The Interrogation — oops — Interview One More Time

15 06 2018

It’s been three weeks since we saw our heroes leaving the UK Registry office carrying a list of additional required documentation (passport photos and proof of residence consisting of a council tax or energy bill because providing title to their house was not sufficient).

So. Here we are on June 5, back at the Registry Office. As required, before coming to this meeting, we confirmed and paid for the wedding venue on a date well past the up-to-70-days waiting period: August 28.

We’re feeling confident because our previous interviewer had said that all we’d need were the photos and proof of residence, although we again brought along everything (plus some).

Promptly at the scheduled time, 4:00 pm, we are greeted by Louise, another of the personnel in the Department of Marriages and Civil Partnerships. Her style is totally different from Carol’s three weeks ago. And, since we were unable to complete the previous interview (and, thus, did not pay for it), there were no notes from that meeting.

Complete Start Over.

Louise begins with me individually. After accepting my new photo and comparing it, me, and my current passport, she begins.

All questions relate to Peter – his full name (why no middle name?), birth date, occupation, previous occupation, about his life. Because, I suppose – do I really know this person I’m hoping to marry?

Then she moves to my details. Have I gone by any other name? Duh. This is not my first rodeo. And to husband-Jim’s death certificate. It’s déjà vu of the last interview: “Why does the death certificate say Mary R. Denton rather than Mary Denton Jordan?”

“I don’t know, it’s the way Colorado did it. Here’s my birth certificate showing name Mary Raye Denton.” Having been through this before, I quickly produce what worked the last time: bank card with name Mary R. Jordan.

“Oh, this won’t do. We need to see a government-issued card.”

After several back/forths, Louise excuses herself to check with a superior, documents in-hand. Eventually, they agree that I am, indeed, the same Mary R. Jordan, Mary Raye Denton, and Mary Denton Jordan.

Then, to our place of residence.I tell her the address, carefully explaining that because this is a “holiday home,” there is no mail delivery. “That’s fine,” she assures me. “We just need to know where you’re living.”

We, naturally, must show proof of address. During the last visit, we could not use the Council Tax bill which includes both our names because it is mailed to Peter’s sister at her address, not ours. Which of course has — No mail delivery. We had provided the title to the house, but that was not acceptable. They needed a current energy bill. It’s issued quarterly (most recently, February 22), and I receive it online. So I’d called EDF, the energy company, to find out when the next bill would arrive. June 7, two days after this appointment. The EDF lady kindly agreed to provide an interim bill. It arrived, I downloaded to a memory stick and went to the local library for printing. So I confidently hand her this document.

“Why is only your name on this?”

“Because it comes to my email address.”

“We need something showing Peter’s name at this address.”

“Well, I have title to the property.”

“Yes. That will do.”

I just smile. I feel like screaming! It didn’t “do” last visit – otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted half a day on the phone, downloading the bill, having someone drive me to the library, and then figuring out how to use their printer.

Having (finally) satisfied these legal requirements – so far – she states that we both may need to be available for further interviews or perhaps a home visit. “You will be here during the next 70 days?” My heart drops. I’m flying to the USA to take my granddaughter to New York City to celebrate her 10th birthday. I may be out of the UK as long as two weeks. Louise frowns. “Maybe there won’t be any problems. Or maybe they can work out the schedule. If not, you’ll have to start this entire process over again.”

She thanks me and asks Peter to come in, alone.

I again remind her that we receive no mail delivery at our address. Again, I’m reassured that this will not present a problem.

Peter flows through the interview with flying colors. After all, I’m the possible-problem immigrant from the USA.

Exactly at the end of the allotted one-hour interview, Louise escorts us to the payment window, £46 each, She informs us that the Plymouth UK office is now officially out of this process; it’s all up to the London Home Office. Everything we need to know is in this leaflet, Home Office Referral and Investigation Scheme. (Interesting title. Especially the word “scheme.”)

DSC_6940

We walk out of their office approximately 5:15 pm.

The leaflet explains that “The Home Office is taking tough action to tackle sham marriages….” It also states that it may decide to investigate further and that “The Home Office will make this decision and inform you of it in writing before the end of the 28 day notice period.” (Italics mine.)

In writing.

To our address.

Where we do not receive mail.

Probably to be returned as “undeliverable.”

Think this might be a Red Flag to the Home Office?

Danger! Danger! Danger! Sham address! Sham marriage!

Permission denied!

