I’ve written hundreds of blogs posts but have never done an “All About Me” post. I’m not sure just why I haven’t, but a friend called me on it the other day. So here goes.
I go by a variety of different names depending on which country I’m in or which website I’m on. I prefer to just stick to “Karen.” Here in Washington my friends have me in their contacts as “Karen Mexico” or “Karen Canada.”
I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and lived there all my life until 2010. My son still lives there. My daughter and my four year old granddaughter live in Canada as well, in Kelowna, B.C.
In 2010 I went to Culiacan, Mexico to teach English. A family there adopted me and I am now abuelita to four nietos ranging in age from three to twelve years old.
After a year in Culiacan, I taught briefly in Irapuato before settling down in Guadalajara for four years. I called Mazatlan home for just over three years and then decided to explore more of central Mexico. After three months in San Ciro de Acosta I discovered Aguascalientes, which has been my Mexican home six months of the year since 2019.
In 2016 a friend I met in Mazatlan invited me to come visit him in Leavenworth, Washington. My two week visit turned into four months when the snow chased me back to Mexico. And that was when I turned into a snowbird, spending the other six months of the year in Washington state.
While there, I’ve lived mainly in Leavenworth with short stints in other towns. This year I’m living in East Wenatchee with my friends Christina and Danny, who tell me that this is now my “forever home.”
As far as teaching goes, I officially retired in 2016, although I had worked extremely very part-time since 2012. Occasionally I selectively take on private students, but have not taught at all since Covid arrived.
This is my sixth year as a volunteer in the SAIL program in Leavenworth where I teach fitness classes to seniors that geared towards fall prevention. Both church ministry and volunteering at the senior center ground to a halt during Covid and are just now starting up again.
I enjoy traveling both in Mexico and the USA. Last summer I took an Amtrak along the coast from Seattle to L.A. I loved it and can’t wait to plan another train trip.
I’m taking a break from Duolingo but I have my gel pens, pastels and water colors to amuse me. And I have been doing a lot of writing lately. Fiction is a new genre for me which I am enjoying immensely.
I am especially blessed to have family and a wide circle of friends in three countries. The time always fly by all too quickly before I find myself once again packing a suitcase. My days are filled with adventure and making memories.
Other trivia……I’m a Gemini, my favorite color is green, I’m a chocoholic as well as a coffeeholic and I love country music.
The spring solstice was on March 21st. But I think winter has returned to tease us. Here in East Wenatchee we had daytime highs approaching 70 F for a couple of days. But now we’re back to 30s at night and 50s during the day. And there has been snow up on the mountains.
The above photo was yesterday in Leavenworth. The photo below was yesterday in East Wenatchee where it’s quite a bit warmer.
There is far less snow on the mountains and the trees are blooming more and more everyday.
Yesterday Joyce and I went out for lunch and wound up at the Wenatchee Valley Mall. We had a great time at Macy’s and Ross. Amazing how quickly two hours can go by at those two stores. And those sacks can get heavy too!
I’m still thinking about a couple of trips to Canada. Possibly next month if I can pin down some dates with my daughter in Kelowna. And, yes Winnipeg, you are also in the running. But I’ve just settled in here in East Wenatchee and am not overly anxious to pack up another suitcase and head out so fast.
Once in a while I like to embarrass my kids. I guess today is the day. This photo came up as a Facebook memory from 2010 before I left for Mexico. The occasion was Kimmy’s birthday.
Let’s talk time zones. For my friends reading this, Culiacan is now one hour ahead, Winnipeg and Aguascalientes you are two hours ahead, Indiana, Alabama, Maine and Toronto you are three hours ahead. Times like this I wish it was the same time everywhere. At least Kelowna is the same as Washington. I’m not sure what’s happening next year everywhere, but in Washington they’re doing away with the time change in the spring and fall.
Look what the chocoholic found at Costco the other day!
Four weeks ago yesterday I crossed the border at Nogales. I’m only allowed 180 days in this country and already 30 precious days have flown by.
I was talking to a friend in Winnipeg last night who asked me what I was planning to do when I got to Canada and how long I was going to stay. The painful truth is that I don’t even want to come to Canada. I come back to see my kids, my granddaughter, and the handful of close friends I keep in touch with. And of course I want to go to the cemetery in Winnipeg. But my life is here in Washington as well as in Mexico.
I’m settling in to life in East Wenatchee. I’ve never lived in Douglas County before. Always in Chelan County. The big difference I’ve noticed is that each county has its own judicial buildings.
