Tag Archives: Yalalag

Our Home Away from Home

28 Jul

oax 16Our family just returned from a two-week vacation in Oaxaca, Mexcio. We had a wonderful time lounging on the beach, eating the most delicious food, visiting with family and traveling up to my husband’s isolated hometown in the mountains.

Much of the novel I’m writing (which I swear to you is almost finished!) takes place in Oaxaca so it was wonderful to travel there and research even more ideas and descriptions for the book. It is truly a magical place.

The Oaxacan people are some of the most interesting, kind and generous people in the world. Someday, we hope to build a vacation home there. Ah, it’s good to have dreams…

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This is the main church in Yalalag, my husband’s hometown.

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While we were in Yalalag, we attended a wedding. This is the bride, Melina who is wearing the traditional wedding outfit of Yalalag.

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I thought this was interesting because the little girl is tied to the back of her mother with a traditional Mexicanl “rebozo” and yet the little girls is wearing sparkly gold shoes instead of huaraches.

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This is an old photograph hanging in the municipal building in Yalalag. It was taken in 1936 and shows a family standing in front of their home wearing traditional clothing. Not much has changed in 75 years (except that the town now has internet!)

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You can’t go to Oaxaca without eating Mole Negro. Delicioso!

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A painting of La Virgencita in one of the churches.

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Oaxacan chocolate is to die for!

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The fresh produce in the marketplace smells wonderful!

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen any building painted this shade of cobalt blue before!

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Dried chilies for sale in the marketplace.

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My absolute favorite Oaxacan treat: Rose flavored sorbet!

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Another stunning doorway in downtown Oaxaca.

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The inside of the Church of Santo Domingo. Awe-inspiring.

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One of the many meals served over the course of the weekend for the wedding. First the men would all sit down and be served by the women, and then the women would sit and be served by the men.

Done Dabbling

26 Jul

writing studyA few years back, someone asked me if I thought I’d ever write a novel some day. My first reaction was to laugh. At that time, I had just recently delved back into writing after a twenty-five year hiatus of not writing a single word (actually, hiatus sounds like I was once a prolific writer—I wasn’t—the best word to describe my attempts at writing in college would be that I “dabbled.”)  Sure, writing short essays and a blog post now and then was feasible—but a novel? I couldn’t even fathom writing something that extensive.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my childhood dream was always to become a writer—I thought about it incessantly for years. I loved books so much—the smell of them; the texture of the paper between my fingertips; the way the words jumped out at me from the page; how I could easily lose myself in a story and experience someone’s life other than my own even if it was just for a short time. The library was my home away from home.

Being somewhat of an introvert, the solitary life of a writer has always appealed to me. As a young girl I created this elaborate fantasy in which I envisioned myself writing my literary masterpiece while tucked away in a cozy study with soft lighting and wall to wall bookshelves. While sitting quiet and alone at an antique desk, I would sip hot tea with honey while a blazing fire crackled in the fireplace. When I needed inspiration, I would glance up and look out through the French Doors onto my picturesque English garden where my flowers somehow managed to bloom year round. Oh—I almost forgot—in my fantasy there was always a gentle rain falling outside.english garden

That perfect fantasy never really got off the ground—with a husband, four kids, four dogs and my mother, I’m never alone. I don’t have French Doors, I live in Southern California where it rarely rains and it’s usually too hot outside to light a fire in the fireplace. I prefer Starbucks coffee to hot tea and rarely go to the library anymore because I always forget to return the books and before I know it I’ve racked up over fifty dollars worth of late fees. I read most of my books on my Kindle and I don’t have an antique desk.  I do my best writing while sitting on the couch.

But get this: I’m thirty-three chapters and almost 70,000 words into my first novel. BAM!  That’s right—I am fifty two years old and for the first time in my life I’m doing what I always dreamed of doing—I am writing a novel.

Now, who knows? My novel may very well turn out to be trite, sentimental and cliché, but then again, it might turn out to be a really great read with a real plot and interesting and lovable characters. We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m carving out a little time every day in my busy schedule to sit down on my couch and get a paragraph or two written down, which more often than not gets deleted the following day (I mean, who in their right mind would write such crap?) No matter—one good sentence at a time and somehow the job gets done. And I’m having the time of my life.

Who needs fire, tea and rain to write a book? Not me.

This girl is done dabbling.

