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Sunday, June 12, 2011

From Here to There and THEN to There

Aaaaand, exhale.  

The last 6 weeks have been a whirlwind with a new job, a new daycare for our son, and now..............the ax is coming down.  After almost a year of waiting and wondering when the final countdown would begin, we got the letter in the mail.

Our mortgage company has restarted  the foreclosure process, according to the letter from the lawyers. 

Last fall after filing for bankruptcy I flailed my arms for a bit, in a vain but valiant attempt to regain the bank's trust and redeem our mortgage.  After awhile I lost my steam and we began to look at this whole experience as a learning one, and one that would give us the push we need to finally leave this tundra we know as Minnesota. 

We are tired of living half a year, every year.  What I mean is, we feel dead every year when the snow is here and the temp is low and we're enclosed in our house like animals in a zoo.  We are not winter people.  I used to be, as a child.  Now? Um....not so much.

We haven't made our final decision on location, but it looks like sometime next spring or early summer we will be headed toward warmer climates, most likely in the Southwest. 

Mexico is not out of the picture by any means.  It is still what we consider to be our ultimate goal.  But we have decided that we don't want to land there with empty pockets.  So, for now, we will go to "Almost Mexico."

Maybe I should change the name of this blog.  Or maybe "From Here to There" is just going to have an extra detour along the way. 

We're excited.  Never thought a foreclosure letter would make me smile, or give us such inspiration. 

It's all in the way you look at it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lo Que Pasa........

Disculpenme, mis amigos!  Please excuse my absence, my friends.  There is a reason for my silence.

You see, a few weeks ago I received a phone call from an employment agency.  When I glanced at the caller ID I thought, "Ho hum.  Another call from this agency, probably to offer me an ill-fitting job which I'll have to politely decline."  Nope.  This was a job offer alright, but it was from them, directly.  An in-house position.

I am now a staffing consultant at an employment agency.  A very exhausted and overwhelmed staffing consultant.  I arranged for daycare for my son at a Spanish immersion daycare only 1 minute from my office, and every morning and evening this week we made the commute together.  This is to be our routine until kindergarten starts, when we will make only a short commute together, since school is closer to home than my work.

What does this mean for our Mexico plans?  Nothing, yet.  We are taking it one step at a time.

We are grateful for this new opportunity, since we desperately need to save money, no matter where we choose to live.  It fell onto our laps, and we're goin' with the flow, waiting to see where it takes us.

Apart from my new job, we have also had a few very delicate conversations with my mom and dad about our Mexico plans.  There is still a slight possibility that we could end up moving to what I am starting to think of as "Almost Mexico", which would include Texas, New Mexico, or Nevada.

No matter what, we WILL be leaving Minnesota within the next 18 months or so.

As for now, I am trying to keep a career woman mindset, so that I can help bring in the dough for our family.  Who knows, maybe I'll love it, make lots of moolah (there's a lot of potential for commission), and we'll end up in our dream adobe home in the Southwest, just one short nonstop flight from my in-laws............

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Winds of Change

Tonight, while sitting at a food court in a Twin Cities mall, while bags of merchandise bounced hurriedly by, possessively toted by the American Dreamer after a hard day's work, I caught a glimpse into a simpler life.

One of my Spanish tutees was using his laptop to show me photos of his trip to Paraguay.  His 30-year-old nephew lives there, in a tiny room which used to be used for storage.  He is a street musician and a friend to many.  He has no kitchen, so each day he heads out to the local market and buys fresh food to eat.  Whenever he has leftovers he gives them to other people or to a dog who lives in the neighborhood.  He lives day-to-day, has lots of artist friends and acquaintances who seem to be passionate about environmentalism, and at the moment he has no plans to move on to what some may consider to be "greener pastures."

What do you make of this?

In some ways, it sounds like heaven to me.  Yet there is another part of me who knows I'd miss computers and TVs, couches and a refrigerator and pantry........... the list could go on.  But I'd still love to spend a year in his shoes.

It would be a bit impractical to choose this sort of life with a family in tow.  So instead I dream of an existence which is sort of half-way there, with an energy efficient adobe style home and buying locally-grown food as well as having a year-round garden of my own.  An income that comes from our own business, which either doesn't feel like work or it takes up only 25 hours a week, or both.  Days well spent, with time for meditation, exercise, laughter, conversation, and good food.

A simpler life.  That seems to be a strong theme these days, what with economic crises, wars, global warming, and pursuits of more fulfillment from life.  What do you think?  I think there's a change brewing in the air.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ah, But the Food..........

Flashback to 15 years ago:  I'm sitting at a plastic table with a Corona napkin holder in the middle and some empty plates with limones and napkins scattered about.  We are in an outdoor, tent-covered dining area of the Inmaculada, where food is cooked outdoors and sold most every night to raise money for the Catholic church and it's surrounding community.  My then-boyfriend, now-husband is sitting beside me, and our friend Wicho, across from me.  They are discussing a subject so sacred to Mexican culture that an interruption would be considered a grotesque misdemeanor on my part.  They are discussing the passion-inducing topic of food.  I have long since passed the point of feigning interest.  They are oohing and ahhing over an endless amount of dishes and the subtle nuances brought to each masterpiece by different relatives and neighbors throughout their lives.

I am simultaneously bored to tears and on the brink of despair.

You see, at this time, I am 23 years old, I'm new to the Mexican culture, and I barely know how to make spaghetti, out of a box and a jar.  I am witnessing my boyfriend showing extraordinary interest in something which I know absolutely nothing about.  Cooking.  And not just "cooking", but cooking Mexican food.  What the heck am I going to do?  He's obviously extremely entranced with the complexities of Mexican cuisine.  I know nothing of this art.  Never in my life have I heard a man discuss at such great detail the taste and technique of such a variety of culinary offerings.   How will he ever want to be with a Gringa as clueless as I?  He and Wicho have been going on about this topic for well over an hour and a half.  I'm teetering between being pissed and bursting out in tears.

On our walk home I am quiet.  After a time my then-boyfriend dares to inquire about the elephant who had hitched a ride on our date.  He asks the obvious question.  What is wrong?  The tears come.  Readily.  I blubber that I would never be able to compete with Tia or Abuelita in creating whatever dish he had been worshipping with such reverence and revelry.  I don't know a chile de arbol from a bowl of chilli. 

That evening he said all the right things.  Years later, convinced that my lack of cooking skills were not going to deter him from smiling at our wedding, I accepted his hand in marriage and we've spent the last 8 years in the peaks and valleys of sazon and the lack thereof.

FAST FORWARD to about 6 years ago.  Our friend Wicho, is visiting us here in Minnesota.  We are in our apartment sitting at our kitchen table late at night with Halloween party makeup still applied, and with an unprecedented amount of food set before us.  My husband has prepared a multitude of delicacies, anticipating the healthy palette and appreciative Mexican appetite that our friend would bring with him.

In semi-drunken conversation, I declare, "One day I am going to make a really, really great Mole."

I will never, ever, be able to convey to you the amount of laughter that spewed forth from my husband in the moments and HOURS that followed.  Tears, rolling around on the floor, side aches, begging for mercy, hilarity to the point of a near breakdown; it all came gushing forth from Mr. Husband.  I laughed along with him, for awhile.  Then Wicho and I each took turns getting ready for bed, and actually had turned the lights off in effort to gather some restful shuteye, all the while Mr. Husband rolled around and pleaded for someone to relieve him from the painfully funny thought of his wife actually making a delicious Mole.

Hmmf.  I'd show him.

Nope.  Still haven't shown him.  Turns out that a really, genuinely wonderful Mole takes over 24 hours to prepare, and a real knowledge of chiles as well as great sazon.  I will need to do my homework, and then some.

Tonight we watched a show from a series called "No Reservations" where a talented  chef and lover of world cultures tours around and enjoys food from different countries.  As we watched the episode about Mexico, I reminded Mr. Husband of the time we hashed out the importance of cooking that night after eating at the Inmaculada.  "After all these years, I get it now,"  I told him, "and I wouldn't be nearly as bored or upset with the conversation if it took place today.  But I'm still going to make that Mole someday."  He begged me to not continue, lest a laugh attack overcome him once more.

