A Meeting of the Minds…

Former First Lady, Michelle Obama and the Actress-Activist Tracee Ellis Ross

At the store this morning, I started up a conversation with a man behind me in the check out line. He looked tired, and I soon found out why…

“My wife had a baby on Wednesday night,” he said, “a little girl.”

“You’re kidding! I had my 65th birthday on Wednesday,” I replied.

That surprised and pleased him. He added that they already have a 2 year old son, and this little girl will complete their happy family. His smile stretched from pierced ear to pierced ear. His cart overflowed with baby stuff, He also had a bouquet of red tulips and a yellow Tonka truck… presumably for his wife and their little boy.

I try to embrace “diversity and individualism” but some kinds of “diversity and individuality” are easier to embrace than others.  And piercings and tattoos are not my personal preference.  Nonetheless, I had to admit that the man behind me radiated all the IMPORTANT “good daddy attributes”.

I walked in the same direction as him through the parking lot, and I caught a glimpse of an energetic little guy bouncing in the front seat of an older model sedan. A woman I assumed to be the boy’s mother cuddled her pink-blanketed bundle of joy… she was conventional-looking with flowing chestnut hair… She waved at her husband, and he hurried to her side.  Their happiness touched me.

The young family stayed on my mind. And today, I watched a video that I wish I had seen as a new mother. In fact, I hope everyone on the planet will watch it. The 40 minute clip features former First Lady, Michelle Obama and the Actress-Activist Tracee Ellis Ross having a conversation on stage at the “United State of Women Summit 2018”, in Los Angeles, CA.

http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/wzZunHRn_uz/United+State+Women+Summit+2018+Day+1

The two celebrated women speak about the importance of helping children to keep the openness they are born with and to use their unique voices. They believe children come into the world with no negativity… but it doesn’t take long for others’ opinions to influence them.  Obviously, the children who are shown love and acceptance fare best. Good mommies and daddies raise strong-minded sons and daughters who have values,  work hard., and do not feel threatened by differences… They thrive on change.

The father whose path briefly crossed mine, and the words spoken by Michelle Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross reminded me once again, to be accepting of change… and respectful of others’ differences and personal choices.

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On the road again…

Women weavers of Zinacantan, Chiapas

Today I have some news I am sure will interest you… links for two fundraising tours that will be taking place next winter. For those unfamiliar with these these tours… here’s a little back story…

I met my husband Jorge in 1976; both of us worked in tourism… me for a Canadian airline and he for a receptive tour company in Merida. After we married, we went on to other pursuits… Jorge to his law practise and me to my new life in Merida and motherhood. In 1990, we were lured back to the industry that introduced us, and we founded Tecnología Turística Total (TTT) a tourism college. As part of the program, Jorge and I helped students organize bus trips to many diverse parts of Mexico… and for about a decade, we found ourselves accompanying 100s of international students, our own TTT students, and life-long learning folks. Our friend, Sergio Solis joined us as the “official licensed guide”… the three of us have greatly enjoyed our friendship and our many adventures .

Time passed, our college grew and more programs developed. Our staff continued with the students and their tours. But after not-too-long… Jorge, Sergio and I missed the road trips, and we started leading fundraising tours for the International Women’s Club. The tours helped support the IWC’s scholarship program and we introduced many international residents to other parts of Mexico. We only stopped the annual tours because we have been extremely busy over the past few years.

And now again, Jorge, Sergio and I find we can’t stay away! We will now be helping the Merida English Library raise funds for the expansion project. The improved facilities at MEL will allow the creation of many new programs for the members, and we are excited to be a part of this!

San Miguel de Allende

The first tour is open to all, and will feature three nights in Guanajuato, followed by four nights in San Miguel de Allende. My husband Jorge and I will be the escorts on this tour, and Sergio will be the guide. The state of Guanajuato is romantic and full of history. The topography is hilly, and when your eye tries to take in the whole scene, it’s like looking through a camera’s wide-eyed lens. The restaurants and shopping are magnificent. Everyone I know who has visited this area comes away wanting to return… Here’s the link:

http://www.meridaenglishlibrary.com/explore-central-mexico-mel-special-fundraising-tour/

San Cristobal de las Casas

The second tour is to Chiapas, and it will be for women only. I will escort this one on my own, with Sergio as guide. We will travel by bus to Villahermosa for one night, spend four nights in San Cristobal de las Casas and two nights in Palenque. Of all the wonderful places I have seen in Mexico, Chiapas holds a special place in my heart. My admiration for the people is matched only by the rugged beauty of the land. Here’s the link:

http://www.meridaenglishlibrary.com/explore-chiapas-mel-special-fundraising-tour-joanna-rosado/

(Don’t worry this IS NOT our transportation!)

