Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Barring any incidents with a overzealous, armed Mexican, I'll be back tomorrow!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hairspray Ninja

I just had to share that I chased a two-inch long cockroach out the front door last night. I was in bed watching a movie, got up to go to the bathroom, and when I turned on the light TWO cockroaches ran across the floor.

One normal sized, which I hairsprayed to death in the sink.

The second was GINORMOUS. And apparently afraid of hairspray. I chased him to the front door but he was so big he wouldn't fit underneath. I cracked it open and "encouraged" him in that direction, and he scurried his ugly butt towards the stairs.

I am a hairspray-weilding ninja. Don't mess with me.

And yes, there were some girly screams involved.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Hiccup

I've had a few hiccups in my life, many of them revolving around moving without much prior notice. In college I'd planned to live in DC after graduation, but with three weeks left in school, I decided to move back to Michigan. A year later I moved to Chicago with a little more planning but even fewer people to watch my back. Then there was the move to Mexico. That took two full months of planning but was by far the largest undertaking I'd ever handled.

Then there was my parents wedding... I had just turned seven and my parents had the brilliant idea of having their children stand alongside them for the duration of the service. (My brother and sister were twelve and eleven, respectively.) The ceremony started nicely: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here –"


Everyone looked at me, startled at the noise that burst from my throat.


Yes, I had the hiccups, and no amount of kicking from my brother would make them stop. For years I was teased for hiccuping through the entire service. I was seven, what could I do? My mom was supposed to help me with those types of things, but she was busy gazing into my new dad's eyes. I was on my own, with my hiccups.

Recently I've hit another hiccup. This one didn't involve moving or spasms of air in my throat, but the results have disrupted my life. I finished the first draft of my book in November, just before my trip back to the States. My mom read it while I was home and made some comments, and I started my own edits shortly after.

"Look at me, I'm editing my book!" I thought to myself, excited that I was really doing it.

Midway through December I finished the hard copy edits and began entering them into the Word document. I tweaked things as I went, feeling confident that it was slowly coming together.

Except for those sections I had to rewrite. Or write in the first place. Remember when I said I forgot to write about the actual immigration process? Way back in October? Well, that's been hanging over my head for months. I've also been unhappy with the first three pages - the very beginning of my story.

I also don't have an ending, but since I haven't decided at what point to cut this thing off, I'm not to concerned about that, yet.

These little rewrites have stalled me, a hiccup in the process. I got myself so worked up that I was unable to write anything. Granted, there have been a few things in my personal life that may have played a part as well, but I've been hung up on the equivalent of five typed pages.

Then, during an inspirational scene in Flashdance, I remembered the rule to give yourself permission to write crap. When had I decided I was above this? When I finished my first draft? Bollocks. I can't edit something that doesn't exist, so how did I think I was ever going to continue moving forward?

Today I forced myself to sit down and write the missing pieces. The words were already in my head, I just had to clear away the doubts and get my thoughts on paper. I wrote in longhand, instead of on the computer - something about my handwriting makes it feel a little more real - and finished the intro and the immigration bit in about an hour.

I still need to work on the conclusion, but now that the hiccups have passed I'm feeling a little more confident.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Smuggled Goodies

Something horrible has happened.

For the past two weeks, I have been forced to cook my own meals.

Ibis and I have a nice trade-off: I do all the cleaning and he does all the cooking. It may sound lopsided but he's a really good cook and I don't mind most of the cleaning. (He does still have to mop.) We don't always eat every meal together: I often make my own eggs for breakfast and I can handle snacks and sandwiches, but the big meals... that's all him.

If you've been following along you know he's been working as a waiters' captain at a hotel. He gets home early enough that we could eat together, but the one perk (since he's yet to see a paycheck) is they feed him. And I'm not talking tacos and beans; the employees get real meals, with fish or other meats, plus dessert.

I've been dining on sandwiches and Cup O'Noodle.

He feels bad that my diet has tanked since he's been there, and he's even said he wants to put some food in his pocket to bring home to me. Like Napolean Dynamite and his tots. I've even debated hanging out at the beach near his hotel so he can sneak me a nice meal. It's sounds pathetic, I know, but I've been spoiled since we've been together. And yes, this is why I cooked our Christmas dinner.

Well, last night Ibis came home and pulled a napkin-wrapped lump out of his pocket. "Look what I have for you!"

I opened it, eager to see what was inside.


Sure, it's not filet mignon or a day's catch, but since I'd already eaten my sandwich, dessert was just what I wanted.

I wonder what he'll bring home today...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Soy Mexicana?

