The Covid Pandemic has changed everything for those of us in the tourism industry. There have been many times in my life filled with crises; I don’t know how I withstood them, except with a strength of spirit I developed over a lifetime. After the tragedy of my daughter’s death, I found myself living in Colombia. I know my mother would have supported me with this life-changing event if she were alive because she is the woman behind my strength. As the world opens up again, I wish her guidance as I contemplate what will happen next on my journey in another country. When I first arrived in Colombia in 2011, it was still considered a dangerous country for only the most ardent adventure travel enthusiasts. Now, this tiny country has overcome its unsavory past and developed into an adventure travel destination for people worldwide. But as Colombia has opened up, the tourists haven’t followed as they did before the coronavirus. Will nature travel be the next big thing?
As I live my life, my mother is always hovering nearby in my memories. My love of animals and nature is an intrinsic part of my being because she loved both. My brother and I were surrounded by animals as we grew up. Mom also loved the beauty of our world. I went on a class trip to Paris, France, when I was in elementary school. My family was not wealthy, but my mother found the money for me to take a class trip on an airplane to another country. She was instrumental in my applying for and landing my career-defining job as a flight attendant. Her ashes are here with me in Colombia. They rest beside my daughter under the most beautiful lilies that often bloom as butterflies flutter nearby. When I visit their beautiful garden, I like to imagine being embraced by them.
When the Coronavirus quarantine began last year, I was content. So many times in my life, my mother shared with me the greatness of solitude. I can still picture my mother sitting quietly in a chair, immersed in prayer meditation. Isn’t it ironic how we repeat what we learn from our parents? My times for deep thought are often, usually while practicing Yoga. Now my thoughts are looking for an answer to a gnawing question. What is in the future for all of us struggling to regain our businesses in the tourism industry? It is hard living in this new reality. Changes happen daily and without warning. I felt we were getting ahead of this awful virus, but now I am not so sure. As I look outside at my bird feeding gardens or all the hummingbird feeders, I know there is peace in my world. Perhaps, nature will be the answer as people find traveling to remote places with wide-open spaces are the safest places to visit.
My Ecolodge is healing for everyone, no matter your problems, because nature can restore anyone to a place of peace. Staying in my mountain retreat during the initial Coronavirus quarantine was never hard to do. After working so many years with the public, time alone is easy. Now that the world is slowly returning to a new normal, I realize that I had a different perspective than others on this life-changing virus. I have never felt the need to seek more than what I have right here in my beautiful mountain retreat. Life was a bit isolated, but again, I didn’t care. I felt grateful that I lived in a place of ever-changing moments. These Andes Mountains I am surrounded by and the nature that lives within them kept me centered during the last year.
Now I am welcoming guests to visit Villa Migelita Ecolodge once again. They seek the allure of outdoor activities in the purely natural air of the mountains. Nothing is more soothing to the soul than time spent immersed in nature. The latest trend in this year 2021 is Nature, Wellness, and giving back, as referenced in this Forbes Article. Tourists can feel safe from the pandemic in vacation destinations that are outdoor-oriented. My Ecolodge is entirely open air. Wide-open spaces with space to breathe are a luxury that is affordable and calming.
I am meeting many young Millennial’s seeking distance from the hectic city life encountered worldwide. They love to sit outside to look at the views or hand-feed the hummingbirds. They wander in my gardens to observe the Neo-tropical birds, sometimes with a book in hand. Our souls need time in nature. Our bodies release stress when we hear sounds that only the mountains and animals within can deliver. Listening to the harmony surrounding them, they find a balance between their work life and their home life. Peace, don’t we all want to feel it again? I am still unsure when we will have what we had before the virus struck the world with such ferocity. Anyone can tune out the rest of the world for a little while as long as they breathe in the fresh air, free of noise pollution and environmental pollution.
Songs of birds harmonizing outside my bedroom window in the morning will always be on the playlist of my mind. These songs hold everything essential to my well-being. I believe they can give others what I have obtained in my peaceful place of harmony with nature.
This year has been challenging for many of us. I believe that we grow stronger when we can focus on the positive and let go of the negative. I created a personal space for myself during the difficult months of 2020 and focused on all that I appreciated in the life I have. I started writing little notes when I would come upon myself smiling, laughing, or feeling contentment. I was able to recognize I had so much in my life.
