On Route to Mexcio: Must Love Horses

 

My only full day in Athens, Georgia included a visit from the farrier.  A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses’ hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves, if necessary.  I was fascinated at his work having never seen a horses hoof up close and had no idea what trimming or putting on horse shoes would entail.  I was also fascinated and appalled at his running racist commentary – a view into southern, conservative America.  Quite an education for me. It was election day in the USA and I didn’t remind him or encourage him to vote.  Erev, my mentor in no way reflects this type of thinking – she is an amazing woman with the most generous spirit I have ever witnessed.  She is a champion mounted archer. How cool is that!?!?!?!?!?

Erev
Erev on a galloping horse

I haven’t been on or even near horses since I was a teenager.  I love horses and dogs and this new adventure has me surrounded by both.  My host in Mexico has horses in Phoenix and in Puerta Penasco.  I visited with Erev in Athens, Georgia for a few days on route to Mexico and we spent a half day with her horses.

I spent a morning in Phoenix at the ranch observing Jorge training 3 of the 4 horses.  Jorge is a volunteer from Spain staying in Phoenix for a while as he travels in the United States.  He is a real horse whisperer and it was fascinating to watch him.  He spoke gently in a soothing, soft voice to the horses.  He continually explained to me what he was doing and why.  It was mesmerizing to watch and a lesson for sure in patience.

horse training.jpg
Volunteer from Spain, Jorge training horse

Why all this talk and time with horses?  Many of you may know that I am studying now to become a Kohenet, a Hebrew Priestess.   This past spring my cohort and I were initiated and this summer we will be ordained.  I am very excited about the whole process. Kohenet is a training program in spiritual leadership for women on a Jewish path. It is also a movement, a sisterhood, and a network of communities. It is creating a paradigm of earth-based, embodied, feminist, Judaism. I am now working with a Kohenet mentor who uses horses and archery to teach energy-work.  The archery helps with my ability to concentrate and to focus.  Horses are known for their incredible sensitivity.After a day in Phoenix my host drove me to Puerto Penasco in Mexico.  It is a small fishing village located on the Sea of Cortes in Mexico. Commonly referred to by American visitors as Rocky Point, this small fishing town has blossomed into a popular modern day vacation destination. Rocky Point is a little over 60 miles from the USA border which makes the seaside city a popular drive to destination by visitors from the USA.  It is here that I will be managing 10 AirBnb properties.  Check it out.

Sandra Laya Puerta Penasco
SandraLaya in Las Conchas, Puerta Penasco, Mexico

 

 

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Quite the Adventure: My Bags are Packed and I’m Ready to Go.

I have been planning this trip for quite sometime now and it has just come to fruition. The dream was a winter out of the snow and somewhere near salt water, sand and sunshine.  I am only semi-retired and not independently wealthy so there was a financial challenge to overcome.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…..how to have it all????

I questioned my friends and acquaintances, scoured websites, and sent my prayers out to the Universe.  I’ve been very intrigued with the concept of Workaway. Take a look at  their website – so many opportunities around the world.  In the end, I found an opportunity through a good friend of my mine with her sister in Mexico.  For the next 4 months, I will be volunteering in Rocky Point, Mexico helping with their AirBnb business.  Check it out here.

The first hurdle was to get there without spending a lot of money.  Travelling across the USA for free.  There had to be a way.  I found it with Toronto Drive-Away Service.  I applied online in September and heard back from them promptly.  Early in October they gave me my assignment.  I drove a brand new Honda CRV to Fort Myers, Florida for a couple of elderly snow birds.

Honda CRV

It was a great adventure – driving across country on my own with the radio cranked high singing to the Beatles and a variety of 60’s music and other pop era’s.  Yowza!!!  This is not for the faint of heart.  I hit every type of weather – lots of rain on and off, snow in West Virginia for a few kilometers, bright and blinding sunshine and then absolutely torrential rain on I-75 just a half hour from my hotel.  It was terrifying as traffic slowed to nothing and no one could see.  I quickly exited the highway and waited it out in a parking lot.

I drove 12 hours on day one and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Suites in Beckley, West Virginia that I easily booked on Hotwire and left a 5 star review on Yelp.    I slept well and was up and on my way to Athens, Georgia very early the next morning.  I arrived there 6 hours later.  I spent a lovely day with my friend and mentor, left my luggage and drove another 12 hours to Fort Myers the next morning. Spent the night at the Hyatt Suites, met the couple (whose car I was) delivering at an airport shuttle office, took the shuttle over to Southwest’s Terminal and flew to Athens an hour and half later.  Read my reviews of the Hyatt Suites and Southwest Airlines on Yelp.

