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.

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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?

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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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.)

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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.

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

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It seats 10 – 12….

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

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

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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Clare Boothe Luce





The Camote Man

9 06 2014

“Enjoy the little things in life,

for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.”

Kurt Vonnegut

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Peter and I had about given up on seeing The Camote Man again – when – while enjoying each other, wine, and emerging stars following a pink-sky sunset– an unmistakable screech penetrates the far-off cacophony of barking dogs and the occasional enthusiastic drummer .

“As the lights come on in Guanajuato they are reflected into the night, and we call them stars….” Dennis Pekus

As the lights come on in Guanajuato they are reflected into the night, and we call them stars….
Dennis Pekus

Each Mexican entrepreneur has his own distinctive marketing technique – The lute of the afilador who sharpens knives at your doorstep. Clang-clang on the tank by the gas company rep. “Aaaagggguuuuaaaaa” sings out the water guy. And – amazing to us – is not only listening but watching these men effortlessly heft their wares throughout the severe slopes of Guanajuato, over 6000 feet above sea level. How does that wiry little guy carry four of those five-gallon water garrafónes?

One of many callejones of Guanajuato.

One of many (steep) callejónes/alleys of Guanajuato.

This night, The Camote Man is obviously below us on a better-populated street: Calle Sangre de Cristo. We live far above, near The Panoramica which encircles this historic city. Will he venture this far? We start whistling and yelling to the universe — and anyone else who’s listening: “Arriba! Arriba! Up! Up!”

It was a couple of months ago when we first experienced the taste sensation – not to mention, the visual delight – of a camote (sweet potato) wood-fire-roasted in a Stanley-Steamer-looking device — coals glowing — pushed amidst the callejónes.

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We are in luck this night. The whistle intensifies. Adults and children emerge from darkened doors, 20 pesos in hand, to receive a steaming camote dripping la leche condensada azucarada and canela. We pass on the sweeten condensed milk but request extra cinnamon – then retire inside to slather on mounds of butter and pour more wine.

A delectable camote for only 20 pesos -- about $1.50 USD.

A delectable camote for only 20 pesos — about $1.50 USD.

 Life is grand. We are grateful.

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Mujer de la Verdad

25 08 2013

My friend and I are vacationing where we are possibly the only non-Latin American faces on the crowded malecón, the tourist walkway beside the beach, when I discover that I’ve lost my wallet.

Near-panic ensues — I practically carry my life in that wallet.

Cell phone rings.

¿Es esto Maria Jordan?

Si.

Fast deluge of Spanish I don’t understand.

Working together, we figure it out and meet.

I have named my anonymous caller, Mujer de la Verdad — Woman of Truth. She found my number and, using her own phone minutes, called to return the wallet and its contents.

My friends tell me I’m crazy to live in Mexico. Drug wars. Beheadings. Murders.

I continue to find Beauty. Joy. Peace. And honest, caring People.

I am grateful.

“Genuinely good people are like that. The sun shines out of them. They warm you right through.”  ― Michael Morpurgo, Alone On A Wide Wide Sea

“Genuinely good people are like that. The sun shines out of them. They warm you right through.”
― Michael Morpurgo, Alone On A Wide Wide Sea





I Will Die Living

18 08 2013

One could call me a Retirement Hedonist — living on the Riviera Maya in Mexico, strolling the beach, enjoying yoga, playing with my Grand Babies, exploring my Inner Being, doing some travel….

So why did I sign up for a Spartan Obstacle Race?

Because my daughter Leslie, a Spartan Pro Elite Racer, encouraged me, and my doing this seemed important to her. It also involved a trip to Portland to visit Jessica, my other daughter. And. It was a few months away. No immediacy.

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A great opportunity for Mom-Daughter Time.
Seemed like a good idea at the time.

I’d done The Dirty Girl run twice – great muddy fun. Spartan couldn’t be that much different – could it?

Oh, my.

Leslie’s in the first heat, so we arrive early at the Washougal, Washington, race site. A Spartan Flag flutters and the sun emerges, illuminating the hover of fog over a blanket of lush green. A volunteer waves the way. Race Day.

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Race day.

Observing preparations and absorbing the palatable energy– I realize,

“Damn. These people are serious.”

Elite Pro Women.

Elite Pro Women.

A few of Elite Pro Men.

A few of Elite Pro Men.

 I’m registered for the second day of this two-day event. Saturday, I’m photographing my daughters as they abuse their sculpted bodies and watching them push themselves beyond previously unknown limits.

Leslie:

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Jessica:

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Shell-shocked, I’m secretly scheming:

How can I get out of this? What the hell was I thinking?!

And toward the end of that Saturday:

I can do this. I don’t care how long it takes. I WILL do this.

 Or. Die trying.

Actually: I will die living.

(My new mantra.)

Sunday arrives. Leslie competed with the Pros again and intended to also go again with me. That would entail her completing this rigorous event three times in two days. But she aggravated an old injury, and following her first-place finish, she could barely hobble. The previous day, she lost concentration on the last obstacle, falling off the Traverse Wall. Thus, 30 burpees and dashed hopes of finishing in the Top Three.Leslie ProSpartan Page Header - Version 2

So Jessica – who crossed the finish line 38th of the more than 1000 women who competed on Saturday  – was designated “to look after Mom.”

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The scenery in Washington is glorious. Washougal is nestled in majestic trees and rolling hills (mountains!). The race began with a Tony Robbins/Military style pep rally, “You are a Spartan! Look to the left of you. Look to the right of you. These are your Fellow Spartans! You will not fail! Aroo!”

And we’re off into a burst of smoke bomb.

