Happy New Year!

We had a great time ringing in 2017 here in San Miguel starting with a party on our dear friends rooftop overlooking the Paroquia in the centre of town followed by a slumber party back home. Great views, great people, lots of fun. Here’s a bit of a sketchy video of the fireworks but you get the gist!

 

We became honorary Texans for the day. In the South of the USA there is a tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Years Day as a mark of prosperity. This is a tradition Joseph takes very seriously but given that he doesn’t cook…and his usual ‘go-to black eye peas chef’ was out of town (who also happens to be Scottish!) – it was down to me to cook them this year. Following Linda’s recipe, we soaked the dried peas in beer overnight. We drained these the next morning and then fried up some onions, garlic, ham hock and bacon and a few spices before adding the peas and chicken stock to the pan and cooking them for HOURS until they were deliciously soft. I also made a big vat of chilli, rice, cornbread, guac, spinach and artichoke dip, salad and brownies. Enough to feed 30 hungry mouths yesterday afternoon…and then some!

 

 

Bye bye 2016..hello 2017

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2016 has been a landmark year for us in so many ways. Dissatisfied with our lives in the UK and missing our Mexican family – Joseph and Eduardo – we took a massive leap of faith and moved to Mexico back in January.

At the time we had no idea how long we’d stay or how things would pan out for us. All we knew is that we wanted to get out of the UK for a while and most of all – have more time together.

While most the world has been seemingly in turmoil (and there have been challenges for us here), it’s been the small things that have buoyed us and made the most meaning in our lives. The opportunity to make new friends, be a part of a new community, spend time with our nearest and dearest here, laugh, cry and have lots of fun have been the most meaningful parts of our time here. I can’t believe it’s drawing to a close as we head back to the UK in March…that’s another story.

I can’t begin to thank Joseph, Eduardo, Susan, Larry and Zack the dog for being our family here. Words can’t express the depth of love we have for each one and such gratitude for how they’ve embraced us this year. We love them all dearly. Sure, we’re not your typical ‘family’ but I’ve learnt that over the years it’s those that love you unconditionally, warts and all, that make family – not blood. That’s not to say my family back in the UK don’t mean a lot to us too!

Tonight we’ll be seeing in the new year on a rooftop overlooking the cathedral – with the best view of the fireworks! Most of all we’re looking forward to precious time with our Mexican family and friends!So as we say Adios to 2016, we are looking forward to a year of LIMITLESS GROWTH in 2017….

My hope for 2017 is that the world can find a greater sense of peace, empathy and compassion. I don’t know how things are going to turn out with Brexit or Trump’s presidency. I’m done with feeling angry about the state of the world. Only more love, less hate and less judging is going to help us to find a greater sense of peace. I look forward to a day when we can ALL appreciate and embrace the rich diversity in our world.

So as we say Adios to 2016, we are looking forward to a year of LIMITLESS GROWTH in 2017….

More adventures

More friendships

More walks up that darn hill!

More fun

More travel

More LOVE

Happy New Year!

2016 in pictures Pt. II

Hold on to your seats folks – here’s the second half of 2016 in pictures.

July/August

We headed back to Europe for the Summer and over the course of six weeks we visited the UK, Switzerland, France, Andorra and Spain with our friend Susan. We saw family and friends along the way and explored new views. Fabulous fun!

We reunited with our Sacred France friends in the Languedoc for 10 days which was fantastic fun. It was special to continue to explore the unique history and energy of the region through the eyes of our dear friend Kathleen McGowan. We celebrated our 11th Wedding anniversary while exploring the deeply significant village of Minerve. Lots of sparkling, lots of laughter, lots of great times with fabulous friends – new and not so new!

Following our escapades in France and Andorra we headed to Spain to see my brother Jason, Amber and little Zeph in time for her birthday near Barcelona. While in the area we visited Girona and the incredible monastery at Monserrat.

After leaving Barcelona we drove down the coast to Valencia for a night and on to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Southern Spain to stay with our fabulous friend Terry near Lanjaron for a week. Time spent at El Rincon is always magical and it was wonderful to take a slightly slower pace for a week. We did spend a day exploring the magical Alhambra Palace and Gardens in Granada though. At the end of the week we drove north to Toledo (just south of Madrid) for a night and on to the airport the next day so Susan could fly back to Mexico. Matt and I then continued to drive north through the Pyrenees and Basque country back to the Dordogne. Incredible scenes en route!