Choosing what to pack and how to limit my luggage took lots of my brain power.  I need warm clothes for the drive down and for my stay in March in Connecticut, boots and water shoes, clothes for being around the stables and clothes for fun, clothes for meeting clients………….I love my clothes.  I had to limit myself to luggage I could manage solo and also the limitations of the airlines.

Bags are packed

I know this is the time for me – time to get healthier, face my fears head on, ramp up the adventure meter and experience something new everyday.  There’s no stopping me now.

I’ve been in my element these past few weeks.  I created a bedroom in my closet.  The closet is about 6 feet by 7 feet and I have loved having all that storage space!  I had an abundance of items organized in that closet – my clothes and everything else.  The apartment is only 400 square feet in total.  It’s small but more than enough space for me to live very happily. I often have friends and family over and can comfortably entertain a dozen or more guests.  I frequently have overnight guests too.

A few weeks ago I was scrolling Pinterest when I found this photo.  I was so inspired.  I went to my closet, took a look went back to the sofa, got up and looked again.  I repeated that scenario at least 3 times until I just couldn’t help myself. I started hauling everything out of my closet – clothing, suitcases, shoes, boots, boxes, jewellery, coats and so on and so on and so on.  A lot of stuff.

Pinterest

After washing the floors and the shelving, I moved the single bed into the room.  Now what to do with all the “stuff”.  Of course,  a quick trip to Ikea would have quickly solved all my problems but I didn’t have that amount of extra cash and I also prefer to use recycled products whenever possible.  Ol, I admit, I am very frugal and I hate waste more than anything.

That same week I found a dresser in the parking lot of my daughter’s condo. I am so lucky when it comes to finding things that I need.  Looking around my place right now there are many great finds.

the dresser
The dresser (free)

Then I started scouring Marketplace on Facebook.  I was hoping to find something cheap, in my neighbourhood  and that someone might deliver. No small wish list.  Here’s what I found this week.

 

 

The storage box
The storage box $15 picked up
The wardrobe
The wardrobe $40 delivered

 

The clothes are in the dresser, the wardrobe and the storage box.  I emptied a few shelves in my linen closet moving all the towels into the bathroom and all the bedding into the storage box of my Ikea Beddinge sofa.  Before the move, I had the beautiful quilts that my Grandmother made there but now I am showing them off in my new bedroom. I moved the shoe shelf into the entrance way and gave it a beachy look.

Beachy shoe rack
Shoes and boots

I love my new room.  I love the bold red accents.  I am surrounded by my favourite things.  I now have more living and dining room space and having a private bedroom is fabulous.  My rent is the same but now I have a one bedroom apartment.  This is the best of tiny space living!

Bedroom
My new bedroom

 

 

My Mother’s Day Rant – Wishing you Joy and Happiness

It’s Mother’s Day and my birthday.  I am such a lucky woman.  Totally blessed with loving daughters, a lovely little apartment, a small pension, a great little job that I can do from home (teaching English to children in China online) and more than enough.  My cupboards are generally filled and I am able to have a few of those luxuries that make me smile and add to my contentment.

 

Some people don’t think I have a lot but I have everything that I want and need. To others I have a heaping helping of abundance.  I have so many friends that have been devastated from the military occupation of Palestine – homes destroyed, children murdered……that is what the opposite of my life can look like.

But my joy and sense of abundance is not in comparison to others, it’s just what I feel.  Nothing works more successfully for my sense of joy than writing out my Gratitudes.  This is a habit I acquired more than 20 years ago.  I was inspired by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her Simple Abundance book, by Oprah, and by the Secret (book and film).  I write out 5 things that I am grateful for from the previous day.  If I get off this path and I start to feel lousy, I reboot with this practice and quickly am restored to my grateful and abundant self. I always urge others to just give it a 14 day trial and just see how it feels.

simple-abundance

I love a little self indulgence – cosmetics, having my hair coloured and styled (yup, folks, I am not a real blonde!!), acquiring new clothing (at least, new to me), dressing up my living space, flowers, plants…………..I love surrounding myself with “pretty things” and I love delicious, fresh and healthy food!  I also totally adore my daughters and my grandson!

 

 

I know there are so many people that just can’t acknowledge Joy – they feel so deeply the hurting in our world.  I understand it but if I don’t indulge myself, if I don’t create balance for myself, I won’t have the energy to help others and to be a dissident voice on this planet. I am all about balance.

