Meet My Madrid Familia

Interwebs, please meet my Madrid familia!! In case you are new here and were unaware, I hosted a high school foreign exchange student. She is from Madrid and lived with me over the last school year. I fell in love with her and her family, so when an unexpected opportunity came up to visit them, I took it!


I hadn’t seen her since June so when I first arrived, naturally there were happy tears. But, it was the first night of family dinner, when everyone was gathered and laughing, that it hit me. I was experiencing true Spanish family….and a family that I now claim as my own! It was emotional to say the least.


Before I introduce them individually, I have to tell you (although my limited vocabulary is not nearly enough to do so), that these are the kindest people you will ever meet. Their hospitality and love to two handfuls of American girls, has gone unmatched. They went out of their way to be our taxis, tour guides, cooks and to make certain that our stay was more than we could’ve imagined. I don’t know how I will ever repay them! And currently, after so many days and SO MUCH shopping, I am just extremely grateful that they didn’t put us on a plane earlier.



Meet Susana – The Madre

From the time I knew Monica was coming to live with me, Susana has been the best support. She is humble, kind, PATIENT (heavy on the patience), positive, understanding and if she was ever frustrated at any point over the last few days, we haven’t even seen a hint of it.
We got to spend some time with her a couple of days that was just with her. Even on her birthday (Sunday), she toted is to the CRAZY street market (more on that later) and never complained about walking THE WHOLE market, not once, but three times, just so we could find “that one” thing we wanted. She entertained us with participating in silly tourist pics. And if she didn’t want to throw us out of the car after the thousandth “oh let’s stop and get a pic here” moment, then she just might be a real saint.


She is an artist who is way too humble about it. Look at some of the work she has done at their beach house! She is also the one who painted a portrait of Moni and me and sent it for my birthday! Definitely one of my most treasured gifts!!



Anyway! Susana is simply the best. I will always value her as my Spanish Madre and look to her for calm and wisdom!

Meet Jose – The Padre

Oh how he loves. There is no way that you don’t know it when you’re in his presence. He is comic relief. He is agreeable to all the ladies of his household. He has just the right amount of facetiousness about him!! He shows love. That’s quite different than what I grew up with and I couldn’t help but sit in awe of how he is constantly hugging, picking on and kissing on his girls. He creates a house of love and protection. He is a good papa!!!!



 


Meet Mari and Moni – The Girls 

Most of you know Moni from all I shared on social media while she lived with me. What you may not have known is that she has a twin sister Mari! Mari also did an exchange program and lived in North Carolina. I have missed Moni EVERY SINGLE DAY since she left. She took a part of my heart with her when she left America! However, seeing her “in her element” at home and adding Mari to the mix has been the most fun to watch! I didn’t think I could love them more until I came here this last week. Now, I have no idea how I am ever going to leave them!! They are just the right mix of opposites and definitely the hardest studiers I have ever met (seriously, they studied the whole time we were here….smart girls, they are)! Beautiful inside and out!!!


Meet the Cousins and friends

Well, meet some of them! I apparently failed to get a pic with a couple of them 😞 (SO SORRY LUISA)!! They are just good. The most welcoming and precious girls! I felt like we had already been friends forever! It was approximately five minutes before we were all laughing, making jokes and picking on each other!!


Meet the Abuelas and Tias

Can you even handle them? THEY. ARE. PRECIOUS. The abuelas have wisdom and pure grace. Abuela Luisita made me a total crying mess with her swet words. Abuela Maricarmen is just a smart cookie. She exudes it from the minute she enters a room.
Then there is Tia. Oh my. She is our very own American version of “gives zero cares”. She loves to sing and recite poetry. And believe you, me, she did her fair share during our visit! Check her out in tgis video!! All the love and feels for Tia. I offered to bring her back with me, because duh, America needs her! When I get old I will be her!

 


Meet Cleo – The dog

Last, but certainly not least, there is Cleo. She has about as gentle of a spirit as I have ever seen in a dog!

It’s hard to even type about them without getting emotional. I don’t know how I am going to leave them! How lucky I am to have not only visited this country and take a great vacation, but to have this family come into my life, is not (and will never be) lost on me. I do not deserve them! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

P.S. There is also Jose, the brother!! He just wasn’t around for photo ops and visiting til family dinner tonight. He is a complete sweetheart and I am not sure anyone on Earth treats their dog as good as he does!

Madrid Is For Lovers….And For Me 

Well. HELLOOOOOO Madrid!!! We started the last leg of our trip today. Madrid had a lot to live up to after such amazing times in Marbella and Barcelona. What I have been most excited about for this part of the trip is the family aspect. I have been anticipating a true Spanish family feel and have NOT been disappointed (you’ll meet all of them in tomorrow’s blog).

