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When we lived in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, we had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Nancy G. Shapiro–Author, Life Coach, Advocate of Calm and an overall lovely person.

While I was recovering from major surgery, Nancy came to visit me at our home with a goodie bag of home remedies.

More notable than the items themselves, was Nancy’s calm presence and healing energy.

It comes to me as no surprise that she has authored a timely and much-needed book in today’s world, The Book of Calm: Clarity, Compassion, and Choice in a Turbulent World. 

I am honored to share with our Los O’Gradys in Mexico readers an excerpt from Nancy’s book, featuring some of my husband Frank’s very real and raw thoughts on a life well lived.

 

*Parts of this essay were originally published in The Book of Calm

Listening to Your Own Story, by Nancy G. Shapiro

I’ve lived in San Miguel de Allende twice, the first time for over five years, currently for almost a decade. San Miguel is a World Heritage site and much-loved city in the central high desert of Mexico. Its large expatriate population began with the arrival of American GIs who came here after WWII and enrolled in the two local art schools using their GI Bill benefits. The flow of foreigners hasn’t stopped since, resulting in a population in continual flux, changing with the seasons and other, less definable cycles.

Expats often speak of a more relaxed lifestyle, with more community and more time for family—in stark contrast to the 21st century’s assertion that all problems and challenges can be resolved through economic means, resulting in the mind-numbing story of dedication to work, busy-ness, consumption of goods, and a subsequent loss of values once widely appreciated, respected, and practiced. The families I spoke with while gathering stories for my book had a conscious awareness that something was amiss or missing in their former lives, something that compelled them to move and create their own version of a life well lived.

Frank O’Grady’s words were some of the most poignant, an example of the conscious self-awareness necessary to take such action:

“I’m a dreamer,” said Frank, a San Diego fireman for twenty-five years. “I’ve lived death in every form imaginable; it’s a soundtrack of blood and screams inside of me. Old people just wanting a human there while they die, babies who never even got started, the critically ill dying after wasting away for years, the addicts. None of them able to live their dreams. I have a responsibility in this life to live as if every day is my last because, in all reality, it is. My wife and I both retired early, left the rat race, and moved to a Mexico beach town several years ago when our twins were young. Then we moved to San Miguel, and now we’re back at the beach. The kids are thriving. The beach is what nurtures us, warm water surf, the freedom. If I don’t live my dreams and seek the beauty, who will do it for me? No one.”

The creation of a life full of meaning, values, and the richness of choice doesn’t mean one has to pack up and leave a place for years at a time. Or at all. Generation after generation, change occurs within families, cultures, and countries when what was ‘known and correct’ is transformed by chaos and upheaval, or by innovative progress and relative calm.

                                     As the poet Rilke reminds us:

                                                Again and again some people in the crowd wake up,

                                                They have no ground in the crowd,

                                                And they emerge according to much broader laws.

                                                They carry strange customs with them

                                                And demand room for bold gestures.

                                                The future speaks ruthlessly through them.

Sometimes letting go of what was once called home, passing forward one’s belongings and starting again is exactly what is needed when one ‘wakes up.’ My husband and I seem to get itchy feet and hearts every seven years or so. We are looking at travel trailers, and have no idea what is coming our way, only that something new is calling us.

Officially seniors now, our years add up to one hundred thirty-three years on this planet. What we’ve learned in those years is that we are ongoing creations—work, homes, places, our ideas of who we are and what we need have changed many times over. For change is inevitable, and embracing the shifts that come our way gives our actions a spunky energy and creative zing. We love and laugh more than ever, and are curious and excited to create another version of our lives filled with all we value and know to be true for us. As Frank says, “If I don’t live my dreams and seek the beauty, who will do it for me?”

Nancy G. Shapiro is the author of The Book of Calm: Clarity, Compassion, and Choice in a Turbulent World. She advocates calm as a Professional Certified Coach, writer, and workshop leader. Her expertise is supporting people through the inevitable shifts of personal and professional transitions, while celebrating their resiliency, spirit, and wisdom. www.nancygshapiro.com

If you would like to order Nancy’s book for yourself or a loved one, click on the cover image below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Living in truth is the highest form of self-empowerment*

~Katie O’Grady

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks to creating a radical change in our family’s lives, we no longer live under this paradigm of life in a 21st-century modern society.

I can remember being STUCK in traffic—more often than not—anxiously and impatiently tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, moving along, inch by inch, so fed up with that being the “norm”, knowing in my heart that it didn’t have to be and feeling so READY for a change.  

