Saturday, December 31, 2022

Reflections on the year 2022

Its always interesting to review our year as we write our final blog post of 2022. Many things were the same as prior years but of course we're different people every year. This year we're writing about the few things that defined our year and perhaps changed us in some way. I will write S when Susan is speaking and R when Richard is speaking.

R     We have listed 6 things that stand out for both of us. They include the following themes: Old and new friends, Libros para Todos, Exercise routines, Travel again, our HOA and creative endeavors. We will take a moment here to elaborate and record for our history purposes.

Friends both old and new

S    Number one for both of us is friends, both old and new. Our trips gave us a chance to visit with our old friends and catch up on the goings on, especially because we hadn't traveled much in the prior 2 years because of the pandemic.  We're always lucky and make a few new friends each year. (Unfortunately we loose a few as well.)

R    Not to mention names but since we have returned to our UU church new people have come into our lives. It is a cherished event whenever one meets like-minded humans. I always get more strength from people and it is always a joy for me . 

Libros para Todos

R     Our not for profit that was started almost 10 years ago has grown in size and is thriving. Our director has been very successful along with the many volunteers. What pleases me most is that our meetings are held predominantly in Spanish and the number of young children benefiting has more than doubled since it began.

S    I am so grateful that Libros para Todos is still going strong in Mexico. So many of you who are reading this post have supported this literacy program that we started 10 years ago. It has grown with Daniela Franco as its director and we are still involved behind the scenes as Board of Director members. I was able to attend a few of the summer camp days this year and witness the enthusiasm for learning and creativity of both the kids attending as well as the volunteers who help to make it happen. Our volunteer team has grown to include mostly Spanish speakers and it was a joy to attend a volunteer meeting in Spanish. (By way of comparison - when we began we were all English speakers and therefore couldn't really communicate well with the children.)


S    Mostly new for me is Rocksteady Boxing - a special program for people with Parkinson's Disease. It is a national organization with great success helping us with strength, coordination, balance and large body movements. It is fun and exercise at the same time. While in Mexico I was able to find Janis who gave me personal boxing classes twice a week for the whole time I was there. 

R    Besides walking most days, usually over 3 miles, we both attend a gym 2-3 times/week. A new friend has given us his Nordic rowing machine. This device is a challenge but in time I hope to master it. I have been doing my juggling acts and practice almost daily.

Travel again and plans for the future

R    Finally we have traveled this year outside of the country. We returned to San Miguel de Allende for 3 months and will be returning again in 2023 to share our time with all of our dear friends and of course actively participate with our team, Libros para Todos. We traveled up north to Cape Cod for an adult Vogel reunion and to Long Island to be with my niece and her family and recently to Saint Augustine, FL to share time again with the Vogel clan and my cousins.

S    Having traveled a bit this year felt VERY good again. As you all know, we've had the travel bug for a very long time and felt a bit stifled for a while of no travel. Now I am back searching airBnB and airlines/trains websites getting ready for a trip in Mar/April to Spain and ending in Paris. We'll have a few car trips in the USA and then Mexico again from Oct-Dec 2023. 

Homeowner's Association - Volunteer

R    I wanted to meet my neighbors and I was elected to the board of our homeowner's association as the contract coordinator for our 56 home community. I have really enjoyed the process and meeting my neighbors, many for the first time. It has been interesting and rewarding. I will be continuing this volunteer job for the year to come.

S    I am very proud of all that Richard has done this year as a board member. His personality is perfect for working with others as he always brings joy to everything he does.

Creative endeavors

S    I found a new art practice which I hope to continue and perhaps expand. I have done online weekly classes along with a one month challenge of slow mindful drawing of repetitive patterns mostly from nature. (For more information see I enjoy the calm, meditative act that this provides. I have also made a quilt which was auctioned and many placemats that we gave to Meals on Wheels as part of our UU Quilters project. This year we are making them again. It is great to be able to use my sewing and art gifts to give service to others.

R    For me, I continue to practice Tai Chi which can be considered an art form. It can take a lifetime to master.

Good bye charlie. 

