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Painful Lessons from My Past

When I packed up and moved to Colombia I left abuse behind. I had enough of it in my life and I had enough of how it made me feel. I think that I almost felt that it was normal, as I was abused daily as a flight attendant when I worked. Many people are abusive in this world, although  they would never think of themselves that way. I started working as a flight attendant at the age of twenty and my job molded me into a person who accepted bad behavior as normal. I now know I allowed it to spill over into my personal relationships. When a passenger was rude and demanding, I had to accept it and hold my tongue. The customer was always right. Not a favorable way to grow into an adult

Abuse is insidious and can creep up in a relationship; it does not have to be your partner or spouse. It can show up in friendships, with siblings, work, and family. When it starts happening in your life, the natural reaction is to hide it from others and let the world see only the good times, especially in these days of social media. We see photos of everyone we know on the many social media sites. The photos usually  show good times, happiness and fun. I know, I only posted pictures of  happiness for many years in my second marriage. What I have discovered as I look back on my past is this; little events of questionable behavior lead to big events that ruin lives and destroy relationships. Abuse is not just physical, it is verbal and action oriented. By action oriented (besides the obvious physical abuse) I mean deliberately doing unkind things to another or allowing someone else to treat you badly without putting a stop to it. Usually the person doing this has learned this behavior. That is why generations of families continue repeating the same mistakes, and the cycle continues. If you can spot the signs then you can stop the succession. In my case it is too bad it took me so many years to realize that by accepting and allowing these behaviors, I perpetuated continuing this way of life to my children.

The first thing I would say about abuse is Do NOT let anyone invalidate you! If you see or feel something is wrong,  no one has power to negate that, ever. No one else has lived through your exact experiences. And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel. Your feelings are important. Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise, or make you feel small by demeaning you with words or actions. I lived many years allowing the family of my ex to do this to me and to my children as my ex would not stand up to them. Well you know what? I SHOULD have stood up to them right when it started. I have to bear responsibility for allowing it to continue. It was a thorn that stayed under the surface during my entire marriage. There were many times horrible things happened and I should have demanded the perpetrators leave my house and not wait for him to do it. I can’t tell you how many times my daughter was bullied and physically harmed by her step-cousin, all the while the family excused the act. I have always wanted to be the peacemaker, I regret that now. You can be peaceful, but  not wimpy, you should always stand up for what you know is right and correct those who are wrong. I would comfort my daughter and hold anger inside me. That anger still lies dormant, but I have found ways to let go. Writing it down validates my thoughts and helps me see things clearly now that I am out of the situation.

Do not stay in a relationship where you are not valued as number one! When I married for the second time I was quite active in the Catholic Church. One thing the priest emphasized in pre-marriage counseling was the husband and wife need to put each other before anything else, supporting each other’s decisions. My mother and father were always united when it came to my brother and I. If there was a disagreement about something we children never knew. As my children grew up they saw me as the disciplinarian and my husband as the friend who took away any punishment I had commenced. This ate away at my authority and respect, and thus implied I had less significance than him. It caused many problems over the years. If your partner does not support you and you do not support him, then it is time to move on. I wish I had left earlier than I did. I  say to myself now; communication isn’t just an important part of a relationship, it IS the relationship.

Don’t allow fear to keep you with anyone who is an abuser. You are not how others treat you. You are not the horrible things they have said or done to you. You are not the person that hears negative things and takes them to heart, making you question your own sanity. Don’t let anyone discourage you, make you feel self-doubt or try to control you because they want you to do what they think you should do. You are your own shining star! Show the world your star and ignore the negative. When I left my marriage it was this last act that caused it. I was being verbally abused by a drunk who had once again gone back on what the two of us had decided was the right path to take in a family crisis. He again said one thing and then turned around and did another. Words became heated, he came at me and choked me in front of my son, who was a young teen. I fear that he will always carry this image in his mind as he screamed “Mom don’t call the police!” I remember the hands leaving my neck and running to my car where I took photos of the marks. I left and never looked back. Now look where I am 6 years later! I’m starting my business and have reversed my life to become a positive role model to others. That weak woman I was, that woman who allowed herself to be bullied and abused is strong now. I will never again allow any person to abuse me or have someone in my life that I see abuses others. I ended a friendship this year because I saw abuse in a home where I had stayed. Abuse ruins lives,  I know it is not easy for people to pick themselves up and move forward like I have. This is my message to anyone in an abusive situation, seek help through an organization, family, church or synagogue. There are people who will listen and believe you. The abuser usually turns the story around and tries to make YOU look crazy, stand strong with your convictions and don’t worry about what others think, just get away!

