The Vanity Thing. Staying Sane and Well in the Face of Real Trouble.

This is the third in a series of posts about my own experience with cancer, chemo, radiation, and various alternative therapies. It is the story of a year that I will never forget. This picture was taken shortly after I finished all radiation. We had gone out to brunch with friends. My hair coming back (notice I already had it colored). My eyebrows and eyelashes also back. Looking happy, feeling good, loving life. If you know anyone who could benefit from these posts, please share.)

I have always had a pretty healthy dose of vanity. I’ve never been a beauty queen, but always felt like I looked pretty good, all things considered. When the health crisis hit, I just felt numb. During this time I could barely function, much less put on my contact lenses and makeup. My skin and hair seemed lifeless to me.

I think the hardest part of the whole experience for me was knowing something was wrong, but not knowing what. Then when I realized, after the ultrasounds and the blood work and the scan and the very serious reaction of the gynecologist, that what was wrong was going to require major surgery, I felt paralyzed. How I looked was the last thing on my mind. I felt completely detached from myself. The mind/body connection was completely disconnected. I would look in the mirror and fail to recognize my own reflection. I didn’t know the face that was looking back at me.
On my last day in the hospital after the surgery, the doctor came in the room. The vibe was very heavy. He told me that without chemo I had maybe six months to live. Of course I decided to do chemo.
Sure enough, about two weeks after the first chemo, when I combed my hair lots of it stayed in the comb. I knew that would happen, so I wasn’t surprised. I decided to go in the bathroom, pick up the scissors, and chop about half of it off. I now had a sort of nice bob. It was still coming out at a rapid pace, so three days later I walked across the street to a Mexican barber shop and got it cut super short. I was surprised at how much I like that look. A few days after that, when I realized that I was shedding like a cat, I had Fred take his clippers and just go for it. For me, taking it off in stages was easier. It wasn’t quite as traumatic as I would have thought, and I already had gotten a wig. If you have to get a wig, it is to your advantage to have a friend who does drag. My dearest friend, Andrew, had gotten one shipped to me. If you are getting a wig, get a good one, and definitely get a lace front wig, because it is a much more natural look.Mine was very much like my own hair, shoulder-length and blonde. I would also advise going for short hair in a wig, especially if you are going to wear it in the summer. I did not like wearing the wig. I ended up having it cut, so that it wasn’t touching my neck. I also didn’t like doing the scarf wrap thing because I felt like I was wearing a sign that said, “I have cancer and all my hair fell out.” I got very paranoid when I did the scarf thing because I felt like people were giving me weird looks. (They probably were, actually.) I was more socially comfortable in the wig, and I didn’t like going around the house without something on my head. I didn’t like for Fred to see me bald. I had a little crocheted cap I wore around the house.
A few weeks after the hair fell out, I realized my eyebrows and eyelashes were going, too. I think that bothered me more than the hair. By this time, I had gotten back into wearing makeup, and was very thankful that I’m pretty good with it because my eyebrows were completely drawn on. I compensated for the lashes with eyeliner. If you are in this situation and you are not good with makeup, I strongly suggest that you go to the nearest MAC store and get a lesson or two. Makeup really can help. I had gone into “If it feels good, do it” mode. Makeup definitely felt better than no makeup.
By the time I had the chemo, I felt much better than I had felt before I knew what was going on. Somehow, by a true miracle, I knew I was not going to die from this. I definitely knew it was going to be a challenging time, but I knew it was not going to be the end of my story. I think that God…and you can substitute the word Universe here, Divine Energy, whatever….does speak to us, and I was very open to listen. I found the strength to get through it, and the guidance to know how to plan this journey I never expected to take.
I lost a lot of weight as the spring turned to summer, and summer turned to fall. One day I got out of the bathtub and wrapped a large white towel around myself. I put on my round tortoiseshell glasses and saw my bald self in the big bathroom mirror. The thought hit me that if I had brown skin I would look very much like Gandhi. I was able to find that thought very funny. I’ve always had a quirky sense of humor, and it helped me get through this year. I could probably do some serious standup comedy about this whole thing.
I have learned to love my skinny body, maybe more than I ever have. I have been working out again, now that the last of the radiation is done. My main motive for working out is to be strong. A nice side effect is that I am getting my muscle tone back, and because I don’t have a lot of fat, I can see my arms starting to take shape. I am feeling like my mind and body are a team again, and I really enjoy my time of going for walks, exercising, or spontaneously breaking into a silly little dance. I can make it up a hill again without having to stop. My hair is back, and I am going to keep it short. I have already had it colored (not quite there yet, but I think it needs to be brighter than any color found in nature) because I decided that after all this, I really am not ready for grey hair. I have a lot more wrinkles than I did a year ago, and I haven’t had my Botox redone. The jury is out on that one. I may have passed the point where Botox would help. Sometimes I look in the mirror and kind of like the wrinkles. I always thought that cliche about “I’ve earned these wrinkles” was a bit lame, but actually I have earned them. It’s a new face, that’s for sure. When I see it in the mirror now I know it’s me. A new me, but a good one. I’m so glad to be alive. Being happy is a great beauty treatment.
I feel like a new creature. It is fun to decide, especially at age 73, what my new look will evolve into. (Stay tuned. Work in progress. Red lipstick will definitely be involved). If you are about to go through a similar experience, of course you are not looking forward to these challenges. But the good news is, my hair is back, my eyebrows are back, and my eyelashes are better than ever. (I was pleased to find Latisse at a nearby drug store.) I have gained about 4 pounds since the radiation stopped. I look healthy now, in a Skinny Bitch sort of way.
I still love accessories, makeup, and manicures. Fashion is fun, and will always be a form of self-expression. Vanity is not a bad thing. It is good to try to look your best. It’s just that my thoughts about what defines me have radically changed. The main thing I have learned that the way we look is not the thing that makes people love us. People love us because of how we make them feel.

