Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

More Monthly or Daily Challenges


A friend of mine on Facebook just posted that she was about to embark on “30 Days of…” exercise.  I don’t know if she got this idea from The Happiness Project or from somewhere else.  The idea is that, if you do something every day for thirty days, it will become a habit.  In theory, I should be doing that, too (exercise), but first, I will finish this post.

Here is a comment about it from the article posted above – it’s about exercising or doing something 4 days a week instead of every day:

“If I try to do something four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day, or tomorrow, or the next day; did the week start on Sunday or Monday; etc.”

How TRUE that is!  I do that all the time!  Even now, I am thinking about writing my friend (who is feeling bad and doesn’t feel motivated to exercise today) to tell her that August has 31 days, so she has one day lee-way.  I’m such a good friend…  Or am I the DEVIL?

I have had a pretty good run doing the NaBloPoMo – I only missed one day after I knew about the challenge, and that’s only because I didn’t have access to the internet.  Now, am I going to continue to write in my blog every day?  Maybe, but probably not.  I am about to start school, and I may not have time every day.  But I am going to make a list of things that I still want to add to my blog and keep it handy for when I can’t think of something.

Here are some more ways to challenge yourself:

Thing a Day is during the month of February (apparently you must sign up between Jan. 26 and before midnight on Jan. 31 – the website says that there are no late sign-ups.)  Everyone is invited to sign up before February 1st and commit to make one new thing (project, sketch, exercise) per day and share it on this group blog.   They are pretty loose about what you can do, but they did state that all work should be from that month only – no recycled work.

Everyday by Tom Judd was a project that this British artist did for two years straight. “Everyday was a self-set project intended to keep me drawing on a regular basis. Each page represents a day of my life and was scanned and uploaded to my site. I completed 2 years of drawing Everyday.” If you go to his website, he has all of his 741 works up for you to browse.  Amazing!

A little bit closer to my heart (only because I have seen him play two times with Paul and Storm) is Jonathan Coulton.  He did something he called Thing a Week – Here is the description from Wikipedia:

“Thing a Week” is the name that Coulton gave to a creative experiment which ran from 16 September 2005 to 30 September 2006. In this project, Coulton undertook to record 52 musical pieces in the course of a year, one each week. This target was achieved.

Here is a link to the first entry of his Thing a Week challenge and here is the final entry for the challenge.  This is all part of his blog, of course, so there are also blog posts about other topics.  The Thing a Week project got him some press, and you can even buy CDs of his work during that time at  Just search Thing a Week – and that link is only for Part ONE.

Can’t commit to a whole project or thing a day.  How about a Sentence A day?  Here is a link to the How to and Reasoning behind Gretchen Ruben’s One Sentence Journal.  It is not a blog, she hand-writes it on paper.

I decided to search for Haiku Blogs – talk about the art of keeping it simple!  Interestingly enough, both of the ones I found don’t have any recent entries.  One Haiku Every Day ended on February 11, 2009.  Haiku A Day had it’s last entry on December 23, 2008.  Of course, there are all sorts of haiku fan sites, too.

Here is the Cupcake a Day blog.  I had to look that up because, secretly, I wanted to do that one… This blog includes not only the author’s recipes, but links to other great recipes and I think I even saw a cupcake bakery featured.  I love it!

Now, with the movie Julie & Julia coming out, I could not NOT mention Julie Powell’s blog.  I first found this blog but I supposed the rest of the entries were used for her book (?).  I then found another, more recent-looking blog here.  Hey, she got a book and a movie out of her blog – what an inspiration!  Here’s an interview with Julie – and an blog entry I found about Julia Child’s opinion of the Julie/Julia Project.

Here’s another month-long project:  November is Art Every Day Month!  (Wow, what is it about November?)  Here is an explanation from the founder:

“I keep the rules for AEDM really simple and very loose. I encourage people to make something every day, but my goal is to foster more creativity, so if you make just one piece of art per week or just one for the whole month, that’s fine with me. The idea is to bring more creativity into your life, not to make you feel overwhelmed, pressured or guilt-stricken. Art is also loosely defined here. I mean art in the sense of anything creative, whether that be painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking, decorating, writing, photography, clay, jewelry-making or whatever!”

She also has a blog and a Creative Every Day Year-long Challenge:

“Creativity is meant in the broadest sense, so it doesn’t have to be something art related. Your creative acts could be in cooking, taking pictures, knitting, doodling, writing, dancing, decorating, singing, playing with your kids, brainstorming ideas, gardening, or making art in the form of collage, paint, or clay…or whatever!”

Finally, I found Every Day Art – I think it started out as a college class assignment.  There are no participants at the moment, but all of the assignments are there for inspiration!

NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo, SoFoBoMo… Say What?


“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing noise they make as they pass by” -Douglas Adams

I currently have -what? 5 days left to participate in NaBloPoMo –  which stands for National Blog Posting Month.  According to the website, it “is the epicenter of daily blogging! People who want to set the habit of blogging by doing it every day for a month, including weekends, can come here for moral support, inspiration, and the camaraderie that only marathon blogging can provide.”

Now, I registered, but I haven’t really been to the central website.  I got pretty frustrated trying to make and download a badge for my website, so I gave up.  So far, I have only missed two days at the beginning when I didn’t know about the month.  And I wrote two extra entries to make up for that.

With five days left to go, and only 6 days left of summer vacation, I am sometimes fishing in vain for blog fodder.  Yesterday, I got involved in looking for similar contests that take place over a month, more or less.

I happened to come across SoFoBoMo, which is short for Solo Photo Book Month.  This is a group event where a bunch of photographers all make solo photo books start to finish, in 31 days, at more or less the same time. It’s modeled loosely on NaNoWriMo, where participating writers all write novels in a month, and NaSoAlMo, where musicians write and record solo albums in a month.  This time around, the fuzzy month is any 31 day period you please, provided that it starts no earlier than May 1, 2009, and ends no later than June 30, 2009, at midnight in your local time zone.

