The Pros and Cons to a life of Convenien

The Pros and Cons to a life of Convenien

One of the things that drove me nuts about Spain when we first moved here is how … difficult… everything seems to be. Some examples that still seem baffling to me:

There is no garbage pickup. You take your trash and recycling to these bins strategically stationed every few kilometers in the countryside, and every few blocks in the cities.

The garbage people empty fewer bins, though they’re large. The problem with this is that your car gets stinky while transporting your garbage, and sometimes it leaks. Gross.

Also, you have to, you know, get out of your car, and walk amongst broken glass and cardboard that wouldn’t fit in the paper recycling bin, and dump your stuff manually. Also, there are dogs hanging around those bins. It just doesn’t seem very nice. But no one questions it. It’s how you do it. You drop your garbage off every time you leave the house. No biggie.

I should say that it’s nice not having stinky garbage in your house, on the deck, or in the garage for a week before trash day. That’s one positive. But overall, it seems like an extra step for people to remember, and it seems needlessly difficult.


Shopping. Shopping here is insane. To start with, most things close for siesta, between 2 and 5. So if it’s 3pm and you want to go buy a lipstick, you’re out of luck. Can’t do it. All of the shops are also incredibly segmented.

Like it must have been before the advent of shopping malls and Big Box Stores. You buy your fruit from the fruiteria. You buy your ibuprofen at the farmacia. Seriously, you can’t buy ibuprofen at the grocery store. You want ibuprofen? You go to the farmacia. Separate stop, separate parking, separate getting the kiddo out of the carseat, separate getting the kiddo back in the carseat. For some stupid ibuprofen.

Those are just two of the dozens of things I’ve noticed here in Spain that make daily life a little more difficult. Look, it’s not going to kill anyone that they have to make two separate stops to get some ibuprofen, or that they have to take their garbage themselves. It just seems needless. Why?

Yet the flip side is that the people here are much fitter, they cook their meals more (you can’t really get ready-to-heat-up meals at the grocery stores here), they walk around more, they are more active.

And in the 2 years I’ve spent living here, I’ve become more like that, too. I cook our meals from scratch. I don’t just pull off some film and stick something in the oven. I chop, I mix. I walk from shop to shop. When I’m back home, I stare in wonderment at the ease with which Americans live their lives. Drive-thru ATM’s! Drive-thru pharmacy pickups! CVS shops that are bigger than our grocery store! Being able to buy children’s cold medicine at the same place I buy spinach! Salad bars with washed veggies that you put into containers to take home!

My GOD, the ease with which Americans live their lives! Being able to go to one store and buy clothing, eye drops, an iPad, diapers, and cereal! My GOD. There are entirely separate stores here that just sell electrical appliances. You want a new toaster? You go there.  

Life in America is geared towards being easy. Being convenient. Making things easy for the consumer. Removing any obstacles to purchasing. It makes me wonder about the sense of “entitlement” that people say Americans have. We expect things to be easy, and when they’re not, we often give up.

As a result, it’s easy to become lazy. To not want to take the stairs. To expect people to bag your groceries for you.

Neither way is better. But I am starting to come around to see the benefits of not having things so easy. Having to work a bit more. Having to take a few more steps.


Changing Perspectives

Changing Perspectives

Now that we’re in Spain for the foreseeable future, it’s interesting how my mindset has changed. The whole time we’ve been here, I’ve known that we were going home within a year, and so it felt like a perpetual holiday. Like we were on some kind of long, grand vacation. It didn’t feel like real life.

There were lots of things I had planned for when we got home. Getting Hannah piano and martial arts lessons, for example. Getting regular haircuts. Joining a good church. Starting acupuncture again. Joining Weight Watchers and going to meetings. Lots of things that don’t really occur to me to do when I’m on holiday, but are more like “real life” sorts of things.

My perspective has changed drastically in the past week as we found out that we’re likely here for at least another 18 months. This whole thing has moved from being a nice long holiday into Real Life territory, and so I am now moving towards embracing what Real Life in Spain looks like.

The first thing that had to change was our home. We live in a rented house that is furnished, which is great, but there are a lot of things that I’ve just been putting up with in the house because I knew we weren’t here for that long. A lack of waste baskets (just use old grocery bags on the ground). Crappy bath towels (I’ll dry off in the sun). No sheets (ah look, this blanket can double as a sheet). Bad pillows (neck pain? I just need to do some yoga for that).

You get the point.

Yesterday I went to the Ikea in Malaga and loaded up with a giant cart of things that will allow me to feel more at home here, now that we know we’re not leaving for a good long while. A nice carpet and posters for my home office. A new bedspread for Hannah’s room, as well as a fun carpet, and toy chest, and picture for her wall. Fairy lights because I am a huge proponent of Interior Design Through Fairy Lights.

