Reflecting on the years past happen a lot lately. The months spent in the Villa as Covid ravaged the world brought to the forefront a lot of thoughts about my age. I found myself remembering times in my life that shaped me and the future I made for myself. So much whirled around in my head as life seemed to be running like a freight train speeding towards some final destination of which I could only guess. Years pass by quickly as we get older, and not so much when we are young. When my dog Marley started declining this past year, I felt the pressure of time take root in my mind. He passed away in December and took many years with him. He had been a constant companion through a lot of upheavals.
I am the same age that I thought was old when my parents were alive. I could always call them for anything I needed; advice, money, babysitting, to hear them tell me they were proud of me and my independence. How is it that I now am the one giving advice? How is it that I see so many of my daughter’s friends with families, buying homes, advancing in their jobs, doing what I did at the same age? It became clear to me during the year 2020 that I was now accelerating in a different direction, towards old age. My granddaughter grew into a teenager; while my son was learning to speak Spanish and help me with my hotel. My years on Earth are no longer passing without hurry but like a parachute falling from the sky.
How is it possible I have lived in Colombia for ten years? I look at photos of when I first arrived in this lovely country, and I see glimpses of the changing years in my appearance. I am no longer a skinny redhead filled with the need to appear more youthful than I am. I am similar to a bird in flight, searching for what will be my next landing place. I have learned to navigate my business, my life, and my thoughts without so much emotion. I don’t hold grudges; I eliminate anyone less than worthy of my time. I have concluded it is nice to be independent and fully capable of a good life which I direct completely. I land like a bird in different spots depending on the day and my needs. It is part of living life with a degree of flexibility. We all need to be flexible during this unusual time of the Pandemic. We also need to be patient. I still try to accomplish being patient, which is a struggle I acknowledge about myself.
Yielding to life’s changes doesn’t make me weak. I can differentiate between what is necessary and what is not. I find my day is not complete without coffee and photography in the early morning while enjoying my birds at the feeders. If I have plans, I give myself enough time to enjoy this part of my day. I have found that a sudden thunderstorm here in the Andes Mountains of Colombia is exciting. I know I have to expect lightning striking nearby, and sometimes so much rain I have to use a squeegee to remove water off the balconies. Sometimes, I need to push my Dogo Argentino, Cash off of me too! He is a big baby when he hears lightning and thunder. I need to exercise almost every day. I am feeling the pains of my youth and the dancing and exercise I subjected my body to. Yoga helps me, especially for maintaining a calm demeanor throughout the day.
My mind thinks like my twenty-something self. I might have more years, but I am still youthful in my thinking. I have many younger friends, and I appreciate what they bring to my life. They have given me the ability to see what an extraordinary life I have designed for myself. They deliver laughs; while giving me a lot of great ideas! I improve my business as they offer me new suggestions, including event planning at my beautiful Villa. I have to continue to grow into this uncertain future during the time of the Covid-19. Life might have changed throughout the past year, but I have adapted.
Finally, I continue to improve my Spanish language skills. I am living in Colombia, my first language of English is not my first language here. I have read learning a new language can keep the mind fresh. I think in Spanish as much as I use my native English now. I continue to grow as a person as much as I continue to march onward in years. I don’t want to be that older woman who longs for the “old days.” What fun would that be? I want to be part of the future of this evolving world. I believe that means that I must adapt, grow, and enjoy life as it is now in 2021. I will continue to refuse a stereotypical role of what some deem correct for a woman my age. I will accept growing older as part of the elegance I have strived to achieve my entire adult life. As I have always said, “I want to look and be the best I can be, no matter my age.”
Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Colombia. I haven’t had a meal filled with turkey, stuffing, side dishes, and desserts in years. The meal is not what is important to me, the thankfulness of this life I have created and what I have accomplished is what I celebrate. Remembrance of mistakes but also blessings have brought me to the place I am at in my life. This year I am especially grateful to have my son with me here in Colombia. Observing through his eyes and words is the best part of a journey I began 8 years ago. He is engaged in living his best life, enjoying the nature that he barely noticed when he first arrived at Villa Migelita Ecolodge in Colombia. He is immersed in nature, Spanish, learning a new language, and he has his puppy Cash. I am witnessing what I have accomplished through his eyes and his delight in the little things that I have enjoyed since living in Colombia.
It is always valuable to view life, especially your own life, from a different perspective. Having my son here has made me appreciate the little things that make a huge difference in living my best life. I am sure when he first arrived it was overwhelming to be surrounded in another culture. He had to get used to being awoken by birds, the sounds of roosters and cows, my parrot Luci who takes delight in going on the laundry roof and staring at him through his window and squawking. Seeing the street dogs asleep on the road, the chickens running by as we drive down the mountain, cows grazing on the side of the road, and horses used as transportation to the high mountain farms only accessible by horse or walking. I see all I am used to in a new light and remembering my first year in Colombia. I am looking at my life again with that special renewal of the first year I lived here.
This day before Thanksgiving in Colombia is filled with the delight of decorating Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I don’t think my son has seen Christmas decorations for many years. The delight on his face as we decorated all the floors of my Villa makes my heart smile. This is Colombia and a life I live in this country filled with many small blessings that have grown into a huge blessings filled with my accomplishments. My Villa is my peace. I have found a way to overcome the sadness I experience from the death of my daughter.
I am entirely independent now in Colombia and all that I struggled with for years. Speaking Spanish was the number one hindrance. I now speak conversational Spanish without a problem. I still have difficulties with complex terms, maybe I will forever. I am grateful that I speak another language. I realize that all people should know two languages, and young parents should insist that their children learn another language. This is their future, more so than any sport or extracurricular activity! Enroll your child in a class of whatever language you want them to learn. Have them practice talking the language with someone. It will be the most valuable education you can give them. I think this could be a family activity, one that you all can participate in. Learn together, practice together. I started learning Spanish at the age of 53!