In the past 24-hours, two things occurred that make me think I might be a little closer to fitting in here. Yesterday I made rajas en crema, and typical Mexican dish with poblano peppers and cream, and today the lady we buy a lot of our produce from gave me a special bag that says I'm an Esteemed Client.

Well slap me silly and call me a biscuit.

The meal we've eaten a number of times, but Ibis is always in charge. My duties are to run and get the tortillas when the dinner is almost ready. Since he worked yesterday I said I'd attempt it on my own, and while we didn't have tortillas, it was delicious! Between the green peppers and red tomatoes, it was very Christmasey.

You grill the peppers, then peel off the skin once they're blackened and cut into rajas (strips). Meanwhile you sautee tomatoes, onion & garlic in oil, then add the peppers. Next is the most important step: add crema (sour cream) and queso cotijo (a crumbly cheese). Cook a few more minutes & you're done.

It sounds easy but I have a habit of destroying what should be a simple meal. Since this went so well I plan to make this at least once a week, as long as I can find low-fat sour cream.

The bag really isn't that exciting, but it was very sweet the woman, Doña as we call her, gave it to me. Ibis and I get most of our produce from her & she sometimes throws in a head of garlic or a couple limes for free. She's always very patient with me - helping me pick produce that's good for today, or good for tomorrow, depending on which day we plan to eat it. Now that's customer service.

Now I have a neon green shopping bag to tote through town, just like one of the locals.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas everyone. I'm off to spend the day at the beach - I'm told that's what you do here on Christmas - so I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Here are a couple photos from last night in the plaza.

Us in Front of Tree

Zihua Christmas Tree

Zihua Nativity Scene

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas Eve

It's that magical time of year when the locals trade in their pistols for bazookas to ring in the holidays. Good lord. I know Mexicans like to shoot guns to celebrate whatever blessed event it happens to be, whether it's Friday night or the birth of Christ, but I've nearly jumped out of my skin three times today and the sun hasn't even set.

I just sent out the obligatory Happy Holidays email and while I was sorting all my friends & family into easy-to-manage groups, I deleted all my friends who happen to come after the letter K. Fortunately hotmail has prepared for people who do these sorts of things and I was able to track down most everyone from past emails, but I think I'm still missing ten or fifteen people. If you are one of those people, please accept my apologies.

Ibis doesn't have a day off in sight, but at least he works days so we'll be able to celebrate both evenings. We're not exchanging gifts but I do have presents from my gramma we can open. I've been told Nochebuena is a bigger deal than Navidad, so we're planning to walk downtown and see what's happening in the plaza. The city shot of fireworks last night (which we watched from our condo) so I'm not sure what else they have in store.

I keep meaning to take a picture of the Christmas tree set up Rockafeller-Center style, but so far I've forgotten the camera every time we've been down there. Cross my fingers I remember tonight. I'm putting the camera on the table as we speak.

I hope this post finds you safe & warm. If not, let me know and I'll send some heat your way.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Last night we watched the movie Babel. We'd seen it in the theater and while I remember crying at several different points and being very moved, the specifics were lost over the past year.

The back of the DVD case says "a tragic accident in Morocco sets off a chain of events that will link four groups of people who, divided by cultural differences and vast distances, will discover a shared destiny that ultimately connects them."

The story is woven together beautifully, and I became so involved with the characters that during each scene, I forgot about the others. I've seen films with intersecting storylines before but I find myself wondering what's going on with everyone else when I should be concentrating on those onscreen. Not so with this film.

I often quote movies and funny one-liners quickly become a part of my dialect. Anyone remember "Do it" from Starsky & Hutch or "Gawd, idiot!" from Napolean Dynamite? We say those so much they've even worked their way into my memoir. In the same way comedies wheedle into my life, movies like Babel impact my day-to-day existence.

I won't be quoting Brad Pitt anytime soon, but many of the decisions presented to the characters are issues that do impact my life. Spoiler: When Cate Blanchett's character is shot and they struggle to get her to a hospital, I was reminded of conversations Ibis and I have had.

Living in another country, we need to have a plan if anything happens to either of us. I can speak passable Spanish, but can I get him help in an emergency? And what if something happens to both of us? His family doesn't speak English and my parents don't speak Spanish - how will word get to them?

I raised these concerns with our American neighbor and she recommended we talk to a woman in Ixtapa that works with the American Consulate. I'm already registered with the US Embassy in Mexico City, but that could take awhile. Watching Cate and Brad come to grips with the idea that she might die in a tiny town in the middle of the desert - on the other side of the world from everyone they know and love - really hit home for me.

