Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm Not the First?

Last night, my mother saw a friend who just returned from a vacation right here in lovely Zihuatanejo. This friend has been here several times and mentioned that she follows several blogs from ex-pats in this area.

Excuse me?

I thought I was the first person blogging from this area. I did not give permission to anyone else to share their thoughts on the world wide web. Shouldn't this have been run by me first?

(Actually, I've been meaning to google keywords to see if I pop up, but I keep getting sidetracked watching cruise ships, trying to decipher the megaphoned trucks passing by our house, distinguishing between firecrackers & gunshots - you know, normal stuff.)

Next you'll tell me I'm not the first person to write about their personal experiences living in another country. I realize there are very few original ideas out there (a topic I've recently dicussed with my fellow blogging cousin) but the trick is giving it a new twist. Putting a new spin on a tired idea, or something like that. Injecting your soul into every word so the story leaps off the page!


I may as well scrap this project and get started on the next one. I'm debating between a tongue-in-cheek story about an endearing British woman who can't find love OR lose weight, or this wizard idea that focuses on a geeky kid named Harry. I'm sure one of these is bound to be a hit.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A New Tradition

Not new for me, just in terms of my blog. I get migraines about once a month and this month is no different. What's made this one extra-special is it started on the way to the airport at 3am yesterday and is still going strong. Surprisingly the air pressure didn't make it worse and I was able to sleep a bit. A magical fairy even refilled my water while I slept. :)

I wasn't sure what to expect when I landed. Ibis & I had worked out three plans for my arrival: 1) he'd duck out of work long enough to pick me up, 2) he'd leave the car in the parking lot before work & I'd drive myself home, or 3) I'd take a cab.

Now, the cab option is not as cut & dried as it may seem. The cabbies that hang out at the arrivals gate charge 250 pesos (very expensive) but if you can catch one at the exit - one who dropped someone off & didn't stick around for a new fare - they'll charge under 100 pesos. If I didn't see Ibis or the car, I was supposed to drag my bags through the parking lot & try to barter for a cab there. Right... and did I mention I managed to fit all my books in my bags? That's 100 pounds I'm supposed to haul through the blazing sun WITH a migraine, no food & very little sleep? He did say I could take a more expensive cab and just not tell him what I spent, so that's sweet.

Lucky for him ('cause, man, would he have heard about it later) I saw Ibis waving as soon as I got through Customs. He brought me home, carried all my bags upstairs, then went back to work. I slept for six hours, had dinner, then slept another nine hours. Hopefully I'll feel better by tomorrow.

PS: For those of you who know how bright our condo is during the day & were wondering how I slept so long... you know those two-inch wide stretchy headbands you use to work out or wash your face at night? A black one works wonders as an eye mask!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Saying Goodbye

Today's the last day of my two-week visit home and while I'm more than ready to get back to Ibis, I'm sad to say goodbye to my family. We'll see my parents in a couple months, but I don't know when I'll see my sister & her family.

That goodbye turned much sadder when half an hour before I left, they decided it was time to put down their dog, Kita. She'd been a part of the family for 13 years and her youngest in particular was very upset to see her go. I'm glad I was able to pet her one last time - a luxury I didn't have with my own dog two years ago - but it was tough driving away from the house.

Since moving to another country, my goodbyes have taken on a stronger meaning than when I was only a few hours away. You never know what might happen tomorrow, next week, or next year, and I find myself searching for a conclusion of sorts in case I never see that person again. Some of that may come from my fear of flying, but I'm sure most of it is just growing older and watching loved ones pass on.

On a lighter note, I'll also have to say goodbye to half the books I want to take with me. 24 books is a bit excessive, plus I bought 17 movies, and I'd rather not check an extra bags just for my entertainment needs. One more thing for mom when she visits in February.

My flight is early tomorrow morning, so I may not post until Thursday. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and ... goodbye.

Friday, November 23, 2007

White Friday

Today is Black Friday - the day people go crazy & camp out in front of stores with the hope of getting a $10 digital camera or two free toasters with every purchase. I've never participated in the shopping madness, so I'll just have to trust those of you who do that it's the bees knees.

Instead, I plan to spend the morning looking out at the falling snow and playing games with my grandma. I get to drive in it later to see my best friend, then tonight I'll probably go out with my dad & brother. Very exciting. :)

Oh, and I finally started editing AND it's not as horrible as I originally thought. I still cringe a little at a few of the things I've written, but I've also laughed, so that's a good sign. I'll try to keep up the momentum.

