Monthly Archives: January 2017

Mindfulness And Me

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Mindfulness And Me

I love to learn, perhaps even live to learn. I have several letters after my name as I have studied and completed a variety of different courses throughout the years. I never fully appreciated school when I was younger as I felt disdain for all the compulsory and mundane subjects that were necessary in order to get to the “good stuff”.  For instance, a basic science course was required in university in order to achieve a Bachelor of Arts degree. Courses in economics and statistics were prerequisites for a degree in Social Work. Whatever is the logic for this? Just give me the courses in psychology and sociology that are of interest to me, the ones that will help me and benefit those who rely on me for my assistance in their daily struggles.  

I am now at a stage in my life where I have the time to study a variety of topics that previously just were not possible. I heartily thank the Internet for making available to me an abundance of courses from universities around the world.  I would like to focus on the course I am currently taking entitled De-Mystifying Mindfulness. The Universiteit Leiden in The Netherlands is my source for this one.

I have practiced meditation throughout most of my life. As a teenager, I was introduced to this art when I took yoga classes. I always looked forward to the body scan at the conclusion of the evening after contorting my body into all kinds of crazy positions. This was always a peaceful and calming time, until it was time to bundle up and head out into the frigid temperatures that are so characteristic of Winnipeg winters.

Now that I have more time to devote to meditation, I am beginning to fully realize just how important it is to live in the moment and to become fully aware of the present. I used to view meditation as a form of relaxation, but I now appreciate just how much of an influence mindfulness has on all my daily activities and I attempt to incorporate it into my life each and every day.  I do not see mindfulness as merely taking the time for a quiet meditation in the evening. It has become more of a way of life for me where I strive to be mindful throughout the day.

Of course it isn’t always possible to fully concentrate or to turn my focus to one thing specifically. I have often found myself on autopilot when it comes to common routines. And I do have to caution myself against being judgmental and critical and resolving to do more and to do it better. All this does is cause a great deal of unnecessary pressure and stress. This then defeats the entire purpose of being mindful.

Because I strive to practice mindfulness regularly does not mean I am a Buddhist or any type of religious fanatic. I view mindfulness with more of a scientific as well as a therapeutic approach. We live in a highly technological society today, the end result being a faster pace of life along with the stress and anxiety that accompany this type of lifestyle. Instead of time becoming a helpful organizational tool, it is often a troublesome enemy instead. Multitasking and deadlines plague our lives as we set loftier and loftier goals for ourselves.

 As I grow older, I find that the time flies by more quickly than ever with each passing year. I think back to when I wished that time would go by more quickly. Why was I ever in such a hurry? I can never recapture those unwanted moments that have somehow evolved into treasured moments.

I choose to focus on the present, to live in the here and now. If my mind wanders, I know that it’s always possible to return and begin again. After all, I do have a past that can never be forgotten, but it can be stored away safely. I refuse to fear my future but rather to embrace what may come my way. Inhale every breath deeply, and slowly exhale………….

 

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Mi Amigo Telcel

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Mi Amigo Telcel

Cell phones. Can’t live without them, especially smartphones. When I arrived in Culiacan just over six years ago, I ventured out to buy a cell phone and obtain a plan. How hard could it be? After all, in Winnipeg, you went to the MTS store, chose a phone, chose a plan, gave them a credit card number for automatic payments, and away you went. The entire process took under a half hour.

Not in Culiacan. I went to a Telcel store and was told that I could buy a phone, at an outrageous price, but could not have a plan as I was not a residente permanente. My Spanish was extremely limited at that time and their English was non-existent. I left the store empty-handed.

My friend Juan Pablo offered to help me. He took me to a friend’s house to buy a phone. She had boxes full of cell phones, every make and model you could imagine. I chose a then state of the art Blackberry. She hooked me up with Telcel then and there and introduced me to the idea of pay and go. I was set.