S    We said our goodbyes to our friend charlie kast who left this world right after we headed to Mexico. We had been part of his "charlie's angels" team helping him in his last few months after his stroke. He was a very important person in our lives. I worked with him as he was the minister of our UU church during the 11 years that I worked there. We've been very connected to him during our retirements as well and looked forward to our time together. His greatest lesson for me was that it is OK to be me, whatever I am, without worry about pleasing others. He was a loyal friend who cared about others. He showed love and allowed us to show him love, especially in his last days. It was an honor to be one of his friends.

R    During the past year many dear friends have passed. I’m trying to get my head around this occurrence in life which is not an easy task for me. I will mention one person, charlie kast and many of you will know who I mean. He was not only my close friend but a mentor in so many ways. I miss him and others every day and will always keep them in my heart felt memories.

We wish you a peaceful and healthy NEW YEAR and look forward to seeing you all in the coming year.
Sending love,
Susan and Ricardo

Saturday, September 24, 2022

"On the road again" ... back in Mexico

It sure feels good to be traveling again and here we are, back in San Miguel de Allende, MX after nearly three years in North Carolina. The world of travel for so many of us was at a standstill and it feels good to be out and about in another place. In the early part of the year we were invited to house sit and we feel lucky to be here in this beautiful home, in a beautiful city.

What's the best part???? I think the fact that we have reunited with so many of our friends that we haven't seen in so long is number 1. Then of course, the culture differences, the great weather, the warm and happy Mexican people, the colors and the food are all important to our lives here. I can't help but make comparisons to our lives in the USA though I always try to remind myself that comparisons, for me, tend to make me want to see one option as bad compared to one good. This is, of course, is not true. There are many shades in between.

What have we done in San Miguel for the last several months. Our stay will be 3 months total with 2 weeks left right now. I knew we had many friends here but until we really made plans to see everyone I had no idea how large our community was/is. We have spent time nearly every day with one or two friends having a meal together. We have been coming to San Miguel since 2000. The first few years were short trips and then some for several months until our retirement in 2009 when we began to be here 6-8 months/year - always coming and going. In that amount of time, one can make many new friends. Because of the pandemic there were nearly 3 years when we didn't see these friends so this was the perfect time to reunite. A benefit was a chance to sample many of the new restaurants that have sprung up in SMA over the last few year - and several are vegan only! 

We spent our time doing our usual activities; walking everywhere (carefully on the cobblestones!), yoga for me, tai chi for Ricardo, boxing for me, a new little mindful drawing art project of tiny repetitive pattern drawings, reading, watching a Netflix series nightly and as always, joyfully sharing our time with each other. 

Very important to both of us was reconnecting with our project "Libros para Todos". I was able to attend the creativity summer camp that was held in Dolores Hidalgo and in San Miguel and witness some of the art, poetry and theater sessions. We also attended a volunteer planning meeting for the upcoming months and were so proud to see the enthusiasm and dedication of this team. The meeting was in Spanish with some translation in English which was in contrast to the early days when it was mostly expats who were involved. Having native speakers enables us to do much more with the students to support their love of reading. To all our family and friends who are reading this blog post - we thank you so much for your support of this program over the years.

The weather here has been great. We arrived at the beginning of the rainy season meaning short rain storms many days but rarely more than one hour and in a short time it all dries up. The rain is mostly late afternoon or early evening so rarely affects our daily activities. Temperatures have been mostly in the 70's. 

For me, it has been a pleasure being out of the USA to listen to a bit less of the politics and to not feel the divisive energy that exists there. To be honest, we don't follow Mexico's politics and there are surely issues of differences here too.

So now it is time to leave "home" to go "home". Home, as I have written before is where we are and though all our belongings are now in NC, I think I will always have some of my heart in Mexico.

Thank you for traveling once again with us. We have some tentative plans for the coming year so we hope you join us on these upcoming adventures.

Here are thoughts from Ricardo:

After too long, we returned to our second home here in San Miguel de Allende, Mx. Now we are finishing our third month taking care of friend's precious home here in Colonia Guadiana. The home has more comfort than needed. In the past we have had several visitors from up north visiting but this time it's been just Susan and me.

For the first time we see ourselves and our dear friends getting older and beginning to live life with more care and caution. For example, the streets are cobblestone which creates a beautiful atmosphere but now we walk keeping our eyes open, always in front and being more mindful.

