Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Husband is Blind!


Not really, but he wishes he were. He's been working at his new job for a couple weeks now and likes the change of pace a smaller hotel brings. There are only eight rooms and many of the guests stay for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. Since there's only so much the guests need from him on a given day he has a lot of free time.

He's befriended several guests and at the moment we have two open-invitations to visit them when we get the chance. One couple lives in Vancouver and we're considering taking them up on their offer.

That couple checked out yesterday and a new couple checked in. A middle-aged, business-class type couple, possibly Middle Eastern but Spanish speaking, and a little heavy around the middle. Ibis hauled their bags down the 200-foot long flight of stairs and helped them settle in. You know, showing how the AC and TV works, all those little things.

With them happily tucked into their bungalow he returned to the office until it started to get dark. Among his responsibilities are turning on the lights along the staircase and closing the door to the beach (teenagers like to sneak in at night). A movement caught his eye as he passed the new couple's room. The door was wide open and the man was sitting on a stool in the doorway wearing nothing but his underwear.

"Oh my god, really?" I exclaimed as he recounted this story last night.

"That's not the worst," he continued.

The man was sitting on the bench and his wife was straddling his leg, grinding against him and kissing him. Okay, kind of gross you say, but she was also only wearing underwear! Little teeny scraps of cloth that left nothing to my impressionable husband's imagination. He reenacted it for me and now I have that image burned in my mind, too.

They didn't see him - he didn't stick around any longer than necessary - and he planned to warn the cleaning woman to keep her eyes to the ground when she's near their room.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I apologize for my tardiness today. I was all set to write about my trip to the grocery store today - there was yet another comment about my eyes - but when I turned on the computer I got sidetracked. That was three hours ago.

My early teenage years are making a comeback.

Step by step, I forced myself away from YouTube so I could post on my blog. I'd almost pull away, but it was as if the videos were calling for me to please don't go. It was tough, but the shopping story was still hangin' around in my head, determined to be set free.

The more I thought about it, another story of me at the store just wasn't exciting enough, even though the cab driver was more than shocked when I told him where I live. It's not the best neighborhood and our little stretch of street is known as Calle de Churro, literally, Churro Street. Churro, as in that cinnamon & sugar doughy treat I always bought at White Sox games. I'm not sure how our street became known by that name, but the cab driver knew it and rambled on and on the entire drive home about how bad the neighborhood is and he'd never live there. HE owns a house outside the city with lots of property.

As we approached my building he waved out his window and called, "Sobrino." His nephew works in a store a few doors down. Then he tells me his aunt lives across the street from us and he honked and waved at her, too. I guess I understand why he hates it - he finally got out of Vicente Guerrero and I dragged him back in.

If you haven't caught on by now, please direct your attention here: this is your final warning. There are countless videos on YouTube here, here, here, and here, so that's where I'll be till something writing related comes to mind.

Hopefully I won't get in trouble with the blog police. ;)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

See Previous Post

I jumped the gun yesterday. TODAY is the big Patry Francis blog extravaganza.

Please see the post below.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Liar's Diary, by Patry Francis

Today I'm joining forces with other writers & bloggers to help out a fellow writer.

Patry Francis is a talented author whose debut novel, The Liar’s Diary, came out in hardcover from Dutton last spring. The trade paperback release is January 29th, but a few weeks ago, Patry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. She's had several surgeries, and her prognosis is good, but given that Patry won't have much energy for promoting, a number of bloggers are banding together to do it for her. (excerpt from

Here's the press release:

When new music teacher Ali Mather enters Jeanne Cross’s quiet suburban life, she brings a jolt of energy that Jeanne never expected. Ali has a magnetic personality and looks to match, drawing attention from all quarters. Nonetheless, Jeanne and Ali develop a friendship based on their mutual vulnerabilities THE LIAR’S DIARY (Plume / February 2008 / ISBN 978-0-452-28915-4 / $14.00) is the story of Ali and Jeanne’s friendship, and the secrets they both keep.

Jeanne’s secrets are kept to herself; like her son’s poor report card and husband’s lack of interest in their marriage. Ali’s secrets are kept in her diary, which holds the key to something dark: her fear that someone has been entering her house when she is not at home. While their secrets bring Jeanne and Ali together, it is this secret that will drive them apart. Jeanne finds herself torn between her family and her dear friend in order to protect the people she loves.

A chilling tour of troubled minds, THE LIAR’S DIARY questions just how far you’ll go for your family and what dark truths you’d be willing to admit—even to yourself.

Patry Francis is a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize whose work has appeared in the Tampa Review, Colorado Review, Ontario Review, and the American Poetry Review. She is also the author of the popular blogs, and This is her first novel. Please visit her website at

The Liar's Diary can be purchased online at Amazon.