 

If  you’re interested, here’s the description of my novel, Lost in Oaxaca:

Once a promising young concert pianist, Camille Childs retreated to her mother’s Santa Barbara estate after an injury to her hand destroyed her hopes for a musical career. She now leads a solitary life teaching piano, and she has a star student: Graciela, the daughter of her mother’s Mexican housekeeper. Camille has been grooming the young Graciela for the career that she herself lost out on, and now Graciela, newly turned eighteen, has just won the grand prize in a piano competition, which means she gets to perform with the LA Philharmonic. Camille is ecstatic; if she can’t play herself, at least as Graciela’s teacher, she will finally get the recognition she deserves.

But there are only two weeks left before the concert, and Graciela has disappeared—gone back to her family’s village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico. Desperate to bring Graciela back in time for the concert, Camille goes after her, but on the way there, a bus accident leaves her without any of her possessions. Alone and unable to speak the language, Camille is befriended by Alejandro, a Zapotec man who lives in LA but is from the same village as Graciela. Despite a contentious first meeting, Alejandro helps Camille navigate the rugged terrain and unfamiliar culture of Oaxaca, allowing her the opportunity to view the world in a different light—and perhaps find love in the process.

 

Villa Hidalgo Yalalag, Oaxaca. This is where much of the novel takes place.

Villa Hidalgo Yalalag, Oaxaca. This is where much of the novel takes place.

The Other Direction

12 Jul

cancun sunriseAs I approach my fifty-first birthday, it crossed my mind that I’m now heading in that “other” direction—you know, the one where we picture ourselves at the top of the mountain, standing tall and strong, basking in the knowledge that we finally got there. And then we think: Well, that’s it then. I made it. From here on out, it’s just slip-sliding all the way back down to the bottom.

I understand that this is a ridiculous notion on my part because for me, life has really just begun at the halfway mark. This past year has been the best year of my life, and just keeps getting better all the time. I’m happier than I ever was at age thirty-five, or twenty-one, or even sixteen. I’ve finally let go of the notion that I have to prove to the world that I’m good enough, and I’ve got to say it’s quite liberating! I finally like being me.

The very best part of aging is that I’m wise enough to realize that we’re all basically the same. It turns out that the woman sitting next to me at the dinner party (whom I used to worry was smarter, funnier and better dressed than I was) was actually thinking the same things about me (well, maybe not the better dressed part.) It’s just a fact that no matter how much money each of us has in our checking account, or what type of car we drive, or where our children attend college (or don’t), inside our minds and hearts we are often scared and vulnerable and too terrified to admit it. Now that I get this about people, I just love them so much more.

The other good thing about heading in that other direction is that I value my moments so much more now. It used to be that washing the dishes and folding the laundry took precedence over getting down on the living room rug to play with my young children. I live five minutes from the beach, but it used to be that I wouldn’t swim in the ocean because my body was too fat or my skin too fair. I didn’t want to get sunburned or track sand into the house or have to be bothered with cleaning the tar from my feet. I’ll go to the beach when the house is clean, or after the grocery shopping, or when I lose twenty pounds….

I had it all wrong. In my attempt to try to control my environment I denied myself the little pleasures in life. I see now that I only wasted precious time! How did I not notice the whisper of a cool evening breeze after a sultry day, or the fresh scent of sheets just pulled from the dryer? Why did I worry so much about how many calories were in that slice of peach pie that I didn’t take the time to savor the sweetness of each delicious bite?

church in Oaxaca

A few weeks ago I returned from a trip with my family to Oaxaca, Mexico, and I can truly say that it was the best vacation of my life. It’s not that I hadn’t been to Mexico before—over the years we’ve been several times to visit my husband’s family. But it used to be that after only a week there, I was more than ready to come home. There were too many bugs, or it was too humid, or the poverty made me uncomfortable. I had a whole list of excuses for not wanting to be there.

hammockThis time though, I allowed myself to just let go and find the beauty in every moment. I didn’t worry about getting sick from the water, or getting stranded in the mountains on the way to my husband’s village. I put on a bathing suit, slathered on the sunscreen, and even though my thighs jiggled and I was the whitest person on the beach, I didn’t care! I visited ruins, went snorkeling with my kids, and ate fried bananas while swinging in a hammock. I walked the cobblestoned streets of downtown Oaxaca City with my husband’s family and spoke a ton of Spanish. I ate mole negro and handmade tortillas every chance I got and I spent more money than I should have. I thoroughly enjoyed my husband and my children. I laughed more often than not.under the umbrella

I lived.

 

So it may very well be true that I’m now headed down the mountain in that other direction— the very one I spent so many years trying to climb up, but hey—I’m just fine with that—going down is so much more fun. And I’m kind of tired after all those years of struggling.

Besides, it’s always so much easier going back down, and the view is spectacular.view of Yalalag