I, of course, have taken part in NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month,  which is in the month of November.  It is described as “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word – 1,700 words a day) novel by midnight, November 30.”

The think I like a lot about Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo group is that they also have prepared lesson plans for teachers to encourage their students to participate as well.  Check out the Young Writers Program for lesson plans in three levels: Elementary, Middle School, and High School.

National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo) is “an online community of writers who, having written a novel, gather together every March for moral support in order to edit their work, whether for their own personal satisfaction or perhaps even for publishing. March is chosen primarily because National Novel Writing Month, which requires you to write a novel, is in November. Setting NoNoEdMo in March gives you a three month break from that novel so you have fresh eyes when you go back to edit it. Fifty hours is considered by some to be a minimum to substantially edit a novel of reasonable length.

While doing my research, I found out that right now is JulNoWriMo (July Novel Writing Month) is a writing contest identical to NaNoWriMo. (from the website) Why not just wait until November? – Simple answer: we can’t. For some of us, November was a hectic time and we never got the chance to write that story evolving in our brains! For the rest of us, we just crave to write more. We’re insane.

There are also two more Novel Writing Sites and both of those take place in January.  JanNoWriMo stands for January Novel Writing Month. Their site explains the difference:  “Well, firstly, we work in a different month. We also allow the continuation of previous novels. Finally, in addition to the site-wide goal of 50,000 words, we also have a system for personal goals lower than/higher than 50,000.”

This is not to be confused with JaNoWriMo: the community for January Novel Writing Month, which is “not affiliated with NaNoWriMo, but taking the ideas laid out there and in Chris Baty’s book No Plot, No Problem! this is a month-long project to write a 50,000 word novel in one month! “

They explain further: “A lot of people have a hard time with the official NaNoWriMo because it takes place in November. November has a lot of school commitments, Thanksgiving, elections, holiday shopping, and heaven help you if you work retail!

January, on the other hand, is a much better month for starting new challenges. You can even make “write a novel” one of your New Years Resolutions and be done before February 1! And most people are already awake at midnight on January 1st anyway! Plus, January has a whole extra day to finish your novel!

The rules are the same as NaNoWriMo– 50,000 words of a NEW novel. A “novel” is defined as a work of significant length of prose fiction. “New” means you didn’t write it before.

Then, there’s April Fools –  April Fools is “very much like NaNoWriMo but with some small, yet powerful differences.  April Fools is for writers who want to use that nano like energy to help them create a piece of writing in one month. The differences, however, are marked. You chose your own goal … 500 words or 200,000 words, or anything in between.”

Of course, I have Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, so I can write a book any time I want… in theory.  There is something nice about working with a group to keep you on track, however.  That is why her companion website has a message board that reviews the steps every month. You sign up for it when you buy the book.   If you are curious,  see this  Writer’s Digest Review , which has sample worksheets and chapters from the book.  I like it a lot, and plan to use it before or by NaNoWriMo.

Now, let’s say you’ve written your novel – what now?  Well, there’s  – wait for it! – National Novel Publishing Year!  NaNoPubYe “has been in existence since 2004, the brainchild of one of our own in search of a plan to follow after the craziness of NaNoWriMo. You’ll find support here for bringing your manuscript from rough draft to hauling the thing out the door to the post office. Our year-long plan offers support at each step of the way, and is flexible enough to mix and modify as fits your needs. Join PubYe today and become part of a community that supports you all the way to publication!

I didn’t see when it started – I would think it would be in January – or maybe after NaNoEdMo?  I’ll get back to you on that.

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages (20,000 words?) of scripted material in the month of April. As part of a donation-funded nonprofit, Script Frenzy charges no fee to participate; there are also no valuable prizes awarded or “best” scripts singled out. Every writer who completes the goal of 100 pages is victorious and awe-inspiring and will receive a handsome Script Frenzy Winner’s Certificate and web icon proclaiming this fact.

Script Frenzy, because it is also by Chris Baty and the NaNoWriMo people  – also has a young writers program… Great resources, including  how to write a comic book and workbooks for elementary, middle and high school students.

National Play Writing Month (NaPlWrMo – there really should be another “a” in there…) is a different challenge, and it takes place in November (not associated with NaNoWriMo, obviously).  This is from the website:


1.Start writing at 12:00am on November 1st. *Not* before.

2.Stop writing by November 30th at 11:59pm at the latest.

3. Your play must be a brand new play ( no screenplay) ; ie: you can not work on a previously started draft. ( yes, we changed it this year, sorry)

4.Your draft has to be at least 75 pages. (we’re talking a standard script page such as this one, offered by The Playwriting Seminars site  or something close enough to that, with a font no larger than 12pt courier). 75 pages is what we consider good length for a full length play these days. You can write more of course but consider the life of your play after you’ve written it and consider that 75 page plays get produced a lot more frequently than 90 page plays or 5 act tragedies.

The Three Minute Film Festival, I think, was started by the same people as NaNoWriMo, but is now run separately.  Here, you have the month of July to make a finished 3 minute mini film – any medium, but must be burned on DVD.  They even have a gala showing on August 8 in San Francisco, where people dress up in black tie and watch (all???) the films.

For musicians there is the RPM Challenge, where participants record an album in a month (28 days).  Their requirement is 10 songs or 35 minutes of original material recorded during the month of February.  There is also February Album Writing Month where you write 14 songs in 28 days.  I don’t remember which one I heard about on NPR.

24 Hour Comics Day is an annual event where cartoonists around the world each try to create 24 pages of comics in 24 hours. Last year, over 1200 cartoonists took part at events in 17 countries. Sponsored by ComicsPRO, the website has lots of great resources for planning your own city’s celebration.  The next one is October 3rd, 2009.

