When a friend dies, many of us wish for… justa few more moments…
Justa 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 justa 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.
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.
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.
Today a friend asked me to share a recipe… and here it is:
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
What a year 2017 has been. I’m not one to wish time away, but quite frankly, I will be glad to usher in the New Year. I’m looking forward – not back.
In May I will become an “official” senior citizen and that absolutely astonishes me. Honestly –my hair is white now and I cannot run really fast for too long, but I can usually handle whatever is thrown at me. I can walk for miles, climb several flights of stairs or a steep hill without wheezing, and I still adore staying up late.
Over the next 365 days, I imagine that some awesome and some challenging events will assail me and my loved ones. My New Year’s resolution is to take myself less seriously. When people or situations get to be too bothersome, petty, threatening or whatever – I’ll just fluff out my tutu and keep dancing!
When I was young, time crawled by – but with each decade, the days and weeks seem to have gotten shorter and shorter – now they whiz by so fast, I can hardly keep track.
It is December again – how can that be – I mean REALLY!
Except for two weeks in September, I’ve been living in Canada since June. I like it there, but I have missed Jorge, my children, my Merida friends, my home of 40 years and my garden.
And yesterday, after 20 hours of travel, I arrived back in Yucatan. I unfolded my weary bones out of Seat 15F, and filed along with the crowd towards Immigration and Customs. I knew I’d soon be runited with my husband – and felt excited for that moment – but I was bereft knowing that I’d not be seeing my children too. They will be in Norway this Holiday Season, and it turned out that they had booked a flight on the exact same plane I had just arrived on… If only we’d coordinated our itineraries differently!
I kept going and to my surprise, I saw Carlos and Maggie looking out through the window of their departure gate. They appeared to be searching for someone – and when Carlos saw me, he nodded his head up and down and took off in the other direction – Maggie ran over to me.
I could see Carlos had the attention of a young airport employee, who quickly followed him over to where Maggie and I stood – our hands pressed together on either side of the glass. Hanging around the airline agent’s neck, I spied the key to my heart – literally THE key to my heart. She inserted it into the lock and gave Carlos, Maggie and me just enough time for a take-my-breath-away embrace. OMG, I wanted to hug her too. I felt so grateful, and only the thought of Jorge waiting further along made me turn away.
The reunion Jorge and I enjoyed was not quite as emotional but it was equally wonderful – and within an hour of my arrival at MID, I found myself walking through the rooms of my home, checking out the garden and dipping my toes in the pool. The water temperature did not invite me to plunge right in, but Jorge’s smile certainly did. In all the important ways, slipping back into the “Merida Me” felt as easy as changing my shoes.
Many friends (and strangers too) have asked what it has been like for me to live in Canada again, after such a long time in Mexico. Have you adjusted – What do you do – Do you still have friends there – Don’t you miss your family?
Obviously, my move to part-time residency in two countries is a BIG change. Before actually arriving there, I didn’t know how it would all work out. But I figured I could leave at any time, so why not try?
Over the years, I have experienced both wonders and challenges in Merida. Jorge and I raised two bicultural kids, we built a college, and we’ve both contributed to our Yucatecan and international communities. Nonetheless, my western Canadian identity has always remained strong – I never stopped missing my family and my life there. While my children were small, while I was working, and had other responsibilities, I could not be in Canada except to visit. And that was OK – I belonged in Mexico with Jorge, Carlos and Maggie. But once I retired, I wondered – why not live in both places? Jorge’s ties to his hometown and culture are bound by steel cable. Although we both wish the day-to-day logistics wer easier to resolve, he understands my need for time in Canada. We’ll just have to keep working at it, until we find the solution that works best. After all, BIG changes take time to fine tune.
And, getting back to the initial point of this post – what is it like to live in Canada after all these years in Mexico?