The picture above represents so much of what we were ready to eliminate in our lives—breathing in exhaust fumes, missing out on active, joyful engagement in life because we were on hold in a sea of cars. That was not how we wanted to spend our valuable, once-in-a-lifetime time. I would take pictures from the dashboard of my car to the hundreds of bumpers in front and send them to my husband with the message, “One thing I will NOT miss”.

And I don’t, not one little bit. 

Since immigrating to Mexico in 2012, we have gone from daily traffic congestion and the frequent witnessing of road rage to driving on jungle roads and 16th-century cobblestone streets. We have traded in mind-numbing, lost hours in the car to engagement in other, far more meaningful activities of our choice

If one of my jobs as a Mother is to support and nurture the emotional well-being and development of my children, then moving to Mexico has been one great step in supporting that endeavor.

Freedom and Horses in San Pancho, Nayarit

Freedom and Horses in San Pancho, Nayarit

 

A Dream Birthday Party!

A Dream Birthday Party!

We immigrated to mainland Mexico when our twins were eight years old, during the middle of their third-grade year, and within three months of our arrival, we became Permanent Residents of Mexico. The process went rather smoothly for us because we did our homework prior to our move and had all of our required paperwork in order. Patience, planning and having the right legal liaison were in our favor as well.

Arrival in LA Bay and ready for some tacos!

Arrival in LA Bay and ready for some tacos!

Our twins were seasoned Mexico travelers prior to our move, having spent the first eight years of their lives adventuring back and forth between San Diego and Baja California. Frank’s firefighter schedule and my school teacher’s allowed us blocks of time off together as a family and we took full advantage of them to head South!

Mairead and Liam fondly referred to their Baja home as their “other home” and Mexico forever became ingrained in their hearts as a place of fun, discovery and family connection. 

Adventuring in Baja

Adventuring in Baja, 2006

 

Baja Babies La Gringa Beach 2008

Baja Babies! Bahia de Los Angeles~2008

Aside from the inevitable emotion of parting ways with loved ones, our move and the preparations leading up to our departure from San Diego were relatively seamless in the sense that it was meant to be and something we collectively were all on the same page about and ready for

saying goodbye to mom at SD airport 2012

Saying our goodbyes to my Mom at San Diego airport~2012

We arrived in San Pancho on a Friday, and that following Monday our formerly homeschooled twins began their first ever five-day-a-week program at Escuela del Mundo. Surrounded by tropical trees and open green space, our children experienced freedom and discovery like never before.

1st day of a 5-day a week school in the Mexican Jungle Coastal town of San Pancho, after homeschooling for 5 years in San Diego, California

1st day at Escuela del Mundo

While the Spanish immersion component of their new school was a bit of an initial challenge for The Reds, they transitioned and acclimated rather quickly, having been exposed to Spanish in a border city the first eight years of their life. Even without those language advantages, we all know how sponge-like children’s brains are, and if given the opportunity, they are able to assimilate and adapt with great ease. I do believe they were the only ‘Mairead’ and ‘Liam’ their classmates had ever met, but their new friends and teachers warmly accepted them and made great efforts at learning and pronouncing their unique, Celtic names.

Liam 1st Day of School 12-4-12

Liam making new friends at Escuela del Mundo~2012

After Escuela del Mundo in San Pancho, they went to Costa Verde International in Sayulita, Nayarit—a neighboring village just 10 minutes down the main jungle road, famous for its bohemian, surfing culture. Moving to another school was indeed another change and adjustment for our children, but one that they embraced wholeheartedly with the amazing, trusting, positive attitudes that they approach most things in life with.

Located a few blocks from the beach, Costa Verde is a bilingual, multi-cultural school that focuses on environmental sustainability and the advancement of ecological responsibility in Mexico…and surfing! In fact, it was part of their PE program!

Mairead and Liam continued to explore, discover and develop their own sense of community and connection within the larger context of their family’s move and immigration to Mexico. Their language skills progressed and improved to where at this point, a year or so into our move, they could flip back and forth between English and Spanish with great ease.

Costa Verde

4th Grade at Costa Verde, Sayulita

After a year and a half of coastal jungle living, we were ready to experience another part of Mexico and set our compasses on something completely different. Sight unseen but with lots of research, we chose San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country—the birthplace of Miguel Ignacio Allende, one of the leaders of the insurgent army during Mexico’s War of Independence. San Miguel de Allende was the first municipality to be declared independent from Spanish rule, and as such, life here is steeped in history, culture, national pride and one festivity after another

La Parroquía, San Miguel de Allende

La Parroquía, San Miguel de Allende

 

Kids in Watering Hole

School field trip to Cañada de la Boca!

Our children are developing their mental and physical capacities in a loving, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environment of freedom and growth, with two hands-on parents who are no longer trying to keep their heads above water in the rat race.