The more obvious scene - the Mexican nanny lost in the desert at the US/Mexico border - also struck a chord, but as we don't plan to sneak across the border, that's a little more far-fetched for us.

This isn't intended as a movie review, and don't be scared away if you're not big on Brad Pitt - he's not in it nearly as much as the previews would have you believe - but this film moved me again. To me, that makes it worth watching.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What is This Christmas You Speak Of?

As I'm sure you're well aware, the Christmas season is in full swing. If we judge by the stores, we're in about the third month of the swing with the last big push still to come. Everyone I talk to is busy buying last-minute gifts, finishing the decorations and cramming in all the holiday parties. And they all want to know how they celebrate here in Mexico.

For me, it could be the middle of June for as much as it looks like Christmas. Sure, there's red and green garland strung from every light post in town, musical Christmas lights sing on every block, and there's a twenty-foot tree in the plaza (also made of garland). The grocery stores have had inflatable Santas since October, so in that sense, I do feel like I'm home, but no one actually puts them in their yards. Lights adorn the windows of quite a few houses, some blinking to a beat only they can hear, but I haven't seen any trees through those windows.

I've been warned told that the 24th is the big night here and that I should wear my helmet both that night and New Years Eve. I'm guessing there will be a parade - they have a parade for everything - but that will be the extent of our celebration. The gifts from my gramma are the only thing festive in our home, and they're sitting high on a shelf over the TV. I'm big on sending out cards & putting up a tree, but I just don't have it in me this year (and I don't want to buy all new decorations when I have boxes full in storage.)

Ibis' family doesn't celebrate and he might have to work, so I'll call home, but other than that I imagine it'll be like any other day here. Much the same way I tell friends to have a great weekend, and thank god it's Friday, when every day is more or less the same, I'll send my holiday wishes.

We have a party tonight - the developers are throwing a posada for the residents. My task is to buy 12-15 pork tamales. I'm not quite sure where to find said tamales, but I'm sure someone at the market will point me in the right direction. I haven't met all our neighbors yet so this will be a nice way to make a few more friends.

I know not everyone will be near a computer over the holiday, so have a wonderful weekend and Feliz Navidad!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Slow News Day

Yeah, I got nothing.

Feel free to tell me about YOUR day. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Double Whammy

I've been hit again. Ed over at Upon Reflection tagged me yesterday, so I said I'd play along one more time. Since I already covered all the weird things about me (yeah right), this will be a bit of a stretch.

1. I attended my first posada last night. The hotel where Ibis is working had their holiday party last night and besides food, drinks & dancing, there was the traditional singing of the posada. It was explained to me as similar to carol singing, except they're paying tribute to Joseph and Mary as they searched for a place to stay before Jesus was born.

Since we were all in a large banquet hall, they asked half the people to go outside and the rest of us gathered near the entrance. Then we sang back and forth to candlelight. It was cool to participate in this tradition.

Afterwards we ate a lot and even managed to dance! I've had my salsa fix, finally! And yes, I was the only non-Mexican there.

2. I've killed about 30 ants this morning and lost a fight with a cockroach yesterday. I still don't know where he went and I'm nervous about where I'll find him.

3. I know the words to (almost) every New Kids on the Block song. Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh. Care to hear more?

4. I only have two front teeth on top, as opposed to the standard four most are born with. All my sharp teeth are closer to the front so when I bite my cheek, it bleeds.

5. I almost lost my eye as a child when a dog bit me in the face. You know that little bump on the inside corner? Yeah, he bit that. You can barely see the scars now.

And that's all for today! I'm not tagging anyone else because all the blogs I read have done this now. I could tag Kris and Turkey, but I'll leave it up to them to play along.

Temp: 82°
Humidity: 73%

Monday, December 17, 2007

Well Of Course It Did

The car died last night. In Ixtapa. Ibis was leaving work when it just fizzled out. My extensive experience leads me to believe it's the alternator (I had a Corolla that wanted a new one every year) but I'll leave that up to the experts. Fortunately the buses are very reliable so Ibis can still get to and from work. He biked to the store this morning to get our staples, and the market is close by so I can walk there as needed for everything else.

I've discovered I have more readers than I thought - many of you are afraid to post and email me questions instead. So, I will respond to your comments by placing your name in parentheses. How's that for anonymity?

The town is decorated for Christmas so last night we walked to the plaza to people-watch and grab some food. (Kevin) We had a couple beef tacos, then one of my favorites: a cup of corn with salsa, cheese and mayo mixed in. Que bueno! As we watched the local children play on the basketball courts, we noticed there are a lot more tourists these days. We'd heard that would happen in December, but we hadn't seen much change yet. (Tony) There were even a few Asians.