Some people will refuse to accept that you are no longer who you used to be – that you’ve made mistakes in the past, learned from them, and moved beyond them. I found that many people did not realize that I had lived in such a difficult situation for years. I encountered many judgmental people I once thought of as friends. They treated me differently when I would go to a social occasion. Who knows what gossip they heard, or why they felt the need to judge me. Maybe they do not understand I have grown and moved on with my life leaving a past that was unhealthy. Do not help them by acknowledging their begrudging behavior. Let go of their negativity, find peace, and liberate yourself! Show them and others you are not that past! Show them you are living in the present and doing just fine! Show them your courage, your fortitude, your love for others. Show the people who have hurt you that you are better than that, show them you are not the person they incessantly said you were. Make your life a glowing example of courage. For all of you suffering silently in a situation that is slowly killing your spirit; you can change it. Just take it one day at a time.

My last thoughts are you have to forgive, no matter how hard it is. Not for them but for you! Let it go. They know what they did, they will think about it in their quiet moments, their own thoughts will be their tormentor. Let that be enough. Let them see you are not the same as them, that you have no need for revenge, just a need to move on and live your life the way it should be lived. I guarantee the respect others will give you will more than make up for the respect you lost for yourself when enduring a situation that you felt helpless in. I am proof of that. I have survived, I will continue to be a survivor.



I dedicate this blog to my best friend Shannon, for without her I would not have made it to the place I am today.

Visit my Facebook page Villa Migelita. I share my daily adventures and zest for my new found life.

I have opened a Bed and Breakfast and you can book to come visit me in Colombia, the land of Magical Realism.


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Colombia: The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay

I have lived in Colombia since April of 2011, and I am always asked “Isn’t it dangerous there?” My short answer is a resounding NO! The internet is full of articles about Colombia by people who do not live here, who have no investment in this country, who write an article based on opinions, hearsay, and old news that is no longer relevant. I am writing this blog from my perspective based on living in this enchanting country. I want to put to rest the damaging notoriety that clouds everyone’s opinion of Colombia. Recently, I had someone really want to come to Villa Migelita but changed their mind because a friend of a friend got robbed coming out of a restaurant in a big city. Let us  give credence to this, even if it is just word of mouth and not necessarily true. How many cities in the USA have robberies and violent crimes every single day? I can name three prominent cities immediately; New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I have been to these cities as a flight attendant. I have spent many layovers exploring and wandering. Did I ever get robbed? No, but the crime rate in these cities are high for just that, robberies, the crime that is most common in Colombia. Break-ins happen all the time in the USA and so do muggings.  Let us not forget the gun related mass murders in the United States and other democratic societies such as France and the recent slaughter of innocent human beings in the Charlie Hebdo massacre, those kind of massacres do not happen in Colombia!  France is one of my all time favorite places to visit, and I would never eliminate Paris from my places to visit due to extremists. I love Paris and all it offers in way of culture and captivating landmarks.  All democratic countries in the world have crime, it is sad but true. In fact, I bet if you really did research you would find Colombia is on the really low-end of this sort of lawlessness.  When I moved here the only thing told to me by family and friends was this: “Do not wear flashy jewelry and to stay away from known unsafe areas.” Colombia is very good about making sure the citizens know these areas, more so than other places I have visited in this world. However, I have frequented some areas deemed unsafe in Colombia and found them completely safe and even met tourists from Europe who are now my friends.  As a retired flight attendant who spent many years shopping and exploring in many  cities around the world, including Spain, Italy, England, Germany,  Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and the USA , the only thing I have ever been told is to carry little and do not be showy! There are spots in every civilized country all over the world that are unsafe, even just around the corner from where I raised my children in Deerfield Beach, Florida. So why the focus on Colombia? Why can’t this beautiful little democracy shake this image? Let’s look at what Colombia does offer and how well their economy is doing. Several articles have been published recently about Colombia being number 8 in the world for retirement. If these esteemed online magazines promote Colombia as a perfect place to retire (believe me it is!) how can it be dangerous?  An article by Yahoo Finance in which I was featured  can be read here. There is no comparison with other countries when it comes to the natural beauty and nature in Colombia, especially when it comes to birds and butterflies.bird 002 Colombia has 20 percent of the bird population in the world, making this country one which has the most species per land mass on this entire planet.  I have hummingbirds year round at Villa Migelita. The same applies to butterflies, again Colombia has the most species in the world.Buga cascada otra vez 110 Colombia is also unique that it offers two coasts the Pacific and the Atlantic, along with the charm of warm inviting people, the rain forest, different climates in different regions, a lot of diversity for such a tiny country. International Living recently put out their list of best places to retire in 2015 and once again Colombia made the list. You can read the article here. This is why the catchy phrase took hold “The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay.” I can honestly say this is what happened to me when I visited for the first time, I decided to stay because of the allure of this beautiful land, still so untouched by man in so many places.Buga cascada otra vez 043

