Advice from dear old mom

My mom just left after visiting us in Morelia with her BFF. They were here for 10 days. We all had the BEST time. We got to visit some new, amazing Pueblo Magicos and we went to Patzcuaro for two nights.  They were easy traveling companions, and  adventurous to boot.


We did some Mezcal tasting in Patzcuaro.

I miss them  already. But at least I know I’ll get to spend four months with my mom when our stint in Zihuatanejo begins on December 1.  I can’t believe we have just one more month in Morelia.  It’s gone by so fast!  We remain enthralled with this city and I know we will be back.  As far as I’m concerned, the sooner, the better!


We still don’t have any firm plans for October and November. We’ve been talking about going to Oaxaca in October and Guatemala in November, but we haven’t found the time to plan our trip.  Time is running out. We need to get our butts in gear.

While dear old mom was visiting us, she mentioned that my blog has turned into a lot of personal musings and not enough musings about Mexico.  I think she has a good point, and since mothers always know best, I decided to focus this post on something more Mexican-y.

Last Saturday night we went to one of the fanciest restaurants in Morelia.  It’s called Frida Kahlo and it’s one of the most stunning restaurants I have ever been in.
I think it’s a chain and there is one other location near Cancun.  Of course, it’s dedicated to the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her image is everywhere in the restaurant. It’s just stunning.frida-khalo-restaurante1restaurante-frida-kahlo-morelia-michoacan3

Mexicans have a wonderful sense of aesthetics. They use colors in amazing ways and everything just pops. Andy and I have walked past this restaurant many times, and I have always been captivated by its design. We knew it would be pricey, and perfect to impress company, so we decided my mom’s visit would be a good time to go. We also read some reviews on TripAdvisor, none great, but I figured the atmosphere would make up for bad food.

Let me just say that atmosphere did not disappoint.

frida-khalo-restaurante2The interior was stunning. And, service was crazy good. Really exceptional.  In fact, it was white glove service (our waiter had on white gloves) and everyone was impressed.

Now for the food.  It was awful.  We had a bad salmon starter, Andy had a bland, flat, tasteless chicken dish and I had marlin (a type of fish) tacos al pastor. Even I, a life-long member of the “big eaters” club didn’t finish my meal.  In true mom meat eating spirit she ordered tongue meatballs.  Really, she did! She said they were “tongue-y”.  I don’t remember what my mom’s friend Ellen had.  We finished our meals all feeling quite dejected.

At the end of our completely underwhelming dining experience,  the waiter came to our table and said, “as our guest, we would like to invite you to our private dining room to experience gastro mapping.”

Wait….things might be looking up for the evening. I’ve never been invited to gastro mapping. Have you?

We were led to a private room where we sat down at a table for six.


The show is about to start. We are all so excited!

The table had nice white plates on it and a simple white tablecloth underneath.

Then the show started!  

We looked down at the white tablecloth and magical shapes and images started appearing, all perfectly timed to music!  It was our own, private psychedelic light show!


We got to learn a bit about Frida Khalo.



While we have seen mapping done on the main cathedral in Morelia, we have never seen it done on a table at a restaurant and it was a real treat.   It was one of the best four minutes we’ve ever spent in Mexico.


You MUST take a minute to look at the gastro mapping video produced by Frida Khalo restaurant.  We left the restaurant in high spirits, not remembering the bad food or high prices. It turned out to be a really nice evening.




A vanishing act and then a return


Welcome to a great city!

15 months ago I disappeared. I left the San Francisco Bay Area to start a new life in Mexico. Since my disappearance, I’ve completely morphed into someone totally new.  I’ve replaced myself with someone I barely recognize. Most of the time, I like her, but sometimes she bugs the hell out of me.

The old me was a stressed out non-profit executive director who worked 45-50 hours a week. I thought about fundraising all of the time.  I worried about how we would keep up with the Joneses and our fancy (but not excessive) San Francisco Bay Area lifestyle.  On the weekends, I drank $5.50 pints of craft beer, I read.  I searched out inexpensive Korean meals from trendy Bay Area restaurants.  It wasn’t a bad life. I was happy.  But I yearned for more.