Vancouver, the city where I was born and raised, has grown from a secondary coastal hub into a teaming international metropolis. English used to be the only language I ever heard in my North Vancouver neighborhood, and now native English speakers are a minority there. Drivers, once so courteous, seem to be on a mission to get where they’re going as fast as they can – and if you are dawdling – you’ll soon hear horns blasting. Right away, I determined I would not be living, or even driving in Vancouver.
Vancouver is expensive too. Very expensive. Rents average $2,500 a month for a one bedroom apartment – if you can find one. Eating out is at least $25.00 a pop, without alcohol or desert. A modest grocery bill for one person is $150.00 a week. Last time I looked, gas was nearly $1.30 a liter at the pump. With the traffic, it takes hours to get anywhere, so just the fuel cost of running a car is considerable.
Kamloops, an inland city of 90,000 – 3 ½ hours east of Vancouver turned out to be just right for me. It is slower-paced and yet it has all the services I need. There is good shopping in small shops, in malls and in markets. Daily cultural events are interesting and varied – all summer I attended free nightly concerts in the riverside park. On Seniors’ Day (Wednesdays) entrance to the current first-run movie and a complementary bag of popcorn is just $10.00 – that’s the best deal I found. The library and the university both host free or almost-free courses and workshops. As my small apartment is located right downtown, I can walk everywhere. When I need to go further afield, I can take the bus. If company comes, I can rent a car.
Most of all, I have loved being closer to my brothers and sisters, other extended family and old-time friends. When I first arrived, they helped me settle in and since then, we have enjoyed so many dinners, walks and day trips. I have also made some new friends.
The weather is well-suited to me. It is a lot drier than in Yucatan – and much less humid. Canadians consider Kamloops’ summers to be unbearably hot, but I laugh at that! In the fall it cools off quickly – I immediately bought a warm coat and boots , and turned on the fireplace. It heats the apartment efficiently – so I have kept toasty and warm.
Of course not everything is perfect in Canada. There were surprises – in some ways, it is not at all like the country where I grew up. I already mentioned the size and faster pace, which seem to have ushered in cultural challenges. Although the majority of Canadians I encountered have been courteous and friendly, especially in Kamloops, a subculture has grown.
Drug use is definitely a problem and there is a visible homeless population in Kamloops. To me it looks like many in this group are mentally ill. Concerned individuals do what they can, but the issues are as complicated as the people who need help – they won’t “get better” with methadone treatment, shelters or “Chili and Coats” provided free from time to time. Most of the indigent population lives downtown, and I talk a bit with some of “the regulars”. I sense they want to change, but it’s a long, painful process, and they fear both long-term and pain.
Fair and equitable reconciliation for aboriginal Canadians is another dilemma that the government and citizens struggle to resolve. But I must say, Canadians try – they try hard to find fair solutions – and meanwhile they do the best they can.
And isn’t this what it’s like for all of us? No matter where we live or what our situation, life isn’t a cake walk for anyone – we do our best to enjoy what works – and we work on improving what isn’t. I call this the pursuit of grace.
The Serenity Prayer, written by the theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr pretty much sums up my feelings about adapting to the changes in our personal lives and addressing those we face as members of global society.
Yee gads! Are bloggers like the dinosaurs? If so, will we be allowed to go softly into the night? Or will we be suddenly eliminated from the cyber world just as the mammoth reptiles were frozen out of our physical one?
A couple of weeks ago, a favorite blogger announced that she had written her last post. And just the other day, another popular wordsmith threatened to do likewise. And have you noticed that even the most prolific of the English-language blogs, Mexfiles, no longer appears daily.
Fortunately, my colleagues had a change of heart. They are in fact still blogging, but perhaps not with their previous regularity or enthusiasm. And there are others like me, who have changed their blog’s focus as well as their publishing frequency.
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and a host of special interest social media groups are now more popular than blogs. Anyone who has a tablet or smart phone can easily post – with or without photos – about whatever interests them. Dogs and cats (especially rescue ones), parties and other social events, home renovations, the mysteries of the Mexican Immigration law, intricacies of banking, and surprises when shopping are all popular topics. Scams and scandals in the community are circulated. But the lion’s share of polemic is reserved for politics.
