Moving forward…or beginning to…

So, like everyone who supported Hillary, I realize that I’ve been going through the classic 5 stages of grief. Well, possibly 4 – I may have skipped one… I’ll explain.

Stage 1 – Denial

I don’t really think I have to say much to explain this. Sitting there, looking at the screens watching the results come in and just going “No! No! This is NOT happening! This is NOT my country!” Other things that happen in Denial? You go numb, you’re in shock. Remember how I wrote about how silent everything was even when I knew there should be sound? Numb. Denial.

Stage 2 – Anger

Again, I don’t think I need to say much here. I was pissed as hell. Pissed that so many of the people in this country seem to think that I shouldn’t exist. That friends and family shouldn’t exist. That friends who are immigrants or 1st or even 2nd generation should leave. That friends of other faiths should be kicked out. That men have the right to grab me or otherwise invade my body. And so on.

Stage 3 – Bargaining

This is the one I’m not sure I really hit. Looking at the classic definition for it, I don’t recall consciously saying anything like “I will do X if I can just wake up and find out this was all a nightmare.” I suppose the questioning of if there was anything else I could have done – like, “What if I had sucked up my fear of calling someone to have the spouse burst into tears because the person I was calling for had died (that actually happened to me when I was volunteering on a gubernatorial campaign before – I’ve avoided phone banks ever since) and done phone banking?”. Looking at the explanations on grief.com I guess things like that would fall in the bargaining stage.

Stage 4 – Depression

All my tears on Wednesday are all the explanation that is needed for this one.

Stage 5 – Acceptance

This is where I am now. To be clear, that does not mean I think it’s ok. Here is what grief.com says in its explanation…

“Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. … We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.”

So yeah. I’ll never be ok with what has happened – and what likely will happen. But I am beginning to accept that this IS the reality in which we are living, and I’m looking at what I can do for myself and others to help where I can.

Thursday morning, the sun began to rise. The rain and crappy weather of Wednesday was over. And again, music hit where I needed it to. First song that popped up when I hit shuffle on my iPod? Gloria Estefan’s “Coming Out of the Dark”. And it just felt right.

When I got to school, I looked at youtube on my phone for a video. One of the first that I found scrolling down the list was one of Ana Villafañe, who plays Gloria in On Your Feet! performing the song at the White House! Perfection.

I’ve also gotten myself back to the dojang, and that has helped a lot. Master Lim and I had a good talk last night, so that was awesome. And kicking and punching things that I’m ALLOWED to kick and punch has helped a lot. (Ok, so I may be picturing someone’s face…or certain parts of his anatomy…on the pads. But it’s LEGAL!)

And I have started re-reading the Harry Potter series. Because it’s comfort readings – and ultimately good does triumph. As of now I’m just into the second book, but in the first book, there were two quotes that hit me as so relevant. Both by Dumbledore.

1 ~ “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – Albus Dumbledore

Excellent advice. And so I’m looking at how I do that.

One way is participating in the Safety Pin movement. Safety Pin movement

Another way is taking care of myself. Getting my butt back on the mats – mainly dojang but also yoga hopefully.

And another is looking for ways to help. Help those agencies who will be affected and/or will be potentially at risk under the new administration. I already have monthly recurring donations that go to Human Rights Campaign and Emily’s List. I am planning to add Lambda Legal, Planned Parenthood, and at least one other organization that works with environmental causes or immigrant causes. Possibly both…I just need to check the budget. (I also have plans to make donations to PP, Lambda, Emily’s List, and at least one other organization ON January 20 in Trump and Pence’s names – and putting their mailing address in for the acknowledgement letter.)

My friend Cristen and I are working on our own list for the First 100 Days. It’s in its infancy stages right now, but once it’s a little more firmed up I’ll share it.

The second is about using the name of that which terrifies us.

2 ~ “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” ~ Albus Dumbledore

I freely admit I had taken to saying “The Orange Chupacabra” (cribbed from the El Bloombito twitter during one of the debates. But… I need to stop. I need to say “Trump” – and I suppose “Pence”. I don’t have to say “president” or “vice president” along with the names though.

And so slowly I do feel like I’m coming out of the dark. I’m not stupid – I know the stages are a cycle. And I suspect I’ve still got some cycling left to do – I expect that there will be another strong cycle around January 20. But with my friends and family – and my action plan – I will make it.

We all will make it.

Have faith my friends!

And… Wands up!

 

Crashing through the looking glass…

Yesterday.

It was only yesterday morning.

Thirty seven hours ago.

I left my apartment and walked down the block and halfway down the next to my polling site. Not realizing the workers had let people in to wait in the heated school lobby, I started a line out front along with a woman who I struck up a conversation with.

She is originally from Sri Lanka. I don’t know how long ago she immigrated, but she had been content to be a legal resident for years.

Until this election cycle.