Praise for THE LIAR’S DIARY:

“Twists and turns but never lets go.”—Jacquelyn Mitchard, bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean

“A quirky, well-written and well-constructed mystery with an edge.”—Publishers Weekly

“Outright chilling.”—New York Daily News

“Genuinely creepy…The unlikely friendship between a small-town school secretary and a flamboyant teacher proves deadly in this psychological murder mystery.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A twisting ride full of dangerous curves and jaw-dropping surprises. This is one of my favorite reads of the year!”—Tess Gerristen, bestselling author of The Mephisto Club

“Francis draws and tense and moody picture of the perfect home and family being peeled back secret by secret…Four Stars.”—Romantic Times

By Patry Francis
Plume Paperbacks / February 2008 / $14.00
ISBN: 978-0-452-28915-4
Readers Guide available at

Special thanks to Karen Dionne at Backspace for helping organize & spread the word.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunshine Day

I was really hoping inspiration would strike and I'd think of something interesting to write about today. I feel guilty that my past two posts were a tad lackluster and I wanted to make up for it.

But.... I have a migraine.

It's been lingering since yesterday but I was well enough to go running this morning so I don't feel like the day's been a total waste. One benefit to suffering from migraines for years is you learn to cope with life. You can't always crawl under the covers for three days and ignore the world around you. Now with my life as it is, I probably could bury myself in bed for half a week with no ill effect other than a pile of dirt on the floor, but I'm a worrier and I'd guilt myself into the living room by mid-afternoon.

As usual the sun is shining, as it's apt to do in Mexico. It feels a little warmer than normal, but that could just be me. I was fortunate that I did run this morning because that meant my shower happened this morning, before the well dried up. I'm not certain it's actually dry - a small trickle has found its way into my faucet after a couple hours - but there's not enough for a shower.

I've spent the past couple hours working edits from my betas into my book but I'm still struggling with some of my direction. The same questions that nagged me three months ago are back at it and I can't decide which direction to go. I'll probably end up hacking the thing to pieces and see what's left in the end. For now, I'm off to the couch to read a book in the dark.


Oh, and yes, my toes continue to improve. Enough to run without toppling over anyway.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Quick Update

It's a lazy day so I'll keep this short.

- Ibis is still liking his new job, but the hours are getting to him.

- My toes are getting better. I'm hoping I can run tomorrow.

- My parents will be here in one week!

- Still editing.

- I mopped the floor (my least favorite chore).

I'm almost done with the book I'm reading so off I go!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The End

That's right, I finally typed those words at THE END of my word document! That doesn't mean it's completed - no, no, no - but the bones are all there. The book itself takes a big detour from my original intention so I need to make sure it still makes sense.

But regardless of what I do, I can say I wrote a book. I even like the conclusion, go figure. Thanks to everyone for your encouragement along the way - I'm sure I'll need more in the months to come.

Today I'm celebrating by going to a birthday party of a gentleman I've recently gotten to know at a local bar. He's part of my retiree crowd, all hailing from Canada and Boston. I swear I meet a new person from Canada every time I go out!

Hasta mañana.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Did I Tell You?

Yesterday was a bad day, but as I noted before, they rarely come in multiples. I moped and whined until I went to bed, my toes throbbing despite a couple doses of red wine.

This morning I was in a much better mood and I've been very productive. I still need to tackle my conclusion but I've worked on some smaller details that I needed to work into the bulk of the book. Little things here and there that I'll realize I forgot to include. I'll be in the middle of something completely non-writing related when a thunderbolt will strike down and a loud voice booms, "You idiot, you forgot to talk about blah blah blah." Yes, my voice says that. It's mainly details about the immigration process - I don't know what my problem is and why I keep forgetting to talk about it.

I mentioned a few days ago that one thing that gets me through the bad days is the knowledge that it'll pass. Everyone gets in a funk but if you don't allow yourself to wallow every now and then you'll spend more time balancing on the edge of a bad mood and never snap out of it and get to work.

With that said, I'm about to dive into the very last passage. I just hope I can translate the images in my mind into something half as profound on page.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Warning: Rant

I'm having one of those days. Everything is pissing me off and I just want to sit in a corner and read a book and shut out the world around me. I know we're all entitled to feel sorry for ourselves now and then, and I really don't get like this very often, but it figures the day I decide to have a pity party the world is exploding around me.

Another young celebrity has died and my problems don't compare to the grief his friends and loved ones now face.

People in Gaza were so desperate for food and basic necessities that they blew up the wall holding them in. The Egyptian guards let the people stream over the border without checking passports or any of their other duties because they understood the desperation that made them take this drastic measure. We'll see what happens as night falls; if the Palestinians refuse to return to their homes there may be violence, but for now they are getting the things they need to survive. I applaud the Egyptian government for helping these people.

Not to mention all the other people in the world who are suffering. Kenya is falling apart, heck, half of Africa is falling apart. Someone on our street just died - he drove his motorcycle into a bus and was killed.

Me? My toe hurts.

It's a little more complicated than that but it's the thing that pushed me into pity-party mode. I try very hard not to let things get me down. If I start wallowing it'll be harder to get through the day, even if getting through the day means walking to the market and sitting in front of the computer as I wait for my husband to get off work. But things have been accumulating lately, building on each other, and last night was the clincher.

Our car died in December so we walk pretty much everywhere, often times over a mile each way. I've had an infection on my big toe (I'll spare you the details) and while it's been improving, it flared up two days ago and brought a second toe down with it. So I'm walking everywhere with two infected toes.

The city is in the middle of a huge project that's torn apart most of the streets downtown. Laying wires or something, but huge mounds of dirt and stone are everywhere. Walking is an adventure and you have to watch your step to avoid falling in a three-foot hole.

