The Gritty Details of Life in SMA

by DeLora Frederickson
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

We recycle in Mexico. It is NOT curbside pickup.
This is the recycling center we drive our stuff to. We do it for the little cluster of people living in our compound. We take 4-6 smallish bins (including ours) twice a month. If there is a big fiesta that might happen more often ūüôā

It is across from the BIG grocery store La Comer – much like HEB plus about 10 mins drive from our house.

We pull up and stay on the dirt road just outside the fence. We walk the bins in and dump them on the ground…all mixed together. A family lives onsite and sorts everything by hand.

Most people I know just throw everything in the trash (which is picked up 3 times a week curbside) and choose to believe someone separates it at some point along the way to the dump.

I do not know where the recycling goes or what happens to it.

I have seen trucks FULL of plastic, etc…driving along the roads many times. I have heard the plastic sometimes becomes fuel for stoves where bricks are baked. I have smelled burning plastics before around town – ewwwww.

We had to search out this info about recycling here as it is not ‘the norm’.  Like I said most people just toss everything out for the trash trucks.  We talked to our landlords about starting to recycle for the compound…they bought the bins, we take it to the recycling center.  

Here is an interesting article about recycling in Mexico.

Living within a different culture challenges my comfort zone ALL the time.  The whole process about recycling was ‘charged’ and I found/find myself in judgement about people who don’t recycle.  So this is my practice.  Taking the recycling for the 12 people in my living space.  Putting my energy into that and not the habitual thinking patterns (ha ha if you think I accomplish this ALL the time).  

As we go about our lives in Mexico it is relatively similar and massively different.  We still sleep, wake up, have our morning routine, etc…  AND we bump up against cultural etiquette and attitudes towards things like recycling that offer the opportunity to dig in.  Dig into myself, lean into discomfort and open to the beauty within.

Thanks Mexico.  Thanks Cat Calhoun for encouraging me and living through my process of ‘digging in’ (even when the dirt I fling from digging in hits you in the face sometimes).  Thanks to the process. 

I am living in authenticity and connection.

Is tech killing your relationship?

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, Gto. México

Is this about Mexico? No! Yes. No. Well, yes, kinda. 

Dia de Los Muertos is a celebration of our connection to others that reaches beyond our three-dimensional life. Part of this year’s celebration in San Miguel de Allende was an amazing performance of Mozart’s Requiem at the beautiful Parrochia church. It was a beautiful, moving performance in a standing-room-only packed church. . . filled with people holding up their cell phones like they were at a Pitbull concert. 

Anyone who knows me IRL is well aware that I am a self-confessed technogeek. I’ve logged, blogged, and vlogged my life since Al Gore invented the internet. But at this concert it fully struck me that I have spent a lot of my life doing this – holding up my phone or my camera or my iPad to capture something for others that I would be better served simply experiencing for myself. - cell phones at a performance

This may or may not be true for you, but I have begun to realize that for me tech has become an addiction, an expression of my inner need to have approval from my peers, and a distraction from what is really going on around me. As an emigrant to Mexico from the US, I realize it is also a way to sink back into the comfort of the culture I was born into via Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and a host of other easy addictions. All of these impact my ability to nourish meaningful relationships with my partner, my friends, and my world.  

Is technology impacting your ability to interact with your world and your family? Check out this article from the Gottman Institute out. 

It Was Bound to Happen – Part Three

by DeLora Frederickson
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

The next week was basically us at the hospital all day and one of her caregivers there overnight.  

The private hospitals here are all very small. I think there were less than 10 rooms in this hospital and only 2 of them were full when my mom was there. She got really great care in Hospital Mac.

We saw the doctors everyday, called and talked to them anytime we needed to.  It was amazing.

She started out eating papilla (blended) foods.  Either I or a nurse would feed her each meal.

She improved day by day…until day three. ¬†

When I came in I knew something was off.  She was confundido (confused) and talking gibberish.