For now, I have learned to tell the difference between about 4 or 5 chiles.  I can make a mean refried beans and few great sopas, rivaling those of my talented chef of a husband.  I'm almost to the point of making a good and flavorful arroz.  When my mother-in-law was here for 2 months, I cooked 9/10 of the time and drew little to no embarrassment from the experience.  I'll get there.

I'll have the last laugh, even if it takes me another 15 years.

In the meantime, I am grateful for Mr. Husband's willingness to keep a sense of humor.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Talkin' Bout the Weather

I grew up in a town with a population of 571 in rural Minnesota.  As you can imagine, everyone knew everyone.  Going to "the" grocery store, "the" bank, or "the" post office (one of each existed in my little town) was not merely a task to check off the to-do list.  It was a social call.  My eyes would glaze over as conversations of crops and church events and new babies and so-and-so's new pickup seemed to drone on and on in my childhood ears.  If the adults did not consider one another to be more than distant acquaintances they could always agree to chat about one thing:  The Weather.

This is a universal conversational meeting place.  I have traveled to numerous countries, lived in various cities, worked at an international airport, and there is no doubt in my mind that The Weather can always save us when in a conversational quandary.  You can use it as an opener, a filler, or a closer.  Thank you, Weather.

I can't wait to live in a place where The Weather does not include the words and phrases "snow, blizzard, freezing rain, tornado season, below-freezing temps, and wind chill" on a regular basis. Notice the little BlogFrog picture up in the right-hand corner.  That is a picture of my back yard, taken about one month ago.  It looked like that for 5 months.  I went outside to shovel, go to and from the car, and a few obligatory sledding outings with my son, who clearly is not being raised to be a lover of winter. 

Today is April 15th.  Pictures of Easter bunnies sitting in green grass don the windows of local stores.  Summer clothing and bathing suits seem to proclaim hope and mercy from winter blues just by hanging on the sale racks. 

Current Temp in Minneapolis is 39 degrees Fahrenheit.  The forecast for tonight includes rain and snow.  Tomorrow?  Snow. 

Good riddance, Minnesota.  May God open our path to a warm destination and speed up our journey.........

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Pledge Allegiance.......

So, it looks as though we may have finally saved enough money to apply for Mr. Husband's US citizenship.  It has caused me to reflect upon my own patriotism.

What is patriotism?   The words love, loyalty, honor, respect, obligation, reverence all come to mind.  Do I feel all of these for my country?  Yes.  Do I feel them for my government?  Ummm....sometimes.  How will I feel about my country once I've lived in Mexico for awhile?  Good question, if I do say so myself.

I suppose that for the first few months or more it will only be natural for me to often compare the two countries.  When I am frustrated with the way things are going I will most likely long for "The American Way" and will find myself placing the US on a pedestal in that moment.

I would like to note here that the word "American" takes on great meaning for me.  I generally avoid using it because I have friends in Mexico who helped me to understand that the word should not necessarily be reserved for people living in the United States.  I use it here, however, because most people are familiar with the expression "American Way" as something referring to nationals of the United States.  I could go further and talk about how even the words "United States" are not exclusive to my country, but that's not the point of this post.

As I was saying, before interrupting myself....

After living in Mexico for awhile will I begin to feel allegiance to Mexico and lose my sense of allegiance to the United States?  A better place to start for me is to ask if I feel allegiance to the United States right now.  The answer is yes.  I am extremely frustrated with the way our country has gone in the past 10 years or so, but all in all I love my country because of the ideals for which it stands.  I get the feeling that my country has messed things up for itself, however.  We'll see how things pan out.

But you know what?  More than feeling a strong sense of patriotism, I feel a stronger sense of humanitarianism.  That is, I identify more with the idea of being a citizen of the planet Earth than belonging to a specific country.  I feel that the bottom line in my life is to show love, loyalty, honor, respect, obligation, and reverence to my fellow human beings.  I am an idealist.

Coming back to a more practical or worldly standpoint, I must say that reading the endless expatriate blogs has shown me a huge variety of views on the subject of patriotism.  It all comes down to why you left in the first place, what's kept you away, and how you reconcile your nationality with your day-to-day living.  It's a highly personal thing, actually; a rather touchy subject.

Anyway, my husband will be pursuing his citizenship here so that we are less likely to have complications later, when we decide to travel to the US or if we decide to move back.  We figure it would be easier than dealing with all of the rules that go along with being a resident alien.

Resident alien, illegal alien..... more phrases I take issue with......

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sweet Dreams are Made of These

Aaah, sweet slumber, and the dreams that float in and out of our minds, dazzling and captivating us with delightful scenarios, enticing us to remain still and give ourselves over to a gloriously refreshing night's sleep.

If only all dreams were this way.

Dreams are a big part of life.  We talk about goals and desires in the conscious state of mind and refer to them as dreams.  But the dreams we have while sleeping seem to be out of our control.  Whether we enjoy them or not, many times they serve to assist us to process hardships we are experiencing in our lives.  Sometimes they can be so complicated that it is difficult for us to pinpoint what they mean.

It took me awhile to figure out why one of my recurring dreams over the past few years has been about returning to college at my alma mater.  In the dream I am back in Chicago, signing up for courses at the liberal arts college I attended some 18 years ago.  Amusingly enough, it doesn't feel at all ridiculous that I am 38 years old and going to live in the dorms.  It's exciting again.  Sometimes there is a sense of determination and I know without a doubt that I am going to get the music degree that I had dreamed of getting all those years ago (but became too discouraged by the competitive nature of the music world to pursue it at the time).  Other times I am extremely confused and everything has changed so much that I don't know how to sign up for the right classes, I go to the wrong dormitory, buildings look different, etc.  Underneath it all there is always a feeling that I am starting anew and I am happy to be there.  Eventually I realized that this dream was my mind's way of helping me cope with these mid-life feelings of forgotten or abandoned goals, or questions of "what if" and the notion that sometimes I just plain want a do-over.

Another recurring dream is about tornadoes.  This one always holds factors of wonderment, anticipation, fear, and a search for security.  It's always really vivid, and only a couple of times has the tornado actually struck the dwelling where I am seeking shelter.  I always end up being okay, as do my loved ones.  Many times my brain uses these dreams to process frustration with certain loved ones.  The week that my father left my mother after 42 years of marriage and it felt as though a bomb had dropped on our family, I had a tornado dream where me and my parents and siblings were in a jeep driving in a rural area, and my father was driving us straight into the tornado.  Other tornado dreams have consisted of someone running outside to save someone else,  or someone not seeming to care about the tornado, etc.  The stories always run parallel to thoughts and emotions I'm dealing with  regarding these people in my daily life.

Other times I've had wonderfully vivid dreams of loved ones who have passed to the Other Side.  I absolutely adore those dreams and appreciate the opportunity to visit with those people once more.

When I was a little girl I suffered from night terrors which, at times, caused me to break out in hives.  I'm not even sure how to go about trying to interpret those types of dreams.  They are in a league of their own.

Recently I picked up a book written by Jose Silva, famous for his teachings on developing ESP and using our sixth sense to better our own lives and the lives of others.  I have only read a small portion thus far, but it seems as though there IS a method to guide your mind toward dreaming of certain things.  How interesting, right?

Wherever your sleeping dreams take you, I hope you pay attention to them.  I think our bodies and minds have amazing ways to help ourselves process and heal from certain problems and situations, and I truly believe that dreams are one of the gifts we are given in this life.  I will continue to pay close attention to my dreams, especially as we are going through many changes in the near future.

Thanks for allowing me to share my dreams with you.  Feel free to share yours, too!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Political for a Moment

I promise that I will not rant and rave about the election for the next year and a half.  But I just gotta say this and get it off my chest. 

What is the United States coming to, considering Donald Trump as a candidate for the Republican party??  He is definitely no idiot, that is for sure.  I mean, he didn't get where he is today by being a moron.  I'm not saying he doesn't have any good ideas to fix this mess we're in (which cannot be blamed entirely on any one person). 

It's just....well.....REALLY??? 

