Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. I was thrilled to receive a copy of this book through Netgalley once I read my friend Olga Miret’s review about it, Ending Forever by Nicholas Conley. It’s not too far out of my genre range, considering it’s a fictional story that deals with the afterlife – although in sort of a science fiction sort of way. I typically have been reading nonfiction books on the subject. And since this story has so many elements to it and deals with my top favorite subjects – compassion, humanity, love and grief, and so much more, I had to give it a read, and I loved it. The author himself in his acknowledgments states his book is, “strange, surreal fiction that doesn’t really fit into any specific genre box”.
Axel Rivers can’t get his head above water. Throughout his life, he’s worn many hats — orphan, musician, veteran, husband, father—but a year ago, a horrific event he now calls The Bad Day tore down everything he’d built. Grief-stricken, unemployed, and drowning in debt, Axel needs cash, however he can find it.
Enter Kindred Eternal Solutions. Founded by the world’s six wealthiest trillionaires and billionaires, Kindred promises to create eternal life through mastering the science of human resurrection. With the technology still being developed, Kindred seeks paid volunteers to undergo tests that will kill and resurrect their body—again and again—in exchange for a check.
Axel signs up willingly, but when he undergoes the procedure—and comes back, over and over—what will he find on the other side of death?
My 5 Star Review:
Love the dedication in front of the book: “Dedicated to everyone I have ever lost. Every sunset precedes a sunrise, and what the dead leave behind shapes the future. May the memory of you-each of you- be a blessing.”
Axel Rivers has had a lot of bad things happening in his life, mostly, what he refers to as ‘That bad day’. Down on his luck and funds, and carrying deep sorrow in his heart, he decides to sign up for the Kindred Eternal Solutions experimental program, run by the wealthiest of the elite. Those who’ve suffered hardship and in need of money are the targeted to sign up and receive a big check for taking part in this trial program, along with some of the curious who want to learn what does happen on the other side. Besides the big paycheck for signing up for this series of deaths and resurrections, Axel hopes to be able to see that infamous light so talked about on the other side as well as the privilege to meet up with his dearly missed lost loved ones.
These volunteers are put to a death sleep in a chamber and monitored through their temporary death state by doctors and scientists, and are promised to be brought back to life within hours, and must complete the death/resurrection process daily, six times in a row. The program is researching how to keep people alive through eternity, mainly for the purpose of the rich elite who run the program, trying to discover a way to cheat death for themselves.
At first Axel is very apprehensive but the thought of his overwhelming debt is what keeps him in the program. After his first session he feels disillusioned – he saw no light, no lost loved ones, and felt doom from meeting ‘the stranger’. He felt more depressed after the session, feeling as though he had a visitation from a dead family member later that day after first session. He thought it felt so real, not as though it were a spirit. His second session, he felt a breakthrough, met some of his lost loved ones, and saw the ‘Deathweavers’, – the ones in the next realm who make decision about when those on earth’s time is up.
Axel meets Brooklyn, a fellow partipant, single mother who has suffered many hardships in her own life, and they become friends and go out for drinks after day two of the experiment. On day three, Axel is late for that third session and is booted from the program. He decides to wait for Brooklyn to finish, when he discovers, she never showed up to that session. Axel learns from her sister that a tragedy has taken place and Brooklyn’s daughter Gwen is in intensive care dying from it. Axel’s new awakenings through the first two sessions drive him to approach the scientist at her home where he begs her to put him under one more time because he is sure he can bargain with the ‘Deathweavers’ and plead for Gwen’s life, and for her own scientific knowledge purposes, Dr. Carpenter agrees.
In Axel’s last time returning to death and resurrection, he learns a lot about himself and conquers boundaries that he learned he’d created around himself. He manages to get the attention of the Deathweavers and like everything else in life, they would only agree to let Gwen live if Axel gave up something precious of himself.
This book is about the fragility of life, overcoming one’s own tribulations and grief and gaining the selflessness to help another human being. Despite the paranormal-ish basis of the story, the strength of love and compassion shine through people when they are forced to surrender their own hurt and wounds to help the worse off.
The last few chapters were so captivating and beautiful, it was difficult to read without tears.
Well, week one has passed and as I write this, I am sore! Oye! Last Monday was my first day at the gym. I used the treadmill and then did half an hour with weight machines. This should not have been a problem had I been going to my own building’s gym three times a week like I had done -B.C. – before Covid. Last year, I’d have so say the most exercise I had was packing and moving. I walked miles while in Mexico, but let’s face it, besides carrying my heavy carryon bag through airports, I hadn’t done anything with weights. My body reminded how much I was out of shape. The next day was painful, so I took off two days and went back for more on Thursday. Friday I wasn’t nearly as sore, until I went to my first Yoga class on Saturday. Ouch!
I took Yoga classes years ago, and for many years I did Pilates at home, again, until the Covid hit and my husband became unwell. That’s when I threw self-care out the window. Time passing without proper exerise and a couple of years more of aging had me struggling in that class, but I did it! Did I hold all the poses for the whole time? Of course not. Did I shake and have to restart several poses while on one foot? Of course I did. I also found myself having to modify some poses using ‘beginner’ mode, even though I thought I was an old pro. Did my whole body ache the next day? Of course it did! But I am glad I did it and have every intention of going back to next Saturday’s class. I also intend to give a Zumba class a try later this week, ambitious I know! But socially, I haven’t met anyone yet, other than the sweet young girls who work at the club. I seem to have developed a rapport with a few of those girls, and they make me feel welcome every time I come in to the gym. It’s a start.