I called the doctors, I told the nurses.  I KNEW something was off.

The doctors came by…this is normal after a big surgery like this.

NO this is NOT normal.  

We have been at the hospital 11 hours.  We go home.

Another new doctor, a cardiologist, visits my mom.  And her traumatologist calls and says she has a pulmonary embolism.  You should come back to the hospital now. She needs a central line to get the medication she needs.  The traumatologist thought she would die that night.

Again, I am faced with drawing the line in the sand for her.  I have a major meltdown (at home). I cry and rant and rave about being the one to make the decisions about living and dying.  At the same time I am trying to get ready to rush out the door to get to the hospital.

The new cardiologist calls.  She doesn’t need a central line.  Well, thank the ever loving goddess I don’t have to make THAT decision again.  I ask him if he thinks she will make it through the night. Of course he says.  She is not going to die tonight.

At this point Cat stops me and suggests we not go.  She has the doctors, Sophia is there, Juan (one of her favorite caregivers) is there.  Cat mentions she might be hanging on when I am close.

We decide to stay home and send Reiki.  We did a healing ritual for her.

Sending Reiki to someone is not praying for them ‚Äėto get better.’¬† Reiki is sent for whatever the person wants to use it for. I felt so grounded and satisfied after we finished. ¬†

We text a little with Sophia who eventually also goes home.  Juan stays with her overnight.

In the morning we make the short 15 minute drive back to the hospital. She is still sleeping most of the day, but when she is awake she is getting more and more alert and aware of where she is and what is going on. We continue sitting with her day by day.

She was in the hospital a week. The total cost for all the doctors, hospital stay, surgery, supplies, and medications…$7000.00.  We don’t have Mexican insurance for her yet and her US insurance doesn’t cover anything down here.

We take her back to Sophia’s.  I have rented a hospital bed. She is back in familiar surroundings.  

The first day I go over there she is completely unresponsive for the first 90 minutes I am there. ¬†I resign myself to ‚Äėthis is how it is now.’ I sit with her. Then at some point she just blurts out a totally unrelated word. ¬†Then she opens her eyes briefly. She goes in and out of ‚Äėsleep‚Äô.

This goes on for the next three weeks.  When I visit she is basically sleeping. She cannot keep her eyes open for any length of time.  It is depressing and I am sad visiting her and coming home I usually cry.

Her anesthesiologist comes by for a check up.  He takes her off of her antidepressant and adds a pain pill.

The next day she is up and talking in her chair when I get there. ¬†WHAT? She is ‚Äėback‚Äô. We have a relatively on-point conversation.

Day by day she is recovering. ¬†She is still confused sometimes. ¬†Especially when her oxygen has not been on. ¬†She almost gets dementia-like when her blood oxygen level is under 92. ¬†This is what makes it so great that I live close. She will call me and I can tell by the conversation how her oxygen level is. ¬†Then I can walk over in six minutes and make sure it is back on, she is ‚Äėrescued‚Äô as she likes to call it, and I help her feel safe and comfortable.

This journey continues everyday for me and my Mom.  It is a lot of details to keep up with but it is also a lot emotions to process.  I have come to accept this is her passing through the end of this life. I am not responsible for her experience.  I provide a safe comfortable place for her to be with kind and caring people. I visit her almost everyday.

I have met many of the neighborhood folks since I walk so often – bonus!

As hard as it is, I am grateful to be here for her.  There are other ladies that Sophia takes care of that have no family members in Mexico or involved in their care. They get cared for but the love and attention of a family member can be like no other.

Read parts 1 and 2 here: 
It Was Bound to Happen
It Was Bound to Happen – Part 2

Danzas Indigenistas

I have been to a lot of pow-wows in my time and seen a lot of indigenous dances. It’s always a moving experience for me. Though I wasn’t raised in a tribal family, I am part Lipan Apache and a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas. I was always reluctant to embrace that part of my heritage because I look ridiculously white, taking after the Irish and English parts of my family and was raised to feel shame about my mother’s Apache DNA. It wasn’t until I began regular shamanic practice that I understood that at the core we all have shamanism in our backgrounds, though for most of us it has been scrubbed out by various forms of organized religion, usually with violence and suppression of our and our ancestor’s true selves.

