Monthly Archives: September 2011

Roses are blooming

Rosa’s roses are in full bloom and so is Rosa.

I met Rosa and her friends three years ago. She had never worked outside the home or for pay. Her husband Abel encouraged her and her group in their quest to find employment. The women wanted to contribute to their family economy but no jobs were available near home. How could they make money without leaving the village?

The Santa Elena Sustainable Economic Development Project was born to meet that need. Rosa and her band of hard working women had talent and energy, but they had much to learn about operating a business. They received some assistance from various sources: the International Women’s Club of Merida (IWC) donated an industrial sewing machine, and many other generous people contributed with funds and other items they needed.

Theresa Diaz and Beth Knepp helped Rosa and her friends learn about design, choosing fabric, combining colors and textures. The group discovered the importance of maintaining consistent quality. They learned that half of the money they made could not be touched; it had to be saved in order to have cash on hand for new fabrics and other supplies they would need to make future inventory.

Now the ladies no longer depend on Beth and Theresa to hold their hands through the purchasing, making and selling of  their products.  Rosa and her group keep their own books. Some of their children are getting involved. They have built a business and its growing.

You can purchase the handcrafts made in Santa Elena at the CULTUR Tienda de Artesanias on Calle 63 between 64 and 66. And you will also see them at various craft fairs throughout Merida at different times during the year. And, of course they’ll be at the ANNY show: Saturday 3rd and 4th of December.

I feel such admiration for Rosa and the other women in the project. When they began, some of them had never been to Merida before. They stepped out of the box, and learned a completely new skill set.

As well as congratulating them, I wish to thank Beth, Theresa and all the members of Merida’s international community who helped this project get off the ground.

It is hoped that other initiatives like the Santa Elena Sustainable Economic Project will start up in other villages in Yucatan, and that the artisan community will grow in scope and productivity. If you have an idea or wish to help out, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Leave a comment on this post, and I’ll get back to you

Photos: All the pictures were taken by “Yours truly” in Santa Elena

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Old Friends

This past weekend, I saw an old friend… We met at our Lamaze class in fact…

When our children were young, we saw one another a lot, but as life’s daily comings and goings got more and more hectic, we got together less and less… until it had been years since we’d shared a day in one another’s company.

Out of the blue, she called me early on Sunday morning. “¿Como estas?” she asked. “Bien, bien…” I said. When would we get together again? “How about right now?” she impulsively suggested. “I need to do my shopping,” I began. “I’ll come with you and push the cart,” she replied. Our respective kids are grown and gone, and by chance, both our husbands were busy, so I picked her up and off we went to Mega.

Talking non-stop, as though no time at all had passed, we cruised the aisles. Then, cart full of bags, pesos gone from my wallet, we got back in the car. “Let’s go to my house and have breakfast,” I said.

We stowed the groceries, cut up some fruit, sliced some cheese, brewed coffee, and she borrowed a bathing suit… We caught up on our lives – we swam, we laughed… we had the best time! As midday approached, we both needed to get back to our regular lives.

But years won’t go by until I see my friend again… from now on, we’ll make time for each other.

Thinking back to Sunday, I was reminded of another old friend: my Simon & Garfunkle “Bookends” CD.  I’m listening to it now:

“Old friends, old friends sat on their parkbench like bookends…”

Do you have a friend who you have not had contact with for a while? You could call, email or visit each other TODAY… and you’ll be glad you did.

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A little fantasy today…

Tlatelolco

A little fantasy today… I’m pretending that all you nice readers who wrote and said how much you enjoyed the first page of my novel are in fact –  literary agents!

You say you can’t wait to read more, and this means you want me to send my manuscript. This in turn will quickly lead me to a publisher who wants to purchase “If Only You Knew” for immediate release. And of course, the popularity of the book (in print, on line, and so on) will take my creation straight to the New York Times Best Seller list.

Then the movie deal will happen. And won’t I just be rolling in clover! Who will write the screenplay? Who will star in the film adaptation? Who’ll direct? So much to decide…

One person fed my fantasy ever further by giving me something to fret about: He said that I would forget all my friends when I became famous. I told him there wasn’t much chance of that, because once I have a friend, I’m hard to get rid of.

Back to reality. I will soon email the fourth revision to my editor and she’ll no doubt have more suggestions… I’ll take it from there.

If any of you didn’t read page one of  If Only You Knew, find it at on Saturday’s post.

Now, make believe that you’re on Amazon’s book site, and there’s a link beside my book’s cover that that says:  look inside. You click and read Pages 2 & 3…

The door latched behind me and I headed towards the kitchen looking for a cup of hot tea. There, I spied the long-necked green bottle, and that seemed an even better idea. What the hell, why not? I tipped the tinto into a long stemmed glass and thought about cutting a piece of sharp cheese to go with it. Definitely a plan…

As I re-corked the wine, my ears picked up strange staggering sounds. I went to the living room, the noise got louder. I heard hard breathing, and a voice called out “Amalia! Help me!”