Obtain a passport for everyone in your family, travel to different cultures. Admire those who speak two languages around you, even if they are not perfect. No one should ever condemn anyone who is learning your language, it is not an easy task. I am 8 years in Colombia and I still struggle with my accent and verbiage in Spanish. I have never had one person criticize me. I have found that I am given many kudos for learning the Colombian language of Spanish. I am often told they are studying English and it is very hard to do. I always say you must speak the language to learn the language. My son is an example of this. He only speaks English with me, and Spanish with everyone else, so he is learning at a quick pace to speak Spanish.
I am grateful for many things, but I still have sadness and heartbreak about other parts of my life. I am always trying to understand why people are cruel without reason (even with a reason, I try to be kind always), and I always live what I believe. I think every person who follows my blog and my social media sites know this is true. I still suffer from sadness about the death of my daughter. Life is not fair, nor is it perfect. We have to make the best of what we are given. I think I am doing that.
When your family gathers this Thanksgiving, let go of Politics, let go of grievances, just let go and let be.
I recently watched a movie on Netflix that reminded me of myself and my life. A girly movie called Falling Inn Love. I haven’t fallen in love with a person, but I have fallen in love with a new country and opened a hotel. I have found that changing my lifestyle and country changed me also. I have a new outlook on how I live my life. So there were definite parallels between myself and the main character of this sweet movie. Although the woman in the movie changed her life and attitude in a short period, it has taken me 8 years. I moved to Colombia without speaking Spanish, and I had to learn to live in a new culture completely different from the United States. This movie made me think about all that has changed in my life, and how I have evolved into the person I am now.
For most of my adult life, I lived and worked with the perception in my head that I was doing what I did to achieve not personal freedom and happiness but to achieve a certain lifestyle I thought was necessary to live a good life. As every human being knows our intentions sometimes take a different turn and we find ourselves in situations that are beyond our control. We find ourselves with problems that pop up unexpectedly, usually not of our own doing. We find ourselves having to fight for what is best and we don’t think of ourselves but of changing others. As I have grown older I have found out to change others is an impossibility. We can only change ourselves. We need to live our best life and let even the most beloved people in our lives see that they must also live their best life too.
Living in the rural country of Colombia is a lifestyle change of a magnitude I never thought possible until I did it and adjusted to the lack of accessibility to ordering a pizza on a whim or running out of an item and just running across the street to the grocery or drug store. Buying everything you need in one place, not going from store to store to complete my errands as I do here in Palmira, Colombia. We have errand days here in Colombia and we have it down to a science now. The years leading up to my now complete organization were difficult. I was not able to do things by myself because I couldn’t communicate well and I was nervous about driving without being able to speak Spanish well. Now I just hop in my truck and go.
Recently my son moved to Colombia to live with me. He, fortunately, doesn’t have to go through what I went through except learning Spanish. He is enjoying complete cultural change without learning hard lessons. He came from the rat race lifestyle that many Americans live to my place of peace filled with the beauty of nature, birds, and animals. He even has a new puppy that he can nurture with love and attention. I am surprised at how fast he is understanding Spanish conversation and speaking some Spanish words! Jovenes, as he is called here in Colombia, learn quickly. We even have a volleyball net set up with all of my friends and family coming to play many afternoons a week. I watch with pleasure as I see him transform into a fun-filled person making friends quickly with all whom I cherish in my life.
Cash the new Dogo Argentino at Villa Migelita Ecolodge
There is an important lesson in this syrupy movie on Netflix that can teach all of us. Stop and take time to enjoy the life you live. Look for pleasure in the little things. Get out and go feel fresh air on your face, exercise more, meet your neighbors, open your curtains up in your house and stop living in darkness all day so you can see the television better, change your diet by actually cooking food instead of ordering from menus online, be kind, stop the political posts on Facebook because you will not change anyone’s mind and put nice moments from your day online, show people how to live their best life!
When you live your best life you live the life you deserve. It might happen quickly, or it might take 8 years as it has for me. I have found myself with a lot of difficulties, but I am the best person I can be. I am fulfilled, I still have problems because that is what life is about, learning to navigate problems and still be a good person. Show by example, stay strong, fight when you need to, and give complete authenticity with all you do. Don’t let others influence who you are. Just be the person you are, and be proud of it!
Some musings from the year 2018 and how I have found patience to be my most valued possession. The year 2018 started off so wonderfully as I was leaving 2017 with success in my business and starting with customers in January. I had new-found independence. I was pleased with the way my Spanish was improving after two men who worked with me had left and I was able to start working with Jazmin. I actually felt comfortable in my home for the first time in years. Working with Jazmin in my business and having her as my assistant, along with her family as a support system totally changed my life.
Then, out of the blue, I was sued by the man I had been working with here in Colombia. He had already been given a liquidation amount for his time working at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. In Colombia, apparently it is OK to sign off on a liquidation agreement as a paid employee, but then sue me again for 1/2 of my Villa. I had paid him a lot of money already and now I had to hire a lawyer to fight this ridiculous lawsuit. In the meantime, I had hired another man to work with me. He left without notice and broke his contract. The first man who was suing me had not done any work with my customers or on the farm for over two years and was just living here, even though I had asked him to move out. I fired him with the help of the second man and a lieutentant of police here in Colombia. I will always appreciate them, and I didn’t mind the second man breaking his contract as this forced me to change myself and my attitude of needing help with driving, translating, and dependence on others. The first man lost the lawsuit and was forced to pay court fees, and he also had to pay me for some of his things left at my house for over a year and a half. So out of this situation I found self-sufficiency.