Back on the Marsha front. I hadn’t seen her all week until we went out for a coffee for a few hours this past Sunday. We had also spoken on the phone a few times this past week. She keeps herself very busy going to her gym/club where she is involved in activities daily. She goes five days a week in the morning and doesn’t return till 5pm. Disciplined girl, but as she told me, she has to get out and keep busy or she’ll go mad with boredom. She doesn’t use a computer, so naturally, she couldn’t fill her days online, which reminds how grateful I am for having a whole other world of online life that keeps my sanity – most days.
I feel like Marsha is one of those people I’ve written about before – people we meet for seasons and reasons. Marsha is a pretty, stylish woman with barely a wrinkle. She has a fun personality, and during our long conversations – talking about our younger days, and our ‘crazy’ mothers, just another thing in common, and we discovered that we are related through marriage. Her father divorced her mother and married my mother’s first cousin. What are the odds? But I had never heard of Marsha before. Perhaps because she is quite a bit older than me. That was the shocker. As I stated in my earlier post upon meeting Marsha, I took her for her early 70s, a good decade older than me, but when I asked her point blank how old she was, she was hesitant on admitting her true age of 81. What??? No way, I said. I always considered myself a great age guesser, this wild woman threw me right off kilter. I knew I had a lot to learn from Marsha.
We talked a lot about love and marriage and our husbands. Her first husband was the love of her life and like me, Marsha had a shocking diagnosis of her husband while in her mid-sixties, her husband developed severe headaches and was given the death edict with a brain tumor. Her life as she knew it took a 180 just as mine did. The caretaking, the love, the anticipatory grief and then the lifelong grief is a bond we have in common. I couldn’t help but ask her how she went on after that, and how did she manage to wed a second time?
Marsha clarified, she never married the second one. She met him, he persisted on going out together, she caved a few months later and started dating him. Circumstances and loneliness combined had her moving in with him, and admitting, that they had a good life for nine years until he too passed away, but she never stopped loving her first husband.
How do you do that? I asked Marsha. ‘It just kind of fell into place organically,’ she responded. He wanted to marry her but she declined. She told me when her time is up, she will be buried with her first husband. No doubt, as whatever happens in my future, anyone else who may enter my life could only ever hold second place.
I enjoy talking with Marsha because she’s funny, she’s down to earth, and I believe I have something to learn from her. My inquisitive mind is always willing to learn, and Marsha has definitely worn the shoes of life – and death. With aging comes wisdom. I know I can look back on my own life and see the errors of my ways and also recognize how far I’ve come mentally and emotionally since my younger days. Surely, someone who has twenty years on me has something more to teach me from her own years of experience.
Connections open doors for us to new paths. We may not always know where those doors will lead, but one thing I know for sure, opportunities and meeting people only happen when we open a path – they don’t come banging on our doors. We first have to open the door and take a step out of our usual routines to allow the universe to let us see what and who are out there to enrich our lives.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing Terry Tyler’s addictive psychological thriller – Where There’s Doubt. This book has been getting a lot of attention around our reading circles, and once I began reading it, I found out why. The protagonist Kate invites into her cozy world of happy seaside living in a small town in Norfolk, England, until her world turns crazy after meeting a new boyfriend on the internet – who turns out to be a sociopathic narcissist whose roots of deceit run deep.
‘I can be anything you want me to be. Even if you don’t know you want it. Especially if you don’t know you want it.’
Café owner Kate is mentally drained after a tough two years; all she wants from her online chess partner is entertainment on lonely evenings, and maybe a little virtual flirtation.
She is unaware that Nico Lewis is a highly intelligent con artist who, with an intricately spun web of lies about their emotional connection, will soon convince her that he is The One.
Neither does Kate know that his schemes involve women who seek love on dating sites, as well as his small publishing business. A host of excited authors believe Nico is about to make their dreams come true.
Terry Tyler’s twenty-fourth publication is a sinister psychological drama that highlights the dark side of internet dating—and the danger of ignoring the doubts of your subconscious.
My 5 Star Review:
Tyler takes us on a psychological ride into the dark side of internet dating. Sweet Kate thinks she’s met her perfect match through meeting Nico while playing chess on ‘Lifeshare’ a social media site. Kate owns a successful cafe by surfside in a Shipden, Norfolk, village and had recently broke up with a cheating boyfriend, Jackson. Nico was a collector of woman, who used the guise of being a vanity publisher for Indie books because it gave him a boatload of excuses to be unavailable to the many women he seemed to be in relationships with. Think ‘Tinder Swindler’ when envisioning Nico. The story pulls us in because yet again, another internet scammer on the prowl for women seems to be a topic of interest these days.
The author brings in richly crafted characters to drive the story, and gives us a peek into Nico’s psyche to let us in on what makes this conman tick. We get to know the ‘other’ women he’s ensnared with his wiley charms, knowing how to play each one – Polly the low self-esteemed girl who dreams of a fairytale life, Heather, the young grieving widow, Minerva, the lonely, older more secure widow, and the pretty, carefree and fun Kate. And of course we can’t leave out ‘Em’ Nico’s ‘apparent’ ‘real’ girlfriend who assists him to ensnare these other women by doing all the social media profiling for him to make sure his tracks are covered, leading us to think he is doing all this cyber stalking and dating to extort money for ‘them’ both. He cleverly uses Em as his default decoy when with these women, telling them she’s his sister.