Some bloggers write politically, but after a few forays into that particular Never-Never Land, I have opted to skirt around it. I have NOT changed my views but discretion is the better part of valor – why risk getting my name on some no-fly list or worse?
Indeed, from time to time, bloggers are accused of writing tepidly. Actually that is one of the hardest parts about blogging – we want to be brave, to let the truth shine, to write with integrity, and from the heart. But we also need to keep one finger hovering above the “auto censor” key – we are lone voices. We don’t have the backing of a newspaper chain or the legal protection of a publishing house. We put ourselves out there and because of that, I think most of us have had some negative experiences. I’ve asked myself why we persevere.
Do we think we have insights that no one else has? Do we presume we can educate and inform our readers? Well, maybe a little bit – but mostly it is the process. The bloggers I know truly enjoy writing. They love searching for just the right words and composing sentences that express exactly what they need to say. It’s easy to write a few lines of facebook feed but a well thought out blog post takes time. Sometimes I spend ages getting the language just right – and appropriate visuals also take a while to find.
I enjoy getting comments – I’ve been blogging for a long time and it’s easy to get stale. I appreciate those who faithfully read Changes in Our Lives – they know who they are – and so will you if you scan my comments. Some of them contribute almost as much as I do.
This has been a different year for me and if not for my blog, I would have done precious little writing. Getting regular practice is another advantage to blogging. So, provided no meterorite crashes into Earth, I plan to keep on just as I am, and I hope my colleagues will do likewise.
I have no memory of the day my grandfather gave us his hand-made Nativity set. I don’t know how he got the idea to build the stable from a disgarded fruit crate. He cut out Mary’s and Joseph’s kneeling silhouettes from veneer scraps – then used his oils to paint their beatific faces and traveling robes. I’m pretty sure that Baby Jesus was a dime store dolly before Granddad swaddled him and laid him in the manger (crafted from glued-together pieces of wood). Every December, Mom would position the figures on a table and to complete the scene, she’d add pine cones, fir branches and lights of some sort. When she had finished, she always stood back, smiled, and said how much she loved it.
I would cringe because I felt too guilty to admit that I thought our crèche was too plain and too simple. I thought we should have a much fancier one.
Oh how I admired my friend’s elaborate Holy Family figurines. They were made from fine porcelain and dressed in flowing brocade. A heavenly host of angels, three wise men on camels, shepherds and their sheep, an ox and a donkey stood in adoring attendance.
Years passed, I moved to Mexico, and our family always spent the Holidays there. In many Merida homes, the decorated tree takes second place to an elaborate reenactment of the holy birth. I could never look at my sister-in-law’s without remembering the “plain and simple” one I grew up with.
I will be traveling to Mexico in a week’s time, but before leaving Kamloops, I wanted to put up some Christmas decorations around my apartment. My sister Barb brought over a cardboard box containing baubles, strings of lights… and the old family crèche!
Nostalgia overwhelmed me as I set up the Nativity scene in a corner and surrounded the vintage pieces with pinecones, votive candles and fir branches. I stood back and looked hard. The Christmas crèche is still as “plain and simple” as ever – but my eyes see it differently than when I was a child. Now it looks “plain-ly and simp-ly” beautiful.
At Riverside Park, Kamloops residents gathered around the Cenotaph for the Remembrance Day Laying of the Wreaths ceremony.
Starting promptly at 11 am, the ceremony included a Fly Past by the 419th Squadron from Cold Lake Alberta… the singing of O Canada and God Save the Queen and the recital of In Flanders Fields, the poem by Lt-Col. John McRae. Bagpipes wailed the Lament and trumpets sounded Reveille.. There were prayers and 2 minutes of silence.
All around the base of the centotaph, many wreaths were laid by government and private groups. And when the private citizens approached to salute the vets, they tossed poppies on top of the wreaths.