The Short List for Staying Sane and Well in the face of Real Trouble

(This is the third in a series of posts about my own experience with cancer. The photos used in this series have no direct connection with the text. They are just random pictures taken during this time of my life. I claim no expertise. This is just about my own personal experience, and what it was like for me.)

After my previous post, When It Hits the Fan, I have had questions about what the alternative therapies were that I used in addition to chemo and radiation. I plan to write in more depth about most of this, but I am going to go ahead and answer that question for those who are curious, and possibly don’t have time to wait around for me to write about each specific thing.

I did many things, and I am not sure how it all worked. I do think that all the things I did worked together. I did 6 rounds of chemo that were three weeks apart. I started most of the alternative things in the four weeks between the surgery and the beginning of chemo. I can’t explain why I chose these specific things. I simply did what made sense to me. After the chemo, I had a scan that showed no cancer and my liver restored to health. I then had 25 rounds of radiation over a five week period and a two night stay in hospital for one last blast. I did the radiation as a preventative measure.
Here are the alternative things I did during chemo and radiation. Most of these things I will continue to do to maintain health. I will write more detail later, in future posts.
–I did a diet that is designed to starve cancer cells. I highly recommend the book that was written by Mike Herbert, Stay Healthy During Chemo. It is available through Amazon.com. Mike is a nutritional doctor who lives here in San Miguel, and his advise is extremely helpful. The diet was very strict and I followed it with no exceptions. Basically, I gave up all sugars (including alcohol and high glycemic foods) all dairy, and the only meat I ate was fish. I eliminated soy from my diet. The only fats allowed are healthy ones. No processed foods. No coffee. I will continue this diet permanently. I have added some more fruit since finishing all the treatments. Also, I eat a white potato now and then, if I want it. But no breads that aren’t whole grains. Brown rice instead of white. And, still, no processed foods. One side effect of this diet is that I have lost weight. I am presently trying to gain a bit of weight…never thought I’d be saying that in my adult lifetime.
–Acupuncture. I did this at least once a week. It really helped with any side effects I was having. I will continue to do this every other week for maintanence.
–I found massages to be very helpful for dealing with stress.
–Supplements. I take a very good supplement program, also put together by a nutritional doctor. Your healthy cells need all the support they can get. I will continue to work with this program, with whatever changes are recommended to maintain health.
–Craniosacral Therapy. This was extremely important to help me cope emotionally.
I have found this therapy so beneficial that I plan to continue with it.
–There is some herbal medication that I am sure you are aware of. It has been a mainstay for me and approved of by the all the traditional medicine doctors  I had, as well as alternative specialists. I have used it medicinally in the form of oil and also brewed as a tea.
–Blue scorpion venom. There has been a lot of work done with this in Cuba. It might be possible to buy it online if you live in the States. I get it from Mexico City. I take it 4 times a day. I will continue to take it indefinitely, as a preventative. It does not interfere with traditional treatments, and has no side effects.
–Soaking baths. These came from Mike Herbert’s book. It involves sitting in a hot bath for 45 minutes. I added  1 cup salt and 1 cup baking soda to the hot bath water. Sometimes I added a bottle of apple cider vinegar. The whole point is to sweat in order to detox. It always helped. I wasn’t allowed to do this during radiation, and I really missed it. The doctor was concerned about the hot water causing burns.
–Coffee enemas. There are videos about this. Make your own decision. I resisted this one, but I think it was very valuable. These work to detox the liver. I did this twice a week during chemo. I wasn’t allowed to do it during radiation, because of the location in my body of the radiation.