They see a life without limits, that anything is possible, that dreams do come true, that carving one’s own way in this diverse world is not just possible, but doable. They have witnessed their parents reinvent themselves from teacher and firefighter to Writer/Relocation Consultant and Photovoltaic Designer. They have gone from being monolingual homeschoolers to bilingual life learners of this world, interacting and learning with not only Mexican Nationals but also with many other adventure-driven families from various parts of this globe.

Liam volunteering at Lindero de la Petaca School in Guanajuato

Liam volunteering at Lindero de la Petaca School in Guanajuato

From San Diego to Mexico, we embrace our re-invented, re-inspired lives south of the border and give thanks daily for Mexico and her people’s warmth, hospitality, graciousness and generosity…for welcoming and adopting us O’Gradys and allowing us to feel at home in our new land.

May the adventures continue on!

~Katie

*Please protect yourselves and your loved ones with carbon monoxide detectors for both home and travel safety: Kiddie

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We left the city yesterday for our friend’s Villa perched high on a mountainside overlooking Puerto Vallarta.

I could feel my senses simultaneously relax and awaken as we left the hustle and bustle for the tranquility of the jungle green.

I love experiences that take me off the beaten path, up a winding road, unsure of what the journey holds, giddy and kid-like in the unfolding of a grand new adventure (even with GPS!).

                                                    “It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.                                                                                                      But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.                                                                               There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” – Alan Cohen

 

When our friend Dennise invited us to partake in the cutting of the Rosca de Reyes with her family, we knew it was due time that we come to understand firsthand the significance of this celebration of  and with our Mexican brothers and sisters.

Rosca de Reyes FUN!

Rosca de Reyes FUN!

In spite of my being a former Spanish teacher and us five-year permanent residents of Mexico, admittedly, we had never really participated in nor understood the true significance of the Three Kings’ Day and Rosca de Reyes celebration, until now.

 

Needless to say, we had an amazing, fun-filled time with lots of laughter, cultural immersion, food, hot chocolate and good family fun.

I will let the following photos tell the rest of the story…

When a 15-minute drive out of the city takes you to this! Villas Sueños del Alma

When a 15-minute drive out of the city takes you to this! Villas Sueños del Alma

Getting my Rosca de Reyes Lesson!

Getting my Rosca de Reyes Lesson!

Celebrating Life and Friendship!

Celebrating life and friendship!

Here’s to following your heart’s desire, your path of truth and authentic living…

How have you celebrated or participated in the Three Kings’ Day or the cutting of The Rosca de Reyes?

We would love to hear about it in the comment’s section below!

Saludos,

Los O’Graydys in Mexico

*deja a tu alma cantar*

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Five years ago today, I turned 44 and boarded a plane with my eight-year-old twins on a one-way ticket to Mexico.

We left the States with nothing more but the suitcases we could carry and the contents that fit inside of our 14-foot aluminum boat, trailered by my recently retired firefighter hubby on his 4,000-mile drive South. Frank will have to tell the story of how he did the entire trip with a drooling chocolate lab at his back and without a map!

Retired Firefighter, Mexico Bound!

Retired Firefighter, Mexico Bound!

We left with hopes and dreams for a better future—a better here and now.

We have that.

As we celebrate our five-year Mexi-versary today and my 49th, we reflect over some of the lessons we have learned in our adopted country of Mexico:

1. Savor the Moment

Mexico, often referred to as the “land of mañana” (tomorrow), embodies much more than the conventional meaning associated with this popular cliché. There is a palpable beckoning and invitation to slow down and to take it all in. The vibrant colors and sensory-rich nature of a quintessential Mexican town—alive with energy from the street vendors, music and bouquet of sights and smells—make it nearly impossible to not linger in the magic of the moment.

Birria @ Mercado Emiliano Zapata, Old Town Puerto Vallarta

Birria @ Mercado Emiliano Zapata, Old Town Puerto Vallarta

2. Be Proud

Mexico sets the example of a culture that embraces its history and honors its national pride, of a people that value their identities and honor their roots. I love how Mexico celebrates who she is with intention and meaning. 

Dancers in Banda

Christmas Celebration in Banda~Rural Community Outside of SMA

3. Celebrate, Whenever You Can

Dia de los muertos

Día de Los Muertos @ La Parroquía in San Miguel de Allende

 

Wedding Celebration in the state of Guanajuato

Wedding Celebration in the state of Guanajuato

4. Be Curious & Have Fun

In Mexico, I am allured, intrigued, invited to stop and look, to be in the moment. With my senses awake, I am tuned in to the details and the magic of my surroundings. 

Just running a few errands in SMA

Just running a few errands in SMA

Mexico has taught me to celebrate the textures and layers, to pay attention, to notice…to be participatory and present in life.