Lovely.

And, of course, the Plymouth office is now closed.

Promptly at 9:00 am the next day, I call to see if they can put a different mailing address on our application – perhaps get it changed before it gets to London. I am informed I need to talk with someone in the “marriage and ceremony team.” Not available, of course, but someone – yet a different person – calls back in late afternoon. After being told the previous day that this office is now completely “hands off” the process – and reading in the Scheme leaflet that “Staff at the Designated Register Office you attended or wrote to will not be able to tell you how your referral is progressing” — this lady on the phone says not to worry. “They write us at the same time, and we call to let you know.”

Needless to say, I’m not confident.

To be continued (once again)….

Advertisements




Should be simple….

19 05 2018

Peter and I have decided to get married. Finally.

Why would anyone our age bother with marriage?

We’ve been friends since 2011 — and lovers living together in Guanajuato since 2013. We’ve talked about getting married. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. But — why?

Pragmatically, marriage makes sense. Peter and I want to make decisions for each other without legal hassles of “relationship.” He’s a British citizen. I’m an American. We live in Mexico. We travel the world. His children live in Mexico. Mine live in the USA. I’m 70-fucking-2 years old. He’s five years younger. Anything could happen – from old-age maladies to being run over by a bus.

I can’t imagine life without him.

20180519_005917

We want to do this in England, his country of citizenship where we own a “holiday home” in Devonshire, on the beach of Plymouth Sound overlooking Cornwall – where his sister, his cousin, and childhood friends live. When we return to Mexico, we’ll have a Vows Ceremony with other family and friends – and, of course, a huge celebration.

Silly me. I thought making the decision was the hard part. After that — we just get a marriage license and Do It.

WRONG.

We don’t plan to live in England permanently. I’m merely a tourist to this country who wants to marry a Brit. Not so in the opinion of The Government who, apparently, views me as an immigrant planning to suck the country dry.

Interesting — being on the receiving side of The Immigrant Issue.

The official government website has a Requirements section for those they envision as people like me. Confusing – particularly since I’m not trying to “immigrate” to England. Which of the multitude of requirements actually addresses our situation?

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 11.16.22 AM

Cousin Margot to the rescue! Margot, who lives in Plymouth, actually talked with Someone Who Knows. She set up our required appointment with a Registry Official who even provided a follow-up email with bullet-points and yellow highlights — outlining the specific documents necessary for our appointment to apply for marriage in the UK.

Needless to say, I carefully studied the information in this letter and on the website.

Do we have everything we need?

Passports. Check.

My deceased husband’s death certificate. Check.

Proof of residence. Check.

Plus everything else I thought might be necessary as back-up data to prove I’m worthy of marrying an exalted citizen of the United Kingdom: Social Security and bank statements

(I won’t be a financial drain on the British System), driver license, birth certificate. Birth certificates for Peter’s children. And. Having previously dealt with Mexican paperwork, I include multiple copies of each document.

We are prepared.

We think.

On May 18, precisely at noon, we meet Carol, our UK Registry Official.

First question: “Have you booked the venue?”

“Why would we book the venue before we have the government’s blessing?”

The reply: “Permission to marry is ‘venue specific.’”

Has this been referenced in any of the literature?

No.

Let’s clarify:

Before this meeting during which the government requires a full hour of interviews (Peter and I together, then each separately) after which the interviewer sends her recommendation to the home office in London — and then these government personnel review the information and make the final decision: Can we marry in England – or not? And. This decision may come as quickly as 28 days or may perhaps take up to 70 days. (I’m told that since I’m An Immigrant, the decision will take a while.) But – back to the point: Before this meeting in which The Authorities eventually decide our suitability to marry — Before this decision is made for us by a nebulous someone, at an unknown sometime, in London — which could take over two months — We have to book the marriage venue and date?!

This is a joke – right?

They’re serious.

Before Carol can even conduct the interview, we have to secure the exact location and the date.

Is it just me, or is this counter-intuitive?

Book the venue before we even know if we can get married??

Not to mention that nowhere on the website or in any of the informational documents is this “minor detail” listed as a prerequisite.

We can, however, book the Plymouth Registry Office for the wedding.

Great.

Do we want the Quick-and-Simple (my term, not Carol’s) that includes the happy couple plus two witnesses — or do we want the Wedding Party option with a capacity for up to 55 guests? For Quick and Simple, we pay £20 to reserve, then £46 more the day of wedding, plus £4 for each copy of the certificate. The Big Room is £140 plus-plus.