(Gramma) Ibis has only been at his job a few days but so far he likes it. He's quickly discovered why servers always complain about lousy tips - they get lousy tips! A few have made up the difference, but he's already full of stories of people he busts his butt for, then leave him nothing.

(Gary) We still have a bees/hornets nest on our window, but they seem to have grown bored with us.

(Mom) I'm not sure how much it'll cost to fix the car or how quickly we can have it done. (See what I did there? I preempted your question!)

(Amani) We're not getting a Christmas tree, even though they actually have real pine trees here. They ship them from further inland where it's not so hot.

The cinnamon seems to be helping with the ants (thanks Janna) but I haven't figured out how to get it to stick to the sides of the cabinets. Perhaps a cinnamon/white vinegar mixture...

And last, but certainly not least, (Jes) I will have my bunny story for you soon. :)

Oh! I started John Robinson's Look Me In the Eye yesterday and I love it! I'm halfway through and I thought I'd be worried his story would be written so well I'd give up writing forever (just kidding Gramma), but his style is somewhat similar to mine. Not to compare myself with Mr. NYT Best Seller, but you know, good on me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holy Ants!

Umm, Houston? We have a problem.

Of anternomical proportions.

I don't think I've mentioned this here before, but we have a bit of an ant problem. I'm a very clean person & pick up any food or crumbs left out, but we don't have screens on the windows and leave the back door open 24/7, so creatures get in.

At first it was just the teeny brown ants, so small you'd miss them if you were in a hurry to grab the Nutella. Mid-summer we found some larger beasts - too disgusting to get into here but they rhyme with mock-broach - so we sprayed a full can of beast killer in all the cabinets. That killed the pests but, five months later, I still smell the chemicals every time I open the cupboard doors. And a few strays have found their way home.

Which brings us to my current problem. Ibis keeps telling me the little ants don't hurt anything and I should stop worrying about them. (yeah, right.) Well, now we have the next step in the evolutionary chain - black ants. The ones you most often see on a picnic at the park.

I don't see them carrying any food but they're taking over the kitchen. At least once a day I go on a rampage and kill all that I see, but they keep coming back. I wiped white vinegar over all the surfaces thinking the smell would throw them off, but the effects only lasted about a day. I've impressed myself with how un-squeamish I've become, squashing ants with my bare fingers like it's nobody's business, but my fingers are getting calloused!

Oh, and they keep finding their way into the water bottle I use on runs, so there's no telling how many I've eaten. "A source of protein!" Ibis claims, but I'd rather stick with chicken or fish.

Does anyone have suggestions for a non-toxic way to rid my house of these things? They're concentrated in the parts of the kitchen with food - duh - but I keep finding them in the bathroom too.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Life Goes On

To borrow the words of my husband, I'm feeling melancholic. No particular reason, just a lull in my mentality, I suppose. Could have something to do with Christmas being just around the corner and it looking like the middle of summer. Sure, there's Christmas decorations all over the place, but I'm a Midwest girl and I need cold and snow, or at least freezing rain, for it to truly feel like Christmas. Having my family around would be nice, too. :)

Ibis started his waiters' captain job today so I'll hear all about that tonight. Meanwhile, the other captain in my life is in Trinidad for his latest job. Oh, the places he goes...

My search for a job turned out to be more short-lived than I expected. I was offered a job at a new place, met with her friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend in immigration, thought everything would happen quickly, then went to Immigration and was told they don't give visas for servers. It makes sense - they don't want to give jobs to foreigners that locals can do (sound familiar?) so that's out. I wasn't going to make much money so I'm not crushed, but it would've been nice to get out of the house a little more often.

So, anyone with design needs - let me know! I give you a special discount because you are special friend! (That's supposed to sound like a Mexican vendor talking to the tourists - use your imagination.)

One strange thing this week - we witnessed a wake in our neighbor's backyard. The coffin was resting on two card tables beneath a tarp, with candles fanning around the area. The strange part was the deceased's picture was on the front page of the local paper. He apparently died in his hammock and the paper sent someone out to take his photo. Ibis said he noticed a group standing around a man in a hammock, so we think he saw when they discovered he was dead. Creepy.

In good news - a pigeon tried to poop on my this morning and missed by about 2 inches. The little things...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've Been Hit!

I am the latest victim in what can best be described as Blog Tag. Janna from Something She Wrote tagged me, and now I'm supposed to share five weird or otherwise unknown things about myself. Since my audience is a mix of people who've known me my entire life and those who don't even know what my voice sounds like, this may not be ground-breaking news for all of you.