The thought crossed my mind that if we move to Mexico I may pay less attention to politics and have a calmer spirit as a result.  Then I remembered that their news media seems to cover the US almost as much as their own country.  What's a free-spirited, bleeding heart, worry wart like me to do?

Take up yoga, perhaps.

That's the ticket.  I'll "Om" my way to a peaceful mind and a regular heartbeat.  The Donald will NOT get me riled up, like he did when he got in those childish spats with Rosey O'Donnell and Martha Stewart.  Naughty, naughty, Big Ego Guy who is seriously at number two on the list of preferred Republican candidates as of yesterday.  Seriously.

Oh well.  That's all for today.  In with the good, out with the bad.  Namaste, my friends.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

From Cats to Dogs and Everything Between

The other night Mr. Husband and I saw a TV report about the dog that was rescued last week about a mile off the coast of Japan.  He had been floating atop some debris for weeks, and the reunion between him and his owner was so sweet to watch.  I'm not a dog person, but it really touched my heart.  "Dogs really ARE sweet, aren't they?"  I said to Mr. Husband.  He gave me a knowing look, a bit of warning flickering in his eyes, and said, "Well, you realize that when we're in Mexico we will have to get a dog, right?"  We are destined to become "dog on the roof" owners.

For those of you who have never visited Mexico,  the water tank is usually on top of the house, and there is access to the roof.  Many people have dogs who live on the roof and are a sort of alarm system for the family when strangers approach the home.

I am a cat person.  From what I have seen, cats are not revered in Mexico, generally speaking.  Mr. Husband's asthma acted up quite a bit with the last cat I had (a mane coon)  and I had to give him away.  I've always missed him.  Part of the reason why he triggered asthmatic symptoms is because his fur would get in the carpet, and the dander was difficult to remove. 

Well, guess what?  Another thing about Mexico is that most people have hard tile flooring versus carpeting.  I love carpet because I enjoy walking around in my stocking feet.  But a perk to the hard floor is that a cat's dander will not get stuck in it!  Besides, it really IS easier to keep clean.

Also, we will be able to let fresh air into the house all year round, which is good for the body and the mind.  YAY!  No more spending 8 months out of the year feeling like a shut-in.

As we have been discussing our move, I have started to realize that I do not know how to be an adult in Mexico.  I don't know how the bills work and where to go stand in line to pay them, I don't know how to make sure the garbage gets picked up, and I am wondering if we are going to have to use a laundry service or will we have a washer and dryer?  I remember a few times when I lived there before I washed my clothes on a washer board during the weeks when there was not a maid available to do it.  My triceps ached for 2 days afterward.  What if I washed clothes for the whole family that way!  Nah, I'll take it to a laundry service until we get a washer and dryer.

Also, how do you know who is ringing your doorbell when?   Again, for those of you unfamiliar with day-to-day Mexican life, people's doorbells ring at least 2 or 3 times per day.  It could be the Señora who sells tortillas, the Señor who pushes a cart full of garbanzos, or just a niño selling candy to raise money for a school event.  Door-to-door sales are alive and well in Mexico.  And you know what?  I LOVE IT.

I love the culture, the smells, the quirks, the mystery, the language, and a million other things about Mexico.  The differences between here and there are many, and there is good and bad in both places.  But I'm ready to embrace those differences once again.  Just writing this, I can almost smell the neighbor's frijoles wafting through our open window and hear the morning bells and whistles that signify whatever services or products are being offered in the neighborhood on this bright, sunny, Mexican morning.  Oh, and the dogs barking from the rooftops!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Well, folks, the proverbial "crap" has "hit the fan."  I didn't plan on doing it the way I did, but it REALLY needed to be said.  Funny thing is, I didn't even say it directly.

Out of respect for my family's privacy I won't share too many details.  This will be a journey of sorts for them too, after all.  I'll just tell you that Mom and I were on the phone and at the end of the conversation the subject of future plans came up, I alluded to the fact that we are looking at moving to Mexico but I didn't say "Mexico" at all.  I just left it to her imagination.

The next morning it became evident through an email that she had guessed it.  It's been all downhill from there.

In the past three days I've had numerous anxiety attacks, which I was able to overcome with breathing techniques and a bit of Valeria.  I've got enough cortisol flowing through my body to sustain a 100-mile run being chased by a bear.  Yesterday I drank 4 beers with no difficulty.  On the upside, I also had a really meaningful discussion with my father, which was a really big deal to me.  I won't go into details there either, out of respect to my family's privacy.

This is just the beginning.  It's become evident to me that my siblings have been made aware of the situation as well.  With everyone in the know, we will now have to undergo a battery of interrogations/discussions, explain ourselves and defend ourselves, and consider countless reasons as to why we should not move to Mexico.

Let the campaign begin.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tales of a Mid-Life Crisis

I have started and restarted this sentence several times, in an effort to make this an interesting and meaningful post.  Interestingly, this is what is happening in my life lately.  I've been stopping and starting and stopping and starting again, all in effort to make it all worthwhile and meaningful.  To give you a brief synopsis I'll start from last January, 2010.

I was holed up in a 4-star hotel which we could not afford even with the wonderful discount I'd obtained, about 10 minutes from my home, hoping to regain some rest and some clarity away from all of the noise which seemed to surround me on a daily basis.  Over the previous year I had come to the conclusion that I MUST leave my airline customer service supervisor job, lest I end up in a padded cell.  The thing is, the economy was (is) bad and jobs were (are) scarce and I felt really trapped.  Mr. Husband and I were working opposite shifts from one another in order to offer our son a family environment versus putting him in daycare.  We were the proverbial "two ships passing in the night" and it sucked.  I mean, it REALLY did suck.

We each felt we led the life of a single parent, because we hardly ever held the support of the other person being present in day-to-day childrearing.  We were burnt out emotionally, physically, and psychologically.  Something had to give.

I had just spent about 2 weeks at my mother's house with my son over the busy holiday, and after the pressures of the holiday combined with the pressures of not having my husband there with me to help with our son, along with the financial distress that was weighing on my shoulders, I needed that mini vacation.

So, there I sat, in the lovely, blissfully peaceful hotel room.  Within the first 10 minutes after I closed myself in the room, I had a mini anxiety attack, a physical manifestation of the stress I'd been under.  It was a release of sorts.  I spent the next two days drinking tea (okay, and some red wine), fasting on only fruits and veggies, reading, watching movies, and journaling my thoughts and feelings.  It was absolutely DIVINE. 

I came to a conclusion while on that idyllic retreat.  The year 2010 was going to be my year of change.  I was going to leave the airline, come what may.  I was going to find my smile again.  I was going to live. 

Oh, things changed, alright.

I should add that during this time period I was also on a leave from the airline, and I was utilizing this time to take an online course in medical transcription.  It was going fine, but taking a lot longer than I had anticipated.  I was finding that even though Mr. Husband would take our son out for a few hours a couple times a week, it just wasn't enough time for me to do it all as fast as I thought I would.  I knew I'd be able to finish by the time my leave was to be up in June, however.  It was going to work out.  I was going to get an at-home medical transcription job, and I'd be able to be a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom!

Then March rolled around.

I received notice from the airline that my leave was to be cut short due to needs of service.  I was to report back to hell within two weeks.


My life turned upside down.  I began frantically searching for other jobs, amidst anxiety attacks and night binges on wine.  I was in tears at least 5 times a day.  I couldn't understand why this was happening!  I flippin' HATED that job and with every cell in my body did NOT want to go back!  Was my life to be a prison, forever filled with disgruntled business men complaining about their coach seats, drunk college kids in the gate area, and attractive but cocky people thinking that their beauty should always buy them an aisle seat and "  I will never fly this airline again!" ringing in my ears on a daily basis???!!!  Not to mention the bad weather days.  Oh, man, I could type a book on it.  But, I digress.

I put my uniform on and dragged myself back into that airport, tears streaming down my face. 

But I had an idea.  I didn't have time to work on medical transcription, but I could be a Spanish interpreter!  That's it!!  I began looking into different interpreting agencies and sent out a gazillion resumes.  Within 2 weeks I'd heard back from three agencies.  Good enough.  I was going to get out of a job I'd long outgrown for once and for all.