Quick-and-Simple sounds perfect. Problem solved.

Oh — wait.

What if we don’t get approved before the scheduled date? Not to worry. We can change the date for only £10. (Yes. We can change the date — but not the venue.)

Done deal.

Next question:

“Do you have your passport-size pictures?”

Another minor detail not mentioned in the informational documents.

Obviously, we don’t randomly carry passport-size photos in our wallets.

No pictures. No interview.

We can’t complete this necessary part of the process today. But Carol’s willing to check our other documentation to make sure we have everything.

Passports: Fine.

Proof of residence: I produce the Council Tax bill.

Not good enough. There is no mail delivery at our residence because it’s a “holiday home.” Thus, the bill (which references our address) goes to Peter’s sister. I’d anticipated something like this so I brought along the deed and title to our house and all related correspondence. Yes. This is good. (Although we found out later, it’s not. For proof of residence, we need a current energy bill. Go figure.)

My previous husband’s death certificate: I hand her the original, state-certified document. I’m confident. Nothing can go wrong with this.

Carol studies it closely. She’s never encountered one from Colorado before.

Alas. My name on this certificate as wife of the deceased is Mary R. Denton — my maiden name.

“Why the initial R?”

Because my middle name is Raye.

“Why is the name on your passport Mary Denton Jordan?”

Because they only have space for only one middle name; my maiden name makes more sense. It ties together all my accounts.

Long pause. She needs to talk with a superior.

Carol finally returns. “Do you have a copy of your marriage certificate?”

Jim and I were married in 1989. I do have this document – – somewhere in in the bowels of my Tuff Shed on the side of a hill in Colorado, USA. Not terribly convenient.

Frown. “If you don’t have the marriage certificate, do you have another official document to connect the dots: Mary R. Jordan to Mary Denton Jordan?”

Good grief. For many years, I’ve been doing my best to assure that all accounts and documents list me as Mary Denton Jordan.

Luckily, my efforts weren’t totally successful because after searching my computer records (Yes. I brought my computer), I found one account listing me as Mary R .Jordan.

Whew! (Saved from digging through my Tuff Shed nearly halfway around the world.)

So the only thing actually holding us back are the 2”x2” photos.

Can we get them now and come back this afternoon?

Of course not. This is, after all, Wedding Season. Lots of applicants.

Next available appointment is in three weeks – June 5. Then, of course, we have to await The Decision.

But.

We have the venue.

To be continued….





Mexico Accommodations — As diverse as the countryside, the cities, and the people

5 03 2018
I decided to fly through the air and live in the sunlight and enjoy life as much as I could. Evel Knievel

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from writing – as in over two years! — having way too much fun enjoying life and taking no time to write about it.

However, we recently completed a two-week sojourn between Puerto Morelos at the southeastern tip of Mexico back home to Guanajuato in the center of the country. Our normal quick-trip version is only 2500 kilometers which we normally drive in two long days. But with side trips, getting lost, sight-seeing, enjoying special times with dear friends, and just appreciating The Mexico Experience, this trip racked up over 4000 kilometers – nearly 2,500 miles.

Motivation for our unforgettable journey was a visit by Peter’s sister and brother-in-law from the United Kingdom: Fiona and Chick Hutchings. We wanted these English world-travelers to experience the “real” Mexico – beaches, mountains, pueblos, street food, tuk-tuks, police and military stops (all exceptionally polite), topes, and more….

We tend to travel – not exactly cheap, but reasonably – opting to stay in smaller towns rather than in the more expensive heart of cities or the classic beach resorts. This also allows for a more “Mexico” and less “touristy” experience.

Thus, we leave the relative luxury of our Puerto Morelos beachside condominium to head toward Palenque in the state of Chiapas.

Quintana Roo’s highways are the dullest part of the journey. Although QRoo has incredible white-sand beaches with seven-shades-of blue Caribbean sea, the only view from the roads is a flat, green corridor of tall jungle and scrubby brush, broken up by the occasional pueblo and dog-in-the-street.

Just before dusk, we found a delightful basic hotel, surprisingly, in the industrial edge of Ciudad Campache: Hotel Bambu with spacious rooms, king-size bed, decent mattress, hot water with great pressure, and a reassuring view of the secure (if not exotic) parking lot. Attached was an excellent family-run restaurant with an hospitable staff who kindly prepared special dishes just for us — and since they only served soft drinks, we brought our own beer and wine (with no corkage fee). At 550 pesos (about$30)/night — this set the bar high for our nightly stays!