I hope you’ll join us “on the road again”. The tours will fill fast, so make your plans as soon as you can. MEL will be handling all your enquiries and reservations. Here’s the link:

http://www.meridaenglishlibrary.com/

 

 

The Sabbath Day

The entrance to my Kamloops home

I don’t think the admonition to “keep holy the Sabbath day” extends to working in the garden. Actually, I believe that a plot of earth is as holy as any huge cathedral… and that gardening is a prayerful, transforming and spiritual experience in and of itself.

It has been many moons since I did much “real” work in our Merida garden. We are blessed to have Don Irineo and Miguel who help us with the heavy chores. My contribution involves mostly watering, trimming and re-potting.

But in Kamloops it is NOT like this. And yesterday… I made my re-acquaintance with the shovel, rake and hoe. I sort-of channelled my mother, who was a dedicated gardener… and then got right into it!

I pruned, transplanted and turned sod. Yes I did. I could barely move once I had finished, but I felt most satisfied to see how I had transformed a dandelion-infested patch of earth into a place where veggies and flowers will soon grow. I trimmed back a shrub that had over-run the side wall and I moved a rose bush so it could keep the other one company.

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Then it was time for a bath, some delicious left-overs and a relaxing read before climbing into bed.  I slept like a baby… I should do this sort of heavy physical work more often!

A River Runs Through It…

Kamloops is a thriving small city with all the services and conveniences one needs… and it is a natural wonder. Yesterday I took a long walk along the river, and I could not help but think of the romantic title of a film directed by Robert Redford back in 1992  This is a sample of all I saw…

 

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Amen

An earlier airport goodbye…

On Sunday night, hugging Jorge goodbye at the Merida airport, I wondered, What on earth am I doing?

I love Mexico, and I intensely love many people who live there… especially Jorge. In my hand I held my Mexican and Canadian passports and the boarding passes for two flights that would carry me to the country where I was born. My feelings for Canada and my loved ones there are also strong.

I have a reservation to fly back to Merida on June 30th, and knowing that I will see Jorge then, and that we will have 3 weeks together, is all that kept me from bolting. I felt devastated and I know Jorge did too… yet, I turned towards the security clearance area. My conflicting emotions made me feel as though my heart would tear in two.

I won’t detail my morose mood during the journey to Mexico City, but once I got there, I had to recover my wits, and locate the departure lounge for my red-eye flight. I managed, and shortly after our 01:10 takeoff, I mercifully fell asleep. Then, at 06:22 local time, the plane touched down in Vancouver.

I followed the other groggy passengers through Immigration, baggage claim and Customs. A pair of sliding doors opened, and my sister’s arms embraced me. At that moment, I felt (literally and figuratively) that I had arrived home.

But what and where is home? I left one “home” and now I had arrived in my other “home”…  My mind boggled. In 10 hours, I physically travelled so far, yet it will take many days for my mind and my emotions to catch up.

So many times, I have been asked: What is it like to be married to a person from another country?

Truthfully, although Jorge and I have been married for 42 years, it has always been, and still is: complex.  On one hand we enrich each other with all our differences, but on the other, those differences sometimes make our life hard to manage. And this is true for our adult children too. They are also living in culturally, emotionally, and geographically mixed worlds.

Maybe we have too many choices? I have the advantage of dual Mexican-Canadian citizenship and residence; to keep my legal status, I must spend 6 months in both countries. I want to do this because both places are important to me in many ways. Jorge is a Mexican citizen but his Canadian permanent residence is in question. Because of his responsibilities at our college in Mexico and his own emotional ties, he cannot spend the required minimum number of days in Canada. The rules say he cannot get a permit to enter Canada unless he finds a way to spend the required amount of time there, so as things stand he cannot come to see me.

Our family is an international one, and as such, I feel that unfettered access to both our countries should be a given. Jorge and I are not asking for any hand-outs from either government; we just want to be together, as we have been for so long.  It seems so obvious that we should be free to do this.

We are dealing with a confounding situation; nonetheless, I cannot help but remember the MILLIONS of other families who are separated, and living under conditions far worse than ours. The latest available statistics calculate that there are 100,000,000 homeless people worldwide. I cannot even begin to fathom that. Not only can they not travel to where they want to be; they have no home, no rights, no voice.

This is humbling… We never have to look far to find others who have it so much tougher than we do.

And I feel motivated by this quote from Melody Beattie: Gratitude makes sense of your past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Indeed life is challenging, but I give thanks for the abundance of love our family has. I pray for the strength and creativity to discover strategies that will resolve our current issues.