Back home in Cladech, we also spent precious moments with my other brother Robin, Marie Helene and our nephew James and our cats Ronnie and Reggie. Cladech is home and it’s always wonderful to arrive, but so so hard to leave.

The final stop on our epic Summer was a few days back in the UK visiting family and friends. We had a big Ash family reunion and it was great to see Matt’s cousins Liz, Debbie and their family – all back in the UK together which is rare! Our dear friends Liz and Kevin were visiting from Boston and we managed to squeeze in a sublime lunch in Richmond. And of course, no visit home would be complete without time with the Guildford gang – great to see Nic, Peterkin and Bob too.

September/October

After all that travelling it was good to get home to Mexico. September is a big month in Mexico as it’s when we celebrate Independence day and since the movement began here in San Miguel the celebrations here are huge!

Joseph and Eduardo finally moved into their new home and we helped them to kit out their kitchen….and I started cooking for them…still hoping one of them might actually learn to cook before we leave the country next year!

In October I headed back to the UK for a week. Great to see friends and family again!

And we celebrated Eduardo’s birthday

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November

A big month of Day of the Dead celebrations (BIGGER than Halloween here!), dinner parties, visits from friends and Thanksgiving.

We celebrated Joseph’s big 40, a visit from Ed over Thanksgiving and our friends Amanda, Rody, Michelle and James visiting from Portland.

December

And so we made it to December. I started a month with a thrilling three day trip to Hermosillo in Northern Mexico to see some clients…who I now count as friends too! I was able to be a part of their amazing Game of Thrones themed Christmas gathering….and Mexican’s know how to work hard and party hard too! We then escaped to Puerto Vallarta for a fun weekend with Amanda, Rody and lots more friends on the beach.

We then escaped to Puerto Vallarta for a fun weekend with Amanda, Rody and lots more friends on the beach.

San Miguel looks gorgeous at this time of year with the Christmas decorations up and lots of celebrations taking place in town.

We’re getting ready to cook a big Christmas dinner for friends and our Mexican family. Wherever you are…have a peaceful joy-filled Christmas and a fabulous New Year!

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2016 in pictures, Pt. I

January

We said farewell to a wintry Blighty and arrived in San Miguel de Allende! Celebrated our birthday’s and settled into life in the high desert!

February

Our great friend and colleague Traci visited from Iowa – and escaped the winter! We had fun exploring the town, visiting with friends and watching Eduardo participate in a Storytelling Festival showcase.

 

March

Miranda made a quick trip to San Francisco and spent time with clients and friends!

Back in San Miguel is was Easter season – Semana Santa – which is taken VERY seriously in this town. Parades every day…some more reverent than others – each is colourful and unique.

April

Not too much happened this month as Miranda prepared for conference season at work! But in between all that, we enjoyed cherished moments with friends and more exploring!

 

May

Summit time meant that Miranda was in Miami for a week or so working hard and having fun!

And not long after returning to San Miguel we had four of our friends from Romania visit for 10 days. It was great to see SMA through their eyes. We also spent a wonderful weekend on a friend’s ranch and made the most of the warmer weather! Hot Springs, Mariachi bands on our roof and birthday celebrations made it a great month!

June

The beginning of rainy season here in the high desert – hot days, balmy nights and some welcome moisture.

We had a new neighbour for the month – one of Joseph’s closest friends from San Angelo – Matt. Matt is a Spanish teacher and came down to SMA for a month to hone his language skills. Both Matt’s hit it off…bit of a bromance going on…and enjoyed afternoons putting the world to rights over a few beers on our roof. They also have a shared passion for Monty Python…lets just say that there were a LOT of laughs in our house in June!

Part II coming soon! 

Hermosillo fun

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Take 250 people who love to self-manage themselves and what do you get? Nearsoft.

Nearsoft is a self-managed IT outsourcing organisation based in Hermosillo in North West Mexico. When we moved in Mexico earlier this year I was determined to make sure that I took the time to visit our friends at Nearsoft to see the secrets of their success with my own eyes. I’m so grateful that the People Team at Nearsoft decided that the run up to Christmas was the perfect time for me to pay them a visit!