Uncertainty is stressful. I decided to let it go. I am living a life I designed for myself. Once I started writing down my thoughts each day, I was able to determine that my life wasn’t much different during the Pandemic rules than it was before the Covid-19. I have always been a very disciplined person. Lockdown did not make me less so. I still got up in the morning and started my day just like I have always done. It was comforting to know that I had a purpose each day. I have never been much for crowds, so when I would leave my Villa to do my errands, I was always in a hurry to be home again. This didn’t change during the coronavirus restrictions. I felt relief when I didn’t have a lot of pressure to accomplish too much. I had one day a week to get my basic needs. Enjoying six days at Villa Migelita Ecolodge was not a hardship. My beautiful hotel became a place of pleasure I alone could enjoy without the responsibilities that came with the bookings. Sure I missed my guests, but I found comfort with the artistry of nature surrounding me.
Nature fills us with blessings. I became enthralled with the noises and calls that awoke me in the mornings. The Chachalaca birds started waiting for me to put bananas out at the feeding stations. The hummingbirds became my friends. Cleaning their feeders was always part of my daily routine, but it was part of the job when I had my guests here. They are an attraction to many who visit. Alas, now they were just mine to enjoy. I discovered much about how they had accepted me when I alone was enjoying them. They hate when I clean the feeders. They buzz me and are waiting when I refill and hang them again. My parrot Luci revealed so much about herself as she grew into adulthood. I wrote a blog about my decision to give her freedom. She has rewarded me with visits. I watched as the fish in my natural pool grew huge. They love any leftover organics from cooking. I never knew this. They are fat and happy and await the scraps to be thrown to them all day long. My ducks are tame and always following me when I sit by the lake. I had to cut down a large tree because of construction. I used the trunk to make a small Gnome village that feeds the neotropical birds, and children can play in when the guests return. The beauty of nature is resplendent. It gives so much back to us humans.
Animals give us unconditional love. Appreciating them and their company was essential during this unwarranted time in history. I was able to shower my undivided attention on my animals. They gave back their love. It was a love-fest!
Relaxation is essential to our well-being. I realized I could do what I wanted on any given day during the lock-down: “Netflix today, beautiful light for photography, writing a blog, cook a new recipe, clean my curtains, organize my office space, take a nap, have a glass of wine, do Yoga, listen to classical music, appreciate the sunsets, the rainstorms, acknowledging the views surrounding Villa Migelita Ecolodge” my brain was never idle. I felt complete many nights when I drifted off to sleep.
I spent less money. I found out that as a minimalist I had room to learn. I didn’t need as much as I had. I have eliminated some unnecessary costs from my life. I used the money I saved to give back to the community through charity. A friend collected money, farm products not used, and distributed to the poor.
I savored my peace. I missed my choices from before Covid. However, I relished my alone time. I found out I was just fine being with my own company.
My hair grew long, and it wasn’t grey! I now have a healthy head of hair that doesn’t require much upkeep. I don’t need a lot of beauty rituals. I did gain some weight, but I have lost most of it. I like the way I look. I acknowledge my looks. There is no need to go to any extreme to keep current on trends in beauty. I am timeless.
I became close with my son. He had arrived right before Colombia shut down. We were in this together. We grew closer. He learned the bird calls, the names of hummingbirds, to help me clean the hotel, to speak Spanish, to enjoy his own space, to train his puppy Cash, to help me with our aging dog Marley, to enjoy rainy days and sunny days, to look at a full moon, to watch the sunsets with me, and to help me with little things. He is a good son. I lost my daughter , but we were able to share memories of her. There are no words for what we both have discovered.
Health is all we have. I am so grateful to live during this unprecedented time in the country of Colombia. I live in the fresh air, an open home filled with breezes, and no other people surrounding me. My neighbors are near but not too near. We have a beautiful community. We appreciate that we live with a certain amount of freedom from the Pandemic. We still wear masks when we chat over the fence while maintaining social distance. We have our health. I will continue to live a life isolated from crowds until the virus is gone. I can do this. The vaccination should bring the world back to normal in the next year. I have the patience to wait. I will follow the guidelines to keep my health intact.