She said “I saw what was happening. I knew I had to have a voice. I got my citizenship, and they registered us to vote right then. This is my first time voting in this country. I have to vote to say he is not right.”

Such hope.

The same hope I remember having when I cast my first ballot – absentee because I was in college – in 1992 for Bill Clinton.

The same hope I walked in with yesterday.

The same hope I had for most of the day yesterday.

After voting I headed to our professional development and eagerly awaited 2:50 or whenever our principal let us leave – whichever came first. There was an energy in the air. There was hope. There was electricity. There was excitement.

We got released, and I bolted to the subway to head straight into Manhattan. Straight to the Javits center. Because I had a golden ticket (well, yellow) to what should have been a night of elation and celebration and confirmation that our hope was not misguided.

Over an hour in a holding pen waiting to be shepherded through metal detectors and finally we were in the Javits Center. There was some upsetness at learning that we were *only* going to be in the lobby watching everything on screens (and more than one of us wished we were outside at the block party), but soon we got caught up in the excitement permeating the air.

The very early numbers came in, and we all said we weren’t worried. Those were little states and were going as expected. But then…

Then the gap started widening. States started turning dark red. Some expected, some not.

Then states that should have been – and were – at least light blue were turning light red.

I started having flashbacks to 2000.

This couldn’t really be happening, could it? There could not be this much racism, misogyny, homophobia, and general hatred of the “other” in this nation could there?

Could there?

But the maps became redder and redder.

The atmosphere went from electric to deflated.

At some point midway through the deflation, volunteers started passing out flags. I had one for a little while.

But…

The more I saw on the news, the more I heard when they were talking about what was happening, the more I knew that I could not sit there holding this thing that honestly I’m not sure I can put any faith in anymore.

So I left. I was not the first, and I was not alone.

But I wanted out of there.

Walking outside, even walking by the block party area, it was eerily quiet. Like, a quiet that I’ve only experienced when out in nature somewhere far from the city. Way too quiet for New York City.

I do wonder if part of that was just how numb I’d let myself get watching everything because even the busses coming from the Port Authority seemed quieter than usual.

I got on the subway – the 7 train. The platform was eerily silent. The train was eerily silent. And the same silence carried over to the Court Square Station, the G platform, and the G train. Eerily silent. And everyone on the train (none of whom were people I had seen leaving the Javits Center) looked shell shocked.

I tried my best to hold my tears in until I got into my apartment, and I kind of succeeded. But the moment I got to my stairs, the sobs started.

I turned on the tv – I couldn’t resist – and just sat there with tears rolling down my eyes as a true fear began to spread in my heart and my gut.

Fear for myself as a woman.

Fear for myself as a lesbian.

Fear for my LGBTQ friends and family.

Fear for my brown-skinned friends (of ALL shades).

Fear for my Muslim friends.

Fear for my Jewish friends.

Fear for my Hindu friends

Fear for my atheist and agnostic friends.

Fear for my non-evangelical friends.

Fear for my female friends.

Fear for my differently-abled friends.

Fear for my immigrant friends.

Fear for my Latino/Latina/Latinx friends.

Fear for the country I thought I knew.

I changed into my pajamas and climbed in bed, turning off the television but knowing even so that sleep would be fitful if it came at all.

My baby kitty Emilimo jumped up on the bed and snuggled under my hand and lay there, just purring as I pet him and pet him while I cried. He never pawed at me. He never mouthed me. He just let me pet him. And purred.

Somehow I did manage to get some sleep. I turned on the news and discovered that there was no miracle. Nothing had changed.

Which meant everything had changed. To co-opt a title from Hamilton, The World Turned Upside Down.

At that point, the gut-wracking sobs came.

We were supposed to have shattered the glass ceiling.

Instead, I literally felt as if I had been flung through the looking glass, and the shards were piercing my body.

My Facebook status this morning? “I will go high eventually. But today I will wear black.”

Today I will grieve. Today I NEED to grieve.

I knew we had a field trip today, and as such I needed to go and not call out, so I tried to pull it together. My one small blessing in this nightmare we awoke to is that the children I work with are not at the level where they have any comprehension of what just happened. I have many other friends who are not that fortunate and who DID have to face not only children who wonder what happened, but in some cases children who will now live in fear that they will be removed from this country any day now (or even worse get home from school and discover that their parents have been removed from this country).

I got to school and went into a colleague’s room where we tried to comfort each other. I made it through the field trip, which thankfully was active and fun. I made it almost to the end of the day when I saw a family text from my mom (who I’m fairly sure was Republican for most of my life – but politics was never really discussed in that way other than the occasional “I guess we cancelled each other out” exchange between Mom and Daddy on election days when I was little): “Wow! What a shock we’ve all experienced!! –but we will get through this and move on! Love you both very much!!” which had me fighting tears until I could leave.

