Thursday, April 30, 2009


As with any major news event, it's easy to get burned out by the constant coverage, analysis, and "breaking news." We're only a few days into Swine Flu '09 and I'm already avoiding stories about it. I did check this morning to see the latest numbers, but until they have a more definitive answer as to what's going on, I don't need to spend all day scouring the internet. I did that Monday.

There are a couple conversations going on about it over at Absolute Write, and the majority of the attitudes seem to be hesitant caution, if that makes sense. No one seems to be panicking, but they are being smart. There are a few people who laugh at everyone for freaking out, joking that we're all going to die, etc., and then there are those who insist on tying this flu outbreak to illegal immigration.

Excuse me?

The comment that made my insides cringe was in response to someone announcing the first US death yesterday. He asked if the kid was there illegally, then nonchalantly said "Or are we still not allowed to care about our borders?"

I've also heard speculation that this is a plot against the US. People, not everything is about you! (General you, not you there on your sofa.) I found an article on the Chicago Tribune yesterday that mirrors my thoughts. Teresa Puente, who teaches journalism at Columbia College Chicago and is the editor and publisher of Latina Voices, says this:

But we have to debunk the hate. First of all, there’s no evidence illegal immigrants are bringing the swine flu into the United States and other countries. It appears it may be carried by American and European tourists who have visited Mexico.

But the hysteria over the swine flu has to stop. Let’s just put it in perspective with some simple facts.

There have been 159 deaths in Mexico. Only seven have been confirmed as swine flu and the rest are suspected, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. But the population in Mexico is over 100 million.

I don’t think that’s cause enough for us to close the borders or boycott Mexico.

If it makes you feel better, go ahead and wash your hands more often and use hand sanitizer. But I don’t think we all need to start wearing masks or pulling the kids out of school.

Let’s not bash Mexico or view Mexicans or brown people in the United States with suspicion.

The article is really worth reading, in my opinion. I just can't believe that it's come to this. [insert disgusted look on my face behind the mask]

Do you have any cases near you? Have you taken any precautions? And to the anonymous poster from a couple days ago, I don't believe this counts as hysteria, I'm just reporting what's going on. If you care to leave your name next time we can have a conversation -- I don't reply to anonymous commenters.

PS -- On a lighter note, happy anniversary to my parents!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Trip to the Circus

Friday Ibis and I took our four-year old nephew to the circus. I haven't had a particularly strong desire to be in an enclosed area with jungle creatures, especially in a country where rules and regulations are more like suggested guidelines, but there's only so much to do with a boy who doesn't love the beach as much as Ibis.

My last trip to the circus was when I was four -- thirty years ago!! -- and I have zero recollection of the actual event. I vaguely remember entering the big top, and I do remember going back to my gramma's afterwards, but the time in between is a blank. My memory is like that of, well, an elephant, so this surprises me. All I can come up with is that something traumatized me and I've blocked it out. That or I had so much cotton candy that the sugar zapped the synapses that formed those memories. Either way, I was a little nervous Friday night.

We headed over twenty minutes before the show started, bought our tickets, and grabbed seats on the side of the ring. Bleachers lined the tent but we paid an extra ten pesos each (30 total) for folding chairs in front of the bleachers. There were "box seats" -- more folding chairs but blocked into four-chair sections -- for forty pesos each, but very few people bought those so we still had front row seats.

Vendors came around with popcorn, cotton candy, and some kind of french fry/sliced hot dog dish, and two clowns kept the kids entertained before the first act -- a rope-climbing guy -- came out. There were humans acts -- balancing pointy objects, juggling fire with feet, twirling on a long cloth, handstand/climbing things -- but the best were the animals.

First were five dogs (3 sheepdogs & 2 collies) that jumped through hoops, played leapfrog, and danced around the ring. As they left, one pretended not to want to leave and just sat with a mopey look on his face until the audience gave him more applause... it was really very cute.

During the intermission they brought out a pony that the kids could take for a spin for only ten pesos. Ibis waited in line with our nephew and he was very good -- even if he was so excited he forgot to wave at us. The man walking with them deserves a medal because there were several kids that were so terrified they screamed the entire time. He just held their arm with one hand and lead the pony with the other, a bemused expression on his face.

There were also horses! Now, if you've read Water for Elephants the act was very similar to how I pictured it in the book, except there were only five horses, one of which seemed to be in training. They did intricate routines, running around and around, making sharp turns and weaving around each other. For the finale they all stood on their hind legs and danced around -- what a sight!

For the final act, the crew carried out huge metal bars that slid together to form a black cage. As we leaned forward to see what animals were in the approaching cages, one of the clowns came out with a two-year old dressed in a tiger costume. He clung to the bars and roared at everyone, then the clown made him leap from pedestal to pedestal. The kids ate it up, but I had barely taken my eyes off the real tigers.

I watched them put the cage together, and I knew they'd done it a thousand times (I hoped), but I still made sure to check for the fastest way out of there in case something went wrong (through the gap in the bleachers and under the tent flap -- I figured it'd be too much work for a tiger and there were bound to be people running all over the place). Ibis commented that they looked pretty well fed, but that's not enough for me.