We have found unconventional solutions many times in the past, and we will do so again…

Amen.

Just a few more moments… with Vilma

Sharing Vilma’s birthday with IWC friends

When a friend dies, many of us wish for… just a few more moments

Just a few more moments… to whisper endearments… to express our thanks for their kindnesses… to apologise for any hurt we may have caused… to say how much we will miss them… and to let them know that their friendship has been a blessing and an honour.

For about three decades, Vilma Morey and I were part of an eclectic collection of women who would gather in one another’s home, every second Thursday. In retrospect, we realise that these bi-weekly get-togethers were in fact, a life line. We were all different, with our own perspectives and pasts, but somehow we became… a sisterhood.

Of course each person’s bonds were not equally close with everyone in the group… except when it came to Vilma. To a one, we knew she was special, and she spread her “white light” unconditionally. Vilma had many interests: collecting, dream analysis, meditation, reading… she was curious about everything. And yes, she had opinions. She was not shy when it came to saying what she felt… but always in a kind way. We all adored her.

And because Vilma was such a fine friend, she was blessed with reciprocity … her nephew, Rene loved her and Quique like a son… Eric, came from his town every day to care for them… Nancy made sure Vilma never missed a dialysis appointment… Lenny’s  accomplishments filled Vilma with pride… Pat and Jacquie were her beloved neighbours.

Over the past decade, even in Merida, life has become much busier… and sadly, our Thursday group stopped meeting regularly. Our time was commandeered with the busyness, the concerns, and worries of our growing families, waning careers and so on… except for Vilma. Even though her health had declined, she still had energy and time for everyone… her aging husband, her frantic friends, the scholarship girls she mentored.  With a smile, she used to say, “The IWC is like a smorgasbord… there’s a lot to choose from, and you can pick what you like.”

In recent years, I sometimes felt like an unfaithful friend because I could not spend much time with her. And then… less than a month ago… Chloe hosted a reunion of our Thursday group, and I was pleased to drive Vilma, Pat and Lorna Gail there.

The evening’s weather was Merida’s finest, the food was abundant and caloric… we sat around the pool, and later inside, in a circle… catching up on one another’s news, and sharing our special friendship of so many years. It was close to midnight when I returned the ladies to their homes. Vilma was the last, and before she went inside, she took my hand and told me how much she loved me. We talked about all the funny and wonderful times we have shared. I walked her to her gate, watched her open the door… she blew me a kiss, and that was the last time I saw her.

Although I was not aware of it at the time, I now think that Vilma knew she would soon be joining her dearest Quique. She believed in an Afterlife… but before she travelled there, she wanted us to have just a few more moments. What a gift…

In the coming days, I look forward to hearing others’ stories of … just a few more moments … with our stellar friend, Vilma Morey.

I’m OK to go!

In a month I will turn 65 – but as my husband says – the alternative is worse!

Funny, funny – but all joking aside – becoming an “official” senior citizen is sobering. It boggles my mind to realize I have reached this milestone. My memories of the time before I turned six are mostly sensorial – smells, tastes, intensity – but I remember my school girl days quite clearly. And everything that came after that feels like recent history. Only, it isn’t.

And now, as one of the “old folks”, I can see a whole bunch of challenges ahead:

Senility is a concern, isn’t it? But, “I will think about that tomorrow.”

Energy levels are not like before; I am no longer the “Energizer Bunny.”

No – definitely not the Energizer Bunny – not even close.

In fact – when I just putter along at my own pace – it seems as though I am invisible.

Only if I step out and engage, does the world even notice I’m still here.

Reflective – uh-uh-uh – have you noticed?

 

Cranky with changes foisted on me? I could be majorly so, if I let myself.

Insecure with new-fangled technology – I wish it didn’t intimidate me.

Time means less to me now – but it matters more –

I still have a lot I want to do, and I hope I’ll have the opportunity.

Zany and relentless as the aging process may be – I can’t stop it –

Either I accept it and do my best – or I’d better buy a comfortable recliner.

No way – not yet anyways!

Facing challenges head on is not something many of us willingly embrace, but as a senior citizen, I believe it is essential. I have to stay active mentally, and engaged in my community. Now – more than ever – I have to treasure the people I love. Being a grumpy old woman is not a viable option.

Sometimes I am astounded by all that’s happening in our world. I wonder if maybe while I was sleeping, I got beamed-up to another planet. But no – that’s not likely – and I’m not a Sci-fi fan.