I hope you're all having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Same Old, Same Old

So apparently* life isn't much different when I switch countries. This morning I went for a run, got chased by a dog, had my coffee, then hopped online. Granted, the dog belonged to someone and just wanted company - he wasn't nipping at my heels in the hopes a bit of flesh might come loose for breakfast - but he was blond and there aren't many blond dogs in Zihua. It was nice to have company on the run; I've gotten used to having Ibis by my side, and since he doesn't talk while we're out there anyway, there wasn't much difference.

My grandma is on her way here for a couple days, and tomorrow we'll gorge ourselves at my aunt & uncle's house. Friday my best friend will be here, then I'll spend the weekend with my sister & her family.

It occured to me someone (yes, you) might be interested to know which books I bought, so I'll share:

On Writing, Stephen King
The Elements of Style (4th Ed), Strunk & White
Telling True Stories, lots of contributors
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
Sudoku On-The-Go! Advanced 2
Wht I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, Geralyn Lucas
Look Me In the Eye, John Elder Robinson

I forced myself to put Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs back on the shelf & added it to my wish list.

I've read reviews of all the writing books, which is why I bought them, but I'd love to hear if you've read any of these & what you thought!

Gramma just pulled up so I better run!

*my mother pointed out that I cannot spell the word apparently. A Parent was the tip she gave so I will never make this mistake again. Thanks mom. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Feel So... Noble

I feel at peace. I just spent over four hours at the bookstore, walking up and down the aisles, relaxing in an overstuffed chair, eating the free brownie a lovely Starbucks employee handed out; it was heavenly. I bought four writing books, three memoirs and one Sudoku book (on discount) and managed to stay within my budget. Well, close enough.

My weekend in Chicago was a lot of fun. Busy, but fun. I ate a lot of food (including Mexican - sweet another Corona), played volleyball, danced at an Arab club and managed to go running a couple times. The rest of this week will be spent relaxing with the family. It's not as cold as it was my first couple days back, but they promise a drop in temps for Thanksgiving. Those meteorologists, so giving.

My mother finished reading the first/rough draft of my book and overall the reviews are positive. Now, I know what you're thinking, She's your mother, of course she likes it, but she has critted before and reads like crazy so I trust her judgement. I swear I'll start my own editing soon.

Just as soon as I polish off that pumpkin pie...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who Turned Down the Heat?

Ok, I know it's Michigan, and I know it's November, but there are FLURRIES outside. I have been in 90+ temperatures for the past six months and my first day home it snows? I don't know about this...

My flights yesterday were the most uneventful yet. Perhaps I've figured out the trick: promise to write about exciting and disasterous events you're sure will take over the journey and no...thing...will...hap...pen. Not to worry, there's still the return trip (said as I look around the room, wondering if the gods have caught on to my whole 'tempting fate' idea).

My mother is halfway through my first draft and said she even laughed out loud a couple times; that makes up for my dread at her reading the parts to come. Everyone I've talked with agrees that it's more than a little embarrasing when your mother realizes the bizarre story before her came from the mind of her offspring. My dad read the beginning, too, but he already knows I'm weird.

I'll be in Chicago through Monday so I don't plan to post again till then. Happy weekend before Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Flight of the Bumblebee

No, not me, although I am flying out today.

I'm talking about bumblebees. Yesterday. Over a dozen of them in our house. We noticed a hornet's nest on the front window several weeks ago, but hadn't done anything to get rid of it. Now I'm not convinced it has hornets - those bees came from someplace and there were way too many for them to just be out for a stroll. Fly? Glide? Anyway.

For a minute we thought we'd get to see a Hornet on Bumblebee Smackdown, but the hornets don't appear to be as brave as they seem when it's Us vs. Them.

The stupid bees filled our living room and kitchen. Yes, we were cooking, but I didn't think they liked shrimp. We opened all the windows and the front door, then aimed the fans on high to 'encourage' them to leave, but noooo, it was all fun & games for them! We ate lunch with them swarming just feet away; I'm scared of bees and was terrified or being stung (what if I can't go home?) but nothing happened.

Ibis had to leave - you're leaving me here with these blood-hungry insects? - and I managed to trap five in each window, between the panes. Half an hour later, the floor was covered with whimpering fuzzies. Well, not really covered, I think I saw two, but you get the point.

I showed them who's boss and they hightailed it out of here!

My plane leave in a couple hours - I'll do my best to post while I'm gone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

When we first looked at our condo, the developers told us an American woman owns the unit below ours. The unit looked finished and there was furniture inside, but there hadn't been a sighting.

