Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Guess I Can Add Web Designer to My Resume

It's taken a lot of hours over the past couple days, but I'm just about finished with my very first website! If you recall, my dad brought me Dreamweaver: Hands-On-Training at the beginning of January and I've been studying the software ever since.

The site is for my dad's side of the family and will be a place where we can post pictures, news, etc, plus it's a central location for our contact information. Sounds like Facebook, right? But this way not everyone has to join.

The actual designing didn't happen until after I finished the tutorial at the end of February, and then we were waiting to hear back from various family members. After several weeks of not hearing from anyone, we decided to go ahead and hoped the threat of posting very embarassing pictures would urge them along. And let me tell you, I have some embarassing pictures! I also discovered that my cousin Laura and I looked a lot alike when we were toddlers. This is strange because we're not blood related. Hmm...

My deadline is April 1st and because I'm an overachiever, I'll probably try to launch it later today. It looks pretty straightforward on the server end, so we'll soon find out. I'll post a link once it's up.

Needless to say, I haven't touched my wip since Friday. Writing once every three or four days is not helping my productivity, but at least it's for a good cause.

Finally, today is DAY 30 of the 30-Day Shred. I've actually done it every single day! Well, I still have to do it today but I'm not quitting at this point. I'll rest tomorrow. I'm not seeing as much of a change as I hoped for, but my clothes are fitting better and my stamina has improved, so I'm happy.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Something Scratchy This Way Comes

Thank you for all your kind words on my last post. It's so nice to know I have so many friends here who care.

There's something a little more lighthearted that I've been wanting to tell you about. Shortly after we bought our condo, Ibis decided to insulate the ceiling and some of the walls with two-inch think foam. We glued pieces directly to the concrete and painted the walls to match. Unless you're looking, you can't really tell, and it's kept it a lot cooler in here - kind of like sodas inside a styrofoam cooler.

Aside from the occasional nick on the wall, we haven't had any problems. I had noticed that the geckos like to hide in the cracks between the foam and the edge of the wall (on the ceiling) but didn't think much of it. Well, a couple months ago we started hearing scratching all over the ceiling BETWEEN the foam and the concrete. We get a lot of bugs in here at night - which is when the scratching is most noticeable - so for a long time I just thought it was the winged creatures tap-tap-tapping against the foam near the lights.

Then I noticed it coming from the corner near the bathroom, right over my desk. It sounds like they're running back and forth, almost as if they've carved tunnels inthe foam. There's one thin strip of foam - maybe three inches wide - that runs directly over my head and I've become convinced that it's going to crash down on top of me and I'll have millions of geckos swarming all over me. I'm not afraid of geckos (remember when I chopped off one's tail?) but the thought of their babies, eggs, poop, and whatever else is up there raining down on my really freaks me out! Ugh!

I made Ibis push on the foam last week to see what would happen, but no geckos went running for their lives. Maybe they were out hunting insects. He doesn't think anything is going to happen, but I live in fear of the day that twelve feet of styrofoam comes crashing down on my head, bringing a colony of geckos with it.

Anything freaky in your house that keeps you up at night?

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Friendship, and what it means to be a friend, has been on my mind a lot lately. It's so easy to take people for granted, to assume they'll be around until you're ready to call or stop by, but as many of you know, that's not the case.

I've always prided myself on being the friend that makes the effort. Before moving to Mexico, I was the one who sent the birthday cards, called spontaneously, coordinated nights out so we can all see each other. Obviously I'm not the only person like that, but since high school I've battled feelings of resentment when I feel like I am the only one who cares. Does that stop me? No. I still make the calls and check in on people because I want them in my life. There are people that I've distanced myself from because the effort is no longer worth it, but ever the worrier, I still think about those people all the time.

You're probably wondering where I'm going with all this. Some of you already know, but in the past 4-5 months we've lost three of our friends. At the end of the fall, Anastasia, who we knew from salsa dancing, died of colon cancer. She was really Ibis' friend, but the pain of her death still affected me. In January, our good friend Vivian Wong (also from salsa dancing) succumbed to breast cancer. Her death hit me particularly hard because she'd hidden from all of us that she was even sick. I feel guilty for not doing more, for not calling more often, and now I can't ever take that back. Both women were in their 40s.

On Monday a friend from college, Chris Carter, died. He slipped into a diabetic coma on Saturday and never regained consciousness. In his case, I don't think he even knew he was diabetic and his death has sent my friends reeling. His funeral is today and I wish them peace.