Polly is busily planning her wedding with Nico, unaware that his intentions are to get her to spend some of her lottery winnings on a house he wants to buy – for himself. Heather is a young widow living in isolation in the home she shared with the love of her life who has passed on. Wealthy Minerva is smart and realizes handsome Nico is fun to be with, though realizing two decades younger than her, that one day this relationship will probably end, but surely, investing in his publishing business could be a lucrative business adventure. Kate is his favorite he spends most time with, and he’s snagged her heart and trust and goes to deceitful ends to take her to the house he’s pining after, lying to Kate by telling her the house was left to him and his sister in his aunt’s will, adding, the problem is that the house was left to two other cousins and he’d love to buy them out, giving Kate the idea she should buy in so they can live there together. What could go wrong? Plenty!
As the plots thicken and Nico gets sloppy covering his tracks, things begin to happen. Heather begins to feel Nico is pushing a little to hard for her to sell her house to buy into ‘the Grove’ house he supposedly wants to buy his ‘cousins’ out of, and she decides to do some internet surfing and discovers that Nico is a conman. And this is where part two of the book opens up a whole new insidious plot with characters we never would have suspected are part of Nico’s evil ploy.
As the story unfolds, little pieces of his lies are slipping through the cracks and Nico finds himself having to come up with quick coverups. And when the shyte hits the fan, a whole lot of evil is unveiled to us. Don’t even think I’ve given away any spoilers here because the fun begins in this book once Nico is exposed.
Lots of twists and a great conman caper, which sadly, is not so uncommon in today’s world. And a book that was literally hard to put down!
It was a year April 7th that I lost the love of my life, my husband, Puppy. And today is his birthday. I’ve been busy painting new rocks to place around his gravestone for his birthday visit. And went over to the garden center to pick up a lovely spring planter.
The sun’s rays were shining brightly in this photo
This past year has been one of The most difficult time of my life. Many days I find myself not coming to grips with anything. When you love deeply, you will grieve deeply. I am on my own way too much it seems and I know with certainty getting away for the winter was my saving grace, being around people – company, always someone to talk to.
Most of my days are spent reading, researching various things from the spiritual to online grief groups, and writing. It may seem I haven’t published anything for quite some time, but the writing has been plentiful and has given me much material to work with from my journaling and the many poems I have written. My procrastination, because of my newly acquired short attention span hasn’t permitted me to do anything concrete with any of it yet, but I’m slowly working on that as I struggle through each day with what feels like a never-ending grief who is my constant companion. I know though, that one day soon I will have much of my writing to share. My grief doesn’t just pop up randomly, but walks with me every minute of the day. Some days I can deflect it off ’till later’ and some days it just gets the best of me. So I continue to live in my mantra of ‘One Day at a Time.”
In my moments of distraction, I find myself running to Youtube listening to angel messages, Mediums, poets, from inspirational things to talks on the afterlife. I’ve been watching a lot of Youtube videos, getting lost in the 70s and 80s lately too. I can listen to that music because it takes me back to some of my most happiest times – the times before I met my husband, so those songs couldn’t set off yet another fresh round of grief. Somedays I find myself having to do anything to distract myself from doing anything productive as my grief is a staunch companion. I find myself always trying to gauge my emotions and watch where my mind goes. If I feel the need to abandon doing something constructive (like writing and getting back to edits so I can publish I book I wrote two years ago), when the weight of my grief reminds its presence, I need to do that in that moment. This is my coping mechanism taking over, and I must listen.
If my soul craves the need to jump over to Youtube to watch a video on the Afterlife, or a music video to take me back to a happier time, I do it. I’m alone much of the time and I thank goodness I’m resourceful because let me tell you, I loved living on my own when I was younger. I had the time of my life in those days with a very active social life. But this time ’round, both the calendar and the couch are equally empty.
I’m okay with music prior to knowing my Puppy, but not yet ready for hearing ‘our’ songs. I passed on the Luther Vandross video – So Amazing, that popped up on the playlist, the one I walked down the aisle to when we married.
I’m getting acquainted with, but not quite used to living alone. Being single in grief at a certain age is nothing like being single in my 20s and 30s, especially when you’re still trying to digest being in the digit ‘six’ club. If I didn’t have my writing to keep me sane, who knows where I’d be. Writing is my sanity, as it seems to have been my ‘go to’ since I was a child. I feel like I’m in a new learning phase of my life where I allow myself to follow my whims instead of putting them on the back burner for tomorrows – those tomorrows that sometimes never come.
But I’m always writing. I probably have enough writing for three new books. The only thing I haven’t yet got back to is my desire to do something with my words. So in the meantime, I keep writing. And I’m actually considering putting some of my writing in podcast that will eventually become part of the book on grief that I’ve been journaling about. The universe will guide me when the time is right. My heart is far from ready yet to reread the thousands of words I have written in these past two years.
My circles in life are considerably smaller. I am grateful for the friends in my life, especially those who’ve ‘stayed’. And equally grateful for my online writing friends here who keep check on me and keep me motivated, informed and entertained. I feel as though I haven’t found a direction yet, so I remain coasting along to whatever the days ask of me without putting pressure on myself. Grief is a strange animal that takes hold of me in a moment’s notice. It distracts, it chokes, it hinders, and somedays it’s just emotionally crippling for me, and it works on its own schedule. Too much alone time is not healthy for a griever. I am trying to work on that too.
I will finish off by saying that procrastination is a well known thing for writers as we often will look for a distraction when the muse isn’t fulfilling. But sometimes, in other aspects of life, procrastination is the very thing that soothes our insanity, and a diversion is just what the doctor ordered.
Welcome to Part 3 of my winter away in Puerto Vallarta. Today I’m going to share more photos and a few video clips to give you the vibe and describe a bit more about interesting facts and observations about vacationing in PV.