I walked to the subway, fully intending to go to forms class tonight. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew I was too raw to face someone I knew I’d have to. It’s too soon. And so I decided to practice some self-care and take the night off. Hopefully tomorrow I will be stronger – and at the very least I know for Thursday night’s class there will be kicking and/or punching.

Walking from one subway to another, I realized I had my iPod in my bag, so I got it out and just put it on random.

And then I got another example of the universe giving us what we need at the time we need it no matter the method of that delivery. Most of the time for me it comes in the form of music, and today it was no exception. The first song that popped up…

15056280_10154426072286321_5580671439820431229_n

Gloria Estefan’s “Nayib’s Song (I Am Here For You)”…

Lyrics…

Lately my son I’ve been confused
Don’t know what to tell you
‘Cause it’s all such bad news
Lately my son I’ve been discouraged
I look around and it fills me with worry
What kind of world can I offer to you
Where will it all lead,
Do we have the sense to make it through
I’ve tried to figure it out, to have an answer
I can tell to you
But all I can see, all I can see

I am here for you, and you are here for me
It’s an ongoing process (ongoing process)
I will take care of you and you will take care of me
If we’re gonna make some progress

Lately my son I feel ashamed
For many things that have happened
And are happening again
Really my son I thought we’d learn
From what I see around me it’s a very tough world
But all I can hope is that you take it as a challenge
To create something new that will take you far
I know that you can manage
To scatter some hope, ’cause it’s not too late
To repair the damage
The way it should be, so easy to see

That I am here for you (here for you)
You are here for me (you’re here for me)
It’s an ongoing process (ongoing process), ongoing process
I will take care of you (take care of you)
You will take care of me (care of me)
If we’re gonna make some progress

You gotta believe
Never be afraid to dream
But following through
‘Cause it won’t get done unless it comes from you
You gotta make it all work
For the ones that are coming after you
Though odd it may seem, you gotta believe

I am here for you (here for you)
You are here for me (you’re here for me)
It’s an ongoing process (ongoing process)
I will take care of you (take care of you)
You will take care of me (care of me)
If we’re gonna make some progress

I am here for you (here for you)
(Here for me)
It’s an ongoing process (ongoing process)
I will take care of you (take care of you)
(Care of me)
If we’re gonna make some progress

I am here for you (here for you)
You are here for me (you’re here for me)
Ongoing process
I will take care of you (take care of you)
You will take care of me (care of me)
If we’re gonna make some progress

More tears, but this time they felt more healing than grieving. More moving forward than wallowing. Baby steps out of the utter darkness.

We’ve got a long way to go. But I have faith that together love will ultimately triumph over hate. That ultimately good will conquer evil. That deep down we ARE better than what the electoral college showed.

I’m still hurting. I still feel like I was – like we were – flung through the looking glass, and that the shards are embedded in me, in us. But gradually we’ll pull out the shards, and I believe that from the broken can come something even more beautiful.

I have to. I don’t have any other choice.

Love and hugs to everyone feeling fear, hurt, anger, confusion, and/or isolation because of what happened yesterday. You are not alone. We are not alone. We will rise and make life on this side of the looking glass even better.

I’m just going to close with embedding a  video for Gloria’s song.

Namaste my friends…

 

If I Never Got To Tell You… Music and Its Power

Saturday morning I decided to enter the ticket lottery for “On Your Feet!” because I was really wanting to see it (even though I had tickets for Sunday, I knew it was going to be an emotional show (more than normal)…more on that later). The lottery had reportedly been tougher to win last week (that’s a good thing) and reportedly the seats were pretty much all in the mezzanine (a VERY good thing because it means the orchestra is pretty much sold!!). I myself had lost Thursday and Friday night. So I really didn’t know if I was going to win.

But I did!

And yes, my seat was in the mezzanine, but it was GREAT to see the theatre almost filled!!! (This amazing show DESERVES full houses every performance!!!)

The cast was on fire, and I was in my happy place! When it was over, I started down to the stage door area.

As I turned my phone from airplane mode to on, it popped up.

A CNN notification.

“At least 25 injured in an explosion in New York”

And nothing would load on my phone! The Marriott Marquis is notoriously iffy on cell service in certain places because of all the steel. Intellectually I know that, but I was freaking out trying to get information.

New York CITY? Most likely since they didn’t give a city. But where? How close was I to whatever was going on?

Finally it loaded and I saw the details as we had them then – in Chelsea, so close, but not right there. I immediately left a message on my mom’s cell phone and my parents’ home phone that I was fine and had not been in the immediate area. And recorded an instagram video to post to let friends know. And posted on Facebook that I was ok – as well as responding to some posts either to my wall or tags.

