Sunday, November 29, 2015

A "Unique" and Memorable Thanksgiving - 2015

This year Thanksgiving was different then most years.  Usually it's mostly all family, in Texas, and at some point I was cooking Thanksgiving, even if we were having it at someone else's house.

I enjoy Thanksgiving so much.  It's a fun day of sharing with no expectations other then that the food will be yummy.  That one will have good conversations and a memory or two will be tucked away for future remembrances.

On Thursday I ventured to a home in San Miguel that I did not even know existed on that street.  I had no expectations because, truly, one never knows what is behind the iron gates that are right up against the sidewalk in centro.  I've walked past that gate for fifteen years and never gave it a thought.

I was bowled over when I walked insede, by the extensive gardens, pathways and ultimately to the home where the party was happening.

How did I end up there?  Well, my son John and Matilda and Sebastian were there.  John had prepared quite a bit of the meal.  Delicious, to put it mildly.  Others brought dishes as well.  All was yummy.

We ate upstairs on the roof terrace.  Now I have seen quite a few roof terraces.  Nothing like this.  It was huge, well designed and wait til you see the photos of what was the backdrop!  I just kept exclaiming about how surprising and beautiful the setting was for a Thanksgiving dinner.

 This is a window on the backside of the Oratorio Church!  The art work on the window facing is traditional from the 17th and 18th century.  I would love to know when it was painted!
 John is in the blue shirt getting all the food ready on the serving counter while a new friend visiting from Charleston, S.C. was guiding Scout, the dog, to where we were going to be sitting. He and his wife were
on their first visit to San Miguel and exclaiming about everything.  I think they'll be back.
 There was even a kid's table for Sebastian and Matilda and their new friends........
From every direction, the views were lovely.
 The backdrop for this event were the churches that are along Plaza Civica.  Who knew it extended
this far back? 
 The weather was great!  The new friends were fascinating to meet and converse with during the meal
and afterwards, of course.  The people were from Aspen, formerly Oakland and Houston, and       Charleston, S.C.
And, here was the delicious meal that was enjoyed by all.  How divine!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Greetings on Thanksgiving Day 2015

Prior to today, I dug through stacks of photos looking for one particular shot of a turkey standing on a hill outside the window of my room in Patzcuaro one year.

He was a GRAND turkey with a "Gobble, gobble, gobble" sound that made me chuckle just at the sound.

Well, I chuckled for about an hour.  He never stopped.  Especially when he was going at 4AM one night!
Who knew that turkeys gobbled that much.  Certainly not me because I had never been that close to a turkey for that long of a period of time in my life.

The next time I stayed at that hotel I was traveling with my friends Ron and Fred.  I made sure to get a room NOT in the back where the turkey had been just in case it was still alive.  However, by some strange coincidence, Ron and Fred got that room. 

They asked me to come look out their window and what to my wondering eyes did appear?  About ten turkeys!  It did not take long for them to change rooms.  We all chuckled.

Turkey is the national dish in Guatemala.  They prepare it all kinds of ways.  I loved every morsel as turkey is one of the foods that I cook often and eat often.  It is prepared quite a bit in Mexico as well, but not nearly like it is in Guatemala.

I'm able to write this blog today because I'm NOT cooking the Thanksgiving meal.  It seems so strange!

For so many years it was a marathon of baking, cooking, prepping and attempting to get it all out and ready to serve at the same time.  Somehow it always worked.  It was easy to do twenty years ago - even for 20 people or more.  But now, today, without an oven, I can plead that it is not possible any more for me to do the whole thing.

Luckily all I've had to do is bake a pecan pie and a corn souffle' to take to Thanksgiving dinner later this afternoon.  In the past, I would still be in my flannel jammies, Granny slippers and a heavy robe because it all used to start at about 6AM so it would be ready by 2PM.  I feel like a "lady of leisure" today.........kinda nice.

However, in the midst of this, I'm moving tomorrow!   Only across the garden path, don't panic!  It's amazing how much there is to move so I can stay here til December 26th in the guest house, then change to summer clothes and head directly for the beach for two months.  Being gone for three months is daunting even though I wanted to do this.  Obviously I did not think out all the ramifications.

