Holiday Letter 2011

             What an interesting time we live in! This year has been a difficult one.

This fall two friends passed away: Flamenco guitarist Miguel Ochoa (married to Carla Waldo Ochoa) and Cuban actress Adria Santana (married to Pablo Menendez).

Four friends have been diagnosed with cancer since the end of summer and have started treatment. Two others had strokes.

Our renter Teddy had a horrible motorcycle accident on October first, but luckily, in spite of the doctors’ prognoses, he lived and is recovering.

This summer, shortly after his 72nd birthday, Freddie badly scalded his body with boiling potato water while at the beach in Playa el Palmar, Cadiz, Spain. Fortunately, he healed without infection.

Also, this summer, my Flamenco teacher Angelita Vargas (who visited us in November of 2010) suffered a stroke and was discovered after over 5 hours on the floor, conscious, but unable to move or speak. I was one of the core group of people who worked on establishing her rehabilitation treatment. Trying to arrange state-of-the-art treatment in southern Spain, perhaps an oxymoron, was an extremely stressful process, but we managed to set it in place.

But the stress of these events during the summer had affected me. The morning after I returned home to the US, I went to the emergency room and discovered that the sharp pain in my back that I had assumed was an infected mosquito bite was actually shingles. The shingles are still reoccurring but have greatly improved.

When thinking about writing this letter, I awake remembering these traumas, more packed into a shorter time period than I can remember.

Of course, there have been wonderful things too. (Just look at these beautiful photos, most of which have been taken here at our home. Some are sunset from our porch. Some are dawn from our bedroom window. They have been taken throughout the year.)

While we were in Spain, my dance student Aymeth and her husband Jose helped to maintain things at the house and property, a godsend for us. We were and are still very grateful.

Last year we had a wonderful visit between Christmas and New Year’s with Freddie’s sister Dorothy and brother-in-law John, their daughter Elisabeth and her three growing children and of course Freddie’s mother Bea. We plan to repeat that this year, adding Freddie’s brother Timmie and wife Joanie. My son Elun, daughter-in-law Donna and granddaughter Josie plan to visit us during that time as well, so we will have a full house –full of gingerbread and people we love.

In the beginning of January, Stephanie (now Estefanía) spent time with us before moving to southern Spain, and our Flamenco friends Evan, Victor and Cathy visited. We all enjoyed a lot of music and fun together.

In February, Freddie’s son Mano, daughter-in-law Alta and sister Dorothy and husband John visited us again, to celebrate Freddie’s mother Bea’s 92nd birthday and Dorothy’s 73rd birthday, which are on the same day.

Sunset from our porch

Later that month, Lakshmi arrived from Spain, taught a Flamenco dance workshop and put on an extraordinary Flamenco show. Some wonderful Spanish Gypsy and also American Flamenco artists stayed with us, which meant lots of music, dance and singing. It was also good to practice my Spanish. With the group was Miguel Angel Vargas, a friend from Lebrija, Spain, who made his first visit to our home.

He gave me the name of Marianna La Pañi, which means water in Caló, the Spanish Gypsy language. He said, It goes with the pureness of your heart."

Sunrise from our bedIn March, Freddie decided that his new guitar repair studio was not big enough, so he pushed out a wall and created an even more beautiful space to work in. Freddie has such an incredible vision.

Martin, our “angel” who has worked for us for years, started to speak to me primarily in Spanish and I have been able to maintain my Spanish language skills better than ever.

I bought an older iphone, which I had unlocked, to take to Spain, and we went off to Spain in May, for 3 months.

Because we are low on money, I decided to have roommates in Sevilla, especially since Freddie wanted to rent a place at the beach (which he did). For the first month, I lived with Yuko, a Japanese Flamenco dancer who teaches Japanese at a University in North Carolina. I had first met her through Juan and Lucy but it was my friend Rina  (also Yuko’s friend) who had suggested that we room together.

For the last two months Rina, (also Japanese but married to an American), and her 16-year old daughter Akahne (who both live in Atlanta) shared the apartment with me. Rina’s non-stop energy and passion for Flamenco reminds me of my own when I was her age. She is my son Elun’s age! She nicknamed Freddie the “Flamenco drill sergeant” because he helped her with some steps and wouldn’t let her stop until she got it right. I first met Rina in a dance class in Spain in 2007, and we have been friends ever since, but we only know each other from Spain! All three of my roommates were a delight to live with.

For more details about our trip to Spain, please see my writings and photos, mainly on Facebook. If you are not on Facebook and didn’t receive my mailings from Spain, please ask for them if you want them! (They didn’t quite make it to my webpage this year).