I've made a big effort in the last year or so to cut negativity from my life. Some of this was prompted by my own health concerns and a need to reduce stress, but moving to another country really teaches you a lot about who your true friends are, and who you can count on when you truly need them. It hasn't always been easy, but I feel closer to my good friends than I did when I lived down the street from them. I've also rediscovered old friends, both through my blog and on facebook. Since I moved a lot as a kid, it's been wonderful finding the people who helped make me who I am.

I swear I have a point. Last night I witnessed an interaction between friends (yes, I'm protecting identities here) that left me speechless. The callousness with which one friend treated the other, and the complete disregard for her feelings, stunned me. I truly don't understand how some people behave the way they do. Now one of them is hurting and I feel a need to fix it, even though it's not my problem.


What I'm trying to get across is how strongly I feel about valuing your friendships. A lot of my college friends are devastated by Chris' death, and while I wasn't close with him, it's unsettling to have someone your own age die so quickly for health reasons. I sent a lot of emails this week checking in on my own friends, just to let them know I care. (And if I didn't send you one, I swear I've been thinking about you. I do a lot of thinking when I'm alone ten hours a day.)

Finally, I'd like to thank all of you for being my friend. Many of you I've never met in person, and until last week never even heard your voice, but you've become my support system, and I'm grateful for it.

ETA: Warning - the comments have turned into a bit of a lovefest...

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Day in the Life of... Oh, Enjoy Some Pretty Pictures

We watch the sunrise every morning from bed (or more accurately, I watch the sunrise, as Ibis gets up around 5am) but I don't always take pictures. While it's nice to see, they tend to all look the same. Well we've started to get a few more clouds - it even rained a couple nights ago - so now the sky really lights up.

Here's yesterday's sunrise:

As luck would have it, guests from the hotel invited us to dinner last night at our favorite restaurant, Il Mare, and I watched the sunset:

The cycle wouldn't be complete without this morning's sunrise:


So how was your day? I've been busy with some projects that have come up and haven't been able to write (unless you count yesterday's poem, lol) but I'm hoping I'll get back to it soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


An official piece of
Paper that binds Ibis and I together,
Otherwise known as a marriage certificate, has been
Sent to my parents, who will ship it
To Springfield, where a man in an
Ill-fitting suit will stamp it, declaring it
Legal per the Hague Convention, then send the
Letter back to me, so I can return to Immigration for the
Endless cycle that has become my visa application.

This was my favorite form of poetry in high school and I thought it very appropriate here. Here's a definition. Yes, it's very confusing to me, too.


*whistles The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round...*

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 70s

I was born in the middle of the 70s, but I've never really felt a strong connection to that decade. Most of my earliest memories begin with kindergarten, and therefore, 1980, so I think of myself as a child of the 80s.

That said, I'm loving the 70s right now because I finally passed the 70,000 word mark on The Other Side! My ultimate goal is 80K (natch) but I'm very happy with this accomplishment. My writing on this draft has been unsteady and I've rarely managed to write on consecutive days, but I'm getting there.

Right now I'm working on adding a subplot for the main character's sister. I had twenty chapters to start with and added six for her, spacing them so I alternate three for the MC, then one for her. I reached 70K at the end of the third chapter, so this means I'm halfway there. Even if I don't reach 80K, I'm still very happy with the progress I've made and I'm still a little surprised my 45,000 word original draft has mutated into a full-length novel.

But enough about me, how's your writing going? Or if you're not a writer, what's new in your world?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Finishing, or, I Knew This Day Would Come

I started writing seriously, as an adult, in August 2007. Before then it was always something I knew I could do but never considered as something I should do; something that occupied my time as an adolescent, nothing more. Once I decided to give it a try, I discovered Absolute Write, writing friends, and blogs. Oh, the blogs.

One thing I noticed in my new, writerly friends (and even more so in the people who intimidated me too much to try to befriend) is a very low tolerance for books. Meaning, if something is poorly written, has plot or character flaws, or just doesn't interest them, they put it down. As in they don't finish it.

Don't finish it? I found myself wondering. Who doesn't finish a book?

In my life, I have only stopped reading a novel twice. The first was One Hundred Years of Solitude, but that's because it was in Spanish for a class where we had to read one novel per week. In Spanish. I just couldn't wrap my head around what was going on and that was the only time in my life I didn't complete an assignment (I still did okay on the test and I read it later in English). The second was Anna Karenina and I have every intention of reading it someday.

Now, I read a variety of books. I lean towards literary and mysteries, but I love women's lit (formerly chick lit), humor, memoir, some romance, the list goes on and on (but excludes horror - yikes!). As long as the story's well written, I'll read it.