I tried to go to the website(s?) of NaNoMangO, which seemed to have wrapped up in June.  The site seems to be in transition – the closest I could find was a LiveJournal Community on the event.  NaNoMangO is the cartoonist’s version of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. While the goal for NaNoWriMo is to write a 175-page novel in a month, the goal of the twice-yearly NaNoMangO is 30 pages of sequential art in thirty days.  I guess that means that the next one is in January?

The only thing that I looked up that didn’t seem to exist was a challenge for National Poetry Month in April.  Nope, there’s no writing contest yet, but you can have a poem sent to you every day for that month.

So, I’ve been thinking: lets start our own month of poetry!  In May, I really got into collecting poetry formats and I’ll bet there are enough activities for one month.  Scholastic has some great resources on writing poetry,
As Does

Oh, I almost forgot:  November is National Lifewriting Month, “an opportunity to celebrate and share our personal and family stories. More and more ordinary people are discovering that memoirs make a meaningful legacy to leave to the next generation, and that writing them is a rewarding hobby with many benefits for families and communities, too.” There is a Table of Contents outlining the different memoir and scrapbooking activities to be found.

NaNoWriMo – No?


I know that I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year.  I have even ordered a whole bunch of books – it’s what I do!  I get all excited about a project, order books, search for resources on the Internet, think about it, then don’t do it.

This time, I realized that I have so many other things that I could be doing that would finish up other plans I have made.  I could:

  • Write in my blog consistently for all 30 days of NaNoWriMo…
  • Put items up on E-Bay that I’ve had made for weeks
  • Grade papers (I’m just joking!  Who wants to do that?)
  • Make one collage per day for 30 days
  • Trace one heart ex voto pattern per day for 30 days
  • Walk 30 minutes a day for 30 days…
  • Write a letter a day for 30 days

Those are just a few things that come to mind.  Still, NaNoWriMo is so awesome.  They have even come up with a Young Writers Program, complete with “Not Lame” Workbooks and other resources.  There is a PDF for elementary, middle, and high school novelists.  It would be so cool, but I don’t think my students could handle it.  Maybe one day I will try it with a class.

So, this past weekend, I did finish a collage.  I am trying out a new adhesive called Yes! – it’s a paste.  So far, I like it a lot.  I will post pictures later of the finished piece.

NANOWRIMO is coming up!


That’s National Novel Writing Month – I think that it is more well known by now, but if you are not familiar… The goal is to write a novel in one month.  That would be the month of November.  There is a great website that helps you keep track of your word count and to network with other aspiring authors.  Go to and check it out!  I did it once before, but that one was culled mostly from my journals and letters from France when I lived there the first time.

This time, I am thinking about writing about Mexico.  I once read a profile in the Robert Vavra book called All Those Girls in Love with Horses about a Mexican girl who took part in the fast-paced drill team call escaramuza charra.  I thought it would be fun to do a book about the world of charreria – the Mexican rodeo, with emphasis on an escaramuza drill team.  First, I came up with chapter title ideas – then I spent some time yesterday researching the sport on the internet.  There are all sorts of blurry videos of performances on YouTube, and some great photos online.  I have also found a few articles on teams, and found out that the National Finals in Mexico are at the end of October.

I thought about doing a story inspired by National Velvet – the girls could do escaramuza instead of gymkhanas.  But, if I really wanted to parallel the story, there has to be something to replace running in the Grand National.  First, I thought about her cross-dressing as a charro, but charreria is really not about the horse, and employs too much brute strength.  Then, I thought about her becoming a rejoneador and fighting bulls from horseback.  But she would have to have four horses for that, and I don’t think that engaging in blood sport equates being a girl jockey…

Ever since I saw that sad excuse for a movie adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor, I have wanted someone to do a remake.  I’m sorry, but Velvet was a homely girl – a bony, blonde girl with a dental plate.  I think that they didn’t even give her all of her sisters.  Don’t get me started.  I pictured it as a multi-part Masterpiece Theater – I wanted to write it myself.  Water under the bridge.

Anyhoo… I am waiting for my copy of Book in a Month.  I saw it last weekend at Barnes and Noble and ordered it on  So, we’ll see…

OR, I could just focus on writing in my blog every day that month… 😉

Typical Temptations


Today was an early release day – the kids left at 11:30. I had some research to do for the history/literature lesson plan I am doing, so I left early to do that. And, to have lunch with my mom – sushi at Ru San. After that, I went to a Barnes and Noble store to fill in the gaps of my research books and to buy a birthday gift for a friend’s kids.

I went to a lovely shopping center called The Forum – it’s one of those new shopping centers that has the outside of the stores facing a boulevard. As long as I was there, I decided to check out the Pier One Kids store. I had seen some table top croquet sets. I had bought some of those, along with the ring toss sets, a couple of years ago, but then I gave them away as gifts. Then, I decided to teach Alice in Wonderland to my class, and they didn’t know what croquet was. Of course, the only ones I could find online were ridiculously expensive. Now I have three and theymchelleframe were only $5 each.

While I was there, I spied the irresistable: a wooden frame with hinged doors. When I had the shrine frame drought, and before I ordered the ones from China, I was all over the internet looking for a substitute. And look at this: hand carved, with easel AND hanging brad, with louvers. Now, I will have to find a way to put a panel over the inside of the louvers, but it’s a cute outside. Now on sale for $5!!! Typical!

I bought all three that they had left, and also found out that they do not send their clearance items to the Pier 1 Imports Clearance Store (right around the corner from where I live). I went home and went online to see about ordering more. Of course, there are no more online, and no more at the only other Pier 1 Kids in the vicinity. I could start calling stores, but I am trying to get a grip. I put in a request to be alerted when they are available again online – but I will probably do a little calling around… It’s what I do. And on top of that, I had just paid off my Pier 1 Platinum card, only to charge more today!