I’ll start with shopping. In stores, the price is the price. But when visiting outdoor markets or buying from beach vendors, don’t forget to bargain or I promise you’ll be paying too much. Typically, when a beach or market vendor offers you prices for their wares, I’ve discovered that they will usually double the actual price of what they will eventually accept. They are crafty sellers and they know there are many new tourists who they can snag in at too high prices, often not taking into account the many repeat visitors who know the game.
Often the vendors that peddle their wares along the beach aren’t always selling their own hand-crafted goods, but they are selling for other people’s stores. They have a price they must get to both, pay for those goods and make a small profit. I know this game well, especially as a seasoned shopper. I may not always be buying, but I look and always check prices. Let’s say someone is selling beach covers on the beach. Typically, if you go downtown to markets and such you will see these same covers going for $250 to $400 Pesos (range of $12-$25 US dollars) but you can be sure if you ask ‘Pedro’ on the beach, how much, he’ll ask you for $800 Pesos. That’s when I laugh and joke around and say things like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And I’d say I can get the same thing downtown for ‘x’ amount. Then the negotiations begin as ‘Pedro’ will rebutt with asking how much would I be willing to pay. It’s just the way the game goes. I know that if they are asking $800, it’s really valued around half. If I want the item I’ll offer $400, usually never accepted right away. He’ll come back at around $600 and I’ll say I don’t need it that bad for $600 but I’ll take it for $400. After all is said and bartered, I’ll walk away with the item for $450, $500 max. I get what I want, and I know he got to make some profit without ripping me off.
Above is the perfect demonstration of waiting for the right price. I saw this unique hat downtown in an over-priced store near the beginning of my trip and fell in love with it. It came in various colors and the brim was all hand embroidered. When I first saw this hat, the store wanted $60 US dollars for it! And they didn’t even care to bargain so I left it and kept my eye out for it in my many travels, but everywhere I did manage to find this style I found it too over-priced. Until I went out for the day with my friends Jamie and Pat to Bucerias and we walked through the market, and there they were again. The goods were cheaper up there than downtown PV. I didn’t even bargain when I found this beauty, the young girl was so sweet sitting outside her little kiosk in the sun. I asked how much and she told me $380 Pesos – equivalent of about $25 Canadian dollars. Sold!
My friend Shelley and I went on a few shopping jaunts together, but we also went grocery shopping together a few times too. I can tell you that grocery prices have gone up there like everywhere else. The food in PV is delicious and freshly made in restaurants, and to my knowledge and taste buds – without preservatives, a refreshing change from North America. I felt my grocery bill had gone up about ten percent since 2020, and definitely noticed the upcharges in restaurants and bar drinks. I used to be able to eat a dinner out for $12 that became $15, and sometimes upwards of $20, depending on where I went out to eat at. Fish is relatively cheap in PV and brought in fresh daily to many restaurants. Shrimps are cheap and plentiful on every menu and marlin, mahi mahi and snapper are always on menus.
The bar drinks went up quite a bit too, considering alcohol is relatively cheap to buy there. Drink prices almost doubled for the most part in most restaurants and at the pool. Beers were typically a dollar, now three dollars. Mixed drinks that used to cost about three dollars became six, seven and eight, depending where you went. I used to like to order the odd Pina Colada at the pool in the afternoon (a little easier to handle during the day than margaritas), until they doubled the price while I was there. Instead of paying eight dollars for a drink I decided to replenish my own bar in my condo and bought a bottle of rum, crema de coconut and pineapple juice, all for under $18 and made myself many afternoon drinks for less than a dollar.
Shelley and I went downtown to the factory where they sell all the beautiful blown drinking glasses and accessories. I wanted to buy so many things but wound up only buying two giant martini glasses and two shot glasses because the glass is heavy and I had no room to spare in my carryon bag. The margarita glasses weighed more than the martini glasses. They do the safe wrapping there too. The only danger were the rows and rows of shelving full of glassware we’d walk up and down through the aisles looking at. I had my big beach shopping bag slung over my shoulder and had to hold it close to avoid being a bull in a china shop.
Of course we had to stop for a libation in between shopping.
This a photo of the famous ‘Our Lady Of Guadalupe’ church near the center square down by the boardwalk/malecon. Many church-going folk tourists go there for Sunday morning service, and it is often referred to as a meeting point when people make plans to meet downtown.
Below is a short veryyy amateur video I took of me, Shelley and our new girlfriends from Alberta, Carol and Sharon. The four of us were crazy together and somehow we had created alias names for ourselves. Carol became Pat McGuilicutty, Sharon was Marge Simpson (because she piled her massive hair two feet high on her head most days at pool, except it wasn’t blue. I dubbed Shelley, Shirley Shelster, and I was named Sheila Tequila. We went downtown for Happy Hour and a pub crawl.
Here’s a small sampling of downtown Malecon. Me, Shelley and John spent the day downtown one day, walking, shopping and of course a few drink pit stops.
Here’s an interesting picture I took while we were at a red light on the way back from downtown. You never know what you will see in PV for a hand out.
They come in all shapes and sizes there, geckos, lizards and salamanders
On my last night in PV, Shelley and John, Wendy and Jerry, had already left the day before. Brenda and Saul were already home. Thankfully, Jamie (Ukranie) and Pat were leaving the next day also, we were the last of the diehards left and we went downtown for dinner. Jamie left early because he had to attend to a Zoom conference, leaving me and Patty Girl to our own devices. So we walked over to the Margarita Grill our favorite landing spot when going downtown for a good margarita.
After margaritas and a tequila shot, Patty and I walked across the street to the always busy Dolce Vita restaurant and sat down at the bar and finished off our night with Spanish Coffees before heading home.