The trainer came out as the tigers took their places, walking around with nothing but a switch to control them. I tried not to notice how they cowered away (much the same way a couple of the dogs did) but he was clearly in control. They jumped through a flaming hoop, did various tricks in the center of the cage, and a couple even "swatted" at him. I felt pretty jaded after reading the book, and while I know not all animals are abused, the tiger closest to us was clearly sick, either with mange or some other feline disease. And they kept, uh, "spraying" towards the crowd.

At the very end, once the tigers were back in their cages, the trainer brought out a four-month old tiger cub. Man, was he cute! You could take a picture with him for fifty pesos but since we forgot the camera (I know...) we decided to skip it. He just lolled about while people fondled him -- I hope he enjoys the easy life while it lasts.

All in all, we were much more impressed than we anticipated. The acts were well done and the performers clearly had talent. Ibis wondered why they would be with such a small circus since it's doubtful they make very much money, but they've got to start somewhere, right?

Now, we were there on Friday and on Sunday afternoon authorities shut down the circus -- in the middle of the show -- because of the threat of the swine flu. It was only a precaution, but of course I've replayed all the times our nephew stuck something in his mouth, the people we shook hands with, the PONY he was on... I know it'll be fine, but it sure puts a different perspective on our night of family fun!

When was the last time you went to the circus?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Latest

I'm a little worn out. You can only refresh the CNN, BBC, and other news websites so many times before your nerves are shot and every little twinge in your body becomes the swine flu.

As of this morning, there are 152 deaths in Mexico and 90 cases confirmed around the world. I don't want to rehash the facts -- I'm sure you're all checking yourselves -- but that's pretty much all I'm thinking about right now.

They closed the local schools for the next two weeks, and Ibis said that the pharmacies were running out of masks last night. He had to drive to several places and finally found a veterinarian who was selling them. He said the line for masks resembled the line for tortillas, which if you've ever been to Mexico, you know it can get quite long.

I haven't left the house since yesterday morning so I can't report more than that, but I'll need to go to the store in another couple days so I can tell you more then.

I also want to address something I said in my initial post yesterday. I commented about the cases of diarrhea here in Zihuatanejo and speculated that those could be the swine flu. Someone sent me a note that gastrointestinal diseases and viruses like the flu are not related. I wasn't trying to say that they are -- I was merely wondering if the diagnosis was wrong and that those people actually had the flu.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Update 2

This has nothing to do with the swine flu but I thought, hey, if we're having a breaking news kinda day, why not share?

We just had an earthquake!

"A strong quake measuring 6.0 in magnitude struck southwestern Mexico near the resort city of Acapulco on Monday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS measured the quake's epicenter in the state of Guerrero about 43 miles northeast of Acapulco. The preliminary magnitude is 6.0, but that could change.

Authorities in Acapulco evacuated hotels there, although there were no reports of damage, according to CNN affiliate TV Azteca.

The temblor was felt about 145 miles (230 km) to the north in Mexico City."

We're about 240 kilometers northwest of Acapulco and I felt the tremor for a full minute. It wasn't very bad but my desk did shake the whole time (I was typing).

Can someone please mail me some Xanax?

And if you're just joining me, this is the third post today, so please scroll down for the original post.


This is an update to today's earlier post. Please read that for the full story.

*takes sip of large orange juice*

I just got back from the market, and while I was nervous heading there, I feel a little more reassured now. I saw a few people with face masks and the vendors I regularly talk with all knew about the flu.

This morning's paper says that several nightclubs and restaurants have closed, as well as the circus. (Yes, that freaked me out a little. We've already told our nephew's mom to keep an eye on him.) Apparently they shut down the circus in the middle of the act.

So, I'm relieved that people here are aware and the media isn't ignoring it.

I'll keep you posted if anything else develops.

Just When I Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water...

I'm assuming that by now most of you have heard about the swine flu that has struck Mexico and is quickly spreading throughout the world. The Health and Human Services Secretary has declared a public health emergency in the US, Latin American and Asian countries are screening passengers as they arrive at the airports, and Mexico City is in complete lockdown.

Cases have been reported in the US, Canada, and New Zealand, and possible cases are suspected in France, Brazil, Australia, and several other countries. Meanwhile, nothing has been said about it in Zihua.

This article from the BBC seems to give the best breakdown of what's going on.

This one is a little scarier.

This has comments from people in Mexico City, including many doctors. It really gives a perspective that you don't see on CNN.

I'm having a hard time getting any local information, but there was something in the paper over the weekend about an increase in cases of diarrhea (30 reported on Saturday). Health officials think the situation here is from people eating from street vendors. During the dry season (which we're at the end of) there is a lot of dust, excrement mixes with the dirt, then goes airborne. (Yes, it's disgusting to even think about.) They're saying the illnesses are related to the dust, but diarrhea is a symptom of the flu, so I don't know if I believe them.

Needless to say we won't be traveling to Mexico City (DF) anytime soon. We were already planning to wait until the second half of May, and now we'll wait and see what develops. We have family there but they said they're doing fine. In fact, since Ibis' aunt is a teacher and they've closed all the school until May 6th, they might come here to visit instead.

[Update: late last night they called and said it's probably best if neither of us traveled to or from DF. So the visit's off for now.]

I am freaked out about Ibis since he works in a hotel and a lot of people from DF vacation here. I imagine a lot of people who live there might try to leave until things calm down, and may unknowingly bring the virus to other locations. Ibis has strict instructions (from me) to wash his hands a lot and to try not to touch anything, but there's only so much you can do when you work in the service industry.