Blog readers Shelagh and husband Peter arrive Tuesday night to stay in my house.  I can assure you and them that the house is spotless.  It's interesting what happens when company is coming!

Then after I leave for the beach, the new tenant, Darcy, arrives to live in the guest house for 2016.  It too has gotten a bit of spiffing done along with getting pricing requested by Darcy to install upper and lower cabinets in the kitchen along with a small island.  In addition, she is having a large closet built in the bedroom upstairs.
Hopefully I can get that accomplished before her arrival.

I will be SO SO ready to get to the beach where no one can reach me.  Ha!  Yup,  I'll only go into town about once a week to check emails as where I'm staying there is no internet, phone or TV.  It is definitely a break from the world!  Woo hoo.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!  I would say how grateful I am for everything today, but I'm grateful EVERY day for my life, my family and all of my friends. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

NEVER Plan Ten Things in One Mexico!

I knew better!  I knew better!  I knew better!  I made the list anyway.  Some little things like, stop at the Blue Door Bakery.  Buy the two newspapers.  Photograph the children on Revolution Day.  And, the list went on to include grabbing a quick bite of lunch, getting to the lecture series that started today, going grocery shopping.  Well, you get the drift.

I literally leapt out of bed this morning and was ready to leave the house at 9:30!  Typically I saunter down about 11AM and that allows plenty of time for all that I do on Friday.  But, no, not today.  Today was the day of the parade of the little Zapatas and all those from the Revolution.  Little being the operative word.  This desfile (parade) is made up of kindergarteners dressed as the super heroes of Mexico.  The other is the Primavera parade in the spring which is butterflies, bumble bees, lady bugs and other assorted characters.

I had not had a chance to photograph the children in a few years.  I was NOT going to miss them today.

Hence, my arrival at the parking garage on Mesones at 9:45!  The manager asked me, I thought, if I knew
there was a parade today.  "Si, si," I answered.  Off I went not giving that comment another thought.  I later realized he was telling me of the parade in case I was going to need to get the car in a couple of hours.

I found my place in the jardin after getting the newspapers, but not stopping at the bakery.  I wanted to be sure to get a good viewing position for photographing. 

It seemed a little odd that I was the only person on the bench, but I expected more people soon.  Eventually a few showed up, but by now it was 11AM.  And then I was told the usual little parade was coming from four different directions.  Uh oh, how could that be?  There aren't that many little kindergartners........... 

Noon arrives.  We can hear drums, but so far no marchers or little kids.  Rats, I had to leave as I needed to get the car and get to where I was to start a lecture series.  Not possible.  One of the four points of the direction of the parade was the street where my car was parked.

Off I went, winding my way through the cobblestone streets heading in the direction that I needed to go.  Hmmm, the weather had certainly warmed up since 9:30AM and I was walking as close to the building as possible to stay out of the sun which was now beaming down at around 80F or more.  

Aha, I saw a taxi!  I waved him down. Told him where I needed to go as time was flying past and the fun began.  Almost all the streets were closed.  But, he was so solicitous and determined to get me as close as possible to my destination that I began to chuckle.  To this kid who was about 20, I probably looked like an ancient crone!  He even drove backward down a street because he told me the police would not realize that he was driving onto the street but would think he was leaving the street.  I was laughing out loud by this point and he would look at me from time to time and grin.

He got me to within a few doors of the restaurant and I jumped out, thanked him profusely and paid him.  Grabbed a bite to eat, QUICKLY.  As I came back out on the street, I could see a parade for as far as my eyes could see.  Nary a small child marching anywhere.  Instead, cheerleaders, people doing a CPR demonstration, the two ambulances of San Miguel and who knows what else.  Where was Zapata?  Not to be seen.  At least not on this street.

Dashing into the Instituto for the first of three talks on the Mayans by a very knowledgeable archaeologist, many people were talking about their adventure in trying to get to the lecture on time with all the streets closed.   There was a sense of determination and exhilaration that somehow we had outfoxed the powers to be.