I suggest to everyone to take a moment and write a list of gratitude. It will bring the best of your world to you. I know we all have bad days, or weeks, maybe months. Take a moment to inhale all that is good. I promise it will bring a smile to your face. Smiles are as good as money, so is joy.
Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year filled with new beginnings!-
I wrote a blog many years ago about becoming minimalist. It was one of the most popular blogs I have ever written. During this time of isolation, you can change your habits. Why not organize your house (and your life) and get rid of all the stuff you have taking up space? I can guarantee the feelings of being in charge of your living area will free up so much time for all those things that are on your wish list. Why not change your diet to healthy foods, try to drink more water, and eliminate sugar? Minimalism is not just about living simply, it is about living healthy, learning to live without depending on social media, constant cable news, going out to just get out. Learn to be happy with yourself and your own company. I have found no real difference in my life since I have been in quarantine because I always would leave my Villa very early when I had errands so I could get home as soon as I could. I want to be in my home, and in the tranquility, it provides me and my spirit.
I have a very large Villa. It is a hotel, but with the novel coronavirus, it is now just my home. I don’t have maids anymore, I am responsible to keep it clean and in good condition in hopes that I will return to my business soon. In Colombia, we are not in the same position as other countries dealing with this Pandemic. Colombia, the country started to restrict activity at an accelerated speed. Thus, we have a much smaller amount of the disease than other countries. Colombia also has the best-rated health care system in Latin America and is rated number 22 in the world as having a preeminent health protection system above the United States and many other wealthier countries. Many people who were here on vacation when the coronavirus struck have extended their tourist Visa to stay longer, and they are trying to obtain a longer Visa to live here. The reason I bring this up is that moving to Colombia is how I became a minimalist. When you leave your country of birth and move to another country all advice given by experts is to get rid of everything except the most special memories and buy anew. I did this with great difficulty, but I have yet to regret my decision or my lifestyle change.
The steps to becoming more organized in your life are to start with getting rid of all the excess baggage hanging around in your mind first. Start with a routine. Routine is the actualization of becoming a minimalistic person. I start my day the same way every morning. I am sure many of us do. However, then we get sidetracked, distracted, or overwhelmed with what seems to be too much to do to get our lives and homes as we want them to be. Routine is key to minimalism. The most important part of your routine is to have a clean, well-maintained home. To have a home that is simple to maintain is to get rid of excess. It is just that simple. I suggest that you go room to room and look at what bothers you in each place. Make a list and start slowly. If you try to tackle too much you will become disillusioned and you will quit. Now is the perfect time to start the process while you are staying at home to be safe from the virus.
There is much to say about being a real minimalist. It progresses through little steps. I will continue my blogs each week with more advice on how to continue to a well-organized home and mind. With a simple home, your mind becomes less cluttered just as your home will. You will sleep better, and find you have more time for things that you do but feel guilty about because you know you should be cleaning up your office, or organizing your kitchen. I have no excess food in my house, even during this time in isolation. I buy what I need because I know what I need. I know how much toilet paper I use in a month, I don’t have canned foods, and I hardly ever eat out. It is less expensive and it is also healthy. We control our lives, our lives don’t control us!
Let me know what you think of my first blog about becoming minimalist in the comments. Sign up by email so you never miss a blog. In the comments please write what is hard for you to achieve, questions, and if you have any suggestions for others that can help them get to a place of peace that only an organized life can give you.
It has been over eight years since I moved to Colombia. Many people felt that I was “loca” to move to Colombia. Joyful vibrations were in the air when I arrived on Christmas day 2010. Latin music, festive decorations, the country was alive! I fell in love from that moment and I am still in love with this beautiful and fascinating country. I am living my dream come true. Surrounded by nature, living in my castle in the air, and meeting new people from all over the world who share my passion for nature. I would never have predicted my future to be the owner of an Ecolodge in Colombia when my daughter was murdered in 2010.