Last night I was heading home with Ibis and stubbed my toe on a rock meant to keep cars from driving on the newly paved street. Yes, it was one that already hurt. My sudden yelp stopped people in their tracks but I told them I was fine, despite the blood running down my foot. I made it home okay but can't get a tiny rock out of the cut so that's adding to the fun.

We have no food so I walked to the market this morning and let's just say I was a real peach to the other pedestrians. I'm trying to get over myself and think about the people in the world with real problems, but I'm tired of these constant health problems.

/end rant.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Forces are Working Against Me

Yesterday was a success. I wrote a decent introduction (although I've yet to get any constructive criticism) and I was all ready to work on my conclusion today. Little did I know the workers downstairs were ready to pour cement in the parking lot.

You may wonder why men pouring cement four floors down would interfere with my writing, but trust me, they do. The windows and doors are all closed, at least on that side of the house, but air-tight seals do not exist in this region of the world. The machine used to mix the cement has an old diesel engine that sputters as if it will gasp it's last breath at any moment. But does not. Also, I noticed the men shoveling large piles of stones into the machine, so while the engine grumbles the stones roll through the rotating bin, clanging against the metal sides.

Every now and then it backfires, then stops and they have to start it up again, but it's been running steadily since eleven this morning.

On the other side of the house my neighbors have been listening to the same CD all day. It's the same one the play most every day but they normally stop after one rotation. Today it's gone through at least three loops. (Perhaps they're trying to block out the sounds of heavy machinery.) There's one song that really grates on my nerves - all I can understand is every line ends with a "mee-ya" sound. Very nasally, very annoying. And of course I spend the rest of the afternoon saying mee-ya to everything.

I did manage to write three or four pages - all crap, of course - so at least it's a good start. Let's hope tomorrow is a little more peaceful.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I Am a Writer

I've been more than a little concerned that after a couple months of editing I'd have a hard time switching back to writing. They're two different animals, two different ways of thinking. Whatever you want to call it, I was afraid I'd have trouble switching gears.

My plan for today was to expand my opening couple paragraphs to give the reader a better look at my new world. I'd taken a few notes over the past week and the ideas have been bouncing around, but when I opened the Word document, fear gripped me. What if I've said all I can? What if I'm not really a writer, just someone with 95K words to get off her chest?

I put on some music - one of the same albums I listened to while writing over the fall - and the words just streamed out of me. Two whole pages. And since I've been editing so much lately I was able to step away for a few minutes, then come back and make it better. My story opens on the balcony of our condo so I went out there for inspiration. After a few swivels in my new chair I ran back to the computer and finished up the introduction.

I already sent the pages to my readers and of course I'm anxious to hear what they think. I have to leave in a couple hours and I can't expect them to get back to me that quickly, but I never claimed to be a patient person.

Tomorrow: the conclusion.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


I just finished editing the last two chapters. This doesn't mean I'm done, just that they're presentable for my beta readers. I'm sure they appreciate it.

Starting tomorrow, it's back to writing. I have big goals for this coming week - I need to rework my introduction and write my conclusion. I figure the introduction should come first since I have another beta reader lined up to start soon. Then I can be working on the conclusion while my readers catch up to me.

My bicycle incident the other night inspired ideas for the ending, so those thoughts are brewing, too. I'm really excited about what I plan to do. I've debated whether I should end our story before we know anything from immigration or wait until they make a decision. I'm an impatient person so of course my inclination is to just finish the thing, but I wanted to take time to think about it so I make the best decision for the story.

I think I have, and I've decided to conclude it now. This also leaves room for a sequel. ;)

Now I'm off to watch football all afternoon. Bring on the Victoria's and go Pats & Packers!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Can You Say Procrastination?

My parents are coming to visit in two weeks so we've been busy with little projects around the house. You know, those things you keep meaning to get to but don't actually do until someone important comes to stay. Ibis did a couple things from his list this morning - including hanging my hammock chair - and borrowed some paint from the workers downstairs so I could do one of my big projects: painting the bathroom.

We painted bright colors throughout the house and have been happy with our choices except for the bathroom. It's technically not the bathroom; the toilet and shower are in a room with a door and the sink/vanity are in the hallway. Kind of like a hotel. We painted that area a reddish-orange color, not realizing it would absorb any light that crept into the hall, leaving nothing for us to see by. Since I have all the free time I offered to repaint it white, I just needed the paint.

The workers gave him a cut-off bleach bottle filled with white paint and I went to work. THREE coats later it looks great - almost no trace of the former color. Proud of my accomplishment, I turned on my computer to check my email and mentally prepare myself to edit my final two chapters.


The unused paint was calling to me.

I couldn't let it go to waste so I wandered around the house to see if anything needed touching up. Four hours later I have painted every white surface in the place, including baseboards, walls, doorjambs, the balcony, and the front entrance - including halfway down the stairs.

The paint is gone and the house looks beautiful, but I haven't eaten or done any work on my book. I really need to get this done because I plan to spend most of tomorrow watching football and I'd like to do it guilt-free.

So you tell me, was that procrastination or just being productive?

Friday, January 18, 2008


I've been tagged by Katie at Finding Boddie. No, we haven't been running through teh intraweb like chickens with our heads cut off. She's passed along another meme called Roar for Powerful Words. This one's about writing and it comes with an award. I get an award!