Doreen Montalvo, one of my favorite people in the world, was one of the first ones out. She’s on as Gloria’s mother through October 2, and I LOVE her in this role. She has really been allowed to make it hers when she is on, and it’s wonderful to watch her. Everyone was all “Please be safe” and she was no exception. As we were talking and she was talking to the people next to me, she took my hand and squeezed it. That might have been when a fire truck was turning the corner and honking at someone and I jumped about a mile in the air, but I’m not positive. Then as she was leaving saying she was walking home and not getting on the subway, she hugged me tight and made me promise to tweet when I got home safely.

A little later, Luis Salgado – one of the uber-talented dancers who is first and foremost an amazing human being (who am I kidding? pretty much everyone involved with this show is an amazing human being!!) – came out and came over and hugged me close. We were chatting and he noticed some friends next to me, so he excused himself for a moment to talk with them, then asked if they wanted to go backstage. They started to go, and he looked at me and said “You’re coming too!” So in we all trooped. Ektor Rivera was taking pictures with Ana Villafañe and her guests in the entrance area, but Luis grabbed him to come to the stage with us. It was super cool to see the theatre from that angle. Plus seeing them and getting their hugs really helped to calm me down. They are awesome!!

14291896_10154275438416321_2445960148133978402_n

Ektor then “kidnapped” me to give me my art. In addition to being a great actor and singer (and all-around fantastic human being) he is an amazing visual artist! Check his work out here!! And I had bought a reproduction – my first grown-up art!! He’d emailed me it was ready and I’d said I would get it at the theatre. Plan was Sunday, but he had it on Saturday. So back we went to his dressing room for the art.

I got the grand tour too – including seeing “the shorts” (if you know the play…or the story of Gloria and Emilio’s first meeting that makes sense) and we chatted for a few minutes. Including Ektor helping translate something Ana says in the date scene that my friend and I could never figure out how to spell to see what it means. Then we headed out.

Ana came out a few minutes later, and it’s always great to see her and chat even if she’s on vocal rest and mouthing the words. We joked about how the bartender had made me sing for my drink that night – I selected “Bojito Is Gonna Get You”, and he said “Ok, but you have to sing…” I protested and said Ana does it so much better than I ever could. But finally gave in and sang the first bit a la the show opening. I think it kind of surprised him that I actually did it. But I still had to pay for it!!😛

I headed home – I took the 7 to the G so that I would avoid the area where the bomb – and then a second device – was. But it took a while to calm down – the swing from nearly hysterical to being super happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, then being hyper aware of everything on my way home really had me worked up.

Sunday I got up, went to Taekwondo, came home and showered and got ready and headed into Manhattan (again via the G and 7) for dinner at Havana Central and the evening performance of On Your Feet! – which was going to be Luis’ last show with the company. I’d purposely bought A2 because I knew I’d be up close AND I was on the aisle so I could conga with David Baida because I promised him I would! And it was fun!!🙂

The cast was totally fired up, and the show was amazing!! There are some spots I can pretty much predict I’ll tear up every time and others surprise me. Obviously with it being a musical those moments are usually part of the music. But not always – one scene early on between Gloria’s mother and father – who at that point was in a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis and other complications probably due to his service in Vietnam – completely got to me because of the way Doreen and Eliseo were interacting. Beautiful.

The full-out waterworks for me started in Act 2 when Ana sings “Famous” which is the transition into the bus accident (hey, this is a true story…no need for a spoiler warning here!). Following that, in the hospital scene, there is a duet between Gloria’s mother and Emilio that is always beautiful and moving. It is the one original number in the show, and it was co-written by Gloria and her and Emilio’s daughter Emily. The show’s story ends prior to Emily’s birth, but this is a super cool way for her to be “in” the show.

The song’s title is “If I Never Got To Tell You”, and as it suggests, it’s about saying all the things we mean to but never do for whatever reason thinking we’ll always have more time. But as the accident all too painfully demonstrated, you never really truly know. In the song, Gloria’s mom (also named Gloria) sings to her as they have been estranged, Emilio sings both to their son Nayib, and to Gloria, then Gloria’s mom who has been even more estranged from Emilio sings to him as they realize how close they have come to never having another tomorrow.

And the true-life events of the night before in NYC also served as a reminder of that.

And so yes – full-on waterworks. But really in a healing and cathartic way. Which to me is the beauty of music – something as simple as a melody and words can combine to say everything you’re feeling, to break you wide open and let healing light flow over the broken pieces. “If I Never Got To Tell You” is always an emotional point in the show, but last night it was special. Different. Just…MORE.

And I really couldn’t stop crying from that point on – through “I Don’t Want To Lose You Now”, “Reach”, and of course “Coming Out of the Dark”.

And weirdly – but not really given the day – the Mega Mix – the dance party that closes the show and serves as curtain call. I thought I was going to be ok, but I saw tears streaming down Luis’ cheeks and it was all over for me then. He is such a talented dancer and just a warm, kind-hearted human. It’s going to be really weird seeing the show without him in it. But I know the future holds great things for him.