My mom buys TONS of books so a lot of my reading material comes from her, and while I may pick up things I'd never buy myself, it's nice having that resource. She's introduced me to different authors over the years and if she says she loved a book, I grab it without hesitation. The books I buy tend to be treasures I find in the bookstore - often authors I've never heard of but the story sounds interesting. I do have authors that I follow, but quite often my purchases are based on word-of-mouth or my own discovery deep in the bookstore shelves.

I also go in spurts where I'll decide to read a book that I've heard about for years, yet never have. One such book was Catch-22. Some of you may have already heard this story, but about a year I decided to dive into the book that launched the phrase. Two weeks after struggling through the first 40 pages I came to a tough decision - I had to stop. I hated the main character, I didn't care what happened to him, and I was going to shoot myself if I had to keep reading. So I stopped.

I felt guilty. Not just because this was a book I was supposed to read, but what kind of person was I who couldn't finish a measly book? I've forced myself through worse things (Confederacy of Dunces) just to be able to say I finished it, so why couldn't I now?

Since then I've met more and more people who talk freely of putting a book down if they don't like it. (I realize that sounds like a normal response to a lot of you, but it really is a foreign concept to me.) I couldn't believe they would just give up. Maybe it goes back to my mom telling me I gave up too easily in ninth grade Geometry... I don't know... but I couldn't bring myself to stop. I'd rather suffer through and come out victorious for conquering the sucky book (yes, I'm realizing this sounds ridiculous) than give up. I didn't want a book to beat me!

But their logic started to sink in. As I've gotten more busy with other things, I started to resent wasting time on books that I didn't love. I started to think they may have a point, but I still couldn't give in to the dark side.

Until last week.

I'd started a book that my mom loaned me last fall, something I'd picked up several times but never felt in the mood for. It's a big book, a sweeping epic, and my mom said she'd loved it. Since coming off the Twilight Saga I needed another romance fix and thought this might do it, but two weeks and 40 pages later, I found myself watching stupid movies on tv instead of reading. I even reread Twilight. I'd pick up the book, carry it around, yet never open it.

So I finally put it back on the shelf.

What is this world coming to?

I'm assuming I'm in the minority, that most people will stop reading a book they don't like, but humor me - what say you on this? And do you have a certain point at which you normally stop (40 pages/2 weeks seems to be mine).

Monday, March 23, 2009

My First Vlog!

My friend Janna posted a video last week so we could hear her voice. One downside of only knowing people online is we have no idea what everyone sounds like. Sometimes it's a bit of a shock, but for the most part, it's fun to experience a new part of someone you consider a friend.

So, without further adieu, allow me to present a Tour Through Zihua:

Ibis swears a couple times under his breath so I suppose I'll give this a language warning, but it's not very loud.


ETA: Several people have had problems viewing the video. I'm wondering if it will work if you click the actual video instead of the little play button in the lower corner. That will take you to YouTube instead of trying to view from my blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Complete Bust

I've been trying to upload a video since 8am and it's NOT working. I apologize for the lack of a post, but I'm too irritated to come up with something further. I'll try to figure something out and post it at another time.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Total Ellipse of the Heart

I... have a problem.

If you talk/post/interact with me on a somewhat regular basis, you may have already noticed, but it's gotten to the point that it's driving me a little bonkers and that always seems like a good time to share.

You see, I can't seem to make a comment anywhere and be satisfied with a complete thought. Instead, I end every blog comment, status comment, AW comment, email, etc, with an ellipse. (Not to be confused with Eclipse, of course, which I'd really really like to have more of in my life). Those three little dots are tormenting me. I've started catching myself more often and get frustrated that I can't just end the statement like a normal person. I also put way too many emoticons so the last line of each paragraph in an email from me tends to look like this:

so anyway...

really great. :)

so we wait...

that's what she said. ;P

I'm sure there are more than a few of you nodding your head and thinking, Hmm... she's right. I'm so glad she brought this up because I was about to send a virtual slap her way. ;)

I really don't know how it started. I never used to use web slang - lol, rofl, imo... - and never EVER used more than one exclamation point, but the more time I spend interacting with people online, the more juvenile my "dialogue" has become.

Is there a crutch you find yourself leaning on waaaaay too much? How do you suggest I rid myself of this bad habit?

Thursday, March 19, 2009


No, that's not a new greeting, that's how our nephew used to say helicopter. It's not much different in Spanish - helicoptero - so his then three-year-old mouth had the same difficulty as an American toddler.