I'm supposed to:
1. Link back to the person who tagged me (see above)
2. List three things I believe are necessary to make writing good and powerful (see below)
3. Tag five other people via comment (this could be tricky)

Katie doesn't seem to realize that I've been hoping to keep this "writing" blog afloat without getting into the nitty-gritty of writing. Oh well, I'm sure I've learned a thing or two in the past six months.

1. Honesty This is especially important for me since I'm writing my memoir, but I think this translates across all genres. If you try to fake your writing and don't truly understand what it is you want to say, the reader will know. Lucky for you not many readers will know because you most likely won't get your work past the gatekeepers. Keeping true to your story, yourself, your whatever, will add depth and passion to your work. Half-hearted descriptions will come across as flat and as boring to your reader as they are to you.

I sometimes think my memoir is rambling or that I'm digging too deep in the hopes to appear profound, but I've had good responses to those passages. I've been told people will feel connected to me because of how honest I am. Go figure.

2. Awareness This is a rather general term but I mean it in the sense that you can't write about the world if you don't pay it any attention. I'd love to use this as a defense for the hours I waste on gossip blogs, but being aware of trends - be they political, economical, or social - will help your writing. If you stay locked in your room and only read 18th century fiction your writing will suffer.

I worked in advertising for the better part of the past decade and I could not do my job as a designer if I didn't pay attention to the world around me. People watching, eavesdropping (no!), and pointed observations help me understand what things change, and which seem to stay the same.

3. Optimism Some might call this faith, others confidence, but whatever word you prefer, you won't succeed as a writer if you think you suck. Everyone struggles with mental blocks, I've certainly had my share of days when I can't believe I think my words will entertain anyone, but giving up will not help you improve.

I happily follow the advice to let myself write crap because I know something good will come of it. When I was knee-deep in my manuscript I discovered that when I had a day where I hated everything I wrote, the next day was generally better. I rarely had two awful days in a row. That realization alone kept me going on the bad days because I knew if I could just force myself to write my 1000 words I'd get the crap out of my system and tomorrow there'd be gold. Or at least some tarnished copper.

Phew, that wasn't as hard as I expected. Now for step three. Katie has already taken a few of the people I know so I apologize if I pick you and you don't want to play. Jenna and Janna should know they're on my list. Next is Soccer Mom and Turkey. Last, but never least, is Ms. Mullis.

Thanks for playing! Here's my award.

Roar Award

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Where's a Helmet When You Need One?

Last night I met Ibis at Playa Madera after his first shift at his new job. (That's a loaded statement but the details aren't important for the sake of this story.) The hotel is about a mile from our place and along the route we run most mornings. I'd walked there, as well as run that morning, so when it was time to leave my feet were dragging.

"Mel, get on."

"Are you sure? I don't know if this is a good idea."

"Just get on. I grew up doing this and it's a lot faster than walking."

I, too, grew up doing this and have some nice scars to show for my efforts. "Fine, but please don't kill me." I straddled the metal rack over the rear tire, grabbed the seat and lifted my feet.


"I suppose."

Ibis began pedaling, our bodies wobbling back and forth as he tried to steady the bike.

"Wait! Wait! Wait!"

He stopped. "What now?"

"I'm scared. What if I fall and crack my head open?" The US belief that you must be encased in bubble-wrap before venturing out your front door was screaming that this was a stupid idea.

"Just stop wiggling. Why you jiggling?"

After a few blocks we settled into a rhythm and I was able to relax enough to watch the people on the sidewalk. They gave us strange looks - I supposed it's not every day they see a man dressed in a hotel uniform carting a gringa around town on a bicycle - but I was more concerned with staying onboard than what others might think.

He took a longer route home so we could ride down the middle of empty streets. I hadn't ridden a bike in over a year and the wind whipping through my hair brought back memories of Chicago. Well, maybe not whipped - I wouldn't let him go very fast so it was more of a tousle - but you get the idea. I hate not being in control so the terror of falling never fully went away but I tried to remind myself that my husband wouldn't intentionally hurt me.

Aside from a couple potholes and a nasty speedbump, we arrived home unscathed. I'd rather this doesn't become a regular thing for us - I don't think my butt can handle it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Am I Too Nice?

There's a thread on AW asking if you worry about hurting people's feelings with your book. It's posted in the Novels forum so most likely those writers are all writing fiction, but with memoir that's a common concern.

As I'm going through yet another round of edits there's only one passage that sticks out in my mind as being possibly offensive. Well, not offensive - the person it's about will most likely agree with what I've said - but I worry about hurting anyone's feelings. I don't paint people in rainbowey primary colors, but I try to be fair.

I do fear repercussions from one individual (some of you already know who) but that concern I'm tucking away until I'm sitting at a table with my publisher and their lawyer. As those are all imaginary for the time being, I haven't lost any sleep. I've been told by already published memoirists that the best plan of attack is just to write your story as you want to write it and worry about lawsuits later.

I know that the person I think I might offend would never sue me over one line in my book (well, one paragraph) but I don't want to hurt her feelings.