Back from vacation with a new distraction


My husband and I have returned from St. Augustine, where we stayed in a lovely B & B called Casa de la Paz.  We stayed in the Christopher Columbus room, which was small, but comfortable.  Every morning, we made it to breakfast, where we met people from up north mostly, but also a family from Venezuela.  My husband likes meeting new people at breakfast more than I do – I guess that only my first period students know that I am not a morning person.  Especially with the added “pop quiz” aspect of speaking Spanish.  😉

We visited the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, ate at the Columbia (and other restaurants), and went and saw the ocean.  Of course, we went to the Castillo de San Marcos, and visited Flagler College.  It was hard to spot college students, though!  I didn’t really buy a whole lot of souvenirs, mainly postcards.

Of course, I did make my husband go with me to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, where I bought some Catholic items like medals, prayer cards, and books (four of the lives of the saints for children, and one of the Virgin of Guadalupe story).  I was disappointed that there were no good coloring books, but it was a great shop on the whole.

By the way, in case you are wondering, I am NOT Catholic.  But it is fun to visit these places because it gives my husband a chance to rant.  I think that he was actually disappointed that there was no reliquary claiming to hold a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary’s breast.  The name of the shrine refers to Mary as a patroness of motherhood, I think.

While checking into WordPress with the idea of making a blog entry on the road, I came across a new interface that allows one to import all blog entries from Blogger into my present WordPress blog.  Of course, I spent hours doing just that with my It’s All About The Food! blog, as well as my two NaNoWriMo blog records.  So those can now be read here – thereby confusing many readers with my novel pseudonyms.

I am working on transferring my Diaryland blog, but that will take a while.  I found no way to keep the original dates by directly copying the entries into WordPress, so I am having to copy them into Blogger first.  Then, I will transfer them here.  I have already done 9 entries from February of 2003.  As if I don’t have enough to do!

Chapter Five – El Paraguas


El Paraguas: Para el sol y para el agua.

The Umbrella: For the sun and the rain.

Rose became accustomed to the routine of her temporary life in Morelia. She gradually got used to the dogs and roosters, and was able to sleep through the night. She figured that the two hours of walking she did per day helped as well. At least, with all of that walking, she could be allowed to finish off the good food and guacamole she had for lunch. Supper continued to be spare, but she learned to get a snack in the afternoon to compensate.

She had already been to her first two classes of the day – the first was with a jovial man named Luis and the second was with a young woman named Maria. Before she went to explore the streets and market, she went into the computer lab and checked her e-mail. Things were going well at home, so after sending off a couple of e-mails, she headed for the Internet. Google Search, to be exact…

“Our Lady of Conyers:

Welcome to the Web Site of the Shrine of Our Loving Mother. The Shrine is at the site where the Blessed Mother appeared 49 times on the 13th of the month from 1990 to 1998. She appeared monthly for 3½ years and then annually (each Oct. 13th) until October 1998. Well over a million pilgrims have visited the apparition site with several crowds estimated to be as high as 100,000 pilgrims. Most of the apparitions occurred in the apparition room at “The Farm,” 2324 White Road, Conyers, Georgia.

Our Loving Mother Said that Her Purpose in Coming to Conyers Was to Bring People to Her Son

At Conyers the Mother of God, under her title, Our Loving Mother, once said that her purpose in coming to Conyers was to bring her children to her Son, Jesus. Jesus requested many times that Masses be said at the site. In this way He could be fully present for the pilgrims in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

• Catholic Church Established at the Site

• Catholic Spirituality Center Established at the Site

• The Catholic Church’s Policy on the Apparitions”

“Isn’t the Internet a wonderful thing?” Rose thought to herself. Especially for people who leaned toward the obsessive-compulsive. Rose was, like many people, accustomed to instant gratification. Now, with the arrival of the computer and all of its miracles, she was able to relieve her curiosity – as soon as she reached a computer. Not that she was lazy – Rose loved libraries and bookstores also. This time, she was grateful for access to the Internet, because she was curious about her memory of the Lady of Conyers. Of course, there was a website.

The web page was basic – it was a white background with a copy of a pink prayer card on the left side. It was entitled “The Shrine of Our Loving Mother,” and an alternate site was offered in Spanish. She knew that she should be virtuous and read the site in Spanish, but something caught her eye at the top of the web page. It was a blue bold link that read:

“October 13, 2003 Healing at the Conyers Apparition Site”

Intrigued, Rose clicked on the link. She was surprised to see her name, jumping off of the page. The story was a testimony and it read:

“Rose lives in West Central Florida. On November 21, 2002, at the age of 38, Rose had brain surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. The surgery was to remove an A.V.M. that she had since birth. The surgery lasted 9 ½ hours and left her paralyzed on the left side, blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, a speech defect and severe pain on her left side. Despite taking two pain pills four times a day plus a pain patch on her shoulder the pain persisted and did not leave her.

On Monday August 23, 2004, the feast day of Saint Rose of Lima, Rose had what she called a “dream visit”. A beautiful lady, dressed in white, appeared to her and told her to go to Conyers on the anniversary. She called her dad Charles, who lives in Conyers and asked when the anniversary was. He told her it was October 13th.

Rose came to Conyers on October 9th and took part in the events on October 12th and 13th. On the 13th, in the apparition room, during the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, Rose saw Jesus and the Blessed Mother floating around the room. The Blessed Mother was touching and hugging everyone inside and outside the room as they prayed while Jesus was looking around.

Rose heard the Blessed Mother then say to Jesus, ‘I said many will come, so you will have to heal many.’ Then during the 4th Glorious Mystery, Rose heard the words, ‘Listen, have Faith, be Patient, work hard (Rehab) and it will come (Healing).’ At that time, the pain left her completely. The Blessed Mother then told Rose to read Psalm 40.

When the Rosary was over, the Blessed Mother told her to go out to the large white outdoor statue (Our Loving Mother Statue) and pray for her friend Jackie.

Rose returned to Florida on Friday October 15th. On Monday October 18th, Jackie told Rose that her son was in a head on crash with a truck. He suffered a broken jaw, cheekbone, nose and wrist plus he was badly bruised and he has no pain. Jackie thanked Rose for her prayers.