I began chatting with my son again this year. I have found it very frustrating that through many attempts to make peace with my son, my ex-husband has found a way to hide truth from me and sabotage our relationship. My son who is an adult now also has to accept responsibility for keeping things from me, and he is old enough to know that I have always been a good mother, and someone who has his back. We were supposed to go on a cruise together in March, I even trusted his word enough to buy tickets for this cruise which he cancelled on me out of the blue. This cruise was the beginning of another bad episode. I brought my very best friend of many years with me on the cruise and met lovely people and enjoyed all three days. Before the cruise I spent a week with my grandchild. She was different also. Before when I would visit she was a delight and filled with joy and happiness. This time she was very withdrawn, quiet and even had an episode of extreme sadness and anger, asking why she couldn’t go with me on the cruise, who did she belong to and more. I had no answers as her other family told me they didn’t have her birth certificate, which I offered to get for Amaya. It is quite simple. I was then told they didn’t know her social security number, nor did they have papers for who had custody of her. In other words, they lied to me. They also didn’t tell me they gave Amaya away to a family Misha knew from her school years. Yes, I found this out later. I didn’t realize it is legal to just give a child away. It is in Florida. It is not legal to collect my daughter’s social security death benefits and not use them for Amaya, which they are explicitly meant to go to. I found this out also.
I met someone on the cruise the very last night and he seemed quite nice. He knew my friend from high school so I gave him more trust than I usually would with a new man. I realize now this friend new he was a con man, a loser and someone who doesn’t even have his own home. He was living at my friend’s house which he said was temporary because they needed help with a hotel they own on Hollywood beach. I visited with my friend and had no reason to believe anything was untrue as my friend didn’t tell me that he was in dire straights and they were helping him out. He came to visit me here in Colombia and brought gifts, paid for everything we did, and was quite charming. I had no reason to believe he was after me because of my hotel or what he assumed I had. I made plans to visit Amaya in June and see him again. My plans to see Amaya were thwarted. I was not allowed access to my granddaughter and this man put me in the hotel on Hollywood beach in a tiny little room and said he would upgrade to another room as soon as it was ready. I was miserable. I live in a mansion here in Colombia. This room was about the same size as my office here. The internet was spotty and I was sad to be in the same State as my granddaughter and not be able to see her. I also didn’t have a car because this con man was supposed to let me use his. I was very unhappy and cried for a day off and on. He dumped me, thank God! However, I stayed in Florida and rented a car and lived at different places waiting to hear from my lawyer about an emergency hearing in front of a judge, which did not take place. So I spent money I didn’t have, and it was a total disaster. Including seeing my son, which was not a great encounter either. As I am trying to find positivity in everything that happened this year, I will say that living in Colombia is the best thing I have ever done for myself. I am at peace here and I have many great friends and my business is fun also. I meet new people and enjoy new friendships.
Meanwhile, through all of this drama I found out I had a rare condition called CAM in both hips and would need surgery. I had to live in Cali, Colombia for one month after the surgery and I lost a lot of business because I was unavailable during the best months of August and September. I also had to do therapy full-time and could not participate in the many activities we offer at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I have great insurance here, and I didn’t have a lot of medical expenses, but I did have to pay for two households. I had Jazmin with me in Cali and I had her sister staying at my place in the mountains. To say I was thinking about that disastrous trip to Florida and the unnecessary money I spent is an understatement. The positive part about my surgery is this: I am completely healed, I had the wonderful support of my friends and of Jazmin and her family, and I can now participate in all activities offered at my hotel. I find that my clients like for me to accompany them, which I really enjoy also.
I had to also have a lot of work done on my Villa this year, more hits financially. When I returned to my Villa I was so happy to be back but was still dealing with the work being done and doing my physical therapy. However, I found myself enjoying my life so much because that short time I lived in Cali, Colombia made me appreciate how peaceful my Villa is, along with being a perfect temperature year round. I found myself relishing my time writing, watching my hummingbirds, Neotropical birds and enjoying the cool breezes that pervade throughout the house. I end the year feeling exhausted from having no contact with my granddaughter, the people who have her don’t let her call me, nor does Amaya have a phone number I can reach her at. I have been speaking regularly with my son, and I was feeling positive about that, but that ended recently when my ex-husband became involved. My son was supposed to come here and live for a while. I was really happy about that. Then I had a phone call with my ex and he gave me a list of demands that CJ needed, and frankly I found this quite absurd because my son is a grown adult and in our conversations we had discussed some things he would like and I would be able to accommodate him with them. I had also discussed how we live here in Colombia. We live quietly and peacefully. We live normal hours of going to bed at night at decent times, and getting up in the morning at normal hours. We are a place of order. Even the dogs know their schedules. I explained this to CJ and he was fine with that. I wanted him to start college online and would give him some outdoor chores that my gardener would oversee. I tried to explain to my ex-husband how to get a Visa for CJ so I could put him on my health insurance. I also asked if I could send Amaya a Christmas gift to his house as I am unable to communicate with her anymore. This is when it got ugly. My ex used Amaya as a way to blackmail me and to make me listen to his demands. I am no longer married to him, nor do I approve of the way he has raised CJ. He did the same thing with CJ when we divorced, it is called parental alienation. He is doing this with Amaya now. He knows she was given away, he is the executor of her estate, so he knows that Amaya is not getting the death benefits of our daughter Misha. He should be concerned about this, and he should take action that the money is used for Amaya only. So he ended hanging up on me, my son will no longer talk with me again, and I don’t know if my granddaughter received her Christmas gift which I know arrived at their home.