Ahh, the pain we suffer for our art.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh Thank Heavens

I know most of you will hate me for saying this, but I am so happy it's cloudy today. The sun has peeked out a couple times but for the most part it's been overcast since I woke up. We normally watch the sun rise over the mountains from bed, so I was confused this morning when I wasn't blinded. Nope, today the sky is full of clouds.

Since the rainy season ended in November I think we've had one other cloudy day, and that only lasted till mid-morning. Every day is sunny and beautiful, and most times there's a breeze rolling in from the ocean.

I know, I know... enough, right?

A few weeks back I ran into a fellow transplant while out for a walk. I didn't have anywhere in particular to go but as I told her, I felt guilty sitting inside all the time when it's so nice out. She said she has the same problem; you look out the window and say, "Oh, it's another perfect day in Zihua."

I really do try to appreciate it. I spend a lot of time on the balcony (even more when my hammock is hung up) and looking out the window, taking in the trees and mountains, the sun bouncing off the buildings, the black & yellow birds flying nearby. It's even gorgeous at night. The lack of clouds and neon lights allows the stars to shine as bright as they dare. We watched a meteor shower from our roof last month and counted over fifteen - try that in Chicago.

But if I spent all my time daydreaming I'd never get anything accomplished. Today I've done three loads of laundry and a couple hours worth of freelance work. Next I'll try to edit another chapter or two before picking up the book I'm reading. Having it be cloudy out makes me a lot more productive because I'm not thinking about what I could be doing outdoors (plus we played volleyball at the beach yesterday so it's out of my system for awhile).

I do feel bad for the cruise ship in the bay today. Those people are on vacation and paid for sunshine! Oh well, I'm sure tomorrow will be back to normal. The sun's even trying to come out as I post this.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dia de Descanso

Today is Ibis' day off so, in turn, it's my day off, too. I realize I really have every day off so it sounds a little strange to say that, but it's essentially my day away from the computer.

We've been busy doing things around the house and plan to go to the beach to play volleyball in a couple hours. Then we're planning carne asada for dinner, yum.

Have a great day, I'll be back tomorrow!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I'm Listening

Today is a sad anniversary. It was one year ago today that Ibis' mother passed away. While it's barely noon, all day I've felt like she's been trying to tell me something.

I'm not an overly superstitious person. I avoid walking under ladders and throw salt over my left shoulder if it spills. And knock on a lot of wood. But these are harmless superstitions, or so I tell myself anyway. I'm not a new-agey person and don't put much faith in alternate universes and all that.

However, I do listen when several things seem to point in one direction. My asthma has been acting up for the past month or so, and while it's been getting better, I occasionally have a hard time catching my breath while falling asleep.

Last night I was having a dream about my high school - a fairly common setting when I'm asleep and most likely prompted by the email earlier this week - when it transformed into Ibis smothering me. Not pillow-over-the-face smothering, just an arm accidentally draped across my throat with too much pressure.

In my dream I was gasping for air, trying to scream as I clawed at his arm. I awoke to much the same thing. His arm wasn't over me, but I was definitely struggling for air and making a lot of noise. Ibis rarely wakes up when I have a bad dream - unless I wake him up he'd never know - but this made him sit upright to see what was wrong.

That's when I looked at the clock. It was 5am, the exact same time, one year ago, that Ibis called to tell me his mother died. (He was in Mexico and I was in Chicago). Ultimately her lungs failed her, and without getting into too much detail, she couldn't breathe. Much like I was experiencing just then.

I commented "that's freaky" but refused to tell Ibis my revelation. He needed more sleep and I knew that would keep him awake, so I told him several hours later over coffee.

About an hour ago I was straightening up the living room and when I went to put away a DVD, a picture jumped from the shelf. I bumped it, but I've done that a hundred times without knocking anything over. This frame fell off the shelf, the glass shattering.

It was the one photo of his mother we have framed.

Like I said before, I don't buy into a lot of what my dad would call hocus-pocus stuff, but this was too weird to ignore. I'm not sure what she might be trying to tell me, but I'm listening.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I'm Getting There

Last night was fun. The club is on a roof deck so we spent the night dancing beneath the stars. Well, sort of. There is a roof, but it's all open-air so the breeze kept it cool. A new band plays every hour so we managed to see three acts before we left, including an incredible guitar player that made everyone want to cuddle with their sweetie.

My big adventure for today was going to the grocery store. Our car is still dead so we've been getting by on food from the market and the little store across the street. I've eaten more eggs, tostadas, and PBJ sandwiches in the past several weeks...

A couple weeks ago I walked to the Bodega (Walmart + groceries) - it's about 20 minutes away - then took the bus home. Unfortunately I didn't realize the bus driver would refuse to stop where I asked and instead keep driving all the way to the market, about six blocks out of my way. I was glad I didn't buy many heavy things, but my bags still nearly ripped my arms off by the time I trudged home.

Needless to say, I've been dreading a repeat and keep putting off another trip. That is, until this morning when my empty fridge echoed back my stomach's grumblings. I decided this was getting ridiculous and I ventured off the the store. (It was actually closer to noon; we did have a late night.)

When I finished shopping, I pushed my cart into the sun and instead of deflecting the hyper-active boys who always offer their help, I told them I needed a cab. They ran over to a man leaning on his car, then ran back and started grabbing my bags.