This is kind of rambling I realize. But it’s my attempt at a big huge thank you…

  • To Gloria and Emilio Estefan for sharing their story, their lives, and indeed their hearts with all of us in so many ways. THANK YOU for On Your Feet!!
  • To Gloria and Emily Estefan for writing such a beautiful piece of music in “If I Never Got To Tell You” that simply says it all – and was everything I needed last night.
  • To Ana Villafañe, Ektor Rivera, and the whole cast of On Your Feet! for the magic you make happen in telling a story that is Gloria and Emilio’s but also a little bit of all of us when we struggle to stay true to ourselves and succeed no matter what.
  • To Doreen Montalvo for being awesome and being there on Saturday night!!❤❤
  • To my friends I’ve met through the show! Y’all are awesome!!
  • And finally to Luis Salgado. You have always had a smile and a strong hug for me. I know I tweeted it, but it deserves saying again… They say you never forget your first…so THANK YOU for taking me on my first backstage visit and for bringing light into a pretty dark and scary night Saturday… Thank you for the smiles from stage – and for your kind words all the time. Your son is super lucky to have you for a dad!! Big hugs to him and your wife too!!

There are never any guarantees in life. Don’t lose tomorrow if you need to tell someone what they mean to you. Do it. Now.

Sending love and light to all…

90 Millas…

578354_10151724105026321_370508517_n

Cuba has always been one of those places that has fascinated me.

I can’t really explain why.

True it has up until very recently been “off limits” to US citizens as long as I’ve been alive, but then again, the former Soviet Union and China used to be more off-limits and at least the former Soviet Union never really interested me.

Maybe it’s because learning about it has been something not really done in my education? I mean, I remember learning about stuff with Russia and the former Soviet Union – I even had a class in college on Russian History – Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union – but I don’t remember seeing a class on Cuba. Yes, we learned about Bay of Pigs, but beyond that I learned very little.

My main knowledge of Cuba has been that it’s always been a place that people have risked their lives to escape from.

So it’s been this fascinating mystery place for me.

So close to the US – only 90 miles (90 millas in Spanish) separate Ket West from Havana – but so far away in so many ways. I remember standing here at the southernmost point of the Continental US in Key West and looking in Havana’s direction and marveling at how close we were physically…and yet how far in so many ways.

And then gradually some small things began to happen. My running coach went with a people-to-people program to run a marathon in Havana, and now there is a sponsored P2P trip that runs the marathon.

But running? Not my jam anymore.

And since I’m not a diplomat or anything, there didn’t really seem to be any way to get there.

This desire to go, to experience, to meet the people – most of whom did NOT choose this life they have been forced into – got even stronger after seeing “On Your Feet!” the first time and really seeing in a more first-hand way that there ARE people whose lives, whose families were irrevocably changed by everything that has happened there, that the spirit of these people is so beautiful and their love for their homeland is so great in spite of it all.

And then…

Then things started changing. Relations between the US and Cuba are beginning to “normalize” and new paths to visit are opening. Yes, with very specific situations that require documentation, but things are beginning to open.

One of these things is the launch of fathom impact travel – which does People to People cruises to Cuba and social impact cruises to the Dominican Republic on alternating weeks. I heard about it and started looking into it and exploring possibilities.

I know fathom has its detractors. And I know it will not be perfect. The early sailings have had issues – not all completely unique to this line (MOST lines have issues when they launch new ships and/or brand new ideas). Some people complain that everything is pre-determined in terms of activities (not 100% true…you CAN do your own thing, but the amount of paperwork you have to do to prove that it meets the P2P regulations is pretty extensive) and/or that you HAVE to do these things. (I’m sorry that this is how it is, but for US citizens, you simply cannot go to Cuba and lay on the beach the whole time and have it be legal.)

It’s definitely not a cruise line for everyone – if all you want to do is drink and hang on a beach, it’s NOT the line for you, with either itinerary (which to me makes it all the more interesting that Carnival is the parent company of fathom given Carnival’s reputation as the party line of cruises).

But I do think that it has a lot of potential as there ARE people who want to explore this way and/or give back even while on vacation. Do they need to really figure out how to market is? Of course. If I wasn’t on cruise forums, I don’t know that I would have heard of fathom.

I can’t say how well or poorly fathom does this providing a different kind of vacation experience – but I can say I WANT to experience this and make up my own mind rather than listening to haters on message boards and so forth (ditto anyone who wants to comment on here about how awful it is…that was YOUR experience, please let me have mine and make up my own mind) and deciding that is how things are.

I’m excited about the opportunity. Nervous, yes. But excited!

Visiting this place that has held my imagination for so much of my life hadn’t been a possibility before. But now, suddenly, it is. There is a possibility in front of me – and expensive possibility, but a possibility!

My first thought was Spring Break week – but that is a DR week on fathom’s schedule.

