#TheVicTimWedding Rehearsal Dinner Video

In a time of such sorrow, I choose to spread love. I choose to be grateful. I choose to be thankful.

Thank you to our loved ones for supporting us always. If it went by too fast at the rehearsal dinner or if you haven’t seen it, please enjoy.

♥, VB

Unplugged but Not Forgotten

I’ve been doing this nifty thing lately where I have hardly documented my life through social media. I think that’s evident since I haven’t posted anything since April 1. Whoops.

I assure you we are alive, healthy, and well. We have been doing pretty much the same routine as always, one weekend in St. Pete, one weekend in Orlando, with a few trips in between to Atlanta. It’s been a pretty hectic two months, that’s for sure and I’m sure I echo pretty much everyone you’ve spoken to lately but I CANNOT BELIEVE IT’S ALREADY JUNE.

So to quickly recap, this is what life has looked like lately for us:

April

  • We were able to hook up with a longtime friend from high school who lives in the Orlando area for a Braves Spring Training game which was super hot but luckily, he and his family have tickets in the shade, so thank god for that. It was a sad moment for me as I realized I only recognized 2 names on our roster, and thus, I’m old.
  • My friend Athena, who works at USF Tampa, was able to score me a VIP pass and seating to see Bill Nye, a personal hero of mine. It did not disappoint. If you ever get a chance to see him, DO IT.
  • We also got to go to the Rowdies home opener! Professional soccer is not something I’m super into, but we had a really good time! The fan section was KRUNK, for sho.
  • We also went to Animal Kingdom as we continued the use of our incredible Florida Resident Disney Passes. I was convinced that I had never been, and truly nothing looked familiar, but it turns out my uncle posted a picture of us on FB riding the Dinosaur ride back when I was in high school, so memory is not the perfect time recorder as you may think it is. I would post pictures of all the safari animals, but really, you’re not going to care.
  • I got us tickets MONTHS ago to see Kathy Griffin who I’m pretty much obsessed with. That woman knocks my socks off, she’s too damn funny. We even braved going back to Lakeland for her, and I’m sure she’ll never know the sacrifice we showed for her.
    • Side note: Timmy is still pretty popular with the gays, as he is really a bear (look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about). He even got pinched by Katherine, Kathy Griffin’s look-alike drag queen, and got his picture taken for one of those gay nightlife magazines. HE STOLE MY DREAM WITHOUT EVEN TRYING. F@#$*@@, I should’ve been a gay man.
  • April finally finished up with a trip back to Atlanta for my friend Mel’s bachelorette party and bridal shower. These girls, they steal my heart. This is my close group of friends from grad school, and man do I love them. We did a little clubbing, a little lake house fun, and it was such a needed trip for me. We also had time that weekend to go to the Inman Park Festival and meet up with my really good girlfriend Alex. It’s been forever since we’ve been able to go to an Atlanta festival, and god it was wonderful.We also stopped by Timmy’s friend’s crawfish boil, where I proceeded to amaze the men by throwing like a pro. (notice I didn’t say “like a man”. I’m a girl, and I throw like a person who knows what they’re doing. Gender ain’t got nothing to do with it.)