So I have decided Amaya will someday contact me when she has control over her life. She must be so sad that she is not chatting with me. I can’t imagine what is going on in her mind if adults are saying bad things about me. It is so damaging psychologically. I know this because it was done to my son. Many think I abandoned my son because that is what my ex husband said to everyone, it is not true. Now my granddaughter who has loved and adored me is being kept from me. Living in Colombia has made me realize that even when I am super sad, I can find joy in the little things around me. I am starting the New Year off with a houseful of guests here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge . I am busy, my hips are healed and I have Jazmin and her family as my family. Sometimes, we just have to accept the bad things people do to us and get on with our lives. That is what I have done since my daughter died. I am filled with joy every single day because we have a sweet new puppy Kira. She has been a light in the darkness that has followed me this year.
Kira has learned quickly because my other dogs are seniors. She follows their examples, and therefore is quite calm. She sits when they sit, she sleeps with Orion when he sleeps. She eats when they eat, and is quite orderly with learning potty training. She has really surpassed all my expectations of bringing a baby into the house with older dogs. The one who accepted her unconditionally was Orion. The others have followed suit because Orion is teaching her to be calm. She has been disciplined by the other two dogs a few times and has learned to not wake them up, bite them and to sit quietly by them if she wants them to be her friends. She is an exceptionally intelligent dog, her breed is Dogo Argentino. She goes places with all of us here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. She is leash trained and loves attention from everyone.
Orion plays with her, and is so gentle. He has taken her as his own. I am so overjoyed by this, because he is 9 years old and I wanted him to train her to be just like him. She even follows him out when he barks at noises. She is learning from a pro! He is the most patient and loving father Kira could have.
So I end this year with jubilance in my heart. I have let go of the difficult year of 2018 and have a good plan for my future in 2019. I am going to let go and let be. I have learned since the death of my daughter and even the years before her death, we can only control ourselves. What others do is their decision. We all have free will. I choose to be kind, peaceful, and forever hopeful to have my relationship returned to normal with my beloved granddaughter and my son. Amaya cannot control her situation, but someday she will be able to. She will have all of our many memories made together during my times with her. She will never forget them, even if others tell her differently. I believe my son has all those memories in his heart too. I know he knows the truth about what happened during my divorce and Misha’s death. I will be covering all of that in my upcoming book. I will leave nothing out. I am going to write it down for both my son and my granddaughter. If they have been told one thing by me it is to never lie, to be strong and to show people who you are by the way you live your life. I live my life now that I am free of a bad marriage in a way that exemplifies who I am. I am transparent and without any kind of subterfuge. I want to share this with everyone. I want my lifestyle to show who I am. The unacceptable actions of others are theirs to bear.
I wish everyone who follows my blog a very Happy New Year 2019. I wish for all who have had a bad year to begin anew, just like I am going to do. Leave the past behind and head into the future with love and peace in your hearts.
I recently went to see Bohemian Rhapsody here in Colombia, South America. I did not know a lot about Freddy Mercury’s history, or upbringing. I had to read a lot about him before going to the theater to see this marvelous movie in Spanish (I was a bit worried about my Spanish but I understood everything). He was an amazing talent, a true genius. I was young when he became famous, and to be honest his music was what I liked to dance to. I didn’t care about his personal life, and in reality I preferred music that was not Rock as I was a Disco loving girl. His music captured people like me, people outside of his genre, people who were not Rock fans, but who loved a good beat. This is where his true gift showed itself. Everyone could value and appreciate his talent, even those like me who enjoyed a different style of music. I am listening with new interest to all the songs that made him famous.
I love to watch the sunset at night here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge while listening to music. The other night I was listening to Stevie Wonder sing Ribbon in the Sky. How interesting to think this man who is also an inspiration to all, just like Freddy Mercury, sings about sunsets. He cannot see what he is singing about but I felt like he was seeing the sunset with me as I sat watching the sun go down. This is when I realized that life is a gift to all of us no matter our limitations. We all share heartbreak, it might not be the same, but we all share that shattered heart in some way. With that realization, I believe that Thanksgiving is truly a time to be grateful for what we do have in our lives that is good, that is of value, how our lives can change in a moment and we should appreciate anything that brings us blessings.
We alone have the ability to move forward in our lives, even when the situations around us are bringing us down. We are not without distractions that throw us off path, but we can always redirect ourselves forward again by staying positive and persevering with determination. I find myself thinking about these sorts of things when I watch the sun go down while listening to music. Music is a great healer, and for me has always been a way to help when I have a bad day. Music is always playing at Villa Migelita Ecolodge, often Spanish music which helps me with my Spanish-speaking. Speaking a new language is an obstacle that I have overcome, one I should give myself credit for. We should give ourselves kudos when we accomplish great things. Learning a new language and becoming very independent here in Colombia is an achievement I am quite proud of. I drive alone to do errands now, I run into friends and speak in Spanish easily if not perfectly to all. I write to my friends on Whats app chat in Spanish and have an active social life filled with new friends from this different phase in my life. This to me is a blessing, one I have worked eight years to achieve, along with running a hotel in the rain forest of Colombia.
Many thought I was crazy and perhaps I was a bit erratic when I moved to Colombia. After all, I was still recovering from my daughter’s murder and a horrible divorce. In my mind Colombia was only a 3 1/2 hour flight from South Florida. I knew I could obtain great healthcare and live well. I didn’t take into account that many people still felt Colombia was unsafe, nor that I was actually isolating myself from many people by moving. I found out that there were many who disapproved when I returned for a retirement luncheon and found myself being given the cold shoulder by people I had known and loved for many years. I was still very overwhelmed with grief, and in actuality I was a different person from the one these old friends knew in the past. I was beaten down inside. I will never forget that luncheon and how I felt like a deer in the headlights. As the years have progressed and I have made a life for myself here high in the Andes mountains of Colombia, I no longer feel that sense of insecurity I felt that day surrounded by all the people I had grown up with as a young flight attendant. I feel blessed. It turned out I made the right decision for myself, even if others didn’t understand. It was my destiny, and who would know that I would need such a rare surgery that would have cost so much money in the United States. The great healthcare I have here was such a wonderful blessing this year and I have healed quite successfully from my hip surgery.