There's a naval base here in Zihua and it's quite common to see helicopters flying overhead throughout the day. Yesterday as we were leaving the beach we noticed a huge dust storm over the downtown area, and at first, overreactor that I am, I thought it was a fire, then another grenade attack. There were several helicopters hovering quite close to the ground, and we finally decided they were just stirring up the dust.

A short time later, just as I got home, I heard another helicopter flying through town. I'm not up on my 'copter lingo, but the ones we usually see are normal what I'd guess you call "military" helicopters. But these looked like troop transporters.

Two came through town right after another, then a third, normal looking 'copter landed as well. My overactive imagination pictures dozens of troops swarming the downtown area, but I never went down to check it out. Hopefully today we'll find out what's up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Progress as Motivation

One thing I've learned about myself over the years is that once I get going on something, it tends to snowball. My biggest challenge is always just getting started, but once I do, I don't have much trouble keeping at it. One could almost I have obsessive tendencies.

*gasp* ME? No...

I've been struggling with an extra ten pounds for the past few months, so two weeks ago I decided I'd had enough and challenged myself to do Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred. Every day. It's only 20 minutes but it's hard (and this is coming from an exercise enthusiast) but I didn't let that stop me and I stuck through the first level. The second level is even more difficult, and I'm slightly terrified to see what she has in store for the third.

But... after just two weeks, I'm seeing progress. My hips and belly are slimming, and yesterday I managed to comfortably wear a pair of shorts that have been banished to the closet for too long. Then last night my jeans just slid right on (how's THAT for a birthday present?). This makes me even more determined to keep at it. If I can see a change in two weeks, imagine the difference in two more!

It's the same with writing. I finished my third draft in the middle of January, then received comments from three betas shortly after. I allowed myself some time to digest the suggestions (some of which I'm still not too sure about) and tried to start writing the fourth draft.

But it wouldn't come. (I believe I whined about this at the time.)

I finally decided to not worry about the rewrites and just focus on the new-writes, and it's been going much better since then. While I haven't written every day, I've added almost 3000 words to my MS and the progress is intoxicating.* I'm excited to break the 70K mark, and even more to reach 80K. Better yet, I'm anxious to get cracking on those rewrites.


It doesn't hurt that my writing friends (you know who you are) have been competing with each other for daily word counts. THAT does more for me than they'll ever know.

How about you? Do you find it's easier once you get started, or do you have another way to motivate yourself?

I'm off to bond with Ms. Michaels again...

*I apologize for the Twilight-y word. I'm almost done with Midnight Sun and will try to get it out of my system after that. Mmm-hmmm.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yeah, I'm getting old. :)

As far as I know, Mexico doesn't believe in dying large bodies of water green for my birthday, and I'm betting green beer will be hard to find, so today won't be the same as it would if I were home. But that's okay - you can only have so many green-infused birthdays before you start to get tired of it.

Tonight we're going to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, but otherwise it'll be a quiet day. And yes, I'll be wearing green.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mexico and Writing, My Two Most Frequent Topics

I try to keep my posts balanced between writing and Mexico, and my tags show that to be true. Sometimes I label things Zihuatanejo and so that may skew things in Mexico's favor, but for the most part, they're fairly even. (I feel bad for the AlphSmart, which I thought would we a frequent topic, but I couldn't get the thing to synch with my computer.) Anyway, on to my post!

I've received at least a dozen emails from people who found my blog during a search about the violence in Zihuatanejo (and I'm sure typing that will give me another spike in those emails). One person has already come and gone since the initial violence a few weeks ago, and yesterday she sent me a picture that she took during her stay.

I've described the way the police stand in the back of the trucks, but she captured it much better than I was able to. She did comment that they asked permission beforehand, but I'm hesitant to even talk to them - she's a brave lady. She also mentioned that she visited a town called La Union, not knowing the local police chief had just been gunned down. They even saw the bullet holes from the attack!

Now onto the writing... I started working on my fourth draft of The Other Side earlier this month, and while I've made progress, I haven't been consistent. In adding a subplot, I figure I'll need five new chapters. Ideas for the initial and last chapters were easy enough, but I was having trouble figuring out how to fill out the middle two. I wrote the first chapter last week, then, with all the craziness of playing catchup from things I didn't do while my dad was here, I didn't write again.