"Espera!" I told them to wait so I could first ask how much it would cost. I know they like to raise the prices when they see pale skin and blue eyes, so I tried my best to act like a local. The man told me the ride would cost 20 pesos, well within the amount Ibis had said was acceptable.

"Ok." I nodded at the boys.

As we rode the short distance home (it's much faster by car), the driver told me I speak Spanish very well. I had to explain where I live and apparently the lack of I live-o near the restaurant-o El Gabo impressed him. We chatted the whole way home and he even drove right into our parking lot.

I always wondered why so many people took cabs from the grocery store, since it seemed like an expensive way to get around, but 20 pesos is nothing. We paid more than that for one beer last night. And, he brought me right to my door. None of this I'm going to pretend I don't hear you and stop wherever I damn well please because you're saving 16 pesos attitude.

I'm beginning to wonder if we even need a car!

(I'm just kidding mom. Please still bring the alternator when you come to visit.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mmmmm... Salsa

We're going dancing tonight! For those who know us, we used to be salsa-addicts but have slowly stopped going over the years. We've danced a couple times since moving here, but never at a proper club. There's a restaurant in town that has a 3-piece band but there's not much in the way of a salsa crowd.

One couple we've gotten to know over the past couple months invited us to join them at a real salsa club - they have a live band and everything. People who know how to dance go there so I may even get to dance with another partner. Don't get me wrong, I think it's clear by now I love my husband but it's nice to dance with different people now and then. I'm sure he feels the same way.

The only drawback is no one goes to this club until midnight at the earliest. This would have been fine back in the day but I've become a bit of a homebody and that is LATE! They know us well enough to suggest Ibis takes a nap in the evening so he'll last a couple more than half an hour. I don't plan on staying till the end - they said it sometimes goes till 7am - but I want at least a couple hours of quality time.

Now I have to go see if any of my dresses still fit...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Full of Surprises

The past 24 hours have been full of surprises, most of them pleasant. My life is relatively boring so any small change perks me up for the day, so this has got me dancing in my chair. There's also fast-paced music playing outside, so that might have something to do with the boogie in my butt.

After the first camel sighting, we've spotted them on three more occasions. Always in a trailer, being carted through town like a show pony. We got right up next to one on Tuesday when it pulled over to the side of the road, but I resisted temptation and didn't stick my fingers in. King's Day has come and gone so I haven't been sure why they're here, but they are.

Yesterday I was walking to the market when I saw another trailered-truck coming down the street. Anxious for another camel sighting I waited for it to pass at the corner. This trailer advertised the Circus but did not have camels. Instead three leopards paced the confines of their cages and a female lion watched me as she relaxed against the bars. No word yet if there'll be elephants in the streets.

While in town I bought something I've wanted since we moved into a condo but I couldn't convince Ibis: a hammock! Our balcony is really small and with the stacked washer & dryer, gas tank and water heater, there's not a lot of extra room. I found one of those chair hammock thingies that hangs straight down from the ceiling. Not sure yet how comfortable this thing will be but I got a good deal ($30 USD) and I want it hung NOW.

There's usually music playing when I get home, not in our house but from one of the houses we overlook. Sometimes two play at once and 'battle' with each other, which is a lovely sound from thirty feet up. When I got home yesterday there was something different in the air. I could hear drums, but nothing more. Then it hit me: someone was practicing the drums. Right below our window. Fabulous.

A few hours later the music was still playing and I heard a familiar song, but something was off. The vocals sounded... strained. I went outside to hear better and I realized the neighbors now have a karaoke machine. Just like the one we used a month ago in Lazaro, but now right below my window. Fortunately the man only strangled one song and they went back to their regularly scheduled programming.

As I came in from the balcony I reached into the cupboard for a small bowl and discovered an ants' den. I had barely lifted it when I could see them swarming all over the stack, so I grabbed a paper towel and tossed all three bowls into a bucket. The bucket was already filled with water from when Ibis was cleaning earlier in the day but I topped it off to make sure they fully drowned. They were the really small brown ants - so tiny I couldn't count them - but I'd guess there were at least 200 in the bucket. We bombed the house for other bugs two days ago so I think, for now, the place is critter-free.

Once the bowls were fully doused I got back online and stopped by AW, my regular playground. There I received a private note from someone I sometimes chat with but still only know by his username. Well, he outed himself - I know his real name!

This morning I checked my email as I always do and there in my inbox was a genuine treat: an email from a former teacher! Many of you may inwardly groan at the thought of a high school teacher tracking you down, but I went to a tiny boarding school where the teachers were more like surrogate parents than dictators. And I'm not just saying that because I gave her my blog address... I never had this particular teacher as a teacher, per se, only as a field hockey coach, dorm parent, and friend. She married another former teacher and told me they visit Zihua twice a year - I might get to see her in March. Very cool. :)

Last but not least, while I was waiting at the doctor's office this morning another gringa came in to make an appointment (the phone has been out so you have to go there to make an appt for another day, ahh Mexico) and she was having trouble with her Spanish. I said hello in case she wanted help and she told me she loves this doctor and she's been coming to her for three years. I thought she was a tourist based on her looks - awful, I know, since I complain about that myself - but after three years I'd think she could speak better than she was. I've been in Mexico ten months and I can have whole conversations!

