Why is this so hard?

Why is this so hard?

It’s interesting that, while nothing is happening, I have things to say. Hmmph. What does that tell you? The ravings of an idle mind? Perhaps.

I have to say that after two weeks of semi-solitary confinement, I’m about due for a breakdown. Why is this so hard? I’m very comfortable being alone. I love my house. I have a wonderful husband and very cuddly four-legged friends. So what’s the deal?

One friend suggested that it is a loss of control over just about everything that leads to this sense of abject powerlessness. Ok, I can hear you all chuckling — what, Donna? A control freak? Ha! It may, however, be true.

For example, the last thing I felt I had some control over was my teaching. However, now that everything has changed, I find myself once again stumbling around trying to figure everything out. You would think I would be used to starting over again after how much I’ve had to do it over the years. Why is this so different?

Age, perhaps. Lack of outlets for my frustrations, perhaps. Anxiety about the future, yeah that one for sure. Concern about those I love, positively. But it isn’t like I’ve ever had control over these things. Right? But now there are new terrors in the dark nights, new dragons to slay, new and unseen enemies to conquer.

Will I survive? Oh, no doubt. My fears have never been about ultimate survival; rather it is the “going through” that draws battle lines in my heart and soul, the “getting by” that leaves the scars. Though there is little space left for new pain to carve in this old warrior. But it will have to be enough.

 

 

 

Love in the time of Covid-19

Love in the time of Covid-19

Hello world!

I hope you are well. Things are certainly strange here, although not so strange as they may be where you are. Here in Mexico, the world continues in much the same way it has. Those of us with the luxury of jobs that can be done via Internet are working from home, embracing the challenges of pets and noise, distractions and disruptions. We spend our non-working hours bleaching our doorknobs and checking our savings accounts.

Those who are not as fortunate continue to hawk their wares on the streets, beg at the stoplights and eek out a meager living as best they can. The restaurants are still turning tables. The stores, banks, and various businesses that rely on tourists and passersby remain open and optimistic, as foolhardy and that may seem.

It seems as if we have entered into the dystopian novels that have been warning us for years about what was to come.

Well, guess what? It’s here. Now. Everywhere.

No one is immune.

Keeping in touch is more important than ever, especially for us extrovert types who thrive on the energy of kindred spirits. I miss you all, even though I may live thousands of miles away.

I have found solace in apps/programs like FaceTime, WhatsApp and Zoom, which let me enjoy a glass of wine or coffee with a friend without compromising the quarantine.

I try to stay busy, working on my lessons, learning new skills, etc. Some days I just enjoy lying on the sofa playing solitaire on my iPad or binge watching TV shows on Netflix. Currently I’m engrossed in the new Netflix Star Trek Discovery series. Very good! Wine and chocolate are stocked in the pantry, although they have to be restocked frequently. (oops!)

Dinner!

One of the things I miss is a good book, though. Suggestions anyone? It needs to be available online, but I’m open to just about anything.

On the bright side, street parking has become a breeze, so I have a premo spot right across from my house. The dogs are well walked, and the flowers are blooming. The jacaranda here are amazing!

Toilet Paper is Plentiful!

For those of you that can’t find TP, there’s plenty here. I’d ship it to you, but it would take six weeks. You might as well jump on a plane for what it would cost to ship! Of course you can’t do that, now, can you?

Mexico isn’t considered a first-world country, although it has most of the same things as other more developed parts of the world. It is quite poor in many areas, but the people here are the most gracious, giving and loving people I have ever met.

Fortunately, in Querétaro, we have everything — technology, resources, food, a great quality of life, a thriving cultural scene, and the capacity to grow and flourish. I’m really glad we are here, where the sun shines brightly and the people live life deeply and fully.

Poodles

Of course, the dogs are keeping us from being total couch potatoes. Here are some pics, and freebie of a crocheted baby Yoda doll from an Uber I rode in a while back.

Let's go!
Let’s go!
high alert
On high alert!

Stay well my friends, and stay in touch!

XO

A bit of perspective

A bit of perspective

Hello friends! Greetings from Querétaro, where, as everywhere else in the world, a sense of unreality has set in. We are now living in a dystopian novel where a strange and frightening new virus is spreading globally at an unprecedented pace. So, what to do about it?

DON’T PANIC!

Those famous words are the first line from one of my favorite books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and, folks, they remain the best advice out there.

Please peeps, I’m begging you, use some common sense. Social distancing is not the same as isolating yourself in your house surrounded by massive amounts of toilet paper and Oreos. It means limiting the amount of time you spend in close proximity to other people.

The sun is still shining, the birds are still singing, and life is still going on. Get yourself outside into the sunlight! Take a walk (your dogs are counting on you). Stop, as they say, and smell the flowers!