Yesterday I forced myself to get back to it and managed to write 1500 words and, more importantly, I figured out what to put in those new chapters. My outlining style mainly consists of bullet points in the body of the document that I place at the beginning of each chapter - nothing fancy - but I'm very relieved to finally have something for each chapter. I passed 67,000 words which, if you've been keeping track, is 20,000 more than I had at the end of my second draft. If you're on facebook you may have seen my status that I passed the 66,666 mark while writing about a dead child - that was creepy!

I know I still have at least another 10,000 in me, and I'm so relieved to see the light at the end of the quest for 80,000 words.

Finally, some exciting news: my aunt sold a second book!

How was your weekend? How is your writing coming along?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Flash Fiction Friday

This is not a regular feature, I just thought that sounded appropriate since I'm posting a flash fiction piece for an online group I belong to. I'd appreciate your feedback!

The Red Ticket

"Twenty on red! Twenty on red!" The pale-faced man waved a note at the attendant. Kicking aside an empty beer bottle, he leaned over the men next to him and stretched his arm into the aisle, oblivious to the stares.

Arthritic fingers curled around the bill, then scribbled on a scrap of red paper and shoved it at the man. Others grabbed at his sleeve but he brushed them off. "Bettin's closed. Fight's about to start." Pushing through the crowd, he waved at the referee.

A bell sounded and the crowd erupted.

The contender in the red corner rushed to the center of the ring, nervous energy rolling down his back.

His opponent approached more slowly. He looked from side to side, then took a cautious step back, but his trainer picked him up and threw him into the center.

A man with a blue ticket leaned over the low wall. "Hurry up, Blondie! What you waiting for?" he yelled at the fair-colored opponent.

Red stepped closer, then leapt into the air. Light flashed off the knife strapped to his claw, and an arc of blood streamed across the ring.

Blondie stumbled, and Red jumped once more, landing on Blondie's back. The dirt beneath them pooled with blood, but Blondie tossed Red aside and scurried to the corner.

The crowd screamed.

The trainer stepped forward and nudged Blondie with a scuffed boot, while Red threw back his head and crowed, the clear sound echoing off the walls.

Blondie straightened, ready for more.

They faced each other, feinting from side to side. Forward and back. A moment's pause, and Red rushed forward, but this time Blondie dodged the attack. He jumped and swung, his blade connecting with the tough muscles shielding Red's back.

The crowd pressed closer, thirsty for more. Drops of blood splattered the dirt, but Red didn't pause. He lowered his head and dove at Blondie, claws flying.

A strangled cry rose over the cheers, and a cloud of dust lingered in the air when Blondie fell to his side.

The man with the red ticket held his breath. It wasn't a large bet – he'd certainly risked more on lesser fights – but his pulse quickened all the same. His gaze focused not on Red, whose chest puffed while his trainer checked his wraps, but at Blondie. Did he have the will to keep fighting?

A quiver of feathers and a cheer from the men gave him his answer. Blondie wobbled to his feet and called to the crowd. His crow wasn't as forceful as Red's, but it got his opponent's attention.

They returned to their dance, each moving in time with the other, their movements slowing as the minutes ticked by.

"Come on!"

"I paid to see a fight!"

The trainers inched into the ring, but didn't interfere. The fighters knew the signal. Each leapt towards the other, knives flashing.

They collided mid-air.

Their bodies fell as one, crashing to the dirt with a whoosh of air.

One moment passed, then two.

A steady crow broke the silence. Blond feathers rustled, then fell to the side as Red stood and paced the ring. Red's trainer rushed forward and held him aloft for a victory lap, indifferent to the drops of blood that stained his shirt.

While the crowd cheered, the attendant hustled through the bodies to collect the winning tickets.

The pale man wiped his brow and waved his scrap of paper. As the attendant moved closer, the losing trainer knelt beside Blondie and rested a hand on his chest. A shadow darkened his face, and he looked into the crowd. Several men laughed and blue tickets rained onto the dirt floor. He swatted them away, then jerked to his feet, pulling Blondie with him. The lifeless body dangled against his legs, leaving a trail of blood in his path.

The attendant pressed a bill in the pale man's hand. A hundred note.

"Congratulations." Someone clapped his shoulder.

He smiled, weak now that the rush had passed. "It's too bad about the blond one. I hate to see the animals die."

The men near him laughed. They came for the blood; death was inconsequential.

"Why you come if you don't like the blood?"

He paused, unsure if they'd understand. When he was a child his mother taught him that taking joy in another's misery was not a good way to live one's life. With gambling it was inevitable, and his mother disapproved of his diversion.

The trainer opened a gate and tossed Blondie into the tall grass.

The pale man looked at the men around him. "I enjoy the sport. It's the dying I could do without."

The man nearest him shrugged, then turned to his friends.

The pale man stuffed the bill into his coat pocket and took his seat to wait for the next fight.


The prompt for this month's piece was Schadenfreude, which German for pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This story came to me while I was having a massage on the beach this past Tuesday. There I was, being pampered in a cabana 150 feet from the ocean, thinking about cockfights.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's All Part of the Process

Look what I did last night:

Yesterday I turned in all my paperwork for my new visa and was told I needed a more detailed map of where I live. I had printed one from online and drawn in my street, with a sloppy star marking my building, but she said they need to know the businesses surrounding my house. As Penguin pointed out in the comments, it's probably so they can find me if necessary.

Lucky for me I'm a graphic designer and have designed a map or twenty in my time. The above picture is pared down from what I'm giving to immigration - I removed the identifying buildings so no stalkers can find me. :) Ibis questioned what regular people who can't create a map like this are supposed to do, and I admit they probably would have been satisfied with a hand-drawn map, but there are two reasons I went digital:

1) I haven't used my design software very much and figured I could use the practice, and
2) the woman at Immigration very kindly suggested I have my husband help me with my map, implying I couldn't do it on my own.

As if!

So now I have a map that took me a couple hours (when you factor in the hour I fought with the printer because it will only print 100% black - no color or shades of gray). I'm supposed to turn this in this morning, along with a receipt from the bank that took an HOUR to get, and then I should be done with this running around.

In case you're wondering, this has left little time for writing. I recently joined an online group that writes flash fiction once a month, and tomorrow is the deadline. Last month I posted it on the group's blog, but this time around I'll post it here. So you can look forward to a writing post - I'll knock off the complaining for a day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guatemala is Out of the Picture

I'm almost legalized.

Today I'm going back to the immigration offices to finish my application for an FM3 visa. I received a few notes about this yesterday, so I thought I'd explain.

When you vacation in Mexico, you fill out a form on the plane and there's a small scrap of paper you're supposed to keep until you leave. Not everyone pays much attention to it, but that's your tourist visa. When you fly, officials note the date you're leaving and write in the amount of time you'll be in the country. But, you can specify that you'll be there for up to 180 days, which is what I've been doing since moving here two years ago. It costs $20, plus whatever you pay to get to the border or leave the country.

(I'm assuming the arrangement is similar for other countries, but my travels have been limited to Northern American.)

When I was first moving here, I looked into an FM3 visa, which allows a foreigner to stay for one year and is renewable for five years. It's more expensive (roughly $160) but if you consider you don't need to travel every six months, it makes more sense. The problem I faced at the time is I didn't qualify for any of the requirements for an FM3. Off the top of my head, they were retiree, student, artist, and a couple others that I can't remember. But no option for "I want to go live in Mexico with my husband." So I opted for the tourist visa.

Well, my tourist visa is expiring. Of course it slipped my mind with all our visitors so now we're in a bit of a rush, but as long as we file the paperwork before it expires, the nice lady at immigration assures us I'll be fine. Plus, no one has ever asked to see my documents in the two years I've been here (knock on wood), so I don't think it'd make a huge difference.

Apparently I now qualify as Ibis' dependent and can get an FM3 visa based purely on him. We went in to the offices yesterday and got the process started, and today I get to return with, among other things, eight pictures of myself, including four profile shots. Lovely.

I was told I can't leave the country while my application is processing, and at first I panicked because I thought I heard her say three months, but it's just three weeks. That'll be over before I know it.

No word yet where these profile shots will be displayed...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

One More Day...

I've struggled with my normal routine while we've had family here, but tomorrow everything should quiet back down. (Ironically, a car alarm has been going off in our parking lot for the past twenty minutes...) We're sad to see my dad go, but as they say, all good things must come to an end.

Today is Ibis' birthday, and between his cold, a trip to the airport, and a visit to immigration (for me), we sure have a fun day planned. He did schedule massages for us this evening and I'm really looking forward to that. It's one of those in a cabana on the beach. Ohmmmmmmmm...

Other than that, there's not much new going on. Over the weekend I finished my first new chapter for The Other Side. I decided to focus on developing my subplot rather than working on my beta edits for the time being, but they're there waiting for me.

So what's new with you? How's daylight savings treating you? We don't switch for a couple more weeks so I'm actually writing this before 7am!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Immigration Update

Yesterday marked two years since I moved to Mexico, so I thought I'd catch you all up on what's going on with our immigration case. If you've been following for awhile, you know Ibis had his immigration interview a year ago in Ciudad Juarez, then another that April. At the time they told us they needed another 8-10 months to review the case, then in October we found out that changed to 10-12 months.