I pulled out my list after the three hours at the Instituto, looked at it, crumpled it up and said, "Manana". 
I then remembered that everyone always says, "Never, ever try to do more then THREE things in San Miguel in a day".  No truer words were ever spoken.

By the way, here are a few photos from Revolution Day 2009! 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


For all the years I've lived in this house, each time I look West toward the mountains, and attempt to take a
beautiful sunset photo or storm photo or fog photo, this monstrosity of an unused light pole has loomed in
every image.
There it is in all its ugliness I have thought, ruining such a magical view.  I couldn't see the forest for this dumb concrete tree!

Another equally aggravating view..........that is, until recently.  I moved my reading chair from the bedroom to the living room.  Always in the past, I sat on the chaise to read and that faced toward the interior gardens with the poinsettia tree, the lilies, and all the other vast array of nature.

BUT, the chair now faced out the windows toward the West.  I did not notice it at first, other then the fact that the light less pole was still there.

Then one morning there were a few sparrows on it.  Those cross beams are hollow.  In and out they came.  I'm assuming there are many nests inside based on all the scurrying about.  The following day something really funny happened.  The red headed woodpecker was perched on top of the concrete pole and pecking away at it.  He would face one way for a while and peck....then scoot a little bit and peck.  He managed to circumnavigate the whole darn pole while pecking and looking for other low flying birds.

You see, now that I have the chair there, its a perfect place to drink my coffee early and watch the antics of whoever or whatever is coming that morning.   Another morning about ten sparrows decided to go up and down the guy wires attached to the pole.  It was like watching the Rockettes or perfect form.

Then the light bulb moment happened!  For gosh sakes, this thing that had aggravated me for so long had become such a joyful and humorous and fun thing to watch each and every day.  I then realized, it is all in our perception, isn't it?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Reflections from Mexico - San Miguel de Allende to be Exact

It has been a whopper of a week.  That is a mild understatement.  I'm always conscious that it can change in an instant..........and often does.

It started on Tuesday with a pain in the left side of my neck.  Being a denier, I just thought I had slept wrong on the pillow so thought it would be gone the next day.  It was not.  In fact on Wednesday, a busy, busy day,
I was having a hard time looking to the left.  Ironic.  So, my solution was to stand in the shower under the hottest water I could bear, and point the shower massage on my neck and left shoulder as now the pain
was not just in my neck but radiating down my shoulder.

On Thursday morning someone, who is a new acquaintance, posted the symptoms leading up to her mother's heart attack on facebook.  Holy moly.  Was that a swift kick in the posterior.  I was on the phone with the doctor's office, got an appointment for within two hours and was there waiting for him in 1 1/2 hours.  I must admit, which is silly, it did not occur to me to go to the emergency room even though I was in excruciating pain.

So, Dr. Barrera, who has been my acutely wonderful internal diagnostician now for over 10 years, quickly
checked everything and said, no, no carotid artery stuff and then checked my neck and assessed that those pesky vertebrae in my neck that are crushed or whatever, had a flareup.  As always, he was correct.  So, with a series of five cortisone shots, I'm on #4 today, I'm pain free.  Even in my knees and hip!  Ojala.  Pain free is a big thing for me as I live with chronic pain.

So, this saga will become history.  It's probably time for me to bite the bullet, fly to Texas next spring - April, May, and think about knee replacement or whatever and get rid of that.  Possibly even see whatever kind of doctor you see for neck and spine deterioration.  I might become the bionic blogger...........or not!

* * * * * *
Moving on.  I have no photos on this blog today. I think since Friday night we have seen enough visual images that even a beautiful butterfly might be too much.  I have not had the TV on since CBS Sunday Morning ended and have no intention of having anything on, but instead, listening to Mother Nature outside with chirping, zipping hummingbirds and soft, quiet butterfly wings.

As I have thought and thought about the actual people who make up the terrorists, it appears most are in their mid to late 20's.  Obviously from their countries of origin, most have grown up in war torn, bombed out areas seeing the deaths, first hand of family, friends and others too numerous to list.  Anger is one of the stages of grief.  I know.  I've experienced it at more then one time as I worked my way through  over sudden deaths.  I luckily had beauty to surround me, family to love me and friends to support me, but it does not appear to me that these terrorists have much other then their anger and thoughts of revenge to sustain them.  Sadly.