The company has been growing rapidly over the last few years and has achieved 12x growth using the tools of Freedom at Work™ and self-management where people engage in peer-to-peer relationships, make decisions together and support each other’s individual and collective growth.

To say that I was impressed by Nearsoft is an understatement. They have created something so rare. Over the course of my few days in Hermosillo I asked so many of the team what their secret sauce is….no one could give me an answer. Freedom at Work comes relatively naturally to the team. They are all mature thinkers and understand to whom and to what they are responsible. Many teammates commented that one of the reasons they love working at Nearsoft is the ability to determine their own destiny because each person is trusted to get the job done. All said that this was in stark contrast to previous jobs in command and control style organisations.

When people arrive at Nearsoft, they may have a job description but this doesn’t mean they can’t explore other interests and activities. In exploring the WorldBlu 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy™, Nearsoft utilised the principle of Choice through project exchanges, mentoring, work sharing, and discussions, where employees get the chance to learn and decide how they want to develop their career and/or change their role. By doing all they can to ensure employees are in the right role, the company ensures that all individuals are happy, engaged, and working at their best.

It’s not unusual to find groups of Nearsoftians getting together for dinner at the weekend or going to see a movie together. This year a number of teammates are expecting babies and they recently held a giant baby shower for all the expectant mothers. In addition, they actively hire women (unusual in the IT sector) and have implemented a number of practices to make it easy to flexibly manage their work schedule around the needs of their children. The office games room turns into a play area for some of the children after school and children are included in holidays such as Halloween.

One of the things I love about Mexican culture is the great sense of family values. Family is number one here. And family come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. By the time I left Hermosillo, I realised that the secret sauce at Nearsoft is that they behave like a family who express unconditional love and Ubuntu – lifting the company higher in the process.

At a time when our sense of freedom and democracy is being challenged by certain ‘politicians’ and mass media who often negatively portray Mexicans as lazy and unworthy, Nearsoft shows the real story…the story the media choose to ignore. To anyone wondering what it really is like to work in an organisation where everyone is valued….take a look at Nearsoft. They are the real deal.

And being Mexicans – they work incredibly hard, and play hard too. We spent days collectively strategizing future needs for the organisation and their clients and by night we explored the town including some of the amazing food Hermosillo has to offer. I even attended my first baseball game in years and the icing on the cake was joining the company End of Year Party….Game of Thrones style. It was epic! I can’t remember the last time I went to a work Christmas party – being a remote team, it’s hard to get together at Christmas.

Our fabulous friends at Nearsoft took me into their hearts and made me a part of their family. I can’t thank all the Nearsoftians enough. You’re all a part of the WorldBlu family too.

 

Cooking….and more cooking!

Those that know me, know that I love nothing more than gathering people around a table and cooking for them! Entertaining is so much fun.

In recent months, given that Joseph and Eduardo rarely cook, they’ve let me make use of their fabulous new kitchen in return for doing the odd dinner party of two….or larger. They’re taking full advantage of our services until we return to the UK next Spring! I’ve cooked everything from Shepherd’s Pie, Spinach and ricotta Cannelloni, green curry and roasts to Maple Pecan Pie, Cakes, Apple bakes and trifle. Most have worked out well – won’t attempt the Fig and Ricotta tart again anytime soon! With Matt as my helper and washer upper…we’re a good team!

By far one of the most fun cooking experiences has been preparing appetisers for Joseph’s 40th Birthday this past weekend. Fig jam, blue cheese and dried ham canapes, spring rolls, brie and cranberry toasts, rosemary nuts, guacamole and much more. I didn’t stretch to making the cake, but we did order one which was delish!

This being Thanksgiving week (and since I’m an honorary yank!), I’m planning on cooking up a storm. Our fabulous friend Ed is joining us all the way from LA (can’t wait to see him tomorrow night!). With several events to cook for over the next week, I’m looking forward to gathering friends around the table and giving thanks for the amazing memories they’re helping to create here on our Mexican adventure!

 

I want a divorce!

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This was written to be delivered at a local storytelling festival. I’m not now participating in the festival, but thought it was still worthwhile sharing here. Note-this is not written in a journalistic style. It was written for a performance, so as you read it, imagine me on stage acting out some of the scenes!