I walked into work one day, strangely calm and happy.  I rolled out a piece of printer paper from the circa 1979 printer at one of the gate areas, scrawled out my two-weeks notice, marched right down to the human resources manager's office, and slipped that bad boy into her inbox.  I was going to make it happen, damn it.

Well, interpreting is a lot of fun.  But the calls were sporadic, and I found that I was earning barely enough to keep my son in his daycare/preschool 3 days a week.  But soon I wasn't earning even that much.  Then the sheriff sale notice came in the mail.  Things came apart at the seams. 

If you've been reading my other entries, you'll know the "rest is history" and you'll also know that guilt has played a large role in my struggle.  It's frustrating, because I feel like spending 12 years at a job that I began to dread about 4 years into it
should have earned me the right to leave.  I guess in some ways that's true, but what I really should have done was to have left that place 8 years ago when the job market was more steady.  Well, I didn't.  Lesson learned.  My son doesn't get his stubborness only from his daddy, you know.

So here we are.  Mr. Husband isn't happy with his work situation either.  We see our lives passing us by and we aren't even living.  Is this how we want to teach our son to be?  Can't we have a life where we get to be the real person we are at our core, and find smiles and wonder and joy in the journey?

Yes.  We can.  And we will.  And we are.

That's what this is all about.  We're going there.  We are who we are, and we are not going to allow other people, negative thoughts, preconceived notions, judgments from others or ourselves, "nor principalities nor powers nor things present or things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature separate us from the love of God."

Our heaven is going to be now.  In this life.

Love to you all.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Walk in the Dark

We've got our flashlight on, and we're headed out for a hike. It's a bit dark outside and we'll only be able to make out objects which lie within about 8 feet in front of us.  But we have a map, we know how to call for help if necessary, and we are excited to go somewhere new.

If you haven't figured it out, I'm talking about our plans to move to Mexico.  We still haven't decided on exactly when we will be going, but we figure since we know we're going we may as well begin taking steps in that direction.

This week we are going to start the process on obtaining Mr. Husband's citizenship.  He is a legal resident, but we feel that it would be best to get his citizenship taken care of before we leave.  There have been so many wacky things going on regarding immigrants and lots of speculation on how laws may be changing here in the U.S., and we think it's better to be safe than sorry.  I'm excited for Mr. Husband and I think it's something that he'll feel really good about.

The other thing we'll be doing in the near future is enrolling me in an online TESL course, so that I can have a certificate to show potential employers in Mexico.  I have a B.A. in Spanish and Communications (I double-majored) but I don't have teaching credentials, though I do have some ESL teaching experience.  Really I'm sort of excited to take that course because it will refresh my memory on some grammar and give me some teaching ideas.  I don't know what course I'll take but I'm open to suggestions!  (Hint, hint!)

So, that's what's up for now.  We're taking those first few steps.  We have lots of questions and issues to resolve, but we know that it will all come together.  Actually, all of the unknowns make the journey more interesting! 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Turning Tide........

Yesterday morning I made some choices.  I decided to not get crabby with my son while hurrying him along in order to catch the bus in time.  This allowed me to use my energy for love instead of anger.  Smiling is so much more fun than frowning, don't you think?

When I came back in the house after dropping him off I made the choice to go online, and was disheartened by an old schoolmate's reaction regarding an issue that is important to me.  I made the choice to use 45 minutes of energy trying to convince him to see things my way.  I was left feeling bitter, angry, and with a heavy heart.  I chose to leave the computer and go for a walk.

While on my walk I chose to dedicate the entire walk to thoughts of gratitude.  The first couple of minutes felt forced.  But within about 5 minutes the gratitude began to flow from me.  Soon, ideas of what to be grateful for sprang to mind faster than I could finish the previous thought.  Before I knew it I felt an extra spring in my step and a smile formed on my face and stayed there for the entire walk.  The thoughts of gratitude promoted feelings of love and wonder and awe.  I was happy.

I'm going to keep it up.  During the past few years I have been brooding over so many problems and negative situations.  What if I chose to think only on positive things for one month?  What would happen?  What if I thought of myself as a magnet for health, wealth, and happiness?

Ever heard of the Law of Attraction?  I've dabbled in it a few times in the past.  I have one amazing account to tell you about, one which should have made an immediate impact on me and motivated me to continue putting the law of attraction to use.  Read on...........

About three years ago we had two cars.  One was the 2000 Mitsubishi which we still own, and the other was a white Dodge Neon from the mid-to-late 90s.  The Neon was ready for retirement, and my husband had been planning to sell it but hadn't put a sign on it yet.  In the previous weeks I had done a bit of meditating and positive thinking, trying to put to use the Law of Attraction.  One afternoon I was upstairs, thinking, "Man, we really need to sell that car.  'Hey, Universe, you should really be sending someone to buy that car from us.  Someone should just come right up to our doorstep to buy it!'"  I swear, what happened next is absolutely  God's honest truth.  Within about 10 minutes, the doorbell rang.  I was upstairs, and my husband opened the door.  I heard the man outside asking if we were interested in selling the Neon.  There was no sign on it, remember!  He wanted to buy that car.  It was sold and gone within 30 minutes. 

Yep, it's time I put that back into practice.  The tide is turning for us, and I am SO incredibly happy and grateful!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So, What's it Gonna Be?

We need to come to a decision about this move.  I mean, really, we've already decided that we are moving, it's just that we haven't agreed upon when.  Realistically, it could be anywhere between 9 months and 2 years from now.

Personally, I think it would be nice to allow our son to finish his first year in Kindergarten here in the States, rather than uproot him right in the middle of a school year.  He's going to be attending a Spanish immersion school.  He already speaks Spanish and English, but the only person he consistently speaks Spanish with on a day-to-day basis is his papa.  When we toured the schools (we are wait listed for 2) we were delighted to find that the majority of the teachers are native Spanish speakers, and that slightly more than 50% of the students are native speakers as well.  We know that going to a school such as this is going to help ease our son's transition once we finally do go to Mexico.

There's also the issue of saving money before we go.  We're sort of in a strange position because yes, we want to save money, but not having the means to save the money is one of the key motivators that is pushing us to move to Mexico.  I know it will be easier for me to find steady work once my son enters kindergarten.  For now, we are just cutting out the frills, discount shopping, and I'm trying to pick up hours tutoring and at my part-time job.  We do not want to be dependent upon his family for everything when we get there, and the more money we have saved the more independence we'll enjoy.

So, when are we going??  I think there are many things to consider, namely all of the things on the triptik (IE. to-do list) that I presented a few entries ago.  Also, I want to allow my family the time to get used to the idea and I don't want to leave here with them angry at us.  As I type this I am coming to the frightening realization that we are nearing the time where we need to share our decision with my family.  Yikes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

We're All in This Together

Today, as I watch the news reports about the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunami, one of my core beliefs is reinforced yet again; we are all in this together.

The water that rose to treacherous levels on the other side of the globe, causing tides of mayhem and destruction, comes from the same ocean that, in turn, rose on our side of the globe.  The tsunami on the shores of San Fransisco was triggered by the same disaster which is taking its toll on the shores of Mexico.  People are suffering all over the world because we all have one thing in common; we're human.  We love, we grow attached to possessions, we hope, we fear. 

God did not draw lines within each continent, creating borders, fear, distrust, and selfishness. 

I wonder how big a disaster would have to be in order for countries to forget grudges and greed and unite together as human beings?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Que te mueve!!

My waist is stiff today.  I never knew my waist could be stiff.  Why, you ask, do I have this mild discomfort?


A few years ago when my son was about 18 mos or so, I was watching an infomercial for Zumba, and I thought it looked like fun.  Also, the before and after stories sucked me in.  That happens a lot with me.  Tell me something is good for weight loss or to get you into shape and you may or may not hold my attention.  Give me a good before and after story, and I'm all ears and reaching for my checkbook.  So anyway, I ordered the darn videos.

And it was fun.  So much fun that I lost almost all of my baby weight.  Then something happened.  I still don't know what it was, but I'm guessing it was a combination of stress, bad habits creeping back in, or an age-related metabolic slow down.  Who knows.  But I gained all of the weight back and a few more pounds just to really drive home my feelings of self-loathing.