Taking precautions.

I’m not saying not to be prepared. By all means, buy some supplies (without hoarding, that is). Make sure the people you love have what they need. But don’t go crazy. There are still many things to be done, so do them. Just do them sensibly.

It is easy to lapse into a depression with all the changes coming onto rapidly, especially for certain personality types. Making sure to keep an optimistic attitude is, perhaps, the best thing you can do for those who struggle, particularly now when things are changing so quickly.

For me, finding humor is essential. I happen to love cat videos and other animal related things. Cats and dogs are so innocent, spontaneous and downright hilarious! If you’re looking for a source for these, Daily Mail and Buzzfeed usually have some great stuff. For example, I just loved this meme:

Humans are incredibly resilient. We are also a social species that needs human contact, so don’t stop interacting! In today’s high tech world, we can get together online, in chatrooms, FaceTime, WhatsApp and more. Stay in touch with people, even if you can’t go visit them for a while.

On a positive note, families with children are learning once again how to stay busy and entertained at home, reconnecting with each other rather than with peers at schools or social gatherings. I’ve seen a ton of great ideas on Facebook for how to deal with the boredom that may set in.

We will be judged not by our survival but by our character during this time. Be sure to leave your paranoia at the door! Remember to check-in on your neighbors and others who need more help. Let’s show ourselves that humanity is worth saving.

 

Joy is in the little things

Joy is in the little things

Almost a year ago, my friends, Saadia and David, brought our “dragon” down from the US. The dragon isn’t really anything special in and of itself. However, it was the centerpiece of our home decor in Boise.

I purchased the dragon from a friend (Ton) who worked in a Thai restaurant. The restaurant had two of them on the walls, and I immediately fell in love. Ton had her sister ship one from Laos for me. It took me a while to get it framed, and it wasn’t cheap. But after that, the dragon hung proudly on our living room wall and was the first thing you saw when you entered the house.

When we moved to Mexico ten years later, we weren’t able to bring it with us as it was too big and heavy. We actually tried to sell it, but it had no takers. So, I asked my friend Karen in Boise to see if she could get it back from the consignment store where it was on display.

She did! She was able to get the dragon, which is made of quilted fabric with sequins and glass beads, out of the frame.

Not long after that, Saadia and David came to visit us here in Querétaro, and with them they brought the dragon in a duffle bag. We were getting ready to move into a new home. While it was new to us, it was actually a very old house — a colonial more than 200 years old, with 20-foot ceilings and exposed wood beams. The rooms and walls are very large, making it a perfect place for our dragon.

Saadia and Lyn in our soon-to-be new home.
Saadia and Lyn in our soon-to-be new home before we moved in.

Since that visit, I have been looking for a way to get the dragon framed and  back up on the wall. It turns out that it is not an easy task here. First, I had to find a place that does framing. After going to several places, it became obvious that a frame like the one we had before was not an option.

After a year of searching, I decided to take radical action: I am going to make a backing that could support the dragon so that I could hang it on the wall! The first step was buying a sewing machine. Lyn has fought me on this idea for a long time, but recently, I was in Costco without him and, lo and behold, they had sewing machines for sale and, I bought one!

Where’s the joy?

You are probably wondering how this ties in with the title of this post. So, here goes.

Today I went to Nuevo Mundo, a department store near my house, to look for materials to make my backing. Standing in the fabric section I was nearly overcome with joy! I hadn’t realized how much I missed sewing and crafting!

I was fortunate enough to find the materials — some stiff interfacing and black felt, along with heavy duty thread and needles. And now I am ready to get started.

Honestly, I didn’t realize how important having a hobby/project was to my happiness. Who knew that something so simple could bring such elation?

Window treatments
Window treatments before hanging.

I have always been crafty and have sewn things since I was 8 years old. In Boise, I made window treatments, recovered the patio furniture, and made a valence for our home and our rental house. I know how to macrame, knit, crochet, embroider and, of course, sew.

And now, I can do it all again! How fun!

window treatments
Window treatments mounted.
recovered patio furniture.
Recovered patio furniture cushions.

Success!

Success!

My Dallas trip was a success, but not like you would think.

The plan was to get up early Wednesday morning and go to the Social Security office and complete my application process. However, before I got out of bed, my phone rang. Would you believe it was the US Embassy in Mexico City?

Yep. I spent $1500 to get a phone call! Geez. That said, however, there was some additional good news: Because of having been married previously for more than 10 years, I am entitled to a larger monthly benefit than I would normally be — about $300 a month more. Down here, that is a lot of money! Can you do the happy dance?

Other business:

While I was in Dallas I had a couple of other things to do, such as pick up my AdvoCare products — I can’t live without my Spark! — and complete setting up a direct transfer from my US bank to my Mexico bank.