Shamanism is about connection to the natural world and to Spirit. In shamanism we see the sentience in all things: rocks, trees, water, plants, birds, air, mammals, reptiles, creepy crawlies, stars, fire, earth…. Everything has a spirit. Everything in the shamanic realms can work with us, help us, teach us, challenge us to grow, give us advice, and urge us to be in harmony with the universe.

This new filter of shamanic connection with and to all things gave me a new way to see the dances of indigenous peoples, appreciating the movements and expressions as the spiritual conversation that they are. A dancer in a jaguar costume, for instance, isn’t just a dancer. He or she has the opportunity to embody the Spirit of the archetype that is Jaguar, taking on those characteristics and giving Jaguar the ability to express its’ essence through the dance.

Mexico No Filters-Indigenous dancer who is way into the zone. Festival de San Miguel, 2018.

I once dressed as Durga, a pre-Hindi Indian goddess, for Halloween. I searched for a long time for the right sari, wrap, makeup, and accessories I needed to complete the costume. Halloween night I wrapped the sari and tied it in the customary fashion then applied the makeup to complete the look. I remember beginning to feel very different as I drew the big blue eye vertically between my own eyebrows – calmer, more present, more powerful. By the time I got to the Halloween party down the street I realized I was different. Conversation stopped when I walked in and the look on people’s faces was nothing short of awe. But it wasn’t the costume that held them in thrall for that moment. By allowing the Spirit of the Being I was dressing as to flow, not just through the costume of clothing and makeup, but also through my bodily offering, I did, for a time become that Being.

This is what indigenous dancers are doing by creating and wearing elaborate costumes and makeup when they dance: allowing Spirit to flow into this dimension and giving power and advice on how to heal this broken world.

Click the links below to see: 

  • More photos of the Indigenous Dancers
  • The Festival de San Miguel
    476th birthday of San Miguel and the feast day for our patron saint. Party!!
  • The Blessing of the Horses
    Caballeros and caballeras who flow into San Miguel to have their horses blessed in front of the Parrochia
  • Quema de Monitos (coming soon)
    The burning of the monkeys ‚Äď not literal monkeys and not just fire. This is a fun display involving blowing stuff up in a show of the battle against evil

La Danza de los Voladores

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, México

Miss Ramirez, my 4th grade social studies teacher, clicked from one slide to the next. Green trees, exotic birds, and brightly clad people filled the white cinderblock wall she was using as a screen for her “what I did on my summer vacation” presentation. I wasn’t really engaged until she showed a slide of men in red and gold climbing up what looked like a very tall telephone pole. Nothing gets the attention of 9 year olds like danger and the lure of things we aren’t supposed to do. Suddenly all of us were looking at the screen and asking questions.

Mexico No Filters - Volador climbing the giant pole

“Where are they going?”
“Why are they dressed like that?”
“How high is that pole?”
“What are they going to do?”
“What if they fall?”

And then…

“Oh WOW! They’re flying ‚Ķ. upside-down!”

And they were. Grown men were playing in a way I would never have been allowed, but suddenly desperately wanted to. All five of them sat for a moment at the top of the pole as a man lifted a flute to his lips. In the next slide four of the men were upside down, ropes tied around their waists, arms spread in the air. The slides continued with the men closer down to the ground in each frame, spinning around and around the pole as the ropes tethering them unwound. The man on top playing the flute, seemed enraptured in his music. Finally all four men were on the ground and the flute player was climbing down the pole again.