–Fasting. I fasted for 24 hours before and 24 hours after each chemo treatment. There is research that convinced me to do this. The point is that the chemo will work more effectively if your body isn’t processing food, and you will have fewer side effects. I did this for the first 5 treatments. I ate just a little with the 6th one, because I was concerned about losing more weight.
–Dealing with myself, also known as meditation, visualization, and prayer.  Lots of that. I also avoided (like the plague) any person or information that I found negative. This is a great time in your life to be very selfish. You don’t have to worry about hurting someone’s “feelings.” This is not about them. It is about you, staying alive.
I researched all the things I did and they made sense to me. I believed that they were what I needed to do, and that made it easy to do them. Once I “set my course” I stayed on it. I got through the chemo without any terrible side effects. I had a few days when I didn’t feel well but I was never incapacitated. I managed to maintain a reasonable social life, and was involved in getting settled in to a new home, not to mention a new country. The radiation was harder in some ways, because the food restrictions during radiation that affects the digestive system are rigid. No fats whatsoever. I did well for the first three weeks, but then for the last two I did experience being very tired. But, I bounced back pretty quickly. It has now been three weeks since my final radiation. I have a very healthy appetite and I feel very good. In fact, I feel like a brand new me.
Again, I am no expert. This is only my own experience and the things I did. I hope some of this is helpful to someone who reads it. It is a troubling experience, but not as bad, at least for me, as I had feared.

When It Hits the Fan

(This is the second in a new series of blog posts, the focus of which is keeping yourself sane and healthy in the face of Real Trouble. The photos for this series may, or may not, have anything to do with the subject matter. Just some nice photos from Mexico taken during this time.The one here is of three San Miguel policewomen.)

As we drove across the border, I felt that the biggest dream of my life was coming true. Fred and Pinky and I were crossing the Rio Grande in Laredo, but this time was a one-way trip. We were moving to San Miguel de Allende, and Mexico would now be our home. I was very happy and a bit amazed that we were actually pulling this one off. My last post talks more about this move.

We had a rental house in Colonia San Antonio when we first arrived. Shortly after we got settled in the rental house, I started having a disturbing symptom, very slight at first, and I kept telling myself it would go away. I think that many people have this same experience. You feel perfectly fine, but you know something is not right. You think it will go away, but it doesn’t. That was a fearful time for me. While I was in the “this will go away” stage I didn’t tell anyone about the problem. Not even Fred.

We had the very good fortune of finding a house we loved very easily. In fact, we bought the second house we looked at on the first day we looked. We made the offer on the spot. That was in November (I was still in the “this will go away” stage). We moved into the house in December. We zoomed on getting settled in, so by Christmas we were feeling at home. By then I was moving from “this will go away” to “I have to deal with this.”

In early January, I told Fred. Then it started getting real. I knew I had to see a doctor. I started out by thinking it would be something minor. But, I was seriously aware that it might be very major. The next few weeks were a rollercoaster ride of tests, scans, scopes, and pokes. I have always been a very healthy person and all this was a very new experience for me. It somehow felt that I had completely detached from myself and I was watching all this happening to someone else. Part of what I felt was that my body had somehow betrayed me. I felt at physical and psychological odds with myself. I felt a huge gulf between my body and my spirit. These feelings manifested in some strange behavior. I reached a point where I couldn’t even get it together to put on makeup, and if you know me, you know that is a very serious situation.