In addition, I was able to reconnect with my friends Mike and Emily Biddler, who are the parents of my good friend Jeane Brown. The timing couldn’t have been better. Not only did we have a lovely dinner, but the Biddlers drove me to pick up my Spark.

By Wednesday night I had successfully completed two of the three goals I had for the trip.

Unfortunately, I also visited the bank that afternoon. That part didn’t go as planned. Turns out that the banker in Boise didn’t complete the process on his end, which meant I couldn’t do what I needed to do to get the system working. The alternative was to start over. That wasn’t going to work, though, because I would have to come back in a week to send the first transfer. It MUST be done in a branch. That was the initial problem when I set it up in Boise (or so I thought) in the fall.

It took a second trip to the bank on Thursday to confirm all this, which left me with an entire day to myself in beautiful Dallas. Not that I did anything fun. I just went back to the hotel and rested.

My room at The Hotel Lorenzo

Speaking of the hotel, it was the Hotel Lorenzo. A very cool, modern and funky little hotel with a great happy hour bar/restaurant. I was able to get my meals there without breaking the bank.

The carpet in the room made me a little crazy. Basically, it was a black carpet with white text on it — quotes from Shakespeare! The text was fuzzy, so you couldn’t actually read it, but I did my damnedest! “To be or not to be, that is the question….” Finding the sentences that went together made me absolutely insane, but, hey — English major! I couldn’t rest until I found them!

In the lobby restaurant, each wall had photos of different artists — Dali, Picasso and Warhol, were some of them. In the main part of the lobby, there was a hallway with TVs that each showed one eye blinking. On the other side was a mirror. Weird, but interesting.

Best part? The bed was super comfy and I slept really well.

Other view

The last thing I did was to purchase some items in the CVS pharmacy that we can’t get here — Zicam spray, ear plugs for Lyn, and moleskin for my tender toes!

Overall, mission accomplished, I think. We’ll see when the first check arrives!

Dallas, here I come!

Dallas, here I come!

New year, new hassles.

It only took 2 years to collect on my circuit city pension, and now the wonderful social security administration is taking its sweet time approving my retirement benefits. Ah, the government.

Not like it’s a lot of money. Down here a little goes a long way. This small retirement benefit covers my rent each month and is more than I actually earn in a month.

It’s just the hassle factor of collecting it.  I applied in July, so we are talking 6 months ago, and still nada. But finally, yesterday, after an hour talking to people who have no desire to help, I was connected with a manager. She told me that I could walk into any SSA office in the US and get it done right away. The issue at the moment is that I live in Mexico. Really? So why didn’t anyone tell me this before? It’s not like I haven’t called numerous times.

Apparently, the US Embassy handles all that stuff here, and there is no way to contact them directly.  And so, here I go. To Dallas (the fastest direct flight) to both handle this “glitch” and, since I’ll be there, pick up a year supply of Advocare!

Two birds with one very expensive stone. Argh.

(FYI, the image I picked represents how I feel about all this!)

 

 

It’s 2020 and I’m such a slacker!

It’s 2020 and I’m such a slacker!

Geez Louise, it’s been about 6 months since I’ve written anything here. Of course, like everyone on the planet, the advent of the new year means a new resolution to do better. Well, let’s just see how that goes.

So, to catch you all up, Lyn and I are still living in Querétaro and teaching ESL. The last few months were quite interesting, with lots of things happening.

The Anglo

Lele

I completed one year at The Anglo in August. And, the good news is, my contract was renewed for another year. I’m so glad, as I just LOVE my job! I love all of the people who work there — and I do mean all of them, from the cleaning staff to the administration. It is a very closely knit family.

A visit home

The key benefit of having completed my contract is that I had a month-long paid vacation. I took that opportunity to go back to the US and visit my family in NY and friends in Idaho. Overall it was a great trip. I was able to meet the newest addition to the family — my grand nephew, Bryson. What a sweet little baby! I also had the chance to see my #1 nephew, Joey, play soccer. He’s a goalie. It was a fun day to sit and do something so normal with family!

Me and baby Bryson
Me and Bryson

I also had the chance to catch up with my beautiful nieces, both of whom are growing up so fast! Being a mom will certainly do that to you, so with Jenifer it was no real surprise. My precious Bells, though, is growing up too quickly. What a gorgeous young woman she is!

soccer game
Joey on the field

Of course, no trip home is complete without some shopping. I definitely had some quality time at Macy’s, where I bought myself lots of things to get me through the winter here in Querétaro. It does get cold here, and, even in the summer with the AC on in the classrooms, I needed some warmer things to wear.

hiking in the Boise foothills
Me, Ziva and Reese in the Boise foothills

While visiting family is great, the best part of the trip was the week in Boise. I was able to catch up with most people, celebrate my birthday with my best friends, and enjoy some quality outdoor time. We hiked in the foothills every day. It surprised me how well I did considering that I haven’t had a lot of exercise since living in Mexico. I was actually able to keep up with the others. I think it may have been because I’ve been living at an elevation of about 6,000 feet.