Blah, blah, blah..... felt gross............blah, blah, blah.................sort of gave up and started drinking wine every night.............. blah, blah..................only 4 pairs of pants in my closet fit me and we don't have any money to buy new ones nor do I want to because the size on the tag of the pants that actually fit me is too depressing.

Okay.  So my long-time friend drops by to see me and looks absolutely fantastic, because she's lost weight while following Weight Watchers, and she's smiling ear to ear.  She talked me into joining.  I just finished my second week.  I'm seeing results! 

This second week I decided to incorporate just a wee bit of ejercicio into my day.  So I've been popping in my Zumba DVDs, and Beto is kicking my arse, I say! 

1) The music!
2) The dance moves are easy enough for anyone to try.
3) I don't feel silly doing it, nor would I feel silly if I was in a class with others. The point of Zumba is not to show whether or not you can move like Charo (remember her?).  However, it's fun because it makes you feel like you can learn to move like Charo!  Like there's a sexy Latina in all of us! 
4) Beto is really adorable.
5) There is variety of different movements so you aren't bored.

So, anyway, I'm hoping that my inner Latina will shake and shimmy the grasa right off of this waist (and thighs, butt, and tummy!) and maybe by the time we go to Mexico I'll have whittled my size down to the happier and more energetic version of me.   It's actually one of the things that I forgot to include on my "Triptik" post of things we must do before going to Mexico! 

Gotta go now.  Time to Zumba!  Que te mueve!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mac 'n Cheese and a Midlife Crisis

This morning I'm sitting here drinking my coffee, playing around online, and thinking.  Always thinking.  My brain never seems to shut off these days.  I wonder about stuff like our moving to Mexico, the fragility of life, and whether we'll see anything amazing happen on December 21, 2012.  Then my mind drifts to thoughts like, "I wonder if they have Weight Watchers in Mexico?" and my son's question from this morning, "Do butterflies eat macaroni and cheese?" and the realization that tomorrow (after much trepidation on my part) my son is going to take the bus to school for the first time.  My baby!! 

But my big question of the day is, why is it that sometimes what we've been begging and praying for is finally offered to us after the fact?  What I mean is this:  A year ago I finally left my job with an airline (customer service stuporvisor, er, I mean, supervisor) where I'd worked for close to 12 years.  I feel guilty just typing it, given the fact that our economic situation is horrendous.  But I couldn't deal with that place ANYMORE.  For years I'd wanted to escape from the prison I called my job.  By the time I got around to actually leaving I was having chest pains and panic attacks as a result of the stress from that job and from playing "two passing ships in the night" with Mr. Husband.  It was time to change my life.  I made a go of being a freelance medical Spanish interpreter.  It went well at times, but there were too many peaks and valleys and unpredictable hours for me to continue.  We couldn't afford to pay for my son's preschool.  I applied for jobs all over the place, to no avail.  The week that we pulled my son from the preschool that we adored, I got several calls to interpret.  AAAAAGH!!!  Why???  Why couldn't they have been calling me sooner?? 

Often times I think, "Why couldn't I have just held out in that airline job until our son went to kindergarten?"  Then we probably wouldn't have slipped into financial ruin and I could have found something to do during school  hours.  But that's not how it went.  Plus, who's to say that I wouldn't have ended up in the hospital if I'd stayed with the airline?  Who knows if I'd even be alive today if I wouldn't have left there?  Okay, now I'm being dramatic.  But you never know!

Instead, what's been happening this week is this:  For the past few months I have been tutoring people in Spanish.  It's a lot of fun, but I only do it a few hours a week.  Last week I decided to put a new ad out, and I have received 3 responses already!  THEN, last night at a session with one of my students, who happens to be an ex-mechanic at the same airline where I worked, and who now owns his own business, presented an idea to me.  How about if I offer a Spanish class, and he'd "hire me" and just make it part of his business and we could advertise and see what kind of interest is out there?  I'm really excited about this.  It could be another wonderful way to save up money for our eventual move.  Also, when my son goes to kindergarten next fall I would be more available to interpret or to get another job. 

I feel like things are coming together.  Throughout the hardships over the past few years, I have made friends, mended some relationships, gotten to the root of some big issues, and learned a lot of life lessons.  I am gaining confidence and momentum, and I feel like goodness is going to shower down upon me and my family.  If we stay true to our dreams and God-given gifts and put Love first, doors open.  Maybe not right away and not the way we expect them to, but they open.

Thanks for reading.  Spread some Love today.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Second Guessing

Remember my "What if" from yesterday that touched on the violence in Mexico?  Remember how confident and level-headed I seemed??  Well........

So, this morning I was looking at an expat forum, and read a horror story about these two older couples who were beaten terribly and robbed and all but left for dead, written by an expat living in Guanajuato.  It was extremely disheartening and really fear-inducing, the kind of post that makes you second guess yourself in deciding to move to Mexico.  As I sit here at my computer in our little house in Minnesota, looking out the window at the snow, a product of a weather system that has proven itself to be psychologically unbearable for us (can you say "Seasonal Affective Disorder??), I weigh our options.  I think of our son, who will be starting kindergarten in the fall.  The long, ugly, ranting, ominous warning of a post from that expat resonates in my brain and conjures up unspeakable scenarios in my mind. 

Geez.  It sort of gets me PO'd that she wrote that post.  But am I annoyed because I think she is just a bitter gringa who regrets her decision and wants to sour everyone else's milk, or is it because she's fostering the very doubts that I've had floating around in my mind and I don't want my hopes of a new life to be shot down?    I think of possible dangers that could befall us, but I don't know if I'm just getting myself all worked up for no good reason, or if I should heed her warning and rethink our decision. 

I absolutely, unequivocally, LOVE Mexico.  The time that I spent living there back in the mid-90s was just wonderful; life-changing.  I want my son to experience it, to soak in the culture so that he will identify with that part of himself in a deeper way than just eating at the local Mexican restaurants or participating in the community-sponsored Latino events here in Minnesota.  But I don't want this immersion experience at the expense of his safety.  Will his light-brown hair and my blue eyes make us moving targets for kidnappers?  We definitely have no monetary advantages to entice any criminals, but maybe they won't realize that.  I mean, according to this gringa in Guanajuato, we should be looking over our shoulders at every turn.  I hope she knows what kind of fear a post like that can induce in a person.  To be fair, much of what she said in her post was true; she not only wrote of dangerous situations in Mexico but also of the potentially uncomfortable situations that a more, shall we say, pampered gringo would suffer.  But I'm not worried about avoiding drinking tap water or watching our step on the cobblestone sidewalks.  My main concern is that we would suffer some sort of violence. 

We can't continue the lifestyle we've been living here.  A change is absolutely necessary.  I am not going to give up on our ideals where our family is concerned.  I feel it in my bones; my son is in store for a culturally rich life and broadened horizons.  I don't feel like staying here is the right thing to do.  At least not for now.  So what do I do about these fears?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What if.....

For many years we have discussed the possibility of moving to Mexico, so we've had plenty of time to think of all of the "what ifs".  For the heck of it, let me just throw a bunch out there for review.....

What if I get homesick for the U.S.?  ~Well, that's gonna suck.  Inevitably I will have moments of homesickness.  When I lived there before, I got homesick a few times, and to make myself feel better I'd do something that I'd never do at home.......I'd head to McDonald's and console myself with cheeseburgers and french fries.  That was before the Internet took the world by storm.  I imagine that in this day and age my homesickness would be a bit easier to deal with, what with Skype and Facebook.

What if we fall victim to the horrible violence that is so prevalent in the news about Mexico?  ~Well, let me begin with another question..... What if my house gets broken into tonight by the people that have been breaking into numerous other houses within my 6 block radius during these last few weeks?  Also, after Mr. Husband having taken a trip there and reporting that all is "business as usual" and people are still smiling and living their day-to-day lives, and after having spoken myself with friends in the city where we'd move to and having them tell me the same thing, I have come to a conclusion.  It would be silly to base our entire decision on what we've been seeing on the news.  Especially since in the state we're going to there have been very few incidents of violence involving gringos that didn't stem from outright stupidity, carelessness, or direct involvement with the drug scene.  That said, OF COURSE we would be careful, and not go out at night to questionable places.  We would not be hanging out with dangerous crowds.  We'd use the same common sense that we are using now! 