1. I can salsa dance. Quite well, in fact. Strangers have come up and asked us if we A) are professionals (lol) or B) give lessons. We've tried giving lessons to his family but end up bickering about the best way to demonstrate a step, or "No, that's too confusing," and nothing much gets accomplished.

I started back in 2000 and met Ibis a few months later. He was in another relationship so we were friends long before our first date. For our first dance at our wedding we surprised everyone and danced to a country song, saving the salsa for later.

2. I am 5'1" and was a starter on my high school basketball team. I think that has more to do with the size of my school than my ability to dunk, but it was fun and I wouldn't trade that experience for all the public schools out there.

I went to a small boarding school with a total of 100 students. There were 25 people in my graduating class and only 30 girls in the entire school, so being among the five best players wasn't all that difficult.

3. I am a lotion and chapstick freak. I must have them with me - or close by - at all times. I can get through daily errands without lotion, and I often replace chapstick for a moisturizing lip gloss, but I'd claw my eyes out if I had to go an entire day without them.

4. I'm a little compulsive. I'm a neat-freak, worry-wart, counting-thing-in-threes type of person. I can't stand to let dishes sit in the sink for longer than it takes to eat a meal. I usually start washing them while Ibis brings the food to the table, and you can bet any I don't get to are soaking while we eat.

We don't have screens on the windows so a lot of dust comes in throughout the day. Now I sweep every morning after my run and before my shower. This is a new one for me - I don't mind sweeping but floors really aren't my thing. Until now.

My husband is a normal man and doesn't like putting his clothes away the moment they leave his body, so I do lighten up with his stuff. As long as it's all in one area (the guest bedroom) I try to leave him alone.

I do carry anti-bacterial gel with me, but we are in Mexico and things get pretty dirty. I've gotten better about compulsively doing things, but it's always in the back of my head.

5. I was once buried my a snowplow. My best friend Kris and I were in second grade (I think) and were enjoying one of about nine snowdays we had that year. We were walking from her house to mine and saw a huge snowplow off in the distance. Its spray covered the street and we ran back and forth as it came closer, not able to tell which side of the street it was on. (She tells the story that we WANTED the snow to hit us - I beg to differ) When it was too late to get out of the way we dove into the closest yard, our heads nestled between a row of pine trees, and the snow buried us. She thought I was dead for a minute but I was just contemplating life. ;)

Jenna, you're the only one I'm tagging because I don't know many bloggers and the few I do know have already played. I can't wait to read what you have to say!

Now that I've scared you all off, I need to go find my Chapstick.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hold on a Minute

You know the old saying that you end up marrying your father and becoming your mother? And how you fight this tooth and nail, determined not to turn into them, even if they raise you well and you turned out alright? (Sorry Mom & Gary - it's for the sake of my writing!)

While I can only do so much to not turn into my mother - I'm a graphic designer, she's a lawyer, but we're the same height, etc - I thought I was doing pretty well when I married a Mexican guy. My dad's not American either - he's Dutch - but he's a big burly guy with an anchor tattoo and a business degree. And he's a boat captain.

My husband is barely five and a half feet tall (although, if you ask him, he's pushing six feet) and has what I call a soccer-player's physique. He's a carpenter and electrician, and has no tattoos.

Pretty different right?

Well, I was just folding the laundry and thinking about the new position he starts Friday when it hit me: his new job is el capitan de maseros. Waiters' captain.


What? How did I not see this coming?

I know the two are hardly the same. Beyond the title, they couldn't be more different. Nonetheless, if anyone asks me what jobs the men in my life hold I can cover both with the same word.

I may as well break out the law books - I've become my parents.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Nathan Bransford mentioned me by name in his blog! Me and another woman asked in yesterdays comments if he represents authors outside of the US, and today he responded to us!

I know, it's not earth-shattering news, but... OMG! OMG! OMG!

In all seriousness, my main concern is our unreliable mail service. I can send things out via DHL or FedEx, but it's the replies I'm most interested about. I know some agents don't bother sending rejections, even if you do include a self-addressed stamped envelope, and my psyche can't handle any more stress than is absolutely necessary. More and more agents accept e-queries which eliminate mail for the initial stages, but I'm sure there will be a few that prefer snail mail.

I can't only stalk query Nathan.

I'm still months away from needing to worry about this, but I do want to start researching agents and figuring out who's best suited for my work. I'm closing in on page 200 of my edits (out of roughly 280) then it's onto the joyous rewrites! Heads up to those of you I've tagged as beta readers. :)

* * * * *

I did have my blood drawn today and only had a very minor incident. I tend to pass out when needles come within 5 feet of my body and today was no exception. I thought I was fine. I waited a few minutes in the lab after the nice woman finished the blood-letting, then Ibis and I started walking back to the car. We were half a block away when things started spinning and night came much too soon.

