Monday, May 28, 2007

How do you spell "committment?"

Well, not that way. I always have to look it up, which I just did. It's TWO m's, ONE t. COMMITMENT. It's something that can seem just as hard to make as to spell. And when people get it right, it's cause for celebration.

My big fat dictionary defines commitment as "an open declaration of adherence; putting in trust, confiding in." It comes from Latin words meaning to connect. I guess that's why I think it should have TWO t's, as well as two m's. You know. Two to Tango, two to be Married. (At this rate I'll never be able to spell it right.)

My friends Cynthia and Jerry are ready to commit. Both are in their mid-fifties, and have been single for decades. This is a really big deal for both of them. They met through eHarmony about a year ago, and agreed to take things slowly and thoughtfully. Each of them has been making his/her own way (very nicely, thank you) in the world for a long time. That means each has property and income. Jerry has a large Puerto Rican family, as well as grown children from a previous marriage. Cynthia has no living blood relations at all. Her "family" member that will act as ring bearer in the wedding is Bentley, a Wheaten Terrier. There is also the rainbow of religious traditions that swirls through both their lives: Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Unity, Christian Science, to name just a few.

In short, there exists the potential for a lot of boat rocking. So Cynthia and Jerry have visited a wide variety of churches. They've talked and listened to what each thought about what was presented. They've had broad ranging conversations about spiritual issues, life-purpose, and the meaning of existence. They've gone through family and partners' counseling. In the interest of Jerry's children they've consulted with financial and legal advisors and agreed on who gets what in the case of whatever and whenever. They have lived Mary Baker Eddy's advice:

"Be not in haste to take the vow "until death do us part." Consider its obligations, its responsibilities, its relations to your growth and to your influence on other lives."

On top of all this, having committed to the idea that this was something serious, a relationship to last them the rest of their lives, they decided early on to NOT let a sexual relationship cloud their judgment. They have been actively abstinent during their courtship. Very affectionate, but definitely chaste.

So why couldn't they find a minister to marry them? I mean a minister they trusted and considered a friend -- who did not require them to go through religious counseling in his/her denomination. It seems like everyone they approached had a religious agenda -- or religious qualms -- concerning this commitment of theirs. Sure they could always go to a justice of the peace, or a judge -- someone who could do it legally. But Jerry and Cynthia have put a lot of thought into the moral and spiritual aspects of their relationship, and they want to celebrate the official union in more than a perfunctory civil ceremony.

So that's what led to my becoming ordained. I am now an official minister in the Universal Life Church. I'm going to officiate at Cynthia and Jerry's wedding December 2, in Irvine. That's a long time to think about how to make it especially significant for them. I'm honored and excited.

I've been asked to "do" weddings before, and I've declined. Being a county jail chaplain does NOT give one authority to perform weddings. I've had to explain that about a hundred times. And the one day provision that the State of Massachusets provides for, so that a close family friend can officially officiate is not available in California. But I've "counseled" countless people, young and old, about this step over the last twenty years. Larry and I have maintained a marriage of .....mmmm....... almost 38 years???!!! Yikes. I guess I have some authority.

The mechanics of becoming ordained in the ULC are easy. You push some buttons on their website. Hit print. There's your certificate. You could approach marriage the same way. People do it every night in Las Vegas. But for the record, this is a commitment I'm making to the ideal of marriage, and to those who approach it with reverence and awe.

So here I am, dropping anchor at another spiritual port of call. Much more for me -- and for others -- is still in store.

PS -- I "hit the button" on the ULC website Sunday afternoon, not knowing that my friend Laura was performing a wedding ceremony at Arlington Church in Boston. She got one of those one day only Massachusetts credentials. Read all about it here.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hiding out, taking a break

I think I should take a break for a while from this blog. Comparing recent entries to earlier ones, I've lost focus -- or at least my edge. It may be because life in the neighborhood has moved into a state of hazy suspended animation.

It is VERY quiet around here. Most of our English speaking neighbors have left for northern latitudes. Our Spanish-speaking friends know enough to stay out of the sun and, consequently, out of sight. Any social contact we have comes with those few souls who are out and about in the gray hours before dawn when Larry and I walk Kody.