I've bleached the house and we're thinking about getting an anti-viral to help prevent getting infected. I'm keeping a close eye on this and will let you know if it comes to Zihua.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


After a week of staying inside, I certainly crammed a lot into yesterday. We went to the beach, then to the circus, and I am wiped out. I'll do a post Monday or Tuesday about the circus -- it was somewhat surreal after having just read Water for Elephants -- but for now I'm going to rest.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Lockdown '09: FREEDOM!

You know, if I'd really thought this through, I know how I could have arranged for the immigration man to arrive sooner than Thursday at 2pm. I was working on my synopsis when the dryer buzzed, so I ran to the patio to bring the freshly laundered sheets inside. I hate wrinkled sheets -- but I also refuse to iron them -- so I try to put them on the bed as soon as they come out of the dryer. (Or I fold them, which I also hate.)

I was just sorting the pillowcases from the tangle of sheets when the doorbell rang, so I dumped the purple tumbleweed-shaped mess onto the mattress and ran to my salvation. The immigration man sat with me for about fifteen minutes, chatting while he filled out several documents.

At one point it occurred to me that it'd be fun to post a picture of him sitting in my living room, but Ibis had taken the camera with him to Lazaro. That's right -- he went to visit our family (and also renew our license plates) because he has a couple days off. When the man asked if my husband was at work, I told him where he was and he asked why I didn't go. I smiled at him and said (in Spanish) "because I had to wait for you."

He felt really bad, and I felt slightly better about all this.

I'm supposed to call on Tuesday to find out when I get my FM3 visa, but in the meantime I'm free to travel throughout the country.

Ibis came home a couple hours later with a surprise: our four-year old nephew! He's going to spend a couple nights with us and they've already spent one afternoon at the municipal pool. Today we'll go to the beach, and I'm thinking the circus tonight. Big Time Fun!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Lockdown '09: Day Four

Before I start whining -- seriously? FOUR days? -- Holly at Nothing But Bonfires (awesome blog, by the way) is giving away a wireless printer! How cool is that? She test drove it in her San Francisco apartment and now I want one. Check it out and enter to win!

In other news, today our 5-year dating anniversary. Seeing how I CAN'T LEAVE THE HOUSE, we will be celebrating in our boiling apartment on the leather sofa, probably with leftovers. At least we have wine! (Thanks Kay & Family!)

My synopsis is coming along nicely. I've reached the conclusion and hopefully have the participants on the edge of their seats. Ha. There are a only handful of us working on our synopses and it's been a lot of fun seeing how everyone has progressed. Erica is a genius!

Okay, I seem to be more upbeat than I thought. Cabin fever, anyone? Wait, but that makes you delirious. *checks pupils.* Yeah, that seems about right.

Finally, haiku:

Walls close in, too much
to do. Nothing but time, yet
the days waste away.


Bouncing, spinning, if
they don't come soon, you'll need to
peel me off the walls.

This is fun!

My eyes are googly,
I think my wrist might fall off.
Too much internet.

Care to play?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lockdown '09: Day Three

Happy Earth Day! My friend Sara is celebrating at her blog The Hero Complex. If you have kids, she's doing a giveaway that looks pretty cool. Heck, check it out even if you don't have kids.

I feel a little guilty. I've made a lot of you feel bad for me that I'm stuck in the house with nothing to do, or that I'm unable to do things that I want to, when really, I'm usually home during the day. I tend to run errands between 8am and 10am -- before Ibis goes to work -- then I park in front of the computer until he gets home. So really, this isn't much of a stretch for me.

The biggest change is that Ibis has three days off this week and we'd normally go to the beach at least one of those days. But other than that, I've been really busy with web work and wouldn't have been able to leave even if I'd been allowed. Yesterday I even pushed some of my chores onto him since he was just lounging most of the day. ;)

I don't have much else to report. I worked on the next three paragraphs of my synopsis yesterday and I'm while a little worried to see what she has in store for us today, I'm excited to keep fleshing it out.

Anything new you want to share?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lockdown '09: Day Two

I had really good intentions yesterday.

I started counting the cracks in the walls, got to four, then remembered I still needed to iron Ibis' work shirt. On my way out of the bedroom I glanced at the window with gecko poop but decided that, you know, it's been there for a long time, another day won't kill anyone. I did manage to edit two pages of my wip -- even added 100 words -- but I since I didn't get to it until the end of the day my brain wasn't functioning very well and I stopped. (Update: I've edited twelve pages this morning.)

I didn't visit more gossip sites than normal, but I did stray to YouTube to hear the latest Britain's Got Talent star. I took care of a few details with my web projects, taught my dad the difference between a web page and web tab (don't ask, I'm not sure what that is), and chatted with several friends (thanks everyone who checked in on me!).

I did work on my synopsis for a little while and now have a tighter hook than before. I realize that wasn't on my to-do list, but what are you gonna do? Do you want to hear it? I'm still working on it, but here's a draft:

Nineteen-year-old Mateo has never traveled beyond his southern Mexican town, but he's always believed that there's more to life than getting drunk and making babies. He leaves home with a kiss from his mother and his life savings in his pocket, determined not to trust anyone, but after his first attempt at crossing the US border lands him in a holding cell, he's forced to turn a coyote – a man who sneaks people past the patrols for a price. As Mateo treks through the fringes of the Sonoran desert, he must trust another migrant, and risk the future he's always dreamed of, if he wants to get to the other side alive.