2019 Birthday dinner
Birthday dinner at Gino’s

Of course, I did a bit more shopping. Ultimately I had to buy another suitcase to get all the stuff home, which also included several month’s supply of AdvoCare products that I can’t get down here. It was so worth it though.

I also spent a little time with Lyn’s mom. I don’t even want to discuss that fiasco. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating that experience was. Let’s just say the first meeting took place in the ER. Nuff said.

Back home

Coming home is always the final destination, and I was thankful to be back with Lyn and our four-legged family. I still had a few days of downtime before going back to work, which I needed to recover from all that traveling!

Once here, I had a birthday party (our first in the new house). It was great fun! I learned how to dance Cumbia, and we ate, drank and danced the night away!

As the year continued, we had our first Day of the Dead while living in El Centro Historico. That was very fun! There were public alters everywhere, and the colors and decorations were beautiful. Of course, we even had an altar at school. Last year we had a competition. This year they just set one up in the lobby.

Day of the dead Lele doll

One of our friends, Tiffany, came over and we walked all over town the night of the celebration. We tried to go to a cemetery, but it was closed by the time we got there. It was interesting to me that, in such a catholic country, there are so few cemeteries. You would think there would be more.

One of many public altars. Note that the skull face in front is made from different types and colors of seeds

 

There were some public buildings, too, that had altars set up in them. In those cases, there seemed to be a theme, for example, in one building, each neighborhood had an altar.

There was also an indigenous exhibition of Mayan dancers. The costumes were just amazing! It was a little difficult to see everything since the dancers were performing without a stage. We were still able to get a few photos. They used a lot of fire in the performance, too.

Indigenous dancer costume.

Back to school

Naturally, I returned to work. My class schedule was pretty light the last few months of 2019, which was ok with me. I always feel a little guilty when I get paid for not working, especially when all the other teachers have multiple jobs to earn enough. It wasn’t without it’s frustrations, but, alas, that comes with the territory.

2019 Xmas party in CDMX
Christmas 2019 in CDMX

The Anglo had a wonderful Christmas party in Mexico City. That was so much fun! They had a great band, gifts, dancing, glow-in-the-dark face painting, tequila, and more! It was a long way to go for a party, but it was worth it. They bussed us, too, which meant we could sleep on the bus.

Xmas 2019

And that, my friends, brings me almost up to date!

It’s a party!

Christmas vacation

Blue Hawaiian by the pool

This year, Lyn and I went to the beach. We planned the trip earlier in the year when a mutual friend suggested we meet somewhere for Christmas. She ultimately wasn’t able to make it, so I invited one of my colleagues from work to join us. I already booked two rooms. She jumped at the opportunity. She, her son and her mother ended up going with us. It was a lot of fun.

Rocio, Ruben, Lyn and Me on the shuttle

My goal for the trip was to relax, which I did in spades! We mostly sat by the pool, where I sipped my 2-for-1 Blue Hawaiians. The only activities we planned were to go to Tulum and snorkeling in Cozumel. It rained the day we went to Cozumel, but it didn’t matter much in the water. We did get a bit soaked getting back to the hotel shuttle, as we had to walk all the way down 5th Avenue. Nevertheless, it was a very good day. Well, except for the fire coral I ran into to. Man did that sting!

2020

That pretty much brings us up to today, January 2, 2020. We’re not much for new year’s celebrations, so we stayed home and kept the animals calm as all the fireworks went off. The explosions kept up until after 2 a.m., so we started the new year a bit sleep deprived. Oh well, there’s another 364 days to rest.

Classes don’t start again until the 11th or so, so we still have time to rest. We did buy some new things for the house — a couple of very nice rugs, which are nice to have now that it is so much colder in the morning. I am also quite thankful for the warm clothing that I bought on my US vacation. (Oh, I forgot to mention I went shopping in Playa too, but only bought a couple of things — shoes and a bag.)

We are still working on getting our pictures and decor on the walls, but it is coming along.

A few more pics

Saadia, Denise and me, Boise 2019
At home with Bob
Me and Ellen, NY 2019
Mi cuñada, Flor, and me in NY 2019
Bob and Stef at Joey’s soccer game
Me, Lyn and Ruben in Playa del Carmen, 2019
One of several “cocodrillos” at the resort in Playa
The flamingo area at Vidanta
Me and my Bells, NY 2019