Freddie’s daughter Maggie and her husband Jason and their three children are now living in Florida. We had hoped to see them in Miami on our stopover returning from Spain, but our plane was delayed and rerouted so we missed our visit with them. We had also planned to visit Carla and Miguel there, but, of course, that couldn’t happen either.

Within the first week of our return from Spain, I flew to Canton, New York to visit my 5-year-old Granddaughter Josie, my son Elun and daughter-in-law Donna. Both Elun and Donna, history professors at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, now have tenure. This is quite an accomplishment and we are proud of them both. Josie is a very vibrant, beautiful and tall 5-year old and we love to walk, dance and sing together. We are also good at speaking gibberish to each other. I now call her every Sunday.

The morning I left for New York, Freddie flew with his mother Bea to Las Vegas Nevada to visit his son Mano, daughter-in-law Alta and grandchildren. I wished I could have been in both places at once.

Freddie’s stepdaughter Jessamy and family returned to Nashville, after a brief time in Arizona.

On the property, we acquired some new renters in addition to Tami and Brent and James. Andy and his small dog Radix lived in the small trailer until November, and Leia, daughter of our old friends Marcellus and Laura, moved into the Lavender room with her big white dog, Mucuchies. Leia has been to Spain to visit us and we visited her and her parents in Puerto Rico last year on the way home from Spain. Her family visited us here in November, after Thanksgiving.

Teddy moved into our barn loft in May, but he had the motorcycle accident and is now living in the Dominican rehab unit in Santa Cruz.

In October, I bought myself the new iphone for my 67th birthday! Many of these photos are taken with it. We went to some wonderful Flamenco shows in the Bay area and then we had more Flamenco artists stay with us: Jose Maya, a dancer from Madrid and his lovely girlfriend Alejandra, who is originally from Mexico. Jose taught a wonderful workshop and performed in some dynamite Flamenco shows in Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

There was a bad cold/flu going around and when our guests left, Freddie and I both caught it. As I started to write this, my nose was dripping like a faucet.

Our good friends Cihtli and Ethan visited in November, and put on a wonderful Flamenco show in Santa Cruz. In December, they return to teach a Flamenco dance workshop.

            Since we have been home from Spain, I have spent a lot of time just trying to cure my shingles and gain some energy back! (Not my usual MO). In addition, I have been fighting the cold-that-didn’t-want-to-leave. Finally, 

after a round of antibiotics, it left, but it left me extremely fatigued. I have been sick basically since our return home from Spain. Now in December, I think I am finally healing.

Throughout the year, as well as in many previous years, our assistant Rama has kept things running smoothly here, whether we are at home or in Spain. This year one of my dance students Ananda, joined her to help take some of the load off. A delightful gardener, Patty worked for us until November when she sent Amber (also delightful) to fill in for her while she takes a 3 month trip. They are supplemental to Martin’s essential services of basic garden and maintenance.

Freddie's guitar at dawn in his studio            Freddie has been hard at work in his guitar repair shop and I love seeing him fixing things. He is also taking an exercise class that our renter/friend Brent introduced him to. He loves it and feels that his coordination is improving significantly. His speech is better too.

            Our friend, Spanish Gypsy singer Rubio, who first visited us here in February with Lakshmi’s show, commented when he was here this October with Jose Maya’s show, that he sees Freddie much improved since his first visit, –and that is less than a year ago!       

Marianna in the yurt

   Before I left for Spain I finally created my psychotherapy website I have been reestablishing my psychotherapy practice and seeing clients again since returning from Spain. I still teach three Flamenco classes a week and facilitate my Shamanic drumming circle.

            My father Jack, now 92, had a hip replacement in April, at 91 years old. He has recovered well, although it took longer than he expected. His wife Peggy continues to 

suffer from back problems, but remains her vital self with her infectious and wonderful sense of humor.

My cousin Rosanne continues her struggle with Alzheimer’s and is well taken care of by her husband Charles. My sister Elaine and her husband Ken keep traveling and doing well, as are their families.

            This year we have witnessed the Occupy Wall Street movement in our country. It inspired us to move our money from Bank of American and Chase to our local credit union. I think it will be an effective statement.

            We are grateful for the wonderful neighborhood gathering we hosted in our dance studio in early December, after experiencing our road closure for over 2 days and lots of good internet communication. We met many of our neighbors and reconnected with some we already know. We have a wonderful community here on Hidden Valley Road. We are lucky. Our community has just expanded. Out of crisis comes growth.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday in spite of the growing traumas most of us seem to be facing. We wish peace and prosperity for the world and an end to suffering. And we remain grateful for the beauty, love and depth of experiences in our lives.




Marianna and Freddie, Flamenco Romantico




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