Though we peppered her with questions, Miss Ramirez didn’t really say why they were doing what they were doing, just that it was their culture and their religion. She moved on rather quickly to pictures of food, possibly worried we might try to recreate the dance of the voladores on the tetherball poles outside of our portable classroom.

I found a way to make my next writing assignment about the Voladores and became enthralled by them. Though no one mentioned them again when I was in school, I remained fascinated, looking them up in every library I entered. Seeing them dance in the air definitely made it into my bucket list.

Now, many decades later, the Festival de San Miguel gave me a chance to see them in person. In the big public square in front of the Parrochia (the big church in the center of San Miguel), several men and boys dressed in traditional red and white garb gathered around a huge metal pole nearly 100 feet in height. They danced first around the base of the pole, the caporal (the guy who doesn’t fly) playing both the flute and the drum simultaneously. Their movements looked somewhat bird-like.

One by one they ascended the pole and began to wrap the thick yellow rope by which they would be suspended around the top part of the pole in preparation for their descent. The caporal climbed up last and perched, untethered and unrestrained, at the cap. He began to play his flute as the four dancers flung themselves backwards and out away from the pole. Effortlessly, their feet wrapped round the rope, they spun out and away from the center thirteen times before reaching the ground, arms open in surrender.

Though the ritual seems kind of chaotic and casual on the surface, it is actually a deeply spiritual expression with a tremendous amount of preparation. Thirteen revolutions, one for each moon cycle of the year. Four dancers, one for each cardinal direction and the four seasons of the year. Multiply the four dancers with the thirteen revolutions, and you get 52 – the number of weeks or mini-cycles in a year and also the number of years in most pre-Columbian Central American calendar cycles.

The shamanic roots of this ritual seem clear. Once upon a time, this was a far more complex spiritual expression which included searching for and felling a very tall tree, which had its own ritual. There were pre-dance meditations, purifications, and dietary preparations so that the dancers could fully embody the spirits of totem birds. This is one of the reasons the dancers are sometimes called hombres pajaros or bird men. This dance in the air was associated with and performed during harvest rituals, celebrating and invoking the fertility of the land and abundance of the corn that has traditionally fed the peoples of México. Old stories says that the dance was created to bring the people back into harmony with the earth, which was suffering from a severe drought.

When I first read about this long ago in grade school I thought it was just a pretty cultural ritual. Reading about it later, I assumed it was superstition and magical thinking – perform a created ritual, get instant healing – the same mentality promoted by devotees of “The Secret” and in some of the “claim it in the name of Jesus” religious communities. But it is a deeper spiritual practice than that.

Being out of harmony with the earth is the very thing that is causing our current droughts and other wildly and increasingly destructive weather patterns. If something like this could serve as a reminder to our collective peoples that we need to reign in our selfish, greedy patterns and treat our environment and all other beings as the neighbors they are, we could change most of the sickness in our world…both external and internal.

Click the links below to see: 

  • More photos of the Voladores
  • The Festival de San Miguel
    476th birthday of San Miguel and the feast day for our patron saint. Party!!
  • The Blessing of the Horses
    Caballeros and caballeras who flow into San Miguel to have their horses blessed in front of the Parrochia.
  • Danzas Indigenistas – Indigenous Dancers¬†
    Amazing indigenous dancing up close and personal, featuring costumes that would scare the crap out of you if you were one of the conquering Spanish. Seriously. After looking at the pics would you want to meet one in the forest on a dark night?!
  • Quema de Monitos (coming soon)
    The burning of the monkeys ‚Äď not literal monkeys and not just fire. This is a fun display involving blowing stuff up in a show of the battle against evil.

The Blessing of the Horses

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico

The clanging of church bells in the square drowned out all but the most boisterous of conversations, yet the clop of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets was audible above them. Hundreds of horses, 4 deep across in some places, rang clearly in the streets. Ridden by a cavalry of caballeros and caballeras, many bearing standards and banners like an army of medieval crusaders, the sleek shining horses replaced, if only for a few hours, the throngs of selfie-taking tourists that generally clog the streets of San Miguel on holidays and weekends.