When I was watching the movie of Freddy Mercury I was struck by the loneliness he felt, it was subtlety presented but I picked up on it. I have felt that same loneliness myself. A loneliness brought on by being different. When you don’t follow the norm, people will find a reason to be critical. I now try to accept when people are not what I expected them to be, when they hurt me, when I am let down. I am surrounded by peace, nature, beauty, and wonderful friends here in Colombia. I found a beautiful spot to heal from great tragedy. When I am out doing errands, I am always thinking just this one last thing and I can go back to my Villa and enjoy the wonderful place I alone am responsible for making a place of comfort and joy. One I share with guests who come to stay with me, and become friends with new people from all over the world. I recently had a young couple who are also doing what they want with their lives, and doing it while young and healthy. They wrote about my hotel in this blog. I was so flattered, because they captured in their writing and their fabulous photos Villa Migelita Ecolodge perfectly.
My greatest reason to be thankful this year is that when I think of my daughter now, I think of her watching the hummingbirds with me, or hearing the rain fall, or watching the fog move in and then move out over the mountains. I feel her presence in all the symmetry of nature that surrounds me.
What a week, a week of self discovery and a week of acknowledgement about the reality of my life. I’m on a journey that I didn’t expect to take. As I look in the mirrors of the various places I have stayed I’ve found a resilience that is ingrained inside the makeup of the person I am. I myself didn’t even know how strong I am until this week of wandering from place to place, like a homeless person. I’ve rediscovered that grief I felt when Misha passed. I am right here where my granddaughter is, and I haven’t seen her. I’m her link to her deceased mother, and she is my link to my deceased daughter. We need each other.
One of my dearest friends had some people over when I stayed at her house while on this “homeless tour of friend’s houses ” and she point-blank asked me “how do you survive all of these things that are so gut wrenching awful?” She made me think about my innate character. What does get me through such pain, while others would curl up and leave life by escaping through drugs, alcohol or depressive behavior? As I’ve moved from place to place I’ve been finding answers.
I’m really loved by a lot of people. Funny thing is they are people I’ve collected along the way on this voyage of life. The list of true friends seemed to grow smaller as I’ve grown older: while in actual fact it has grown larger. I just didn’t know because my focus was on my survival. I refuse to let the actions of other people change me. I know the difference between right and wrong, I know that it sometimes takes a lot of patience to achieve a goal, whatever that goal may be. Such as my own hotel, it is still growing and I might never see it succeed completely but I won’t give up. I know it is wrong to give a child away, no matter your life circumstances, and I might not have seen my granddaughter Amaya this time, but when I do I will explain to her this is not normal behavior.
I’ve found out I don’t like being a vagabond, I’m a person who likes order even when traveling. I’ve been dragging my suitcases into many homes this trip. I didn’t expect this, and because I needed to hire an attorney in this emergency situation I had to ask people for help. They all stepped up and I have reconnected with people I was long overdue to see, including my son. As I met up with everyone I was discovering they all have advice for me, and I have listened. I’ve laughed more than I have in a long time, and I’ve talked and have been given validation for my concerns. I’ve snuggled with my mother’s former caregiver who embraced me like she always did when she was at my house all the time. She made me smile with stories of CJ and Misha. Her son made the best fried chicken I’ve ever had and she pressed my shirt before I left because she didn’t want me to have on a wrinkled shirt. Little acts of love, and kindness that have brought joy back to my shattered heart.
My friend who asked me the question about how I get through life, made me giggle with memories too. Reminiscing about those memories of my children’s childhood was so wonderful. I realized and told her the same, I suppress my grief by not thinking about these bad things I can’t change. I also try not to think much about how I have a murdered daughter, and now a granddaughter who is being alienated against me. I have patience and I feel my lawyer Howard Friedman will prevail. It’s that simple and it works for me. I’m not sure if it’s healthy, but I’ve accomplished a lot even in all the adversity. So I guess my advice to others is, do what helps you. Because if you are not healthy, you will not be able to help anyone else.
My former nanny’s and my daughter’s best friend Destiny hold such special significance to me. Maybe it is my destiny that they are my children, along with my Jazmine who lives with me in Colombia. I’m certainly treated as if I’m their mother along with being given advice and a bit of typical behavior as I’ve watched them grow into lovely and loving young women. They delight my soul with the way they have chosen different life paths. They also give me something I really need, they let me feel like a mother to daughter’s. I was never able to complete my time with Misha, but I have them. I love them and love is truly what life is about. Especially, Gaby, and her little precious son. The last stop before I go back to my simple, minimalist life in Colombia. She has little chickens she hatched for her son.
If any of these wonderful young women are most like me, it would be Gaby. She has house chickens and she is as unique and free-spirited as I am. Look at her in her boots! She never stops cleaning the house, just like I did for so many years. When I told her that I no longer need to do this in Colombia, she said good for you. You have found a life that is working for you.
She is right, I have found a life that works for me. Anyone who tries to demean or speak negative about my life and what I’ve accomplished are not worthy of an answer. I’m unique, I’m a survivor, and I will continue to share my thoughts because there are many of you who follow my blog that need to see you can get up and keep going even when life deals you blow after blow. I still have that smile on my face no matter what. The journey continues and at some point in time mine will be peaceful, without drama brought from others. Until that time, I am going to take in lessons that others teach me and use them to better myself.