I am writing this blog on the day of what would have been my daughter’s 30th birthday, July 22, 1989. Her final resting place is here under a beautiful garden filled with flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds visit while she is surrounded by the mountains. She was always enchanted with the hummingbirds and mountains during our summers spent in the Smoky Mountains. I dedicate my accomplishments to her. She has been my driving force to find peace. She is in my mind whenever I achieve a new goal. I live for what she lost. Her life.
Lessons learned through hardship are saved in my soul now. I am not the same person I once was. It seems so long ago that I lost that person I once was. I am filled with the wisdom I never knew I could achieve in life. It is not important that people I thought would want to see my Paradise in Colombia have never visited. I have so many people from the world over who come and stay at my nature retreat in the Andes mountains of Colombia. The delight I see in their faces when they experience everyday moments is sufficient to remind me I have created something special at Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
I have made so many friends from different places I knew nothing about! I always thought I was an expert in travel because I was working in the skies for years as a flight attendant. I have visited so many countries, states, and smalltown cities. I knew nothing about any of the above until I experienced a different culture and moved to a really small pueblo. I have learned to honk at everyone I pass in my truck, to give a lift to someone going to Palmira our main city, and to speak in Spanish about how life is going for them. I have found that every guest leaves me with a fresh perspective on what I have created. I have made so many friends that I may never see again but I will always keep them in a special place in my heart that has opened up so much since the death of Misha. I appreciate all that is given to me through the knowledge of others who bring experiences that I can learn from. The sadness from the loss of my child is replaced with the happiness I feel when a guest gets to hold a rescued hummingbird, or they feel the wind against their faces while riding horses in the mountains, or they see the mist of a waterfall that touches them with tiny droplets, while they soar above the clouds and look down onto the mountains below them with awe when experiencing Parapente. These are moments that I keep with me after they leave. Then someone new comes and I get to start again with new adventures.
Everyone who follows my social media sites knows that hummingbirds are my spiritual reminder of Misha. They surround me with their rapidly moving wings, flying backward just like I experience sometimes when I think of Misha and my memories of her. I know hummingbirds surround me with ethereal knowledge of life that exists beyond this earthly world. Misha is with them in every flutter of their wings. I am blessed when I have a guest who comes to photograph them. Each guest gives me more knowledge than I have taught myself. I have made some very special friends through these special jewels that bring peace and tranquility to Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
Recently Carole Turek of The Hummingbird Spot on Facebook came for a short visit from California. You could say we “clicked” immediately. I had joined her group and began posting hummingbirds from my Colombian Villa. Carole has a goal to photograph all the hummingbird species of the world. She had never been to Colombia but has a trip planned for November 2019. I am honored she decided to visit Villa Migelita Ecolodge first. She spent five days photographing Colombian hummingbirds and wrote a blog featuring her time at my Ecolodge and showcasing the species she was able to photograph while at my home. She also taught me a lot about photography and more about hummingbirds, myself being self-taught through the internet over the years. She is an anesthesiologist in Los Angeles and she also is an expert on hummingbirds.
I had a lovely family come in June who brought with them a love for hummingbirds and photography, but also the delight of having a precious little 6-month-old with them who gave us smiles all day long. Then, of course, my friends from the airlines that come to experience Colombia for the first time, and find a totally different experience than what they expect. I am able to dispel all bad rumors about Colombia immediately and show the magical realism of this country through ecotourism and adventure. There are people who find me through this blog, or my Facebook pages, Instagram (all at Villa Migelita) and the many groups I belong to. They come from Canada, Australia, Europe, and many states in the USA. All become lifelong friends. This is the blessing of customer service, interaction in a personal way. We definitely strive for that here as I never take more than one group at a time. I like to keep my Ecolodge exclusive and the personal service and customized menus are all part of the experience.
My hummingbirds are the most prized gifts that I show to any guest for whatever reason they come to visit Colombia. This is because they fly free in nature, glittering in the sunlight, sharing something special to all who view them. Besides the beauty of the hummingbirds, I have many species of Neotropical birds and butterflies that flit around all my gardens on the property. I like to think all who leave have been blessed in a way that only nature can achieve.