I wasn’t sure if the city exploring was going to live up to what we had already seen. Then, once we got off the metro, it was like Madrid said “girl, please….get over here and let me show you what we got”

SITES

At first it was cloudy and colder. We needed to sit by the heaters to enjoy lunch outside. But then, the skies cleared. The bluest sky came through and we enjoyed THE MOST BEAUTIFUL park walk. This park made Central Park feel uninteresting and underwhelming (Sorry NYC, you still have great pizza going for ya). Most of my pics were taken on the real camera today (thanks Apple for crappy iPhone battery life these days), but the ones I did get on my phone didn’t even need a filter to make the colors pop! The sky really is that blue!!!

The very first thing I noticed when we got into the park (after I scooped up a pair of fake Nikes from the street vendor) was how it could be so easy to fall in love here. There were people kissing, street musicians playing, little rowing boats. Ah. I couldn’t even hate it! If my future husband is reading this, go ahead and book a trip for us……kiss me by the fountain, buy me an ice cream and then let’s rent a segway and laugh at how clumsy I would probably be on it😝


FOOD

It will be hard for America to convince me to have certain things again, like cappuccino and tuna. I don’t know of any places that could match what I have tasted here. The food is just so good. I neber thought I would be this rmotional about food or even have that mich to carry on about it. But here, you definitely do. So much in fact, that when we shared a table with some other people who didn’t even show ANY emotion over their tapas, I was annoyed at them! The homemade food is even better! Tonight for family dinner we enjoyed homemade paella and a pear dessert that is probably illegal somewhere, it’s so good!! I LOVE that dinner in itself here is an event. It’s not just eat and done. We visit for hours with lots of laughter! If anyone in this country goes to bed hungry and sad, they are crazy!!


SHOPPING

I hate shopping. I truly do. But I sure found a way to love it with all the fantastic shops here. Any shop you could ever want. Our fav from today was Primark. It’s 5 stories, cheap prices and good stuff! I fell victim to so many things that I have had to buy another suitcase. How silly of me to declare before I came that I wasn’t interested in buying anything I was here. I really thought I meant that 😜


I have two HUGE regrets today. Not following through with buying this sequined fanny pack (I wish you could see how flashy it was in this pic) and letting the pink glittered wallet get away…….sigh…..


I also am quite envious of this unicorn tape dispenser my friend snatched up!

Today was good! Tomorrow is family lunch with the WHOLE Madrid family and I can hardly stand the wait!!

❤️❤️❤️❤️

Dying Stories

  Today was exhausting. My body just doesn’t do well in situations like this and things in general just weren’t going my way. The time with family tonight sure turned my frowns upside down. I am thankful. I mean that with every fiber of me. 

Anyway- 

1. I am soooo thankful that I made the decision to come when I did. It means so much to be able to say goodbye. Today made it clear that chance has passed so I will cherish that I made it in time. 

2. Stories. Oh my word. Anyone who knows me, knows there are plenty of Yell Co stories in my arsenal. But the ones I have heard tonight for the first time are awesome. I rarely get to spend good soul time with my uncles, and I don’t think people really share stories anymore. But to be unplugged from technology in these late nights when we can’t sleep and hear story after story has been awesome. It feels weird to say that since it has only happened because of sadness…but I Wish everyone could meet my Uncle Lewis and hear him talk. 

3. Speaking of stories, tonight we covered noodling (my fam did it way better than those tv shows), hunting, mountain lion debates, uncle don’s new addiction to FB and my most fav of all, dating. The love and respect between my aunts and uncles is so cool. Watching them tell me their love story and see them go down memory lane is beyond sweet. 

4. I have had some pretty great examples of couples love and the power of never giving up. The men in my family have set a really high bar. Probably why I am still single…because I expect what my grandparents and aunts and uncles have. Even if I stay single forever, I have still experienced great love, even if it is second hand. And that’s good enough for me!

Farm la la la………

I have started a tradition with my nieces that every year around the holidays, I schedule a photo session complete with silliness, cute outfits, and memories that I hope they talk about long after I am gone.  Its my Christmas gift to my family and I am not sure if they truly appreciate it as much as I cherish it, but to me, pictures are worth more than a thousand words on any given day!  This year was the best ones we have had so far and I am already spending way too much time contemplating next year’s session and how on earth I could possibly top 2013.

