Archive for December, 2012

Christmas Newsletter 2012

December 2012 – Miami, FL

Dear Family and Friends:

As I look back on 2012, in a way, and not to be ungrateful, I’m thankful the year is ending.  It was a year that brought many unexpected events that had to be dealt with at the moment, the saddest one being the passing of Pedro’s mother and all of a sudden realizing that there was no mom or dad anymore on his side.

Our 2012 travels concentrated on PR and quite a number of trips were done down there to work out family issues, so in reality, no family vacation was taken this year. I got to see my father quite a number of times.  I’m proud to say that he will be 89 on January 26 and doing absolutely great!  Going forward, I pray for a better 2013.

January 2012 found me doing another ING ½ Marathon.  I also did the 5K Corporate Run in April, the Susan G. Komen Walk for Cancer and the 10K Key Largo Bridge Run in November.  After doing my first ½ marathon in 2011, Martha my running buddy/colleague, and I loved it so much that we immediately signed for the 2012 ING race, but, training for the that race took a whole different meaning as this time there were two races to run, one for life and one to the finish line.  It was not the same intensity; yet, Martha and I still managed to support each other as best as we could along the way.

I had never been so close to cancer as I was with Martha.  She was diagnosed in March, soon after we finished our 2011 ING marathon race, and she went straight into treatment. This was an arduous battle with a lot of ups and downs, and many a times, it felt like it was mostly downs.  We take so much for granted in life and more so, complain about everything.  If there is one thing we learned from her it is that the most treasured thing in life is being able to wake up every morning to a brand new day.  For that, we need to thank God.  That is what really matters in life, the rest is nada.

I trained as best as I could for my 2012 race.  In October 2011, in support of Martha and all the women that have had breast cancer, my family and friends participated in our first Susan G. Komen 5K walk as part of Team Martha.  She was such a good sport as she came out to walk along Team Martha while still undergoing chemo. She managed to finish in 2.5 hours, taking sitting breaks in between but determined to cross the finish line.

P1030487

In November 2011, I ran the 10K Key Largo Bridge Run once again.  Unfortunately, Martha was unable to be there this time around.  As January 29, 2012 got nearer, nervousness crept in.  Even though there would be around 25,000 people running that day, I felt like I would be running alone since Martha would not be able to run with me. On January 28, she accompanied me to pick up the race package. She would talk to the organizers about a refund, as she would not be able to run due to the limitations cancer treatment had set on her.  I must say that the organizers didn’t understand at all her situation.  It was totally incomprehensible how heartless they acted.  Martha decided to get her bib anyway and make something positive out of such a negative experience.  I got mine and off we went.  She would come to the race with her bib to cheer me on along with Pedro.

ING1

When we picked her up at 5 am Sunday morning, she was not only wearing a pink T-shirt, but to my surprise, she had made the most beautiful poster for me. Once we arrived in downtown, Pedro and Martha walked me to my corral, wished me good luck, and off I went.  It was warmer this year and for me a little harder to run; needless to say I ran and ran and ran, all the time listening to the best tunes on my iPod.

As I was getting close to the Finish Line, approximately 200 meters prior to the end, I saw Pedro on the sideline taking pictures and cheering me on.  He also wanted to let me know that Martha was on the adjacent sideline of the street cheering me on.  It was pandemonium at this point, people screaming, cheering, getting excited for the runners that were finally reaching the end.  Martha came towards me with the poster and asked me if we could walk in the tail end of this race together.  She didn’t want to mess up my timing, but wanted to walk in the 0.1 mile to the finish line together, saying this was only the beginning of the many finish lines she would be crossing in the months to come.  Because of the sunglasses I had on, she didn’t see the tears that came to my eyes.  Of course I would walk in with her, I didn’t care about my time, I wasn’t there to break any record and nothing would make me prouder.  And so we walked the last part of the race in together.  We were so happy and proud to get our 2012 ING race medals at the finish line.

Go Mili!

Go Mili!

We finished the 2012 1/2 Marathon!

We finished the 2012 ING 1/2 Marathon!

My race was nothing compared to Martha’s race.  It was the toughest race of her life, having to bear chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgeries, and life threatening side effects.  It was a long road towards her finish line, one that only with her faith, the love of her family, and the support of her friends, she could conclude.  And she did.  And so here we are, once again, looking forward to the future races we’ll RUN together again in 2013-next, Disney’s Princess ½ marathon where I signed up as “Belle”, peut être je peux courir en francais cette fois et ainsi plus vite!  For sure PINK will be the signature color again!