May

  • So began the month of a ton of family birthdays. My soon-to-be niece Caroline, my soon-to-be sister in law Katy, mine, my niece Charlotte, my father…July/August were THE months, if you catch my drift. I didn’t get to celebrate with anyone, which was fine, but for the first time in a long time, I was kind of lonely. I’m starting to miss my friends and family more than before, but now that it’s summer (not technically, but who are we kidding? It’s FL), it’s really the perfect time for everyone to start visiting and satisfy my friend/family cravings.
  • I had 3 spine injections. Life is much better now.
  • We had more beach weekends. This is really the sweet spot of FL weather. It’s hot, but not disgusting yet, and the beaches aren’t full with tourists. It’s delightful.
  • We went back to Atlanta for Mel and Brandon’s wedding, which I had the honor of officiating. That’s two weddings now, and I’d better have a 2-0 record. I’m available for weddings and vow renewals in case anyone’s in the market.
  • We packed in wedding planning that weekend as well, and it was freaking exhausting. We had a SUPER unpleasant meeting with one of our venue’s reps, and it was so bad I had to email the director and had someone else assigned to us. If you plan on using the Foundry at Puritan Mill, stay clear of Wendy Collins. She’s the WORST.
  • That weekend we also got in our engagement photos, which we will be getting back this week and I’m about to pee my pants, I’m so excited to share with you “our vision”. You. Should. Be. Excited.
  • My sister and niece Anna came to visit, and I LOVED IT. Anna is so not used to being by herself with all the adult attention on her (since she’s a twin), so it was really neat to see her personality without her feeling like she’s fighting for the spotlight. We took her shelling, and we watched her eat lemons including the rind. She’s a little weirdo, and I love her.
  • We had a lovely Memorial Day evening basically doing a craft brewery crawl, starting with Green Bench with a co-worker, his fiancee and her son. GOOOOOOD times.
  • I got to present at the American College Health Association’s 2015 Annual Meeting in Orlando last week, and it was fantastic. We had a crowd of 85 people, and when I got to the office today, I had phone calls and emails from other universities waiting for me, wanting to talk about how to integrate their college health services like we have! I was voted Secretary of the Health Promotion section for 2015-16, and I’m really looking forward to getting more involved with ACHA this year.
  • Finally, we finished off our Disney field trips with a visit to Epcot on Saturday. I got over 24,000 steps that day, so yeah, it was a good day.

And now you’re all caught up. Life is moving quickly and picking up pace (as if that’s even possible), and we have even more trips planned out of town and in town with friends coming to visit. I LOVE SUMMER IN ST. PETE.

♥, VB

The World Today…

I’ve been wanting to write down our engagement story, to share with you our love and all that went into this momentous life decision, but I can’t. Not right now. It would be inappropriate to do so, even if becoming engaged is a big deal.

Could I tell our story to provide the world with a little humor and hope? Sure. But what’s happening in the world deserves to be recognized, not pushed aside or ignored like I’ve seen MANY of my friends doing so lately.

No, what I’m going to do here is tell my story. A story that has everything to do with the world today. A story that is the DEFINITION of racism and stereotypes and how people are born into this world with very clear advantages without ever having to work for them. A very clear, non-argumentative description of my life. How life as a Hispanic person in the United States has been amazing and without racism and judgment, and how I’ve been able to achieve every life dream and goal with no one but myself standing in the way.

This is my story of taking advantage of white privilege without being white.

I hope that sentence kind of stunned you. Because it’s absolutely, 100% true. I’ve gotten to where I am in life (obviously with the help, care, and financial support from my family) partly because I look white to the world. I have lived white privilege and can capitalize on a world where white people are completely blind to the privilege they inherently own the day they are born.

My life’s experiences have been shaped by the world’s perception of me as a white person. I don’t look Hispanic. I’ve actually argued with people who said I couldn’t be Hispanic and had to challenge their prejudices. I don’t have long black hair that’s kind of curly. I’m not dark year round (although I do have a rocking tan now that I live in FL). I don’t have an accent. I’m curvy-ish, but out of the two of us, Timmy clearly has the Latina ass. I don’t wear large hoop earrings with my name in the middle, I don’t speak in Spanglish, and I hate spicy food and cilantro.

Usually, when I point out my ethnic background, people will say they had a feeling because of my insert stereotypical ethnic/racial body part. And even then, they still don’t realize how completely prejudicial and racist it is to say that.

My entire life I’ve struggled to understand the mixed culture that I come from, both Spanish and Panamanian. I wanted to understand what made me different, at first because I hated not being blonde and blue-eyed and Southern, later to celebrate it, to revel in it, to appreciate it. I think because my parents came to this country for us to ensure that we had a incredible, comfortable, free life, they tried to steer me away from identifying as anything other than a white American. Was that bad of them? I don’t think so because I know they recognized the overwhelming advantage of looking white in America without ever having the words to describe how they knew this.

I’ve lived a truly, in every sense of the word, privileged life.