Two weeks later, Rose is still without pain which she had suffered for 23 months.”

Fascinated, Rose clicked on the prayer card. She read on:

“Honoring the Mother of God

From the Commandments that God gave to Moses we read:

“Honor you father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you …”

[Deuteronomy 5:16]

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets: I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

[Matthew 5:17]

We have every reason to believe that Jesus honored and loved His Mother on earth and that He continues to love and honor her in Heaven. As disciples of Jesus, we should imitate Him in honoring and loving her as well.

Moments before He died on the cross, Jesus gave His Mother to all of us when He said to His Mother:

“Woman, behold your son!” [John 19:26]

and to the Apostle John:

“Behold your mother!” [John 19:27]

Jesus was not just giving His Mother to John, He was giving His Mother to all of us as our spiritual Mother and as the Mother of the Church!

As we look upon this image of Our Loving Mother, let us see ourselves as being like the Baby Jesus and being in the arms of our spiritual Mother.”

Rose thought to herself that Mary sure got a lot more attention here than God or Jesus. She had been brought up Protestant, and even with a Catholic grandmother she did not know the reason for this. Still, it was refreshing to see the focus on a woman. She thought that Catholicism was priest-centered – led only by men. She knew about the nuns, but knew little of convents.

Well, except for the one she had seen on The Sound of Music…

It was time to go to class, so she clicked on the prayer card. It had a picture of the Virgin Mary, and this prayer was on the inside:

Angel of Peace Prayer


Most Holy Trinity –

Father, Son and Holy Spirit –

I adore Thee profoundly.

I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood,

Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ,

present in all the tabernacles of the world,

in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges

and indifferences whereby He is offended.

And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and

the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.

“Let this prayer be echoed all

over the world.”

Chapter Four – El Catrin


El Catrin: Don Ferruco en la alameda su bastón quería tirar.

The Dandy: Don Ferruco in the Alameda, he wanted to toss away his cane, polish his steps.

Rose returned to the school, and took two hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons. The first was with Elda, a diminutive woman who was supposed to teach her grammar. She worked with Rose briefly on the present tense, then plunged into the relationship between the preterit and the past tenses. Rose enjoyed the lesson, but despaired of ever telling the two apart. In addition, she had once toyed with the idea of teaching abroad. If she had to work one-on-one with each student, she was sure that she would be exhausted by the end of the day.

Her next class was with Sr. Garcia on the sunny rooftop patio. They sat at an umbrella-topped table and he led her through the basics of reading a text. He was a very elegant gentleman, seeming more Spaniard than Mexican. Rose knew from experience that there was a cultural line drawn between the Mexicans who believed themselves descended from the French and Spanish settlers and those that came from mixed or pure indigenous blood. Sr. Garcia spoke correctly, dressed sharply – even for such a casual school – and looked like a college professor. He also gave her homework – something she had not expected. He asked her to write a paragraph or two in Spanish.

Rose left the Instituto Baden-Powell, and headed carefully for her home stay. With the help of her map, she was able to bypass the square and find the main road that would lead her to her next crossroads. She passed several doorway shops, including one that sold printing supplies. She passed under an apartment that had a large blue macaw sunning itself on the balcony. Confined to its cage, it shrieked and squawked periodically. The weather in Morelia was quite mild, even in mid-afternoon, and Rose was enjoying her walk.

At a corner, she came upon a vacated discotheque, and turned right around a small park. Along the park was a series of murals depicting themes of science and medicine. She even saw a group of boys (young men?) working on a mural. She deduced that it was sponsored by the nursing school for the University of Morelia and the Cruz Roja (Red Cross). She wondered if the murals changed as the students moved on. From the corner on the other side of the square, she took a left, and headed for the bosque, or city park.

The bosque was a large wooded area (bosque meaning “woods” in Spanish), and Rose could see that it was modeled after a Spanish, or European park design. There were four large broad walkways that converged on a central axis, with two more narrow walkways running from corner to corner. At the apex of the square was a statue of a woman. In the center of the park was a small amusement area, with tame children’s rides and a miniature train. There was also an area built up with hills of added dirt and with wooden ramps that was frequented by boys on bicycles and skateboards. It differed from a French garden in that the walkways were more rugged, and the trees not as pristine as those in Europe. All of the trees were painted from the root to halfway up the trunk with whitewash, like pecan trees in Louisiana were painted. She thought that she recalled that being an insect deterrent. Along the walkways were white cement benches, where couples sat and homeless men slept.

As Rose approached the last commercial street that led to Feli’s house, she took note of businesses that she wanted to visit. She resisted the urge to buy another Diet Coke to drink with lunch, knowing that this would seem too gringa for mere words. She passed by an ice cream shop called La Michoacana, decorated with a painting of a lovely Colonial woman. Paletas, or ice cream on a stick, were very popular in Mexico. These were hidden by a shaded overhang from the direct sunlight and stacked in pyramids with waxed paper between them. Rose toyed with the idea of buying one, but she was almost home and lunch was waiting. She knew that she was hungry, too, even though she had had breakfast – something she rarely indulged in at home.

When she got to the house, Feli was out in her front yard, washing down her sidewalk. Her house was very neat, surrounded by a high adobe wall with a security gate, and with a covered walkway leading to the front door. It reminded Rosa of a house from the sixties. It reminded her of her great-aunt’s house, full of old furniture. Unlike her great-aunt’s house, it was pristinely clean. She had the impression that Feli spent all of her free time from dawn until dusk scrubbing down the inside and outside of the house.