Nonetheless, when it comes to movies, some of my favourites are definitely “out there”, and CONTACT is one of them. I love the part where Ellie (the protagonist played by Jodi Foster) is taking off in her spaceship. The craft is shaking so hard and she has no idea what’s happening. Yet she repeats, again and again, “I’m OK to go!”

The unknowns of aging are sometimes as scary as Ellie’s rocket ride. But this stage of my life is also full of wonder. And that’s what I plan to focus on – not on aches and pains – not on a vague fear of change.  I want to feel “OK to go” even when I’m not at all sure where life’s journey will take me next.

Changes in Yucatan… maybe

During my first years in Yucatan, I learned a lot about common practices in the area. And inevitably when I asked why almost everything happened in such established, prescribed way, I’d be told –  “Es costumbre” – “This is the way it’s done.”

For example, it was considered folly to wash clothes in the afternoon. Shopping at the market also happened only in the morning. Floors had to be mopped with kerosene-laced water, and fish could not be eaten at night. As well, it took me some time to accept “the little basket” beside the toilet.

I came to apprecite the reasoning behind many of the cast-in-stone commandments. But I couldn’t get my head around the resistance to less traditional options that might make life easier or safer.

More than four decades later, sometimes I am still stumped – and yesterday was a good example of this.

Our friends, Allison & Cliff came along with Jorge & me to visit Cenote Kankirixche. The road into the cenote’s location was a rough go, but we expected this, and at just 30 pesos a person, the entrance price could not be beat. We were pleased to find a palapa with bathrooms and a small restaurant.  We also saw a strong wooden ladder for climbing down into the crystalline water. We figured the local government must have assisted a cooperative of villagers to build the infrastructure. Well done – we couldn’t wait to swim.

 But in the cenote cavern we encountered wasps – many, many, many of them – darting in and out of about 50 nests suspended overhead.

Even the bravest, non-sissies will flinch at going into an enclosed space where they are likely to get stung. In fact Allison emerged from the depths with several welts on her upper arm. To me, the wasps sounded agitated, and I climbed out quickly. I asked the people working at the cenote why they hadn’t moved the nests? In my opinion, angry wasps and tourists are not compatible.  If you want the wasps to be happy and not go into frenzy, you can’t allow people to disturb their habitat. If on the other hand, the cenote is meant to provide visitors with a unique water adventure – and increase income for the families that depend on this – then the wasps should be taken elsewhere.

I should have known better. My suggestion that the nests be removed was not at all well-received. I had definitely overstepped. “The wasps are used to going in there,” one young man told me. “The trees are flowering and that’s why there are so many of them.”

“Yes, I noticed,” I replied, “but some people are allergic to bee or wasp stings. If the insects swarm, they could cause serious injury.”

“Well if people want to come here, they have to take the wasps,” said another of the cooperative members.

I can understand that people who live close to nature respect the wasps’ right to build their nests where they have always built them. But surely the Dept. of Ecology or an environmental conservation agency must have ways to relocate their nests. In fact I looked it up on the internet, and yes, this can be done. I sincerely hope the members of the cooperative will consider this option.

The four of us hurried back into the car, and a short distance from the cenote, we arrived at Hacienda Mucuyche.  The cost to spend the day here is 250 pesos, but with our INEPAN seniors’ cards we would only have to pay 150 pesos each. We would have enjoyed touring the hacienda where the Empress Carlota stayed during her visit to Yucatan in 1865. And we could have spent all day swimming in the cenote and picnicking. But it had grown fairly late by the time we arrived at the hacienda, so we decided to come back another day. As we got set to drive away, one of the employees told us that the hacienda has been purchased by the owner of X’caret.

Continuing along, we came upon Hacienda Huayalceh de Peon – in its day, this was one of the largest haciendas in the state, and processed as much as 1,000,000 sisal leaves a week! The operation continued on a smaller scale until 2000, but a hurricane in 2002 damaged much of the machinery, and looting finished the job. Now, the owner is elderly and he rarely visits his formerly majestic family estate.  The villagers use the chapel for Mass once a week. Only the caretaker is on site full time, and he had no objections to us walking around the property. Jorge and I have visited this hacienda on many occasions. Even though the entire place is now in ruins, it is easy to see how grand it once was. Here too we were told that “an outsider” is interested the hacienda – about twice a month he shows up and offers to purchase it – he is told it is NOT for sale. I wonder if the would-be-buyer is the same person who bought Hacienda Mucuyche?

Time seems to stand still in the Yucatecan countryside, and in many ways this is beautiful. But if the people who live in these tucked-away corners of the peninsula are to prosper, they should consider their alternatives. If not, financial interests will prevail – and the last of the great haciendas, as well as natural attractions – will be developed for new purposes by those who are not adverse to change.