At the end of all the testing, prodding, and probing…the results were not good at all. The bottom line was that I definitely had tumors in my uterus, and there was a disturbing spot on my liver. I would have to have a complete hysterectomy, done by an oncology surgeon. I got the definite message that there was no time to waste. Nobody was smiling. None of the doctors seemed to get my jokes.

It was pretty hard to even believe all this. I had been truly living the dream of my life and then found myself in the middle of one of life’s biggest nightmares. In the moment that you start to deal with a health crisis you realize that most all other things that you think are a crisis are a blip. At least, that was how it seemed to me. All that I had ever heard, seen, or read, about cancer and cancer treatments had always been terrifying to me. And, no one had given me any reason to believe otherwise. If only someone, back in February of this year, could have sat down with me, looked me in the eye, and just said, “Hey, I’ve been where you are right now. You can get through this. You will make it, and here is a plan.”

That wasn’t what happened with me, but something pretty amazing did happen. I, who knew nothing about any of this, was guided by my own inner guide to put together a team of people to get me through the past many months of my life. The one thing I knew for sure, and Fred agreed, was that I didn’t want to leave Mexico for treatment. While we could have used Medicare in the US, I just didn’t want to go there. It would have seemed like such a personal defeat to me, that I am not sure I would have made it. No, I knew I would stay in Mexico, and I knew I would find the right people to care for me. In future blog posts I will talk more about the care I have had, and the alternative things I have done to keep myself as healthy as possible, resulting in less severe side effects from traditional treatments, and a great deal more sanity.

And, I made it through chemo and radiation. I am now cancer-free and getting on with my life. Am I changed? Both inside and out. But, the majority of these changes are for the better. I will talk more in these posts about my own walk down this strange road. But, I am only talking about my own, very personal, experience. Each person is different. I certainly am no expert about anything. The only thing I know is my own experience. My purpose in this writing is selfish. I want to have the joy of being that person that says to another person, at the highest point of their fear, “You can do this. You can take care of yourself. You can make it. It won’t be as bad as you think.”

I am an Immigrant.

Lots of things to process lately. I had promised to stay off FaceBook and all US tv news. Have done extremely well with the news. I’m not even reading many articles in the New York Times to do with the election. But, I have spent time on FaceBook, and I have found some comfort in seeing how so many like-minded people are feeling. And, I see people  on FaceBook who are feeling the same things I’m feeling. But, the thing I see that I am not feeling is physical fear. From my friends who are not straight, white men, I sense a great deal of fear, all the way from a general uneasiness, which we are all feeling, to a serious fear for their physical safety. I think the fears are very real, and not without cause. I see reports also on FaceBook and NY Times, of protests all over the country. I see large groups of white people trying to communicate to the world, “Hey, we aren’t all assholes.”

I don’t know what I would do if I were there. We did not leave the USA for any political reason. We simply did it because we both realized, at just about the same time, that we wanted to live in Mexico…that we desperately needed a change (and, boy! did we get one!), and that while the “New Nashville” was coming on groovy, it really wasn’t the place where we wanted to spend our “golden years.” I am very thankful that Mexico has welcomed us. I do not really see myself as an expat…that seems to imply that i am no longer something that I used to be. I don’t think that is the case. I haven’t changed as much as I have simply moved on. I’m an ex lots of things, but patriot is not one of them.

We started coming to Mexico about 25 years ago, and I was never ready to leave. It finally reached a point, towards the end of my work career, that I realized I was basically waiting all year for 3 weeks in this country. I can’t say what it is that I love so much about this place. What ever it is, that feeling hasn’t changed after living here for a year.  I was seriously wanting to spend more time in Mexico, and had inserted a two week summer trip into our work calendar, along with the 3 weeks in the winters on the beach. The summer trips were to take us to the interior of Mexico, and we saw a style of life there that felt very manageable.

Retirement was not easy for me. I knew without doubt that I had done enough, but it was still the thing that I was identified by in Nashville. I felt that once I stopped doing what I did, people just didn’t know what to do with me. It was a very uncomfortable time for me. I was ambivalent about so many things. One of the beautiful things about just hauling off to another country is that nobody really cares what you “used to do.” Your identity is totally based on how they perceive you. Anyone who is looking for a location for the next act of their life should really consider a move.