‘I want a divorce.’ With those words my world crumbled. He told me – in that raspy Texas accent that I found so endearing – that he didn’t love me, made a mistake and wanted out of our marriage immediately. In fact he had already begun legal proceedings. I was gob smacked and didn’t know how to respond. How could this man, who I loved so much, tell me that he had made a mistake, that he didn’t love me after all? Why was he being so cold, mean and heartless? Was I too fat, was I not worthy, wasn’t I enough? The pain was unbearable.

He was a pretty single-minded man, washed his hands of me and left his lawyer to handle matters and that was that.

For months I would lie on my bed unable to sleep traversing all those feelings I guess one goes through in these sorts of situations. When things got too much I would try to take my mind off it by counting the flower petals on the hideous wallpaper in my room. Hideous blue and yellow flowers in the middle of candy stripes….yuk! Months passed and I had held out some faint hope that he would realise he had made a mistake. Of course this was a fantasy.

In the UK on November 5th every year we have a tradition of marking the day Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Communities make massive bonfires and burn an effigy of Guy on top. That year we made a guy in the image of my husband. We stuffed a pair of jeans and a sweater full of straw with a cowboy hat on top and put it on the bonfire. I have to say it was a little cathartic!

I found myself saying to myself, ‘It would be so much easier if he was gay, he’d come out and I’d be able to forgive him and move on!’ Instead, I was lashing out at him….”I’m going to sue the pants off you, you bastard!” So he lashed back at me with the threat to have me subpoenaed. I begrudgingly signed the divorce papers.

It took me time to realise that we do not have to be victims of our own stories… our stories are a way out of our suffering. We hold the power to change our story. Eventually I knew it was time to rewrite my story. I turned a corner. I stopped counting the hideous flower petals and painted the walls of my room. I began to see that I had to grow up, stand on my own two feet and gradually take back my power. I learnt to love and value myself rather than letting someone else define my worth. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed being single. Just at that point a new love walked into my life.

I didn’t hear from my ex husband….aptly named the ‘Wasbund’ for many years. Mutual friends would keep me abreast of his life from time to time. He had returned to the USA after serving in the Peace Corps and had gone into politics in Texas. Years later I get an email from him. It said ‘Dear Miranda, please know that I wish you nothing but the best.’ WHAT THE FUCK! I haven’t heard from him in 9 years and that’s all he had to say! I ignored it.

The very next day, I arrived at work and opened an email from a friend in the US with the link to a news headline – GAY TEXAN MAYOR COMES OUT AND FLEES TO MEXICO WITH HIS ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT LOVER. Could this really be the him?

I fell off my chair, ran into the bathroom, sobbed and had to be coaxed out by my bewildered colleagues.

He IS gay!

YAY!

I was vindicated! It wasn’t my fault after all!

The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should sell the story to the National Enquirer, make pots of money and celebrate this news in style! Like I said…it was just a thought!

The greatest act of compassion on his part was letting me go all those years ago. Despite everything that had happened, in an INSTANT I forgave him.

Next, in what I can only describe as an out-of-body experience, I felt a mass fall through my body and I was free of the chain of events that had choked me for so many years. I found the power to let go of an abusive family relationship and a shitty boss who I had let rule my life for far too long.

Forgiveness gave me freedom and has since become a mantra for the way I now choose to live my life fearlessly. Coming out, leaving all your hopes, dreams, family and community behind takes a HUGE amount of courage. Despite everything that had happened it was easy to forgive him.

I responded to his email and over the next few years we renewed our friendship. We’ve taken vacations together. We even took him and his partner to their first Pride parade in London. I can’t deny the joy I feel whenever I seem him express his sense of freedom openly. I knew I could count on him as one of my closest friends when, several years ago, my mother was killed in an accident, he dropped everything and flew to the UK to help comfort us in the aftermath.

One of the proudest moments of my life was to be a witness as my friend married the love of his life and we became a family. If anything I love and admire my ex husband all the more for standing up for his truth. Together with our husbands, (in the words of Sister Sledge), WE ARE FAMILY. It is as it should be. My story, OUR story proves that love truly does come in all shapes and sizes!