I also stocked up on scented candles and autumn-colored pillows and throws because hey, it’s almost time for the weather to turn chilly. And lovely mugs that make me feel cozy holding them. A lovely warm bath towel, and a nice rug for the bathroom floor. A new sheet set, and good pillow. Hannah got a sweet play kitchen which is now against the wall in our kitchen, so she can cook with me.

It might seem like a bunch of materialistic things that we don’t need. After all, I’ve been living for the past 15 months without them. But I always thought we’d be home by this time, so it was easy to overlook it. Now we have no idea when we’re leaving, and so having these creature comforts makes all the difference in the world to me.

The change in perspective meant that what seemed like rustic camping travel living suddenly seems like just putting up with a substandard home. 

So now I am in Real Life Mode for the first time in 15 months. In September Hannah will go back to her preschool, and I am committing to finding her a good martial arts class. She’s old enough now, and she could use the discipline and physical outlet. I am also going to find a hairdresser in Marbella who speaks English. I’ve been hesitant to get my hair cut in Spain because I’m afraid that the person won’t understand me, and will cut all my hair off. I need to give that belief up, or else I’m going to have terrible roots and split ends. I’ve also heard that there’s an English speaking acupuncturist in my town, so I’m going to find her. We’re going to start going to the Anglican church in Malaga.

It’s amazing how things can change so quickly. Less than a month ago I was decluttering and getting rid of things in anticipation of our flight home at the end of August. Now I’m full on nesting, still in the same house. Hanging my winter clothes back up, unpacking the bags that had already been packed.

It’s a weird feeling, and it makes me sad, but it’s just one of the many side effects of this bizarre and surreal turn in our lives.

Don’t grow pot in Spain

Don’t grow pot in Spain

So two weeks ago I woke up to Spanish drug police banging on our door and raiding the (what we thought was legal) marijuana seed farm my husband was growing in the yard. Yep, that happened.

But let me go back a bit …

I set up the framework for this blog several weeks ago, just before the sh*tstorm hit. I’ve been blogging since 2002, but I had grown out of many of those blogs, and it was time to start something new.

That 2002 blog makes me cringe – I was 26, single, living in NYC, and convinced I was Carrie Bradshaw, only with a substandard shoe wardrobe. Later I would start blogs about being married, about trying to have a kid, about my (in)fertility journey, about my stillborn son, about eventually having a daughter, about my post-partum depression, a lot of healing and messiness.

I have another blog where I write about my Big Three passions – music, history, and travel. But all the personal stuff didn’t seem to fit there, and I wanted to find a new home for the new part of our journey now that my depression is managed, and the word is looking bright and sunny again.

So now let me explain now how we came to be living on a marijuana seed farm in Andalucia. 

We had had five years with a lot of crap. In 2010 we had a stillborn son. Then another loss in 2011. Followed by infertility, drugs, treatments, turkey basters, etc etc. Finally at the very end of 2012 we get pregnant (well, I did, but that’s a technicality) and we have the Amazing Hannah Zen in August 2013.

I had serious postpartum depression, which probably likely started in 2010 but was never fully managed. So there were more trips to the doctor, more meds.

Then in the summer of 2014 we went through a really nasty bout with a neighbor where an assessor realized that our deck, which we hadn’t changed since we bought the house, was on his property. That happened to be the part of the deck where we had built a gorgeous 2 story cat shelter (with all of our pent up parenting energy and finances that had nowhere to go from 2010-2013) where we fostered cats through the humane league. The shelter had to be torn down, and the cats had to be rehomed. It left us heartbroken and exhausted.

October of 2014 brought another health issue for me when I had a perirectal abscess, which is pretty much the grossest kind of abscess you can get, and I had a very painful surgery to drain it.

So when, that autumn, hubby’s really good friend from Amsterdam, who owned a marijuana seed company based in the Netherlands, asked us if we wanted to move to Spain for a while, we jumped at the chance. He was starting a big seed farm in Spain where it was legal, and hubby would grow the plants for him. In return, he would pay for all of our living expenses in Spain. We would be like modern day tenant farmers.

Hubby had grown in California in a closet, just 4 or 5 plants at a time, and so he thought this would be a good opportunity for him to learn more about growing, and get some good experience dealing with the plants he loves. No, but he really loves growing the plants. He loves growing them more than smoking.

Oh, and speaking of smoking, I don’t. Well, I have like 3 times in my life, but I don’t like it.  Hubby has, but not much. He’s really just into the beauty of the plant. So we’re not like stoner potheads.

No, but really, we aren’t. We’re more just free spirits who are up for adventure and want to take the road less traveled.

We had a group of lawyers in Barcelona do a due diligence report, and it was all deemed kosher. The Amsterdam guy had lawyers in Spain as well who were setting up the company, and everything was legit. We didn’t go into it blindly. We had a child to consider, and we weren’t going to do anything that could endanger her. Three different lawyers told us it was okay.