We continued to travel to Latin America after we retired. We had a 6 week twirl in Costa Rica and Panama; not for us. We felt we needed to check out a little something other than Mexico, but after that trip we developed an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. So, our next big adventure was a 6 month drive, the entire length of the country. We spent 3 1/2 of those months in San Miguel, because we were already very attracted to it.We could see ourselves living in San Miguel.The underlying purpose of this trip was to decide for sure where we wanted to spend 6 months a year. We wanted to check out Oaxaca City and San Cristobal de las Casas, too.

Our plan at that time was to spend 6 month a year in Nashville and 6 month a year in Mexico. By the time we drove the length of Texas, heading back to Nashville, we were both realizing that would be kind of a hard job. Plus, finding rentals that take dogs is a bit harder than a regular rental. And, not to mention, the bright idea we had about renting out our house while we traveled turned really dismal. We both agreed it was a  “never again” on that plan. We were very fortunate to have our Nashville house sell, and sell fast. (Thanks Keith and Jonny). And, of course, it was a much more valuable place than it had been in 1977, when Fred bought it.

We could see from all angles that the 6 month here, 6 months there thing was not going to work. We could sell our Nashville house and budget enough to get a nice house in San Miguel, or we could split the money from the sale and buy a place in Nashville that we wouldn’t like and a house in San Miguel that wouldn’t suit us either. Or, we could go for the whole enchilada and just move to Mexico and live here year round. We were totally unified in our decision, and that made it all much easier. So, we sold our house, much of our belongings, gave many things away, and by some feat of magic cleaned out the attic and basement. Then all the work of packing what we intended to take, and setting up all the details of the move was combined with getting the house ready to go on the market. This was a huge deal, and a real Murphy’s Law situation. By the time we actually got out of the house and handed over the keys my brain was fried. Things were getting extremely real.

Again, we didn’t come here because of trump. Or, because we don’t like the USA, or any of those reasons. We came because we simply love the simple life in Mexico. It feels good here to us. I love walking out the door and being in another country. I love walking down the street and not having everyone I see look just like me. I love hearing a new language, and I even love trying to speak it. I know Mexico has problems. I have no interest in Mexican politics, which is good since I am not a citizen of Mexico. For my own well-being I am very glad to have already moved to Mexico. I support all of you who are tin the US right now and feeling this election on a deep, personal level. Each one of us will have to deal with this chapter however we deal. I trust all my friends in USA to know what is right for them to do. Follow your own inner guidance.  Stay alert, and walk towards the light.

[Note: the photos I use with this series of posts may or may not actually relate to the post.]

 

Start the Day Right. World-Class Oatmeal.

I ask you, “What could be a more right way to start the day than to wake up and find breakfast already cooked?” I personally like that very quality about this little breakfast that I whip up a couple of times a week. It is 4 servings, and leftovers keep in the fridge.

And, by the way…I apologize for neglecting this blog. I have honestly been pretty fascinated with Instagram and have been spending time learning to love my iPhone camera. As to FaceBook, I am still avoiding engaging. Somehow, the whole Instagram thing seems to have helped me get over a creative block, and one of the creative things I’m getting into is cooking. It’s hard to get in a cooking groove in a town like San Miguel de Allende, where there are so many good restaurants that are affordable and fun. (For example…Aguamiel.) But, there is nothing like a good home-cooked meal and an evening of just hanging in the house.

But, let’s get back to breakfast. Fred and I rarely go out for breakfast. We both like to eat and read the news and just sit around a bit before we officially start the day. So, we have leisurely mornings. But, sometimes I’m not in the mood for a lot of cooking, and I’m happy to have this ready. If you find your mornings rushed, this one is just right for you. You start this one the night before. It is wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and full of goodness.

In a pan on top of the stove, heat 2 T. coconut oil.                                                                                 Add 1 large green-skinned apple, chopped.                                                                                             Saute the apple for about three minutes, then bring 3 cups of oat milk to a boil.(Or any dairy-free milk of your choice. Just no rice milk because it is made with white rice and turns to sugar quickly.)                                                                                                                                   Add a good sprinkle of cinnamon, salt to taste, and 1/4 tea vanilla.