We always travel with our own electric  hot plate, espresso pot, and favorite coffee blend from Veracruz, because, with a few notable exceptions, Mexican coffee is usually instant Nescafe, thick mud, or merely colored water. So with steaming mug in hand, we head out early the next morning. More green corridor interspersed with palm trees, the golden-sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, and the ever-present “Mexican Airforce” (pelicans)  — finally arriving at Palenque just before dark.

At the suggestion of friends, we thought we’d check out accommodations at nearby Misol-Ha Cascades (waterfalls). Being Saturday night, we were a bit concerned that all their 14 cabañas might be full, but !Hey! – Let’s go for it! After paying 10 pesos/person at the Ejido’s (local indigenous people’s) rope-over-the-road entry, darkness officially descended. The only ambient light was from the restaurant/registration area, but our greeter had a flashlight to show us available cabins in the surrounding jungle.

Although there were “family cabins” with multiple bedrooms and a kitchenette, we opted for a duplex directly beside the waterfalls – which, at this time of night, we could hear but not see. Despite being a weekend, much to our surprise, only one other cabin was occupied. We were virtually alone in the forest and slept to the “white noise” of cascading water – and awoke to a cacophony of birdsong.

Following two nights in jungle-forest paradise at only 250 pesos (about $13 US dollars)/night and many delightful meals and cocktails in the restaurant (at exceptionally reasonable prices), we traveled onward, across Chiapas. So far, we’d been incredibly fortunate in finding comfortable accommodations at a great value.

That changed.

We’d planned to visit San Cristobal de Las Casas high in the mountains, but our friend Robert had driven that route the previous week and strongly advised against it – ranting about disgruntled local men stopping him and other tourists to extort money – threatening to scatter nails under the tires if they didn’t pay.

With this warning in mind, I asked a local tour-van driver about the situation. After a poignant pause, he replied, “Perhaps they’re not doing this any more.” He suggested we drive about five hours on up toward San Cristobal and ask someone in Ocosingo if it would be safe to go on. If not advisable, there was a secondary road we could take through the mountains to go the rest of the way.

That option did not sound appealing.

Thus, we took the “The Loop” on the other side of the mountains along the border of Guatemala. ?Porque no? Why not? New territory for us. Always up for An Adventure.

So – off we drive – up and up and up into mountains of green, towering forest — and topes!!

Topes— Speed Bumps – Vibradores – Reductors – Ropes — Muffin Tops – Slow-you-down humps in the road — or just rocks. Many, followed by pot-holes and road drop-offs.

An un-imaginable number of these speed bumps – from gentle slopes to abrupt “walls” designed to slow and damage the vehicle if not “respected.” Every curve. Every village. Every hovel. A speed bump (or several) for each. In more than six hours, we traveled only 350 kilometers (about 200 miles). Thus, we did not reach our hoped-for destination before dark.

The map indicated only villages. Tobias, our GPS, showed a strip of hotels in an upcoming wide-spot-in-the-curvey-mountain road called Maravilla. We know better than to trust Points of Interest on Tobias, but driving these roads at night was not an option. So we followed his directions. Not a hotel in sight, and certainly not a string of them. Open and well-lit, however, was a 24-hour funeral parlor where we asked about hotels. One. Around the corner. We’d already passed its drooping sign three times without realizing it was a hotel. Its name: Los Esperamos (We Wait for You).

I examine a room (Do we have a choice?). Two rooms are available (In reality: This dump is deserted). Less than basic, with no hot water, no heat, moldy walls, bare bulbs, a vine twisting out of the rusty air conditioner. But the sheets look clean. And. They’ll provide an extra blanket. Four hundred pesos. My inside voice says, “Are you f*#ing kidding me?” To the proprietor, I say, “!Muy caro! Very expensive!” Well ok, she tells me, 300 pesos. Still horribly overpriced at $16 US dollars, but we need it. Any port in a storm, so to speak.

As we enjoy a nightcap glass of wine –and Chick, his cigar — on the patio beside the motorcycles and towel-covered parrot cage, scruffy resident dogs wander in-and-out of our rooms. One curls up on Fiona’s bed. As we settle in for the night, Peter and I close the windows, put on the extra blanket, and snuggle down in the Mexico “matrimonial” bed, only slightly wider than a USA “single.”

