Browse Category: The Human Element

Beijos, minha irmã…

Last week, I watched my sister fly downwards towards South America, where she’ll undoubtedly paint Brazil a brand new shade of red as she makes her home there for the next four years. I’ve watched her travel the world for roughly twenty years, and whenever I could gather up the time and money, I followed her–to Europe, to Africa, to Haiti, to various places around the States.

My sister and I in her bedroom many moons ago. Note the beloved 'Pound Puppy' in her hands! Hers or mine? Can't say for sure...

When I was 12 years old, I cried, completely inconsolable, when she moved to Italy. When she came home for Christmas that year, and left again after the holidays, I cried harder than before. Eventually, I stopped crying because I realized that all her travel abroad meant wonderful things. New homes abroad for her meant exciting trips abroad for me. In turn, exciting trips abroad to visit my sis meant quality time and good adventuring with her. So began many fun and memorable trips all over the place…

When I was fifteen years old, I went to West Africa on my own to stay with her for three months, and celebrated my sweet 16th during that time. I went back the next year for two months. Even at that young age, I knew better than to take such an experience for granted. This time spent in a quiet part of Africa, in the presence of my sister whom I admired and adored unabashedly, remains a uniquely formative and unforgettable time in my life.

My sister styling my mane back in the day. Sacred duty!

Long and scenic road trips, elegant train travel, not-so-elegant train travel, funny airplane rides, spine-rattling clunker taxis with herds of goat strapped to the roof–we’ve experienced it all together. She is–and will always be–my favorite travel partner. We haven’t done a big trip together in a longish while, so I think about Brazil with great excitement, thinking of the good times to be had when I go visit (often!) in the coming years.  The anticipation doesn’t fully make up for the heavy heartedness that I felt at her leaving, but it levels the emotional field a bit.

Me, my sister, Venice in 2004

So off I go to work on a little Portuguese, and to add people, places and things to my South America bucket list. And to my dear sister– happy trails to you; até logo!

My sister-- dressed as a traveling marchande, gazing out towards distant lands during the late 1970s.

When the kids malfunction…

Why did you make me play second base?”

The quote above is from the 1989 film ‘Parenthood,’ directed by Ron Howard. ‘Why did you make me play second base?!’ is what young boy Kevin cries out to his father Gil (played by the masterful Steve Martin) after he causes his baseball team to lose the game. Gil, a staunch fan of America’s favorite pasttime puts his unskilled boy in the position of second base and Kevin plays rather badly, causing an embarrassing loss for his teammates.

I was at Chuck E. Cheese recently, watching a toddler relative ball her eyes out in horror as she saw the live Chuck E. in front of her for the first time ever.

Relatives at Chuck E. Cheese. Supposed to be every child's favorite place...

It got me thinking about how often adults put children in situations that the children themselves hate. And we just don’t seem to get it. We assume they’ll love it. Or we feel like said situation is a milestone, and we have to snap a picture of it for posterity.

Ohh, so the tears and the frown mean he's NOT thrilled to be in the Easter parade...
My husband (in green), not behaving according to plan.

When I was at the mall once years ago, I walked into the Disney store and saw an awesome Incredibles-themed Halloween costume. My nephew was a baby at the time but I bought the costume anyway for next Halloween. It hung in his closet patiently. I waited impatiently for next Halloween to come, knowing he would be so unbelievably excited about wearing that costume. Boy was I disappointed. He hated the damn thing. In fact, he cried miserably the whole time that he had it on. Cried miserably until we took it off him and dressed him in his—get this—Incredibles pajamas. So he wore Pjs for his first trick-or-treating, and was as happy as a boy could be.

Mr. Incredible...feeling not so incredible.

Why do so many of us psych ourselves out about these perceived milestones in kids’ lives? Many of us react with sadness, disappointment or even anger when the kids don’t react how they’re “supposed to.” I’ve been guilty on a few occasions of building up of emotion and excitement before an event—imagining the expression on my beloved nephew’s little face the first time he enters the gates at Disney World, imagining how he’ll react when I take him trick-or-treating for the first time, imagining his reaction when I introduce him to larger-than-life Mickey for the first time at the Magic Kingdom. I’m now convinced that my nephew (and most kids for that matter) can sense it and reacts with anti-excitement just to show me who’s boss. Rightly so too—I’m not master of his emotions, nor will I ever be.