The meal was sumptuous. Rose knew that lunch was the biggest meal of the day, and was glad that she had saved room for it. There were tacos, and sopa azteca, a fabulous dark soup flavored with dried chiles and chicken. Condiments such as avocado slices, fried tortilla strips, and white crumbly cheese were added before eating. Feli urged the avocado slices on her grandson first, and then on Rose. She evidently did not like to waste food. Eduardo, her grandson, was obviously used to this, and refused politely, and did not budge. That left the rest to Rose, who could not refuse just yet. For dessert, there was a light pudding.

After lunch, Rose returned to her room and took a long nap. She got up and decided to walk back toward the center of town – mainly as an excuse to check her e-mail. When she got there, fewer students were crowded around the computers, so she had more time to read her e-mails. There was a long communiqué from William, telling her what he had been up to since she left. Her mother sent a letter full of questions about the journey over, and Rose decided to fill her in on the details later, since she was not coming for a month.

While the journey over had not been unduly taxing on Rose, it had been confusing at times. After her plane landed, she endured a long line and wait to get through customs, and then braced herself for an assault on the taxi fleet outside. She was very cautious, because she had heard all of the stories of taxicab abductions – of tourists picked up by one of the numerous Volkswagen Beetles painted white and green and forced to withdraw money from an ATM, then dropped off in a remote place – or even assaulted. She had information from the school on what to do about taxis, and was determined not to be taken advantage of.

As she exited the airport, she was immediately greeted by a man with an official-looking badge around his neck. He said, “Taxi?” and proceeded to take charge of her. Hold on Pancho, Rose thought to herself, and balked. He looked official, but when she said that she needed to go to the Observatorio Bus Station, and asked how much it would cost, he pointed at a mini-van and said, “Four hundred pesos.” That was roughly forty dollars, so Rose replied, “A mini-van, for just me?” and pulled out the literature from the language school. She indicated to the man that a taxi-ride for that distance should cost no more than twenty pesos, and he looked at her, then summoned a smaller taxi (not a VW Bug) and took her two hundred pesos.

Rose tried in vain to compare the taxi driver’s identification badge to the photo registration on the dashboard, but gave it up. Still fearing the worst, she also tried to take note of landmarks and highway exit signs as they alternately careened through the city and came to sudden halts when they were unavoidable. By unavoidable, that meant that there was a wall of cars preventing any forward advancement. If there was any kind of opening, her taxi driver took advantage with the expertise of a jockey finding a hole in the herd of horses ahead of him. They reached Observatorio Bus Station without any mishaps, and she got out of the taxi, waiting for the driver to fetch her bags from the trunk.

As she approached the station, noticed her first dog of the streets. It was a large German Shepherd mix, lying on its side against the wall of the station. It did not move. Rose was sure that it was dead, and she did not want to go over and find out for sure. She entered the station, quieted by the thought. As she entered, she was faced with a long bank of bus company ticket counters. Two buslines in particular had been recommended, so she looked for the next bus going directly to Morelia, and purchased a first class ticket, which was only $12.00. She approached an equally long bank of food stands and convenience shops and purchased a burrito and a Diet Coke to eat while she was waiting for the bus. She headed for the special waiting area and sat down, after checking her largest bag.

In Mexico, the bus is the preferred mode of transportation for tourists (except for the adventurous who decide to drive their own or a rented car). Trains are less desirable – slow and over crowded and prone to thieves. The bus stations in Mexico City are outfitted like vintage airports, with time tables, waiting areas, and luggage check in areas. As Rose boarded the bus, a uniformed “stewardess” offered her a packaged snack or sandwich and a cold drink to take on the bus. There was a toilet on the bus, and reclining seats and televisions. On the televisions, short programs and movies were shown.

Rose found the trip very pleasant. There was a re-run of an American movie that she had already seen, so she was able to follow the story, even with her limited Spanish. She tried looking out of the window, and noted the monotony of the landscape as they went through the outskirts of the city. Everywhere there was construction, buildings and houses of cinderblocks in various stages of formation. There were also ugly portions of cleared land and Rose was appalled to see a mountain that had been chopped away at from both sides, so that all that remained was a tall column of bare dirt with grass on top of it.

When she reached the Morelia bus station, she noted that it wasn’t as grand as those in Mexico City, and she had to walk up a long stepped walkway to reach the main building. Once outside of the building, she flagged down a taxi, gave him the address for her host family, and paid the equivalent of $2.50 to get there. It was still daylight outside, and she got her first glimpse of the cathedral and plaza.

She wrote all of this to her mother, with the promise to check out a hotel for her and to make reservations as soon as possible. She then logged off of her computer, and made her way back to Feli’s house, where a snack awaited her. On her first night, there had been a more substantial meal, and Rose knew that the regular evening meal would be smaller, but this was ridiculous. She made a mental note to supplement this meal outside of the home if necessary.

Chapter Three – La Dama


La Dama: La dama puliendo el paso, por toda la calle real.

The Lady: The lady, taking an elegant walk along the main street.

Rose studied her map carefully. She determined the best way to approach the main plaza and headed in that direction. She had over an hour before her next class, and decided to visit the cathedral. Morelia, the capital city of the state of Michoacan, was a beautiful city. In the center – or what used to be the center – of the city lay a grand plaza, surrounded on all sides by a street, which was in turn banked by buildings. Most buildings housed hotels and cafes, and the entrances were shaded by a covered promenade. Vendors of all kinds set up in the arches that looked on the square, displaying their goods in carts, on the sidewalk, on tables, and on makeshift clotheslines rigged inside the arches. The consequence of this set up was that the cathedral and plaza were obscured from most viewpoints.

The cafes that extended off the hotels had inviting tables set up, with menus, glasses, and silverware set out on colorful tablecloths. People wove in and around the tables, stopped at vendor stalls, greeted friends and colleagues – Rose had to pay attention for traffic jams and sudden stops ahead of her. Rose was enamored with all things Mexican – she was attracted to the bright colors and intricate details. The needlepoint and painted items, the ceramic tiles and vessels, the copper and crosses and statues – she wanted to buy everything she saw.

She resolved to wait and make her decisions carefully – she had the whole summer to choose her souvenirs.