Mexico No Filters - Horses and tourists during the Blessing of the Horses in San Miguel de Allende

And actually, it was both. The holiday was the Festival of San Miguel, the feast and celebration day for St. Michael the Archangel and the patron saint of San Miguel de Allende. But no one seemed to want a hoof in the face nor a tiptoe through the road apples, so the horses and riders had the streets to themselves while the tourists and festival go-ers packed the roadside to watch the cowboys from surrounding towns as far as an hour away from San Miguel roll through in what seemed to be an unending parade reaching as far up and down the road as we could see.

A priest walked up and down the edge of the square with a sprig of cedar and a bucket, dipping the branch into the water and dispensing it with a holy fling it on the horses. While the caballeros might choose to attend Catholic masses, it was clear the horses had other belief systems and customs. Most of them looked as highly offended as a cat, jerking away and neighing in protest when the priest “baptized” them. But this is what the local people had come for and the parade of horses and riders continued, making their away around the town to the Parrochia, the largest church in San Miguel.

Though the space in front of the local parish church is ample, there was not enough room for the whole contingent. An altar was erected in front of the church and a mass was held for horses and riders. Patient people and patient beasts waited calmly for the completion of the service. Many riders calmed their horses with gentle touches and words whispered in ears.

Only one horse reared in the crowd, ridden by a big man with striped pants, large silver spurs, and a heavy handed demeanor. The display was impressive, frightening, and sad, yet the other horses were hardly bothered. The big rider was one of the few I saw wearing spurs or using a quirt. I noticed that the other riders seemed to work to stay away from him. I doubt this guy’s horse will be converting to Christianity anytime soon.

See my Flickr page for tons more photographs. 

Click here to see: 

Festival de San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende is named after two ‘people.’ One is Ignacio Allende, a hero of the Mexican Revolution. The other is San Miguel or St. Michael, who is also one of God’s archangels. In the Mexican Catholic tradition, each saint has their own special feast day.¬† When a saint’s feast day coincides with your personal name or with the name of your town, it’s cause for a party, ergo, when Michaelmas (the feast day for San Miguel) rolls around, it’s time for a¬†massive party.

Quema de Monitos - burning of the 'monkeys,' or the lower baser self.

Michaelmas is officially September 29th, but San Miguel de Allende makes a weekend long event of it. The party starts on Friday night with fireworks in the sky, church bells ringing, and loud booms that shake the floor. Each neighborhood has it’s own celebration, as do surrounding towns, but the main events take place in the center of town, the Jard√≠n (garden) and the Parrochia (the main parish church).

The festivities include mariachi bands, a parade of stars (pi√Īatas), voladores (flying dancers), the blessing of the horses, the Quema de Monitos, parades that are both Christian and pagan, xuchile offerings, indigenous dancers in rather terrifying regalia, and a fireworks extravaganza that involves shooting fireworks into the crowd in a mock battle between good and evil.

Some of it I captured, some I didn’t. . . because it happened in the middle of the night and I’m just not going to do that to my body anymore!

Read on to see: 

  • Danza de los Voladores
    Flying dancers who leap backwards off of a 100ft tall pole and dance in the wind as they fall. 
  • The Blessing of the Horses
    Caballeros and caballeras who flow into San Miguel to have their horses blessed in front of the Parrochia
  • Danzas Indigenistas¬†
    Amazing indigenous dancing up close and personal, featuring costumes that would scare the crap out of you if you were one of the conquering Spanish. Seriously. After looking at the pics would you want to meet one in the forest on a dark night?!
  • La Quema de Monitos (coming soon)
    The burning of the monkeys – not literal monkeys and not just fire. This is a fun display involving blowing stuff up in a show of the battle against evil

It Was Bound to Happen – Part Two

by DeLora Frederickson
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

For years …maybe 30, my Mom has made it perfectly clear if she is ever in a situation where extraordinary measures are needed to keep her alive she does not want that. ¬†DNR – do not resuscitate!