I wonder what would happen if they could be transported, individually, to a village of tranquility with beauty and kindness.  Could they heal?  It would be a long process, and, I know it sounds simplistic, but now several countries have been bombed to oblivion and that certainly is not the answer.  Maybe its time to back up and think of the human being who is part of all of this and how to save them, one person at a time.

* * * * *

Nature has always been my salvation.  Whether its watching the cloud formations or the storms coming over the mountains, whatever, it is mesmerizing and leads to meditation and reflection.

This morning I heard what I thought was someone chopping down a tree outside on the road.  But, I knew that could not be the case.  There are no more trees outside the perimeter of this property.  Just low blooming bushes.

Finally, I went upstairs to look out the window.  No, no one.........and then I turned around to see the brightest, most beautiful orange bird with stripes of black on its wings, pecking on the window in the living room.  Like a woodpecker, it was SO loud.  I've never seen this bird before, but it was persistent. Even when it saw me, it kept pecking.  Possibly it saw its reflection.  Who the heck knows?  But, for me, it was
a gift.  A gift of surprise from Mother Nature to remind me that after all is said and done, we can find beauty
in the tiniest of creatures.  Especially when we are open to it.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Remittances to Mexico

Many people do not know what that phrase means.  They do not understand that the reason there are immigrants from Mexico, and Central America in the USA working is so they can send money home to
help their family.  Some are escaping the fear of death from countries in Central America where the war on drugs promoted by the USA,  failed miserable and totally destabilized the entire country and area. But for the most part they want to make a better life for themselves and their families.

It seems from things I read recently by very angry people about immigrants that they have no clue why
these people are in the USA or what they do while they are there.

Let's start with remittances.

If you saw lines of people waiting in front of a bank in Mexico, would you know........or would you wonder why they are there?

This is a typical scene at the beginning of the month.  They are there to withdraw money sent home by fathers, husbands, brothers, young men and women also, who are sending money home to help.  The main
reason they went to the states in the first place.  To find work to make money.

The average transaction is not large.  About $293.73 per transaction.  However, that can be the difference
between eating and not; having meds and not; having electricity or not.  The basic essentials of life.

In the first nine months of 2014, $17.58 BILLION dollars was sent home to help!  Yes, indeed.  Those workers in the USA care.  They really take it seriously to care and to send money.  I've known and hired many workers who slept 7 or 8 men in a one or two bedroom house or apartment.  They brown bagged their lunches and snacks.  They went home at night to play dominoes or watch TV rather then spend money on frivolous things like movies, or restaurants or things others take for granted. They sent money home.

Most immigrants initially do not have cars.  They use the buses, a bicycle or their feet.  Sometimes they can get a ride with a friend, if they both are working the same job.  What time does their day usually start?  Long before ours.  Just think if you had to take four or five buses to get to a construction job - both ways.  I'm not making any of this up.  Not one bit. And, their days usually end long after ours by the time they finish their work and can get home by buses, a bicycle or their feet.

Surprised?  Here's another interesting fact. Remittances are the second source of income for Mexico, right behind oil.  And, the third source of income is tourism.  Yes, it is very important to the economy of Mexico, still, at the present time.

Mexico and Central America are cash societies for the most part.  Credit is a new thing.  So, when people who have emigrated to the USA are there after a while, they don't buy a house until they have cash!  They don't buy cars until they can pay for it.  Like it used to be in the times after WWII when credit was a new concept.

The contribution of all of this cash for real estate, food, transportation, and all the other segments necessary to survive, is very necessary to the economy of the USA as well.  Sorry I don't have the figure of what is estimated to be their financial contribution to the USA.

Another fallacy is that immigrants live off the system and pay no taxes.  Not possible.  They have to have a social security number, valid or not, to get most jobs.  They pay taxes, but never get any benefits from all the money they pay in.  A boon to the social security system when you have over 11 million people paying into something and not getting a dime of it back.  Amazing isn't it?