Until I moved to Irapuato a year later. I had to get a new chip with a local number. Once again I had a Mexican friend help me out. But this time it took almost four hours until the chip was installed and the phone was working.

I stayed in Irapuato less than three months before moving to Guadalajara. Here we go again! This time my command of Spanish had improved and things went smoothly at the Telcel store. The new chip was installed and this time it only took two hours until it was activated and working. And I got this nifty little chip at Oxxo for adding saldo.

By the time I arrived in Mazatlan more than a year and a half ago, Telcel had done away with roaming and I was able to keep my Guadalajara phone number. The problem was that my iPhone was locked in Canada and my Blackberry was now vintage. And I despised carrying two phones around all the time. Telcel also has this annoying habit of requiring you to feed your phone monthly or your credits disappear. I quickly learned the art of calling people on What’s App which works off of WiFi.

I spent several months in Washington state last summer with no cell phone at all. Just before I left I bought an unlocked Android and took it with me to Mazatlan. Now I was faced with the challenge of removing the chip from my Blackberry and inserting it into the new phone. Of course it didn’t fit.

My Mexican friend Sofia took me to Telcel at Gran Plaza. They were reluctant to even try to insert it and wanted me to get a new phone number. Now that would have been a major pain. Sofia got them to try to agree to somehow cut it and get it to fit. But now there was another problem. Back in Guadalajara the man at the Telcel store had for some reason used his name to register my number. So now in Mazatlan they didn’t want anything to do with it because the number wasn’t in my name. Somehow Sofia convinced them to do it. And as a plus I was able to get a plan for 150 pesos per month that has data, unlimited texting and phoning, free Facebook and What’s App and long distance to USA and Canada. I love the Amigo Plan 150!

A month later I go in to renew this pay as you go plan. I go to the cashier and pay my 150 pesos. I go to get it activated and she informs me that I have paid a day too early so they now have to set up a new plan. And we go through the whole thing again of who the number is registered to. She was satisfied that I said it was in a man’s name and started a new plan for me. She told me that the day my plan expired I should come in and renew it in a month.

Yesterday I received a text that it had expired. I go to Telcel and pay my 150 pesos. I go to the desk to get it activated. Oh oh! The rules have changed. Now I’m supposed to wait a day after it expires and then go in to pay and activate it. This time the staff member who assisted me spoke amazing English. He offered to change the registered name into my name. Yay! It’s finally all mine! And he gave a number to text the following day, along with a code, in order to activate. And it actually worked today when I did it! He also told me I’d get a confirming message, which I did, and that I didn’t need to reply to it.  So I didn’t.

But I then got another text which I didn’t understand at all. Oh well. I’ll see Sofia on Saturday at our cooking class and I’ll ask her to deal with it for me.

A side note, I’ve been told to never ever give my credit card number to Telcel. Even my Mexican friends pay in cash every month!

Rosca de Reyes

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Rosca de Reyes

One of my favorite pastimes back in Canada was baking. I delighted in trying new recipes and always had a freezer filled with a variety of squares and cookies. I also miss my breadmaker where I made amazing rosemary bread and pizza dough. Here in Mexico I find baking a challenge as many of the ingredients are not available here in Mexico. There are also numerous items on the shelves here that I am not at all familiar with.

I have taken a few Mexican cooking classes here in Mazatlan. I have become good friends with Sofia, a young woman in her twenties, who teaches these classes and I help her translate the recipes from Spanish into English. This afternoon we met with a panadera (a baker) who shared with us the art of making Rosca de Reyes, a traditional sweet bread associated with Dia de Reyes ( Three Kings Day) here in Mexico. Three Kings Day is celebrated on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas. It is also known as Epiphany and commemorates the day that the three wise men visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

Rosca de Reyes is in the shape of a wreath which symbolizes a crown. The candied fruit are the jewels on the crown. Inside the bread is hidden a small figurine of the baby Jesus. When the bread is served, each guest cuts a slice. Whoever finds the baby Jesus is the host of a party on February 2nd and must supply the tamales. This person is also the honorary godparent of the baby Jesus and must take a doll to the church to be blessed on that day, also known as Dia de la Candelaria or Candlemas. When I lived in Tlaquepaque, the godparents also gave out baskets of candy to people as they made their way down the street to the church. And of course there was loud music as well.