Until today! She's in town for a couple weeks and not only is she very nice, she knows everyone in town. The job market it pretty tight, but she know so of at least one restaurant undergoing renovations and looking to hire. Hopefully that will turn into a job for Ibis.


Editing is going slowly. I had hoped to rewrite the first couple chapters before leaving for the States, but I think I'll have to settle with light edits on the whole book instead. That takes a little pressure off, for now.

I'm not sure how often I'll update this while I'm home, but if my last couple trips are any indication, I'll have all kinds of stories to share.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Am I Doing in Mexico?

Getting ready to leave! I fly to Michigan this Wednesday - for two weeks! - and I can't wait. I'm supposed to be editing but instead I'm taking pictures of the condo to show people back home. I packed yesterday so I wouldn't screw around today, but that plan is failing miserably.

The only odd thing to report is a marked increase in the number of gunshots in the neighborhood. I don't think anyone's been shot, it seems to be more of a celebratory thing, but they startle me every time. What are we celebrating? I have no clue, but they sure are happy!

Along those same lines, the neighbors have been lighting firecrackers for about a week. Ibis said they just went on sale for Christmas (I don't understand what the two have to do with one another) and that's why we hear them at all hours of the day. It's louder at night, obviously, but a few go off every hour, regardless of the sun's position in the sky. I guess there's something to be said for big bangs, even if you can't see the light.

I will be here for Christmas, so if I discover the correlation between the birth of Christ and fireworks, I'll let you know.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Crocodile Hunter: Mexico Style

Imagine: you're at the beach, hitting a volleyball back and forth with your husband, when screams sound from the water. People are running for the shore, holding their children above the surface.

Shark? you wonder.

This is the Pacific, stranger things have happened. You walk towards them to see what's going on. Scanning the water you spot a pair of eyes and a bumpy head break the surface.


Yes, a crocodile. In the ocean. A whopping two feet long, tail included.

There's a small wildlife sanctuary (for lack of a better word) at one of the hotels and one of the critters got out. I thought there was a net or something to keep them in, but apparently they're free to roam as they please. A lot of people went back in the water when they realized how small it was, while others crowded near the water's edge, trying to spot him. An American woman told me her husband saw a seven-footer that morning – I bet the swimmers would run for cover if they knew momma might be close by.

The crocodile didn't do much; he would drift with the current, then swim back to where he started. After a while, activity on the beach went back to normal... until a new wave of screams erupted from the same area. These were different people who didn't know they were sharing the waves with a toothy beast.

Ibis can't pass up this much excitement, so he joined his lifeguard buddy and ran into the water. They were going to catch him! Right. I watched from shore as they dove and splashed, yelling "Alla esta" every few minutes. Ten minutes later he returned empty handed. No croc for him today.

I was hot from playing volleyball and wanted to go in the water for a minute, just long enough to cool off, but I was afraid to go in by myself so I made Ibis go with me. We waded up to our waists and were jumping the waves when a fisherman passed by (he was in the water fishing with a large net) and said something to us. I didn't understand what he said (shocking) and all Ibis said to me was "Don't jump around too much."

"Huh? Why?"

"There's a lot of rays in the sand." As in sting rays. The creature that killed Steve Irwin, the real Crocodile Hunter. We looked at each other and ran for shore.

No sense tempting fate twice.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Made a Waterfall

Have I mentioned I'm a genius?

I'm almost done editing a chapter and as soon as I finish, Ibis and I are off to the beach. I got up a minute ago to get a glass of water and discovered a pool in my kitchen. Not the aqua dug-out variety, but rather a large body of water on my kitchen floor.

We ate lunch less than an hour ago and I JUST cleaned, so I immediately blamed Ibis for the water. "What did you do?" He gave me a weird look - he hasn't moved from the couch since lunch - as I looked for the source of the water.

It seemed to be coming from the fridge... nope, not there. I opened the freezer... oh, right. I'd put a bottle of water in there, hoping it'd get cold by the time we left for the beach. It was cold all right, but no longer inside the bottle. Most was frozen to the bottom of the freezer and everything else in there, and I was standing in the rest.

The bottle is too tall for the freezer so I had to lay it on it's side, but I swear I checked if the lid was on tight. I even double-checked a few minutes later. Oh well, at least now the floor is clean.

Anyone care to go swimming?

Friday, November 9, 2007

I Knew I Was Forgetting Something

If you've been reading along, you know I finished the first draft of my memoir last week and started the evil editing a few days later. I've found a new friend & beta-reader, and she's helped kick my butt in gear, yet I still have that niggling feeling that I'm forgetting something.