This is my eighth year of living in Colombia. I am a resident of this wonderful country. Colombia can’t escape a bad reputation no matter how hard she tries. She is like the girl in high school who was called awful names, the girl whose rumors were spread no matter how untrue, she just could never escape her past. She changed as she grew up and into her beauty. That is Colombia. Colombia is growing into a major tourist industry despite the reputation she has. She is winning, but then something happens. Just one thing and she has to fight again to regain respectability.
Bogota had an attack in January by a rebel group. A fringe element after the peace agreement was signed and President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This was the first such attack in nine years. Meanwhile, in the United States, there is a mass shooting of some sort almost every week. Some are so horrific that the rest of the world, including Colombia, cannot comprehend why these guns are easily available to these domestic terrorists. In Europe, we read of terrorist attacks frequently, sometimes I worry because I have friends who still are working in the airlines and the places attacked are popular layover spots. So because I haven’t needed to write about how wonderful Colombia is in quite a while, I thought I would share some facts about life here in Colombia. Why Colombia is an undiscovered Paradise and the most bio-diverse country in the world.
Colombia doesn’t meddle in other countries problems. Colombia is a democracy and modeled after the United States with similar governing styles. However, Colombia is pretty much self-sufficient and doesn’t need to go after other countries oil. They are really helpful to Venezuela right now with the humanitarian crisis that is happening. When Colombia was going through bad times, Venezuela was there to help the Colombian people and Colombia has never forgotten.
Colombia is a frugal nation of people. The people pay in cash more than with credit cards. I don’t live in a big city but in The Andes Mountains, the children are raised very much like I was raised in the 1960s and 1970s. They are raised to be self-sufficient, the boys by the time they are adults can fix and do almost any repair, the girls know how to cook, clean and do their own laundry, they can also do almost any repair too! When the children have a vacation from school they go with their parents to jobs and work alongside them. At the schools here in the country, the children keep the school clean. They all have assigned chores for once a week, and once a month is a day that all the children clean the school completely. The school system is really good. They have a bus that transports the children to school and back. School starts at 7 am and for the older children, it is over at 3 pm. They have many classes and homework just like the children do in the United States. They also have physical education, art, and music. Exactly like I had at Nova elementary and high school in South Florida in the 1970s. Art is encouraged with all classes.
Colombian people are brought up to be polite. They will always be attentive and respectful to everyone in person. However, they love to gossip and embellish on any story and usually by the time you hear the “chisme” it is so untrue and I can only compare it to the novelas they watch on television It is part of the culture and I have learned to just ignore and live my life. Everyone here thinks I am a wino who drinks wine every single day. I do. I don’t care if they like it or not. I enjoy my wine, and my health is good. Colombians will never act rude to your face. They will just talk about you later. I find that as I grow older, I enjoy my solitude from anyone who is a fake person. No matter if they live here in Colombia, or in the United States. Fake is fake, and I have no room in my life for this. If I find out a person is fake, I let them go without thought. No matter what you think of a person here in Colombia, you greet them politely. This is how it is living here. Personally, I find this the best way to live. I just let things go. I say hello, but in my mind, I am saying goodbye.
I live in the Valle del Cauca department of Colombia. I am in a very safe area. There is a department called Cauca (This department has some warnings). This is not the same as the Valle del Cauca. I am a birding paradise in the mountains. My Ecolodge is Western style with mountain views surrounding the entire villa. My area is called La Buitrera de Palmira and the areas encompassing us are filled with the biodiversity Colombia is known for. Neotropical birds are abundant, along with many different species of hummingbirds, small mammals like the black jaguar, monkeys, armadillos, and owls. I have yet to see an owl on my many eco-hikes but I see many photos of them from a friend who is a guide in the mountains. Colombia is colorful whether you are in the city or in the countryside. Flowers are bountiful, including orchids, roses, lilies, bougainvillea and many species of Heliconia and exotic plants. Fruit is everywhere in the country, and you can just pick it right off the tree, so are butterflies. Colombia has the most species of butterflies, birds, fruits, and is considered the most biodiverse country in the world. I live 20 minutes from Palmira the city and an hour from Cali, Colombia. There are many fun tourist activities in the Valle del Cauca, including my new favorite tour of birdwatching while on a small motorized boat through a nearby jungle reserve. We are also known for Parapente (para-gliding in English) which is a wonderful bucket list adventure. I am a legal hotel Campestre registered with the Chamber of Commerce but do my taxes in the USA because my guests are always from another country and they do not pay taxes for lodging in Colombia.
