I love how my kids who are now 23 and 19 still hang around me to hear some of my stories of growing up in Jamaica. They are fascinated that anyone could survive under what they perceive to be unlivable conditions. Haha
We were just having a conversation about if there ever was a food shortage due to the pandemic what we would do to survive. I told them all about my survival skills, which they somehow doubted, so I had to share some real life stories of growing up in Jamaica with them. When I told them that as kids, we would hunt birds and cook them for lunch with rice and dumplings, their mouths just about hit the floor. Hahaha.
I went on to share that we made catapults (slingshots) from wood, leather and strong elastic bands and used small stones to shoot the birds. I think they are still in disbelief, but it gets even better. I asked them how they thought we survived without electricity. They didn't have a real answer, so I shared how we would make bottle torches at night to light the house and light our way to the out house (also another concept I had to explain but will spare you the details :-) ). In case you don't know what a bottle torch is - it is basically a tall glass bottle full of kerosene oil and a make-shift wick made from cut up old clothing, and of course fire. They wondered how we didn't burn the house down, but I reassured them that we were skilled at it, and the worse thing that ever happened is waking up with a bunch of soot in our nostrils in the morning.
The way I raised my kids is a stark contrast to the way I grew up. I worked hard my entire life as a mother to provide for them the best life - the life I never had growing up.
But what exactly was wrong with that life? I had the best childhood. Parents who worked really hard to provide for us. 10 Siblings who got along and played together all the time - some lived with grandparents so we were not always together. Extended family that we spent a lot of time with. A church family that was like real family, and neighbors who looked out for each other.
It was the part about being poor that I worked so hard to shield my kids from. The thing is, as kids, we didn't know we were poor. Well we kinda knew, but it didn't bother us because we didn't have anything or anyone to compare our lives to.
My father worked at the airport in Montego Bay for the company that provided in flight food service to the airlines. I remember him bringing home little bags of leftover peanuts and pretzels for us, and half eaten food for the dogs. We had no idea what pretzels were by the way. My mom stayed home for a long time to take care of the family, and eventually went to work for one of the tourist resorts as a chamber maid.
Our Christmas day activity was church, visiting the airport waving gallery and waving people off as they boarded their flights (no joke) and then we would go into town and wait in a super long line to ride the carousel and wait for the Junkanoo dancers to dance in the town square. we never got presents on Christmas morning, but my mom would get new clothes made for us and bought us new shoes, and she would cook us an amazing meal for Christmas dinner. No Christmas decoration in the house, maybe some lights in later years.
I grew up in a place called Salt Spring and we moved to Rose Heights when I was about 12 years old. Salt Spring - and Rose Heights for that matter, were not the safest places to be, with young men with illegal guns living in our community. But somehow they knew us and respected my parents, so we were never really in danger of harm. We could hear gunfire at night while in bed, but somehow I don't remember living in fear.
We were basically the richest of the poor in our area. We were the first to have electricity (even if it was always out), the first to own a fridge and the first to own a TV. I remember the neighborhood kids would always be at our house. My mom was very generous to the neighbors - always taking in someone to live with us for a while, even in a 3 room house. She was always feeding someone. I would like to think that my ambition came from seeing how my mom could make something out of nothing. After my dad passed away when I was 14, money was even tighter, but my mom made sure we went to school every day - even if she had to borrow the money. That is usually the first thing to get cut from the household budget in the neighborhood I grew up in. Food was the priority. A lot of kids didn't go to school and their entire future was at risk as a result. The boys mostly turned to gangs and the girls ended up getting pregnant as teenagers - that was a very common thing all around me growing up. My mom swore that would never happen to her kids.
Looking back, I often forget the poor part - but clearly remember the family togetherness parts. The simple little things I remember so well, and although I had some traumatic experiences that I may one day share in a memoir, my childhood was a good one.
I guess that is a lesson of what life is really about. It is about the people in your life and about what we do with the circumstances we find ourselves in. There is always some good in everything bad. You just have to be open.
2020 has been very challenging for all of us in so many ways. Life as we knew it changed overnight. Our biggest adversary is a virus we don't really understand and hardly know how to protect ourselves from. The risk is still very real. Many of us have lost loved ones or see people around us get sick. Of course, added to that was all the social and political turmoil and unrest, and not a lot of real leadership and accountability. But I am sure I am not the only one who also saw beauty rise from the ashes of 2020. The fact of the matter is that we all thought things would have been much worse. I know when we first heard the word pandemic, we all assumed the worse. And while any life lost due to covid in 2020 is one too many, we still have a lot to be thankful for.
I see the memes, the t-shirts and mugs about what a terrible year 2020 has been. Some are even funny - and definitely true, but I choose to focus on the good that 2020 has brought me. I choose to see the beauty in people and I know I am not alone in that.
I had a year of amazing projects and wonderful clients - like I do every year. A large percentage of my projects for 2020 were repeat clients. What an honor it is to have someone return time and time again because they had a good experience before. I honor that and work extra hard to make sure they are happy.
With crazy delays and backlogs from vendors and freight companies due to covid, we were still able to get all our projects completed in a reasonable timeframe. It took a bit more work to get things done to our high standards, but we are so thankful to have a great support team, and patient, understanding clients.
My wonderful daughter Courtney finally joined the company. After getting laid off from her hospitality job in Miami, I asked her to come home and work for me. She did, and I have to say that in just 4 months, she has become my right hand. The great news is that she still continues to pursue her first love of painting, and even getting ready to buy a house early next year. Can you say decorating?!! We will have some fun with that
This is one of her recent pieces. She spent about 4 months on this and it is gorgeous. It is called Riri and it is for sale at $3000. 24x32 oil on canvas. Message me if you are interested in owning this beauty.
I would totally buy it myself, but I want her art to be bought by a serious buyer. I am sure she would appreciate that more than her mom buying up all her artwork. Hahaha
My son is in his final year in high school and just got accepted to Full Sail University in Florida. I have so much to be thankful for, that both of my children got the creative gene, and I cannot wait to see them continue to grow into all that God has in store for them
We are in the midst of purchasing an office/warehouse to expand operations and bring a big part of the logistics portion of our business in house. God willing, everything will work out as planned.
We were featured multiple times this year in major publications like HGTV, Rue, Elle Decor, Forbes, Modern Luxury, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, among others. I was awarded KBB Person of the Year 2020 and HFN Women of Influence Honoree, and was invited to participate in Seasonal Living Magazine's Virtual Luxury Designer Showhouse - the first of its kind ever (more on that in a future blog post, but check out some previous blog posts for details and tour the showhouse HERE). We are also in the midst of shooting for an episode of a new TV show airing in March. I will share more on that later as well.
I am so honored and humbled by the recognition. That would be near impossible to fathom 13 years ago when I first launched Casa Vilora Interiors, but here it is happening in 2020.
And the best part of 2020 for me is my relationship with God grew stronger. In times like this nothing the world has to offer will ever be as good as trusting in God's divine power and provision. We have everything we need and want, we are healthy and safe and we have joy in our hearts. No matter what is happening all around us, that joy never goes away, because it is grounded on more than just the here and now.
This verse in the Bible rings true in my heart and mind as I navigate 2020. And with less than two weeks to the new year, I hold on to hope that 2021 will be our best year yet
If you are reading this post, please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I hope 2020 had some good things that you can focus on and share - always share the good things; counting those blessings. I pray that 2021 will be a wonderful, rich, joyful and fulfilling year for you and yours
From the Casa Vilora Interiors team, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays