Monday, November 30, 2009

White Christmas


Whew! That was a relaxing break. Did you have a nice holiday? Anything new and exciting to share? A lot has happened in the past week but rather than tell you everything in one post, I'm going to string you along.

The most exciting news is I'm heading home for the holidays!

If you recall, my grandmother had spinal surgery in October, and she's been in and out of the hospital and rehab facility/nursing home ever since. She is healing but will need assistance her first couple weeks back in her apartment, and that's where I come in. My wonderful mother offered to fly me home to play nursemaid/grocery shopper/Christmas-tree decorator/game aficionado for her first couple weeks at home.

My mom and aunt have shouldered the bulk of the responsibility, so my being there will relieve them for a bit and allow them to catch up on two month's worth of work/cleaning/family obligations. I'll fly into Chicago December 11th and because of a trip my parents' already had planned, I won't actually see them until midway through my visit, but I will get to see my aunt and lots of cousins.

Even more exciting, several of my friends from Absolute Write have a get-together planned the same weekend I arrive in Chicago, so I'll get to meet several of my friends! One is staying with me so we'll really get to know each other. ;)

I won't return to Zihua until December 29th and I'm a little concerned about leaving my boys for so long, especially now that Ibis is working again. Owen is used to me being here 24/7 and while Ibis understands that I'm just going for a visit, Owen doesn't seem to understand what I'm telling him. I am leaving the house more often so he sort of gets used to being without me, but there's only so much preparing we can do. Our neighbor has offered to look in on him midway through Ibis' workday, so hopefully that will help.

Now please excuse me while I dig out my sweaters and mittens. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

See You on the 30th

I've decided to take next week off from blogging. I figure with Thanksgiving and traveling (you, not me), and who knows what else you all have going on, there won't be many people hanging around. I'll still be here reading your blogs, so for those of you sticking around, I look forward to spending a couple extra minutes with you each day.

Happy Thanksgiving, and if you're traveling, be safe!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


As promised, I've started cooking again and yesterday I remembered to bring the camera along. We've been craving Thai food since the first week of January, 2007 (we moved here Jan 1st, 2007) and FINALLY have the ingredients to make a proper meal. But it took several friends to make it happen.

Friend of the blog Mary was here last month and our first night hanging out we mentioned how much we missed Thai food, especially curry. Another couple was joining them here two days later, so she emailed them and voila, curry paste.

The coconut milk arrived at my doorstep Wednesday morning via a recent friend we've met around town. She told me last week that she hasn't been able to find it anywhere but she found a stray can in her kitchen and donated it to the cause. How sweet is that? She's heading to Morelia this weekend so we're hoping she brings back a few more cans.

Now, onto the cooking. Via.

This meal was pretty basic: chicken, coconut milk, peanut butter, sugar, curry paste, salt, onion, and rice.

This looks so gross I just had to take a picture. Here I'm simmering the milk, peanut butter, sugar and curry while the rice boils.

Mmm, chicken.

Oh, hi!

The finished product. It wasn't nearly as spicy as we hoped for, but the flavor was awesome and I will definitely make this again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I'd like to take a moment to show my appreciation for words. Yes, words. All of them. Long ones, short ones, crazy ones that have all the vowels or happen to end in -ly. (Yes, even those.)

It seems the majority of my waking life revolves around words, whether I'm talking, writing, reading, or playing Scrabble. What would I do without them? I like sports and watching the sunrise, but my mind is always swirling with words, words, words.

One of my favorites is discombobulate: to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate. If you knew me in person you might realize that seriously is a word I'd like to say more often, but my loving husband has finally worked out of my system. My most frequent words are probably and uhh -- always used together in the place of silence when trying to keep my train of thought. (Something I lose A LOT.)

What about you? What's your favorite, and which do you say the most? Bonus if it irritates the bejeezus out of someone close to you.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And Poof, It's Gone

Where did my motivation go? Remember a while back -- you know, on FRIDAY -- when I was all excited about the possibilities at our fingertips? Yeah, now I'm discouraged again. I have a feeling this is going to be a regular thing until we actually find jobs.

Are you Canadian and interested in sponsoring a needy family? Just let me know...

In all seriousness, I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir with most of this. A lot of people are out of work and struggling to not only make ends meet, but keep their sanity, especially as the holidays approach. The only good news is Ibis starts a new job next week so we'll have steady income for the first time since May. Just don't ask how much. Ree-diculous.

When he goes back to work, not only will I have hours and hours to myself, I'll have to resume my cooking duties. As many of you know, my husband is a wonderful cook and when he lost his job, that responsibility fell to him. It's been rather nice having a live-in chef, but I think a paycheck is more important. You can look forward to more cooking photos and/or posts in the near future.

*smiles at the one person who cheered half-heartedly*

My hope is I can get on even more of a schedule than I'm on now so I can finish this draft of my wip, find a job AND cook killer meals. Right.

Do you have any favorite recipes that don't require an oven?

Monday, November 16, 2009

'Tis the Season

It's that time of year again. The last of the rainclouds have floated away and with the permanent sunshine comes the tourists. In previous winters we've had an average of 1-2 cruise ships per week, but they stopped coming at the end of February, I'm assuming because of the triple whammy that struck Mexico last year: drug violence, swine flu, and the tanking economy.

None of those factors have gone away, but like anything, the more we hear about a problem in the news, etc, the more apathetic we become. People want to get on with their lives and if a cruise along the Pacific coast of Mexico is what they want, they won't let a little danger/sickness/lack of funds stop them!

In all seriousness, we have noticed an increase in the number of non-Mexicans strolling around downtown, even on days when there isn't a floating hotel in the bay.

Do you have any travel plans this winter, or is the economy keeping you home?

This picture was taken from the roof of our building. Not a bad view, eh?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From Puppy to Dog

When exactly do you start calling a puppy a dog? A year? That seems to make the most sense to me. While I know we're still months away from that transition, we are seeing progress with Owen that makes all our training efforts worthwhile.

He's starting to sit when people come to visit (which is helping with the excitable peeing that keeps happening), he only jumps up once or twice when we have food on the couch, and he doesn't try to eat my ponytail while I'm doing sit-ups. He does still lick my face, but I'll take that.

He still cries like someone just cut his heart out whenever we leave, but I can't expect him to act like a big boy overnight, right? He also makes other animal noise -- cat, bird, turkey, you name it -- but we're hoping those stick around.


Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Making the Most of It

Since getting the news at the end of September that Ibis would not be allowed into the US, I've experienced pretty much every emotion imaginable. Anger, grief, despair, sadness, frustration -- but also hope.

If you read some of the same blogs I do you may have heard me say that a common theme in my novels in hope, and I think that comes directly from my life. I've always been an optimistic person, someone who tries to see the best in every person and every situation, and the recent events in our lives is no different. Don't get me wrong, I've had many many moments where I question what I'm doing, but I'm figuring out how to move past that and look at the bigger picture.

At a minimum, Ibis won't be allowed into the US for another seven years (realistically it'll be eight or nine) so we need to make fairly long-term plans. I'd like wherever we live next to be our home, not just another place where we serve our time. Yes, it's very hard right now -- searching for jobs in another country is even more deflating than looking in your own city, or even state -- but I try to look at it that in a year, we'll be in a new place with new jobs, finally living our lives.

As I mentioned before, we'd like to move to Canada -- preferably Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, or Edmonton -- but we're keeping our options open. When the US said no, that opened the door to the entire world. Have you ever dreamed about moving to another country halfway around the world? Well we have that option. Who says we can't move to Europe or Australia? We'll have to go through an immigration process no matter where we go, so why not aim high?

Having this freedom has done a lot for my mental health and I've noticed a huge change in my behavior over the past month and a half. The weight of waiting is off my chest and I'm breathing easier and finally feeling more optimistic about the future.

Where would you move if the whole world was open to you?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flash Fiction Thursday

Here's the prompt at Lurker Monkey's blog this month. Spooky, eh?

My story was posted yesterday, but I want to share here since this is my very first scary (or creepy) story. Enjoy.


The sludge oozed around my feet, a syrupy slime that congealed around my ankles, chilling me from the inside out. It was getting higher. Just moments before the tips of my toes were still dry, but I could no longer see them through the muddy goop that seeped beneath the door.

The door.

I rested my hand against the splintered wood, then traced my fingers along the rusted metal band that held the planks in place. How long would it hold? The others whispered that nothing could keep it out, that there was no use hoping for escape.

I stepped closer to the door and peered through a small hole near the top, fighting the sludge that clung to my feet and pulled me back down like it didn't want me to see what was coming. An ocean drowned the streets and anything unfortunate enough to be out there when the manhole covers first erupted like a rolling boil, spewing the thick black—what exactly was this? It looked like molasses—sludge into the air. Except it was ice cold.

"Is it bad?"

I turned my head at his raspy voice but ignored his question. He didn't want to know what was out there. Didn't believe it anyway.

A scream made me turn away from the door. The two women huddled against the far wall were scrambling over each other, reaching for the pipe that ran along the length of the ceiling. The younger woman grabbed her friend's shoulder and, with a quick yank to free her feet from the muck, leapt for the ceiling and grasped the pipe.

A deep groan echoed through the dank room.

He turned to face them. "It won't hold you."

The young woman's eyes darted his way, then back to the other woman. "Yes it will. Jump, Matusa."

Matusa swatted at her legs and a tremor ran through her corpulent frame. She looked up at the younger woman and slowly shook her head. Tears slid down her cheeks.

"You can."

It didn't make a difference to me. Dangling from a pipe would only delay the inevitable; fighting for five extra minutes wasn't how I planned to die.

Matusa tried to jump but the sludge had her by the knees.

It was rising faster.

Panic rocked through me and I was sure my heart would stop—it wasn't meant to beat this fast. I glared at him, still smug against the wall, and fought to control my breathing when my skin began to crawl.

I looked down at my own legs, but it wasn't my skin that was crawling.

Tiny white creatures swarmed over my pants, undulating upwards in an eerie dance that mesmerized me. Now I understood the women's screams. They wormed through the hole in the door and I snapped into action, beating my legs, my torso, my arms, desperate to get them off me.

I eyed the pipe. Maybe five extra minutes was worth it.

But it was too late. The powerful sludge pulled at my hips, trapping me next to the door. I cast a desperate glance at him, but it was too late for that, too.

The terrible moaning grew louder and the pipe shattered, sending slivers of metal raining into my flesh, into the sludge.

Unable to move—even my arms were trapped now—I watched the blood trickle down my chest as if it was someone else standing here, some other fool who didn't run when she had the chance. If only he had believed. The metallic odor reached the creatures and they moved faster, devouring the warm liquid that was so different from the muck that carried them here.

The screams began again but I couldn't tear my eyes away from what was happening to me. Was this how they died? I had assumed they drowned, smothered by the sludge—no one said anything about creatures feasting on their flesh. But how could they? There would be no way for that part of the story to pass on to the others.

An unnatural brightness filled the room, and the dark walls became white as the creatures searched for food.

I could hear him choking, gasping. Trying to speak. His voice came out a hiss. "S-s-s-s…sorry."

But it was too late.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slurp This

Last night I was scrolling through Twitter for a blog topic when my friend Benjamin mentioned earning a Slurpee if he reached his word count.

Mmm, Slurpees. Wonderful sugar and ice and artificial flavors blended together in the perfect combination to deliver a one-two punch to my throat. (I don't get brain freeze -- I get it in my throat, which really makes a lot more sense if you think about it.)

We may not have Slurpees here, but we have something equally delicious and just as thirst-quenching on a hot sunny day: flavored waters. I know, I know, that doesn't sound very exciting, but they really do call them aguas. I've seen every flavor under the sun -- naranja (orange), piña (pineapple), fresa (strawberry), melón (melon), horchata (rice milk), limón (lime), and the one that always makes me giggle and we probably drink it the most, jamaica (NOT ground-up Jamaicans).

Jamaica (pronounced huh-mai-ka) is made from a dried flower that they boil, similar to the way you make tea, then they add sugar and ice. It's bright reddish purple and very sweet and I can pretty much guarantee if a restaurant serves flavored waters, they have jamaica. You can also buy them from street vendors, but because of the water issues here, I generally only buy them from actual establishments. There's a chain of stores called La Michoacana that sells waters and paletas (popcicles that are the same flavors as the water) and there's one nearly on every corner.

One thing that took me awhile to get used to is while you can get your flavored water in a cup, for the most part they come in a plastic bag. The vendor pours in the liquid, sticks in a straw, then ties a knot about a third of the way down. You then carry it by the knot. The only down side is it's nearly impossible to set them down without spilling, but otherwise it's kind of fun drinking out of a clear plastic bag. I'm especially impressed by how quickly little kids figure it out. You can't walk down the street without seeing someone carrying a bag full of colorful water.

Have you ever drank out of a plastic bag?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

*gasps for breath*

I don't usually read James Patterson's books, but Sunday I finished reading his latest, Sail, "co-written" by Howard Roughan. It's about a family that goes on a two-month sailing trip and encounters disaster after disaster. The quote on the back says "Written with blistering pace and shocking twists… SAIL takes Lost and Survivor to a new level of terror."

Now, I wouldn't necessarily call Sail terrifying, but it was an exciting read and an interesting story. But I noticed something about the way I was reading that never used to happen to me -- anytime I got caught up in the story and whipped through four or five pages in a blur, I'd stop and marvel at the fact that printed words had me gasping for breath along with the characters.

How'd they (he) do that?

I'd flip back a couple pages and skim over what I'd just read to figure out (or deconstruct as some might call it) exactly how the author elicited a physical response from me, then see if there's a way to do that with my own writing. My current novel is certainly no thriller, but I have some tense scenes that leave my characters struggling for breath and I'd love to cause that reaction in the reader as well.

I have several writing friends who regularly analyze novels to get to the root of what the author is doing and see how they can learn from that process. It's always seemed like a lot of work to me, but for the first time I understand how it can be useful to me as a writer.

Thanks Mr. Patterson!

Do you analyze books that you read for pleasure, or do you keep your writing and reading minds separate?


My niece turns sixteen today, so if you live in Michigan, keep a close eye on your rearview mirror! Happy birthday!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Do As I Say...

Last week I talked about having common sense when posting things on the internet and reminded everyone that nothing is private -- that it can be seen by anyone and everyone. On Sunday that point was brought home for me.

On Friday I wrote about a US airman who was killed in Ciudad Juarez, and Sunday afternoon a friend of that person commented on that post. Despite my efforts to choose my words carefully, I still managed to upset this person.

*waits while you read the comment, if you so choose*

Now, I could get defensive and huff and puff that this person doesn't know me and clearly hasn't read my other posts, but what happened proves my point exactly. Even though I take care to present myself in a way that would never require an apology on my part, that very thing happened. If you google the incident, that blog post shows up. People who normally would never stumble across my blog -- like the airman's friends and family -- are introduced to me via that post. It's not their responsibility to skim through old posts to get a better understanding of where I'm coming from, it's my responsibility to make sure I'm clear the first time around.

I apologized in my comments and I meant it. Of course I'm not glad anyone died. Perhaps I've grown too cynical since moving here, but that doesn't mean I feel anything other than sadness when innocent victims are killed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Working Like a Dog

My recent lack of activity aside, Ibis and I are both very athletic and try to get some form of exercise every day, or at the very least several times a week. We enjoy a variety of sports/activities -- volleyball, tennis, rollerblading -- and actually like going to the gym on a regular basis. So it's only fitting that we'd expect the same from our dog, right?

Owen is over four months old now, so we figured there's no time like the present!

First I went over his workout regimen.

Then I got him started on neck and back exercises.

Next up: loosening those teeth! (He lost three more Thursday & Friday)

Survey says: he likes it!

Sure, it only weighs a couple ounces and squeaks, but you have to start someplace.

Friday, November 6, 2009

US Airman Killed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

I saw this headline Thursday morning and my first thought was Good. Not good that anyone was killed, but if an American is going to get caught in the drug violence, better it be a member of the US armed service because it'll be harder for it to be swept under the rug.

From the AP:
A gang of gunmen killed an off-duty U.S. airman and five other people early Wednesday at a bar in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, authorities said.

There was no immediate information on a motive for the attack that killed the U.S. airman at the Amadeus bar in Ciudad Juarez, which also left a seventh person wounded, said Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for prosecutors in northern Chihuahua state. But the methods bore the hallmarks of attacks by drug cartels.

Staff Sgt. David Booher, assigned to the medical unit of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman Air Force outside Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Ciudad Juarez, was among those killed in the bar, the U.S. Air Force said.

Earlier this year, the 12th Air Force barred airmen from traveling in Mexico's Chihuahua state. Soldiers from Fort Bliss, just outside El Paso, Texas, across the border from Juarez, also are barred from going to Chihuahua.

I'm very curious to see how both the US and Mexican presidents respond to this attack. Aside from a couple articles online, it seems to be quiet. I'll be very disappointed if nothing is done, even if it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I Got the Hummus

It sometimes surprises me what foods I miss from the US. The everyday comforts from home we can get here, so it's the little things -- Triscuits, Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, dill pickles -- that I find myself longing for.

The latest: hummus.

When I was in Chicago someone told me an easy recipe and the search was on for the ingredients, or substitute ingredients since some of you may recall, Mexico doesn't have lemons. (At least not where I can find them.)

My ingredient list:

2 cans garbanzo beans*
5 cloves of garlic**
1/2 cup lime juice
1 heaping teaspoon of peanut butter***
1/4 cup oil
salt to taste

* These were HARD to find. They are not in the special bean aisle (there's an entire aisle for beans) but next to the olives. Or what I call "the aisle for food only tourists eat."

** This was too much. I'll go for 3-4 next time.

*** Because we don't have tahini.

It turned out MUCH better than I expected, especially for my first attempt, and I'm excited to make it again (once we finish the garlic-fest going on in the refrigerator).

All this talk of hummus always makes me think of a famous Spanish song:

Which then makes me think of one of my favorite Marc Anthony songs, one that EVERYONE is the club always wanted to dance to (his hair is PRETTY in this):

So what do you like to eat with hummus?

(Once again -- major props to anyone who can name the Friends episode that I stole the title of this post from.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


My plans for editing alongside the NaNo participants is not going very well. I went through the entire document on Monday, but Sunday and Tuesday were both a bust (busts?). Fortunately I have good reasons for not cracking the wip yesterday.

First, I found a job site that has a TON of listings that I wasn't finding on a combination of other sites. The woman in charge of hiring at a place in Vancouver told me about it and I applied to five jobs yesterday. The most I've found in one day up until this point is two or three, so that made me very happy. Of course now I have to actually hear back from these people, but just finding jobs that interest me is a good feeling.

Second, I not only had breakfast plans with a new friend, our American neighbor is back in town and we ended up going to lunch with her. Meals in Mexico usually take a couple hours, and combined with several hours applying for jobs (plus the regular nonsense that eats up my time) I was too tired by the end of the day to edit.

A wise friend pointed out that any edits done while exhausted will most likely require even more editing, so I allowed myself the night off. I feel guilty, but the job search needs to come first.

If you're a writer, how is your writing coming along? And a complete tangent -- can you believe it's been a YEAR since Obama was elected? Crazy

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Too Much of Anything...

I've officially started the second draft of After the Fall, which means that so far I've transferred my beta's comments into the "Second Draft" file and made all the easy changes. Today I'll begin the actual rewriting/editing. This may sound odd to some people, but I like to have everything prepared before I dig in -- the same way I like to have all the ingredients spread out on the counter when I'm cooking.

In my first novel, The Other Side, a kind beta reader pointed out (very gently) that everyone was "looking" waaaaay too often. Sure, there was an occasional glance or gaze, but the majority of their gestures focused on (*snort*) their eyes.

This time around, my characters' main problem seems to be their hair. (Sorry with the puns -- I amuse easily, remember?) The stroke it, twirl it, and the most common offense, they run their fingers through it. Over and over and over. Perhaps this is because I tend to play with my hair a lot, plus one of my characters is a teenager girl and I know they can't keep their hands off their tresses.

Whatever the reason, I need some new gestures. I did a Find and made the comment "HAIR!" at every instance. There were a lot. I also discovered that I use the word "chair" a lot, but since they only rake their fingers through a chair once, I don't think it'll be a problem.

(I also discovered that including a space before and after the word you're searching will prevent this from happening.)

I'm sure I've asked about gestures that you overuse, so do you have any that struck you as really funny, or completely impossible?

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Little Common Sense Please

You see a lot of chatter online about how easy the internet makes it for people to spout off without consequence, and how many people hide behind an anonymous username to bash, trash, or thrash whatever happens to piss them off that day.

What bothers me are the people who seem to forget they're posting things ON THE INTERNET. This applies mostly to facebook, as people who have blogs do realize that anyone can find their posts, but I see it all over the place. People complaining about day-to-day things, like a crowded bus or slow person in line ahead of them, that make me want to smack the person upside the head and tell them to be grateful for what they have. I want to pull these people aside and tell them "you have access to public transportation, you have money to stand in line to buy something, you're healthy enough to be doing these things in the first place."

I get that a side effect of living in a first-world country is people take things for granted, but I wish these people would realize how ungrateful they appear. I have several hundred friends on facebook and the majority have a balance between positive and negative -- it's only a handful who don't seem to realize how they sound to the rest of the world. I know that with facebook only your "friends" can see what you post, but I'm guessing they present themselves in a similar manner everywhere else.

I don't mean for this to come off as a rant about facebook, and I'm not trying to single anyone out. My point in all this is to remind everyone that the next time a stranger upsets you -- whether they moved too slowly, reacted in a way you didn't appreciate, or committed some other unforgivable social offense -- take a moment and put yourself in their shoes. Maybe the slow person has a migraine and is moving as quickly as she can, or the cranky-pants the next car over is worried about his mother in the hospital. Whatever.

I'm guilty of this too -- I get worked up far too easily over stupid things -- but I don't turn around and blast that person all over the internet. I complain to my husband or a friend and then I MOVE ON. Yes, I occasionally post complaints, but it's usually a general thing and never hurtful. I try very hard to live my life in a way that I won't regret anything and I hopefully won't have to apologize for something I did or said. I know that's a lot to ask of people, but I'm hoping this serves as a reminder to think a moment or two before telling the internet about the latest idiot in line next to you.

(As a side note, I'm not talking about people who complain that they're stuck in traffic, it's the ones who wonder "WHY DOES EVERYONE HAVE TO DRIVE HOME AT THE SAME TIME AS ME???" every day.)