Saturday, February 19, 2011

Just Keep Swimming, Swimming, Swimming . . .

I am an emotional eater - plain and simple - and the last year and a half have been filled with tremendous emotional ups and downs for me. My mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness and has yo-yoed between remissions and relapses, we were trying to sell two houses in the worst real estate market since the Great Depression and my husband retired after a long and fruitful career in education. We are still trying to sell one of our properties, but we sold our home and we left our friends and family and moved to another country where we didn't know anyone and could not speak the language. Somewhere along the way, I lost my priority to take care of myself.

With the kids starting public school here in January, I had some time to get myself back into shape. The extra weight had made running more painful and less enjoyable than it used to be, so I decided to start swimming again. There is a city pool around the corner from our flat and I was able to get a membership for only 15 Euros a month (about $20). My only obstacle was that I didn't have a swimsuit here, so I would have to buy one (gulp).

As far as I can tell, swimsuit shopping is an activity universally loathed by most females. As a taller than average, now slightly overweight, middle aged mother of two, I am no different. Add to this the facts that the average spanish physique resembles that of a kewpie doll (thanks, Rodney) and that there is no universal sizing standard for clothing in Spain, and what you have is a seriously stressed out shopper!

On what was - in hindsight - probably not one of my emotionally strongest days (and therefore not the day I should have chosen to shop for a swimsuit), I swallowed my pride and headed to El Corte Ingl├ęs - the local department store with a decent sporting goods department. Having absolutely no idea what size suit I might fit into, I perused the racks and selected about 15 (yes, 15) suits of various sizes and styles to try on. I was determined to make at least one of them work. After trying on each and every painful choice, I settled on a suit that I thought would work. It was a swimming suit, not a bathing suit, so it wasn't supposed to look good - just feel good.

Relieved to have made a choice that would enable me to begin my road back to fitness, I walked to the checkout counter practicing my Spanish along the way. When it was my turn, I smiled and handed the suit to the sales clerk. She looked me in the eyes and said something that I now know was probably along the lines of, "Te das cuenta que se trata de una traje de maternidad?" At the time, though, what I heard was, "Blah knsnfda kashfjsabf fjsabhfjdsb fjashfjhb sjfkjsbd?" I again smiled. "Un momento," she said, as she walked to the other side of the counter to 'confer' with one of her colleagues.

Upon returning, the clerk repeated her spanish phrase. This time, though, she added her own sign language to aid in my comprehension. She held my carefully selected (and adequately fit) swimsuit up to her body and made a sweeping gesture under the belly to indicate that it was, in fact, a ma-ter-ni-ty suit! My crimson face literally burned as she and the four or five other nearby customers and clerks giggled at my mistake. Being . . . well . . . NOT pregnant, I was horrified.

Pretending to have just accidentally grabbed the wrong suit, I walked toward the sales rack where the swimsuits hung as if I was going to make the correct selection. I approached the rack, hung up the suit, called Bill and made a b-line for the escalator. I have a feeling that I should have taken the stairs.

BTW, for obvious reasons, no photo will accompany this post :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Catching Up to Carry On

So much has happened since my last blog entry that I have been at a loss for where to begin. We returned to Chicago for three weeks in December to celebrate Christmas with my family, and things did not exactly go as planned. A few days after arriving there, my mom was hospitalized with several very serious infections and her situation became precarious. She spent the remainder of our trip time in the hospital and was not released until after we returned to Valencia. One of the hardest things for Mom was being away from her children on Christmas Day. Ordinarily, the Maroney Christmas - in all of it's overwhelming glory - is celebrated in Naperville at Kathy and Gary's. However, this year's circumstances called for a break from tradition and a change of plans. Just about everyone (except for Eddie & April, Mary's husband, Jim, & their 2 girls, Matt & Jackie and Meghan) made it to the hospital to surprise Mom with a casual Christmas gathering in the Loyola cafeteria. She was delighted (and the cafeteria employees didn't even seem to mind)!

Coming back to Spain was especially difficult this time. Leaving Chicago without the knowledge of what would happen with my mom was hard enough in August, but now it felt much scarier. However, Bill and I had already decided that Henry and Caroline should be enrolled in public school here and we needed to return to Valencia to ensure a smooth transition for them. They are in school now and are doing very well - we are just so proud of them. In only a month, they are speaking Spanish and are functioning pretty independently. Caroline is pleased to be learning cursive handwriting, and Henry was especially proud of the fact that he, "Actually had a verbal argument with another kid - and didn't need an adult's help!" Daily homework assignments are pushing us all to learn the language faster.

Since we've been back, my mom has been in and out of the hospital - as has my brother, Eddie - so trying to stay focused on what needs to be done here has become a challenge. However, on a much happier note, Matt and Jackie arrived on Friday for a 16 day visit. Tomorrow, we all head to Barcelona for a couple of much anticipated days. Matt and Jackie will head to Venice from Barcelona and will be back here on Wednesday for a few more days before they go home. Perhaps they feel differently, but I think their visit could not have come at a better time!