Now on my Priestess path – my ordination as a Kohenet is just a year away – I believe that we are created in the image of the Divine.  I am so blessed to feel that Love and Inspiration. I encourage those of you who can find that Presence to embrace it – to Love yourself.  I encourage you to acknowledge your Gratitudes, to indulge in what you love, to smile even when it hurts.  “Fake it til you make it, Baby.” The People are rising – let’s change this world.  Let’s make a difference!  Let’s spread love and respect.  This is your day!

Passover Liberation Sedars

This was undoubtedly my busiest Passover EVER!!!  My colleagues and I at the Jewish Liberation Theology Institute held 3 sedars in 3 different cities – Toronto, Hamilton and London.

Setting up in London, Ontario

Our founding Rabbi Lucia Pizarro led the sedars in both Toronto and London, Ontario. Lucia was born in Mexico City, where she became qualified to practice law. She completed an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Essex in the UK. She followed her academic passion for Jewish thought with four years working for social justice in Palestine. She recently became a mother and a Rabbi.  Our guest was Rabbi David Mivisair officiating in Hamilton. Rabbi David Mivasair is motivated by the commandments “justice, justice you shall pursue” and “seek peace and pursue it”.  For over 25 years, David served as the spiritual leader of synagogues in the US and in Vancouver, where he lives.  David is active in the leadership of Independent Jewish Voices in Canada and Jewish Voice for Peace in the US.  He lived in Israel for four years and in May went with 130 other Jews to support Palestinian activists defending their communities from destruction.

 

 

I was very excited to be the song and prayer leader in both Hamilton and London this year.

 

In London our guest speaker was Tarek Loubani. Tarek is a Palestinian physician and humanitarian. He is an Associate professor at the University of Western Ontario where he works as an emergency physician. He runs the Glia Project, which provides low-cost open-source medical equipment to impoverished locations, and EmPower Gaza, which puts solar panels for electricity on hospitals in Gaza. He will talk about his work at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, in the context of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.

tarik loubani

In Hamilton, our guest speaker was Robert Massoud. Robert is a Palestinian-Canadian. In 2004, he founded Zatoun to build bridges between Palestine and North America through the sale of cultural and symbolic products from Palestine. The main offering is fair trade extra virgin olive oil to serve as a symbol of light, hope and peace.  Zatoun is available through the fair trade network, activist and faith communities. He believes that appreciating the enormity and wide-ranging impacts of the Israel-Palestine situation creates interest for people to self-educate which is the best path to commitment and effective civil society.

Robert Massoud

In Toronto we had a speaker from the Palestinian community who asks people to support the Indigenous Land Defence Across Borders (ILDAB) project.

Recipient of the Absolutely Fabulous Women over 40 Award

What an honour to be nominated and then chosen to receive the Absolutely Fabulous Women over 40 award.  The corporate sponsor was Mary Kay.  It was an amazing night with over 400 guests and 40 fabulous women receiving the award.

This is the 5th annual extravaganza and it is organized by a dynamic group of women.  Rosanna Penilla-Bharucha is the founder of the event. Rosanna is an entrepreneur and believes in giving back to the community. She is the Executive Director of The Boomerpreneur and Boomerpreneurs Network, Regional Director for Asia-Pacific at Ed2All and Managing Director of the Host Students Network.

Reach-out-logoReach Out, an organization that helps to break the silence on sexual abuse benefited from the event.

The gala was held at the Grand Victorian Convention Centre in Mississauga.  Magnificent venue and the buffet meal was delicious.

Be Mine Valentine (committed to me)

 

I am no relationship expert.  Although, I have had many – I have had more failures than successes.  Well, I suppose many would sum it in that way.  I, however, look at back them as experiences, learning opportunities and mostly, a lot of fun.

Just days away from Valentine’s Day and I am getting excited.  My beloved and I have been making plans for weeks.  We’ve been married since the summer of 2012.  We?  Me and me.  I and I. Self-love.  I married myself and I highly recommend it.

I planned a lovely, simple wedding on the beach (my favourite place) in the evening.  The whole day was leading up to my ceremony was fun with a bit of shopping and a delicious meal.

July 2012 I promised to love myself.  I promised to honour and protect me.  Now as Valentine’s day approaches I see it as a day to recommit.  I want to have a day to honour Love, in general , and to honour a commitment to the one person who  will be with me until I die.  The one person who I want to love and take the best possi ble care of.   I am proud to say I love me. My commitment to my health, my safety, my well being and contentment is all part of my “marriage”.