Birthday cruise? Again, the week itself was a DR week, but there was the week before or after.

And then political things became clear in the US, and in addition to the multitude of worries one candidate in particular brings, one thought came into my mind.

“I want to do this before January 20! Just in case…”

So given what I already had planned for this summer, there was only one other week I could consider.

And that week WAS a Cuba itinerary for fathom!

And that week is Christmas.

I knew my dad had brought up me going home for Christmas – or possibly them coming up here. But my sister didn’t know her schedule – and once she did, it’s still not definitive as extensions and changes can happen. And even though Daddy had said “But you’re an adult, and if you’d rather stay there or do something else, that’s fine.” I couldn’t help but be nervous about his reaction if I said what I really wanted to do.

But finally one phone call when the subject of Christmas came up, I brought it up. And he was supportive!

It took a little while until I knew for sure I would be able to do it (long story…had to wait for a settlement check from a class action suit regarding some loans I had to come and see what the amount was), but…

I am officially booked and 100% paid on fathom’s Christmas week cruise to Cuba!!

This cruise is a reverse from their usual route – Havana to Cienfuegos to Santiago de Cuba – so we will go first to Santiago de Cuba then Cienfuegos, then Havana. Round trip from Miami.

Each day we are in port, we will be doing on-ground cultural immersion activities such as touring with a Cuban guide, eating in family-owned and operated restaurants, seeing performances, meeting local artisans and crafts people, etc. We are docked overnight in Havana and will have the opportunity to go to the Tropicana or the Cabaret Parisien through fathom – or the possibility to go elsewhere on your own for the evening. (Right now I’m leaning towards the Cabaret since I will be solo and my Spanish is limited. I’m working on learning with DuoLingo, so we will see, but I’m still learning towards the ship excursions.)

While we are on board we will have enrichment activities such as Cuban films, seminars to learn about Cuba and Cuban culture, and smaller group sessions to debrief and discuss.

It is going to be a vacation unlike any other I’ve been on in my life, but I’m so excited to have this chance!!

Stay tuned!! You’re coming along on this journey for sure!!

The power of music.

As far back as I can remember, music has been a huge part of my life.

Church choir. Recorder. School chorus. Band. Piano lessons. Handbells.

For the longest time I thought I wanted to become a middle school band director. For various reasons I went a different path, but music has continued to be a part of my life.

The power a song can have to encourage you. To take you back to another time. To push you forward. To speak to and for you. It’s really unlike anything else for me.

For me, music is such a part of my life I am not always consciously aware of it until something brings it to the forefront.

Such was the case when I first went to see “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan” back in February.

I was aware that the show was happening. I’d seen the ads on buses and around town. But I will freely admit that I’m not typically one for “jukebox musicals”, so I never really looked into it, assuming that’s what it was.

I would soon find out how wrong I was.

It was during our Presidents’ Week break, and I decided to pretty much enter almost every show lottery. “On Your Feet!” was the first one to close and notify – I had won a ticket and had 60 minutes to purchase it. Which meant I was figuring that I wouldn’t win anything else if I bought it. (A pretty safe bet with “Hamilton” but not necessarily so much with the others.)

Given that it was kind of a random entry, I asked my friends on FaceBook if any of them had seen it and if so what they thought. One of my friends who sees pretty much everything said that she had enjoyed it more than she anticipated, so I bought the ticket and went.

And was hooked from the opening scenes.

gloria-estefan-show-bb33-2015-billboard-650

It is not your “typical” jukebox musical at all. Yes, it is all (with one exception – which is a new song co-written by Gloria and her daughter Emily) music from Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine’s catalog, but rather than building a story around the songs (a la “Mamma Mia!”) the songs are interwoven into the story of Gloria and Emilio’s life. And while the story is specific to them, the overarching themes are universal.

Gloria is brilliantly played by Ana Villafañe.

on-your-feet-broadway

She sounds uncannily like Gloria, especially when singing. I’ve heard more than one person say “I could have sworn she was lip-synching”.

The first Emilio I was was Josh Segarra

on-your-feet-broadway1

who was great.

Emilio is currently played by Ektor Rivera

116416

who has brought a whole other dimension to Emilio.

As the title implies, the story is theirs – obviously some things are tweaked for time and dramatic reasons, but some things have been brought in directly from their story.

The shorts. That’s all that needs to be said there.😛

I had not realized how much of their music catalog WAS the soundtrack to my life from middle school on up. Some songs I hadn’t even realized WERE Gloria’s at the time, and some are completely new to me.

The book was written by Alexander Dinelaris, and Gloria has said in interviews about the process that she gave him full use of the music catalog. And it is really amazing how well songs from different parts of her career fit into her and Emilio’s story – obviously “Coming Out of the Dark” (which is set in its context in their lives), but also other songs and other times in their life.