What if we try it and decide in a couple of years that we've made a big mistake? ~Um, well, then I guess we chalk it up to another life experience.  But a counter question might be "What if we don't go and continue in the same environment, hating the long, bitter cold winters and feeling like we are living out a life sentence instead of LIVING?"  Now, speaking practically, I will say that it would only be wise to have a little nest egg in our basket here in the USA in case we want to come back.  That's something we can start from here before we leave, and just keep dropping more eggs in the basket from warm, sunny Mexico.

What if my family and our friends get mad and everyone thinks we're crazy for moving there, given the news coverage that Mexico is receiving recently?  ~Okay, this is where I have to really put on my thick skin and realize that we will not be able to please everyone, but we absolutely must live our lives in a way that is fulfilling and that sets a good example for our son.  We are big believers in living out dreams and making the most out of the time God has given us.  We feel we have some dreams to live out in Mexico, and we want our son to know that we are doing our best.  It's clear to me that some people seem to feel that giving up on the American Dream is bordering on blasphemy.  Well, then our values are different than theirs, and that's the only way I know how to put it.  Also, to be fair, my husband has been here for 13 years and never once has he complained.  It's time to hang out with his family for awhile!

Any other "What ifs"?  Maybe.  But these were the biggest ones that pop into my head at the moment.  There is still the question of "When?" and we don't yet know the answer yet.  Patience, my little doves.......patience. 

Monday, February 28, 2011


Since this blog is about the journey "from here to there", I'm going to start a little triptik, Lorraine-style.  Back in 1995, when, upon return from my last long stay in Mexico, I announced to my family that I would be moving to Washington State, my parents got on the horn with AAA and had a triptik made for me, which was a trip planner complete with an updated road map from Minnesota to Washington.  Never mind that the directions can be summed up in two words: Go West.  They felt I needed to be aware of all of the possible turns, bumps, and detours, as well as the highlights of all of the possible cities and tourist stops along the way.  It was not a bad idea, as it turned out, because we did get stranded with car trouble for a night in Montana, and the information on the triptik came in very handy.  Yay for worry-wart parents!

So, hey, why not start some planning for our big move and try to avoid some of the figurative potholes in our path?  For starters, we don't even want to start our engines until we have done a little housecleaning, so to speak.  When newly inspired Mr. Husband came back from Mexico last month and announced that yes, he does want us to move there, the wheels started turning.  Egad!  We would have to:

1)  Get the house problem figured out, once and for all.  Our loan is still in limbo due to hitting foreclosure proceedings last year. Filing for bankruptcy last fall bought us some more time to figure things out, but we don't know how much time.  We've actually been trying to reinstate the loan, but with plans to move to Mexico we are floundering around, considering our options.  Should we keep our house and rent it out to someone, sell it before we go, or just let it go and fly the coop the week of the sheriff sale, which could very well be sometime by the end of this year?

2)  We will need to have a big sale and get rid of the majority of our belongings.  That would best be done in warmer temps, so, once again, we need to decide when we're leaving.

3)  I want to pay off the rest of my school loans so that we are not burdened with that problem when we're trying to start fresh.

4)  We need to find a moving company!  Mr. Husband says he should just drive, and someone could ride with him.  My thoughts on that are "HELL NO" because I don't want him driving through bullet-dodging country, ie the northern border of Mexico.  This discussion has not gone very far because we are butting heads on the issue.

5)  Health topics, such as dental work, optometry appointments, and general physicals should be all taken care of before we go so that we can avoid any extra surprises during our first 6 months or so.

6)  Translation of documents such as college transcriptions and immunization records, etc.

7)  My visa for Mexico.  No, I don't need a visa to visit Mexico, but I DO need a visa to be there on a more permanent basis (6 months or more, I believe?) and work there.

8)  I want to get a TESL (teach English as a Second Language) certificate so that I may get work when we get there.

9)  Save, save, save.  Oh, and SAVE.  We'll want to have a few bucks in our pockets to fund the start of our new life.

10)  I feel like there should be a number 10 but I just can't think of anything at the moment.

So, there you have it.  I think the big question of the month is going to be "WHEN?".  I mean, we need to consider the housing issue (here) and the fact that our son is starting kindergarten in the fall and I really don't want to pull him from his school in the middle of the year.  I've been having lots of mixed feelings about the whole thing.  We'll talk about the "What If's" in my next post.  Until then, thanks for riding along as we begin this process............

Monday, February 21, 2011

How Do I Love Thee?

Life in Mexico is not necessarily as dreamy and sweet as I've been making it sound.  I think a big part of me wants to convince myself and everyone else that moving to Mexico is the right choice for us.  Can I say with all certainty that it is?  Nope.  But one friend asked me, "Does the thought of moving to Mexico make you feel happy or excited?"  My answer is "For the most part, yes." 

Why the little qualifier?  Why "For the most part" and not just a resounding, "YES!"?  Well,  there are a bunch of "what ifs" that pop up when making humongous life-changing decisions such as these.  Things like homesickness and the current struggles with violence are points to consider.  I would miss my mother immensely.  She and I have always been really close, and in recent years we have been even closer due to the traumatic divorce she went through with my father and the subsequent feelings of loss that have left their mark on our family.  But I believe we are through the worst of the storm, and at this point, if I allowed that horrible event to continue to affect my life enough to alter my life decisions with my husband, it would be incredibly unhealthy.  I realize that as one's parents grow older we have certain responsibilities to them, but she's not to that point yet, and I will cross that bridge when I get to it.  Anyway, there are the "what ifs" and I'll discuss those later.  Let's get to the "Yes" for now.

Mexico and I have had a long love affair.  I first became aware of Mexico as a small child.  My dad had gone there once and came back with little gifts for us.  I don't remember what I got, but I remember my sister's gift.  It was Mexican Jumping Beans.  If you put them under a lamp, they jumped.  Around that same time I realized that English was not the only language that people spoke.  I heard the word "agua" on Sesame Street, and my world got a little bit bigger.  In high school we could choose between studying German or Spanish, and I knew that Spanish was the choice for me.  I was entranced by the musicality of the language.  It was so pretty! 

Studying Spanish never felt like a burden to me.  Even at the college level, when the subjunctive tense loomed over me like a huge question mark, I kept at it.  During my freshman year my college roommate announced that she was going to sign up to spend her sophomore winter semester in Mexico and that I should do it too.  At first, I thought, "No, I can't do THAT!"  It was enough of a shock for this small-town girl to go to college in Chicago, let alone make the long journey all the way to Mexico!  By the time my roomie convinced me to go, the list of available spots had filled and I was placed on the waiting list.  As it turned out, a couple of people ended up cancelling, including my roommate!  I made that fateful trip to Mexico.

WOW-ZA!!  My world exploded into a wonder of bright colors, new feelings, foreign concepts, wondrous imagination, altered perceptions, and new-found self-confidence.  I was hooked.  The language was crammed down my throat as fast as I could swallow it, and my brain was buzzing and bulging with cultural delights and an abundant vocabulary. 

For a few years after college I went back and forth between Minnesota and Mexico, waitressing at home and teaching English in Mexico.  I'd fly into Mexico City and hop on a luxury bus to take me to "my city."  I felt like I experienced all of the joys and hope and sadness of the country in that 4-hour ride, just looking out the window.  The desperation of poverty was evident in some of the shanty towns we'd pass through and my heart would lurch at the sight of it.  Moving on, the beauty of the countryside and the colorful houses and shops and the smiles of people greeting one another would bring a new set of tears to my eyes.  The political campaign signs, mostly painted skillfully on the sides of buildings awakened me to the serious nature of the plight of an impoverished place and of people mistreated or misunderstood.  Upon arrival, the greetings I'd receive from strangers, acquaintances, and friends who felt like family drew me in deeper and deeper.