I am also blessed to have wonderful people in life that I love,  my grandson, my daughters, their partners and my amazing friends.  However, my life changed the day I married myself.  Something flipped in me and a new contentment washed over me.  It has stayed with me over the years.  There was a moment when I realized I really wasn’t alone.

Whether you are in relationship or not, I invite you to explore making this personal commitment – to love, honour and respect YOU.

Time to Kick Ass (or at least reduce mine)

Well, it has been quite a while since I had the motivation to share the thoughts constantly streaming in my very active brain.  You know the ongoing dialogue that interrupts all the attempts at meditation and the “what I think are brilliant ideas” that come to me while I am out walking.  Yes, the ones that I never remember when I get home.

I am back on track with my healthy life style plan and the best plan of action for me is to share and to have my family and friends (and readers) keep me real.  I have read that this works for some and not for others but it is always a great idea for me.  I was being very strict with myself in the weeks prior to my doctor’s appointment mid January.  I then was a little more lenient in the past 2 weeks – no weight gain but no weight loss either.

I like to use the old weight watchers plan –pre 2010.  It is the best one for me – only some vegetables are free points and everything else needs to be weighed and calculated.  It has worked every time for me and I have been so blessed to not gain anything back since 2004 when I first put it into use.  I managed to drop another 15 pounds since last August and then plateaued.  I think it is time to put more exercise in the mix at least 3 days a week and walk for nothing less than a half hour on the other days.  I have lost 80 pounds in total so far – 20 more to go.

For me the best diet secret is just not to have the bad stuff in the house.  I am watching my sugar intake so I have pretty much eliminated packaged foods (maybe a package of Ryvita crackers once in a while), removed the maple syrup, divide my meat in portions before I put it in the freezer as well as removing fat and skin ( too tempting when you are cooking at 5pm and already hungry), and stocking the freezer with frozen vegetables that are easy to cook in a hurry or when I need to snack.  My favourite go-to splurge is all you can eat sushi every few weeks.

If you want to try the very old weight watcher’s plan without the expense you can try this resource and you can calculate your point value here.  You can also find the value of thousands of food right here.  On the old system you can calculate your point allotment here.

I am inspired to keep this up because my last Doctor’s appointment was successful.  All my numbers were on the decline!  Yup, cholesterol, blood sugar – everything – the doctor was very pleased and won’t see me again for 6 months.  I want to reach my goal weight of 150 pounds by then.  It’s important for me to talk numbers and I wish more of us did.  I am certain that if I knew that so many women weighed in the same range as me, I wouldn’t have felt like the biggest one around.  I wish that I had that measuring stick instead of the chart that said I was supposed to weigh 130 when my starting point was 160.   I had no idea that a size 14 was average.

I started losing weight in 2004 – dropped 35 pounds – felt fabulous and svelt and didn’t try to lose again until my diagnosis with Type 2 Diabetes.  I then dropped another 20 and was able to go without medications for another 2 years.  Last year my numbers were escalating and I am now on a few medications that are working well.  For those of you familiar with Diabetic medication – Metformin does not work for me – the side effects leave my joints sore and stiff and cause a lot of digestive problems.  I recommend not relying on your family physician but getting an Endocrinologist as soon as you are diagnosed.  I am taking 2 new medications – Trajenta and Jardiance.  They are working for now but my goal is once again to be medication free.  That is why I am working so hard! I continue to have a monthly acupuncture treatment and to take my Chinese Herbs daily.

It’s all about health and healing.  I am committed to this journey. Help keep me honest.  I love sharing recipes and food ideas, exercise plans and anything that has been successful.  I wish I knew all this when I was younger and I wish that I put a stop to the slow weight gain of 5 pounds every year but there is no sense in crying over that spilled milk.  I am sure there are a lot of important lessons in it all.  At least I know that being overweight did not stop me from doing anything – EVER!

Time to kick ass!  Or at least reduce mine.

Travelling and Earning Money

I am so intrigued by all the opportunities to work online and to work away.  I have been exploring these possibilities for quite a while now.  I am so inspired by friends who have chosen to work abroad teaching  and others who are house sitting,  pet sitting, renting out their own places, doing home exchanges and more.  I was fortunate to live in the Middle East for 2 years teaching English and writing grants for a few non-governmental organizations.  I also had a chance to work on a project in Greece for 6 months.  These opportunities were private ones that I found but if are considering house or pet sitting you might want to check out TrustedHousesitters.