At the risk of Too Much Information, Chick informed us that his evening’s entertainment while sitting on the commode was watching a cockroach ramble along the wall, eventually scampering into the sink (which had no faucets) and into Fiona’s panties, which she planned to wash the next morning during her cold shower. Being a fellow who won’t kill any living thing (except, perhaps mosquitoes), he allowed the intruder to stay warm and snug for Fiona to discover and deal with in the morning.

Next morning – mist and crisp mountain air. With no hot water, a shower is out of the question. So, perhaps a brisk wash in the sink – but –unlike Fiona and Chick’s, our sink has faucets but the pipe is disconnected. The towels, we discover, are riddled with holes – significantly large ones.

Peter makes coffee using our carry-everywhere electric hot-plate (not bad for heating the room, either), and we take a steaming mug to our neighbors. Fiona has disposed of the cockroach and is preparing for the day. Chick, cocooned in thin blankets, shivers in the bed, having spent a miserably cold night. We glance around — “Hey, Chaps – why don’t you close the windows?”

A pleasure to leave Maravilla – through drop-dead beautiful scenery and the least-maintained, most dangerous roads of the trip which could literally cause “drop-dead.”

Next stop, Esquintla, Chiapas. Hotel St. Jorge. We opted for adjoining “junior suites” at 540 pesos (about $30 US) for two nights – a welcome break from the constant driving through topes and rough roads. Pure luxury. Vaulted ceilings painted with clouds and cherubs, shared walls with open glass at the top so you could hear the proverbial pin drop next door – and a balcony! Ideal for evening cocktails to watch the streets roll up at dusk and for morning coffee to hear the city come to vibrant life at daybreak.

Just for grins, we take a tuk-tuk tour of the town. We made that driver’s day – 250 pesos (about $13) for the four-hour tour of the village – gigantic 400-year-old cieba trees, cultural center, neighborhoods, lunch, and later, “the best tacos town.” He drove by the next day to warmly bid us good-bye.

On to Barra de Santa Cruz, Oaxaca. Our most relaxing experience of the journey – a lakeside hideaway owned by our friend Mac MacEachern. Five nights of tranquil lake living just a few kilometers from Huatulco’s golden beaches flanked by mountains, breakfast lovingly prepared by Estella the housekeeper, dinners at Las Gemelas restaurant with toes-in-the-sand, serene nature, hammocks, visits with Mac, and time for Peter to play guitar.

We were privileged to experience a visiting osprey hunting for her breakfast over the lake.

Next stop for another novel experience, a “motor hotel”– a No-Tell Motel which rents by the hour as well as by the night. We select these whenever we can because – for ultimate privacy and security — each room has its own garage. Many also have “dumb waiters”  – Call in your order for tacos or sex toys delivered discretely to your room. El Oasis near Mitla, Oaxaca, was not quite that sophisticated, but it did offer a mirrored bed, interesting television channels, and a “special” chair (which, imagination going wild concerning the previous occupants, we decided not to sit upon), and two complimentary bottles of water or soft drinks  because we purchased “toda la noche” (all night).

On to Puebla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site founded by the Spanish in 1531. This colorful city has more than 70 churches in the historic center alone and over 1000 colonial-era buildings adorned with its famous Talavera ceramic tiles. Architectural styles range from Renaissance to Mexican Baroque.

We splurge for a hotel near the zocolo (main square) for an “executive suite” with a bathtub for the exorbitant price of 876 pesos. We’re hmmm-ing and haw-ing over the price until we realize that’s only about $45 US dollars.

From there, through Zitacuaro, Michoacán, and across the state line to the tiny village of Mancheros, Mexico, to stay at JM Butterfly BnB. The migration of the monarchs and being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of them on the reserve of Cerro Pelon is another topic, but the BnB itself, with its tranquil setting at 8,500 feet above sea level, expansive vistas, delightful people, and amazing home-cooked local cuisine is well worth the trip.

We stay three nights, enjoying the company of hosts Ellen and Joel, guests from around the world, homey atmosphere, mountain hikes, a horseback ride up to 10,000 feet into Cerro Pelon Butterfly Preserve, and a Mexican cooking class.

Thus, at the conclusion of two weeks and 4000 kilometers on the road, our visitors from the United Kingdom arrived at our home in Guanajuato – a cultural city like no other – having experienced a cross-section of the “real” Mexico, with hotels and accommodations as diverse as its cities, its countryside, and its delightful highly hospitable people.