Fortunately there was a window ledge where I was falling so I spared myself the embarassment of napping on the sidewalk. Ibis ran to get the car and I was able to get up the 4 flights of stairs on my own. I'm fine now - I just have a teeny bruise to show for my efforts.

I forgot last week, but here's the latest weather report. It's cooled off a bit since the rain last week.

Temp: 87°
Humidity: 69%

Hope the rest of you are staying warm, or at the very least, dry.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Running in Circles

For not having a job, I seem to spend an endless amount of time running in circles. The city is full of traffic circles so maybe they're rubbing off.

Take today, for example. Ibis had the day off so we were supposed to go to the grocery store and market, write a few letters in Spanish to help me get an FM3 visa, take me to a lab to have some blood work done, then give a tour of our condo development.

He stopped by work because he no longer wants to work nights and wanted to tell them to switch him to another position. This was supposed to take an hour, two at most, but it took almost four. It worked out because he was given a day job as the waiters' captain at the pool - right up his alley. Meanwhile I was at home twiddling my thumbs because I need him for my tasks.

He picked me up and we raced through the store, inhaled our lunch, then left again to meet these people. I met them yesterday and they'd like to by a condo here so we arranged to show them our development. Who knows if it'll turn into anything, but after so much time of doing nothing, it's nice to help people.

After that we went to the market for our weekly supply of fruit. He leaves for class in an hour so I have a little time to myself, but when he gets back we're supposed to hang out with our neighbors. This was not run by me before he committed.

So, I have three hours to critique a chapter for a friend, write a couple letters in Spanish, edit my own work since I didn't do any yesterday, and comment for a blog blitz I'm taking part in. I realize this sounds like a typical day for most of you, but I don't understand how my day gets away from me sometimes. (Actually I do, I just don't like to blame him in public.)

Tomorrow we'll get the bloodwork done and finish up the letters, which are for a potential job I found. A new sports bar opened up near the beach and the owner offered me a waitressing job. I hung out there yesterday to meet the other employees and get a feel for the place, and it seems like a good place to work. I can't work until I get a work visa, but she's willing to wait until I'm legit - very cool!

Before you ask, the bloodwork is routine, just follow-up for some medicine I was taking. No need to be concerned. :)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

If I've Said it Once...

I just finished reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and wanted to share a passage that addresses the idea of fresh ideas:

"All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way. Mark Twain said that Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew that nobody had said it before. Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions. Some people will sing it spontaneously, with a lot of soulful riffs, while others are going to practice until they could sing it at the Met. Either way, everything we need in order to sell our stories in a reasonable and exciting way already exists in each of us. Everything you need is in your head and memories, in all that your senses provide, in all that you've seen and thought and absorbed."

I'm a little past the halfway mark on editing my first draft, and I hope to make a big dent today so I can get on with draft number two!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Nightshift May Lead to Cancer

The news media recently reported a higher risk of cancer in those individuals working the night shift. Did I mention Ibis just started working nights? Great, because he needed another thing to make this harder.

For those unfamiliar, after 9pm, my husband falls asleep at the drop of a hat. It happens most often while we're watching a movie, whether we're at home or in a theater. I've developed a habit of looking at him every 5 minutes to check if he's awake, something he doesn't mind but it irritates others when I do it to them. I had to apologize to my sister while I was home because I kept looking at her during the movie - she's a big girl, she can stay awake the whole two hours. ;)

So now my nearly-narcoleptic husband is working at the front desk of a hotel, on the night shift. To make things worse, they aren't allowed to sit down. I keep asking him what the heck they do all night that makes it crucial they be on their feet, but he just says they keep busy. Sounds like a load of crap to me. It pisses me off because he's tired enough without the added torture of needing to stay vertical from 11pm-7am. I've been to other hotels where they let the staff sit down - I guess we know why there's a high turnover at this place.

I don't know how long he'll last. Poor thing is already dragging around like he hasn't slept in weeks. I gave him my black headband to block out the light & that helped him catch a few hours this morning, but he looked like he'd been run over by a truck when he left an hour ago. Oh yeah, they wanted him there at 2pm today. He does have tonight off but he still has a test in school to get through.

We know of a small hotel in town that will have a management position open starting in January, and we know the owners so he has a good chance of getting the job. We might have to chalk up this current position to learning the business. A little experience never hurt anyone. Well, except for the cancer part, but he hasn't been there long enough to have any ill-effects. Just lack of sleep and sore feet.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I am Part of the Solution

Ever been to a restaurant in another country and giggled over the owner's attempt at English translation?