I've breezed through my draft, glanced over the chapters, and for the most part, things are where they should be. I shuffled a few sections around & double-checked the order of my chapters when it hit me.

I haven't written about the immigration process. D'oh.

The one-line description of my book (so far) is "A fish-out-of-water tale with an illegal immigration twist." Might be important to include a detail or two about immigration.

*bangs head against desk*

Don't get me wrong. I've mentioned the illegal part, meeting with our lawyer, that sort of thing, but I haven't gone into the particulars. How am I supposed to pitch a book when I forgot to write my hook? I knew I'd have a lot of rewriting to do, so the work isn't a surprise, just my ignorance.

Ibis pointed out this is my first book and I can't expect to get it right the first try, so I guess I'll chalk this up to experience.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Spirits in the Kitchen

Tequila, wine... oh wait, not THOSE spirits.

Spirits. Ghosts. In the Kitchen. Lucky for us they're not in our kitchen. Yesterday Ibis' sister called and said a basket of eggs had fallen on the floor, breaking all the eggs. But the basket had not moved - it was exactly where she left it. No one in the house claimed responsibility so she decided it was ... the spirits.


Now, she's not a particularly religious or superstitious person, so we were both surprised she said that. I think someone knocked it over, put the basket back on the counter, and now won't fessing up. Or it was the spirits.



Two other minor things: we're officially in Day 2 of Migraine Watch (and an electric saw just started outside as soon as I wrote that) AND I found a video that any and all Dirty Dancing fans must watch. A couple recreated the final dance for their wedding and they nailed it!

I haven't figured out how to make that an actual link so please copy & past into a new window. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It's Migraine Day!

In honor of Migraine Day, I'll refrain from shouting and will whisper instead.

Lucky for me, the entire world got the memo about Migraine Day. It's very bright outside. Our neighbor's music has been blasting all day. The dogs in the street keep barking. I had to do real work so I can make some money. And my book keeps telling me I should be editing instead of chatting online.

I did manage to go for a run this morning but I've spent the rest of the day inside. Here's to hoping it's not a two-day celebration!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Let There Be Light

It's been a quiet day today. We paid the phone/internet bill, which I only mention because you have to pay in person. We set it up for automatic payments but apparently the first step is to go to the office, wait in the long line, and tell them to pay your bill with the cash you hand them.


We also picked up a few more things for the condo, including a light fixture for outside the front door. I've grown more than a little tired of the bare bulb in a socket that seems to be the standard around here, and I've known what I wanted for months, but we kept finding reasons to put it off. What changed? Yesterday my parents booked their trip for February so we have a new list of things to finish before they arrive, starting with the lights. With this fixture we'll only have two bare bulbs left - so close!


I started editing last night and I now understand why all the advice says to wait a week or four before picking it back up. I started somewhere near the middle, focusing on grammatical errors more than anything else, and I don't know what possessed me to write this in the first place. I still believe I have a good story to share but, my goodness, I'm NOT enjoying this process.

I'm hoping to skim through it just to catch the glaring errors, then leave the rest to work on in Michigan. I also have more freelance work (!!!) so I'm suddenly busy again.

Oh, and my mom killed a deer on her way to work this morning. She's okay, but that's scary!

Monday, November 5, 2007

How Do You Stop a Raging Bull?

Smack him in the face with a rope.

I didn't know that either until we were driving north to visit Ibis' family. We passed a boy no more than 12-years old struggling to get a bull to cross the street. Traffic on the 2-lane highway had come to a stop by the time we got there and we watched him fight to control this animal that was at least ten times his size.

The bull seemed to calm down when he jerked his head around and stared directly at the boy.


The bull dropped his head again. We drove away before the drama ended, but the boy seemed to know more about handling bulls than many of the men cowering nearby.

That reminds me of a poster I saw as we were leaving town. A poster for bullfights, coming soon, to Zihua. The odd part? The men in the posters were wearing bikinis. As in I'm proud of what I've got, bring on the Speedo, bikini. I asked Ibis if they actually perform that way and he said, "Yes, it's just another gimmick." Add bullfighting to things I need to see, along with Mexican wrestling.

There were a few sad moments as we saw not one, but two, dead dogs in the road. We're in Mexico, it happens, but it's still sad.

The man riding a mule a few miles later (and just before the boy & the bull) made up for it a little.

I also met my newest niece, one-month old Evelyn, and discoverd Brian can pee in a potty. Big day.

Day of the Dead

Friday was Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, here in Mexico so during yesterday's visit with Ibis' family, we stopped by his mother's grave. It's been almost ten months since she passed away but only the second time I've visited the cemetery. Flowers covered most of the tombs, some arranged in permanent vases, others jammed in the cut-off bottoms of 2-liter soda bottles.