He knew my name! My shoulder muscles tensed like rubber bands, and I had the eerie feeling that my life would be radically altered by whoever lurked on the landing.

My palms turned clammy and anxiety sucked the air from my lungs. I placed both hands on the varnished mahogany door, stretched upward, and peered through the peep hole. I had a pretty good idea of who I’d find out there. Like a phantom from another time, there he stood – Alejandro Mendez.

I stumbled backwards. Sixteen years ago, when we were both way too young, we’d become one another’s first love. A decade had passed since we last spent time together; what could he possibly want from me? As I released the dead bolt, I forced my face to go blank and form a detached smile. I didn’t want him thinking that his unexpected appearance had unraveled my cool. 

What cool? My hand flew to my mouth to keep from screaming. Blood ran from an open cut on his right cheek. His white Mao-collared shirt looked ripped and soiled, and his dark curls matted like the fur on a stray dog’s back. He sure didn’t seem proud and confident like I remembered.

“¡Dios mio!” I felt paralyzed as I watched him slump further against the wall. “Amalia, you’ve got to help me!” “I will… of course I will,” I said. But what did he expect me to do? What could I do?

I remembered how he once told me that I’d forever changed his life. I completely fell for him, and I believed his promises of unending love. But his devotion had not lasted. After he left me, I vowed to stay far away from him forever. And now he had barged back into my life. 

Sorting out my conflicting emotions seemed impossible. Part of me wanted to slap him, and another wanted to wrap him in my arms. He looked like he’d pass out, and I heard the caretaker limping down the stairs. I may have been confused, but I knew that I could not allow Alejandro to be discovered in a heap right outside my door. If the old snoop found him like that, he’d have him arrested and I’d be in trouble too, just by association.

“Move!” I told him, “Someone’s coming… you’ve got to get out of sight.”

He could barely stand, so I jimmied my arms under his and hauled him along like a sack of rocks. I thought that his weight was a good indicator of the heaviness he’d surely bring to my life. I felt pushed into this. I didn’t want danger threatening my safe world. But I could do little about it. I couldn’t send Alejandro away.

When we got to my room, he flopped down hard on the neatly made bed.  As he tucked his legs and arms into a ball, his grimy shoes trampled my white coverlet. “Ay-ay-ay-ay!” The heirloom crochet would be ruined! Countless times I’d pictured him here, but not like this. My self-defensive instincts should have kicked in, but his abrupt arrival brought back memories of sweet nights and tenderness. I couldn’t think straight. His eyes seeped, his lips parted wide and I saw how raw they looked.  “Alejandro, what happened to your mouth? Who did this to you?”

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The Rose

Looking through my files the other day, I found this forward. I do not remember who sent it to me, but I thank them… I find a lot of truth in it,  and hope you will too.

The first day of class, I felt someone tap my shoulder…

I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, “Hi handsome. My name is Rose.

I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze.

“Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.

She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids…”

“No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.

We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this “time machine” as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.

She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet.

I’ll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.

Frustrated and a little embarrassed she leaned into the microphone and simply said, “I’m sorry I’m so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this
whiskey is killing me! I’ll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know.”

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.

There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.

We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it!

There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn’t take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with
regrets.”

She concluded her speech by courageously singing “The Rose.”

She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.

At the year’s end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.

One week after graduation Rose died  peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.

These words have been passed along in loving memory of ROSE.

REMEMBER, GROWING OLDER IS MANDATORY. GROWING UP IS OPTIONAL.

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Dreamer’s Disease

Children have unlimited imaginations. As a result of that marvelous characteristic, they enjoy abundant amounts of curiosity, wonder, creativity, intuitiveness and a host of other attributes that we seem to “lose” as we age.

But do they really get lost? Or do we jettison them as we acquire “virtues” such as efficiency, punctuality, dependability, consistence and the like?

A self-described free spirited 11 year old Canadian / Mexican girl named Yazmin sent me this poem. Maybe at sometime today, it would do us all good to fall under the spell of “dreamer’s disease” and allow ourselves to wonder, listen, see, want, pretend, feel, cry, understand, agree, try and hope as she does…

I AM

i am a free-spirited girl.
i wonder if the captain of the titanic cried?
i hear drops fall silently into the ocean.
i see Amelia Airheart who holds the stars up in the sky.
i want to buy a ticket to the end of the rainbow.
i am a free-spirited girl.

i pretend to dance on the moon.
i feel the heat of the twin towers burning.

i shake the hand of Princess Diana
i worry that no one will help the starving children and families of the world.

i cry for the soldiers who lost their lives.

i am a free-spirited girl.

i understand the science of Frankenstein.

i agree ‘that one day the world will live as one’.
i can’t wake up because i’ve got dreamer’s disease
i try to live life on the edge.

i hope that someday we’ll know why Samson loved Dalilah?
i am a free-spirited girl

( Yazmin, I apologize for the extra spaces between the lines of your verses, but my computer is also a ” free spirited girl” and doesn’t always conform to what I ask… Thank you for sending me your  wonderful poem. I’d be happy to receive more!)

