Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Back To My Roots

Prior to moving to Mexico I spent the better part of the last 30 years working in the cosmetic industry in one capacity or another. For the last ten years I worked in retail and I can honestly say that I don’t miss that for a second! During that time, however, I also worked as a makeup artist and I actually do miss that part of my work.

While I worked for Estee Lauder we did the makeup for a lot of fashion shows, during my tenure with Lancome I did quite a few stage presentations and while working with Shiseido I did mostly little seminars about sun protection, but also some involving makeup lessons.


The Hudson Bay Company West Vancouver

Todd used to have a bad habit of sending me a barbershop quartet on Valentine’s Day

Then during my last few years in Vancouver I worked as a cosmetic department manager for a large Canadian drug store chain. There we did makeup for a number of events and also took bookings for makeup for special occasions for our clients. Privately I have done weddings and makeup for photography.

Lately I’ve been finding myself doing this again and I really enjoy it in this setting where I  am not under the watchful eye of some large corporation who is waiting for this season’s sales projections, special event plans and staffing budget. While I was being questioned about my margins not being up to corporate expectations, in a demographic that was improperly researched to begin with before the store was built, I sort of lost the joy I used to find in doing transformations through makeup.

Revisiting my cosmetic roots sort of began last April during our annual camping week with 30 girls from Mexico City, A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words. Todd and I set up a little makeshift makeup and photography studio at the camp and we painted and photographed the girls. It was received with great enthusiasm and each girl had her makeup done and got her own portrait. For me it was a lot of work after not having done anything like that for years, but I also thoroughly enjoyed it, and realized that I actually missed that aspect of my profession.


Makeup at Camp Connie

A couple of months ago I again did the makeup for photographs for a website that Todd will be constructing for a friend here in San Miguel. That has sort of been set on the back burner at the moment as the friend has been out of town for a couple of months, but again, it nudged that part of me that misses the creative side of my work. 

shan 1

Yesterday I did a little makeup lesson for our friend Emma Salazar, from the bibliotheca, the public library, here in San Miguel de Allende. Emma is a tireless worker who coordinates events and fundraising for the bibliotheca, including the weekly Home Tours. She is also beautiful and vivacious and a great model! 


I also enjoy my watercolour painting, but this is a different and more interactive way to express my art. I guess it’s just a little something that’s been missing in my life since I quit working and I hope to be able to more of it in the future.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Apologies


I just want to say that I am sorry that so many of your comments have gone unpublished and unanswered on the last several posts. I have had technical difficulties. I am incredibly technologically challenged, but have remedied the situation, at least for the moment, or until another pops up, LOL.

I really appreciate all of your comments and insights and look forward to reading them with each new post. Thank you for bearing with me during my learning curve, it is indeed, difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. For anyone who is interested, I have now published and answered all the missing comments on those last few posts.

I will endeavor in the future to stay on top of these glitches and hope that you will all continue to read, enjoy and comment on my posts.

                                                                      Thank you so much,


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Plight of the Mexican Church


We all know that Mexico is a very Catholic country with more churches per square kilometer than, possibly, any other country. It is also a country that is very hard on it’s churches. I’m not sure why this odd phenomenon occurred to me but since it has I might as well share it, LOL. Off the top of my head I can think of three instances where churches here have suffered at the whims of nature and countless others at the hands of thieves and looters.

I have spoken before of Parícutin in the post The Birth of a Volcano, in which the church in the village of Parícutin, in the state of  Michoacán was buried in lava right up to the altar, where it mysteriously stopped. Today a 30 foot wall of lava stands in front of the untouched altar, a miracle visited daily by the faithful of the area. The rest of the church, however, was completely destroyed.


ct pc


Then we have the case of the Santuario Del Carmen, a church in the pueblo of Tlalpujaua, also in  Michoacán, Tlalpujahua; Christmas All Year Long, which met a similar fate in a flood and mudslide. The Santuario was built in the 16th century and dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and sometime later an image of her was painted on the adobe wall of the church. Then in 1937 Mother Nature showed her cruel side once again in the form of a landslide that buried several blocks in the center of town, including the Santuario Del Carmen and killed about 400 people. However, this disaster too, was not without it’s miracle.

Today all that can be seen of the entire area is the church’s bell tower sticking out of the ground. Strangely though, the wall that held the painting of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was not damaged and Our Lady remained unscathed when the landslide stopped just short of the wall. The wall containing the painting was carefully removed from the rest of the ruined building by some 1200 townsfolk and moved to the parish church not far away. The Santuario Del Carmen was eventually rebuilt and Our Lady of Mount Carmel resides at the altar in the company of Saints Peter and Paul.




Recently we learned that another of these brutal encounters with nature occurred right here in San Miguel de Allende, the result of which has left the remains of a church in the town’s presa, reservoir. This one seems the saddest to me as there seems to be no information available about the origins of this church or even it’s name. The water level in the reservoir is very high now, due to all the rain we’ve had this season and the church sits alone in the presa with only it’s spire above water to remind us of it’s fate. If anyone has any information about this church, I would love to know it’s story. 

The following picture of the spire is very small and distant as we got stuck in the mud when we tried to get close enough to take a good picture. We drove in the direction we thought would take us close to that side of the reservoir on a road that quickly became a small track that led to the forested campo. Due to the aforementioned rain, the track we were driving on degenerated to a muddy path and before we realized that we should probably turn around, we were stuck.