When the  milk comes to a boil, add one cup of steel-cut oats. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan. If you are stoned, double check on turning off the heat, otherwise you’ll lie in bed and think about it. This recipe is to help you look forward to getting up and pretending that the cooking angels have visited your kitchen over night. Now, when you get up in the morning all you have to do is heat this up, put it in a bowl, and top it with chopped pecans. Buen provecho.

Why I Had to Quit FaceBook and Learned to Love Instagram…in just a week.

One day a couple of weeks ago, I just snapped. That’s how I have made many important decisions in my life…I snap and zap. This time it was FaceBook that finally pushed me in a new direction. I had progressively (no pun intended) gotten so extremely tired of all the USA politics on FaceBook. All my “friends” that I actually see are either liberals, or they are keeping it zipped. Anyone that I know and like and suspect that they are a Republican, I unfollowed until after the election. That’s because I really want to continue to like them. If they are someone I didn’t actually know, I just unfriended them. So, I wasn’t seeing pro-trump stuff, I was seeing anti-trump stuff….but, I was seeing it and seeing it and seeing it. I was tired of a steady diet of all this. Since I think you are what you eat, I also think it goes further than that. You are what you consume, no matter through your mouth or your mind. It was just trump…it was like the Bad News Gazette. I lost two actual friends who were Bernie supporters because I refused to allow anyone to post anything negative about Hillary Clinton in response to one of my own comments. Enough said about that.

And much of the reason I quit FaceBook was because of what I felt it was bringing out in me; my worst possible side. Every time I looked at my newsfeed I would end up pissed off, and twice I put up such scathing comments or posts that I immediately took them down. I was starting to see FaceBook as a big billboard that I owned and I often had the urge to just post “Fu(k You.” It really was fueling my anger in general. That is not healthy for anyone, although some people seem to thrive on it. To each her/his own.

I also must say, FaceBook was capable of bringing out my best side, too. I found myself compelled to get involved with people in order to make them feel better. I found myself really caring, and sometimes feeling a bit drained emotionally. I was sending unsolicited private messages, cheering people on. It got to be too much.

I have continued to check my own wall, and certainly to use FaceBook Messenger, a very good communication tool. I will still put up links to my blog on FaceBook because some of my friends who check that they like my blog posts seem to be too lazy to actually Follow it. Which, of course, makes me wonder if they read it, or just like the pictures. I truly think that social media has taught some people to be incapable of reading more than one or two sentences. I think this will profoundly affect the next generation’s ability to concentrate and read, and that is too bad. Hopefully, maybe, I’m wrong….

But, speaking of liking the pictures, most of the pictures I posted on FaceBook had been through a great deal of PhotoShop and nothing was spontaneous. I am a perfectionist and capable of spending hours on PhotoShop….removing things that shouldn’t be in the pictures, and making myself and others look more fabulous than we really look…especially pictures of me.

I had started an Instagram account sometime in 2012, but hadn’t done much with it. I would do a random post every now and then but it was always something I had taken with my Fuji camera and mailed to myself, since you can’t post from your computer. I didn’t really understand or connect with Instagram. Until I did. After my adios to FaceBook, I started to explore Instagram. I love its spontaneity. I have a whole different set of standards for my Instagram posts, and perfection isn’t on the list. I am capturing moments, and the words are no longer the point. I love photos and I love words. I will continue to use my blog for literary expression, and when appropriate, I will post photos from my camera with my blog. But, this time, instead of mailing a perfect photo from my computer to my phone, I am emailing a wacky selfie from my phone to my computer to use on this post. This is what my Instagram posts are like. The caption here is “Girl on the Run.” “Chica a la Fuga,” in Spanish.

This brings up another issue between FaceBook and Instagram. While there are many friends from Nashville I enjoyed keeping up with on FaceBook, I find that Instagram opens up more ways to connect with people and images from around the world. (And I’m not talking about the weirdos that show up in friend requests on FaceBook. I’m talking about people who take amazing photos.)  I am connecting already with many people in Mexico, so I will post my photo comments in both English and Spanish. I am not being pretentious, I am trying to be bi-lingual, one of my reasons for moving to Mexico. While I lived for many years in Nashville, I am now a resident of Mexico. While I used to love walking from our house to Burger Up, I am not all excited about “The New Nashville.” In fact that was one reason I needed to leave. I needed changes in imagery and changes in energy.