Waiting for welfare checks?  That seems to be another comment frequently used as to why immigrants are in the USA.  Welfare has never been part of the cycle of their life back where they come from, unless you count the approximately $30USD the elderly get in Mexico, which is about all I know about as welfare. Yes, there is assistance with healthcare, seeds to plant crops, but no where near the amount of assistance programs that the USA provides to their citizens.

The statistics show that the percentage of people getting welfare in the USA that are immigrants is no greater, and thought to be less then the percentage of people who do receive welfare that are US citizens.

As far as the borders being secure.  The big fallacy is that people are streaming across, as politicians  like to point out.  Well, I don't know where anyone gets that idea.  The stats show the numbers are so low and have been so low for the last 21/2 years that they are almost at a minus percent.  That means more are going back to their countries then are entering the USA. I have crossed those borders all over the place.  I've NEVER once seen someone trying to cross illegally.  And, I've looked.

The fear of the borders is big business!  The military contractors and defense contractors are making off like bandits with all the various ways they can make money.  Building bigger and larger checkpoints.  Providing cars for Border patrol agents.  Clearing land as far as forty miles inland.  Putting up security cameras as far inland as 150 miles. All of this doesn't count the salaries, the uniforms, the drones, the aircraft, boats.  You name it.  They have thought of a way to make money.

The number of governmental agencies who are tasked with protecting the border have gone from US Customs, only, in the 70's to now including DEA, Border Patrol, Homeland Security and many others too
numerous to name!  It's big business.  It just makes me shake my head at how politicized the border between the USA and Mexico has become.

But I digress.  The rhetoric continues about how the immigrants have destroyed the American way of life.
What a sad comment when the immigrants are so patriotic in their home countries and want nothing more
then to be that way in their new home country the USA.  IF they had a path to citizenship that did not cost an arm and a leg, my bet is that eleven million immigrants would be whittled down to very few who would not become citizens.

Hopefully, soon, or sometime in my lifetime, those eleven million human beings will be thought of in a humane way and allowed to not live with a stigma and fear over their heads that at any moment they could be rounded up and separated from their families to be sent to a country that many have not lived in for 20  or 30 years or more.    That is happening every day.  Can you imagine if they attempted to do that with eleven million immigrants?

I shudder to imagine that.  Hopefully you do as well.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A Visit to Anado's - Casa Las Ranas

The last couple of weeks have been chock-a-block full of activities and festivities.  Most of it was Day of the
Dead events.  More then a mere mortal could possibly attend.  Well, at least this mere mortal.  Along with the traditional activities of building altars, visiting the cemeteries and being in the jardin at night to see all the stuff going on, there were also art openings, fairs, food events. Well, you get the idea!

In the midst of all of that there was also a 70th birthday party for one of the regulars at the wild and crazy Monday Coffee Klatch group.  It was held at Pizza Pig.  They have such good vegetarian pizzas.  You see they start out vegetarian and then we add home made Italian sausage, pepperoni, ham, etc etc etc.  In addition, they have dessert pizzas made with fresh raspberries and chocolate dessert pizzas as well.  Stop by there sometime if you are in San Miguel.

Two delightful newcomers to San Miguel from Nashville were my guests to go visit Anado McLauchlin's
creative environment out in the country.  They both are friends of a good friend.  One was visiting and the other has moved here with her husband.  I am looking forward to getting to know them better.  We sure had
fun out at Anado's.

Anado and his partner moved to the San Miguel area about the same time I did.  They bought a plain jane house in the country and began to create a wonderland of color and creativity.  Not having visited out there
for at least five years, I was astonished that two more buildings have been added to the property.  The Chapel of Jimmy Ray, an homage to Anado's father and an art gallery for Anado's creations as well as other invited artists.

Since a picture is worth a 1000 words, what you are about to see is a lengthy conversation! The last five photos are the plain jane house that has been turned into an exuberant, joyful home that they share with multiple animals and the ever arriving tourists and friends.  You can click on the photos to see enlargements. Enjoy.