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Let’s be honest here. I do not run. I walk. But for the sake of image and race photos – I do the obligatory sprint across the Start line. Then settled into my trudge up – severely up – the first half-mile. Across vistas, through trees and the first obstacle: hurdles. Not so bad. If you don’t count form.  All followed by a treacherous rocky-slidey down the same mountain.

While Dirty Girl involves climbing towers of tires, Spartans flip, drag, and push them. Spartans also do the Atlas Carry involving a 60-pound cement block and a requisite five burpees. They carry sand bags up a mountain, then back down. And walls and hurdles, over-unders, and a massive slip-n-slide into frigid muddy water. Dirty Girl had us boosting each other up stacks of straw bales and scrambling through a bit of squishy mud. This Spartan Sprint – only 5k (a loooong 3.5 miles) with 18 obstacles – had us crawling/slipping/grasping/sliding under (real) barbed wire for a full quarter-mile. Uphill. For starters.

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Then. Grab this chain – it’s fastened to a cement block. And get one of those logs. Take them around those trees and back. Together? At the same time? How far?

Leslie calls this the Toddler Obstacle – not totally unlike carrying a sleeping baby while dragging a screaming toddler and balancing bags of groceries. For her: static items such as chains, cement, logs –no problem.

“Need some help, Mom?”

I can do it.

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Although I did accept a “leg-up” for a couple of particularly tall wall-climbs.

I’ve watched my 3- and 5-year-old Grand Daughters shinny up rope cargo ladders at the playground. Those climbs, relative to their heights, must have been just as daunting. In my mind, I can hear 5-year-old Lucy: “You can do it, Nana. Watch me.” But this ladder strung between trees was at least 30-feet high. No safety net — Oh shit. I’m up. Now I have to get my leg over?! — And then, back down.

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I could feel Jessica’s nerves. (Is Mom going to panic and freeze? How do I get her down?)

Oh, ye of little faith. I am doing this. All of this.

I will die living.

Carl Jung wrote about the four archetypes, four stages, that we as humans move through during our adult lifetime:  Athlete (we are preoccupied with our appearance).  Warrior (out to conquer the world and emerge ahead of anyone in the way).  Statesman (our focus turns to serving others to make the world a better place).  Spirit (we realize that we are infinite spiritual beings having a temporary human experience).

My daughters are beautiful, amazing Warrior Women.

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Leslie St. Louis

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Jessica Dover

I’ve also been a Warrior in my own way, raising them, starting and managing my own successful business. And now, I’m relishing my life of being part of, rather than conquering, the world.

And no. I hadn’t trained enough. No way could I even try the rope climb. And I fell flat on my back attempting the Inverted Wall. (Jessica helped me by doing 15 of my 30 burpees for that failed obstacle.) I almost hit the target with the spear throw (“almost” doesn’t count). And perhaps I could have done the Traverse Wall, but not after all the other trudging, crawling, swimming, hurdling, slithering, sliding, climbing that day …. So overall I did about 75 burpees– albeit modified, very slooooow ones.

But. I did it.

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And finished #1 in my age group.

This statistic would be so much more impressive if I could omit the fact I was the only person in my age group (others had more common sense?). However, in this year’s race season, there have been 11 of us Spartans aged 65-69.  Currently, I rank #5.

To add further perspective: On this Sunday, Leslie, a Pro Racer, claimed the First Place female title, clocking in at 50 minutes.  On Saturday, Jessica finished in 1 ¼  hours. The event took me 2 ½ hours.

I can barely move. My knees are raw. Shoulders ache. I limp. I’m still digging mud out of my ears and various orifices.

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In the words of three-year-old Grand Daughter, Sky, who ran a Spartan Kid Race:

“I won!”

Lucy: "I made so many friends in the mud!"

Lucy: “I made so many friends in the mud!”

Sky: "I won."

Sky: “I won.”

Yes. I won.

Not fading away. Living.

So, today?

Do I meditate with a beach sunrise? Or. Attack the world with a Spartan Race?

I will die living.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”   Hunter S. Thompson

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” Hunter S. Thompson

Related Links:

Although Leslie’s website  and Facebook, Colorado Obstacle Racers, targets events in Colorado, it is also a great source of overall information on obstacle racing, human interest stories, and data applicable to life and wellness —          http://www.coloradoobstacleracers.com/index.html

To experience beautiful writing and a valuable perspective on intention, outcomes and success, read the story of 3-year-old Sky, Eye of the Tiger: My Preschooler Won the Spartan Kid’s Race               http://www.coloradoobstacleracers.com/1/category/leslie%20st%20louisa786cd900c/1.html

Spartan Race site:    http://www.spartanrace.com/index.html

Obstacle Racing Media is a new online e-zine dedicated to the sport:         http://obstacleracingmedia.com/





Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

14 08 2013

WordPress, my blog platform, puts forth a weekly Photo Challenge. Following is my interpretation of One Shot, Two Ways:

Mexico is a hallucinogen, snaring me in a massive hug of subtle hues, intense scents, raw intensity of Life….

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Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors, writes:

“In the afternoon when the sun lights the stucco buildings across the street, it’s possible to count a dozen different colors of paint, all fading together on the highest parts of the wall: yellow, ochre, brick, blood, cobalt, turquoise. The national color of Mexico. And the scent of Mexico is a similar blend: jasmine, dog piss, cilantro, lime. Mexico admits you through an arched stone orifice into the tree-filled courtyard of its heart, where a dog pisses against a wall and a waiter hustles through a curtain of jasmine to bring a bowl of tortilla soup. Steaming with cilantro and lime. Cats stalk lizards among the clay pots around the fountain, doves settle into the flowering vines and coo their prayers, thankful for the existence of lizards….”

The Lacuna ~ Barbara Kingsolver

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