I thought when I had my Brokeback Mountain moment with FaceBook that I would free up a lot of time. I did. I must confess, however, that I am spending a lot of it learning how to use my phone camera and how to use Instagram. Learning is learning and it keeps the mind alive. Plus, I never do anything half-way.

I have made a couple of guest appearances on FaceBook during this hiatus. Fred sometimes finds FaceBook posts that he can’t resist telling me about. Kind of like offering an alcoholic a martini. One of them was so fabulous, I had to comment. I have cruised my newsfeed a couple of times in a moment of lax discipline. I sometimes, on purpose, look at Jerry Rife’s wall because he is such a wonderful photographer and his work inspires me. I always check my messages, and here you go with a blog post. There may be more blog posts, because…well, after all…you know (if you’re my FaceBook friend) that I have many opinions and I do love to run off my big mouth.

If you would like to follow me on Instagram, it’s just margaretellis. For now, I won’t be sharing these photos to FaceBook.

 

 

A Little Trip to Sicily in the Campo of San Miguel

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Justin Marino, Laura’s husband and partner in creating wonderful events. This guy can do more things than I could list. Again, a whole other story. Laura Buccheri is in the top photo. She is the force in the kitchen, but she is so charming and beautiful you’ll love her appearances in the dining room as well.

The most exciting thing that I know about that is happening here in San Miguel on the restaurant scene is the soon-to-be-opened Trattoria da Laura, in a new facility at Rancho Los Mezquites. This will serve as an event space for private parties, and I did notice a helicopter landing pad as we drove around the property. But, the good news is that Laura and Justin will be open by reservation  for  an early Saturday dinner (sunsets will be spectacular) and Sunday lunch, to all us hungry souls who are yearning for some of her out-of-this-world cooking.

Fred and I had the pleasure of visiting with Justin and Laura the other day for lunch, which in itself was a pleasure. They live not far from the new restaurant/event space. We had visited them before when they lived further out in the campo. Many people in San Miguel will remember them as La Cucina di Afrodita, when they opened the patio of their home and served lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Fred and I made it to one of those and it was a delightful afternoon. But, the thing that blew my mind was seeing Laura cook and work her magic in the tiny kitchen of the house.

That is all about to change…and change in a big way. The new building has a magnificent kitchen underway. It is about a 15 minute drive from Centro, and I can already see us there on a Saturday evening watching a sunset as only San Miguel can serve, or perhaps heading out for a Sunday lunch and some time in the wide open spaces that surround San Miguel. But the main motivation for this drive would be to enjoy the cooking and hospitality of Laura Buccheri and Justin Marino, a beautiful couple from Sicily who ended up in Mexico.

All of their many enterprises remain under the brand of La Cucina di Afrodita, and they are very busy right now. In addition to the restaurant, they do a service called Chef at  Home. They will come to your house and wow your friends by preparing the food on the spot. They are also available for catering for your events. They have a  collection of special hand-made cheeses from Justin (who is also an expert with olive trees, and that expertise is what landed them in this happy situation. But, that’s a whole other story). They will be opening another San Miguel venue for sampling a bit of their wonderful food creations at the Mercado Sano, a food haven that’s about to open where the original Don Pedro’s was. It will be called La Spaghetteria, and I think the name says it all. It should open in August.

Much of the produce served at Trattoria da Laura will be grown on the rancho where they live. The menu will be mostly Italian, and will change every week. They are keeping alive the wonderful atmosphere of the meals they used to serve right out of their own small kitchen…the community table, where people can make new friends, the excellent and personal service, and the feeling that you are at a lovely dinner party in a home. To quote Laura, “It’s really not a restaurant. It is more like you are coming to my house to eat. I will decide the menu. Just trust me.” And, I have to say that every time I have had a chance to do that, I have always left with a smile.

Parade of the Locos…and a nice party

The photo here is Fred waiting for the parade to start. The quiet before the storm.

Fred and I really enjoyed viewing the parade today from a roof top. It was fun to see, but I would have been overwhelmed to be in the midst of it. There were thousands of people from all over Mexico who showed up in costume and filled the streets. Thanks to Plata for a lovely rooftop party. I ended up liking the pictures of the people at the party more than the pictures I took of the parade.