When the sun "comes up like thunder" it is no longer over the Sierra, but directly behind the fishing village, and its first light is no longer gentle. It ricochets off the water in the estero and straight into my office. I keep the heavy curtains closed against the morning heat, but then I don't feel like writing in a dark room.

In the kitchen, on the same side of the house, I use clothes pins to attach heavy beach towels to the iron bars over the windows above the sink. Otherwise I have to wear sunglasses while I load the dishwasher. All of us drink liters of water daily.

Out of the sun and with the fans on, the air is still fresh. The nights are cool enough to need covers -- even chilly in the hours before dawn. But this morning I put away the comforter, rolled up the Oriental carpet on the floor and put them both away. It's now a white chenille coverlet on the bed, and bare, cool tile for our tootsies.

We have air conditioning here in the house, in selected rooms. So it may be time to hole up during the daylight hours, listen to recorded books, and dive into some of those projects I've been saving for just this time: books to read, pictures to paint, slides to scan, financial records to bring up to date. I'll be back when I have something meaningful to share. This should be a BLOG, not a BLOB!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Tropical Evening on the Town

It's night time. We just returned from La Penita where we had tortas at our favorite street stand. We were there waiting for Adan when he drove up to his usual corner at a little past 8:00. He runs his sandwich shop out of the back of a pickup he has fixed up with awnings, grill, refrigerator and cable television. (Well, he borrows the cable for the TV from the shop he parks next to.) He'll be serving until about 1:00 this morning. After a few hours of sleep, he'll get up and go to his regular job. On the weekends, he sings at events like weddings. Busy guy. But he makes absolutely the best torta I've ever had in Mexico.

A torta is built on a flatter, more tender bun than the French bread looking bolillos. The bun has to be absolutely fresh. It's sliced like a hamburger bun, put on the grill with butter to get toasty, and then piled with the other ingredients that have also been melting together on the grill. We get his specialty: Torta Movil. (That's also the name of his shop.) This torta has grilled onions, a slice of ham, melted gouda, American and panela cheeses, a slice of grilled pineapple, roasted pork, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, and Adan's special sauce which is a mixture of mayo, chipotle and .... who knows what. It's wonderful. This very substantial sandwich, the most expensive thing on the menu, is 17 pesos....about a buck fifty. Pair it with a Pepsi or 7 Up and you've still got a meal for way under $3.

We sit on the street in one of the six white plastic chairs Adan unloads each night for the benefit of his customers, which are usually lined up six to ten deep. Most carry away sacks of up to six tortas apiece. I don't think anyone in Mexico cooks at home at night.

I could happily eat every night from the street stands set up along the boulevard in La Penita. We may be doing more of that, since the weather is heating up to the point that we stay inside in the cool during the day. We still haven't felt the need for air conditioning, as long as we keep local hours: Early early morning and late evening is when the streets come alive.

So now the air is heavy with the smell of some kind of jasmine that's in bloom, there are occasional cherry bombs shattering the quiet -- still celebrating Mother's Day, and since there's no moon, the stars are hanging out there like huge lanterns. What are we going to do on this romantic evening??? Watch last night's episode of Ugly Betty. We are such a fun couple! :-)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Holidays: Flowers and Crosses

This morning we got out early and went to the market in La Penita. There were flowers everywhere, because today is Mother's Day down here in Mexico. That's about the only thing that was for sale, because most of the stores were closed. I really have to hand it to them down here. They don't wait around for SUNDAY to establish holidays. They set them right in the middle of the week, so there's a good excuse for taking a lot of time off.

For instance, last Wednesday and Thursday there were TWO holidays. May 2 was Day of the Child: no school and special fiestas for children everywhere -- official license to spoil little ones silly, as if Mexicans need any excuses for that. Never have I seen any place where children are more loved.

Then Thursday was Mexican Labor Day -- specifically for construction workers. So on that day every house or building under construction has a crepe paper cross erected on it, including our neighbors' house that has the "sweet spot."

So after our little market foray, we returned home to appreciate our own homegrown flowers right at our front entrance -- and found this big iguana appreciating them as well! Iguanas love hibiscus blossoms.
So Kody now has another job description -- protect the flowers!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

One more link

Guess I'm making up for the last several days when I haven't been blogging. But I also believe in getting as many people as possible in on the act. So there's a new link over there on the left: Jeanie's Blog. Jeanie and Dennis were some of the first people we met down here when we were staying over in La Colonia a year ago last February. They were in the middle of remodeling a "fixer." They've done a fantastic job, and I hope she posts some of the progress photos. She's been talking about starting her blog for a long time, but Jeanie's into lots of activities down here...probably one of the few gringos around who need a palm pilot to keep track of their schedules. So, for those of you who are interested in life in "laid back" Mexico, here' another take on it.