I straddle a very amazing racial and ethnic line that I’ve loved my whole life. Minorities of any and every kind have been able to spot that I’m not really “a white person.” I’ve hung out with nearly every ethnic, racial, gender, sexuality, and cultural identity there is on earth because I look white without being white. I can dance well, I am athletic without being clumsy, I do well in academics, I can speak slang without being awkward, I know about current pop culture trends and fashion, and I love me some So So Def Bass All Stars. I can capitalize on the world’s opportunities without being offensive or intimidating to minorities.

[Actually, I haven’t hung out with many Native Americans because let’s face it, we like to act like they don’t exist because this country tried to exterminate them. They, without a doubt, have had it worse than any other group ever. That’s fact.]

The only l thing about who I am that has negatively impacted my ability to walk down the street without being bothered by what others see is my female-ness. I can’t walk down the sidewalk, grocery store, Target, parking lot without getting yelled at to smile, show some leg, be happy, told I’m pretty, nice boobs, etc. I can’t even remember a time when this didn’t happen on a daily basis. Being female has really been the only thing that outwardly, I can’t control how the world perceives and treats me.

But, because I am a WHITE-looking female, the world treats me better than any Hispanic, Asian, Black, Indian woman has ever been treated. I look like I deserve to be where I am, as opposed to other women, who have to prove they can speak English to be intelligent, who have to show off their boobs and ass to be deemed attractive, who have to look or sound or act in an extremely specific way in order to just exist.

In this world, I’ve been given the freedom to joke about black people always being late and Hispanic people loving the meringue and Asian people being good at math and how women should make sandwiches and how lesbians move in together after 2 dates, and not be hated for doing so because I belong to a minority and actually know the reality of life in this country as a minority. I may not have lived it personally, but by the mere fact of belonging to an “other” group, I am inherently empathetic and have been given windows into all of these wonderfully colorful and profoundly proud cultures and identities.

And white people love my racial ambiguity because they can be super racist and prejudicial with me under the guise of jokes and have no clue of the privilege they live every second of every day because I’m white enough to not make them feel guilty.

I’ve seen it all. I can tell you without a doubt in my body that white privilege is real because as a non-white person, I’ve used it to my advantage.

I’m only speaking my truth. It is completely sad that from the get go, opportunities existed for me because of my color that wouldn’t have if I had been born with darker skin. I’m saddened by the state of our society and how these things are still allowable. But I certainly didn’t create it and I hope and pray that I’m not perpetuating it.

You can’t say or act like something doesn’t exist and then live your life based on those exact principles. Silence means you accept things as they are, and I’m sorry, but my white friends who have stayed silent, who have talked about beach trips and house showings and your Christmas trees, I believe that you accept this world AS IS, the same world that has given you the chance to take beach trips, to show houses TO BUY OR SELL, to have room to own a Christmas tree in the first place.

In the grand scheme of things, buying this year’s tree, or going to the beach, or going to the bar aren’t really that important. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be personally important to you. Of course they are, they are a part of your life. What I’m saying is we have to accept that there are forces allowing us to have these types of moments in the first place that have nothing to do with how hard you work or how much your parents helped you.

Be aware of why you are where you are in life. It wasn’t just because you had bootstraps that got pulled up, or because you didn’t need a handout, or because your mom and day worked super hard to help you gain a solid foundation. It was because this world, the way it is now, has ALLOWED it. The world didn’t stop you inside a Walgreens while you were looking for shampoo, it didn’t arrest you for looking like a criminal, it didn’t pull you over because you seemed like you were doing something illegal, it didn’t treat you like crap at a restaurant because it figured you were going to tip poorly.

The truth is simple and irrefutable: black people go to jail more than white people for the same crimes, they are kicked out of school more than white kids for the same concerns, they live a life knowing that they cannot control how the police, teachers, and business owners treat them because they cannot change being black. I will never have to worry about wearing a hoodie or taking my time in a store or how walking with a group of people who look like me will affect my right to feel like a human being.

I’m not a terrible person for taking advantage of looking white. I only recently realized how looking white shaped my entire life and future, without me even knowing it.

You are not bad people if white privilege worked for you. You came into this world with advantages that you had no say over whether you got them or not. You worked the system without even realizing the system was working FOR you.