Me too.

Ever wonder why they don't hire someone to properly translate the menu, considering it's a small, one-time price to pay for something that will influence your customers for years afterwards?

Well, one has.

Ibis has spent the past two weeks training to work the front desk at a swanky hotel in Ixtapa, and yesterday he came home with a printout of every item on their menu. All eight pages of it. We got halfway through when the ridiculousness of the whole thing finally got the best of us.

A few of the highlights:
(Our suggestion is in paratheses)

Atún con costra de ajonjoli
Tuna fish with sesame seed cover
(Sesame Tuna)

Bastones de verduras
Poles vegetables
(Vegetable Skewers)

Carnes frias y quesos
(Sliced Meats and Cheeses)

Costilla de cerdo en salsa de ostiones
Costilla pork scallops in sauce
(Pork Ribs in Oyster Sauce)

Crema de calabeza
Pumpkin blossom of cream
(Cream of Squash)

Crema de huitlacoche
Cream grows
(cream of something)

Ensalada de pepino con yogurth
Cucumber salad with drinks
(Cucumber Salad with Yogurt)

Ensalada cesar con camarones
Cesar's salad with shrimp
(Ceasar Salad with Shrimp)

Estacion light
Diet station
(we think this is a salad bar)

Licuado de fresa
Liquified strawberry
(Strawberry Shake)

Ahhh, I could do this all day but I think you get the point. At least they realized they needed help. :)

Only four more pages to go!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Inspiration & Moving Forward

Yesterday I simultaneously became very excited about my next book idea and crashed to the ground in regards to my current memoir. My cousin Jenna and I have been emailing about inspiration and staying motivated, and her recent blog entries go into some of the same ideas I've mentioned in the past week. My inspiration struck when she emailed me an innocent question, asking if for my next book I planned to write another memoir or try fiction.

I've had several ideas bouncing around in my head but so far, nothing's stuck. I keep reading about people who have so many ideas they can't decide which to write, or actually write several at the same time. This has not been my problem. Common advice says to write what you'd like to read - that's where your passion lies and what will keep you interested as you write. Nothing worse than writing something that bores you - how are other people supposed to get into a story that you despise?

I sent her a rambling answer, finally sputtering that I'd like to write fiction. I feel I have another memoir or two in me, but frankly, I'm getting a little bored with myself and I'd like a chance to write in third person. As we wrote back & forth, an idea struck - not a new idea, one of the many in my head - but a different spin that what I'd originally been thinking.

I'm not ready to share that idea just yet, so you'll have to forgive me my ambiguity.

Shortly after this exchange, I hopped over to Nathan Bransford's blog - one on my daily reading list. His latest post, Writing is Fundamental, talks about how our culture believes if something strange, exciting, or mildly different from the status quo happens in your life, you should write a book. People tell you that you should write a book. His comment that struck me:

"Sometimes, yes, crazy things happen to a writer and they write a book about it. But it's just not true that everyone has a book in them, or rather, that everyone can write the book that's in them. Writers write books -- not people with interesting stories to tell."

Then, one of the posters, Karen Duvall, had this to say:

"I think new writers need to get that first autobiographical book out of their system before they can go on to something serious. Plus, it's a powerful learning tool. "Write what you know." Well, what do any of us know better than our own lives? But we should also know better than to try to have it published."

Talk about a blow to the ego. I believe I am both a writer and someone with a story interesting enough for people to read. Sure, I'm also banking on the fact that I know a lot of people and I know (hint, hint) all of them would rush out & buy my book the moment it (fingers crossed) hits Amazon, but I've read other's writing, people who are also new at this & want to share their story, and I think I'm (dare I say it) better than some of them.

I tried not to let my disappointment get to me while I edited, rather I'm trying to use this as further motivation to write a kickass story. I think I can & there are people who've had their first success, meaning they've been published, with a memoir. So I'll keep plugging along.

Fortunately, my day ended back on top. I climbed into bed, ready to read a book, when details for my new story idea took over. I jumped up to scribble my thoughts in my journal, excited that my brain seems happy with this idea. Another piece of advice I keep reading is to clear your mind so the story can tell itself; that you're really just the person typing or writing, your characters are the ones with the story to tell. It seems like a bunch of BS to me - combined with the frustration that no ideas were fighting for priority, I didn't see how one would just flow from my fingers.