That’s the feel good stuff.  The sap.  Then there is my insertion into the pics.  Not that I need to defend my presence in the pictures, because I don’t owe anybody that.  I do however want to share how it came to be for me and give you something to think about for your own self 🙂

After escaping a horribly abusive relationship in the summer of 2012, I wasn’t sure that I would ever recover.  Not only did it shake me to my core, and a place where I didn’t even recognize myself…….but it also destroyed what little self esteem I had worked so hard to find and live with.  I couldn’t stand to look at myself for a myriad of reasons that I will spare you of here.  What I do know is that once I started finally coming out of the dark so to speak, I honestly saw physical transformation as well as emotional transformation.  I was becoming someone I didn’t know, but thankfully someone better.

When you have been through something like that (or for me anyway) and you finally start to see light and peace, you want to do WHATEVER you can to hold on to it.  To document it, to capture it so that you never lose it again!  So, I did a photo session of me.  Often, things like that are thought of as vain.  But, when you evolve enough in life, you evolve to a place where a stigma such as that matters very little to you.  Actually, it doesn’t matter at all.  Because nobody knows you or what you went through and as I have said from the beginning, if you don’t love yourself, you are no good to anyone else.

Every year since (ok, so it’s only been 1 year), there seems to be something happening in my life that has caused major change.  And every single time, without fail, I see transformation.  Even when I think there isn’t room for it.  The simple recognizing of that in itself is amazing.  So, I decided to keep documenting.

I hop into the niece’s session because I want them to see that I was present.  Our family has a unique closeness, but at the same time, we aren’t too good at loving each other completely out loud.  I want them to see that differently and to change with me.  I also throw in a few shots of myself to remind me of my own journey and where I was at that time.

My point in justifying my fabulous new pics that truly captured me 🙂 is to tell you that it’s ok.  It’s ok to be present.  It’s ok to take a gazillion pictures and to document your life.  After all, some day when you’re gone it’s all that people will have of you.   It is not ok, however, to get the pictures back and destroy yourself in critiquing them.  Don’t do it.  I know you’re going to, I did too.  Then I made myself stop and remember why I do it, where I was, and where I am.  And that picture is worth more than a thousand words 🙂

Love yourself.  Document yourself.  Tell your own story so that you know it’s told right!

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Christmas thoughts…..

Christmas really is a wonderful time of the year isn’t it?  Who doesn’t love snow, Christmas decor, presents etc.  But there are a few things that swirl around in my head during this season that i thought I would share with planet earth.

Christmas lights….all or nothing.  Either rival the Griswalds or don’t do anything at all.  I have passed several houses with one strip of lights.  I don’t get it and I am sorry that you even spent time doing it.  Christmas lights are as exciting as fireworks and nobody gets excited over one firecracker that barely blows up 🙂

Dieting during the holidays – I am fairly certain it is easier to pass a bill in congress than to stay 100% to your healthy lifestyle during the holidays.  I admire those who can do it.  I just wish I was better at it.  But when your 90 year old granny makes a pecan pie and looks at you with those precious eyes and says “aren’t you going to have a piece of pie”…I, for one, am not going to be the person who says no to her and risk hurting her feelings…….would you? 🙂  My goal this year is to just keep moving during the holidays versus crashing on the couch after gorging myself.  Moderation and movement, that’s my theme.  I’ll keep you posted on how it goes but if Oreo balls come into play, I cannot make any promises.

To this day, our family opens present in age order.  And even as an adult, I secretly am screaming at all those going before me to “hurry up” so I can tear into my gifts 🙂  The struggle is real.

I LOVE this Elf on the Shelf business.  I would gladly steal a kid during this season to be able to partake in Elf on the Shelf.

I don’t know about your family but my Christmas rule is that I take home “x” amount of liquor to visit and when that runs out, I’m coming home.  🙂  I love my family.  I love them even more when we are all cramped into a tiny space eating, laughing and I’ve had a few 🙂

I used to look forward to Christmas for epic gifts.  Now I mostly look forward to it in hopes that my nieces think I got them the best gift and they remember me for years to come and the fun times we had.

Black Friday is of the devil.  I don’t get it, I refuse to participate most of the time and if I do participate it is in the company of fun friends and solely to laugh at the chaos of the moment.  I took advantage of the Michael Kors outlet sale in 2012, and that is the only time I have ever thought black friday was worth it 🙂

I am dying to send out a Christmas card even though I’m single.  I have been too chicken in the past but have decided that in the future I am just doing it anyway!  One of my fav things to kick off the holiday season is to gather my favorite little people (the nieces) and dress them up for family pictures.  It’s complete chaos, they rarely cooperate, and I wonder when we are done if there is going to be one single pic that turns out.  But, they always do.  It always ends up being a blast and this year was the best yet!!  (see shamelessly shared pics from the session below)

What are your holiday quirks or traditions?

Fun on the farm :)farm-alicia099.jpglargethumb farm-alicia116.jpglargethumb