Fine with me.  I am committed to this as we enter into the medical system in Mexico.  

I have heard you have to have special paperwork that you must utilize a lawyer for to even have a chance of ‚Äėletting‚Äô someone die down here. ¬†We have not met with any lawyers.

But I talk to the doctors, I ask them to put it in her chart, I take every opportunity to reiterate this request from my Mother.  However, I really have no concept of what this means or will entail in the next week.

The surgery was scheduled for 9:00 pm.  We (Cat, myself and Sophia Рthe woman who coordinates her care) all gathered and hoped for the best as we waited for the team to take her down.  We were all well aware this might be the last time we were to see Shirley alive. We said loving supportive words and off she went Рwheeled out the door on the gurney.

The doctors had estimated somewhere around 2 hrs for the surgery. ¬†We watch the clock…by midnight I was beyond being positive. Suddenly, a stranger appears at the door. ¬†Sophia translates for us…we are to appear downstairs for an update. We are taken to a short hallway within the surgical area. ¬†We can hear one of the drs speaking very loudly to my mom: ‚ÄúShirley, open your eyes‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúShirley you need to wake up‚ÄĚ.

We waited, watching nurses going back and forth with surgical instruments – no one willing to talk to us. ¬†At this point I am crying and beginning the process of accepting my Mother‚Äôs death. Time became amorphous; I have no idea how long we stood there before a nurse appeared. ¬†All the conversations were in Spanish. Cat and I could piece together a lot‚Ķ.but with so much medical jargon, we just couldn‚Äôt keep up. Sophia translated…it is a complicated case, her age, her condition, her heart. ¬†They were trying to get her back out of the anesthesia. OK‚Ķ.we are waiting, listening, not knowing. I am sobbing.

The traumatologist and orthopedic surgeon comes out and updates us. The orthopedic doc could not complete the surgery. He repaired the broken femur, removing the head of the femur in anticipation of replacing it with a titanium one.  Then her blood pressure went up, up, up and her heartbeat went down. The anesthesiologist stopped the surgery to save her life. She would never walk again.

He shows us the head of her femur he removed. ¬†He apologized for failing to complete the surgery. ¬†He seems genuinely regretful of the results. I am crying and reiterating her wishes. ¬†I felt a lot of compassion when talking with him…from him and for him. He leaves to return to the operating room just down the hall.

We wait.  I am tired.  We move to the lobby.  It is 1:30 in the morning, the hospital is completely deserted.

Another doctor asks to talk to us. ¬†We return to the small sterile hallway in the surgical area. ¬†Her critical care doctor (Dra. Grace Lim – my mother has seen her before) comes around the corner to update us on what is next. ¬†She wants to put in a central line, keep my Mom intubated and take her to ICU. I knew my Mom didn‚Äôt want to be resuscitated but would she want these measures to keep her alive? I have to decide right then…crying, thinking I am processing her death, in the sterile hallway.

No. She would not want any of that.  I am steadfast.

Dra. Lim then told me they were giving her medication to regulate her blood pressure. ¬†I knew she would not want that! By the grace of the Goddess the doctors accepted everything I requested. ¬†Then Dra. Lim said ‚Äėwell, then you need to come into the operating room with her.’ 2:30 am, completely drained, sad and convinced my Mother would die in the next little bit of time.

Cat and I were led into the changing room and given scrubs to put on. Then taken into the operating room to say goodbye to my mother. It was cleaned up Рno blood or blood soaked sheets.  I am not going to describe the state my Mom was in, as I felt traumatized by walking in there.