But the time of being silent is over. The time of not appreciating why your life truly looks the way it does is done. Yes, mom and dad and your persistence and motivation got you somewhere. But if you looked any other color than white, that “somewhere” would never have been available for you in the first place, or at least it could have been with many more hurdles in between you and it.

To my friends who have no more words, no more tears, who have frustrations, and are angry and helpless, I am with you. I will do my part to change the world, in my own way, on my own path. I will continue to check those who don’t appreciate their privilege, who don’t understand prejudice at its core because they “have a black/gay/asian/etc. friend”, who refuse to see that the world is still very black and white, no pun intended. I will drop knowledge wherever I can and leave people with the words of Biggie Smalls, “If you don’t know, now you know.”

I will be silent no more.

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♥, VB

One Year Later, Gone

A year ago this past Saturday was our “30 Years, 1 Wish” party. And Jake is no longer here.

I’ve been thinking about his absence a lot the past month or so, and I still am unable to really articulate my emotions.

  • Do I feel sad? Yes.
  • Do I feel angry? Yes.
  • Do I wish I had done more? Of course.

Simply put, it’s almost impossible to explain what it feels like to have thrown a party, honoring Jake and his amazing courage and strength battling cancer and a year later, he’s not on this earth anymore. To have seen him stand up in front of almost 200 guests and say that we all were his reason for staying so strong, and now he’s not here to say anything at all. To know that the moment he stood up and accepted the microphone was one of his last chances to say hello and goodbye.

There just are no words to understand why we’re still here and why he had to go.

Today, Timmy and Jake’s family and friends celebrated Jake’s life by holding a golf tournament in Atlanta. The Jake Lyons Memorial “Cancer Sucks” Golf Classic. It would’ve been an annual event but Jake got so sick that they were only able to hold it once. Hopefully, this will truly be a yearly event to come together, remember Jake, and think of him in heaven laughing at everyone’s poor golf skills (and by everyone, I mainly mean Timmy because he’s no bueno).

Unfortunately, I seem to be the one who carries the memories of our party since Timmy’s memory was so fogged by the medications he was on last year. And that just makes me sadder. He remembers the general high of the night, but details really escape him. I remember everyone’s faces, everyone’s smiles and tears, and most of all, I remember the overwhelming feeling of gratitude I felt all night long.

We are still so incredibly, deeply, and intensely moved by the showing of love and financial support that our friends and family gave us and our charities that night. The support you all showed Jake, even if you didn’t know him, will never be forgotten. I know the Lyons family agrees wholeheartedly.

I’ve been busy with life lately in the best ways possible, and I’ve also begun the fun task of trying to expertly plan our upcoming trip to Italy (here’s the back story in case you forgot). With every stop I pin on the map, every restaurant or winery I note, every historical monument we must stop at, I feel a twinge of sadness. Because this is the trip of a lifetime and our friend’s lifetime is already over.

His absence won’t stop us from having the greatest time ever, though, because Jake would KICK OUR ASSES if we attempted to temper our fun even slightly because of his loss. He may be gone, but I still hear his voice in my head urging us to enjoy each other and our lives no matter what.

I credit Jake for a lot of things, maybe overly so for things that had nothing to do with him because he was such a great guy. But I know I credit him for being a part of saving Timmy and my relationship. Even during the worst year of our relationship, during the days, weeks, and months when we couldn’t find a reason to stick it out, we stayed together because we knew that’s what Jake wanted. Sounds crazy, but man, when you have a fatal cancer diagnosis, your opinion really holds some weight. 🙂

Because we made it through last year with a lot of Jake’s help, we came out the other side of that dark tunnel stronger, healthier, and more in love than ever. For that, thank you Jake, for always deflecting and focusing on others instead of yourself. You truly made a difference in our lives.

So a year after “30 Years, 1 Wish” all I hope is that our message is still with you. “We can always take time to give back, no matter what our lives are like, how busy we are, how broke we are, how sad we are — there’s always someone who is doing worse and who needs your help.” And after a year of perspective, take stock of the riches in your life and be thankful. The only thing you can control is how you respond to life’s many ups and downs, so react wisely and with love.

We miss you Jake.

jake's cancer sucks golf classic

♥, VB