While I still teach fitness classes in Leavenworth, I found a new life group from Sage Hills Church just down the street from where I live. And on April 1 the senior center in Wenatchee reopens so that will be an opportunity to meet people and perhaps even play bridge again.
I’m off shortly for a walk. I love watching the trees come to life in the spring. I took this photo of a tree down the street a couple of days ago when it was just beginning to bud.
I peeked out my window a few minutes ago and it’s now in full bloom. A new photo is definitely in order.
It happened again on Wednesday. Another bomb scare in Leavenworth. There was one last year too. The downtown area was closed off. Highway 2 through town was closed off. Thankfully no bomb was found on either occasion.
I live in Mexico six months of the year. My friends up north tell me I’m crazy to live there because it’s dangerous. Well, I’m up north and it’s just as peligroso up here.
One of my Canadian friends suggested it was time I move back to Canada. Not on the radar. I read the headlines in The Winnipeg Free Press, my hometown newspaper. Lots of crime there too.
Our world was going crazy long before Covid and the situation in Ukraine. Technology makes it far too easy to build bombs or create other weapons. Technology is also to blame for the increase in school shootings. Canada, you’re not far behind the USA when it comes to those either. Technology is also responsible for providing accessibility to all types of criminal activity and even providing inspiration to criminals.
Face it, people. Nowhere is safe. So we may as well get out there and enjoy life wherever we happen to live. Maybe I take it to the extreme because I travel a lot. At least I’m living life to the fullest.
Have an amazing week out there! You only live once!
Hopefully this is the last Washington move. One night in Seattle, two nights in Leavenworth, one week in Dryden, four nights in Peshastin and now I’m in East Wenatchee.
I’ve unpacked one of my two suitcases. I got here Sunday evening so that’s not bad. The other suitcase has things like pastels and water colors. No time for that yet.
I went into Leavenworth yesterday for a SAIL class. Higher up in the mountains so it’s cooler and there is still snow. I’ll be going into Leavenworth again on Thursday for another class.
We watched House of Gucci last night. I am so glad I watched it in English. Had I watched it in Spanish in Mexico I would have missed a lot of the little nuances. Great movie and I highly recommend it.
For all my hometown friends in Canada…..you are now two hours ahead of me. That means I won’t be calling as regularly as when I was in Aguascalientes in the same time zone. Apparently Washington has also decided to do away with the time change starting in the fall.
The featured photo is the view from my street. I just can’t get enough of these mountains. Living on the flat Canadian prairies for so many years will do that to you. The mountains in Queretero always remind me of the ones here in Washington.
Things are looking better for traveling to Canada this year. Doing away with Covid tests to enter the country is a start. And Amtrak is going to start running to Vancouver again.
I was sitting outside the other day enjoying the warm Washington sunshine and wondering why it is that I’m meant to be here. Have you ever done that? Wondered why you found yourself in a certain place or in a particular situation? I mean, you know how you physically got there, but it’s the why you came to be there that is so totally fascinating.
I vividly remember sitting in a bar one night in Guadalajara with my then boyfriend more than one decade younger, listening to a Mexican band playing music from the British invasion. As a teenager back in the 60s listening to the same music while living in Canada, never in my wildest dreams did I envision myself ever having this experience. It’s now several years later and I still wonder why I was meant to be there at that time, other than the obvious reason that I was teaching ESL in Guadalajara.
Just last month I was in Culiacan with my Mexican family. Although I am not Catholic, I always go to mass with them when I visit. My nine-year-old grandson did a reading and I was so very proud of him. The service was outdoors in the evening and I found myself distracted from the priest’s sermon by the stars twinkling above. It was as though they were smiling down at me and telling me that I was meant to be there and there was no need to even ponder the why.
I’m having great difficulty putting the finishing touches on this post as I have an Australian sheepdog and a cuddly cat vying for my attention. Thank goodness the fish are in their own tank. I wonder why I’m pet sitting in a home along the river in Peshastin, Washington aside from the obvious reasons that my friend needed a pet sitter and I needed somewhere to stay. Six years ago I’d never even heard of Peshastin, Washington.
I guess I’m always going to wonder why I’m meant to be where I am.
And that’s okay.
Because I have complete faith in The One who does know.
Today is Wednesday and it’s moving day. This time it’s from Dryden to Peshastin. Will be pet sitting for a friend…a dog, a cat and fish.
I will still be on the river, but closer to Leavenworth than to Wenatchee. Temp will be a little cooler and a little more snow left on the ground although the rain the other day washed some of it away.
I saw this the other day.