This year the book club was officially baptized L.I.F.E. (Living Intensely, Freely and Enlightened) and not only did we continue to meet to read and have fun, but the group grew.  We’re now 15 wonderful women brought together by the most amazing stories.  Several of the field trips we did this year were going to see Isabel Allende  & Debra Dean at FIU, a beach trip to Miami’s famous Nikki Beach and Maria Teresa delighting us with her signature vodka/cranberry juice cocktails.  We also went to see the “Donkey Show” at the Arsht Center ()  What a fun experience-DISCO LIVES!  We had a pijama party one night where we all went dressed in pijamas to the meeting, hoping a cop would not stop us on the road and also went to the Art District for “Noche de Galeria”, a totally different experience, what a crowd!! We sure know how to have a good time!  To think this idea of the book club started back in 2004 by my dear friend and partner-in-crime Maryann (RIP).  Being the only original member left of the group, I have been baptized the CEO, CFO, ABC, XYZ, OMG and editor of the L.I.F.E. book club.  That’s definitely a lot of responsibility to carry on my shoulders J.  Some of the books we read this year as a group were:  “Madonnas from Leningrad” by Debra Dean, “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See, “El Pergamino de la Seduccion” by Gioconda Belli, “Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks, “La Fiesta del Chivo” by Mario Vargas Llosa, “Perla” by Carolina de Robertis and of course we read the infamous “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James, for sure a book to always remember, ask my sister-in-law, she happened to be in town for that book club meeting :-)!

Book Club Pijama Party!

Book Club Pijama Party!

Good looking group at the Donkey Show!

Good looking group at the Donkey Show!

2012 Book Club Christmas Party

2012 Book Club Christmas Party

And besides all the fun titles, you may ask yourself, why “editor”?  The “girls” or “menopausal old ladies” like my son calls the group, labeled me editor after I helped a dear friend from college proofread the final manuscript of his latest book, “McCllelan’s Other Story: The Political Intrigue of Colonel Thomas Key, Confidential Aide to General George B. McCllelan”.  Being the history freak that I am, to be honest, I had very little knowledge of the U.S. Civil War.  So when Bill asked me if I wanted to read over his manuscript, I jumped at the chance and said yes.  What a better way to learn from the bloodiest war this country has ever had to endure, as well as all the political intrigue involved with it.  At the same time I was able to pick on Bill’s brain with all the trillions of questions I came up with and of course he was the best source for my answers, world known writer, expert on the history of the Civil War and…he went to the great Catawba College! J Was I humbled when not only did he decide to give each member of the book club a signed copy of the book, but when he acknowledged in his book my help – quite special of him indeed.  You have to check out not only this book, but also his many others, William B. Styple, historian.

"McClellan's Other Story" by William B. Styple

“McClellan’s Other Story” by William B. Styple

As I started my new job on December 3, I want to look back on my wonderful professional career in Miami at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for almost 10 years and at Florida International University (FIU) for almost 6 years.

My job with the NRC was an absolutely great ride, both professionally and personally and the team I worked with is one that I will always keep close to my heart.  Who would have thought that this Puerto Rican girls from Guaynabo would dress up as a Martian and look as a “condom” (like my boys called me) to go into containment-unbelievable!!!  Scott & Martha as well as their families are now friends forever.  I know that there will never be another team like the Turkey Point team, winners in all the senses of the word.

The Turkey Point Winning Team!

The Turkey Point Winning Team!

Getting ready to go into containment - trying not to get my hair messed up!

Getting ready to go into containment – trying not to get my hair messed up, lipstick always important :-)!

This summer I also did my second wedding, this time to Scott’s daughter.  What a beautiful day it was and what a special wedding, definitely a match made in heaven and like the NRC newsletter put it, with 100% NRC approval.  A day to always remember!

NRC approved wedding!

NRC approved wedding!

Six years at FIU gave me the opportunity to be part of a world I truly believe in, education.  How satisfying to be able to work in an environment where you are promoting the importance of education and success in life, absolutely unbeatable.  I learned a lot along the way, from colleagues and supervisors alike, many of whom now I consider great friends.  We have great stories to tell and to always remember.