All my web projects need attention today so I'll have to save my blog reading for the afternoon. Here in Zihua we're betting that the immigration person will show up sometime this afternoon, so I'll keep you posted!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Top Ten Benefits to Not Being Allowed to Leave the House

I'm trying to look at the bright side of this.

1 - I can't catch a cold. Germs are communicable. No communicating, no germs!

2 - I won't get a sunburn. I don't follow her blog -- it was linked through a site I do read. But funny she was in Mexico. (Although I did get a bit of a sunburn yesterday.)

3 - I can watch all the movies and read all the books I want. Yes, I do that anyway, but we're looking at the bright side, remember?

4 - I won't miss an update on my latest obsession. Don't ask, it's better if you don't.

5 - I'll be here in case anyone wants to chat via Messenger, Facebook, Skype, Yahoo, Google... (okay, but only those people who already have my information. I do have some boundaries...)

6 - I can finally count the number of cracks in the walls caused by the numerous mini-earthquakes we've had.

7 - Umm, what else... I won't miss any late-breaking news from the megaphoned-cars that drive around whenever there's late-breaking news.

8 - Still not to ten? Let's see... I can scrub the gecko poop out of the window sill. Hmm... this isn't really what I had in mind when I started this.

9 - Wow, this is harder than I imagined... ooh, I know. I can thank my parents for providing me with an education so that the life I'm living is by choice, not because I have no other options.

10 - Oh! I thought of a good one -- I can finally start my edits! That's write -- er, right -- the new writes are done! Current word count: 80,058. Now back to the beginning.

Care to add to my list?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fruit, Photos, and Facebook

I don't know why I keep taking photos of what I'm doing in the kitchen. Maybe it's because lately I've spent so much time on the computer that my only "breaks" take place five feet away, around the corner.

Among my morning tasks (washing Ibis' work shirt, squeezing OJ, sweeping) is making a shake for Ibis. Now, this isn't a shake by the standard definition. There is no dairy, and there are vegetables.

I've tried this a couple times, and yes, it's nasty. But Ibis loves it. I get everything prepared and let him blend it when it's ready so it doesn't settle. *vomits a little in mouth*

A funny side effect to making this every morning is my mind think I'm eating a lot of vegetables when, in fact, I'm not. I keep trying to remember to nibble on these while I'm preparing them, but I seem to only eat the fruit. I really need to get better about that.

Now, about Facebook. If you aren't on there, why not? What's stopping you? Because really, I'm on there pretty much all day and I miss those of you who don't have an account. It's like a constant party that one or two friends refuse to attend.

But be warned, it's very addictive (as you've probably heard.) My friend John pointed me to an op-ed article in the Washington Post by Kristen Hansen Brakeman that sums up the addiction nicely:

I started to check my friends' status updates a few times a day. Then a few more times. Soon, I was keenly interested in the hourly updates of their infinitely more fascinating lives. Wow, Leslie and Michele worked on the inauguration. Eric took his family to Disneyland. Jeremy had a great time at the Super Bowl. Braggarts.

Then she tried to get her husband to join:

"Come on honey, you should just join. There's no harm in it. And if you don't like it you can always quit. All the kids are doing it."

Then it got ugly:

I began to neglect my duties at the office, so busy was I uploading photos and posting links to hilarious videos. I learned to hide my omnipresent Facebook page by keeping a work-related document open on my desktop, which I would click on whenever my boss happened by.

Finally, she quit cold-turkey:

It hasn't been easy. During the first 48 hours, I lay awake wondering what I was missing: what trips my friends had taken, what jobs they were working on, what "cause" they were now "fans" of. As time has passed, the edge has softened, though my curiosity is still omnipresent.

So, what are you waiting for? :D

eta: Finished product. Barf.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Behind Door Number 2, We Have...

I go to the grocery store, on average, once a week, and most of those times I buy sliced ham from the deli counter. It works exactly the same as in the US except that they pretty much only have ham. I recently discovered turkey, but it's not always in stock.

This means that in the two years we've been living here, I've probably bought ham at least 50 times, and I've yet to get the same thing two times in a row. I always say the same thing:

"Quisiera un quarto de jamon de pavo."

I'd like a quarter (of a kilo) of turkey ham.

Sometimes I ask for "jamon de pierna", which is leg of ham, and sometimes I go crazy and request "jamon de pavo de pierna", but even with those variations, I've had way more than three different things end up in my cart.

A couple months ago the woman asked me if I wanted "pierna" (leg) or "pechuga" (breast), which really confused me because I'd never considered pork having breast meat. I think I told her pierna. The following week I repeated exactly what she'd said to me and I was given a completely different looking ham.

I usually assume they give me whatever is NOT on sale, but I'm sure they recognize me by now, so I'm not sure that's what's going on. Some days they slice from a really large, ovalish hunk of meat, other times the pieces are small and square -- about the size of a slice of bread. The turkey ham is lighter in color, but only when I buy it. The few times I've dragged Ibis along I make him get it so we'll actually get what he wants, but I can't seem to replicate the results.

I've just accepted that I'm going to get something every time, and I've turned it into a whacked-out game: What Kind of Ham Will We Get This Week?