About the Accommodations

Condominium Las Iguanas, Puerto Morelos. I rent my condo through VRBO/660904 for $225 USD/night. One-half block from the white-sand beach, ten-minute stroll into town.

Hotel Bambu. Campache. 550 pesos/night (about $30 USD). Family-run. In-hotel restaurant with friendly hosts. No alcohol, but we brought our own wine and beer. A comfortable, welcoming place to stay when you’re on your way to elsewhere.

Misol-Hal Cascades near Palenque, Chiapas. 250 pesos/night (about $13 USD). Excellent restaurant/bar that was open as long as we wanted to stay. When they ran out of red wine, we brought our own. Internet in the restaurant. We’ll definitely return.

Hotel Los Esperamos. Maravilla, Chiapas. 300 pesos (about $16 USD). Don’t bother.

Hotel St. Jorge. Esquintly, Chiapas. Jr. Suite. 540 pesos (about $30 USD). In-room internet. Basic room with “matrimonial” bed 500 pesos. For 40 pesos more: king bed, vaulted ceilings painted with clouds and cherubs, balcony. It has hot water, but not necessarily today.

El Oasis. Motor hotel (no-tell motel). Mitla, Oaxaca. 300 pesos (all night, $15 USD). Comfortable and secure. Mirrored ceiling, “special activity” chair, private parking garage, king bed with mirror.

Hotel Gilfer. Puebla. One block from main square of the historic district. 876 pesos (about $46 USD). Executive suite with shower and tub and lots of hot water. Internet in the lobby and restaurant.

JM Butterfly BnB. Mancheros, Mexico (nearest large town: Zitacuaro, Michoacán). 1250 pesos (about $66 USD). Beautifully decorated theme rooms, local art, comfortable mattress, luxurious bedding and towels, hot water, lots of natural light, spectacular views. Full breakfast included. Internet in the living room. Tours of Cerro Pelon Butterfly Preserve, cooking classes, hiking, horseback rides, other activities. Uniquely memorable. We have stayed here before and will return again and again.

The Route

DSC_3612

Highlighted road is the total journey — starting at the far-southeastern tip of Quintana Roo, 4000 km with us to the middle of Mexico. Fiona and Chick then traveled over 4000 more km via bus to visit more family in Sonora in the north….

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher





Becoming 70 ~ Not over any hill yet

19 02 2016

Recently, for some reason – Could be my upcoming 70th birthday? – I’m surrounded by reminders of age– a topic I’ve not actively entertained since reaching that milestone of official “adulthood” at age 21. (Although I did have a bout of depression when I was 25: quarter of a century. Yikes!)

But now. Approaching 70?! WTF??!! That’s old.

“Fifty is the new thirty.” “Sixty is the new forty.” But seventy??!

Seventy.

Others’ perceptions of aging — or my reality?

One of this year’s many Birth Month Celebrations on Becoming 70. Or, as my daughters put it: Approaching 21° C

At 70, my life is certainly not “over.” I inherited longevity genes. My mom died at 96 – healthy until the week prior to her death. Lucid ‘til the last day, she reminded me to pay her estimated taxes. Her mother died at 98.

I plan to live every day until the day I don’t.

Zipline over Mexico’s Copper Canyon during my five-day solo train trip a few years ago. “I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by fireside and simply look on.” Eleanor Roosevelt

I am, however, noticing disturbing bodily evolutions: in rummaging through family photos – I am my mother – my nose becoming a hook, the errant gray hair on my chin mole, neck wrinkles, crazy knots on my knuckles, thick around the middle…. Not that these are totally bad things – but – for God’s sake – -this was my mother. She was old.

I’ve lived a fulfilled life of joys, a few disasters (lessons), and exceptional adventures and memories. Yet – at 70, I’m not resting on these dubious laurels and contemplating past glories from the comfort of my rocker. I’m busy creating new memories in my glorious Now.

Let’s do another 5K run/walk – ride a river raft through the Grand Canyon – or do another just-for-fun Mud Run. Maybe climb another Colorado 14er.

Takes me a tad longer now, but I can still do it.

I travel. A lot. Maximizing standby flight “mom privileges” through my daughter with American Airlines — and particularly relish the quality time  with my incredible Granddaughters.