Los Mariachis

Los Mariachis

5. Live in Freedom & Responsibility

There is a certain aspect of “organized chaos” on the streets of Mexico—families of four piled atop a motorcycle, off-leash dogs dodging in and out of traffic, police officers standing in the middle of busy four-way intersections—a cacophony of sights, smells, and sounds emerging from the outdoor markets, corner cantinas, garbage trucks, city buses and street vendors. Some would call this Darwinism, perhaps even a lawless and haphazard way to live…I just call it cultural immersion!

A Life in Color

A Life in Color

6. Honor Thy Family, Community & Friends

O'Grady Strong

O’Grady Strong

I love the importance placed on the family unit, including the extended one of second and third cousins—not always necessarily blood-related.

A very good friend is often referred to as a primo (cousin) or hermano/a (brother/sister) and they are taken into the family as such. Conversations at gatherings and casual run-ins are meaningful and sin prisa (without hurry). The art of conversation is well preserved in the Mexican culture. Greetings and farewells? You can count on a customary hug and single kiss on the cheek between young and old, male and female alike.

There is a strong sense of community and connectedness amongst the Mexican people. They are united, loyal, hard-working, welcoming and generous of their time and help. 

7. Live Sustainably, Buy Local, Eat Well

Street Tacos

Our Reds enjoying ten-peso street tacos on a Friday night!

10-peso street tacos, 20-peso super-sized fresh fruit cups, 100-peso chicken rotisserie dinners complete with tortillas, rice, salad and grilled peppers…With the current value of the peso to the dollar about 19 to 1, you can calculate the amazing value!

Fruit Cups

Less than a dollar fifty for one of these delicious fruit cups!

There is never a shortage of fresh, locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, wines and breads…and many, thankfully organic.

Via Organica

Vía Orgánica, San Miguel de Allende

8. Pay Attention & Be Grateful

This was not meant to be a promo for Coca-Cola, but I love this capture of a cowboy with horse, taking it all in at the jardín in San Miguel de Allende. 

Coca-Cola

Break Time at The Parroquía

From the jungle to the desert highlands and back again to the coast, I have thousands of pictures of our immigrated lives that capture, as they say, a story within a single image.

I am grateful that I live in a country that provides plenty of sensory-stimulating experiences and that I get to share some of them with an audience who appreciates my work. Muchas Gracias.

And what about you?

What are some of your favorite things about Mexico?

I would love to hear about them in the comments section below!

Cheers,

~Katie

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*all photos by Katie O’Grady

 

 

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While we consider ourselves fairly seasoned travelers, we never once thought that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in our travel preparedness until tragedy struck and my husband nearly lost his life to CO poisoning at a “boutique hotel” in Central Mexico.

After dropping our twins off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp in a rural community outside of Guadalajara, Frank and I set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our children would be in good hands in the company of their classmates and counselors.

But instead of enjoying a romantic couples-only weekend, we spent it at the Red Cross, an ER and a Hyperbaric Chamber Facility fighting for Frank’s life.

How could such a thing happen? 

Do mistakes and bad things just happen? Absolutely.

But in this case, the hotel management jerry-rigged a malfunctioning water heater to the room we were bumped to due to overbooking on a holiday weekend.

After several hours of working next to the open window—not knowing that just on the other side of it was a yellow-flamed carbon monoxide-leaking heater—my husband was overcome by severe visual disturbances, weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking and vomiting.

Retired Firefighter Fighting for His Life

Retired Firefighter Fighting for His Life

Confirmation by the hotel staff that two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in this hot water heater, together with all of Frank’s symptoms, clearly pointed to CO poisoning.

All medical diagnoses and treatment further confirmed that it was indeed carbon monoxide poisoning that the simple installation of an affordable CO detector would have prevented.

Hospital Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Hospital Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Removal from the source of the CO, immediate medical intervention and continuous high-saturation oxygen therapy saved Frank’s life. Prayers, support and good thoughts from family, friends and followers tremendously helped as well. Thank you

Hyperbaric Chamber~One of Two 80-Minute Treatments

Hyperbaric Chamber~One of Two 80-Minute Treatments

As a result of this terrifying, near-death experience, we now ALWAYS travel with carbon monoxide detectors. 

We can’t emphasize enough the importance for others to do so too.

Protect yourself both at home and on the road with the simple installation and packing of a CO alarm.

Something so easy and affordable to acquire and install can save your and your family’s lives in the event of a carbon monoxide leak. 

*Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless*

CO Detectors Save Lives

CO Detectors Save Lives

I hope this information is useful to you. Please share it with your loved ones.

In peace, happiness, safety & health,

~Katie O’Grady

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