This vacation started off as a slow burn as I was apprehensive in going solo, discovered friends who I thought were friends, weren’t really, then ultimately, meeting some fantastic new friends who made my time in PV very special. These are not just PV friends, these are all new good friends that I keep in touch with and will not only be meeting up with again next winter, but I plan on taking Patty and Jamie up on their offer to visit them in Vancouver this summer, as well as my pals Shel, and John because they live right here in Ontario about an hour and half away. I will also be visiting them this summer. A great gang of people and blessed to make all their acquaintenances.
Thank you all my new wonderful friends for making my trip so much fun!
I hope you all enjoyed reading and watching slices of my winter escape to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
It’s The Small Things That Matter that form the biggest memories.
Things I love about being in Mexico – Friends, sun and ocean. The technology break is – to be cliché – heavenly, and a little bit back in time – pre-distracted times. Nobody is attached to their phones. Conversations are meaningful. Minutia can become an engaging conversation when we aren’t ruled by the clock. Nobody is in a hurry. I can watch the dolphins and whales from my beach chair or balcony, many times a day there’ll be one in view. The whales come to the Bay every February to birth the babies in a safe, shark-free environment.
What’s so great about Puerto Vallarta? It’s sunshine, ocean, books and of course, Margaritas. It’s true relaxation, an escape from life. It’s a fantastic venue for the growing art scene with a whole lot of talent from painters and sculptors to music and plays. It’s a wonderful community of kind people. It’s watching the sunset on my balcony with a Margarita, and waking up to sunrise above mountains from my bedroom window. Massages to grind the stress from my body. Admittedly, it took two or three until the pleasure part came through.
Traveling during Covid, and alone, walking for miles, with much too much carryon stuff was how it began. For the first two weeks I was taking in the beautiful sun and re-acclimatizing myself into the word, relax. I knew a few people there, quite a few other regulars didn’t come back this year, still afraid of Covid. Most of the ones there that I knew, somehow became strangers.
With the exception of our Dakota friends there til mid February, I felt like a newcomer at a place that used to feel so familiar. I’d make small talk with whomever may have been sitting beside me at the pool, had enjoyable days, but I became concerned about being home by myself every night and wondered if I’d be less lonely at home. I wasn’t looking to fit in but rather, some human beings I could connect with enough to want to have in my circle and form a friendship with. And that happened, it seemed, shortly after Valentines Day.
I met Shawn and Bobbie from Ontario as they ventured down to the pool on their first day in PV, and saw me wearing a Canadian hat, which inspired them to come talk to me. I met Jerry and Wendy from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and affectionately renamed them Je and Wen. I automatically shorten people’s names. I started calling Jerry, Jer and he laughed, telling me only his ex wife ever called him that. I apologized, he laughed and said he liked it then proceeded to call me De. Tit for tat, I took off the ‘R’ and began calling him Je. Wendy became Wen.
When I connect with people, it’s an instant feeling when I know I’m with ‘my people’. Wen is a sweetheart and Je is equally lovely with a great sense of humor. Jerry is also an artist who I will be featuring in a few weeks at one of my Q & A interviews, so stay tuned for that. I met them in the pool and we all three instantly connected and laughed a lot. Through Wen and Je, I met a friend of theirs, Saul, also in the pool. Then eventually, a week or so later, I met Saul’s wife, Brenda, who I kept calling Wendy, mixing up her name with Jerry’s Wendy, until Brenda had had enough and began calling me Sheila. Sheila Tequila that was. We went out quite a few times for dinner after we became fast friends.
One of a few things I noticed that’s changed with the times there was that many restaurants didn’t have some of the older waiters that knew ‘old school’ waitering. Many restaurants had young staff – some quite young, who couldn’t even speak English. I discussed this with Jerry one day in the pool after a dinner night out we shared as a group at Tosca. Jerry told me he’d heard many waiters died from the Covid, hence, the rush on inexperienced waiters as tourism opened up. There, Jerry ordered an Olive Martini, a ‘nouveau’ restaurant in the new up and coming area of Versailles, which is literally a ten minute walk from our condo. The restaurant was nicely tucked under an open air – garage door-like open rooftop on a residential street. The place was recommended, so we thought we’d check it out. Besides the fact that it took an hour to bring us a drink, not comprehend menus without English speaking waiters, then another hour wait for what came, cold food, it was Jerry’s martini story that had us laughing the most.
I know my friend Jerry isn’t one to make waves. But when we finallyyyy got our drinks, Jerry commented that he was sure they forgot the Vodka in his martini. He was so perturbed he began passing around his drink around the table to Wendy, me, Brenda and Saul, and polled us all, asking if anyone smelled alcohol. After a unanimous vote ‘no’, a few began the taste test. It was still a resounding no. Jerry tried to communicate his concern to the young waiter, who had no clue what the issue was. The waiter went to another waiter to confer, with no results. Jerry called another who looked higher in command to express his complaint. That person went to consult with the bartender before coming back with a shot glass with Vodka in it. Gone was all the ‘Sorry Sir, let us make you another drink.’ Or, the customer is right and unhappy. We all had to laugh at the circus of confering going on before someone would believe him. It became ‘one of our’ standard jokes. After all that, the food was good. The service was lacking, the time it took to receive drinks and food were very long, and naturally, most food came cold. But in all fairness, the left overs were even better for next day lunch once heated up.