In January 2015 I was at a work conference in Chicago and fell down a flight of icy steps at my hotel, and landed on my shoulder, resulting in a broken right humerus (shoulder). I had a surgery for it, and the damn thing splintered when they were putting the final pin in. The final result? I’m walking around with a bum shoulder that needs a replacement, but until I’m old enough to have a replacement I muddle through, unable to lift my arm above my chest.

Which, you know, was great with an 18 month old and all.

So that was the final straw for me. I quit my job, where I’d been for 10 years, and we move to Andalucia. Hubby falls in love with Spain, and with our town, and we both start learning Spanish. Hannah is thriving in the Spanish sun, and she’s still young enough so that we haven’t uprooted her from a school or anything like that. She and I spend all day together playing in the pool, and I’m starting to heal in the sun. Hubby is growing the plants, and I am podcasting and writing like crazy.

It’s all good. It’s all legit. For 18 months it’s totally fine. Our landlady knows about it, and her son is on the police force. Surely if it was illegal, she would have stopped it. Our real estate agent knew about it because hubby specifically asked for a place where he could grow.

Then it turned out to not be okay. 

Given the fact that there’s an ongoing investigation, I don’t really want to say too much about it, but hubby spent one night in jail, and instead of our plan to go back home, his lawyer has told us that he likely won’t have a trial until 2018. The court has his passport, so he can’t leave until then.

I still have my passport, but I can’t leave until I give my statement to the court, which won’t be for a few more months.

Well, that escalated quickly.

Now we are sort of trapped in Spain (which could be worse), and there’s a chance that hubby could actually go to jail for this (worse). I’m not in any sort of trouble because I wasn’t growing the plants (my talent is killing healthy plants. You don’t want me anywhere near something green that you want to survive). But of course I’m not going to leave when we have a 3 year old daughter who needs her parents to be together. As long as I can stay and keep the family together, I will.

So now this bizarre new phase of life is beginning.

The positives:
– We love our rental house here and feel very much at home.
– We are financially okay.
– The company in Amsterdam is paying for the legal fees, and we found an experienced lawyer who is an expert in cannabis law.
– The drug police were super nice. I’ll write about it sometime. It was seriously like a party.
– Hannah has no idea there’s anything amiss. Hubby spent a night in jail, but they all pretended like he was just hanging out with his buddies for the night, so she didn’t realize there was anything wrong.

The lessons:
– Don’t grow pot in Spain.
No, I’m serious. Just don’t do it. I mean, a plant or two, fine. But ignore these reports of laws that say that it’s legal to have legit seed companies. Every province has their own rules, similar to states in the US, and what our lawyers, who were based in Barcelona, told us isn’t necessarily true in our province of Malaga.
– If you are going to grow pot in Spain, make sure you have every freaking I dotted, and every T crossed.
– But really, just don’t grow pot in Spain beyond a plant or two for your own personal consumption.
Just because you’ve done your due diligence doesn’t actually mean anything if the other party hasn’t set everything up properly. Don’t trust someone to set something up when it’s your freedom that could be at risk. If you’re working with someone else, you’d better make damn sure they value your freedom as much as you do.
– Don’t grow pot in Spain.

We had been planning to go home soon, chalking all of this up to an adventure. But now we’re here until 2018, at least. I am not even thinking about what could happen if the worst happened (the penalty if he’s found guilty could be around 3 years in prison, the lawyer told us).

Leaving the lawyer’s office last week, hubby and I were talking about this bizarre turn that our life has taken. If it wasn’t our lives, it would actually be a damn good sitcom. I mean, what the hell? Two years ago I was the Assistant Director of California’s largest library consortium. Now I’m trapped in Spain having experienced a drug raid in my home. Oh, and my mom was visiting at the time, so, you know, that was great for her.

It’s almost comical, except for the fact that it’s real life. 

So that’s the background and context for this blog. It’s not going to be a Pot Blog. Or even a Cannabis Law Case Blog. Nope, this blog is going to be about our life in Spain now that we’re stuck here, and how we are getting on with things despite this crappy reality that is hanging over our heads.

Life doesn’t just stop now while we’re waiting. We have to continue on and keep going, and make things as normal as possible for Hannahbear. We are confident in our lawyer, and we have a lot of people praying for us around the world, so we are trusting that we have done as much as we can.

In the meantime, we explore Spain. Hubby has to report to the court every 2 weeks, but other than that we are free to go anywhere in the country. We live in Southern Spain, so we are looking at spending some time in the North, in Basque Country, as well as a lot of time in Barcelona. Once I give my statement and am free to leave, I will do more travel around Europe, gathering stamps in mine and Hannah’s passports.

And we just keep trusting that we’re going to be okay, and figuring that all of this happened for a reason. We aren’t really sure what the reason is right now, but we trust that there is one, and we’re going to listen for it.