I want to ask if you have similar experiences, but I'm doubting that's possible. Feel free to share any bizarre things that DO happen to you on a regular basis.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Sometime Next Week"

Are you ready for this? Yesterday we finally picked up our officially registered marriage certificate from the local government building, then I promptly brought it -- and twenty copies of everything -- to the Immigration office.

In my folder were the following:
- marriage certificate
- apostille of marriage certificate
- translation of apostille of marriage certificate
(this is starting to sound like the story about the woman who swallowed a fly)
- some sort of receipt from Mexican gov't office
- new Mexican version of marriage certificate
- 3 copies of all of the above

What she kept:
- one copy of each of the above

When I handed everything over she consulted her calendar to count how many days had passed since we were granted twenty days to get things apostilled (yes, I realize that's not actually a word -- thanks Blogger spellcheck. Oh wait, spellcheck isn't a word either). When she reached April 15th, she tsked me. Me!

"Melanie, esta veintidos dias."

"Sí?" I asked in disbelief, knowing full well we'd gone over the 20-day limit by a couple days.

She looked at me, brows furrowed, I supposed in an attempt to scold me. Nice try. I've picked up a few things since living here.

I said, in Spanish, "We brought the documents to the government building on Thursday and they weren't ready until today. With Holy Week they needed more time."

She smiled, amused at my attempt, and replied that they were open all last week (she really is very nice, I hope that's coming across here) so I repeated that we didn't get the documents until that morning. Which is true. Since she knows how things work here -- she is a Mexican government official, after all -- she took everything from me and said the application was in order.

Then, THEN, -- oh, you'll love this -- she told me that someone will come to my house "sometime next week", I assume to verify that I live where I say I do. I asked her if she could tell me when, but of course the purpose is to surprise me. I pointed out that I often run errands in the morning so if she could give me a little idea that would be helpful, and she said they'd most likely come between 11am and 5pm.

Now, I'm home most of the time anyway so it's really not a huge deal, but she also mentioned that if I'm not home when they come the application for my FM3 visa will no longer be valid. As in, all this time and money would have been wasted.

If you need me next week, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Like a Piña Colada, But Not

One thing that surprised me when I moved to Mexico is the popularity of drinkable yogurt. Sure, I'd had a couple over the years but they didn't really do it for me. Why not just drink milk, or eat yogurt?

I'm amazed at the grocery stores here -- nearly half the refrigerated section is devoted to these yogurt drinks, all different flavors and brands. Some have granola blended it, some are soy, but unfortunately, none seem to be low-fat.

I stuck with a berry-blend flavor for a long time, but often bought a variety for Ibis. When I stumbled upon the coconut-pineapple one in the picture, he raved and told me to get more. Easy enough, except that seemed to be the first one to sell out. Hmm... maybe I should give it a chance.

Sweet mother of all that is delicious and packaged in a plastic bottle! It's like a piña colada, except thicker and without the alcohol. It's so delicious, you can pretend you're in Mexico just steps from the beach... oh wait.

But really!

Do they have this flavor back home? If they do, you should really try it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Stuff and Things

Sorry Janna, I had to steal it again. :)

Our friend Andy left yesterday, the Nationals have returned home after a week camping on the beach for Holy Week, and life is slowly returning to normal. Problem with that is I run out of things to say. So, a quick update on what's going on.


Ibis is heading back to the municipal building today to pick up our registered marriage certificate -- we're officially married in the eyes of Mexico! -- and then I'll go to Immigration to drop it off. I'm guessing we'll have my FM3 in another couple weeks. The irony here is we're technically supposed to hear "any day now" about Ibis' immigration status and I just know that they way my luck goes, we'll get both on the same day.


My wip is at 77,650 words. I have one more chapter to write and while I don't know if that alone will get me to my goal of 80,000, I'm much closer than I expected to be. There are already parts I know I'll need to expand in the earlier chapters, so I'm very relieved to be at this point. Then on to the edits, which I'm finally exited to work on!


Ibis has today off, which means I will be watching futbol (soccer) all day. We're in the middle of the Champions League so at least all the games are really good. I enjoy soccer, but I swear we've been watching it pretty much every day for the past couple months and it all starts to look the same after awhile. I amuse myself by repeating the players' names while the announcers talk. My favorite: Kaka (stress on the second syllable). If you do it right it sounds like a bird call. Good times.


Ibis told me this morning that his boss wants him to take vacation in the next week or so (they do that here) so we might be going to Mexico City. I was disappointed when our trip was canceled over New Years, and now that it's warmer there it will be even better. The only problem would be with the freelance work I have going on, but I should be able to finish it ahead of schedule. I'll keep you posted.


It's was really quiet in blogland last week and I'm hoping all my friends enjoyed their vacations and are ready to get back to playing, I mean working. Welcome back everyone!

What's new with you?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reading Like a Writer

Yesterday I started reading Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. I'm just about to start the third chapter and so far I like it. She advocates "close reading," or reading in a way where you absorb every word, every pause, every punctuation mark. She believe that by analyzing the words an author both chose to use AND chose to leave out, we can gain a more complete understanding of the work.

Her theory seems to make sense, but it also means it'll take longer to read a book. While I consider myself a fast reader, I do take time to reread passages that particularly strike me, so I can see where Prose is coming from.