Birthday lunch at the Latin American

Birthday lunch at the Latin American

Halloween could always be fun at FIU!

Halloween could always be fun at FIU!

So how did all of you find out I had a new job?  I sent out an e-mail with the subject line reading: “It’s official and no, I’m not Pregnant!”  I had to get your attention one way or another :-)! I was blessed to have been able to work part-time for so many years so that I could spend time with my boys.  Now that they’re not longer little ones, I thought it was not too late to dedicate time to my career and this time full time.  You can say that I’ve finally grown up or you might even say that I’m going through a mid-life crisis, whatever it is, I know that I’m embarking on a new and exciting career as the Executive Assistant to the President of Stanley Security Solutions (SSS) Latin America Group, a division of Stanley Black & Decker.  I know this is an excellent opportunity for me as well as a great professional move, most of all, a challenge I’m ready to take on.  The 3rd week of December I went up to Indianapolis, or Indy, like they call it, for training.  It was a great learning experience and so much fun to be able to meet so many people from the team.  We got to tour the plant where they make commercial hardware, locks, keying systems, padlocks, absolutely unbelievable all the production lines!  I should have been an engineer!!!

Pretty cold in Indy for this Island girl!

Pretty cold in Indy for this Island girl!

Enough about me and now to the boys.  Pedro continued working on his short-term contracts and this year he traveled to several Eastern Caribbean Islands as well as Colombia.  On many of these trips he was able to stop in PR and visit his mom, so that was a great opportunity for him.  This month he landed a contract here in Miami with HBO Latin America where he is developing and implementing the IT requirements for HBO GO or TV Everywhere.   This is an awesome contract as it brings him into the Digital Media arena and more important once again into the Latin American market.  A great opportunity for him and most important he will stay put here in Miami for a while. He also started taking running seriously and did the Key Largo Bridge Run 5k in November.

Johann decided not to join the Peace Corps.  He is concentrating on finishing his Biology Master’s Thesis.  He should be done this spring with school and who knows what waits for him.  I think that as parents we are happy he will be completing his academic career so it’s really now up to him to decide what he wants to do and follow his dreams.

And Sahid, oh Sahid!  He is a senior this year and should be graduating in June.  He is still not sure whether he will stay here several months more to finish his Powerplant & Airframe (A&P) license and that way start he can start the university in January 2014 with both his FAA and A&P license.  That remains to be decided.

In November we “adopted” a friend of Sahid’s, Tyler.  Tyler is a year older than Sahid and an excellent kid, so we have another son now.  Tyler’s mom lost her house here in Miami.  She came to us to see if Tyler could come live with us as she was going to have to move to a small plot of land she has near Lake Okeechobee.  She wanted Tyler to finish his degree at the George T. Baker School of Aviation where he has excellent grades and is on a full scholarship from American Airlines and if he moved with her he would have to quite school.  Knowing the type of kid he is we agreed to help.  He has really been a great blessing and a great person to have around.  So I have two boys again at home :-).

Even though we didn’t take a family vacation, I did go to my Catawba College’s Alumni/Homecoming weekend in October – 30 years this year and crowned myself the Alumni Homecoming Queen in order to celebrate!!  OMG, it was as if I had never left college.  Dr. Reitz, my Spanish professor was at the football game and he couldn’t believe I was there, well, I couldn’t believe he was there :-).  We had so much fun catching up with old friends and reminiscing that we decided we have to do it again in 2013, at least, while we can. I want to thank everybody for the wonderful memories. It was great seeing dear old friends and it was great to reconnect with alumni I hadn’t seen in many years. We remembered our dear Maryann on many occasions; she would have been proud of our partying to her standards :-). Kandi dear, thanks so much for being not only my roommate, but the designated driver! We had so much fun. Willie, you were an awesome host – Gracias!  Thank you Melanie for flying with me. Your enthusiasm and energy really got me in the spirit of HC! We are now the official FL girls that will be back to HC by popular demand :-)! Margaret, as always, thanks so much for a super job well done, including the weather, perfect for this PR-FL girl. Thanks so much everybody for an unforgettable weekend and everlasting memories.

“The ‘good old times’ – all times when old are good.” ~ Lord Byron ~

Willie, you were a great host!  Thanks!

Willie, Kandi & Cindy!

Ross, great party as always!!