SMA has changed since we first arrived here over 20 years ago. The pueblo has become a wedding destination on weekends and a weekend getaway for many wealthy Mexicans. The expat community remains but due to online workers there are more young families looking for the alternative experience for themselves and for their children.  All of this brings in more traffic and congestion along with more demand for resources but on the other side, better restaurants and medical care etc. which has increased significantly. All of this keeps this place very very close to our hearts.

Like our permanent home in Carrboro we have many dear friends which has kept us joyfully occupied sharing our time with them and many new acquaintances.  Our lives are rich with many wonderful people here as well as other places in the world that we frequent.

The non-for-profit that Susan started 9 years ago is still flourishing and helping young children experience the love of reading and other good habits to help fulfill and enrich their lives. I’m so proud of her and our director Daniela along with the volunteers that continue to benefit up to 1000 children every year.

I will sign-off now as we get ready to return back to our home in North Carolina.

Sending love,

Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 We're HOME !

Greetings to all on this special 31st anniversary of our wedding day. I cannot believe how fast the time flies and looking back, how VERY full and adventurous our life is.

I just re-read our blog post of one year ago – the first “Stay at Home year”. At that time we couldn’t imagine another year of being home! Now I would have to say that HOME is really HOME in more ways than one.

  •       Last year HOME was Carrboro, NC.
  •       This year HOME is back to our house (in Carrboro, NC) that had been rented for 11 years. Though we lived here for quite a few years before we took off on our travel adventures, it feels like new to us. We did several updates like new floors and new paint and we find it the MOST perfect home for us – the right size and so beautiful. We love our new furniture and all our comforts and our minimalist lifestyle (as much as we can).
  •       HOME is where our heart is. For now, this is where we love to be and don’t mind the fact that we are not traveling or doing much socializing as the world is in a careful mode with regards to the covid virus and the various variants. Luckily, we are vaccinated, boosted and still safe.

  •       HOME is where I can recuperate from my knee surgery. As I write, I am 1 week out of the hospital where I had a total knee replacement. What a difference a week makes! I even walked twice around the cul-de-sac in front of our HOME as the weather is in the 70’s. My thanks go to my excellent physician Dr. Scott Kelley, his team and the joint replacement staff of Duke Regional Hospital.
  •       HOME is where our stuff is. (I had gotten quite used to moving stuff from one place to another for so many years.)
  •  HOME is our community of friends. Being dependent this last week has allowed me to receive such love from so many friends and family - near and far. To be honest, this is really the most important reason to be in community - to feel and share the love.

  • HOME is where my creative juices are flowing and will continue to flow.

  •       HOME is where we will travel from and return to. We have just committed to Mexico from mid July to mid October in 2022. Just the thought of travel again has rejuvenated my spirit.

  •      HOME is where I feel safe and secure. With the love and support of Richard I have faced a somewhat challenging year. I was diagnosed one year ago with Parkinson’s Disease (thankfully early in my symptoms) and through the year felt like a new uninvited person had moved into my brain and self. It is very hard to explain the feelings but they are like none other in my life. Just a few weeks ago I began medication which has helped significantly. The good that came was the discovery of Rocksteady Boxing for people with Parkinson's and I look forward to my twice a week class with others in different stages of this disease. There is much happening and great support here at UNC and in our local community. It has also given me new friends and much learning. I am learning patience for myself as well as others with compromised mobility or communication skills and numerous other physical and mental challenges of life. I have a new motto: May we all be blessed with the sanctity of moving at a snail’s pace. (Now even slower with my knee!)

·    This year has given us both a chance to be of service in our UU Community as part of the Caring Ministry and UU Quilters (for me). We have had many many walks with buddies on the local trails. We have had visitors and also the chance to travel north to family and friends in NY and MA. I will let Ricardo tell of a few of his favorite aspects of our year. 

As the year comes to a close we wish you all a peaceful and grateful NEW YEAR and may there be more peace and less suffering. May our country come together in some way on some aspects of our joined lives together so that we can get along in a better way than we have been doing.


Sibling love

Cape Cod 2021

High school friends

Sister LOVE


It's another year around the sun for almost 7.753 billion human beings not to mention all the other living organisms. I do feel honored to be just one of them in this trying time of the pandemic. When things get weird or just a bit out of control it gives me hope when I see people as a community coming together as one. The future has been transcribed in our DNA and I want to believe that it’s all good and that the collective wisdom will prevail.