The doctora told us to talk to her, ask her if she wanted to live. ¬†I think they were trying to change my mind about the line I had drawn in the sand for her. ¬†I refused. I held her hand, encouraged her to let go…all ‚Äėthe things‚Äô you say to support someone in moving from this world to the next. ¬†They removed the medication to regulate the blood pressure. We waited for her to pass‚Ķ

3:00 am, 3:30 am, 4:00 am. ¬†Still intubated not breathing on her own…but not dead. ¬†I ask them – what next? They refuse to extubate her as it is against the law in Mexico if someone is not breathing on their own and it is their job to keep people alive. Finally at 4:45 am the anesthesiologist says he is going extubate her and send her up to her room with just oxygen and saline. ¬†We all go up and wait for her.

Back she comes on the gurney. ¬†Deathwatch 2018 begins. Cat in a chair, Sophia on the couch, me on the floor…Half asleep half awake in the dark, still room. ¬†The only sound was each breath my mom took and the wildly irregular beeping of the monitor announcing her heartbeat.

We waited…the breath paused…is she dead? We did this until the nurse came in about 9:30am to take her vitals. ¬†She looked at my Mom and in English said, “Shirley how are you doing?” My mom cracked her eyes open and squeaked out, “Getting better.”

Everyone was blown away. ¬†She is aware of what is going on! ¬†She starts taking drinks of water through a straw when I hold up the glass and intermittently can answer questions. ¬†For 30 years she talks about dying…and recently WANTING to die. She was on death‚Äôs doorstep…no she was in death‚Äôs ante room. ¬†And she turned back! Astonishing.

Read Parts 1 and 3 here: 
It Was Bound to Happen
It Was Bound to Happen – Part 3

The fun thing we did

by Cat Calhoun
San Miguel de Allende, GTO, México

Mexico No Filters - Mural tour, Colonia Guadalupe

Life in San Miguel sometimes looks a lot like life everywhere else. We still have to cook, clean, shop for necessities, pay bills, work (online, but still), and take care of an aging parent. That means there generally isn’t a ton of fun for play, but we work it in when we can.

This week DeLora found an awesome mural tour in the Guadalupe Arts District (Distrito de Arte Guadalupe) given by an incredibly knowledgeable woman by the name of Colleen Sorenson. Colleen has been a key factor in legalizing urban art both here in San Miguel and in San Antonio, Texas.

Colleen Sorenson with mural in arts district

Urban murals are created by street artists with incredible levels of talent who miraculously convert blank walls into amazing murals. Here in San Miguel, Colleen has founded Muros en Blanco as an outlet for these artists, getting permission from the owners of the blank canvases, and acquiring paint for the muralists. 

Colleen’s tour is incredible, not just because she is an artist herself, but because she knows the artists and the works intimately. Her 2.5 hour tour through Colonia Guadalupe includes detailed information about the history of urban art in San Miguel as well as information from the artists themselves about the works they have completed, the mediums they used, and what inspired them.¬†While many of the murals are done by local artists, you will find talent from around the world displayed here. It’s some fabulous eye candy, a great walk, and a fun education.¬†

The Life of a Wall

Impermanence is the rule of life on this earth, so don’t count on these murals all being here if you decide to come for a visit. They decay and crumble over time. Some are maintained, but many are blasted away and replaced with something new. Some visitors express dismay over this, but when you ask the artists, they explain that this is just the life of a wall.¬†

The mural above, for example, less than a year old, is peeling very badly. There are a couple of reasons for this. Walls in many parts of Mexico are made of brick, which is porous by nature. Walls might be covered with concrete stucco, left as bare brick, or painted. The government gives away exterior paints for free, but they are chalky paints and will actually come off on your skin and clothes if you lean against them. (Hint: don’t lean against walls in Mexico. This stuff doesn’t come off easily.)