She also talks about the fear some writers have of reading while working on their own novel. They worry that whatever they read my influence their style and work it's way into their manuscript. Prose, however, takes the opposite stance. She compares reading while writing to watching a dance performance, then secretly trying to moves in your bedroom. She says that reading well-written works inspires her to write better, and that she goes into a new book in the hopes that reading the great writers will influence her own writing.

I agree with both sides (is that possible?). I avoided reading A Thousand Splendid Suns for months -- half a year, actually -- because I admire Hosseini's writing and didn't want to accidentally mimic him. Once I finally read it, I realized that was silly. I was more inspired than I'd been in months and knocked out a couple new chapters in my draft. Reading a book that is so well crafted drives me to do better myself, and that is what Prose believes.

One funny side to all this is I was hesitant to start reading Reading because I wasn't sure I wanted to read like a writer. Most of the writers I know turn up their noses at "lesser" books and complain of being unable to read without wanting to rewrite certain passages. Would reading this book ruin reading for me?

So far, I think not, but I still have 230 pages to go. I'll let you know.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Picture Pages

Please check out the story I posted yesterday and let me know what you think. I'm always trying to improve so feedback helps!

Now, for photos.

Our friend Andy is here for the long weekend and brought several things for us. He laughed as we opened everything in his hotel room and commented that we were like two kids at Christmas. What can I say, we're easily pleased. Not pictured, Ibis' new Nike running shoes, and one box of Girl Scout cookies that Ibis kept at work:

Yesterday we went to Barra de Potosi, our favorite beach just south of Zihuatanejo. For those of you who've been there, these pictures will probably shock you. I've NEVER seen it so crowded!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Flash Fiction Friday

Once again, I'm posting my piece for the Flash Fiction Carnival group I belong to. Our prompt this month is FOOL. Please leave any critiques or suggestions in the comments!

ETA: I modified the one line that several people mentioned in the comments.

This piece was accepted for publication in Flashquake. I will post a link once it's up.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Zombie Chicken!

Aerin over at In Search of Giants presented me with the Zombie Chicken Award. The Zombie Chicken Award? Contrary to what its name implies, it is not bestowed upon those with undead poultry in their backyards, even though I just might qualify for that award as well.

Here's what it's actually for:

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…”

The part that made me smile is the "content so remarkable..." bit. Me? Apparently someone thinks so! Sometimes it's all I can do to string a couple sentences together.

Now for the fun part -- I get to nominate five people! Erica, Janna, Jen, Amy, and ... *drums fingertips together thoughtfully* ... Jenna. Now, a couple of these ladies are on vacation or might even be taking a step back from their blog, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to recognize them anyways.

Go forth, ye of the undead chicken!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Pustule

Robin mentioned a pustule on her blog the other day, and while that's not exactly what I plan to talk about today, it sums up my feelings for the entire process.

Later today we get to go back to Immigration to continue the process for my FM3 visa. My marriage certificate -- now properly apostilled from a kind soul in Springfield, IL -- spent two days at a lawyer's office getting translated (for the second time) and now we get to bring it to the local municipal building to get registered*. Then we must bring the pile of papers to the Mexican Immigration office to get everything finalized. I have no idea how long it will take for that to happen.

Now, I need to clear a few things up. I've inadvertently confused A LOT of people with all this talk of immigration, but the process I'm taking care of right now has nothing to do with Ibis' attempt to get back in the United States. What I'm talking about is documentation to legally keep ME in Mexico.

When you travel to Mexico (I'm assuming you all travel by plane) you fill out a form that states how long you'll be in the country, and an immigration official gives you back the bottom portion -- a square piece of paper -- to hang onto until you leave. That's called a tourist visa. You can stay in Mexico on a tourist visa for 180 days, and so far I've timed my visits home to coincide with the end of each 180-day period. This past March we decided we couldn't justify the expense when we think we might be out of here soon so we went to Immigration to find out what our options were.

Turns out the cheapest option was for me to apply for an FM3 visa, which is valid for one year and is renewable for up to five years. (After that they want you to apply for more permanent status.)

Even though we don't want to be here any longer than necessary, we opted for the year-long visa, and that's where all the running around began. To apply as Ibis' dependent, we needed to register our marriage certificate with the Mexican government, but that had to be apostilled -- in the state where the marriage took place -- so it would be viewed as an official government document. We originally thought it just needed to be translated, but that was just a waste of time and money. The apostille needs to be translated, so we had that done this week, and finally, today, we're going back to have it all registered. Then back to Immigration.

I realize I did a poor job of explaining this last time, and I may have confused you even more this time around, but I felt really bad when everyone was wishing me good luck so we could get home soon, when really this is keeping me in the country. I'm actually NOT ALLOWED to leave Mexico right now because I don't have any form of visa.

Ironic, eh?

*I have no idea what this "registering" accomplishes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Motivation in Action

You know how you can study a theory, understand its principles, think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, but when you try to actually apply said theories, principles, and, er, bread, to your life, you come up short?

Yeah, I didn't write anything yesterday.

I did, however, nearly finish the second of three web design projects I have due this month, and the necessary bit of information I was missing was waiting in my inbox when I turned on my computer this morning, so I might actually wrap that up today. Three days early! Then I can move on to the third project.

We have a friend arriving on Thursday, and while he's not staying with us, he is staying at the hotel where Ibis works so I'm sure I won't be at home very much while he's here (as it should be). He's bringing things for both of us -- new running shoes for Ibis and a Flash tutorial for me (as well as a box of Nutter Butters that Ibis doesn't know about, shhh...) -- which just makes me even MORE excited to see him, even though it means more work in the near future.