We have returned to our home as of June 1st and feel that we are where we are supposed to be and very much liking 'playing house' again. Everything seems to have a rhythm and we are lucky to be able to tap into this pace.  We are looking at heading back on the road this summer and probably our first stop will be the beautiful San Miguel de Allende.

Being here has been a great gift to take care of our health concerns and I’m happy to say that they are now in check. We are on the mend and being here in Carrboro, NC with such great doctors and friends has made this healing possible as we look forward to aging in place.

What is new for me and a interesting change is giving up a 21 year old Corrolla for a almost new RAV4. They are like two different vehicles. The new car is so special that we gave it a name called BETTY BLUE.

Wishing you all a happy New Year and may this year's journey give us all another opportunity of a year full of wisdom and glorious joy.

Sending love,


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 A year to remember…it is what it is!

Election day!
To our friends and family,

How to think about this year and how to remember it? We both thought it worthwhile to capture our thoughts so in years ahead, we can come back to this blog post and remember what we learned from this year of “stay at home”!

First of all, what does stay at home mean to people like us who have not had a specific place to call “home” over the last 10 years. Yes, we do own a house that has been rented out but that did not feel like home to us. We have stayed in over 30 different homes during the 10 years of living mostly in Mexico but also other countries for months at a time. If “home” is a geographical place, then San Miguel de Allende and San Cristobal de las Casas felt like home. Actually, Carrboro, NC also felt like home and that’s why we decided to return here in mid-March 2020 when my knee was really bothering me and there were early indications in Australia that there was a virus hitting different places in the world and maybe we should choose a place that would feel like home for a while.

Our yard in springtime
Now, nine months later we look back and realize that we could not have made a better decision. We feel comfortable and safe in this little apartment that we have rented from friends Susan and Pat and we reconnected with all the great friends that we have kept up with all these years. Here we have a community. Don’t get me wrong – there are things we miss terribly like travel and visits with friends and family all over the world. Our life as we knew it came to a halt and we are still in that mode.

I needn’t remind anyone that this was an exceedingly difficult year for so many in this country as around the world. For health and economic reasons, many have suffered and still do. We are both so grateful to be healthy and able to live comfortably with no worries. I am also glad to be retired during this time as the worries are so much less for us than the many folks still working. We have had a few health issues but thankfully mostly resolved and being in this area of North Carolina gives us excellent access to medical care when necessary.

Forest mushrooms

There is no one in this country who is not aware of the very volatile political situation that has been going on for a long time and culminated with this election year. Normally I do not get so involved but with time on my hands this as well as a desire for change and the hope that we would wake up as a nation, I took to reading and learning about what was going on in a more in-depth manner. Yes, I am thrilled that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election, but I was less than thrilled to realize that a large percentage of people in “my” country feel completely opposite on so many principles and values that I hold dear. I do know that it is not true of everyone, however there is a great number of people who still do not believe that ALL people are created equally and should have rights to the same education, home ownership, healthcare, etc. I spent time reading much about the systemic racism that exists in this country and has for 400 years and I am afraid that it will take years to change. I feel sad for the generations ahead. I think that I came to realize more about the world history and the connections between what has (and is still) happening in this country. I am a first generation American as both my parents were born in Germany and were immigrants to the USA to escape Nazi Germany. As the hatred for Jews was overpowering in Germany and the system and people stood by to watch – we are doing the same and have been for centuries. I never realized till recently how the seeds of hatred are planted and grow to justify one person feeling “better than” another. As a spiritual believer I strongly hold the belief that we are all one and I do have hope that one day this will come to pass. This year, however, it was hard to hold on to that hope.

We love our walks in the woods  
Staying in place for us means doing only distance socializing, and only in outside settings. Wearing masks became the norm (though I don’t like it any more than anyone else) for myself and to protect others. Now, nine months later we find that life is simpler, but we are grateful for our health and the time to learn new things and contemplate the bigger questions in life.

