Ready... (Pic by J.No)
Jump. (Pic by J.No)
Splash! (Pic by J.No)
When Mike and I would talk about our move, we knew that we had made a good choice. Besides leaving our family behind, the choice to come overseas was a no-brainer for so many reasons. But how would our idea of living here and our reality match up? When we got here we realized that our reality was much better than anything we ourselves could have dreamed up. Everyone, and I mean everyone was welcoming, helpful, accepting, genuine. And isn't that what family is?
When you are part of something special, take it in and be thankful that you get to be a part of it.
Yesterday, many of the girls from Carol Morgan went to Boca Chica to celebrate Jolene's Baby Shower. A bus was rented where we drank champagne to welcome Baby Collier to the clan (Jolene, of course getting her own non-alcoholic bubbly). I got to spend some time talking to Melissa about her experience traveling abroad (she's been doing this for 18 years!) and it always excites me and makes me sad to hear such incredible stories. (Excited to do the same, sad because it might mean not getting back to the U.S. for a while.) Her stories of visiting Canada for Christmas and having snowball fights conjured up ideas of what Christmas looks like in my mind. Particularly funny was her story about her daughter who, because never having lived anywhere cold (she was born in Africa), refused to put on boots. She walked around in flip flops for half the trip! Like with most things, when you don't always have something, you learn to not take it for granted. I would imagine, it's even prettier than when you have to constantly clean it off your car and shovel it off your sidewalk so someone doesn't fall and sue you. Because they aren't around snow much, snowfall fights become part of the agenda, a must do. Because let's be honest... when was the last time you had a snowball fight?
We arrived at the restaurant, built on a dock connecting to the water. Drinks were immediately ordered with the majority of the table ordering Chinola Margaritas - passion fruit margs. Spell delicious... C-H-I-N-O-L-A M-A-R-G-A-R-I-T-A.
While drinks are a favorite part of my social get togethrness, the people sitting around that table were quickly competing with a good glass of wine. And if you know me, that is saying a lot. A WHOLE LOT. To my left, Courtney and I shared our love of our dogs. How it is amazing how you could love an animal that much. How some people (non dog people) may not realize it, but sometimes a dog is in every memory of your life and becomes engrained in who you are. She had gotten her dog after college and he was with her for all the landmark moments of her life. I started thinking how true that is with our dogs. When we look back at our life, Jersey and Olive lived with us in our first apartment. They are in our Cinco de Mayo engagement pictures with sombreros on, our wedding pictures attired in a tuxedo and wedding dress. They traveled with us to our first abroad experience. They were home for the arrival of our first daughter.
To my right, Shayna and I have become instant friends. Reminding me of most of my friends, Shayna is fun, fun, fun with a side of sparkle and a dessert tray of sneaky. When Jolene started opening presents, I was excited to give her mine, a themed present of ROCKSTAR: A bib and outfit saying, "My Mom Rocks," a guitar decorated onesie, and a mix CD of Rockabye Baby with a collection of timeless rock songs turned lullaby. Where did my bag go? I knew I took it off the bus. I knew I had only had one Chinola Margarita so I didn't lose it. I looked down the table and it was 3 seats down. How did it get there? Was I first intending to sit down there, I thought? No. Eventually I realized that sneaky Shayna took it and hid it at the other side of the table. When Jolene was finished opening presents, Shayna's newest idea involved jumping off the dock, holding hands, for a picture. We decided that holding hands wasn't the smartest of ideas, but cannonballing definitely was. And so we did! Once in we decided to swim to the resort next door to see if we could find a volleyball for the net in the water. Once we secured the ball, we called over the others for a 4 on 5 game. Interestingly enough, Jolene, about 7 months pregnant was the best player that day... at least I think so.
After a little while of playing, Noreen announces that she has lost her wedding ring. Immediately, my mind goes to the story my mom has told me of my grandmother's wedding ring getting lost in the ocean, never to be found. The game was stalled and 9 women are in the middle of he ocean, feeling around the ocean floor looking desperately as if it was there own ring that had been lost. We tried searching in a grid, lining up and combing the sand, a stranger even joined our search. I went over to borrow snorkeling gear and brought back the snorkeling dude who helped us. We searched for what seemed like forever. I, usually a great finder of things, was pessimistic about this. But many others stayed optimistic always, "We're going to find it." A group of about 7 guys came out to the water to play volleyball and at about this time Noreen, realistic but I'm sure sad, announced that the search was over. "Thanks guys, but we're not finding it. Let's go have some cake." And just when we thought the search was over, snorkeling dude comes out of the water like a tiburon and shows me a shiny ring. I screamed in disbelief, jumped on him and hugged him and then every other woman did too. Snorkeling dude was covered in bikini wearing women. And then as if the celebration wasn't glorious enough, the volleyball players joined in. There was an eruption of celebration like no other celebration I've ever seen. It was like we all felt the loss of that ring and were just as invested in its being found. And as if nothing happened, snorkeling dude was gone with no expectation of being rewarded. Maybe being part of someone's forever story was reward enough.
On our bus trip back, Shayna decided on karaoke. Eventually, I joined. From Gaga to Christmas, we were trying to get karaoke started. A great moment was the bus driver, who after having no idea what we were singing for a half hour and probably asking himself what he had done to deserve this, heard "Feliz Navidad" come on. I said to him, "You know this one, right?" We put the microphone to his mouth and he serenaded us with his accompaniment to the classic Christmas song. Beautiful! My favorite moment was when we played, "Jolene" a Dolly Parton classic remade by Vikki Martinez and serenaded mama Jolene. Yeah, I'm sure this has never happened to her before!
It was an amazing day for me. I finally felt like I was getting back to normal. Amanda said, "I knew when I met you, pregnant and all, that you were in there." And she's right. Pregnant Jen was still a powerhouse but in a different sense. Parts of me were packed away like sweaters in the summer. I was me, always me, but toned down and more careful. I had to be, it wasn't just me that I was thinking about. But yesterday, made me feel like me again. And what a wonderful group of ladies to share it with.
As I looked around the table, I was thinking that when you are part of something special, you have to take it in and be thankful that you get to be a part of it. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.
Although I didn't get to spend time with everyone, this was written for amazing women whose stories I would one day like to know over a vodka sprite with Chinola and lime drink. (Yep! I made that up on the spot and it was delish) : Jolene, Shayna, Melissa, Courtney, Gina, Laurie, Amanda, Raquel, J.No, Elizabeth, Mary (who got up and danced with me to "Eye of the Tiger" on the bus), Sara, Kris, Jaymin, Ellen, Diane, Noreen, and Katherine, Giselle, and Laura. And Julia, although you couldn't be with us!