There'll be more excitement tomorrow - we were invited to go salsa dancing at an actual club that has a live band! The music doesn't start till midnight so we've been warned to nap beforehand (we're so old) but I can't wait!

ETA: I almost forgot - I came up with some concrete ideas for my book's conclusion while sitting in the doctor's office. It's scribbled on the back of an old prescription, ready to hop into the computer.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Freedom, Beauty, Truth and Love

I've been puzzling over the best way to describe the theme of my book. Two people are reading my draft and one said it would be helpful if while reading, she knew what it is I'm trying to say. To know what bigger picture I'm trying to portray. Initially I said it was a fish-out-of-water tale with an illegal immigration twist but, as I hear happens quite often, the story has taken on a life of its own. I'm discovering that it's really about Ibis and me, and the journeys we take together.

Without being too melodramatic, it's about love. Not romance-novel love, with erotica on every other page (goodness, no) but about two people who find each other and the extremes they go to for their relationship. Which brings me to the title of this post. It's the theme of one of my favorite movies, Moulin Rouge, and without realizing it I've incorporated those ideas into my story.

Early in the movie Christian's friends ask him to write the play that becomes the basis for the movie, and they want to make sure he's the right man for the job.

"Do you believe in love?" they ask.

"Love? Above all things I believe in love. Love is like oxygen. Love is a many splendid thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love."

I know it's cheesy but there's some Truth in that - hence the fourth word in the title.

Recently my motives for moving to Mexico, and Ibis' intentions for being with me, were called into question. I was told I'd be better off looking at this as my first marriage and returning to the States to pick up my old life. I was told my husband will never change and does not value me.

It's clear to me this person does not know me, or Ibis, very well. To presume that an anonymous email would persuade me to give up on our life together, to abandon my husband, is ridiculous. I'm sure many people look at my situation and wouldn't trade places with me if their lives depended on it. That's okay, because I know plenty of people with whom I wouldn't trade lives either. I chose Ibis and whatever comes along with him.

Honesty has always been very important to me. That's not to say I don't tell the occasional white lie, but on issues that matter I try to speak the truth. My relationship with Ibis is based on that. Writing this book has made that clearer to me - as I've reflected on our years together and tried to explain it in writing, truth and love are high on the list of why we're together. (There's also salsa dancing and a love of red wine, but it can't be all fluffy bunnies.)

For someone to not know that about me, to think that I've never stopped to evaluate my relationship and the choices I've made, places their opinion very low in my eyes. I'm angry that someone would choose this route to tell me something supposedly for my own good, I'm angry they said these things about us without knowing who we really are as people, and I'm angry that this email made me suspicious of my friends. I have faith that those close to me would have the courage to say something to me directly, so all I can determine is that this person has an ulterior motive.

In terms of my book, this email helped me solidify my theme. Truth and Love are the reasons I'm here. If I didn't love my husband and the possibilities for our future together, I never would have gotten married or packed up our apartment and driven to Mexico.

Freedom as a theme is so obvious I almost don't feel I need to explain it. The movie meant it in terms of the Children of the Revolution in 1899 Paris, but for us, it's about the freedom to go where we want without fear of our lives being ripped apart. If that means spending a few years in Mexico, so be it.

As for Beauty, I think my husband is beautiful, so there you go.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mexico Exercise Plan

Several people have commented about the fact that I lost those last five pounds since moving here. I should clarify that by letting you know I gained ten pounds before I realized that eating 18 tortillas a day will do something to your figure. And by something, I don't mean anything good. Once I started the tortilla ration my body went back to normal, but I still had those persistent five pounds.

If you really want to shed those extra pounds, follow my step-by-step plan and watch the inches melt away!

Condo on the fourth floor
Sunglasses & sunscreen

Walk to market (roughly 1/4 mile away); be sure to side-step all the tourists and random children for extra work on your hips

BONUS - Go at noon when the sun is at its highest and there's no chance of walking in the shade. You burn extra calories with the extra sweat.

As you peruse the produce, don't set anything down. By holding everything you work out your arms, wrists & fingers. This gets tricky when you're trying to pay, but no one said losing weight was easy.

While walking between various vendors, hold your increasingly heavy bags at waist height. This helps build both your biceps and triceps, staving off the arm waggle for another couple years. It also keeps you from decapitating small children.

NOTE - If you hesitate at all, people will cut you off. Look forward like you know where you're going, even if you can't tell a poblano from a jalapeño.

If this is too easy, torch extra calories by heading to the meat vendors. By mid-morning the floor is slick with water, blood, and other various liquids, and you'll really work your leg muscles as you try to stay vertical. This will also work your abs since you should still be holding your bags at waist level; all that twisting does wonders!

You'll most likely remember one last thing when you're heading towards the exit, but don't despair - it's already worked into the exercise plan. Circle the vendors one last time with a smile for all the workers.

Final Push
I hope you ate your Wheaties because the hardest part is next. Your arms may feel a little shaky and the sweat is starting to run down your back, but you still have to get home. By now the sun has shifted enough that one side of the street is shady; walk on that side. No need to be a hero.

Technique & form should be thrown out the window by this point. JUST GET HOME. If you brought water, drink some. Ignore the strange looks from the locals - you know what you're doing. Remember to watch for traffic as you cross the street (damn traffic circles) and if they don't stop for you, droop your arms closer to the ground and try to look really pitiful. Nod your head at the kind soul who lets you pass and keep walking - you're almost there!