Ross, great party as always!!

We had quite a number of visitors this year and it was so much fun.  Susan Matthies, my husband’s Chief of Party in Bulgaria was here and I got to go to dinner with her.  It was fun reminiscing about our days in Sofia.  Charo and Christoph, whom we met in Kazakshtan and are on assignment in Haiti, were also here, actually, Charo on several occasions by herself and we had fun shopping and going to Lincoln Road to eat ice cream J.  Of course, as always, she was in search of the infamous ‘Guess’ purses that she says are cheaper here than in Switzerland.  She always finds a good excuse to shop.  Jose & Nieves, whom we also met in Kazakhstan and are currently on assignment in Moscow, also visited with their son Carlos.  What fun to remember our days in Almaty and how Nieves always used to buy all the Spanish “embutidos” that arrived at the local store and would then leave the rest of us expats without anything foreign to eat.   We will always have stories to tell and never will there be a dull moment.   Adela and Vesko also came to visit and as always it was very special to spend time with our great Bulgarian friends.  Mr. & Mrs. Wittner also came down from NH this time with their son Roger – ladies, good-looking guy!  I told him I would introduce him to all my single book club girlfriends :-).  This friendship goes back to my graduate school days when their daughter Terri was my dear friend and partner-in-crime then.  Her parents sort of “adopted” me and to this day they are one of the most special people and family I have ever met.

The Wittners

The Wittners

Pedro’s cousin Tony and his wife came from TN to stay with us for a couple of days and it just so happens that their other cousin, Souad, came from Lebanon to visit her daughter here – so talk about a nice family reunion for this Lebanese crowd!

The Lebanese Trio

The Lebanese Trio

In closing, I want to share an excerpt from Howard Zinn’s autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.  I know I shared this with some of you before, but I just love his remarks on being hopeful, it really makes you feel hopeful:

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.  It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, and kindness.  What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.  If we remember those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.  And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.  The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

I can only wish all of you nothing but the best for 2013, but most important I want to wish you love, peace, health and happiness and most important, plenty of time to enjoy it.

You know where we are, you have a home here and a credit card is not required to make your reservation.

Lots of love, The Souss-Maldonado Gang

My favorite Halloween Picture – my grandniece and titi Mili!

gorda

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December 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm 1 comment

“Perla” – Carolina de Robertis

Perla - Carolina de Robertis

This story is a reminder to us that in this day and age people still take advantage of their role in government and commit the most awful atrocities against their fellow brothers and sisters.  Even though this novel is fiction, the plot depicts what happened during the infamous Dirty War of the 1970’s in Argentina under the most brutal military dictatorships.  Innocent men, women and children disappeared, were tortured, raped and killed.  What is sad is that in a Catholic country like this one, the church didn’t do much to help with the slaughter that was taking place.  Ms. de Robertis presents us quite graphically the story of Perla and how she came to find out who she really was, definitely not the person that she was led to believe by the parents she’d known all her life, her father being a high ranking military officer.

In my opinion this books starts a little slow, but don’t give up, keep reading and you’ll be amazed at how this story develops.  What is sad to think is that the Dirty War didn’t happen that long ago and that to this day, many Argentineans are still asking themselves questions as to what happened to their loved ones.

I visited Buenos Aires in 1975 and then again in 1976.  In 1975 Isabel Peron was still in power and I didn’t notice things in the country to be that much different from things at home.  When I returned in 1976, Jorge Rafael Videla was in power, the military dictatorship had started and to me it was shocking to see so many soldiers all over the city.  To this day I remember going out with a couple of friends for a walk and we ended up near the “Casa Rosada”.  I had brought my friends little personal calculators, they had just come out and they were thrilled.  Imagine, an American gift and a personal calculator at that.  A couple of soldiers stopped us and they were very curious about the gifts and demanded identification.  My friends, used to the drastic change that had occurred, knew to carry identification with them at all times, me, coming from a place where you don’t carry any, had none.  The soldiers decided they had to take me to the police station.  My friends were hysterical and I started crying.  I remember we wer going up some stairs towards the building when a soldier that seemed higher in command stopped to ask what was the problem.  My friends explained that I was a foreigner, a tourist, and that I would not go out without identification again.  The man was very upset and told me in a raised voice that the rules in their country were different and that I had to obey them, that he would give me a chance this time but that next time I was stopped I better have identification with me.  We returned to the hotel and when we told my grandmother what had happened and what could have happened she almost had a heart attack.  Who knows, I could have been one of those 15,000 people that disappeared.