Here are some of the lessons we learned:

  • UNC campus walks
    Maintaining friendships and community is one of the most important activities I have accomplished in my life and it gives me great joy to be part of the lives of so many people that have been kind and good to us over the years. Maintaining friendship does require time and you might say “work”, but it is work well worth investing in for it is fruitful when you least expect it. Our friends were gracious to take us in when we first arrived from our long 2-day flight from Australia. We have stayed connected over the last ten years to many of our community here in NC and now continue to maintain our friendships on many continents of the world.   
  •       Using this time for learning and study has been important. I attended a month-long workshop (on zoom, of course) on the topic of racial equality and I am now reading “Caste - The Origins of our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson. I would recommend this well written book as it is easy to read with lots to think about regarding the system of caste that we have, and have had, in this country.
  •       Having a creative endeavor is important for me. I returned and still haven’t picked up my drawing habit, but I have been reunited with my fabric and my joy of sewing. I have completed two quilts and working on a third – all are made of small scraps that were stored here in NC for a year like this. I used to pray for a “snow” day to stay home and play with my fabric and now I have had more than my share of these days.
  •       I wondered over the last 10 years what I would do with myself if I were back here in NC and now, I know – everyday is filled with things to do and usually I cannot fit all that I want to do into my day. Here are our daily activities (besides eating and sleeping!): meditating, a form of chi gong called Shibachi 18, reading, yoga, walking outside in the neighborhoods or the beautiful forest walks we have within walking distance of where we live, sewing, study, watching Netflix, keeping up with our program in Mexico – Libros para Todos and the general everyday activities that are just life in general. We have decided to take back our house in Carrboro when our renters leave and call it “home”. From there we will continue to travel but perhaps not as long as 10 years!

·       We miss our family and friends. Thanks to technology our family has a weekly zoom call on Sundays, and we have kept up with most of you who are reading this post in one way or another but we all know it is not the same as a visit in person.

·       Except for maybe 2-3 days we have eaten at home every day – I have never cooked so many days in a row in my whole life. I have enjoyed it, but it has also led to a few extra pounds for each of us!

Well, I went on a bit longer than I intended but now you know some of what I have been thinking about this year.

We both wish you all a healthy and happy transition into 2021 and hope that we see each other this coming year to share our thoughts and love IN PERSON.

Sending love from Susan

A short trip to
Carolina Beach

And now from Ricardo…

In this holiday greeting I am writing about my thoughts and observations of the year 2020.  I can’t write about this year without mentioning the elephants in the room … the virus and the election which were huge, and I felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride as it’s still not over while we go into a new year. One day at a time.  No matter what anyone’s politics or beliefs are, we were all affected in ways that have changed us and I hope that we have learned from this, so it’s not in vain. This all shall be revealed as we move forward into the new year.

We started the year 2020 in Barcelona with very dear friends from Buxton, England and Asheville, NC; Dan, Fi, Aiden, Will, Amy and Sophie. I only wish that it lasted longer because several months later we would all be restricted in all our day-to-day lives. This began for us on March 13 leaving Australia to the sanctuary of Rosey and Allan and then Ruth and Dave's in Chapel Hill, NC.  It is hard to put into words how thankful we are and will always be to these special friends.

In February we were traveling in a motorhome in New Zealand with my cousin Susie and our good buddy from Chiapas, MX, Tom. We had a full country experience and too much to tell in this short newsletter. I would like to say that if I were younger, I think that I would be able to live happily in this island kingdom. Then we went to Australia for two weeks with more friends Anne & Michael and Ron & Lauren and their children in the beautiful city of Melbourne. We ended our time in Sydney on March 13 with the realization that we should find a place to wait out the virus, so we headed to Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC where we still have a strong feeling of community.

Back tracking a bit, in January my sweetie and I spent a month together in Valencia, Spain. This is a place that we hope we will return to again someday. As this year ends, we are living in a cozy apartment in Carrboro owned by friends Susan and Pat and we are staying put until who knows when, though I am hoping that it will be very soon. When we can travel again, Mexico is probably where we are headed. We miss our friends there and the culture and Latin atmosphere as well.

Sending love and a happy New Year.


Best wishes for a 
healthy 2021

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

We're "Down Under" in Australia

View from the river of Melbourne
Another country for us and a different world. We left the motor home life to enter the life of beautiful homes, reconnecting with good friends that we met traveling the world.