We had quite a few fun nights out together and other than one more crappy dining experience with Jerry, Wendy, Wendy’s sister, and my other new pals, Shelley and John at another ‘recommended’ restaurant in the same area, we were done with recommends. The still up and coming restaurant row had a long way to go before warranting the higher restaurant prices there. We were told there was a great Greek/Mediterranean restaurant in the same area. The food was average and below, my Margarita tasted like grapefruit and something. I know grapefruit. I don’t like grapefruit. But the stern, rude waiter insisted it wasn’t. Half the stuff on the menu wasn’t available. Jerry again, got a crappy fake martini. Anything Wendy wanted wasn’t available. My food was tasteless. We watched several tables who came when we did, eat and leave before we ever saw food. I asked the waiter if I could ask a question about something on the menu and he replied: “Hurry up, I’m busy.” We were all stunned at his brazen rudeness. When it was time for the bill we waited another hour. I kept asking Jerry and John to say something to our terrible waiter. Finally, the bills came – most wrong, especially Wendy’s charged for things she never ate or ordered. Wrong drinks on wrong bills and tempers flaring. We all paid without leaving a tip. Not surprisingly, I cannot find any photos from that crazy night.
I had planned on checking out a dentist while in PV. Many people I’ve heard from go there for cleanings, implants, root canals, etc. First, it’s much cheaper for dental work in Mexico than it is in Canada or U.S. There are many state of the art clinics with doctors and dentists from around the world in PV. I have my own dentist, but I’m concerned about some things I wanted a second opinion on and I was long overdue for a new nightguard, as the old one no longer fits my bite, my grinding is out of control, and they aren’t cheap. So I thought I’d check around for recommendations, and I didn’t even have to ask, when Wendy shared a story with me about dental work she’d been having in PV with an amazing dentist. Jerry went for a whitening there too and couldn’t say enough about this mother/daughter dynamic dentist duo – Drs. Lourdes Flores times two. A.K.A as Lulu Flores – both them.
The daughter is a dental surgeon. They work together, no hygenists, no secretaries, they do it all, and me and Mama Flores hit it off instantly. Like we knew each other from another life, it was uncanny. She too was a younger widow and my appointment took three hours because there was a lot of talking going on between both us! I had one of the best cleanings I could ever remember (and my gums reminded me for three days), but then they felt so much better. I got fitted for a new nightguard and had it three days later. Best nightguard! No hassle, just put it in, unlike my old one which required a hot water ritual. If anyone may be going to Puerto Vallarta and considering a dentist visit, or requires expensive dental work, I high recommend my new dental amigas, Drs. Flores and Flores.
Soon after meeting the Winnipeg friends – Wendy, Jerry, Brenda and Saul. I met John from my own province of Ontario, in the pool. We started yapping about everything and anything, and the next day, he introduced me to his wife Shelley. We became the three amigos and Shelley and I laughed and laughed all day long at the pool, and on our many outings together. Shelley was just a person I automatically clicked with and felt like I knew her for years. We spent every afternoon in the pool together, never running out of things to talk about. We shopped downtown together many times, sometimes with and without John, stopping for a meal and the odd Margarita for me and Sangria for Shel. There may have been many outings and drinks:
Shelley and I met a couple of girls from Edmonton, Alberta, at the pool. We had a couple of fun times with these girls, Carol and Sharon, who of course, were also dubbed nicknames, as it seems I had a new name for everyone. The four of us went downtown one afternoon and walked the Malecon, stopping along the way for some happy hour drinks and more laughter. At one of our stops, the tag in my dress was scratching the heck out of me. Carol to the rescue asked a waiter for scissors. No such thing, but he gave her his Swiss army knife. Below is Carol doing surgery on my tag at the bar. After that set of drinks we wandered down to Los Muertos Pub for some burgers.
And finally, to round off my new circle of wonderful friends, came Pat (Patty girl) and Jamie from Vancouver, B.C. I met this fun couple seperately at the pool and was delighted to find they belonged to each other. Pat and I began chatting in the pool and I met Jamie around the pool. And it didn’t take long before I renamed him Ukranie from Jamie.
Jamie was very engaged with the Ukraine situation and has relatives stuck back there. He had passed a Tshirt making place along one of his many investigative shopping travels and ordered himself a shirt, “I stand with Ukraine” was the intended slogan, but as he modelled his shirt at the pool, my editor’s eye caught a typo on his shirt. It said, “I stand with Ukranie.”
I laughed out loud and shouted across the pool, “Spell check much?” Jamie took another look at his shirt and came back telling me he showed the printer a picture of the shirt off the internet on his phone. Again, I asked if he believed everything he saw on the internet. The damage was done. He couldn’t wangle out of that one and now he’s forever known to me as Ukranie. A week later, he ordered some new solidarity shirts and below, we are modelling them:
The month of March seemed to pass a lot faster than the month of February. With all my new friends and my introducing them all to each other, there was never a dull moment between pool gatherings, shopping and dining, drinks, and laughter.
One day, Ukranie rented a car for the day and drove me, Pat, Shelley and John up to a fantastic market about 45 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, up to La Cruz. We spent half the day up there at the beautiful Marina market, then stopped at some other smaller popular towns on the way back – Punta de Mita, Bucerias, Sayulita and Nuevo Vallarta.
Next week I’ll continue on about that crazy, fun trip with the five us, as well as some other jaunts, shopping trips, sightings, and, of course, more Margaritas!
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know a little about my wonderful friends and just a taste of some of our good times.
When you asked me to marry you, my heart held all the joy in the world.
Yet, the fear of the future and concern about how I’d deal if I were to lose you because of our age difference, it frightened me to my soul.
I weighed the odds and decided that another love like ours could never be.
I hugged you in true laughter, and said yes, but I made you promise me at least 20 years.
What a fool I was, short-changing myself and not asking for thirty.
Your promise gave me 22,
That fateful fear that’d sometimes niggled at my mind, came back to bite.
No amount of years would have ever been enough to have to let you go.
I love you now, still, and forever.