When I fell in love with my husband, I was also going through a time where important decisions and actions had to take place regarding mundane things like paying school loans and finding the perfect career.  It felt like I was a character in a story who had found the perfect plot, but my story was being rewritten by an accountant or a business man and I was just going to have to make do and make adjustments.  Adjustments were made.  My husband moved here, and it feels like we've been living a skewed life in some ways. 

Don't get me wrong.  I believe that Mr. Husband living here was crucial to our relationship for half a dozen reasons.  But I think the appropriate lessons  have been learned, and now, with HIS new-found confidence, Mexico can be HIS dream too.  As for me, every time I return to Mexico it's like part of my heart is going to it's happiest place.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Get Real

The sentiments I expressed in my previous post are ones that hold a lot of weight in what I consider to be "quality of life".  Taking time for family, friends, and even strangers is a goal which can be accomplished in ANY country and not just in Mexico.  However, it is obviously easier to live up to this goal if you are in a place where taking time for others is a way of life.

So, how else do I define quality of life?  Well, let's do a little list-making.  I LOVE making lists!  They help me see things realistically and analyze problematic situations.

A)  Educational system ~ I have always been impressed by the knowledge of world history, current events, science, business, and other subjects that most people display in Mexico.  I happen to know that students have to work VERY hard in Mexico to achieve good grades and make it into universities and grad school. An education is highly valued in Mexico.  Something else that I like about schools in Mexico is that most every school uses uniforms.  I think this helps to prevent bullying and distraction and I'm all for it.

*****And here I must edit, because, as my husband pointed out, not all schools in Mexico give an excellent education.  Just like anywhere, if the school has the funds to back them up, they can offer a better education to their students.  Often times a private school is your best bet for a good education, and thankfully the fees aren't overly astronomical. 

B)  Time For One Another ~ Well, this is something I talked about in my previous post, but if we talk specifically about our situation I can tell you that if we lived in Mexico we'd have a LOT more contact with family and time for date nights, fun with friends, and family outings.  Partly because of the logistics of where we'd be living, and partly because of the way of life in Mexico. 

C)  Career Possibilities ~ I have never been able to narrow down a specific career goal for myself.  There are a number of creative avenues which interest me but I can just as easily take those up in Mexico as here. One option I've been exploring is becoming a teacher.   I could easily find work as an ESL instructor in the area to which we'd be moving.  Mr. Husband, however, would do much better career-wise in Mexico for a few different reasons.  One reason is that he is more at ease and confident in Mexico since it is his home country and he is very familiar with the ins and outs of business and hoops to jump through, etc.  Another reason is that the  type of business that he is interested is much more likely to be successful in Mexico than here.

D)  Healthcare and Healthy Living ~ In the place we would be going, there is quality healthcare available for about 1/5 the price we'd be charged here.  Medications are cheaper, which means Jose's asthma can be controlled without breaking the bank.  There are also plenty of workout facilities, not to mention people walk a lot, so exercise would come easier.  Fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables can be found daily at markets, year round.

E)  Stress Levels ~ This one's tricky.  At first, my stress level would be high because of all of the changes that we'd undergo.  Even after adjusting to the changes I will very likely have moments of homesickness.  However, the lifestyle of most places in Mexico generally holds a slower pace than the city where we now live.

So, anyway, this is my shortlist, in no special order of importance.  It's important to note we realize that one's happiness does not have to depend on one's surroundings.  We realize that hardships can be experienced anywhere.  But after spending many years struggling and spinning our wheels in the same place, it may just be time for us to move on to other pastures.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Few Doses of Perspective

Years ago, when I was an ESL instructor in Mexico, I had a student, Javier, who was late to class at least half the time.  After a few days of him arriving about 10 minutes late to class, I let him know I was unhappy and expected him to arrive on time from then on.  He sighed, clearly frustrated with me, and said, "Listen.  My father is a business man and I don't always get to spend time with him later in the day.  Many times, breakfast is the only time that I can visit with him.  My father is more important to me than this class.  I'm sorry if that is not to your liking.  I always apply myself to your class and to my studies. (That's true, he did.) But I am not going to give up time with my father."

Wow.  There was a dose of perspective.  Not only on Mexican culture, but life in general. 

Currently I am enjoying a book called "On Mexican Time" by Tony Cohan.  In his book he shares many accounts of wonderful insight into his life in Mexico.  One story he tells is about an American female retiree who lives alone and whose maid, a young woman of little means from a nearby little rancho town, feels sorry for the older woman because she spends her days alone.  The maid invites the woman to a birthday party for one of her seven children which was going to be held at the communal ranch where she lived.  The woman declined many times, until she realized the young lady would never stop inviting her until she agreed to go.  She accepted, and took a taxi out to the little ranch.

"......There must have been sixty people, all relatives or friends of some sort - old people, nursing infants, ranch hands in boots and hats.  They were poor, but there were tamales to eat, and pork and tortillas all cooked outdoors, and corn drink, and beer.  Everyone seemed so comfortable together.  A little band played the sweetest music.......Adults held the infants who never cried, not a peep.  The old people spoke among each other, and younger ones sat with them and listened.  There was so much warm, simple love.  It was the best time I've had in years.  There's something....criminal about that, don't you think?........Where have we gone wrong?  Alone in our houses with televisions and newspapers and books, crowing the whole time about how much freedom we have..........We've gone off track somewhere, don't you think?"

If you take a ride in a crowded combi (an old VW van used for public transportation), you will witness manners that you didn't even know still existed.  You sneeze, and EVERYBODY says "Salud" (our equivalent of "bless you").  A woman boards with a baby in tow, and someone automatically reaches out to hold the baby.  Men and young boys stand and offer their seats to females who board and have nowhere to sit.  Oh, and if you want to stop at the corner instead of the marked combi stop, you simply call out, "En la proxima esquina, por favor" and the driver is happy to oblige, and no passengers show signs of irritaion. 

Everyday at around 2 PM the streets grow suddenly quiet and many (or most) stores close their doors.  It's siesta time.  Everyone goes home and eats lunch and visits and relaxes with their family.  The streets and stores come to life again around 4 o'clock (OR SO!).  

Schedules are not in stone.  Courtesy is not overlooked.  Family takes priority.  People take time..........for people. 

What else IS there??  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Honesty is such a lonely word......

In order to be completely honest with yourself about where you think your life is going, you have to first cut out all the bull and start asking yourself some really, really difficult questions.  The kinds of questions that you probably thought you already asked yourself, and maybe you DID, but you lied to yourself when you answered them so that you could stay in your comfort zone with the wool pulled over your eyes for awhile longer.  Pull off the wool, for pete's sake.  Otherwise, after too many years, you're bound to wake up stinking and unable to focus.

So, you might ask things like:  "What do you want to get out of this life?"  "What is the most important thing to you?"  "What is keeping you from your dreams?"  "What is keeping you from YOU?"  "Who is God?"  "What is your biggest fear?"  "Who or what is your great love?"  "Who is your greatest influence and why?"

I've been thinking about most of these questions for most of my life.  That doesn't mean I've bothered to answer them genuinely all of the time.  Many times I've felt like I've failed myself and my life's mission.  I've feel like I've been off track quite a few times, sometimes for years at a time.  But when you really think about it, how do you know that you are really "off track?"  I mean, depending on how you define the purpose of your life, you could and maybe should allow for a few detours along the way in order to fulfill a certain role for someone else or to learn a big lesson.  For the most part, I now feel like I am where I need to be in my journey.  I think if you want to live, I mean REALLY live, you need to stay engaged and keep an open mind. 

One of my greatest struggles in this life has been my tendency, no, obsession, over worrying about what others think of me and the decisions I make.  It even affected with whom I chose to share this blog first.  Writers like to have an audience, but in this case I wanted to start with an audience who either doesn't know me from Adam (or Eve! :) ) or who would be able to keep a distant and/or healthy perspective on our situation and offer an opinion without cutting me to the quick and causing me to worry more about what they think of me than the actual issue at hand.  I am overly-sensitive, but I am learning to turn that into a blessing.  :)

This post is not going to reveal my answers to all of the questions I asked above, but let me just say this: 

When I was 16 years old I had a spiritual experience where I tearfully begged God to tell me what my life was for, and He answered me with one word.  LOVE.  I think sometimes I've lived up to that purpose, and many times I've failed miserably.  So, I can ask myself now, what decision should I make regarding moving to Mexico that would promote the best, deepest love all around?  There are MANY people to factor in while answering this question, including people that I don't even know.