Her grave is one of the simplest there: a slab of concrete with three inch-deep circles at the top. No headstone; no marker of who lies there. The siblings are still trying to agree what they want as a final memorial to their mother, and how they'll pay for it. We brought a small bucket that fit perfectly in one of the circles and dropped in the white flowers we brought.

(You'll have to excuse me here, I don't know much about flowers. They were the fluffy kind with tons of petals that are easily removed and used for decorating.)

The flowers arranged, Ibis and I sat on his mother's grave with his sister Karla and her son Brian, a beach umbrella blocking the sun. Not much was said, except to keep Brian from exploring and knocking over the flowers on other graves. We stayed for about half an hour, watching other families across the cemetery and the lizards near our feet. When a bull bellowed near our car, we took that as a warning and decided to head back to the house.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Jason Bourne = Genius

Last night I took a much-deserved break from writing (since I'm done, ha!) and popped in a movie. The second Bourne one, Supremacy I think it is. Anyway, I was lying on the couch, fully absorbed in the jiggly hand-held-camera fight scenes and... my story would not get out of my head.

There are no fight scenes in my book. No running from the super-secret non-existant CIA black-ops team. Matt Damon doesn't even appear till the ninth chapter. Yet that's what I was thinking about.

An oft-repeated guideline for writers is "allow yourself to write crap." Get the words out, get through the sucky part and the goodness will flow.* I followed that advice and was fortunate that for me, a crap-writing day was usually followed by several hey-this-is-pretty-good days. Unfortunately, most of the crap ended up in the first four chapters. You know, the section potential agents request when they want to sample your book. Ideas to fix those chapters have been bouncing around in the back of my head for about a month now, but nothing's stuck.

Until last night.

While watching two hotties try to kill each other on the streets of Moscow, genius struck. It'll take some work to rewrite, but I anticipated that, and at least now I have a direction. NOW I'm feeling the relief I expected two days ago. Double ahh.

We're visiting Ibis' family in Lazaro tomorrow so I'm taking the day off from the computer. Monday I start editing. Wish me luck.


*I believe I've also used this description for water. Forgive me.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Today's been a good day. Ibis finished the bathroom vanity, there's another cruise ship out my window, and I finished my first draft! Yes, that's right. I knew it was coming but didn't expect it to happen last night. I'm not feeling the huge sigh of relief I expected because I already have a bagful of edits waiting for me.

I also don't have the conclusion written, but as we're still here and don't know our outcome, I think I'll have to let that slide for now. I have written some bits and pieces and I know the direction I'd like it to take - duh, us going back to the States - so that's the most I can do until we hear from Immigration.

But it's wrapped up. Sitting nice and pretty on my hard drive, external hard drive, email and a CD. Maybe I'll also email it to my mom, just in case. I planned to take today to relax but I've spent all day on the computer anyway. The timing was perfect because my freelance project reared its head today and I'd be mad if I'd planned to start editing.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll tackle my story.

Today I'll marvel at my finished vanity, watch the ship and enjoy my day.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


We have water! Woot!

Of course, I already bathed in a bucket for the third time in two days, but Ibis got to take a real shower.

I'm sure the power will go out any minute now.


Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writers Month, and anyone who's anyone is participating. Except me. I feel like such a slacker.

I have good excuses for excusing myself:

- I'll be in Michigan for 2 weeks and my
computer cable doesn't stretch that far

- I'm this close to finishing my first draft and
don't want to lose momentum

- I only have 4 ounces of steam left after this last
push to finish & don't think I can do another
50K words this month

Lame? Maybe. But instead I'm toying with the idea of doing NaFeWriMo - a February version! My friend Jennifer did some research and informed me that '08 is a leap year so there's 29 days instead of the usual 28. That extra day could make all the difference!

By February I should (said while holding breath) be done with one or two rounds of edits and possibly even submitting, so it'll be time for my second book. I kind of want to follow up with another memoir, but we'll see.

Speaking of agents, I read Nathan Bransford's blog every day but rarely post. Yesterday I asked a basic question about genres he represents and he answered right back. Cause for celebration, no? I feel like I'm stalking him, screen capturing every time he responds to something I've said, but he's the one agent I already know I plan to submit to and it's so exciting that he knows I exist! At least in a 'who is this random woman and why does she keep pestering me?' kind of way.


Anyway... To update further on the water issue, we have a little water, enough to wash dishes but not enough to shower or do laundry. Someday...