When I return to the area in a year or so, I hope I’ll see that the wasps have moved on and the cooperative is flourishing in the hands of the local villagers. I’ll definitely spend a day at Hacienda Mucuyche, and hopefully I won’t have to pay the price I would pay to enter X’caret. I wonder if Hacienda Huayalceh de Peon will still be in the hands of the family whose ancestors built the grand estate in the 1840s.

In the Yucatecan cities, villages and countryside, the threat of mismanaged change lurks alongside the potential for positive innovation. I hope that forward-thinking leadership, entrepreneurs and citizenry will work together to ensure a prosperous, dignified future for our amazing state.

 

 

Chiles en Nogada

Today a friend asked me to share a recipe… and here it is:

Chiles en Nogada

 Chiles en Nogada

 The Picadillo (Meat filling)

Saute 1 kilo of ground pork with:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Add salt and pepper to taste

When the meat is cooked, use a molcajete (mortar and pestle) or a coffee grinder to pulverize:
8 peppercorns
5 whole cloves
1/2 inch stick cinnamon

Add the ground spices to the meat mixture with:

2 heaping Tbsp blanched and slivered almonds
2 heaping Tbsp dried citrus fruit peel and salt to taste

Cut in tiny pieces, then add:
1   1/2 pounds of tomatoes,
2 pears, cored, peeled and chopped
2 peaches, pitted, peeled and chopped

Add: 100 grams of raisins

Mix everything together

The Chilies:

Put  10 chiles poblanos (and you MUST use this type of chili) straight into a fairly high flame or under a broiler and let the skin blister and burn. Turn the chiles from time to time so they do not get overcooked or burn right through. Wrap the chiles in a plastic bag and leave them for about 20 minutes. (they will sweat and the skin will be easier to remove) Once the skins have been peeled off, make a slit in the side of each chili and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the chili, the part around the base of the stem, intact. Rinse the chilies and pat them dry.

Stuff the chilies with the picadillo until they are well filled out. Set them on paper towels, cover with plastic wrap, and then put them in the fridge to chill (I make stuff the chilies the day before I plan on serving them)

The Nogada (walnut sauce)

Also on the day before you plan on eating the chilis:

Soak 2 cups of walnuts overnight in cold milk

On serving day (about 5 hours before eating) :

Drain and pulverize the nuts, then blend them with:
1 small piece white bread without crust
1 1/2 cups cream + 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
Large pinch of cinnamon

When the sauce is smooth, refrigerate it until it is cold.

 To Serve

Set the chilies on a plate and drizzel with the walnut sauce. Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley leaves and pomegranate  seeds on top.

You can accompany this dish with guacamole, rice and tortillas.

***Note: Although the original recipe calls for walnuts, I often substitute pecans. The difference in flavor is there… but barely.

¡Buen Provecho!

 

 

Finding a new orbit at 3 am

I woke up with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” blasting in my brain.

… Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on …

Although it doesn’t happen often, this is not the first time my sleep has been interrupted by a song. It happens when I get overwhelmed by all that is going on in my life. Usually, my first reaction is to rationalize the situation. “Oh go back to sleep,” I tell myself, “When this event is over… or that issue is resolved… or whatever… there will be time for (fill in the blank) and for (fill in the blank).”

My internal dialogue continues… “But what I’ve been doing is necessary… It is important… I have responsibilities…”

And yes, this is true. Good works are necessary. It is important to fulfill obligations. Living up to responsibilities is what adults do. But at this stage of my life, is it time to reassess what this involves? Is it time to take on less?

The singing has stopped, and a whispering voice has taken David Bowie’s place … it suggests that maybe I should consider making a few adjustments. Truth be told, the voice inside my head is not whispering… it is screaming at me… quite stridently. It is not suggesting, it resolutely maintains that I am not behaving in the most necessary, important, and responsible way. The voice insists that I allow for more unhurried, unstructured time in my life.

It urges me to think about spending more time with my family and long-time friends. It asks why I don’t carve out more time for writing, painting, cooking healthy meals,  and exercising more. It tells me I need to do what matters most to me AND to those I love.

My priorities seem to be askew… and no one but me has caused the imbalance. I like being involved.. it’s a good thing, but I need to set limits. I guess I’ve come to a fork in the road.

It’s time to consider changing my orbit.

… This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today …

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost your bearings?

… Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do …

Hm-m-m-m-m-m-m. I will celebrate my 65th birthday in a few weeks… The time has come for me to listen, trust, and heed the voice in my head.

… I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go …

The time has come for some gentle changes in my life.