I feel like I'm rambling. Forgive me. This blog post is taking on the feel of an email to a friend I haven't talked to in awhile. Do you write like that? Hmm... I hope it's not too annoying for you. But, if you happen to be a friend that I email regularly, you're probably used to it by now.


I'm still doing Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred even though I've passed the thirty day mark, and I think my body actually needed forty days to see a difference. Almost overnight things have slimmed down a bit more and that's motivating me to keep at it. I'm switching up the levels on different days and, man, it's like I never did them at all. She's tough! T0 my friend out there who has her video sitting on the TV: I'm still waiting to hear what you think! (I just realized that could apply to more than just the person I'm thinking of, so ALL OF YOU, get on it!)

Finally, poor Michigan State. I really thought they were going to come back. The announcers kept saying they're a team that always comes back. They didn't come back. Guess I'll have to win a Nathan Bransford contest another way.

That is all.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Seems I've used this title before, but we can always use a little more, right?

I've had my beta comments for The Other Side for over a month now, yet I'm still writing the new subplot. It's going to be six chapters instead of five, and while I'm liking where it's going, it's not coming fast enough. I pretty much know everything that's supposed to happen -- I've written a rough outline with only a few specifics -- so it should be pouring out of me.

But it's not.

Sunday morning, or maybe it was Saturday night, I finally got angry. At myself. This is stupid, there is no reason for me not to have already finished this. I knew when I decided to add a subplot that my February query deadline would be shot, but it's April and I still haven't even gotten to the EDITS.

Now, I'm on the fourth draft, but I think I finally realized what's holding me up: I'm technically on the first draft for six chapters. All those anxieties I thought I left in my spiral bound notebook have crept back into my subconscious.

I hadn't read any blogs since Wednesday, so Sunday afternoon I got caught up on days worth of writing wisdom. Two of my favorite bloggers stepped up and hit me over the head with the motivation stick.

Alexandra Sokoloff's post at Murderati, Your First Draft is Always Going to Suck, is a must-read. She said lately around the blogosphere she's noticed a lot of writers getting stuck, sidetracked, or otherwise preoccupied, and she's offered up some excellent advice:

People are getting about midway through a book, and then lose interest, or have no idea where to go from where they currently are, or realize that a different idea is superior to what they’re working on and panic that they’re wasting their time with the project they’re working on, and hysteria ensues.

So I wanted to take today’s blog to say this, because it really can’t be said often enough.

Your first draft is always going to suck.

She goes on to say:

Even though you will inevitably end up writing on projects that SHOULD be abandoned, you cannot afford to abandon ANY project. You must finish what you start, no matter how you feel about it. If that project never goes anywhere, that’s tough, I feel your pain. But it happens to all of us. You do not know if you are going to be able to pull it off or not. The only way you will ever be able to pull it off is to get in the unwavering, completely non-negotiable habit of JUST DOING IT.

Your only hope is to keep going. Sit your ass down in the chair and keep cranking out your non-negotiable minimum number of daily pages, or words, in order, until you get to the end.

This is the way writing gets done.

Some of those pages will be decent, some of them will be unendurable. All of them will be fixable, even if fixing them means throwing them away. But you must get to the end, even if what you’re writing seems to make no sense of all.

You have to finish.

At some point you will come to hate what you're writing. That's normal. That pretty much describes the process of writing. It never gets better. But you MUST get over this and FINISH. Get to the end, and everything gets better from there, I promise. You will learn how to write in layers, and not care so much that your first draft sucks. Everyone's first draft sucks. It's what you do from there that counts.

This really struck a nerve with me, and for a reason she doesn't mention: I really like my book. I honestly believe in my story, and while I know we all say that, I'm excited to get to the next step and start querying. I'm not nervous, I'm not scared, I'm just pissed at myself that I'm still piddling around with this draft.

Yes, I've been busy with work that is actually bringing in money, but that's not an excuse. The majority of my writing friends have families, and a lot of them also have jobs. I have neither. I have no excuse.

Erica Orloff's post, Bring It, is icing on Sokoloff's cake. She discusses how the economy has made it even more necessary for writers to, well, bring it, if they want to succeed. The advice that most struck me is:

Every page has to be a page turner. Why are some books those people CAN'T PUT DOWN? Can't. Will stay up all night to finish? What's the X-factor. Well, of course if we knew, we'd all be lifting our glasses and congratulating each other from our houses in Lake Cuomo. But . . . one thing most "can't put down" books have is PACING. Everything extra is stripped bare. The pacing is flawless.

As you all know, my past two reads -- A Thousand Splendid Suns and Water for Elephants -- have kept me up way past my bedtime. The first jumped to the top of my favorite books list, and the second is up there. While I read, I kept wishing I could write a story that affects people the way these writers have, and that's when it hit me: I can't affect anyone if I don't finish the story!


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Daylight Savings

Tonight Mexico will finally join the rest of North America (and the world, at this point) and move our clocks forward. You wouldn't think being an extra hour behind everyone would make that much of a difference, but it does.