I admit that this is something this free spirit rarely does. But I’ve started doing it this year. No, I don’t have paranoid friends, although I’ve accused them of this in the past. Maybe it’s approaching the almost seven decades of life. Maybe it’s Covid. Maybe it’s what’s going on in the Ukraine. But this year I have one contact in each of the three countries who always know where I am when I’m traveling.
I was contemplating a trip to Canada next week but have decided to put it on hold until May. The crazy and inconsistent regulations regarding Covid in Canada are raising my anxiety level, and I don’t need that when I can remain here in the USA and live a comfortable and relatively stress free life with a good deal more freedom.
Last week I was able to get a booster shot that had not been available to me in Mexico. While I was at Cascade Medical in Leavenworth, I realized how much at home I felt there. I’ve been there a handful of times in the past few years, yet I can no longer even envision the clinic I went to for so long all those years ago in Winnipeg.
I have friends who marvel at my lifestyle and I have friends who are very critical of it. In all honesty, sometimes I question it myself. But then I think of the amazing people I’ve met and the incredible adventures I’ve had and settling down in one place for a long period of time loses its appeal quickly.
So where’s home?
It’s true that I have called Aguascalientes home six months of the year for the past three years. But I don’t stay there all the time. It’s my home base for traveling elsewhere. Although it’s been more difficult traveling during Covid, this past winter I did get to Culiacan twice to see my Mexican family, celebrated Thanksgiving in Mazatlan, New Years in Jilotzingo and got to explore new places near CDMX and in the state of Hidalgo.
And it goes without saying that the other place I call home is Washington state. I have fond memories of my first visit in July of 2016. I came for two weeks and stayed for four months. The snow in mid November chased me back to Mazatlan. I have lived mainly in Leavenworth when I come to Washington, but that is going to change when I leave Peshastin next week.
Hint: Leaving Chelan County and moving to Douglas County.
The difference between Chuck Barris and The Gong Show vs. Justin Trudeau and The Gong Show is that the American one was entertaining. The Canadian version is disgusting.
To all my friends in Canada who complained bitterly about Trump and wondered how I could possibly want to live in the USA………Trudeau is a million times worse! He is destroying the country completely, carrying on the path of destruction his father began back in the sixties.
I try not to write about politics when I travel. When I’m in a foreign country, I’m a guest and have no right to criticize or complain. But I’m a Canadian citizen. And right now Canada is not a country I am proud to call home. Actually, this winter when I’ve met new people here in Mexico, I’ve stopped saying I’m Canadian. I’m given a lot more respect if I say I’m from Leavenworth and people assume I’m American. It used to be the other way around.
That’s my vent for today. But I want to leave you with something more positive.
0ne of my writing friends challenged me to write a post about unusual things that have happened in my life throughout the years since I left Winnipeg. Interestingly enough, some of these do involve travel back to Winnipeg. This is a real challenge as I’m only supposed to choose one thing per year. Here goes!
2010. As if moving to Culiacan wasn’t unusual in itself, I’d have to say that the trip on El Chepe in the Copper Canyon stands out. I headed for the bus station in Culiacan and looked up at the departures on the board. A bus to Mazatlan in a half hour, a bus to Los Mochis in twenty minutes. Hmmmm. Los Mochis. Sure. Why not? When I got there I was in a taxi where by some miracle the driver spoke English. I asked him what there was to do in the area. He told me about the train. He took me to a hotel that had a travel agent. She arranged a package for me and the next morning I was on the train. And I really must add that it was on this trip that I met Angie and her family. We are still great friends and I spent this past New Years holiday with them all in Tlalnepantla, Jilotzingo and Pachuca.
2011. Definitely my escape from Irapuato to Tlaquepaque. A school had flown me down to Mexico from Canada but never lived up to their end of the bargain. I wasn’t interested in working more hours for less money. They never came through with renewing my work visa or providing a health plan. I received a phone call on a Saturday night from a school in Tlaquepaque with a job offer. I packed up my suitcase and Sunday morning I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. I started at the new school Monday morning.
2012. Knee surgery number one. Terrified. My mother had died having knee replacement surgery. I returned to Winnipeg and rented a room in the lower level of a duplex. Of course there were steps to get into the house which meant walker to cane and back to walker for the first little while. And my walker didn’t fit through the bathroom door. And the laundry room was in the basement. Not conducive to recovering from knee surgery. But I did it and headed back to Guadalajara in the fall.
2013. Back to Winnipeg for knee surgery number two. This time I lucked out and was able to rent a house that had been completely renovated for a handicapped individual. Wheelchair ramp at the front door, walk in shower with a bench, lots of room to maneuver a walker…. I was in heaven! And recovery time was much faster. Soon I was on my way back to Mexico.