The paperwork didn't get processed until May, so that means we're currently in the tenth month. For the most part, we don't spend a lot of time discussing our case. The decision will be made by an anonymous person 2000 miles away (I think) and we really have no influence over that decision, so for the most part, we just go about our days and focus on the here and now.

That's been more difficult as the deadline approached. The date I kept pushing out of my head is finally here and now we need to have an actual plan. A lot of you already know this, but last week we started an email campaign to Senator Stabenow (MI) urging her office to tell DHS to hurry up. Because of the way the laws are, one branch of the government cannot tell another to do anything, but we're hoping letters from several hundred people will help put us closer to the top of the list.

While this has been going on, I realized last week that my tourist visa expires soon. The last thing we need is another immigration headache, so I went into the local office for an extension. The very nice lady who helped me explained that I can't get it extended, so my two best options were 1) to drive to Guatemala (as that border is closer than the US) to get a new one, or 2) get an FM3 visa as Ibis' dependent. My understanding is that because I've been here for a certain length of time, I now qualify for a different FM3 than I did when I first moved here. It's the cheapest option so it looks like just as we're getting ready to leave, I'll have a more permanent status here.

On a side note, we haven't heard much more in terms of violence locally, but we did see a man arrested Saturday night. We were a little nervous having so many drawn machine guns nearby, but we were inside a restaurant so there was no danger. I have noticed more mobile patrols, so hopefully Calderon's additional troops are helping.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Janna posted one of the circulating picture games, and while she didn't tag me, I decided to play along. I'm to find the sixth photo in the sixth folder on my computer, post and explain it. That folder is Home With Mac 1/30/05, and the picture is this:

The story:

Ibis and I had gone to Michigan for the weekend - I believe this is when I first taught him to ski - and my family pet, Mac, wasn't doing too well. Since he didn't have much time left, I wanted to take several pictures with him to remember him by. (He lived almost another year - he died on Dec 23rd, 2005.)

When I clicked on my 6th album and 6th picture, I was surprised this is the one that appeared. I've always wanted to share them but never really had a reason to before today.

Here's one of the two of us:

Him again:

I loved our dog, but that's not why I've wanted to show them. This picture is the reason I want to share:

This cracks me up EVERY time I see it. My sister and I once sat in front of my computer for ten minutes, tears of laughter streaming down our face. I swear Mac liked Ibis - I really don't know what this is about.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do?

It's kind of hard to tell, but there's a truck with policemen riding in back. This is the first one I've seen in a week with the men sitting down. Before the violence increased this is what they always looked like; since then they ride standing up with their machine guns drawn. There was another truck in front of that one but we didn't exactly want to get any closer.

A troop transport truck. I think this is the military.

Orange cones! I'm guessing they'll do something to make this more permanent. By making it one way, anyone who drives by and attacks the police station will have to head into town, as opposed to jumping on the highway. The field to the right is where Ibis was when the grenades were thrown two weeks ago.

The police station. The sandbags are a recent addition. Notice there are still people walking by as if nothing is going on. We've driven by there but I don't have enough nerve to go for a stroll on that sidewalk.

In case you're wondering what I was doing so close to the scene of the crime - the BEST tacos in Zihua are next door to the police station and we had to take my friend before she leaves tomorrow. Some of you may think rezicon and molé are not worth the risk, but ohhh, you're so wrong. :) Plus we drove behind the block.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Everyone is Safe AND We Get Another Gourmet Meal

The trip to Barra de Potosi yesterday was uneventful. We were a little unsure what the main road would be like once we got outside of Zihua, but everything looked the same as it always does. We had a relaxing day at the beach, enjoyed some fresh fish and coconuts, then headed back as evening approached.

On the return drive we noticed more police trucks on the road, the men in back armed and ready to take out anyone who looked at them the wrong way. That in itself wasn't too scary (you get used to having machine guns pointing your way - well maybe not used to, but it seems less surprising the more times you see it), but the masks they wore were a little freaky. You see that a lot more in places like Ciudad Juarez, where the police hide their faces so the drug cartels can't identify them. They fear being murdered and so wear a heavy mask over their entire head (a hat with eyes & a mouth cut out) in the 90 degree heat.

We made sure we didn't drive directly behind any of the trucks and especially avoided coming to a stop next to them at the traffic lights. Before everyone freaks out though, this is a normal precaution. Sure, it's not something you have to think about in the US, but I don't want to give the impression that we were shaking in fear. It's more like, "Oh there's another police truck," Ibis would slow down, and a car would get in front of us. Or if a car didn't pass us (since no one else wants to drive near them either) you just leave a space between vehicles. Easy enough.