Did you ever watch the film “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz and Kate WInslett ?  The lead characters advertise online for a house swap.  Watch the trailer here.  Maybe it will inspire the adventurer inside you?  Check out HomeExchange.

My plan for retirement is to put these many ideas into practice. The list of possibilities is endless.  I am hoping that we will continue to add to the list and share our successes and failures.

I have been teaching English as a second language online for a few years now.  I really enjoy it and find it is quite simple and very satisfying.  Many companies like the one I work for provide the entire lesson plan so that there is minimal preparation.  I have been working as a supply teacher up to now and just this week began with ongoing classes.  Previously (before retirement) my income from teaching was just a supplement to a regular salary but now I am more dependent on it.  Here is a link to many online teaching jobs.

Need to rent out your home?  There are countless ideas from AirBnB to countless Facebook groups and also  SabbaticalHomes .  You will probably find more on Craigslist and Kijiji as well. However, it is important to do your homework, that means research and asking questions.  This is as complicated or even more complicated than online dating.  Be careful, be smart, be diligent.  I suggest asking friends for recommendations and using sites that offer ratings on both the traveller and the advertiser.

It is a good idea to join groups of travellers which you will find on Facebook and other social media platforms.

The ideas are only limited to your imagination.  Dare to dream.  Where would go?  What have you done?

editor’s note:  We are not endorsing any of the mentioned websites.  These are simply ideas to get you started.

That’s What a Healthy Life Looks Like

Yesterday I retired from my position as the National Coordinator for Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.  I am ready for the change and so excited for the challenge ahead.

Today I am heading to Milford, Connecticut to cat/house sit.  Deb and I met in 2015 when I first visited as a Bed and Breakfast guest.  I love her home – cozy, clean, quaint and a block from the beach.  This will be home for the 2 ½ weeks.

I am back on a very healthy eating and weight loss program.  Although I am satisfied with my weight and how I look these days, I can’t seem to get my health in good order.  Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension (High blood pressure).  Both of these are hereditary on both sides of my family but that shouldn’t have made it inevitable.  I changed my eating habits, lost 20 pounds and worked closely with a practitioner of Chinese medicine.  I take herbs and have monthly treatments.  For 2 years, I was able to lower my blood sugar readings to normal and maintain a healthy blood pressure but then last year my numbers started going up.  No matter how much I restricted what I was eating, I couldn’t do it.  I dropped another 10 pounds but then the weight loss stopped and I have been stuck for several months.  I am seeing an endocrinologist ( a specialist for diabetes) and he has me on 3 different medications and they are all at the maximum  dosage.  I am not feeling any side effects but we are also not getting to the normal numbers that he wants.  The prognosis is that I will need a new mediation but he has given me until December to lose more weight.

That’s where I am today, one week later and magically 3 pounds lighter.   I am using the weight watchers program (pre 2010).  I know it and it has worked for me in the past.  In 2004, I lost 35 pounds and kept it off, and since then I have used it to lose another 35.  At least I have gained any weight in the past 20 years.  I have an ideal weight in mine – my lowest adult weight from when I was 19 years old.  That is another 35 pounds but my goal for now is 20 pounds.   Since my diagnosis a few years ago, I believed that I could beat this if I could reach that weight.

I am inviting you to come on this journey with me – keep me motivated, keep me honest, encourage me and maybe some of you will work at this with me.  When I want a change, I believe in going public!  Go big or go home!!

Here is the plan – stick to the old weight watchers plan, work at things that I love, commit to exercise a minimum of 3 times a week but trying for 5.  The next 17 days I want to kickstart it!  I am going to beach destination in Connecticut, on the beautiful Long Island Sound, a bicycle with flat roads and a state park, miles of beach and quiet.  I am going to bike every day with a goal of 12 kilometres per day.  I want to walk the beach at low tide everyday rain or shine soaking up the healthy salt air and the “negative ions”.  My diet splurges will be fresh lobster and quahogs and a glass or 2 of wine, maybe even a light beer.  Alcohol isn’t something I drink very often but vacation screams “Have a glass or 2.” Of course, it means giving up something else on the weight watchers’ plan.

I need to purchase lunch in the airport today and I know I could have chosen a salad but instead I picked a roasted vegetable sandwich and a coffee.  I ate one half of the bun and through the rest away.  For me, that is important to throw out what I shouldn’t eat otherwise it may find its way into my mouth an hour later.  I am only supposed to have one coffee a day but every now and then, I treat myself to an extra one.  Love the dark roast with a splash of lowfat cream.

An hour until my flight departs.  I feel that my whole life is about to lift off.  Fingers crossed.