You may think he's about to take a math test, but it's actually his 6th birthday. He never smiled once during the Chuck E. show. Or when we sang happy birthday. Or when we cut the cake.
One of my husband's earliest memories: trying to move AWAY from Donald Duck.

So in this post, I’ve including some pictures of these milestones-gone-awry. There are teary faces. There are eyes squeezed shut and mouths wide open, and you can hear the screams coming out of the photographs. These pictures make me laugh really hard and there’s something I admire about those upset faces, whose defiant expressions read, ‘nope, I don’t like it and I’m not gonna like it, no matter what you say.’ Kiddie protest, if you will; the precursor to armed struggle.

Hope these tears bring a smile to your face!

My all-time fave. Crying at the park. Love it.

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,

but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

– Kahlil Gibran

Concerning friendships…


Starting out on a little sidenote–there are some websites and blogs that I follow regularly—GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow’s site being one of them. gets an unfair share of harsh criticism in my opinion. Seriously, why all the hate? I enjoy the little entries on lifestyle, health and travel. It’s funny how so many people worship, *cough cough*, er, I mean “follow” celebrities and glorify their silly behavior, their alcohol-and-drug-infused crazy spells, and their extravagant spending. Then a celebrity decides to create a website with some pleasant articles that contain useful information like recipes, workout tips and advice, and this is the celebrity that gets bashed. Something’s wrong with this picture!

But I digress, lovely readers. I decided to bring up GOOP because I recently found what has become my favorite article ever about friendship. On Ms. Paltrow’s site, which also sends its articles in newsletter form to subscribers, there was a recent entry titled “Friendship Divorce.” The following question is at the top of the page:

“What do you do when you realize that although you may have years of history, and found real value in each other in times past, that you kind of don’t like a friend anymore? That, after time spent with this person, you feel drained, empty, belittled or insulted. My father always used to tell me that, ‘you can’t make new old friends.’ How do you distinguish if someone in your life makes you change for the better or if you are better off without them?”

What follows is an engaging series of enlightening responses from scholars, authors and psychologists sharing their thoughts on friendships and the way friendships change over time, how one can tell whether a friendship is worth saving, and how one goes about defining “true friends.”

I love love LOVE this article because it addresses one of the most relevant topics in our lives. This everyday miracle we call friendship—this strangely absurd art of coming into contact with one of the 7 billion people on the planet and sacredly keeping this contact over time and distance—often causes as much heartache and headache as it does joy.

I’ve always put a high value on amiability; I’ve spent a lifetime going out of my way to remain likable, even to people who didn’t like me. I used to put all kinds of effort into friendships long after they stopped being of any benefit, much less enjoyment.

A few years ago, a co-worker shared this quote with me: ‘People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.’ The quote didn’t mean as much to me then as it does now. I used to feel a tremendous sense of guilt and loss whenever a friendship fizzled out or died. Now I understand that it’s no biggie, that it’s only natural. All living, breathing things have a life cycle. I now think of friendship as its own living and breathing organism—one that needs nourishment at times, one that is capable of having a long and healthful lifespan, and sometimes one that can become quite disease-ridden.

I used to keep dying friendships on lifesupport at all costs for as long as I could. Nobody likes a funeral. But where’s the quality of life in that? What’s the purpose of the friendship at that point? Let it go with its dignity in tact. Its death doesn’t render its life meaningless. That friendship was a part of your life for a reason; he or she brought you joy at one point. Be confident that you took from each other whatever it is you were meant to take from each other, and move on.

So that said, I vow to be the best friend that I can be. I’ll still be nice and amiable because I don’t know how to be any other way with my friends. If I ever sense weird red flags about any of my friendships, I’ll study the relationship inside and out with a critical, but loving eye. And I mean that with all my heart.