down to floor level. Which is when Frederica pounced.

She’s my new hero. And yes, she will be getting extra treats.

A female cane spider carrying around her egg sack. (Photo Cred: Maui.net)

A female cane spider carrying around her egg sack.
(Photo Cred: Maui.net)

After the brief flurry of activity was over, I noticed something on the floor. It was white and the size of a silver dollar only thicker, and sort of lumpy. With horror, I realized that Boris had really been a Bertha.

My first thought was to flush it as soon as I could, but Frederica was one step ahead of me.

I bent to give her a good scratch when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

I bent down to the wall to take a better look. That’s when I lost my mind.

I don’t know how many baby spiders escaped. And, for my sanity, I can’t even allow my mind to contemplate how many were in that sack. Thank goodness for Frederica. Because what if they’d hatched while I was holding it…

Ok, Melissa. Breathe.

There was NO WAY I was letting those little Boris’ run around…growing to be the size of my hand…procreating…

I used the only thing I had on hand – Deep Woods Off. Much to my relief, it stopped them in their tracks.

And now, I’m going to brew myself a pot of strong Dominican coffee. Because, as I have no idea how many more Baby Boris’ are running around out there, there’s no chance I’ll be sleeping tonight.

Or anytime in the foreseeable future.

Maybe sometime in mid-2017.

The Night Air

IMG_7047It was impossible for me to sleep on the plane. I tried, but despite my exhaustion, I was still too keyed up from the day’s drama. Which had started when we discovered our original flight was delayed and only intensified as we attempted to rebook our travel plans in a way that would allow my four travel companions and I to enjoy our much-needed Caribbean getaway.

We wouldn’t have made it without the intervention of the kindest woman on the planet – who happened to be a rep for a competing airline. With her help, we were booked on a flight that very evening. The only problem was we had to find our own way to JFK.

Nothing a pedal-to-the-metal dash from Syracuse to Queens – through Manhattan during rush hour – couldn’t solve. Well, along with a slew of frantic calls and messages to iron out all of the supporting details. Like how we were going to get to our final destination considering we were flying into a different airport and the best way to avoid the $30-a-day parking fee at JFK.

All that scrambling was worth it to know we weren’t going to have to scrap the entire adventure. Because NOTHING was going to stand between me and a rum-laded cocktail on the beach, damn it.

I don’t think I really started to breath again until we were on the ground in Santiago. We still weren’t yet at our destination – a small seaside town just east of Puerto Plata – but we were in the Dominican Republic at last.

The mindless trudge through the airport – clearing immigration and customs, retrieving our bags – is all a blur. As we waited for our rental car, I slipped out of my sweater and into a pair of sandals, and pushed through the double doors that separated us from tropical paradise.

Ostensibly I was looking for our taxi driver. (A necessity since there wasn’t a chance all five of us AND our luggage were going to fit in the modest rental we’d reserved.) But really, I just needed to take a moment to appreciate our journey thus far.

It was 2 a.m. local time, and the fronds on the parking lot palm trees hung limply in the still night air. I inhaled, filling my lungs with the thick, humid air. It tasted both foreign and familiar, bringing me back to the year I lived in South Florida.

My mind was on the drive ahead of us. The hour and a half it would take us to drive through the mountains to Costambar. And the two-weeks of much needed decompression before me. It was a welcome distraction from the career transition I was in.

I had no way of knowing how the trip would change my life in so many ways.IMG_7317

…How inexplicably drawn to this island I’d be.

…How it would become the setting for a whole new life, a chance to live out dreams I never dared admit I had.

…How our change of travel plans – which landed us in Santiago in the middle of the night rather than in the middle of the afternoon in Puerto Plata – would cause me to cross paths with my future husband.

I didn’t give him a secomd glance that night – the quiet, unassuming policeman who rode along with his former partner-turned-taxi driver. But the universe had big things planned.

Sometimes, I stand outside and fill my lungs with the night air. It’s laden with the same tropical overtones here in my new home, but also heavy with salt from the sea.

To me, it’s ripe with promise and tastes of untold stories, unforeseen adventures, true love…

and dreams come true.

Bird Droppings: Finding perspective when the unexpected threatens to steer you off course

Not a bad office view, if I do say so myself...

The view from my ‘office’ under the sea grape. Better than my last corporate gig, that’s for sure…

I’m having a bad week. Yes, I realize it’s only Tuesday and therefor a little early to make such a pronouncement. But it fits, believe me. I won’t regale you with the gory details. You don’t need to know, and quite frankly I don’t need to wallow in it, as tempting as wallowing can be. I’ve already given one of my besties an ear full. (Thanks for listening, Liz, and not judging me too harshly for it.)