Just like the branches of these raspberries growing in the wild, or me in front of this tree with extensions that are contorted, life has so many connections that intertwine. I have found that these connections do not happen by accident. Especially with my new love. How much my life has been changing since I met Avi that fateful night on my cruise to the Bahamas. I know all who follow my blog know I believe in the Universe directing our life paths. Now if only others can follow their life paths and know when something happens that is good, they should embrace it and use the opportunity to better themselves. I find myself getting so stressed when I return to the United States. It is hectic, it is full of people who want to cause harm to others for no reason, including me. I am going to try to come over more often because of my new love. I have made it clear I do not want to live in the United States full-time ever again. I do not like it there anymore.
Why? Because the people are mean, they are without any kind of patience, they do things I do not understand. I live so peacefully. I have no quarrels with anyone here in Colombia. I enjoy my guests, I enjoy my animals, I enjoy the nature surrounding me. I have my routine. I like it. When I come to Florida all gets twisted. I don’t desire this nor want it. I want to live in peace with those I love. I wish others could learn to live peacefully. Maybe a visit to Villa Migelita Ecolodge and Colombia could help? I know living the way I do has left me with very little patience for those who seek to harm others.
Hammocks or hamacas in Spanish is a way to ground myself. I just look up at the sky and meditate. I talk to the Universe. I find a lot of answers. Now I am waiting for answers to what I always try to do. Help. When I see wrong I will not let it go.
This blog is a follow-up to my blog about finding love when I least expected it, I was astonished by all the outpouring of support that was sent my way when I wrote about the surprise of meeting someone special. So take a moment and read this blog first before you continue on.
Life is like a river, it flows one way and then it sometimes changes directions. I compare my life to a river often. I believe I have lived two lives in this lifetime. One was as a mother to my children, and the next life started when I decided to move to Colombia after Misha was murdered. It was not an easy decision and I carry a lot of guilt for leaving, but I have found that you cannot control destiny. Everyone has free will, even our children. I have not stopped thinking about my past life, I really wouldn’t want those memories to be gone. Cherished memories. So I accept I have had two separate lives. Both have had wonderful times, and terrible times. We do have many chances in life, even if those chances cause pain to us in other ways. My choice to move has been wonderful for healing, but whenever I go to the United States the past rears its head. Always so dramatically. I left that, I don’t want the drama, I don’t want the pressure of trying to be the best at whatever it is anyone is trying to be the best at, I don’t want that life anymore. So I need to write about how strange I felt this last time I visited the United States after two years.
The night I met Avi was special because of things I have found out since this fateful encounter. First of all, and I mention it in the blog you need to read first, I asked him to dance. I say this because apparently it is still not a common occurrence for a woman to ask a man to dance. I have been told this by Avi and by my friends also. This shows you I live differently in the jungle of Colombia. We dance here when we have parties at our homes. I ask anyone to dance and this includes my women friends. We just dance. It is that simple. So, what do I mean by this? Avi found it delightful that I approached him and said do you want to dance? I was so amazed by that, which will show that I have become more innocent since living in Colombia. I don’t think nor know about any of the things that could be socially inept. I just live. I have deliberately isolated myself, and with that comes social incompetence. But I do have a lovely and simple existence. I am successful to a degree with my hotel Villa Migelita Ecolodge, and I am very happy to be alone with just me. I might be writing my book, or I might be photographing the nature I am so accustomed to, or I might be studying the Spanish I am still struggling with. I think many people would not like my uncomplicated life, but for me it is perfect. I like being alone. I like my own company, and I love nature and my animals. A perfect combination for me.
Let me say a bit about Avi , he is a person of great integrity. He knows what he wants in a woman and has been looking for someone for a while. I can’t say the same about me. I am flawed, and imperfect to a great degree. I have not been looking for anyone. I changed when my daughter was murdered. I just don’t care what anyone thinks, says or wants from me. I am truly and completely direct with everyone. So this probably makes me a bit unusual. Avi says it is a great thing, I am not so sure. I will say this relationship has gotten better with distance and the wonderful world of being able to talk and see each other through social media. I am way too uninhibited in my thoughts, but to someone like Avi this is a good thing. He finds it refreshing, unusual and to use a word my mother always called me : unique. I am that for sure.
That night Avi and I met we danced and I found out the next day the earring I wore of Misha’s that I had in my second ear-piercing was gone. I was devastated. I had already lost one earring from when she had passed that I took from her body before she was cremated. This earring her best friend gave me without knowing I had been wearing another earring and had lost it. I remember her saying I only have one when she handed it to me. When I woke up and I realized the earring was gone and there would not be another earring to replace it, I was sad. Here is a video of my television interview in Baton Rouge when I was trying to get a trial for my deceased daughter. You can clearly see the earring that I lost the night I met Avi, Gabrielle had given it to me the night before my interview. That morning when I left the cruise ship I felt I left a part of Misha behind at sea.
Now as time has passed and Avi is coming to see me this week, I am beginning to think there was a reason for the loss of the earring. Maybe it is time for me to move on with my life. Maybe I have a future, because I haven’t really looked at my life as having one. I have just lived one day, one step, one moment at a time. The loss of this second earring; maybe it is a message to me from Misha to allow myself to love again, to let go of her, to begin fresh.
Avi has his work cut out with me. I am surely different which he discovered the first night we met. I am also an innocent in this world now. I didn’t turn hard from the lack of justice, I turned inward. I often feel that I can never trust anything again. This man killed my daughter, yet the judge gave him the correct sentence and then she suspended it. She even acknowledged the thousands of letters she received to give him jail time. She didn’t. I felt so betrayed. I withdrew into myself even more.
I had not had a real date with a man in a long time, so when I had lunch with Avi I was nervous and socially awkward. I then had dinner with him later that evening after I missed my flight back to Colombia and I felt like an alien from outer space. I looked around and every person had their phones out and no one was interacting with each other. I don’t do that here in Colombia. I use it for communication, and some of my social media work sites. I remember looking around at a lot of noise and lights, and feeling very uncomfortable. I can’t imagine that I even kept up a normal conversation with Avi. But now since I have returned to Colombia we have such profound discussions, and I am slowly learning to trust him.