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Sophia Loren

There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Sophia Loren

I’m taking language classes, practice yoga and Pilates, and regularly trek up/down the hills of my city.

20140517_201441

I have a younger partner/boyfriend/significant-other. And yes. Peter, my Boy Toy, and I are sexually active. (Shame on Kaiser who stops providing pap smears with annual check-ups at age 60!)

Peter and I plan to fly to England to visit his sister, take a river barge, and explore Europe. We want to visit Viet Nam and Thailand. We’ve driven across magnificent Mexico several times and, this year, we will experience more of its off-the-beaten-track side roads and mountain paths astride his Moto Guzzi motorcycle.

We have intelligent, well-traveled, interesting friends of diverse ages and nationalities with whom we regularly share stimulating conversation as well as travel adventures.

20151031_224059DSC_8780

We laugh. A lot. Every day.

We live on the side of a hill in the vibrant city of Guanajuato in central Mexico. With seven universities and Festival Cervantino, the largest music and arts festival in all of North America, Guanajuato has an abundance of young energy. Yet, my hero is the lady hobbling up the callejón/alley using her walker.

20140510_122022

Ten years ago, to honor my 60th birthday, I got my first (and only) tattoo. Not certain what “act of rebellion” I’ll do at 70. Perhaps I’ll use my travel benefits to circle the globe.

40

Tattoo to celebrate Becoming 60.

No. I’m not ignoring the possible physical limitations of the future. I am not, however, defining myself by them.

To date, each of my decades has surpassed the one before. I’m not over any hill yet. I’m just approaching the pinnacle and anticipate exploring the adventures and peaks ahead.

Exploring peaks. Literally. This month, to experience the hundreds-of-thousands of Monarch butterflies in Michoacán, Mexico, friends and I rode horseback up the mountain Cerro Pelón  and then, at around 10,000 feet, hiked the last kilometer which was was too steep for the horse.

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? Satchel Paige

Inside, I’m the same me I was at age 30, 40, 50.

Or not.

Actually, I’m an ever-improving version of me.

Since I’m in a reflecting mode, I’ll honor a few of the life-altering shifts of recent years. My catalyst for major change originated with a motivational seminar which led to Master Mind groups, introspection, study, and gut-wrenching work to release ridiculous guilt. This allowed me to become the “Inevitable Me” whom I love unconditionally. Then — making the leap to sell my Colorado home and possessions to move to Mexico — enjoying being an unencumbered single woman living in a beachside paradise – then saying “Yes” to sharing the remainder of my life with the man who is truly my joy, inspiration, and soul mate — and moving to Guanajuato, a city snuggled within the Sierra Madre mountains of central Mexico.

And now?

Among the activities, I’m gifting myself time to appreciate each day’s abundance and joy.

Peter and I relish “kitten time” with two little darlings we rescued from the back of an abandoned pick-up truck. Mimi Mews (my Muse?) will snuggle down, mew a bit, pummel my neck with her soft paws, then stretch her little toes. Very endearing. But, even ten years ago, I would probably not have paused to allow this, let alone appreciate it.

Mimi Mews

Mimi Mews

And flowers. We enjoy our Pot Garden on the patio. No, not that kind of pot, although we did have a healthy plant prior to harvest.

Yes. Life is different now than when I was 30.

It’s better. Much better.

"You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old." George Burns

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns

“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.”
Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass





Simplicity

22 09 2015

DSC_1929

We’re in Mahahual, Quintana Roo – practically the southern-most point of Mexico before entering Belize – working with a little piece of beachfront bliss I’ve had for over 20 years.  (Tales to tell once this project is complete.)

full-quintanaroo_l

There’s a reason August-September is “low season” in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and Costa Maya areas – hot, muggy with an abundance of mosquitoes and other biting insects. But the peace, beauty, tranquility, and lovely people are unsurpassed.

DSC_2396

This charming chapel sits at the town’s exit to the south….

DSC_1908

It seats 10 – 12….

DSC_1911

Rather than gilt and gold, this chapel of the people features pottery and plastic.

DSC_1918

Gifts from those who have few possessions but much devotion and love….

DSC_1927

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Clare Boothe Luce





The Road Less Traveled

11 08 2015

I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

Jerry Seinfeld

DSC_0961

Bumpy. Circuitous. Infinitely more interesting than direct-and-smooth. Through blind trust – or dumb luck – on our road trips throughout Mexico, Peter and I have experienced unforgettable gems– routes familiar only to the local farmer or sheep-herder.