In all honesty, if I take a look deep inside, the question about living in Mexico again was never really "Will we go?"  It has always been "WHEN will we go?"  

Now the real fun begins.  Keep reading at your own risk.  I will not be held liable for any possible motion sickness while joining me on what could sometimes feel like either a crazy roller coaster ride or a long road trip in a stuffy car.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Over the past 10 years or so I have seen the glimmer of hope gradually fade from my husband's eyes.  He had so many dreams and ideas when he came to the U.S.  Many of those expectations have died for various reasons.  Some of those reasons have to do with the limitations we place on ourselves psychologically.  That said, mostly I think that what happened is that he discovered how many hoops one needs to jump through in order to realize a dream here in the U.S.  Compared to Mexico, there seems to exist an excessive amount of  bureaucracy in the U.S.  Also, he noticed that many times people here seem to sacrifice quality of life in order to achieve success.   He started to become discouraged.  Eventually, despite efforts to better our lives with career changes and positive thinking, the discouragement gave way to depression and hopelessness.  Then his mom came to visit.

Now, I'll admit that the time that his mother spent here with us (two months) was not exactly a piece of cake for me.  I mean, I love her, but it was challenging for this gringa to share our tiny two-bedroom home with my mother-in-law, especially when Mr. Husband was at work everyday, leaving us to fend for ourselves.  Even though I am comfortable in the Mexican culture, it was a stretch for me to have such an extended, intense amount of "quality time" with her because I am a person who values her "alone time" and, to compound the problem, there were moments when the typical mother-in-law/daughter-in-law issues reared their ugly head.

Over the last few years my husband and I have tossed around the idea of moving to Mexico, but it has always been set aside because of the violence that has been occurring there.  We have been frightened by what we've seen on the news. The story that ran not too long ago on Dateline sent us over the edge.  We were NOT going to run the risk of that happening to us.  We were in agreement.  Until his mom came to visit.

Poco a poco, seeds were planted in my husband's mind.  Little seeds of hope for a better life.  A life where a family has time with one another, and where business dreams have a fighting chance.  (Now, I realize that the truth in the statement I just made depends on what sort of business is in question.  I'm choosing to not share our ideas here on this blog for various reasons.)  The seeds my mother-in-law planted were in direct contradiction to what we had previously decided upon as a couple, and this really stressed me out.  We fought about it a little.  Then we fought about it a lot.  Mr. Husband said that it wasn't as though he suddenly felt at ease with the idea of living there.  It was just that he was beginning to weigh all of our options and take into consideration that the media may be causing the general public more fear than necessary regarding Mexico's violence problem.  He realized it is a very serious problem. What we weren't sure about was just how much it would affect our daily life if we were to live there.  A good way to get the answer to that question was to visit Mexico. That's why, when his family offered to buy him a ticket to go visit them, we agreed whole-heartedly that this was a wonderful idea.

Remember how I said that sometimes this "American Dream" feels like a nightmare?  Well, the other day when my son and I went to pick up my husband from the airport upon his return from Mexico, I immediately noticed something different about him.  He seemed at peace, but more than that, he seemed hopeful; excited.  He began to tell me about his visit with his immediate and extended family, and how they enveloped him with their love and wowed him and encouraged him.  I felt a surge of love as I saw the man I first met emerge from a long hibernation.  It was like he'd been awakened.

Funny, these days I find myself stretching and wiping the sleep from my eyes.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Forced off the Grid

Last week I stopped at a gas station and got out to pay at the pump.  I slid my debit card in and a message popped up on the screen demanding "see cashier".  After swiping it again only to get the same result, I chalked it up to a scratchy magnetic strip and used my husband's card instead.  He was in Mexico visiting his family (who paid his entire way) and had left me his debit card.

The next day I went to a nearby family-owned grocery store to pick up just a few necessities. You might be able to guess what happened when I swiped my debit card in the reader.  Yep.  Declined.  Hmmf.  There must be some mistake, I thought.  A couple of days ago I had deposited my meager paycheck of $278 into my bank account so I KNEW I could cover gas and groceries.  Something was up.  I called the bank.

"We're sorry, but your account services have been restricted.  Due to the loss you caused us we are not able to grant you continued use of a debit card."

Late last summer, after years of struggling and many honest efforts to reason with our mortgage lender and reinstate our loan (which was in late stages of foreclosure and had a sheriff sale date set for early fall), we came to realize that the lender was so incredibly overwhelmed with this ongoing national crisis that they were never going to be able to help us in time to save our home.  We had already cut out all of the frills, with no cable, no land line, and after 2 years of driving only one junker car (which we passed back and forth daily as we worked opposite shifts from one another) we had "upgraded" to one more junker which was so kindly donated to us.  Our credit card debt was nothing compared to what most people are drowning in, but we couldn't make ends meet, couldn't pay our debts, and we were about to lose our home.  We filed for Chapter 7. We included $1000 of debt to my bank in the bankruptcy. I was too naive to realize that this would be cause for being ostracized by the bank, even though I'd done business with them for 13 years.  Duh.  They couldn't care less about second chances or having a heart when there is a bottom line to be considered.

After hanging up the phone with them I threw myself into a sobbing fit which included numerous expletives as well as cliches such as "WHY, God? WHY?!" Luckily my son was at preschool and not a witness to my one-woman tragic play. Finally, I pulled myself together and said, "Well, you've often said you'd like to live 'off the grid', and a not having a debit card is a step in that direction.  Now stop being so dramatic and count your blessings.  Worrying and going into despair will not help your situation."  Also, it took me about 2 minutes to realize that having to spend cash on-hand instead of blindly using my debit card while half hazardly balancing my checking account in my head was going to be a much better way to manage my spending.

Going off the grid is something I've fantasized about during moments of indulging my inner hippie.  In reality, what I sincerely want is a simpler, happier life.  I am tired of struggling in a society which values things that I don't necessarily care much about.  I've never been one to care about having flashy toys or name-brand clothing.  Sometimes I feel like I'm forced to buy into the American Dream, but for me it's turning out to be a nightmare.

When I met my husband in 1995 I was 22 years old.  I was living in Mexico and teaching English at a language school in Central Mexico.  It was probably the happiest time of my life.  I grew to adore the culture and the simpler lifestyle that many people have there.  All of it's quirks and bumps and round-about ways just make me love it more.  I wanted to stay there and for a little over two years I managed to go back and forth between Minnesota and Mexico, saving every cent of my waitress money in order to return to Mexico to teach English and enjoy my new-found loves, my (now) husband and Mexico.  But alas, student loans were calling my name, and responsibility dug in it's claws. 
Much has happened over the past fifteen years.  My love came to the U.S., we eventually married, and now have a 4-year-old son, who, I'll proudly say, is bilingual.  It's been nice to have my family all within driving distance, though we do not spend nearly enough time with one another, which my husband finds to be a little sad since family is always on the front burner in the Mexican culture.  We have struggled in so many ways with jobs we hate and poorly made financial decisions which I feel came as a direct result of our unhappiness with our situation. 

Last year I went out on a limb and quit my job, even though there is a horrible crisis going on.  I was in pursuit of a new career and I really thought it was going to work out fine.  I'll save those details for another day, but let's just say that my daring decision is largely responsible for putting us in the new low that we hit this past fall.  In effort to explore possibilities, my husband went to Mexico on his family's dime, and was bombarded with endless ideas of what could very well be some fruitful business endeavors.  His family all but threw up their hands at him, asking him what the heck we are doing struggling and losing our precious time in a place so unforgiving that it seems to allow no room for dreams to come true and relationships to be fostered.  I realize that for many, the United States gives hope and freedom and a solid foundation.  But sometimes I feel drawn to leave.

SO, now we've got Mexico on the mind.  We realize it's not perfect there either and there are a few things that are keeping us from taking the plunge asap.  But even with our thoughts racing all over the map, so to speak, I believe the X that will mark the spot is going to be in Mexico. 

Stay tuned, if you feel up for the ride.