We had to drive by the police station to drop off my friend and they've turned the parking lot into a bunker. A wall of sand bags stands taller than me, and they even have the roof covered. They've repaired the topes (speed bumps) to slow down traffic, and have removed some trees that were blocking their view up the street. My friend said they've occasionally blocked traffic from one direction - making it one way - I guess to better control who passes by the station. Today there's a picture in the paper. Their solution: orange cones. That'll stop a truck full of cartel members!

Now about that meal. My brother has promised to cook again this evening! He said it won't be quite as involved as Tuesday's dinner, but I'm still looking forward to it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why It's Good to Have a Big Brother

Not only did he cook us a gourmet meal last night, he saved my rear tire from falling off the car.

First the tire. Yesterday we dropped Ibis off for work and were on our way to the grocery store when the rear tire started making a lot of noise. Similar to a flat, but I'd just checked it and I knew that wasn't it. We took a look when I parked and discovered the lugnuts were barely attached to a tire we recently replaced, and one had completely fallen off. We were minutes from certain DEATH! (well, maybe not death, but no one wants their tire to fall off.) My brother is the one who noticed it so he tightened them up and we were all set.

Now my brother is not a mechanic, he's actually a chef, and last night he cooked us one of the best meals I've ever had. Here he is cooking:

I completely forgot to take a picture of the salad. Garlic shrimp on a bed of lettuce with avocado, grilled radishes and a crazy balsamic/ginger/garlic dressing. The main course was mahi-mahi with roasted potatoes and grilled onions. Yu-um!

Look how happy Ibis is to have a gourmet meal right in our very home! Don't mind the plastic cups.

Today we're going to the beach half an hour south of here. I'll let you know tomorrow if we see anything out of the ordinary.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

Thank you everyone who decided to follow me. :) My total number of followers has increased by 50%, plus I've received a lot of emails from people who've been reading. Even more amazing to me is the fact that my daily hits have been more than 100 per day, although I'm assuming that's only because of the recent violence here. When you google Zihuatanejo and violence, I come up on the first page.

A LOT of my friends have really stepped up in the past day or so to help our cause getting back to the US. I'm so grateful for all your help... I can't even say. I don't know how much good it will do but I'm glad we're trying.

Unfortunately there has been more violence in the past day. Yesterday morning around 7am a police officer was killed outside his home when he was leaving for work. I don't have a lot of details about it because Ibis hasn't come home with the paper yet, but last night around 11am the newspaper megaphoned cars were driving through the neighborhood announcing the latest. I believe it was outside of Zihuatanejo in one of the smaller neighborhoods - I'll post more when I know.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Look Out Below!

Hoo boy, I'm tired today. My brother arrived on Saturday and it's been non-stop visiting since then. That mostly includes walking in circles around town, eating, and going to the beach, but when I'm used to sitting in front of the computer most of the day, it wears me out!

Yesterday we went to Playa La Ropa, which is the nicest beach on Zihuatanejo Bay. I went for a walk and when I returned, my dad and brother were talking about a rope that must have broke, or something like that. When I questioned them they told me a parasailer had plummeted into the ocean. Now, they wear life jackets for this very reason, but hello, scary!

It turns out I walked right by where it happened. I had noticed the boat driving very fast along the shore and thought it was odd that it wasn't towing anyone, and apparently that's when they were trying to fish the guy out of the water. The man who fell was with a family that was sitting ten feet away from us, so we were able to ask if he was okay. He looked pretty shaken up, but didn't seem injured. He said something about the air leaving the parachute and that's when he dropped, ruining his camera in the process.

There was a big "beach boy" pow-wow while all the guys who rent water activities talked about what happened, and the man got his money back. I stopped watching them after that, but within half an hour they sent up a man with his nine-year-old son. Well, last night we were telling someone about the man who fell, and he said "yeah, with his son!" Can you believe the very next people who went up also fell?

My dad, the boat captain, thinks the engine stalled because that's the only thing that would cause the air flow to stop and make the parachute collapse. I really hope they get it fixed and don't just assume the next wave of tourists won't know what happened.

Have you ever gone parasailing? Is it something you'd like to do?


An interesting side note: my posts last week about the violence here have made me a little famous. I've had several emails from people preparing for a vacation here and they've written asking specifics about the situation here. I'm happy to answer your questions!