Bestie Anne - we love you
Our first 10 days were in Melbourne, on both sides of the city. First we were with Anne and Michael who we met in Portugal, walking the Camino from Porto to Santiago in Sept 2017. We've stayed in touch via technology and a year ago made plans to walk with them on a pilgrimage in Japan. Once the plan was made, we decided to add NZ and Australia, and then Spain beginning tis long trip.

As I write, we are up in the air about Japan - will the country be closed because of the Corona virus? Will the trips be cancelled? Will we cancel in order not to be stuck in Japan? Don't know - perhaps I will answer this before publishing the blog and perhaps not.

Anne and Michael have included us in their lives as family and we have continued talking, walking, eating, laughing, singing, playing games and just living together. We have bonded as the "besties" that we called ourselves when we met.

Aboriginal people art
We concentrated on two themes during the first few days - The indigenous - the Aboriginal Australians and the animals of this continent. We started with the Aboriginal Tour in Royal Botanical Gardens with our guide Jacobi who introduced us to the culture and the local plants. At his suggestion we went to the Koorie Heritage Trust in Federation Square learning more about the culture and some of the Aboriginal art. I am quite taken with the details of this art and their design and color elements. We also visited the Marlborough Museum seeing the "First People" exhibit which was excellent and more aboriginal art, both traditional and modern. At the museum we saw an IMAX movie about animals of the Northern Territory. The museum was in the area of Melbourne called Carlton and we had dinner at a vegan restaurant that has been around for many years and delicious - Shakahari.
Modern using traditional
basket weave technique
Note: Just like NZ, there are amazing restaurants always with vegan and gf options noted on their menus. The world is changing in that the options are so plentiful.

We also visited the Heide Museum of Modern Art and sculpture garden with Anne's son Erin his daughter Nive, (2 years old). Visiting places along with being with family is a wonderful way to experience more of the culture than just being a "tourist". We are grateful for our friends.

Cute Koala
Now to the animals - on Bonds Road in their neighborhood, Anne showed us a mob of wild kangaroos. We saw them from a distance, laying in the sun for their afternoon nap while a few hopped around. It was my hope to see these and the other native animals to AU and the following day Anne took us to Moonlite Sanctuary where we saw kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and kookaburas. How many years have I heard about these animals and finally seeing them up close and feeding some of them was a treat.

We spent one night at their beach house in Somers, walking to see sunset at night and then a nice beach walk the following morning. Our taste of Melbourne through the eyes of Anne and Michael is outstanding.
View of Melbourne from Williamston
Soon we were off to the next family - Lauren, Ra'naan and their children. We met these folks on a train in Spain on the way to Granada in 2015 and spent several days together touring that city. As happens, we made friends and they said that if we ever come to Melbourne that we should visit and that has come true. BTW, it is Lauren who used my drawings for a large installation to thank the financial advisors in Australia at their annual convention last year. It was quite an honor to have my drawings hanging all over the "Garden of Gratitude".

Our "family"
Again we enjoyed being with a family which has given us much information about their lives, their work and visiting some of their favorite places. Lauren and her family live in Malvern and we were able to travel from their home by tram into the city on our last day for a walking tour, catching all the details that we hadn't heard about in our first 9 days.

We walked in the Dandenog National Park seeing the gum (Eucalyptus) trees and fern trees and a chance to go to Abbotsford Convent, a former convent now art community with galleries, studios, gardens and restaurants - a community experience.

At Somers on the beach
To both our "Bestie Families" - big thanks for your amazing hospitality and generosity and we hope to reciprocate when you visit us in Mexico. Muchisimas gracias amigos.

And from Ricardo....

Here we are in Australia for 3 weeks. We are now in Melbourne living with good friends, both north and south of the river that divides this city. Both families are of different generations, one being Generation X and the other are Baby Boomers like us. I always like having people around me and these two families have given us not just good friendship but an opportunity to share with us their families and stories of their past. We have much in common such as travel and adventure. 

Art of the first people

Melbourne is city that is growing in population and has the same growing pains as one finds in other cities. Melbourne is known as the arts and cultural center of Australia and we have seen art from aboriginal times to the present as well as a night at the theater. The country is open to tell their stories and history concerning the past tragedies with the native peoples called the First People. I have come to see that our past tragedies mirror theirs. 

We just arrived in Sydney and then heading north along the coast to a few more places so stay tuned.