Well, as soon as I opened my book, the entire first scene played itself out in my mind. Character descriptions, scenery, ambience, all of it. This time I brought my journal into my room and kept it there in case this happened all night. I wrote maybe 500 words, and while I'm not ready to start a new Word document, I do feel I'm well on my way.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Startled by a Cruise Ship

No matter how many times I see it, I cannot get used to the image of a ginormous cruise ship anchored here in town. Cannot. Sure, it fits the scenery - rough mountains circling a glimmering bay, the sun bouncing off fishing boats dotted throughout the water* - but when I go out on the balcony to change loads of laundry I DO NOT expect to see a Carnival luxury liner.

(I just double-checked, it is a Carnival ship.)

You'd think I'd be accustomed to it by now. One stops here at least once a week, sometimes as often as three or four times, and we can see them from our place. But being a Midwest girl, cruise ships are not among the things I expect to see when looking out my window.

Things I do expect to see: stray dogs, clothes hanging to dry, children playing basketball, naked babies, the gas truck, pigeons, cats chasing the pigeons, junk people have thrown on their roofs, trees, mountains, and smoke.

Anyway, I am happy to see it because it brings lots of tourists, who bring lots of money, which means families will be fed tonight.

Speaking of which, Ibis just started cooking lunch & the smell of garlic is drifting in from the kitchen. For those of you who haven't seen pictures of our place & don't already know, I should really say the oil from the stove is splattering me since the kitchen is 2 feet from my desk.

Bon appetit!

*Sorry about that. Moment of weakness. I'm dizzy with hunger.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Karaoke Hero

Since Thanksgiving, I have sung karaoke twice. I should preface that by saying while I love to sing & often do quite loudly in the privacy of my car or living room, I'm not big on singing in front of other people. Except Ibis - who do you think I'm usually singing with?

Anyways, the Friday after Thanksgiving I hung out with my friend Kris at her brother's place, where they busted out this wonderful game called Rock Band. Her boyfriend Brad has Guitar Hero (at which I hear my nephew is THE master) so he ran out to buy this game. It has drums, a guitar AND a microphone so at least three people play at once. I won't get into how it works here, but Kris and I somehow ended up on vocals. Yeah, there's a reason we both went into graphic design. Anyway, we finally found a song we rocked on - Wanted Dead or Alive, thank you very much - and we ended the night feeling like we ARE a Rock Band.

Cut to yesterday. Ibis and I drove to spend the day with his family for a huge fish dinner and, you guessed it, karaoke. And yes, it was all in Spanish. No one sang an entire song, they passed the microphone around the room so all twelve people had a chance to sing. My only hesitation was I didn't know most of the songs. Add my lack of conversational Spanish with not knowing the melody and I was a little gun-shy, but after watching them & laughing along with the family, I jumped up and down at the first song I knew.

They looked at me with amazement - they'd never heard me sing OR say so many words at a time. (Yes, it was amazement, not horror. Now stop questioning me.) Shortly after that, one of my favorite songs came up so Ibis and I sang a duet, and yes, it was bad. My shining moment came towards the end of the day when I knew a song better than Ibis and two of his brothers. It was even a fast one! I am so proud.

I am the Karaoke Hero. :)

* * * * *

I did see a few random things: a man washed his horse in the middle of the street while we were eating lunch, then we passed a car that had just flipped on the side of the road while on our way back home.

Temp: 88°
Humidity: 75%

And I've edited through page 100, having successfully conquered the Mexican Consulate.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

(psst... I'm sometimes a little sarcastic)

Ok, I'm really starting to question my writing abilities. I was completely joking yesterday when I said I was tempted to give up on my book, but I received several inspirational emails not to give up. I appreciate the support, I really do, but I'm not quitting at the easy part!

Querying, writing the query, waiting for requests, writing a synopsis, waiting, waiting, getting rejected, waiting... THAT'S where I'll need the encouragement!

I'm a little stuck on my description of my first visit to the Mexican Consulate, but I read a bit from my writing book and I'm feeling more motivated. I'm also quite amused at some of the logistical errors I've made - a side-effect of writing with the edit button turned off. The current one is I got in line, then in the next paragraph was still walking to the building. Small details.

Anyway, one sweet thing I thought I'd share happened while I was in Chicago. My brother is living in my old apartment & we left quite a few things in his care. Including my plants. When I arrived, I was sweetly surpised to see my plants alive & thriving! Now I feel like I have something waiting for me when we go back. Aww.

I've also decided to add a new feature to each blog entry. I bought a thermometer while I was home & it's now sitting one foot above my computer. Each I will include the temp & humidity reading, just because I can! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Temp: 90°
Humidity: 73%