It’s so weird, but I’m someone else now.  Maybe it’s related to my cancer diagnosis, maybe it’s not.

I don’t recognize the “before Mexico” me anymore. That driven, super hard-worker has vanished.  She’s so murky.

Who is this new me?

The new me is happier with less. The new me is thrilled  to have 5-10 hours of steady work.  The new me is thriving in Mexico and loving it.


But sometimes the new me feels a bit bored and a bit restless.  I’m not really quite complete yet.

The new me seems to be lacking a sense of purpose. The new me doesn’t have activities to fill-up each day.  Why isn’t the new me taking private Spanish lessons a few times a week?  Why isn’t the new me doing some volunteer work?  Why can’t the new me just be a chilled out version of the old me?

Some days I accomplish absolutely nothing and it doesn’t feel very good.

I understand why experts say you need a retirement plan, something to fill your days and nights. Otherwise, you just simply exist.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to trade this experience for how things used to be. I can’t imagine spending my days in meetings, working with board members, and writing grant proposals. I much prefer sitting on the Morelia main square people or the Zihuatanejo beach.  But still,  I really do think I need a bit more to fill my days.  I want me to find its way home.

I might return!

This past week, I was contacted by someone who wants to build a non-profit to serve kids in Uganda, Africa. His first goal will be to build a school to serve 400 very poor children. He’s asked me to help get his non-profit up and running.  He’s hired me to help him develop a mission and vision statement. I will also help him develop a website and begin to seek out individual and corporate donations.  The work sounds engaging and right up my alley and it’s about 5 hours a week. This, in addition to the  non-profit consulting work I’m already doing,  should help solidify the new me in some really cool ways.

I think I’m getting closer to getting this retirement thing down.

I’m interested in hearing from others folks who haven’t quite fully evolved yet.  If you have a story of your own personal evolution to share, leave it in the comment section below.



Those pesky parasites

Ten days ago, Andy and I were talking about where we should go for the months of October and November. Should we stay in Mexico or head down to Belize? Maybe it’ll be time to visit Nicaragua or Guatemala.

Within a few days, the conversation had changed.

Suddenly I was talking to Andy about moving back to Oakland. About where we’d live since our house is being rented. About whether our part-time income would be able to support us in the expensive Bay Area. Suddenly the topics in my head were not pleasant ones: Spending the next four months undergoing chemotherapy for a recurrence of my ovarian cancer. Shopping for funky hats to hide my baldness. Filling prescriptions at the Kaiser pharmacy and visiting the local cannabis dispensary (has the first legal store opened yet?) to control chemo-induced nausea.

I wasn’t at surprised by the abrupt change in our conversation. Statistics don’t lie. Seventy to 80 percent of people with my stage and type of ovarian cancer get it again (and then again), with most first-time recurrences at around the 18-month mark. Only 46 percent of us survive five years after being disgnosed. I’ve already been cancer-free for almost 27 months. Much luckier than so many.

But had my luck run out?

Some abdominal symptoms started abruptly. I had an upset stomach followed by days of nausea, constipation and loss of appetite. I was also very tired. Many of these are symptoms of an ovaraian cancer recurrence, so I was concerned, needless to say. But at the same time, Andy was having a few similar symptoms. He had toughed his way through a 24-hour food poisoning bug the week before, and he too was constipated. But he still had an appetite and no nausea, and, unlike me, he was getting better.

After days of hoping I’d magically get better too, I reached out to my Mexican oncologist, Dr. Miguel Flores, and asked to be seen. He didn’t waste any time, agreeing to see me in his office the next day (a Saturday); he also had me take a series of blood tests, including the CA 125, a test for my ovarian cancer marker. Although cancer was a concern, the doctor (and I) both thought it was just a parasite or some such intenstinal woe. A disgusting worm wreaking havoc on my digestive system. Sure, but it could be something else, too. Just to be on the safe side, the doctor set me up with a prescription parasite killer and prescribed one for Andy, too, since he was having some stomach issues.

I couldn’t help it. I turned the conversations to, “Should we move back into our house in Oakland?” “Should we rent an apartment just outside of the Bay Area, Davis maybe, so we could keep the rent money rolling in?” Maybe we could stay with Andy’s mom in San Jose until we figure out our next move.