I have made it clear to Avi I am difficult to understand, I sometimes appear cold, unreachable. That I like being alone. I don’t need to have anyone entertain me, nor do I need to be out and in crowds. I am never unkind purposely, but I am distant sometimes. It is who I am now. He accepts this about me, in fact he loves this about me. My directness.
He will be here for Mother’s Day, a day I really find so distressing. He says we shall go out and celebrate you as a mother, you are a mother and deserve to be admired as one. I hope I can enjoy the day with him. He is certainly kind and thoughtful, and I believe he truly loves me, even with my baggage.
Stay tuned, the future is in front of me, but as usual I live my life one day at a time. Some days are not so great, while others are beautiful and full of hope.
In order to be free we have to be willing to think for ourselves, learn for ourselves, and to live our lives as our real true selves. Being free is when you are able to get past others opinions, when you are able to make decisions on what is best for you based on what is happening in your personal life, and not worry about what others may think, say or do. Being free is making choices that might not conform to a standard expected by a majority of people, but following your instincts and persevering no matter how many obstacles you may encounter. This is why some people are successful and others are not. I have found that quitting is not an option for me. The strength I have obtained because of stumbling blocks in my journey is invaluable. I thought the one thing I lost when I moved to Colombia was independence, but in actuality I have gained it. As I progress on this journey, I learn more about myself and what I am capable of. I am able to do what I need to do to secure a life filled with my passion for nature and animals.
The gorgeous woman you see has been my friend for almost 40 years. She came to visit Villa Migelita a couple of years ago with our other sidekick from the 1980’s Janet. She wanted her husband to see what I have done after such tremendous loss(the death of my daughter) in my life. Their visit has been another turning point for me. Before they arrived I had a lot of upheaval here in Colombia. I have handled it well, but it hasn’t been easy.
Elaine’s husband Marshall was very impressed that I had started a hotel, could speak Spanish and was accomplishing so much while still learning a new language and culture. He is the kind of person who offers sound advice and has a very kind way of saying things that I found comforting, even when it was constructive criticism. I don’t often speak about the things that have gone wrong while living in a new country, because so much has been right I don’t want to dwell on the times I have struggled. However, I haven’t really had many people say to me ‘”hey you’re doing a great job!” In fact, hardly anyone says much as I move forward each day with my growing business. I have a proclivity to self talk negatively to myself since my daughter died. I try not to, but to be honest I do. So when someone I didn’t know said he couldn’t believe what I had done here with my life and my business, I was delighted to have someone validate the strenuous undertaking of creating a hotel in another country. He also said the entire time I should have Netflix come and do a documentary on my life. I have been featured in Yahoo Finance and International Living, all because I reached out to them. So maybe I will start reaching out to other venues to see if they are interested.
Colombia has agreed with me. I know many still judge why I left the United States after my daughter was murdered. If you are really interested go back to the beginning of my blogs and read. It was a dreadful time in my life and I just couldn’t make any progress, I felt my personal growth was gone. I made some difficult choices. That is all we can do in troublesome situations. We should be the first priority for our well-being. If we are not, then we can’t show a good example to our children, family or friends.
I keep plugging away with my business. I have had a couple of people work with me, but I have been the one driving the business forward with my social media sites that publicize how Colombia really is. Me alone. I have done this, and I am not really that great with these things, but somehow I have figured out how to do more than I thought I could. I have created a following of people who never knew how wonderful and beautiful Colombia is. The days of old are gone, and Colombia is thriving. The government is really focusing on the tourism industry. So all the hard work I have done over the years I have been living here is starting to pay off. People from all over the world are discovering what a bio-diverse and gorgeous country Colombia is.
So with the lovely words of my friends husband inside my head still, I am feeling pretty good about my life in general. I have learned to deal with unpleasant situations without allowing them to affect my daily life. I know I can handle anything anyone wants to throw at me, I will catch it and throw it back. I will no longer allow others problems to change my way of thinking, I will continue to be the person I am. Yes, I am kind, I am compassionate, and I am strong. Perhaps, the only thing that has happened from my struggles here is that I am less trusting. I am losing that vital part of myself. I have found it is not in my best interest to be trusting, as I have been taken advantage of. Lessons learned and filed away for now.
So I will continue on with my love of Colombia being shown to all. If Colombia has changed it’s image from a turbulent past, so can I. I can become the best person I can be while living a life in Paradise. You see I know Misha is with me in every endeavor I undertake even the ones that are really difficult. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do make goals for myself that I try to follow, this year is to let go of fear. Ever since Misha died I have that fear thing inside of me. I am always waiting for another horrible situation to arise. I have to stop that. I have not allowed her death to stop me from creating what I have. I have to stop the negative talk and start the positive talk inside my head. I need to be proud of what I have accomplished and continue to achieve.
So with that I am going to do my best to make Colombia a great tourist destination known around the world for nature lovers like myself. I am going to continue my journey of living in the now. I am going to be the free spirit I have always been, but I lost for a little while after my daughter’s death. I am going to try to say I am happy, because I really don’t say that much. I do say I love my life, but I have had trouble with that happiness thing. It seems elusive still, but I am working on it.
Oftentimes people wonder what exactly adventure travel is. According to Wikipedia “Adventure travel is a type of niche tourism, involving exploration or travel with a certain degree of risk (real or perceived), and which may require special skills and physical exertion. … Other rising forms of adventure travel include social and jungle tourism.”