Call it artistic license...

OK! I'm learning to resize images so they don't take so long to upload. And I've also been revising the scenery around here. The photo was taken from the upper deck of Bobbi's house. The watercolor is my very liberal interpretation. It really looks rather wonky, almost cartoonish. Maybe my resistance to getting "serious." But I'm having a heck of a good time!

A few artistic friends

Here's a photo I took the other day up at Bobbi's house. That's where the art group meets every Tuesday morning, though our ranks are thinning down with people headed back north. But here are Len, Nancy, Lucy, Bobbi and Brenda. Bobbi has a great place to work, way up on her third floor deck. The views are spectacular. If I can ever get some more images uploaded, I'll show you what I've been doing with one of those views. I'm on a very frustrating learning curve....! I'll try another short post here in a moment....

Saturday, May 5, 2007

While Larry's walking the dog....

I'll just sneak in here to the kitchen and use his computer. I'm on a major project right now transfering stuff off my desktop and onto my laptop. My desktop is an ancient Gateway which I've made available to houseguests (mostly teenagers) over the last five years or so, and it's gotten all clogged up with who knows what. For example, a while back I was upgrading to a newer version of AOL's instant message program which offered to populate my buddy list with the contents of my Yahoo address book. I accepted, and TA DAH I had a new buddy list filled with names that were totally new to me -- names of people I KNEW I didn't know, and didn't look like I would WANT to know. Took me a while to figure out that what I had was the buddy list from my teenage nephew who had visited us several years before -- a very sociable type to say the least. Anyway, bear with me while I sort through my technological conversions. Blogging will be much easier when it doesn't take me ten minutes to upload one photo.

In the meantime, just to keep whoever's reading up to date, I'm in the middle of my own adventures in dentistry which should keep me occupied on the weekends over the next month or so. The specialist from Guadalajara only comes out here every other week -- arriving Thursday night and leaving Sunday. Larry's last appointment is today.

I also discovered that the little shop in front of the bungalows on Los Flamingos (the ILLEGAL bungalows...this is supposed to be a residential area only) doesn't just carry the inflatable beach toys and colorful bikinis that hang in the windows. They also have FRESH HOT bolillos and tortillas delivered every morning! This is what I used to LONG for in So Cal -- to be able to take a walk and pick up fresh baked stuff for breakfast without having to get in a car. So I'm a lot more forgiving of the proprietor Enrique -- who also stocks a variety of fresh vegetables as well!

I hear the front gate squeaking. I'm out of here! Gotta greet the returning troops.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

What I've been doing all day....

It doesn't seem like a lot. But what matters is the pace. I seem to be slowing down to the speed of my computer -- which is glacial.

Yesterday morning I took a long morning walk with neighbor Bobby. Then I cooked the first big breakfast we've had for a week or more. Larry and I sat and talked!

I washed clothes, going up and down the stairs to the big old laundry room in the basement. It has two concrete basins, one with a washboard built in. I haven't used it, but I did take time to hang some clothes out on a line and fold others carefully after they were in the drier. I even washed my walking shoes, laces and all. I sat and watched Oprah with Larry while I relaced them.

I took time to savor every word as I finished Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses. It is a book meant to be savored. The plot is secondary to what the author evokes of West Texas and Northern Mexico, circa 1949. First installment of The Border Trilogy. May eventually graze through the following two.

I uploaded and arranged pictures from our trip last week to the Botanical Gardens south of Puerto Vallarta. Go have a look at the album by clicking the link to the left: "Susan's Photo Albums." Definitely worth the trip! I've put comments under the photos. Culled the collection down from about a 100 shots to just 30, so you won't get overwhelmed.

Then we went over to our friends Jeanie and Dennis' house, and had grilled dorado and wahoo while we watched the results of American Idol. For that I made guacamole....and I even put on some lipstick. Hey, I still know how to dress up! Wanna see my bright white tennis shoes?