Several times in the past couple weeks I've been online in the late afternoon, around 4:00 or so, and can't figure out why all my friends have disappeared. Then I remember that it's dinnertime on the East Coast, and quitting time (figuratively, anyway) in Chicago and the rest of the Midwest. It does make me an hour closer to my one friend in Hawaii (waves at Nadine) but it leaves me all out of sorts with everyone else.

I finished Water for Elephants last night and loved it. There were some twists and turns that, in hindsight, seem predictable, but didn't while I was reading it. I truly recommend this to anyone who hasn't already. I kept thinking it would make a wonderful movie, and I totally see Paul Bettany playing Jacob, even if he is ten years too old. One funny thing - in college I read the book Like Water for Chocolate for four different classes (both in English and Spanish) and watched the movie as many times. As a result, I keep calling Elephants Like Water for Elephants. Close enough. ;)

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Friday, April 3, 2009

What a Week

This week has been a blur. The couple days (beginning over the weekend) I was working 12-14 hours per day finalizing my family's website, then as soon as it launched, I had to start the design for another project. I love that I'm already using my new skills, but man, I'm not used to having so little time to myself. I've been rather spoiled these past two years.

Fortunately my client loves the design -- I believe his words were "You are absolutely a genius" -- so that will make the rest of the process much easier. Then I have one more to knock out after that.

I finally managed to write 500 words yesterday, for the first time since last Friday. I hate not working on it, but paying projects have to take priority right now. Two pages isn't much, but if I can force myself to write that much each day, I'll get this thing done in a couple weeks. I write fairly quickly once I get to it (that took about an hour) so I just need to force myself.

Yesterday Ibis and I went to the beach for the afternoon, and it was the first time we've gone alone in over three months. It was nice to fall back into our old routine and spend some quiet time together without the distractions of the TV or internet. Of course, his idea of relaxing is play soccer for half and hour, rest in the shade for five minutes, play soccer for half an hour, rest for five minutes, and so on. I managed to extend one of the rest periods to an hour so I could read a bit, but I certainly got a lot of exercise. The best part? My stamina has totally improved. I finished the 30-Day Shred earlier this week and while I haven't lost the weight I wanted, I have better endurance, and I'll take that.

I also went to the dentist yesterday for a cleaning. I was a little nervous going into it, but I keep reading about all these Americans crossing the border for cheap dental care, so I figured it would be all right. Once I sat in the chair, I suddenly panicked about the water situation. Would they have one of those little water squirty things? Would the water be clean? Answer: Nope, and yes. They gave me a cup of water and just had me rinse every few minutes.

He used a drill to clean my teeth, and while I'm going to leave the descriptions to your imaginations, I will tell you that my teeth are clean and he didn't do any damage. He told me I have all kinds of problems that need repaired, for a total of 5000 pesos, but these are all things I've had in the past that no dentist has felt a need to fix. I plan to do a little investigating online, but I know how to monitor them and they should be fine.

Finally, I'm reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and I'm loving it. I found it in the lending library where Ibis works but couldn't motivate myself to start reading. This is one of those books that has received so much hype that I figured it wouldn't live up to the reviews. So far, it is, and it's funnier than I expected. It's certainly not a comedy, but it has it's moments. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. And the only sparkly things are the circus performers' costumes!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Please Take Them Away From Me Before I End Up Bald

So many of my friends are on Facebook that I sometimes forget to mention things here on my blog that might be of interest. The latest? I... uh... found a spare moment yesterday - in the midst of constant web projects - to do a little "home renovation."

This is never a good sign:

The end result:

I've been wanting to cut my hair for months and months, but held off because Ibis likes it long. Well, it's getting warmer and, frankly, I'm sick of having to sleep with my hair twisted up and tucked behind my head so it doesn't brush over my skin, making me hallucinate and think there are bugs crawling on me. I rarely wore it down because it's too hot, so at least now my back won't sweat when I'm trying to look "nice." :P

I want to cut a couple more inches but I'll get used to this before doing anything more drastic. I might even break down and visit a salon.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Women's Fiction Reviews

My cousin Jenna recently launched a blog devoted to reviewing women's fiction, called Women's Fiction Reviews. While there are various sites that review books, she noticed "how hard it is to find good women's fiction."

She says, "What got me going on this blog really was all the things I've read from authors' perspectives on how hard it is to get your book out there in front of readers. One day I'd like to switch seats and be the one looking for just the right place to promote my book, but for now I'll see what I can do to promote some great books and authors that are a little under the radar."

Great ideas are born from lesser things...

On her introduction page she says,
"I've spent a lot of time wishing for the perfect way to find a great read. Like any avid reader I have bookcases full of books, most of them read but just as many that I haven't gotten around to yet. I also have a "to read " list that grows all the time and between it and my bookcase I have hundreds of choices. But it doesn't stop me from browsing at the bookstore or on I never stop looking because sometimes I want just want something new and fresh, because sometimes the stuff on my list or in my bookcase looks just so-so.

There are a lot of review blogs that offer reviews on current books and/or interview authors with books coming out but I've yet to find one that lists all new releases and current titles so I have other options to look at if what is being reviewed doesn't strike me as something I want to read--this is something I plan to do with this blog."

Women's Fiction Reviews will serve several purposes: reviewing all new women's fiction titles, posting about new releases, reviewing new releases, and more. Jenna would love for Women's Fiction Reviews "to turn into a gathering place for fans of women's fiction and a "stage" for authors to showcase their books."

Good luck Jenna!