This definition is true, but it can be modified to any age group wants and needs. At Villa Migelita we get such a variety who seek the excitement and experiences that are not found in many tourism spots in this world. We constantly look and find new places to bring our guests so they can see life in nature in the Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
Yesterday we took our guests into the jungle to look for parrots. They had specifically asked us for activities that were off the beaten path and different. Above you see the parrots that flock every single day over my Villa to go down to lower altitudes and then they return to the pine trees really high in the area called Hueco Frio in La Buitrera del Palmira. We entered the jungle in my truck a 4 x 4 Toyota that is very strong, and very adaptable to climbing the great heights we obtain here in the mountains of Valle del Cauca, Colombia. Take a look at the video of just one breed of the many we have in the mountains. It was magical and extremely fascinating to watch and hear the beautiful sounds they make as they fly overhead in the hundreds and roost in the pine trees for the evening. You have to arrive right at sunset to see these beautiful Macaws, or any of the other of the parrot species getting ready to sleep until they depart early the next day to go down and eat fruit off of our many fruit trees in Colombia.
We then climbed higher to see El Chalet a house built many years ago during the war but is now a wonderful place to view the Valle del Cauca and see many other species of birds. To get to the parrots you have to travel directly into the jungle and the road is narrow and not paved. We cross streams, and one side is a the view of the Valle del Cauca and the other side is the mountain that the road winds around. Quite steep, and you have to be ready for a bumpy ride.
In this photo at night you can see a peek of how the chalet had beautiful arches and great design once long ago before it became abandoned and now is a place to bring tourists for sightseeing. We were not disappointed: as we drove up there was a large Fawn breasted Tanager sitting on a fence post. For your information we were at an altitude of between 7000 to 8000 feet above sea level, or around 2.500 meters.
I could not get a good photo because it was getting dark, but we sure enjoyed the views and sounds of all the parrots and other night birds that call each other. Then off we went in the dark through the jungle back down the winding bumpy steep mountain trail.
This is what the side of the road looks like and you can see a peek of the full moon
As we slowly ventured back down we had our eyes peeled for the famous Barrenquero bird of this region. We were going very slow as they come out at night and often land right in front on the road to catch an insect. It was a full moon so we had light from the truck headlights and the beautiful moon. Then the truck just quit. No reason that we could think of because we keep the truck in tip-top shape. It had just been checked out by our wonderful local mechanic and was given a thumbs up just a week before. So there we are in the middle of the jungle, and stopped in darkness. No signal on my cell phone, my business associate did have data and was able to use Whatsapp. Then along comes our friend on his motorcycle and he quickly got in contact with our mechanic who would come up on his motorcycle. Remember, only motorcycles or 4 x 4 can travel here. As we waited I had looked at the time the truck stopped and until we would be fixed and on our way again. I was just curious as one of my last visits in the USA I had a rental car that did the same thing, and it took over 3 hours to get the help.
As we waited a truck came up with some older men. They stopped because that is how it is here in the mountains of Colombia. Everyone helps each other. They decided to try to jump-start the truck! Myself and my two lovely guests said “No, we are getting out!” Remember it is dark and we are going downhill on a bumpy road! This did not work, and the road was so narrow the jumper cables were not going to be able to be used. Meanwhile, more of my friends had been contacted including one of my dearest friends who does have a 4 x 4 also. Help was on the way! As those who are adventure travel enthusiasts know, this is all part of the experience. Also, everyone knows your car can break down anywhere in the world. But to break down in total darkness in the jungle was certainly exciting and also educational. Educational because many people think Colombia is dangerous. This story describes the actual reality of how Colombian people are wonderful, and the safety of Colombia should not be questioned now.
The local mechanic came with a new battery to replace my battery which I had just bought not even 3 months before. He determined it was the combination of the 4 x 4, the extra headlights I have in front between the headlights called explorers and the drag on the engine. We got the car up and running in 1 hour from the very beginning. Our mechanic followed us down to the local pueblo Arenillo where they were having a fun festival of the fish trout, called Feria de la trucha de Arenillo. We stopped and bought carne a la llanera a specialty of this area. We bought for all the people who helped us especially the family of my mechanic. They are really good people.
Then we went on our way after my guests toured the festival bit, and my mechanic waited and followed us. My best friend showed up with his truck and we said “thank you we are on our way, gracias a dios!” We just had a few more miles to get to at Villa Miglelita Ecolodge.
We were going to drive the truck down first thing in the morning to get the new battery back and go on another adventure. Aiyiyi. The moment we left and started to climb the truck died again. Armando came right back and they determined a belt was broken, and he brought a member of his family to take us up to my Villa. The truck stayed with him.
Now we get to the comedy of errors. It was ok up until now. We had adventure, we had my friends meeting my guests at Villa Migelita Ecolodge, we had not much inconvenience, just a little waiting. The car that came was so old and little, I have no idea what kind it was, but all cars are older here. It made it up to the steepest part and stopped. We had to get out and walk the rest of the way to Villa Miglelita. I am still laughing from this last part, although it was scary too.
He turned around and went down the mountain as our adventure continued. The full and very beautiful moon was as bright as any flashlight. We were almost to the Villa and in the road we see three cows, alas but one was a bull. Now I know I say how friendly the cattle are here. Well, this bull was in the middle of the road head down, ready to charge. Us women ran to the side of the road next to the cows. My business associate is yelling at the bull to leave, clapping hands and more. Then a motorcycle came by. The driver asked “este tauro es bravo?” I said very loudly “si bravo y necisito tu ajuda!” He turned around and with my business associate scared that bull back to the property it lives at. Someone had opened the gate, as a prank, but it was not funny!
We arrived home and just laughed and laughed at the events as they unfolded. This is life in Colombia, this is the life I live. This is what I enjoy. Even while we were looking at the mountain and trees to climb to get away from the angry bull.
My guests are still talking of the wonderful time they had even with the all the complications that arose. They said it was the time of their life. So now today we are off on a horseback riding adventure. Remember we give you what you ask for and sometimes more than you ask for at Villa Migelita Ecolodge!