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Women of a Certain Age. Part 5

This is the final part of this series. For now…The woman pictured here was selling hats on the square at Patzcuaro. Fred and Pinky and I took a recent trip there for a few days just to check it out. I have a friend here in San Miguel who has a wonderful hat from Michoacan, and I did have the idea of hat-shopping on my mind. Most of the hats that this woman had for sale were pretty generic, but there was a pile set aside that had the feeling I was looking for. I saw the perfect one. I tried it on. Perfect fit. It now appears on my head in my FaceBook profile picture.

This lady has a certain air about her. I don’t think she messes around much. I seriously doubt that anyone messes around with her. She was wonderfully dressed, in the Old Mexico style of the women you see further south. I somehow managed to get the nerve to ask if I could take her picture. I loved the way she looked. She said okay, without registering any emotion one way or the other. The fact that I hadn’t tried to bargain with her about the price of the hat probably earned me some points. There is something in a face like this that says, “I see through all the crap. Don’t waste my time.” I snapped three and my nerve ran out. This is the one I like.

I have no idea how many years on earth this woman has accumulated. She could be younger than me. I don’t even know her name, or any part of her story. I just know when I look in the mirror at my own face, I would like to see more of this kind of strength.

 

Hometown Girl

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Morganna Love was born in San Miguel de Allende. I wish I knew more about her story, as what I do know fascinates me. At some point Morganna, who was born male, fully transitioned to female, and became the beautiful woman in these pictures. As a young man, the person who became Morganna also was training in classical opera. There is a documentary film, which I haven’t seen, about her transition, “Made in Bangkok.”

Last night this hometown girl came back to San Miguel, and a reception was held for her at Plata, a new club on Zacateros. This club is the brainchild of a couple of very interesting women, Lady Zen and her partner Lilia Garcelon. I met Lady Zen and Lilia recently at brunch at Aguamiel. I had been curious about their new venture and when I was invited to this reception I decided it would be a good night to check out the scene there. It was a lovely evening. Morganna talked and answered questions. She also sang. It was hard to believe the size of the voice that came out of such a petite woman. I was completely taken by her talent, beauty, and poise. She will be singing at the Angela Peralta Theatre, in concert with Xavier Gibler and the Choir of the Opera, here in San Miguel on June 9. I have been told that the town loves her, and that was pretty evident by last night’s attendance. It was a large crowd in a fairly small room and she held everyone spellbound.

Having been visiting San Miguel for a few years before we decided to live here, I had often wondered why there wasn’t a place here that catered to the LGBT audience. I think that Plata has filled that need. And, it is pretty obvious that there is a need for just such a place. But, Plata felt like much more than a bar. It seemed like a community. The crowd was mixed, in all the ways I could name. I would say that most of the people there were young, and Mexican, but I also felt that any like-minded person would be welcomed there. I certainly felt welcomed. The mood was very sophisticated. This club isn’t just about entertainment, it is also about education. They present many different art forms, and give the performers an opportunity to interact with the audience. I think some evenings just involve a DJ, and dancing.

The room is on the ground floor of a Lebanese restaurant, and you enter by walking down some stairs. It truly does have a bit of an “underground mystique.” They have done a very good job of putting the space together in an artful way. There were beautiful flowers in the room, lots of little treats being passed around for the reception, and Lady Zen and Lilia were the perfect hostesses. It was a event befitting a diva, and the diva held up her end of the deal. She was charming throughout the questions and answers, and her singing was compelling. I hope to go to her concert tomorrow night. I am sure it will be an evening to remember.

Plata. I am glad to find such a place in San Miguel, and I will definitely visit again.  It isn’t just another new bar in a town that is quickly exploding with new bars and restaurants that have a big city feeling. It is place that is filling a genuine need, and seems to be off to a very good start.

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Lilia Garcelon, one of the masterminds behind Plata. She is a performance artist, dancer, and describes herself as a “nightlife personality.” Not to mention she is extremely photogenic.

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Lady Zen. The other half of the energy behind Plata. She is a wonderfully outgoing personality, and quite a singer herself. I saw her perform last fall and I haven’t forgotten how impressed I was.