An old woman came up to her with a basket of cards. As she came closer, Rose could see that they were prayer cards with images of Mary – in particular, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Rose was familiar with Mary, who was the mother of Jesus, and the importance of the Virgin to Catholics. Her grandmother had been a devout Catholic, but her patron saint of choice was St. Francis of Assisi. Most images of Mary in her memory were wan, pastel images with rays of light shimmering behind her raiment. The Mexican version of Mary, however, was quite different. She wore a lovely gilded red dress, a gold crown, and a green veil which fell to her feet. Her hands were held before her in prayer, and her head bowed demurely, eyes closed in meditation. There was a small angel at her feet, and spiky rays of gold emanated from a space behind her body. It was a beautiful image.

Rose stopped the woman, and said, “Cuanto cuesta?” She hoped that she would understand the answer.

The old woman replied, “Diez pesos, senora.”

Ten pesos was almost a dollar, and Rose knew that she should make a counter-offer. But there were some things you just did not barter on. She thought that the Patron Saint of Mexico qualified as one of these cases. She paid the woman, and decided to stop in a café for a Diet Coke (her first of the day) while she read the pamphlet that came with the image. In it was a retelling of the legend surrounding the Virgin in both English and in Spanish. It read as follows:

“For more than three hundred years, the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe has been celebrated and revered in Mexico as the Patroness of Mexican and Indian peoples, and as the Queen of the Americas.

She stands on home altars, lends her name to men and women alike, and finds herself at rest on their skin in tattoos. The image of Guadalupe is reproduced on candles, decals, tiles, murals, as well as old and new sacred art. Churches and religious orders carry her name, as do place names and streets. Far from vulgarizing her image, these items personalize her and maintain her presence in daily life. She is prayed to in times of sickness and war and for protection against all evils.

The story of Guadalupe begins in December 1531 in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) when the Virgin Mary appeared four times to the Indian peasant Juan Diego. He was on his way to mass when a beautiful woman surrounded by a body halo appeared to him with the music of songbirds in the background. As the birds became quiet, Mary announced “I am the Entirely and Ever Virgin, Saint Mary.” Assuring Juan Diego that she was his “Compassionate Mother” and that she had come out of her willingness to love and protect “all folk of every kind,” she requested that he build a temple in her honor at the place where she stood on the eastern edge of Mexico City. (This spot has been identified as Tepeyac Hill, the site where once stood a temple to the Aztec goddess, Tonantzin.)

Juan Diego went directly to the bishop of Mexico to relate this wondrous event. The churchman was skeptical and dismissed the humble peasant, who then returned to Tepeyac Hill to beseech the Virgin Mary to find a more prominent person who was less “pitiably poor” than he to do her bidding. Rejecting his protestations, the Virgin urged him to return to the bishop and “indeed say to him once more how it is I, Myself, the Ever Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God, who am commissioning you.”

Juan Diego returned to the churchman’s palace after mass, waited, and was finally able to enter his second plea on behalf of the Virgin. This time, the bishop asked the humble native to request a sure sign directly from the “Heavenly Woman” as to her true identity. The bishop then had some members of his staff follow Juan Diego to check on where he went and whom he saw.

The next day, Juan Diego was called to the bedside of his dying uncle, Juan Bernadino. The old man, gravely ill, begged his nephew to fetch a priest for the last rites of the church. The following morning, before dawn, Juan Diego set off on this mission. He tried to avoid the Virgin because of his uncle’s worsening condition, but she intercepted him and asked “Whither are you going?” He confessed that it was on behalf of his uncle that he was rushing to summon a priest. During this third meeting, she assured him that the uncle was “healed up”, as she had already made a separate appearance to him. This visitation would start a tradition of therapeutic miracles associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe. She also comforted Juan Diego with the assurance that she would give him sure proof of her real identity.

On December 12, 1531 the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego for the fourth time and bade him to go to the top of Tepeyac Hill and pick “Castilian garden flowers” from the normally barren summit. She helped him by “taking them up in her own hands” and folded them into his cloak woven of maguey plant fibers. Juan Diego then set off to the bishop’s palace with this sure sign of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe’s identity. As he unwrapped his cloak, the flowers tumbled at the churchman’s feet, and “suddenly, upon that cloak, there flashed a Portrait, where sallied into view a Sacred Image of that Ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God.”

This imprint of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, the “Miraculous Portrait” as it is often called, hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Millions of pilgrims visit the site every year, often approaching on their hands and knees for the last yards of their journey to petition the Virgin for a miracle.”

Rose drank her Diet Coke as she pondered this information. Off-handedly she noted that the Diet Coke tasted different from that in the United States. Sweeter, maybe. Like this bit of information about Juan Diego and his discovery. Rose was not a particularly religious person, but she liked to think that she maintained a connection with God, and was open to miracles – when her cynical side did not yell comments from the sidelines.

Rose had once lived near Conyers, Georgia. For years, a woman claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to her regularly – once a month around the 13th, she thought it was – and spoke prophecy. Conyers became a regular Lourdes, with thousands of people crowding to that cow pasture around the woman’s house to hear the words of Mary from this woman’s mouth. Rose was sure that lots of money was made as well – Catholic pilgrims seemed awfully fond of souvenirs. She had even seen a bumper sticker once proclaiming a pilgrimage to see “Our Lady of Conyers.” Eventually, the sightings tapered off, and Mary stopped appearing in Conyers. Rosa had read somewhere that the visitors were becoming a nuisance. Perhaps the woman had cashed in on her fame enough.

Rosa then remembered a time that she was driving in the country east of Conyers. In her rear-view mirror, she suddenly saw a large image of Christ’s head, rising out of the earth. She only saw his head, but upon it stood a crown of thorns and she could make out clearly the expression of agony on his face. She recalled braking sharply to see it more closely. She realized that the image was in the form of an uprooted tree. She remembered with amusement her simultaneous thoughts: one that she was lucky to have seen this vision and the other that she should buy that plot of land and capitalize on her discovery.