I love you forever into the beyond.
God gifted me you, but only on loan. Because he wanted you back.
You were my lesson on love.
I tasted true unconditional love,
A gift that many have been denied the privilege.
You’re a gift that will blanket my heart for the rest of my days.
I love you.
One year ago today, I lost the love of my life. I can’t even fathom the thought it’s been one year. It still aches like yesterday. My heart is still heavy, and the missing is a continuous gaping hole in my heart.
Today I will visit my husband’s grave, our grave, and lay a new rock upon the headstone. Although I feel the need to visit his grave, I feel him more when I’m home, or wherever I go, as though he is with me. He sends me lots of signs, so I know this much.
The only thing I’ve learned about heart-wrenching grief, is that it never subsides. Each wave that comes over me is like a fresh wound. It doesn’t get easier, I just learn to dance around it when it hits. I don’t suppose it ever goes away because as long as there was love, there will always be grief for the giant loss that resides in my heart.
Next week I will begin planning a celebration of life for my Puppy, the one Covid restrictions denied him; just like the Covid hospital restrictions that added to his demise. I still carry a lot of anger inside for that.
Ours was a true love story, and such as grief is, the more we love, the harder and longer we will grieve.
In the past year, I watched my husband die daily before my eyes. My heart was ripped, yet I had to carry on taking care of him because it was all I could do. I cast my brokenness aside, held back my tears and wouldn’t even admit to myself that my other half was leaving me. Until he did.
I packed up 25 years of our life together, gave things away and moved two months later. I don’t even know how I did it all, I just felt like I was on auto pilot going through the motions.
It was my friends who got me through the difficult days, allowing me to speak about him, about the pain, without any interruption or words of empowerment. Grievers don’t need all those foofie condolences, they need love and support and an ear to blanket the soul, for there are no solutions. Grief is just a process that one must journey through alone. But ears and hugs go a long way to comfort. So I thank my wonderful circle of friends, both here and at home, and all of you here for your love and support and for giving me back some of the ‘normal’ I need to continue on.
I’m a longggg way from healing, but I’m doing and showing up, and taking in all the moments of gratitude along this painful road. And the only thing that keeps me doing so is believing my husband is still always here with me.
I came across the perfect word while reading things in one of the online grief groups I follow. There is a Portuguese word called ‘Saudade’, pronounced ‘Sodahd’. In the article I read it talked about this being the perfect word for which there isn’t a perfect English translation. But the gist of the word is it means a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone that one loves despite them being gone. It’s akin to the term ‘bittersweet’, a longing for something or someone that will never be again. I too now feel it is the perfect description for my grief. According to Dictionary.com,
[ soh-dahd; Portuguesesoh-dah-juh ]
(in Portuguese folk culture) a deep emotional state of melancholic longing for a person or thing that is absent:the theme of saudade in literature and music.
I love this new word, it describes well the indescribable longing of grief.
I haven’t published much in the last few years, during my husband’s illness and his dying, and subsequently, after. But don’t be fooled. I’ve been writing like a fiend. I’ve written many poems, conversations, observations and soul searching thoughts through this journey. Turns out I’m 30K words into a book about grief and love, although written in drafts. One day, when my heart can take it, I will put that book together. For now, I would like to share one of the poems I wrote for my husband:
Hello Everyone! I’ve recently returned from my two-month getaway to sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was a whirlwind trip to say the least, as usual – beginning and ending with horrendous travel day experiences to both start off and finish off my vacation.
I’ll just mention the day before and travel day home. My province conveniently lifted Covid airline testing – the day after my return. I had to pay $40 Canadian to have a rapid test I was already doing free, myself, a few times a month. I had to fill out an ArrivCan app with Covid vax info, etc., that nobody even checked for. I went to check in online and discovered the upgrade seat I’d paid $54 for last May when I booked the trip wasn’t showing and proceeded to award me some new random seat and auto sent me the boarding pass. There was no way to contact them. I’d already been warned to get to airport now 4 hours early instead of 3. I knew I’d have a problem at checkin. Online didn’t even let me fill out how many bags I was checking. I knew I had to pay $50 for the 2nd bag. Somewhere in the kerfuffle, they did forget to charge me.
The airline wasn’t lined up yet but the airport was packed. Thanks to only having two days a week our airlines fly out on, instead of the old daily flights. The agent apologized, even with the confirmation email I showed her on my phone, for my paid seat. Plane was full, nowhere else to sit, and take it up with Air Canada for my refund was all the sympathy I got. Which of course, I am currently waiting for some response from them before I have to go on another Air Canada rant. This flight wasn’t assigned a gate – the only flight in the whole airport which NEVER got a gate listed on the board. There are two floors in PV airport. I dragged my carryons up and down and back again, and I was far from feeling friendly. Finally, after inquiring for the umpteenth time, I was told a gate – back downstairs, and boarding in 20 minutes! I stood in line to get the bus that would take us to the plane. I stood in front of a lovely family of three, who happily told me they all had the Covid two weeks ago. I was glad to be wearing TWO masks. Naturally, the plane was late forty minutes. I landed into an absolute craziness and archaic system at customs, after walking about another mile from the hangar to customs. Seriously, there was a moment I thought I was going to pass right out as I trudged along with two carry bags. I can’t imagine older people with mobility problems being able to travel the unbelievable distance, only to arrive at zigzag lines set up to wait in for the automated kiosk to fill out life story, then to join a smiliar set up in new lines to actually pass through a customs officer. WHY the 90 minute lineup crap twice? Then, finally off to get baggage (porter -$15, limo $72 to get home.)