It all started when a silly little bird took a poo on my laptop. Well, if I’m honest, it wasn’t the bird that was the problem. Nor the milky white substance that scored a direct hit on F10.

No. The problem was me. Because in the grand scheme of life, such an event is pretty laughable, right? It’s even enviable. Since the fact that this little bird even had the OPPORTUNITY to poop on my laptop is something I bet most workers in Corporate America can say is about their cubicle, or even their corner office.

A sea grape tree dripping with unripened fruit.

A sea grape tree dripping with unripened fruit.

But my workplace is a little different. One of my ‘offices’ is under the gnarled  boughs of a mature sea grape. I often sit there in the morning, scribbling in a notebook or tapping away at my laptop in the shade of that beautiful tree, lulled by the symphony of the waves and twittering of birds.

It’s a beautiful spot to do what I love most…write.

Queen of my under-the-sea-grape writing fan club.

Queen of my under-the-sea-grape writing fan club.

There are interruptions of course. The dogs vying for my attention. The occasional ripe sea grape falling on the table. A friend walking their dog on the narrow footpath that is really all that separates our borrowed back yard from the sea. The sirens call of another cup of dark, sweet Dominican coffee.

That whole bird thing, though. That was a first.

I’d rather NOT repeat it. But am I going to let it stop me from enjoying my favorite morning retreat. I feel it’s an acceptable level of risk. I mean, I’ve spent countless hours there and never encountered a bird with such precise aim.

I should be thankful that it wasn’t my head. Or something really important, like the RETURN key. That would have been difficult to live without. (Because, sorry F10, you’re dead to me now.)

Yes, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Because I’d rather dodge bird droppings all day than retreat to a ‘safer’ place like Corporate America.

It’s easy to let one little thing send us off the rails. But as my mother likes to

A favorite quote, snagged from Facebook.

A favorite quote, snagged from Facebook.

remind me: no one said it would be easy, just worth it.

That’s true of all the best things in life – the things worth working toward, worth holding on to. Like my life here in the Dominican Republic and my dreams and goals vis-a-vis my writing AND my new business.

I’m not about to let one obstacle, one challenge, derail my current path – because I know it’s the right one. And I won’t do myself the disservice of giving up on it.

Nor would I give the naysayers – yes, we all have those in our lives, even if they mean well – the satisfaction.

Sorry, little birdie, you just don’t have that kind of power over me.

Now, please excuse me, while I get back to work. We can’t control the world around us, but we can control our reaction to it and our own actions. I know the way forward. It’s forward, one step at a time.

Although, first, I’m just going to disinfect this keyboard one more time…

Nothing grants perspective quite like a gorgeous sunset at the end of a long day.

Nothing grants perspective quite like a gorgeous sunset at the end of a long day.

My R+F Journey: Confessions of an unlikely skincare consultant

Liz & I toasting to our twin Rodan + Fields businesses.

Liz & I toasting to our twin Rodan + Fields businesses.

Why, HELLO, sun damage...

Why, HELLO, sun damage…

My last name may be Italian, but my complexion is 100% Irish. Translation: the tropical sun is not my friend. As 40 approached, sun damage was all I saw every time I looked in the mirror. Because my skin is also sensitive – and my one attempt at erasing that damage a very painful failure – I resigned myself to living with those brown spots and freckles forever.

Then one day, I started to notice my friend Rosemarie’s posts about Rodan + Fields on Facebook. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me, and I reached out to her.

Rosemarie told me her R+F story. Not only about how REVERSE had done what no other product had been able to do – get rid of her own brown spots – but also how the business opportunity was changing her life.

When we had that conversation, a light bulb went off for me. At the time, I was struggling to get my freelance writing career off the ground. Not only was it not taking off as strongly as I hoped, but it was also cutting into my personal writing time – the very thing it was meant to help me support.

Rosemarie’s story inspired me. But the kicker was when I discovered Liz, my best friend from college, was also interested in Rodan + Fields. Liz signed up for her own micro-franchise, and a week later, I did, too.

Let me say that I’m the LAST person you would expect to launch a skincare business. I’d splash some water on my face and consider myself good to go. The only thing I did remember to do on a quasi-regular basis was moisturize, but even that was sporadic at best. But that nonchalance was catching up with me, as evidenced by the aforementioned sun damage. Suddenly taking care of my skin seemed important.

The best 40th birthday present a girl could ask for! Thank you, Liz!

