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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.