I’ve taken many photos on this trip which I’ll be sharing here in various posts of highlighted moments of my trip, but since my SIM card holder in my phone cracked while replacing the Mexican one with my home card, and my storage card full of pictures included, I’m now awaiting a new one that apparently, will take a week delivery from Amazon, I’ve been busy trying to fish out copies from the cloud download. It seems technical woes are like a magnet with me. So I can presently only be contacted by Whatsapp call and texting, while home on my wifi, until I can get my SIM card working
~ ~ ~
About the beginning… I was very apprehensive about even taking this ‘solo’ trip, and for the first two weeks of it, I was contemplating coming home early as I learned old friends really weren’t, until I met some new, ‘real’ friends.
Travel day was hard. Of course I had to play, the ‘weighing the suitcases’ game. Without my husband, this was a whole new travel experience in many ways. I had a lot of things to bring along and with 50 pound max per bag, I had to do some fancy footwork, as well as ultimately, having to leave some gluten-free food items behind because there was no way I could pack it all. I had finally opted for a carryon bag WITHOUT WHEELS, because it was a good size bigger than the one with wheels, and that became an albatross on my back.
As usual, the gate to my boarding upon departure was the furthest gate. After all the checkin and security longggggggggg lines, I must have walked a good mile, plus. Wearing a mask and gasping for air, about halfway, I’d finally decided to drag the carry on by it’s shoulder strap, like a leash on a dog as I could barely walk anymore. I was running out of steam. No sooner did I sit down at the gate, they announced GATE CHANGE….the complete opposite end of all the gates. After two flight delays, I finally landed.
The driver I’d hired to pick me up at airport was long gone and/or nowhere to be found. No surprise as I’d spent two and a half hours in Puerto Vallarta airport between immigration lines, then customs. Who would have even thought there was a pandemic going on with soooooooo many people. I must have landed along with ten other flights! Hence, my driver had vanished and I was standing in the hot sun, new lineup for a taxi. Thankfully, the agent was at my condo rental when I finally got there.
The condo: Up very high, 25th floor, beautiful view, could tell a man owned it, kitchen supplies were sparse. Grateful for the height when it came to not having to hear the crazy music on weekends from the ‘shady’ club the next building over.
Long elevator waits, especially when one is constantly out of service and never anything being done. Rinse, repeat, at least three times a week. But was happy to see mask protocol signs on the elevators. The Mexicans are mask abiding citizens, which made me feel that much more comfortable.
I came back from my first massage in two years, to a flooded front hall. Had to call manager to get maintenance up there pronto, but pronto is the complete opposite of manana time.
The condo door swelled on humid days, requiring a tug upon closing…only there was no outdoor handle on the door. The door lock is automated and won’t sense the door closed. The first episode had me standing in a hot outdoor hallway trying to devise ways to tug on a handleless door. After wasting two of my precious sun hours, waiting for assistance, it was a temporary remedy. The second time it happened, I thankfully, already had friends. I called my friend Shelley and she sent her husband John with mini tools. He took the handle off the inside of the door and put it outside the door – where it belonged! No more problems with that.
Wifi is always wonky in that building, this time, no exception. I magically managed to lose the capability to connect to the bedroom TV, after being able to for the first week. Thank goodness the TV connection worked in the living room, as I needed my night time Netflix. The Wifi sucked when it came to video calls on Whatsapp, but at least worked without video.
My apprehnsion about even going on the trip was a mixed bag of emotions. I was going somewhere familiar where I thought I’d had friends I’d spend time with, but I quickly found out, once I had become a single from a couple, there was no room for me.
People my husband and I knew previously acknowledged condolences and then pretty much disappeared. I became nothing more than someone you’d casually pass on a lounger and say a quick hello to. Sure I talked to people. Everyday I’d sit at the pool and chat with whomever was sitting beside me. Casual chat and company to pass the day with until lonely nights came along and I had nobody to pal around with except one funtastic night with our old ‘Dakota’ friends, Kathy and Fred, and Jackie and Paul. We’d known them for a few years and the guys were pals with my husband. They had a lot going on and visitors at different times and I was never one to impose on other people’s vacation. But they had kindly invited me out with them for an evening of dinner and a tribute live show to Gladys Knight. We had a blast! We also drank too many Margaritas that night and were all a bit hung over the next day. That was week one.
We laughed a ton and enjoyed ourselves at the pool together.
A few more days rolled by and suddenly it was Valentine’s Day. The girls were out shopping when I noticed Fred (Kathy’s husband), walking across the length of the pool carrying roses in a vase. I shouted out to Fred about how beautiful the roses were as he seemed to be making his way over to me, and he then handed them to me, gave me a hug, and he whispered, “George asked me to give you these.” I had never felt so touched by someone’s kindness as in that moment as tears welled. It seemed the whole pool of people were watching where those roses were going, and once Fred presented them to me, there was applause from the spectators. It was quite a moment.
That day will stay in my heart forever. And not long after that day, the universe had sent me some new wonderful friends – Canadian friends, it turned out, who I laughed with all the rest of my vacation days. My social life picked up big time and some great friendships were made. And soon enough the days were turning into nights. Up early daily by 7am, outside all day, back up for quick showers and out again, that’s how my days began to pass. I made great friends with 5 different groups of people, and before long I’d introduced them all to one another and let’s just say, there were plenty of Margaritas to be had – some better than others.
Next time, I’ll be sharing stories about my other new friends, places we went to, and observations about what had changed there since my last visit in 2020. Needless to say, my writing time evaporated, condensed to journal notes, and not nearly enough books read when busy blabbing all day and night.
In the meantime, I’ll share a few more photos:
Stay tuned for next week’s continuation of friends and fun!