 The photograph of Amelia Earhart as a young girl is from Google Images

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Fourth Revision

I’m coming up for air! Last Sunday I told myself there would be NO blog posting, NO email answering, NO browsing, NO chatting, NO Skype… NO anything … until I had finished the fourth (P-l-e-a-s-e God, let it be the last) revision of my novel.

Now when I use the word revision,  I am not including the honing of general outlines, character sheets, synopses, intros, epilogues, indexes, the table of contents, query letters, proposals, or other drafts … all that is separate from the actual writing.

I have (just about) finished the fourth version of the story.  With the brave click of my delete key, I restructure Enemy Numero Uno  (all sentences written  in  passive voice)  I include plenty of literary goodies (metaphors, similes, alliteration, etc.) and sparingly use adjectives, adverbs and qualifiers. “Consistent” is my P.O.V.’s middle name.  Fat sentences, full of vivid imagery pepper all my paragraphs. Oh-oh-oh-oh, I wish!

When I finished the other three times, I got very excited. I (naively) believed that my editor would be absolutely ga-ga over the whole thing! She would not want to change a single word. But, no-o-o-o-o-o. Very nicely, she’d inform me that I’d have to make changes if I wanted my novel to be as good as it deserves to be.

To be fair, she asked me from the start, “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to transform this perfectly lovely writing of yours into a real novel? Oh yes, yes, yes! I would do that and more, more, more.

And you know what? I WILL do all that and more, more, more. In fact I have to leave you now and get back into “Word”…

This is the (current) first page of  If Only You Knew, a historical romance about post-Tlatelolco Mexico City and Merida.

 

CHAPTER ONE

La Noche Triste

Mexico City, October 2, 1968

Once the Aztec sun dropped below the mountains, darkness spread over Mexico City like a black velvet sarape embroidered with seed pearl stars.

Below my third floor walk-up, gas grills hissed and fired up. Quick moving hands chopped green chilies, white onions and red tomatoes while strips of seasoned pork and plump chorizo spit and sizzled. By 7:30, eager patrons began queuing up, but the first tacos always went to the local cop who stood to one side, well out of the wind. Passing tourists inhaled hungrily, but fearing Monctezuma’s Revenge, they moved on to dinner at a guide book approved eatery. Then, on the dot of 8:00, strutting mariachis in wide brimmed sombreros made their appearance. They tucked their violins, trumpets and guitars under their arms, and primed their falsetto throats with the spicy snacks. Soon, their melodious music would dance downwind from Garibaldi Plaza.  

During the seven years I lived in the Santa Maria La Ribera neighborhood, this nocturnal drama played out exactly the same way, every single night. Yet at 8:30 on October 2, 1968, no one had arrived. I heard no song in the empty streets, and I wanted to know who had broken all the rules. But I couldn’t stay warm. I’d gone out on the balcony without slipping a woolen poncho over my nightdress. Although I rubbed my bare upper arms, my teeth chattered and my body shook with the cold. I gave up, turned around, and headed inside.

When I look back on that decision, I often wonder… had I remained out there just a little longer, would I have even heard the disturbance in my building’s hallway?

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Thank you Terry Fox

In my funk yesterday, I watched a few hours of TV. Flipping around, I settled on the History Channel – the biography of Terry Fox. Canadians will know the name, and many of the rest of you will too.

Terry Fox, born in Winnipeg in 1958 was a college athlete at Simon Frazer University in Vancouver when he lost his right leg to Cancer. A crushing blow for any 18 year old, but for one who loved all manner of sports, it was devastating.

With the help of an artificial leg, Terry Fox was walking again, three weeks after the amputation. Doctors were impressed with his positive outlook, and said that it contributed to his rapid recovery.  During sixteen months of chemotherapy at the British Columbia Cancer Control Agency, Terry watched fellow cancer patients suffer and die from the disease. He ended his treatment with a goal: he wanted to live his life as an example to others.

In 1980, this determination led him to embark on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. He called the mammoth undertaking, “The Marathon of Hope,” and aimed to raise $24,000,000, one dollar for every Canadian.

Starting in St. John’s Newfoundland, Terry ran 5,373 kilometers (3,339 mi). As he headed west, the crowds grew and by the time he reached the province of Ontario, he had become a national celebrity. Terry Fox was the youngest person ever named a Companion of the Order of Canada. He also was awarded the Lou Marsh award for the nation’s top sportsman, and was named Canadian Newsmaker of the Year in 1980 and 1981. But the spread of his cancer forced him to end his run after 143 days and ultimately, he succumbed to the disease on June 28, 1981.

Nonetheless, his incredible effort left a worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over 500 million has been raised in his name.

Yesterday, I relearned an old lesson: When melancholy hits, look around… you’ll soon find someone or something to make you feel better.

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