2014. I discovered that teaching Business English was a lot more lucrative than teaching ESL. I ventured into areas of Guadalajara that were new to me as I taught on site. I taught in high security buildings for private companies and government offices, as well as in places such as Fedex.
2015. I had just moved to Mazatlan when I found myself on a plane to Toronto to meet up with a group en route to Punta Cana for my daughter’s wedding. Kimmy wanted a destination wedding and chose the Dominican. It was quite the trek for me but as all moms know, you do anything for your kids. It was a beautiful wedding and I have wonderful memories, but in all honesty I was very happy to return home to Mexico.
2016. I had a leading role in a murder mystery dinner theater and was winding down my teaching career with a handful of private students when a friend I’d met in Mazatlan invited me to come to Leavenworth, Washington for a visit. I thought it was the prison place until I realized Kansas was home to that one. So off I went for two weeks, only I wound up staying for four months. One morning I got up and there was this white stuff on the ground. I hightailed it back to Mazatlan.
2017. I had this really strong gut feeling that I wanted to be with my son on Mother’s Day. I’m glad I did. That’s the last time I was in Winnipeg and I haven’t seen Kyle since. I certainly hope Canada can get it’s act together so that I can go to Winnipeg this summer.
2018. My granddaughter Madeline was born. On my way back to Leavenworth I flew up to Canada first to see her. My daughter now has a daughter of her own. I remember holding Madeline for the first time. Exciting and emotional. It was really hard to leave and I cried all the way from Belleville to Toronto on the train.
2019. This was the year I discovered Aguascalientes. I arrived in January after spending three months in San Ciro de Acosta. I had a list of museums and art galleries and visited them all. But there was still more to explore and I came back in October to spend the winter. Besides, Las Flores was beginning to feel like home. I am very comfortable in my room on Begonias and Raul is the most amazing landlord ever.
2020. March already? I was anxious to go to Winnipeg to see Kyle. Oh oh. Covid arrived. My six months in Aguascalientes turned into eleven when I sought asylum and was given an extra six months as I chose to stay in Mexico to ride out the pandemic. What I never told my kids was that when Covid first hit and people were panicking and packing airports and dealing with canceled flights, I’d been in bed with the flu for a few days. Who knows? It may have even been Covid. There was no testing being done back then. I finally made it to Leavenworth in September when I was able to secure health coverage that included Covid.
2021. My 180 days in the USA are almost up and the CDC issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel To Canada advisory. I retained an attorney and once again sought asylum. It was granted and I remained in Washington for twelve months instead of the usual six.
2022. It’s early yet. I’ll have to wait and see what unusual thing wins this year, not that there haven’t been a few that are definitely in the running already.
And now for the far from usual but the one thing that spans the more than decade since I left Winnipeg. That first year in Mexico when I worked at Senda, Juan and I taught together and became good friends. He wanted to improve his English and I desperately needed to learn Spanish. Juan’s wife Lucila used to pick us up from school and drive me home. At the time their son Juan Carlos was a year old. To make a long story short, they adopted me. This was huge to me. Coming to a foreign country solo, my own kids back in Canada, I now had family again. Juan and Lucila now have four sons and I am the proud abuelita of four amazing grandsons. Can’t wait to hug them all later this month when I go to Culiacan.
As I write this I’m eating a bowl of pozole and listening to Voodoo Lounge. They don’t go together? In my world they do. I know I’m in Mexico because it’s pozole. And I’ve been a fan of The Rolling Stones for decades.
But as I listen to The Rolling Stones I’m magically beamed back to a hot August night in 1994 mildly buzzed as the smell of pot wafts through the stands of the old Winnipeg stadium. Down below Mick Jagger is strutting his stuff across the stage just as he did back in the 60s when I was a teenager.
Amazing how music can make you travel back in time like it was just yesterday.
So how is your 2022 going? I actually am beginning to wonder why we were all so eager to slam the door on 2021.
With the advent of Omni, I find myself no closer to going back to Canada than I did last year. I have way too many friends now struggling with family crises. I’ve had a few small blips on the radar screen myself this month.
But, ever the optimist, I’m looking forward to the future. February will be a bittersweet month as it’s countdown time until I head up north. It kind of feels like 2020 again when I didn’t know where I was going or how I was getting there.
My playlist for meditation time today will include Matt Redman and Josh Groban in addition to the usual Pachelbel. Lots to contemplate. Lots of people in my life who need prayer.