My reality is this. Every twinge, every muscle ache, every upset stomach is a constant reminder of a potential cellular party I don’t want to be part of. I try very hard to keep it all in check. On many days I’m able to distance myself from what was.  And some days, (especially recently) I wallow.  I read, (the ovarian cancer board) over and over.  I search the internet for the latest ovarian cancer clinical trials and I read about new drugs that will magically push other women past the 5 year mark.

I was sad. And anxious. But I kept focusing on the fact that at least I got all this time — 27 months — without batteries of tests, without surgery, without chemo. Without cancer. It’s been more than two years in which I’ve been able to spend amazing times with friends and famly. Time that I got to enjoy several different cities in Mexico, and Japan, and South Korea, and a two-week cruise from Yokohama to Vancouver, and a road trip from there down to Oakland, seeing friends along the way. And to be with the man I loved. Time that has meant the world to me, and time that could not be taken away.

While I was in my scared mode, I spent a lot of time in wallow mode reading depressing cancer statistics. This did not improve my outlook or my mood, but it did help me cope. I was contemplative and quiet, a rarity for me. I shared the news with my immediate family. I told them I thought my cancer might be back.

Today I got my CA 125 test back from the lab. It was a low number and that’s great news.  In the next few days I’l l get a CT scan just to make sure, but having a low CA 125 is a great indicator that the cancer hasn’t yet returned.

I think Guatemala sounds perfect for November, don’t you?




Fond of fonts

Dear readers of believeitohrnot,

Thank you so much for your comments about my last blog post where I talked about fear and the debilitating effects it can have on our psyches. I’m really happy that the post  resonated with many readers. Many of you shared stories of your own fears in the comments section of the blog and through email.  I encourage you to continue to share your fears with friends and trusted family members. Their support will be essential if you hope to overcome what’s hanging you up.

Now it’s time for something lighter!

Font fun

I’ve always been fascinated by fonts. Fonts are cool and they tell stories. I like how fonts can  express playfulness or seriousness. In some perverse way,  I even like how fonts are used to capture and engage us into buying products we don’t need and we really don’t want.  I like how some fonts scream and how some fonts whisper.   I could probably talk about fonts for longer than the average person, but I really do enjoy them. Comic Sans is one of my favorite fonts, Arial, not so much.  More about fonts in a second.

Recently, my friend and I went to Patzcuaro, Mexico to enjoy their annual Cantoya, (lit lantern) festival.  We got to see hundreds of both big and small lanterns being launched into the day and night sky. Teams competed from around the world and built their cantoyas over the weekend.  In the evening, we joined throngs of happy revelers and launched our own cantoyas.


I’m watching my Cantoya soar!


Patzcuaro is only an hour from Morelia and is a really special place to visit.  We lived there last summer for three weeks and it’s a great place.  It’s filled with indigenous people peddling their wares at the market and it’s also filled with some very good regional cuisine from the state of Michoacan.

Patzcuaro is also a place filled with great fonts!  These amazing fonts dot the fronts of restaurants and give the entire town a very surreal, old- Mexico feel.

Here’s a little bit about the Patzcuaro font.  Yes, the name of the font is actually called Patzcuaro which I think is effin cool.  This description states…

Patzcuaro is a summer resort by a lake of the same name. It is situated 370 km west of Ciudad de Mexico and a visitor from Europe, on seeing it, will be reminded of the Austrian Rust or the South Bohemian Trebon. The town’s colonial architecture is protected as a historical monument, the reddish-brown tint of the footings of the buildings, their white facades and even the type of lettering with red initials is prescribed – and these regulations are also complied with as far as cars are concerned.

This colour scheme is splendid in combination with the rich gamut of greys of the stone window jambs, vaults, lintels and pillars. Joking apart, even the local petrol station is 16th-century in appearance. Patzcuaro Regular is a cosy, welcoming type face which is good for use on labels.

I really love looking at the myriad of buildings with this killer font.


Photo courtesy of Kara Goldhamer.


photo courtesy of Kara Goldhamer