Now for the butt muscles - you thought we forgot about those, didn't you? The last block is uphill and the shade that protected you in town has mysteriously vanished. The bigger the stride the more you tone the lower half - stretch those legs!

Take a deep breath when you round the corner, it's time for the final push. The stairs.

There's no turning back now. Keep breathing as you force your quivering legs to move forward. Ignore the pain from the plastic bags cutting into your fingers, only two flights left!

Three, two, one... you did it! Drop the bags and unlock the front door. Arms won't work? Don't worry, just shake them a little and the blood will start flowing in a moment. Once the door is open, resist the urge to kick the bags. Pick them up and carry them to the kitchen - the floor is fine, besides your arms won't be able to lift them to the counter anyway.

Cool down
If there's anything dairy, put it in the fridge and stick your head in with it. Drink water straight from the pitcher until your heart rate returns to normal, then collapse on the closest cushy surface.

You're done when you've stopped sweating.

Congratulations! Repeat this at least three times per week, and combined with running several mornings per week and taking countless trips up and down the stairs, you'll have a slimmer, more toned body in just one month!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hard Work Does Pay Off

Every day Ibis comes home full of stories about all the people who spend their day at his pool. Since most everyone is there for at least a week, he's gotten to know some of the families as he keeps them watered, fed, and cervesa'ed. Yesterday one of those families decided to take us out to dinner as a thank you for all his hard work - said for him to pick the restaurant, make reservations and they'd see us there.

We spent a wonderful night at Il Mare, an Italian restaurant overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay, and even though we got there after the sun had set, the lights of the city make a beautiful backdrop. The family - a mother, her grown daughters & their boyfriends, and her mother - are from Minnesota and last night was their last here. I couldn't believe they wanted to spend that time with us, but people are silly sometimes. ;)

A funny side note - in the cab on the way there we passed another camel in a trailer being pulled through the streets by a pick-up truck. Today is Kings' Day so we think maybe these camels have something to do with the celebration. You know, the kings rode camels to see Baby Jesus, or something like that. I'm curious to see what's planned in the plaza tonight.

Tomorrow things go back to normal here in town. Schools have been out for a couple weeks and the workers in our building were given extra time off for the holiday, but I imagine the banging and drilling will be back by 8am. At least it's cooled off...

Friday, January 4, 2008

I Knew it Was Hot, But...

This is ridiculous!

Camels in Zihua2

Sorry for the delay in updating, but I knew something bizarre would happen if I just gave it a day or so. I've been a little under the weather lately (I finally caught Ibis' cold) and haven't had much energy this week. But this, this makes up for everything!

Yes, those are camels. Four of them.

Camels in Zihua3

The circus has been here for a couple weeks, so my first guess was this truck got turned around on his way out of town. Our neighborhood doesn't exactly go anywhere but up the mountain so I'm thinking there was a wrong turn involved. I had gone out to the balcony for some fresh air when I saw the truck driving up the road. The driver was nice enough to stop long enough for me to get the camera and the batteries had just enough juice for a few pictures.

The first picture was taken off the balcony and the second from the other end of the condo once he turned the corner.

I'll be checking for lions and elephants throughout the day.

ETA: I forgot to mention - you can sort of see the first camel trying to eat a tree. There was a lady standing on the other side of the trailer who was NOT happy about that!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Very original topic, no? Along with the rest of the world, resolutions have been on my mind the past few weeks. I usually go with the standard "try to be a better person" and leave it at that, but this past year has been rather unique. The more I've thought about it, the fewer ideas I've had.

That's not to say I'm perfect and there's no room for improvement. I'm sure if I asked Ibis to make a few suggestions this post would be a mile long – stop nagging, iron my shirts, learn to carry a 10-gallon water galphone – so we'll leave him out of this. I was chatting with a friend yesterday and said I've done so much this past year I think I'm set till 2009, maybe 2010 if I push it.

Here's a run-down of 2007, both good & bad:

- Eliminated my debt (but closed my 401k to do it)
- Successfully sued UPS
- Quit my job I'd been at for 7 years
- Took a 4-day road trip
- Moved to another country
- Met my mother-in-law, but buried her 2 weeks later
- Gained 14 nieces & nephews (this actually happened in '06, but I didn't meet them until moving here)
- Bought my first home
- Lost those last 5 pounds
- Had a teeny, tiny cancer scare
- Discovered the world of blogging & started my own
- Wrote a book

After reading over this list I feel like I should include "Became an Adult", but I still don't feel like a grown-up.

It's been a busy year and I've accomplished a lot of things, many of which were past resolutions that never seemed to happen (debt & the weight). I don't regret the changes in my life, but I do long for the day when we can go back to our old lives, whatever that means. I don't think we'd be able to pick up exactly where we left off; we've changed too much and learned a lot about ourselves. This year has taught me that I don't want to work in an office, we were WAY too materialistic, and I really miss my friends and family.

The thing I want for this coming year is out of my control, and therefore cannot be used as a resolution: getting Ibis' papers and approval to return to the US. And all the fun that goes along with that. If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to let me know.

And, I did consult Ibis and he said my resolution should be to learn Spanish. So there you go.