The best 40th birthday present a girl could ask for! Thank you, Liz!

When I received my REVERSE regimen in the mail, I was nervous about trying it for the first time. But as soon as I did, I fell in love.

Because of my sensitivity, I eased into it – using it every 2 to 3 days to start and gradually building up to daily use. Because of this, I expected my results to be gradual. But almost immediately, I started noticing subtle changes in the tone and texture of my skin. And as my freckles and brown spots slowly fade away, I’m loving my brighter and more even complexion.

My favorite part about this opportunity? I don’t need to SELL anything. My ‘job’ is simply to share my story and my passion for these products and this business. And that’s pretty easy when you truly believe in the brand. After all, it’s what sold me.

A recent media mention in Cosmopolitan focusing on the Rodan + Field's business model.

A recent media mention in Cosmopolitan focusing on the Rodan + Field’s business model.

Sure, I looked at the business model, the product philosophy, the compensation structure, the recognition the company’s received, the media impressions and the overall size of the anti-aging market. And let’s face it: the opportunity to partner with Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, the Stanford-trained dermatologists who brought Proactiv to market, IS pretty exciting… But what sold me was Rosemarie’s story. Her results. Her success. Her passion.

Yes, it’s true what they say about Rodan + Fields changing skin and changing lives. I know, because less than three months into the business, it’s already changing mine.

Are you ready to start your R+F Journey?

Still a work in progress, but well on my way to the best skin of my life!

Still a work in progress, but well on my way to the best skin of my life! (The crows feet are next on my hit list. Lucky me, we have a Multi-Function Eye Cream for that!)

Dotting our I Do’s: Why Two Anniversaries Are Better Than One

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Andry and I tied the knot last Friday. Yes, I know, I know. I’ve said that before. The first time around was pledging our love and lives to one another in front of our family, friends and God. This time around was about getting the paperwork in order.

IMG_8693We chose May 9th as our wedding date because of its special significance. It is, as many of you know, my parents anniversary. It would have been their 56th, in fact. And I felt so blessed that my mother was willing to share it with us. I was blessed, too, that she and some of my dearest friends and family were willing to make the trip to my impromptu wedding despite the short notice, distance and expense.

So you can imagine my distress when I realized, only a few days before our wedding day, that there was a paperwork issue. Actually, there had been several, but we thought we’d worked them all out. But we hadn’t. We’d left one thing in the hands of the lawyer who had been helping us, and as it turned out, he didn’t fully understand what was necessary either. Only rather than telling us that… well, it’s a moot point now. Suffice it to say anyone that has dealt with the apostille process has probably felt our pain.

IMG_8692Mumsy talked me down from my mini-meltdown. She reminded me that a marriage wasn’t about paperwork, it was about our love and commitment to one another. She was right, of course. And we on May 9, we pledged ourselves to one another. It was a small ceremony on a beautiful stretch of beach. We were surrounded by the most important people in our lives, and the two random kids with beach towel capes that are in practically every wedding picture.

After the wedding, I set to work getting our paperwork problem sorted out. This was no small feat given the fact that I was in the Dominican Republic, and everything I needed to do was in New York. But thanks to some exceptional friends – most notably Nancy Brienza Duffy who ran around Manhattan for me and then hand delivered my documents to me here in the DR – we got it done.

Of course, there was still some legwork – translations and other documents

Andry's partner, Martinez, stepped up as our padrino.

Andry’s partner, Martinez, stepped up as our padrino.

that needed to be executed – on this end. Which we put in the hands of yet another lawyer. This one delivered, but on a slightly longer timeline than we had expected. It was starting to seem like our civil ceremony was NEVER going to happen.

And then last Friday, Andry called me. He was in Puerto Plata running some errands and had stopped to see the lawyer.

“How about 4 o’clock?” he asked me.

“Umm, today?” I stammered.

It crossed my mind to say no. To ask if they had any openings next week. I needed more time. We’d never be able to round up our padrinos (best man and maid of honor) in time. Could I get my nails done before 4? And there were my roots to think about!

But then I realized how silly I was being. After all, we’d already waited for months. And if there is anything life has taught me, it’s that you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. So I said the same thing I said the first time he asked me to marry him.

Yes.

 

Affectionately yours,

Señora de Gomez

It's official

It’s official

Andry Bismal Gomez Amarante

y Melissa Stagnaro

May 9, 2015 & August 21, 2015

Our padrinos, Martinez and his wife Rabelis, and our stand-in photographer, Jordy Brito.

Our padrinos, Martinez and his wife Rabelis, and our stand-in photographer, Jordy Brito.

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