Rosca de Reyes takes a while to prepare as the dough requires two risings. The intricate decoration on the top is comprised of a sugar paste, ribbons of candied fruit, nuts, prunes, dates and figs. Some bakers also prepare a filling of coconut, nuts, raisins, candied fruit, cinnamon and sugar.

Tomorrow morning we will actually prepare this delicious bread in a class. And as a bonus, it will be accompanied by hot chocolate as is customary here in Mexico. Yum yum!!!!!

Forty Years Ago And Now

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Forty Years Ago And Now

The other night I was surfing through YouTube when a link caught my eye. Back in 1976 a series called Family debuted. It focused on the lives of a family in Pasadena. Nancy, the 25 year-old daughter had dropped out of school four years previously to marry a young millionaire. Willie, the son in his late teens had dropped out of school and wasn’t sure just where he was headed. And then there was Buddy, played by Kristy McNichol. She was an adorable little tomboy about twelve years old who was in a hurry to grow up.

I recall watching the pilot for this series when I was in San Diego visiting my parents in February of 1976. My husband and I had come down for ten days. He went back to Winnipeg and I was in no hurry to go back. Instead I decided to stay with my parents for a while. And I’m glad I did as less than a year later a massive heart attack took my dad from me.

Growing up I was always daddy’s little girl. In his eyes the sun rose and set on me. So I could really identify with Nancy who was also the apple of her father’s eye. My dad was always there for me. I could talk to him about anything and everything. While he didn’t always agree with my choices, he was never overtly critical or judgmental.

That February, a lot of our discussion revolved around my marriage. I had married young at the age of twenty-one, as had several of my friends in the summer of 1973. The difference was that after not even four years, I was the only one still married. And sadly, I was not happy in my marriage. In reality, I had consulted with a divorce lawyer only six months after I had married. I was advised to hang in there as any relationship takes time and effort in order to be successful. But it was now close to four years and not much had changed.

My dad was in an awkward position at that time. With failing health, it was in his best interests that both my husband and I remain active in the family business. After all, it did provide all of us with incomes, and in the future would also provide for my mother when he was gone. And yet he understood that I was unhappy. This time it was just not possible to come to a solution whereby we would both be completely satisfied.

When my dad died, there was nobody to fill that void in my life. I had lost my best friend. I had no-one to confide in and I was more distraught than ever. I was overwhelmed with grief and overnight was thrown into a role of running a corporation, something that a degree in psychology and sociology had not prepared me for. And my marriage was still a struggle as well.

And then an unplanned pregnancy turned into the greatest blessing in my life. A second pregnancy followed and I soon found myself living my life vicariously through my children as the years sped by. These were the happiest years of my life. I volunteered in programs my children were involved in and never missed a band concert or a graduation. My days were busy and I felt fulfilled.

But suddenly my children were all grown up and had moved out on their own. Once again I had a huge void in my life. My husband and I had become strangers. We had grown so far apart that there was no hope of reconciliation once we separated. In fact, we had become bitter enemies who communicated through lawyers until the divorce was final.

I reflect on those episodes of Family and I envy Nancy as she had the strength to walk away from an unhappy marriage. I wish I could have jumped through the television screen and warned Buddy not to be in such a hurry to grow up. I wonder if Kate and Doug would still be married today once they became empty-nesters.

But at this point in time I identify most with Willie. I too am struggling to find a direction in my life right now. I thought I had one, but somehow it has once again changed and I’m unsure of what to do next. While I am basically content, I feel like there is still something missing.  So it’s off to the beach to contemplate life again……………

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