Cars are expensive in Colombia. I bought a 4 x 4 Toyota Hilux when I arrived and it is old. I just replaced the motor, because having a truck is important when living in the country. The roads are dirt in many outlying areas. If you are thinking of relocating to Colombia, you cannot bring a car with you unless it is brand new and shipped here. We keep our cars forever in Colombia. The cost of maintenance is very low, and to buy new is really pricey. I love my old truck and it takes my tourists on many adventures, many into the jungle surrounding me at Villa Migelita Ecolodge. I keep it safe and always up to date with repairs and maintenance. Colombia is about being humble and not showy at all. When you buy a good car, you keep it. I became a minimalist since relocating here. I also live like a millionaire. My views, my lifestyle are completely different than the life I left behind in the United States. I live simply, but elegantly. I was very lucky to find the home I did and for the price I paid. Real estate is expensive in my area now.
I have made a good investment, and I hope to continue to live like I do well into my old age. I can never describe the views I experience while watching the sunset in the evening, nor the climate I live in. I have perfect temperatures year round. We are on the cool side, but perfectly cool. I advise my guests to bring real pajamas for sleeping and jackets because we are cold in the morning and evenings. Palmira just 20 minutes away is hot. I do my errands early because I hate the heat now. I am spoiled with this wonderful lifestyle I live. I love to be at my villa more than I have loved anyplace I have ever lived. You just never know what bird will show up and even enter through our open windows and doors to the balconies. A completely different lifestyle than living in an enclosed space of regular homes such as I grew up in and lived my entire life in the USA. I enjoy the fresh air, no air-conditioning, and the food.
The food is always organic in my area. Even when buying produce from the grocery store the locals sell to the markets. The fruit and vegetables are sometimes still covered in dirt. For example, when I go to a local fruit market and buy potatoes, they are sold by the pound and just taken from the earth. The meat, chicken, and pork come from a store that is always fresh from the country, all free range. Fish comes from the Pacific coast and is caught by local people. I have special stores for all my purchases. I don’t just walk into a store and do all of my shopping. I have a store for the meats, and one for the seafood, a regular grocery store for staples. I haven’t been sick with a cold in a long time. We eat healthily, and we cook food that is tasty and with the Colombian flair. Breakfast is at around 8:30, then our main meal is at around 1:00 pm. We eat light at dinner, which is usually a soup, sandwich, or salad. We make desserts from bananas growing on my land, or oranges. We don’t have junk food here. There are fast food places in the cities but I never see many people inside if I am around one of these locations. Colombians eat well and food is a serious business. We always have food in the house that is fresh, no boxed juices that are so common in other countries. We make our juices, lemonade, and we use very little sugar.
Colombia has the most holidays in the world also. There are many three day weekends throughout the year. Colombians do not work on Sundays ever unless they are employed by a supermarket or restaurant, or health professional in a hospital. Sundays are for your family and friends. This week is called Santa Semana. The Easter week. It is as special as the Christmas holidays. Forget doctor appointments or anything important during a week of celebrating in Colombia. However, you will find many fiestas and fun. The Colombian people love to party. They also enjoy any time they can spend with family. Nothing is ever stressful here in the countryside. I just look out at my view and I remember I live in complete peace, in a mansion surrounded by nature. I never had this in the United States. Never. I have it here and I appreciate my life more every day.
I could continue and I will in another blog. Life is delicious here in Colombia. I have a manicurist come to do my nails every week. She does designs which are another special part of Colombian life. You must have a Colombian manicure and pedicure if you visit this wonderful country. You will see for yourself the myths perpetrated for years when you visit. Just remember to be humble, to leave jewelry home and buy some of the beautiful artistic jewelry sold here by the Indigenous people and locals, and to relax. Colombians love to wear jeans and nice shirts, and pretty shoes. We are simple and we are fun. Come visit Colombia. Look for more soon in my next blog. Michele
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 have been telling everyone for the last year I need to find a new Dogo Argentino puppy. Orion is getting old, and unfortunately for all of us dog lovers we know life expectancy for large dogs is not a long time. Orion is our big boy here at Villa Migelita Ecolodge.