Now the real discussion about dangerous places to live. If you type a search into the internet you will find many articles about the danger of Colombia, most old or not factually correct anymore. Along with that search you will find that the United States is quite dangerous (over 800,000 abductions in the last years) , Mexico which tops many lists of dangerous places to visit just had a horrific crime of students being kidnapped and burned: this article from The Washington Post explains what happened.  Next up on many lists is Brazil, especially the tourist town of Rio De Janeiro where crime and poverty are rampant, yet thousands of people visit all the above countries every year without problem, Brazil hosted the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico is another beautiful country with lovely vacation destinations and people enjoy themselves despite the fact that this county has many unsafe areas. India, South Africa notably Cape Town, Venezuela, Malaysia, Vietnam, Egypt, Israel are also mentioned in articles, yet they are popular tourist destinations. How does Colombia compare with these places?  Colombia has had some abductions in the last year but they were very few (219 reported to the Colombian ministry in 2014 and none were tourists or citizens from other countries) especially when you compare with other spots that people visit without even checking out the crime statistics. Compare Colombia with Mexico which had 1583 the highest rate since 1997, Brazil with over 6,000 and even The United States of America (which the USA calls abductions) with 800,000 in the last years, Colombia is certainly not a place to be fearful of. In fact in most articles I read including the United States government website, the disclaimer of “The kidnap threat in Colombia has improved significantly in the last 10 years, thanks to peace talks between the government and the rebels” which is the FARC. These continuing negotiations hosted in Cuba with Norway as a participant show the future is indeed looking up for a treaty to be signed soon. The most contentious issue is about land and there has been an agreement on that which calls for economic and social development of rural areas and the provision of land to poor farmers. These talks are producing results and the country is seeing these results with the growth of retirees like myself and tourists who are now flocking to visit. Colombians who had left back in the 1980’s are returning to their homeland. The days of drug cartels terrorizing the population are long gone, and Colombia has become a Mecca for backpackers and adventurers from around the world. The Colombian government has the country under control with their vigilant efforts at safety for all the people who live here through the police and military presence.

If you are one of my many followers from my Facebook page Villa Migelita and really want to come to the land of Paradise, you should without worry. There is no danger in the countryside  where I live. Older generation Colombians who still remember the past will say that it is dangerous in the small pueblos outside of the big cities, but the actual truth is  most crime occurs in the cities just like anywhere else in the world, and it is random, just like it is everywhere else. Most middle class Colombians spend their weekends unwinding in the country after working the week in the city. My one lane road up to Villa Migelita is crowded on Sundays as everyone returns to the cities for work.  That is the truth.  A wonderful show to google about the diversity and charm of Colombia is Anthony Bordain in Colombia hosted by CNN. Colombia has landscapes and cultures that are hard to find in countries five times it size. Colombia should be one of the world’s top travel destinations. The climate, the culture, the Amazon, the music, the people, the mountains, the beaches, the incredible beauty is outstanding and unique.  The political violence has subsided substantially throughout the majority of the country and savvy travelers have already flocked here from around the world—come before everyone else catches on! Come visit me at Villa Migelita and let me show you the real Colombia…you will come back again and again because you cannot see enough in just one visit.Buga cascada otra vez 052