For me, one of the most moving scenes is one with Gloria and her father, who at that point was completely bedridden with what was diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis but was likely a combination of various factors. In pretty much a dream sequence, Fajardo, her father, sings a very early song of hers “When Someone Comes Into Your Life”. Almost invariably this scene brings me to tears because I grew up hearing the story of how the morning after I was born, my dad came to visit my mom and me in the hospital and told my mom he “dreamed about walking [me] down the aisle” (to which my mom said “Let her be a baby!”). I’ve said that if my parents make it up here while the show is running we WILL be coming to see it, but Daddy and I canNOT sit next to each other because it will just be uber waterworks!!

And while the story is specific to them, there are themes that resonate so strongly today… The discrimination that they faced in crossing over from the Latin music scene to the greater music scene in particular. In one scene where this is so apparent, they have been told if they want to cross over, they need to change everything – including their name. Emilio gives an impassioned response about the discrimination he and his father faced when they came to America and how he has worked and paid his taxes for 15 years finishing with “And you should look very closely to my face. Because whether you know it or not, THIS is what an American looks like!”

And that line has gotten cheers and applause every time I’ve seen the show! And rightly so!

The entire cast is stellar, and the choreography by Sergio Trujillo is authentic and yet his own.

In short, this show has touched me in a way that no show has in a long time. The music moves me, and the story touches me.

This entry was in no way solicited by anyone with the show. It’s my own doing and my own feeble attempt to say thank you to Gloria and Emilio for sharing their story; to Ana and Ektor and the rest of the cast for bringing the story to life 8 times a week and pouring their hearts and souls into it – and for opening themselves to the fans of the show. I’ve seen it 8 times so far – yes, most were through the lottery but a couple of them have been regular tickets (as are a couple of times coming up). That’s how much I believe in the show. (And trust me – 8 times is NOTHING compared to some!!) The crowd at the stage door is as varied as they come – in age and in cultural background. You don’t have to be Latino/Latina/LatinX to understand or be touched by the story – you just have to be human.

13880386_10154167369776321_5785869643546589499_n

 

13669834_10154139890226321_7509223588687165977_nwith Gloria and Emilio at Broadway Barks

13686742_10154103679641321_2920275287136795836_nwith Ana and Ektor after the show one night in July

Seriously – if you’re in New York, do yourself a favor and go see this show!! It’s at the Marquis in New York. For information, check the website: On Your Feet!

The rhythm will get you too!

So what’s new?

Now that I’ve finished recapping my birthday cruise, I can get back to life and regular (I hope) blogging.

Let’s see… What’s been going on?

Travel…

The brief hiatus in posting the cruise recaps was because I met up with my parents and sister in Boston on Sunday for a few days of touring together. Boston Family Trip We did a historical hop on hop off trolley ride (a time and a half), the New England Aquarium, a whale watching trip, Fenway Park, part of the Freedom Trail, dinner with a friend at Casa Romano (YUM!!!), The Old North Church and Paul Revere’s House, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It was a busy time, but good to be together!

 

Summer living…

Other than this trip and the cruise, most of my summer has been Taekwondo. I’ve gone to an actual sparring class (I got bruised, but not killed – they were told they were not allowed to kill me. HA!) and done more than a few “two-a-days”. Tuesday evening I’ll be testing for my Red Stripe (aka High Blue) Belt!!

I watched the Olympics – as much as I could anyway. I know that most of the experienced people at the dojang thought the TKD was “boring” but for me, since it’s all new, I enjoyed watching it. I was even able to pick out some specific kicks and watch how elite-level people spar.

I watched ONE of the conventions.😛 The other, just seeing the lowlights on the news was enough.

I’ve also seen some theatre – in particular “On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan” which is amazing! I should do a separate entry just on that!🙂

I saw “Troilus and Cressida” at Shakespeare in the Park – meh, I didn’t really get why they had to go so hyper-masculine and run around with assault weapons, etc. But it was free.

I continue to lose the “Hamilton” lottery every time I enter. I could paper my apartment – and yours too – with all the “Try again” emails if I printed them off. But that would be very boring wall paper and a huge waste of trees, so I don’t print them off.

I did a lot of reading on the cruise. I’m almost done with Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels series (on the last book now).

And like the rest of the universe it seems, I read “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” – I really enjoyed it. And now I want to go to London and see it!

I should have done some more cleaning – but I can focus on that next week. Last week of freedom before school starts back! Ugh!

 

Being gluten-free…

And I’ve been adjusting to eating gluten-free! The first part of June I went back to my doctor for a check about blood pressure (seems to be responding to the water pill combined with exercise and watching diet), and I asked her about maybe trying gluten-free to see if that helps with the belly fat that seems to want to hang on. She looked at me, and it was like a lightbulb appeared over her head.

“Have you ever been tested for a wheat allergy?”