Peter is addicted to his GPS. We have Gladys the Garmin – who delights in guiding us through the center of cities during rush-hour traffic — and Tobias the TomTom who directs us onto paths even he doesn’t recognize. “Unknown road” or “No route possible” should be a clue.

DSC_9848A side note to anyone using a GPS to drive in Mexico. Don’t trust it. If you don’t already know how to get where you’re going, along with a detailed paper map, you’re in deep trouble. Mexico Maps on both Garmin and TomTom are incomplete at best. Worse than its not knowing the roads is that the device will decisively turn you onto a road, then after a few miles demand, “Make a U-Turn.” Don’t trust it!

Driving home to Guanajuato from the Guitar Festival in Paracho, Michoacán (touted as Mexico’s most dangerous state according to the USA’s mass media), we’d passed through pueblos named Aranza, Rancho Seco (Dry Ranch), Carapan, and then entered a slightly larger town named Purepero.

DSC_0908

Ahead, I spot the green highway-directional sign for La Piedad, toward home. Tobias, in his computerized English accent, directs us to Turn Right, although the highway sign clearly indicates straight ahead.

¿Por que no?Why not?

So we turn right onto a cobblestone street, curving through neighborhoods….

and through more neighborhoods….

At last, we arrive at the edge of and then out of town.

A semi-surfaced road. Should have been yet another clue.

DSC_0923

We drive….

And drive.

DSC_0942

Bump along.

The road narrows.

According to the compass, we’re headed south.

Unfortunately, we should be headed north.

Again, the road narrows. Dirt and ruts, now.

Cross a river. Literally – the road takes us through a river.

DSC_0945

And into picturesque, adobe and bouganvilla-laden pueblos.

When the road improves, we can tell we’re approaching a town (of sorts).

Villa Mendoza. Then Acuitzeramo.

Again, the road deteriorates to dirt ruts.

We cross a cattle-guard.

Pastoral vistas. Cows. Goats. Sheep. Donkeys. Horses. Dogs.

We wave at the occasional vaquero/cowboy and shepherd with his flock.

And. Yes.

We eventually and safely exit onto the highway to La Piedad and Irapuato

and home to Guanajuato.

Ah, yes.

Life.

DSC_0650

Perhaps not the most direct route, not the most smooth, not the most trouble-free –but an adventure of challenges, bumps, and beauty – and I wouldn’t trade any of my learning-journeys for smooth, uneventful, destinations.

DSC_1159

The journey is the reward. An appropriate gift from my daughter and grand daughters….





Mesa Mariposa ~ Butterfly Table

26 07 2015

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder….

DSC_0109

Alex in our Frieda Room with Mesa Mariposa. The wet-bar he created from antique doors is in the background

From a mammoth tree somewhere deep in the jungle of Quintana Roo — to a “discard pile” in Puerto Morelos – to the carpenter-artistry of Guanajuato’s Alejandro Vazquez — to our living room in Casa de Colores on Calle Temezcuitate….

When Peter and I spotted an unusual piece of wood among the scraps at a carpentry shop in the jungle outside the fishing village of Puerto Morelos , we knew that beneath the dirt, fungi and moss beat the heart of an exceptional table top. We felt the vibes screaming to be released — it was lovely.

But the artistry of Guanajuato’s Alejandro Vazquez took it to the next level, creating stunning art with function.

In the scrap pile....

In the scrap pile….

David, Ignacio and Gama, the wood butchers/artists in Puerto Morelos called it the Mariposa due to its butterfly shape. We agreed to their ridiculously reasonable price, which included cleaning and leveling. High-five!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We then loaded Mariposa, other rare finds in wood, and our belongings, into Suzibelle-of-the-Jungle our Suburu (another story) to drive a highly eventful 2,614 km through Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Tabasco, Oaxaca, and Michoacán to our home in Guanajuato, central Mexico, so Alex could work his magic.

2614 kilometers ~ 1625 miles from Puerto Morelos to Guanajuato

Our journey: 2614 kilometers ~ 1625 miles — from Puerto Morelos to Guanajuato

DSC_0014

More projects are in the works – and Alex and Peter will be working together to create fine Guitars and Basses using mainly Mexican woods — but Alex’s latest creation is our Mesa Mariposa – the butterfly table.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder – especially with the help of a talented artist and friend….

This slideshow requires JavaScript.