I found it quite comical watching Todd cutting branches off trees with a pen knife to stuff under the wheels of the car, although he didn’t see the humour. I wanted to help but he insisted that I stay in the car. I guess he was envisioning my walker and I stuck in the mud along with the car. We did eventually get out but had to take the picture from the highway far above the presa .






“ A small, picturesque city 80 miles southeast of Mexico City, Cholula is said to have a church for every day of the year. There are, in reality, about 80 in all, many dating to the 17th century and filled with paintings and sculptures from that time. It is enough to draw hordes of worshipers — and thieves.”

The quote above comes from an article in the New York TImes describing the spate of burglaries in the churches of Mexico over the last few years, and in Cholula in particular. For those that are interested in reading the article I’ve left the link at the bottom of this post.

I had sort of thought that the pillaging of Mexican churches was a thing of the distant past, but apparently it is an ongoing problem. In 2008, 2010 and as recently as October of 2012 churches in Cholula have been looted. The entire town of Cholula is involved in the protection of the churches and is even receiving help from expatriate Mexicans in the USA.

Four hundred year old Mexican works of art have turned up in auction houses, and apparently there is a strong market for this type of religious artwork in the southern US. According to the the article in the New York Times….. “ A group of religious-themed 18th-century paintings by the Mexican artist Miguel Cabrera sold for $362,500 in 2010, according to an online listing by Sotheby’s auction house."

There is not a lot that can be done to pacify Mother Nature, but I find the pillaging of churches by thieves for monetary gain appalling.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Right Place



2013-10-02 15.08.33


Last Saturday night I went to a great party. It was a birthday party for my friend Carla in an absolutely gorgeous house down by Parque Juarez. I met some lovely people, ate some great food and enjoyed the light show put on by nature when the evening became stormy. Carla and I go to Spanish conversation class together and our friend Jo, another classmate, was in attendance as well.

Even though the house was huge the party was quite crowded and as I maneuvered my way through the crowd with food, drink and walker Jo kindly commented that she knew what it was like to be handicapped. She told me a story about a time when she was living in New York and had suffered a serious injury, leaving her in a wheel chair for about three months.

It was winter time and dark and cold as she had tried to hail a cab, but even empty ones kept passing her by. None of the cabbies wanted to deal with a person in a wheel chair. Finally, in tears, she spotted a policeman and approached him, telling him of her dilemma. He hailed her a cab and instructed the cabby to take her where she wanted to go.

Wow! What a difference the locale makes. I’m often asked when people see me tottering over the cobblestones with my walker “ Oh my gosh, you didn’t do that here did you? “ or “ It must be SO difficult for you to get around here! “ Although, however kind the sentiment, it could not be more wrong. I am far better off being here in Mexico with my disabilities than I would be ‘north of the border’.

A couple of years ago, when I was still in a wheel chair, I was working for a friend in Umecuaro, a tiny village up in the hills between Morelia and Patzcuaro. I spent six months there looking after my friend’s property while she was working in Bangladesh. I had to oversee the regular work done on the property, like putting in new fence posts, tree fumigation and building repairs. I had to shop for household goods and feed for the horses and dogs.

It all seemed a little daunting at first, doing all this from a wheel chair, but then I realized you are never truly alone in Mexico. Lori, the live-in housekeeper and ranch hand was certainly helpful. But the most amazing thing was the help I received everywhere I went. I had a walker in the SUV with me and a wheelchair in the far back. I would use the walker to get to the back of the truck and then lift the wheel chair out while balancing on one leg. Or at least that was the plan. I don’t think I actually had to do that more than a handful of times.

Nine out of ten times before I ever reached the back of the car help had arrived. It came in the form of kind strangers from all walks of life. Whether it was a young girl, or an old man they all helped me get the wheel chair out of the car and made sure that I had things well in hand before going on their way. I was flabbergasted……and touched……and charmed by all these wonderful folks that took the time to come and help a stranger.

A few months ago I was taking a class at the Instituto Allende, part of the Lifelong Learning Program, and as I left the building I encountered an amazing phenomenon. The instituto is on Calle Ancha San Antonio, a wide thoroughfare running, approximately, down the middle of Colonia San Antonio. There is a tope, a speed bump, about two feet wide and flat on top running across the street and painted like a crosswalk. As I stepped off the curb and onto the tope to hail a cab all the traffic stopped in both directions.

I waved them on apologetically and stepped back on the curb. I walked a car length down the side walk and stepped out again between two parked cars when I saw a cab coming. Again, all the traffic stopped in both directions. I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea. Wincing apologetically I waved them on again and decided to cross the street and try from the side that was in the direction that I was actually heading. Needless to say I had no trouble crossing the wide street and I still stopped traffic a couple more times before I managed to flag down a taxi. There is clearly a different mindset here.

Then just the other day while we were shopping at Superama in Querétaro, ( I sometimes still use a wheelchair when shopping ) I left the store while Todd was going through the checkout and made my way to the car. By the time I reached the trusty old Escape, a small crowd was gathering. There was a young woman with a couple of kids and bags of groceries and two parking lot attendants vying to help me from the chair to the car. If I had to have a serious accident I sure picked the right place to do it!

¡Viva México!