Well, actually when I was tested for peanuts which came up negative even though I know I react to them (not seriously at this point…my allergist would prefer that I carry an Epi-Pen, but we all know the price issues with those, so I stick to Benadryl carried with me in case of accidental ingestion), I showed as positive for wheat – but I never got anything I’d think of as a reaction to it.

“Uh, your air flow that has remained lower than I’d like even though you’re not wheezing anymore? THAT could well be the ‘reaction’ so yes. I want you gluten-free.”

Three weeks before Italy!!!! Though in actuality they are lightyears ahead of us in dealing with gluten allergies and sensitivities. (Maybe you caught that picture in my Rome entry about the restaurant that had their whole menu available gluten-free? Yeah…this is why that was a big deal to me.)

So I’ve been gluten-free since mid-June. Not sure if it’s doing anything weight-wise (I will admit I’ve been pretty bad about my eating outside of “no gluten”, so I’m not saying it won’t help when I’m back on a normal schedule), but I did notice the other day in the dojang I am not getting as winded as I used to – even just before this discovery/revelation. Like, all of a sudden – which is weird to attribute to “you’ve been working out more” because it should have happened earlier if that was the only reason.

Almost makes me wonder how running would go now if I picked that back up as a regular thing. Almost. Not enough to make me start again.  :P

 

Travel planning…

And I’ve been doing some trip planning. I’m taking my parents on the Disney Magic in February! I’ll spend 2.5 days in Miami before the cruise exploring that city. They’re flying down the day before the cruise (I think) and we’ll board on Feb 22. We go to Castaway Cay, Key West, and have a sea day! So excited to explore a new-to-us Disney ship (first time on one of the Classics) and spend some time with my parents!

I’m going home for a long weekend 9/30. We’re out that Monday and Tuesday for Rosh Hashanah, so might as well take advantage of the time!

And I’ve got one other thing – one very exciting thing – planned. But that is definitely another entry all together!

 

So yeah… That’s about all with my life right now I think.

You’re all caught up!🙂 And I promise I’ll try my best to be better about regular – and more “normal” – entries!!

My Birthday Cruise Days 13, 14, and 15 – Sea Days and Flight Home

The last two days of the cruise were sea days. Meaning for me they were a blend of rest, workout, eat, read, and repeat in varying orders.🙂

After dinner on the next to last night, I headed to the final production show – Center Stage. I am puzzled as to why they don’t do it the final night, but it is what it is I suppose.

I did have a momentary freak-out/flashback to a horrid show on the Radiance last summer when the show started with the notes to Styx’s “Come Sail Away”. (Last summer the one production show I ventured to was technically called “City of Dreams” but I refer to it as “City of Nightmares” it was so bad – and I was stuck in my row so I could not escape.) Adding to it, the singer’s outfit was eerily similar. BUT no fake ship.

And no worries! This show was great!

After the show I went back to my cabin and got about as packed as I could – leaving out just what I’d need the next day and the day after.

On the 12th, the last day of the cruise, I will admit to crying when I said good-bye to Yara. She had been so amazing – I didn’t mean to get attached, but I did.

28771956630_433ac6f54b_bShe knew I liked to exercise, so she put bear in “push-up” position.🙂 She was that awesome!

Dinner was as always – said good-bye to Mohit and Mikhail, and never saw my head waiter. (Surprising as they almost always make an appearance on the final night – tip night. Actually being accustomed to Disney Cruise Line’s policy of anything allergy-related going through the head waiter, I was VERY surprised I never saw him/her.)

Then it was over to the wine bar to buy a glass of wine and toast to an amazing vacation…

28982055131_927c03afa1_b

Then it was off to the cabin to pack up everything except PJs, clothes for the trip home, and toiletries needed in the morning – and the luggage went outside the door.

And then I just chilled in the cabin – reading, writing in the journal I was keeping (what this commentary has come from), and so forth. No “See Ya Real Soon” party or anything to kill time.

That night was VERY rocky – we ran into one of those random pop-up Mediterranean storms. Big time wind and waves! I loved the motion – but people were definitely talking about it at breakfast!

Another good flight in business class, and I was home.

As promised, here are the links to my complete albums.

Overall it was an amazing trip. Some things I learned…

  • When available, I will be getting a beverage package. Even if I don’t “break even” just knowing that I can have a drink and not have to worry about if I have enough left on my account will be nice.
  • Where there are people, there will be drama. Tender tickets, deck chairs, airports even with assigned seats on planes… Just chill and go with it.
  • It really does not matter what body shape/type you have when it comes to swim suits. Wear what makes you comfortable and don’t worry about what other people think.
  • Pack half the amount of clothes and twice the amount of tampons I think I’ll need.
  • It’s not Disney, but Royal Caribbean does have some nice ships, and I can cruise them if I have to.
  • There is so much more of the world I want to explore! There is always something to learn out there in the big wide world!!

Thanks for coming along on my trip!