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Five Years Later: I’m Not Looking Back

When all is said and done, the last five years have brought me to a place of discovery. I have learned no matter the life we are given we must strive to walk a path that sets an example for others. We must show the world we are vulnerable but strong, loving to all who surround us even when sometimes that love is not returned. We must be fierce to protect our own self-worth, if we do not than how can we expect others to respect us? We must always be kind.  Kindness  shows strength of character; character is what defines you to the world. Without character what are we? We are just another grain of sand in the vast terrain of life. We would not stand out in any way if we follow the opinions and listened to the majority instead of following our own instincts for survival. By survival I mean our own endurance of the life given to us. Of course our lives are not perfect, we struggle every single day with something. We self-talk in our minds about mistakes we have made on our journeys, but the point is this is a journey only we take  so we must make it count.

When I was going through my divorce I had much hate thrown at me, frankly it was awful. I thought life could not get much worse and then my daughter was killed. Life did get worse. All the self-pity I felt from the onslaught of nastiness and alienation, the gossip that always got back to me, meant nothing anymore. I realized that the only thing that mattered was life, and it is very short. With that I chose to walk a path that others did not agree with. I did for myself what I needed to do to heal. Frankly, many did not understand what I chose to do. I had even more innuendos and disapproval thrown at me. I knew what I was doing, and what others thought was not my concern. I and only I knew the facts that were my life. Those facts were not pretty, nor were they fair. They were a big mess and I was not going to live that way anymore. So I left that old life. I had very few who supported my decision, yet today I think all can see it was the right decision for me. The point being I am living the life meant for me, not what others thought my life should be.

When a person does something controversial, something that does not go along with the norms of societal views it is unfortunate that instead of being embraced for being different we are frowned upon.  I needed change from the negativity that surrounded me, and with that change I have found myself. So many people say “I need to find the real me.” But they never do. They search and search but come up empty. I searched and am fulfilling a dream. Will this dream be without mistakes? No of course not. I have made mistakes in the last five years, but they are my mistakes which I will learn from, gain life wisdom and hopefully correct. I will persevere with the knowledge I lived through hell and withstood it. I am in a place now of peace in my soul. I no longer need to push my opinions on others nor be confrontational with those I do not agree with. I have learned to walk away with my head held high from those who try to harm me with words and actions.

My daughter’s death was not in vain as she taught me to live life when she died. Her death gave me strength to change what was a dysfunctional existence that was not doing me nor anyone else any favors. Now I have mended past relationships through perseverance and single-minded knowledge of what I want to carry out. Instead of reacting with anger to others bad behaviors I react with patience. I do not seek their approval, I seek their respect. I show them my real self, the one hidden for so long inside of me.

So here I am five years later leading a life of accomplishment. I would never have thought while raising my children I would one day start a business in South America, that I would speak another language nor foresee I could revise the person I used to be. A person who was fearful of living because life events had broken me. Instead of sinking to the bottom of the ocean and drowning, I swam to the top and took a deep gulp of air and dog paddled until I could swim to freedom. This freedom I feel now is not without sadness, the killer of my daughter walks free, and I still grieve deeply everyday for my daughter. I will always long for the life I lived as my children grew, for those memories that are precious in my heart. I ache inside when I look at old photos of that life long gone now. I will never replace those days, but I will make new memories that will take me to the place I seek. You see life is continuous, we must keep going forward. We must accept that circumstances change and we must do our best to learn from these transitions, even when they are abominable. Today is all we have, because yesterday is gone and we cannot know our future. My future is looking bright, but I will never take it for granted. When someone learns the hard way to live life like I did, we accept bad times and we accept great times, we accept relationships that come to us and accept relationships that leave us. We accept our imperfect selves, and we live the life we have with gratitude. We follow our own path wherever it may lead us.

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