I never thought it would be possible to find another dog of my dreams here in Colombia. I wanted another Orion. I thought this would be impossible, how can one find perfection again? I was given him by a neighbor before I moved to Villa Migelita Ecolodge because he grew huge and ate so much. He was in a tiny house and needed space! Orion came with health problems, he has broken two bones since I have had him, is allergic to any collar he has ever worn. My veterinarian put this blue rope on him which they use for cattle, but he still gets small outbreaks of irritation. I give Orion Kumis a pure yogurt without sugar every morning for help with his skin. He never waivers in his loyalty, nor his job of protection and love. My guests who visit adore him. He is a dog who is gentle but has a tail that can cause bruises from wagging. He is that strong, and I always have bananas around for everyone to give to him, they are his favorite treat. He is the main man in my life. Orion is intelligent, he listens, he is kind, and he is gentle with my new baby Kira (Key Ra) whom we just adopted. He has the intelligence that some humans do not have. He is why I was determined to have a Dogo Argentino puppy when I was ready to adopt again. He is probably not pure (his color) but in every other way he is a Dogo Argentino. Maybe this is why he had so many homes, he wasn’t perfect, possibly the runt of the litter. I have always wondered about him as a puppy. I am finding out with Kira. She is strong of personality and determination.
Orion would be perfect a Dogo Argentino if he was white as snow. He was given to me after 4 different people gave him away. He was so scared that first day he came to me, right before I moved to my farm. He was so happy to be fed a good meal, he accepted all my animals, and he became my most loyal companion and protector. For me to make a decision to look for a puppy was difficult. I didn’t want him nor Marley to feel sad, insecure, or upset. Well, guess who accepted Kira (Noel) unconditionally? Orion. Marley can no longer hear and when Kira surprises him he acts out a little bit, Nayela is jealous, while Orion is being patient and kind. He even allows her to sleep with him in his bed. She follows him and copies him, which I want. He is her teacher for the future and as of now he is doing a perfect job.
I first started talking to my friends here in Colombia about getting a puppy early this year. I wanted a little girl because Orion would accept her much easier than another male. I also wanted to find a rescue. I thought this would be impossible, but decided to start looking after the beginning of the New Year. Little did I know my sweet Jazmin, who is always doing kind acts and is a daughter to me, was secretly looking for months on rescue groups in Cali, Colombia for a baby Dogo Argentino for Christmas. She found Kira. Exactly what I wanted! She contacted the person who had Kira listed and was told come quickly, we have many who want her. But this lovely woman became friends with Jazmin when she told her about how beautiful Villa Migelita Ecolodge is and what a beautiful place for Kira to live. We arrived in Cali after two days and were handed this sweet little baby who is forever part of our lives now. She is not easy, but learns quickly. We refuse to crate her, our dogs are integrated and she is learning the schedule and adapting quite well. Nothing is perfect with a new baby, and Kira is a baby! She is a smart and cunning baby though, and we can’t take our eyes off of her, even though she already knows during the day to walk down the stairs to go out to the bathroom.
Now for the part I have been holding back about. It involves Misha my deceased daughter. I know I bring her into a lot of my blogs, but she is really part of my life still. This will give you the chills about the name for Kira. Kira pronounced Key Ra is Kara in English. I didn’t pick her name the twins who are Jazmin’s girls did. Cara (spelled with a C) has the same pronunciation as Kara was my deceased daughter’s middle name. They told me the name they wanted and I was floored. I had no words except to say, I love it.
Kira is special, and like Orion I believe she was given to me with a lot of love from above. Whatever you believe in spiritually, you cannot deny when you see a real life miracle happen. Kira is that. She is difficult, she is headstrong, she is beautiful and she is my Misha in a way. I will never look at her without thinking of my daughter Mikel Cara Carson. Because no matter the difficulties of culture, language and more I experience here in Colombia, love always finds a way into my life.
After many years of avoiding Christmas and all the festivities, I am embracing and holding them close. I have the perfect gift. Her name is Kira and she was sent from above.
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.