You can paint murals over them, but they will eventually flake away, especially during and after our wet season. Because the brick is porous, moisture seeps in causes this chalky paint flake even faster. Because the mural above sits alongside the Arroyo de Las Cachinches, which carries water that flows out of the mountains during rainy season, it’s subject to even more moisture damage. The murals along this stretch will probably be painted over again during the January painting season.¬†

Fun fact: over and over again I have seen paint damage right around the knee to hip height on walls all over Mexico. Colleen explained why. When you see people leaning against walls in Mexico (and all the cool people do it), they usually put one foot up on the wall. Over time this causes damage to the paint. The damage is especially noticeable on “photo walls,” or mural that are popular for selfies and other photo ops.¬†

Want to see all of the cool images I captured? Take a look at my Flickr feed. You can find them in an array of sizes and there’s a cool slideshow option.

It Was Bound to Happen

by DeLora Frederickson

In 2006 my Mom was living in El Paso, Tx by herself. ¬†We talked on the phone everyday so we were pretty connected. ¬†She started telling me that she was falling on her daily walks in the park. ¬†Then one night I got a call from her friend…my Mom had fallen at home, called 911 and been taken to the hospital. ¬†They determined she had a uti and released her to her friend who took her home. From that moment on my life was changed forever.

It wasn’t a uti Рit was 6 meningiomas (brain tumors).  I immediately flew to El Paso and so began the journey of the tumors.  I brought her to Austin and eventually she had spinal and brain surgery. She only had three removed.  But this made a tremendous difference in her mobility.

We (Cat Рmy partner and I) lived out of town in a small house and we needed a different home to facilitate her recovery. We purchased a huge house in town and moved her in with us.  She lived with us for 2 years Рand it was painful! Living with a parent is just not meant to be after childhood.

She progressed well and moved into her own apartment.  That went pretty smoothly for a few years.

We knew the tumors had been growing slowly for about 10 years so didn’t expect them to return so quickly. After about 5 years we started seeing the same symptoms Рdifficulty walking was the most prevalent.

We got in home care for a few hours a day. ¬†My Mom loved her. But things got harder for my Mom and she needed more help. ¬†Thing is…have you ever looked at the price of assisted living in the United States? ¬†(Think $4500/month easy) Good grief! My Mom has some money but not ALOT.

Cat and I had been planning to leave Texas and had visited Tacoma Washington a few times to look at houses.  We were excited and had looked at places for my Mom up there. THEN the US elections happened and Trump happened.

Our plans changed quickly.  We decided to move to Mexico.  I began my search for an assisted living center in the area we wanted to live. I found a great facility through an online connection.

We sold all our stuff including the house. It was sooo stressful.  Because at the same time my Mom needed more and more help. ABout 2 weeks before we were leaving we had to move her to an assisted living facility.  Better but not great. For $4500/month I expected her room to NOT smell like pee, for her bed to be made everyday, and for them to help her bathe. Guess I was asking TOO much!

Those last few weeks were like being pulled through the eye of the needle.  But we finally got it all done and drove our Subaru full of our stuff down to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

About a week after arriving I flew to Austin and brough my Mom down here. ¬†We flew – it was an easy trip for both of us. We arrived at her new home and tried to settle in. ¬†It just never fit though. She stayed 2 months in a beautiful location with amazing help…but all the other residents had alzheimers and she does not. ¬†It was depressing and we all knew we had to find another solution.

Thank goodness for Be Well San Miguel.  Deborah helped me find a new home for her.  She is in a condo with 24/7 care. The woman running the care team is an angel from heaven!  And if we didn’t already know it we would soon enough.

My Mom has fallen probably 100 times over the last 12 years and never broken anything.  So when she fell in August we really didn’t think her hip was broken Рbut we soon realized we needed medical help.

And this is the point of this whole blog!  My Mom was admitted to Hospital Mac for broken femur repair.  

Her surgery was scheduled, we met her doctors, and we had our angel from heaven right by our side the entire time.  She translated, supported us and loved my Mom through the whole thing.

The surgery didn’t go as planned.  

Read Parts 2 and 3 here: 
It Was Bound to Happen – Part 2
It was Bound to Happen – Part 3