Rosa was prone to this sort of random, free-associated stream of thought.

Chapter Two – El Diablito


El Diablito: Pórtate bien cuatito si no te lleva el coloradito.

The Little Devil: Behave yourself so that the little red one doesn’t carry you off.

The next morning, Rose was greeted by her hostess, Feli. She was awake, but lying in bed until the very last minute that she needed to get up and get ready. She was offered the first use of the shower and stood under the moderate amount of water offered. In her preparatory literature, she and her fellow Spanish students had been cautioned to be modest in their use of the family’s resources – although it had not specifically mentioned water as a commodity. Rose also had a bottle of water, as she knew that even brushing one’s teeth with tap water could make her vulnerable to “Montezuma’s Revenge.” As it was, she had noticed that many Mexican homes now took advantage of water services, with weekly deliveries of filtered water.

She went into the kitchen, and had cereal and fruit and juice while she listened to Feli’s constant stream of conversation. Rose was not a morning person, and making conversation in a foreign language early in the morning was not her forte. She tried to listen actively and not just say “yes” or “no” whenever she heard a break or inflection that seemed to need a response. That was a strategy that sometimes got her into trouble. So, she got the general idea that a niece was coming to pick her up and to take her to the Instituto Baden-Powell by car. She then realized that she was expected to make it back home on her own for lunch. She promised herself to pay careful attention on the trip over. Usually, Rose did not pay attention to how she got somewhere when she was not the driver.

Ana, the niece – or neighbor? – arrived. Introductions were made, and Rose was ushered to a compact car of indiscriminate make and age. Her resolve to pay attention to landmarks was shaken as Ana went careening through the streets of Morelia, only stopping abruptly when forced to by oncoming traffic. Rose did not want to be rude, so she comforted herself with her back-up plans. Plan A was the use of a city map that had been provided by the school – surely she could read a map, hoping that Feli’s street was included. Plan B was to take a taxi, as she had from the bus station. Although she could not take taxis every day, it was not a big expense. Since she would be paying, perhaps she could make the driver slow down.

The Instituto Baden-Powell was an attractive narrow building painted a colonial orange-red (terra cotta?) trimmed with yellow. The sign hanging over the door was made of iron, fashioned especially for the building. The corner fountain across the street made a more reliable marker. At the moment, Rose had forgotten her concern about making it back home for lunch, but she was becoming aware that she would also be responsible for finding this place in the morning as well.

After she presented herself to the front office, introductions were made, and she was given a tour of the school. Its appearance from the outside was misleading. Behind its narrow frontage lay a warren of small rooms, designed for small group or private lessons. There were tape machines and even television monitors in some of the rooms, and an extensive library of resources available to the instructors in a sort of private teachers’ lounge area. Rose’s favorite area was the rooftop. There was a free-standing thatched classroom there, as well as several patio tables with umbrellas. She could see pairs of students and teachers conducting class in this open place, under the blue sky.

As promised in the brochure, there was a room with six or seven computers arranged on the wall, where students were taking turns accessing the internet and their e-mail. There was a pay phone, and telephone cards were sold at the office, along with stamps and other minor school supplies. As they passed this area again, Rose was ushered into a larger classroom with student desks placed in a circle with their backs to the wall. There, with other new students that were starting that Monday, she was given an assessment test to complete. She noticed that there were all sorts of people in the room – even a young couple attending with their children.

When she emerged from the testing, Rose decided to check her e-mail. She had been unable to use the telephone at her host home – this was one of the ground rules of staying there. Apparently, telephone charges were high in Mexico, so to avoid conflict with the family, students were expected to use outside phones to call home. She had several e-mail messages, including one from William, one from her sister, and another from her mother. Her father was not computer-friendly, so her sister did his communicating for him. Rose fired off a couple of responses, and then wrote an entry in her web log. She had begun this electronic journal before her trip and was planning on keeping a running commentary on her experiences in Mexico.

Rose’s level was determined to be beginner to intermediate, and she was given a schedule with four individual teachers, who would instruct her for four separate hours. Her first two classes would be from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM. After that, she would have a two-hour break, and then take two more hours of classes from noon to 2:00 PM. Since she had been told that the walk back to Feli’s house would take 30 minutes, Rose was determined to stay downtown during her two-hour break – the better to explore and shop. She ventured carefully out for the first time and vowed not to go to far from the school for fear that she would get lost before she returned for her noon class.

As she made her way down the street, Rose was immediately accosted by a small boy. Identifying her as an American – for Rose had a hard time looking like anything but the whitest woman in the area – he immediately petitioned her for a handout. Rose had already experienced homeless street children on the streets of Mexican cities, and just shook her head to indicate that she wouldn’t give the boy any money. It was inconceivable that she did not have money, but after following her for a few blocks, he gave up.

Next, she came across a stray dog. Just as the boy had, this dog seemed instinctively to see the possibility for an easy mark. In fact, Rose had rescued most of her pet dogs from the dog pound – her current pooch, Serendipity, had been a mangy puppy hanging around her school. When an older teacher saw her petting the dog, she scolded, “Don’t touch that thing – you don’t know where it has been!” Rose looked at the teacher, picked up the puppy, and drove it to her house. Serendipity had been with her for 8 years.

She tossed a cookie to the stray dog. Unfortunately, this only resulted in encouraging the dog, which followed her all the way to the center of town. She would have to remind herself to be more hard-hearted, or else she would attract every animal in town! Rose loved Mexico, but it was often hard to reconcile this beautiful country – which had so many riches in culture and food – with the intense poverty that claimed many of its citizens. As a child, she had reacted in anger – not to the injustice, but to its very fact spoiling her love affair with the abundant tourist opportunities available south of the border. She was more mature now, but she still harbored resentment – this time for bearing witness to a fact of life that she personally could not change.