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Esta novela es un recordatorio de que todavía los que dicen ser representantes del gobierno se aprovechan de su rol y cometen las atrocidades más grandes contra sus supuestos hermanos, sus mismos ciudadanos, sus compatriotas.  Aunque esta novela es ficción, la trama pinta exactamente lo que pasó en Argentina durante la Guerra Sucia de los años 70 bajo las dictaduras militares.  Hombres, mujeres y niños inocentes desaparecieron, fueron torturados, violados y asesinados.  Tristemente, en un país tan católico como lo es Argentina, en muchas ocasiones, la iglesia miró hacia el otro lado.

Carolina de Robertis nos presenta en forma muy gráfica, la historia de Perla y como ella realizó luego de adulta la verdadera identidad de sus padres, ya que por años ellos, el un militar de alto rango, le habían hecho creer que era otra persona.

Me dió la impresión que el libro al comienzo es un poco lento, pero, sigan leyendo para que vean como se desarrolla esta historia, después no van a querer dejar de leer.  Es triste saber que los años de la Guerra Sucia no pasaron hace tanto tiempo y que al día de hoy, muchos argentinos todavía no saben que les pasó a los seres queridos que desaparecieron.

Yo dí par de viajes a Buenos Aires durante esa época, uno en 1975 y otro en 1976.  En el 1975 todavía estaba Isabel Perón en el poder y las cosas no las percibí tan diferentes de lo que yo estaba acostumbrada.  Cuando volví en el 1976, ya estaba el militar Jorge Rafael Videla en el poder, y para mi fue un choque bien grande.  Al día de hoy me acuerdo salir del hotel con unos amigos argentinos (yo tenia 16 años) a caminar por la Casa Rosada cuando nos pararon unos militares. Mis amigos andaban con unas calculadoras de mano (acababan de salir en PR) que les había regalado y a los militares les estuvo curioso.  Bueno, cuando pidieron identificación mis amigos, sabiendo como habían cambiando las cosas, enseñaron las de ellos.  Yo no tenía ninguna pues en PR nunca salíamos con identificación.  Para que fue eso, a los soldados les dió con que me tenían que llevar al cuartel para ficharme.  Mis amigos estaban histéricos y yo pegué a llorar como loca.  Justo estabámos subiendo unas escaleras hacia el cuartel cuando estaba bajando un militar de un rango mas alto y preguntó que pasaba.  Mis amigos le explicaron y le pidieron mil disculpas, que yo era extranjera, visitando y que no iba a volver a suceder.  El hombre me habló en voz alta y molesto y me dijo que las reglas allí eran distintas y que las tenía que obedecer, que me iba a dar una oportunidad y que si me volvían a parar sería mejor que andase con todos mis documentos.  Regresamos al hotel y cuando le contamos a mi abuela lo que había pasado y lo que pudo haber pasado, por poco se muere.  Sabrá Dios, a lo mejor yo hubiese sido parte de esas 15,000 personas que desaparecieron durante esos años

December 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm Leave a comment

“Imagining Argentina” & “Chronicles of an Escape”

220px-Imagining_Argentina_moviechronicles

“Imagining Argentina” and “Chronicles of an Escape” clearly depict the atrocities committed during the years of the Dirty War in Argentina.  Both portray how the military dictatorships of the 1970’s, abused their power and supposedly under their propaganda of wanting to eliminate communism, tortured, raped and killed men, women and children.  Amnesty International estimated the number of people that were killed or that “disappeared” to be around 15,000.  Very well made movies, sometimes quite crude, but it was the only way to carry the point across of what Argentina was going through.

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Ambas películas demuestran las barbaridades que se cometieron en Argentina durante los años 70 durante las dictaduras militares y como éstos abusaron de su poder bajo la supuesta excusa de que había que eliminar el comunismo.  Con esta excusa torturaron, violaron y mataron a miles de hombres, mujeres y niños.  La organización Amnistía Internacional calcula que murieron y “desaparecieron” alrededor de 15,000 personas.  Las películas están excelentes, algo violentas a veces, pero definitivamente  reflejan lo que realmente pasó en Argentina.

December 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment


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