Dance Of The Forty-One

16 May

I remember when the movie Silence Of The Lambs came out in 1991. It starred Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, who both won Academy Awards and overall best picture. I was probably the only person who found the movie horrifying, I could not watch, averted my eyes and walked out of the theater. I argued with friends who declared it a “great movie”. How could a movie about kidnapping, torture and wearing the skin of a woman be great? Subject matter vs cinematography.

This week I watched a Netflix movie that popped up on my feed, Dance of the Forty-One. In its own way, it was equally hard to watch, but not for the same reason. Dance of the Forty-One is a based-on-reality, Mexican movie by award winning director David Pablos about the repression of gay men in 1901 under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. To my surprise, it was dubbed well in English not subtitled.

https://www.netflix.com/title/80235267?s=i&trkid=255824129

The movie is beautiful and moving. The love scenes are steamy and visceral. It is filmed in Mexico City and Guadalajara and transports the viewer to what Mexico was like in all its elegance and grandeur at the turn of the century. However if you know even a smattering of Mexican history and the cruelty of Porfirio Diez, you know it’s not going to end well.

Lisa and I have lived in Mexico almost eight years. One of our concerns before moving was of course, how we would be treated as a lesbian couple, aka Dos Tortas. While there has been the occasional “are you sisters?” for the most part, we are treated respectfully. One time a waiter was flirting hard with Lisa who of course was clueless. He leaned over and whispered in my ear asking me about her. I declared that she was my esposa. He turned red, sputtered, delivered the check, and disappeared. The more common term in Spanish is partner or pareja, but I was feeling particularly evil that day.

2019 in the Texas bluebonnets.

I don’t kid myself that life for Mexican lesbians is the same as for foreigners. We have friends who are a mixed couple, US’er and Mexican. They have been together many years, attending family functions and living in Bacalar down the street from Sola’s conservative family. Their relationship has never been acknowledged. It is a non-topic, period, end of story. In this case, silence is not golden.

Mexico continues to grow in acceptance and discrimination has been outlawed. Same-sex marriage is legal in all thirty-one states. Gracias to David Pablos for shining a light on a dark time in history. As hard as it is to watch, let’s not avert our eyes this time.

DOS TORTAS

Great Nan Is Dead

8 May

My grandmother died a few months before her 95 birthday. I remember coming home from somewhere to my husband and youngest in arms waiting at the door. Before my foot crossed the threshold, my baby blurted out, “great Nan died”.

So many old photos with no dates.

Nan had been sitting on the bed with my mother helping to dress for the day, when her heart just gave out. I would say that it wasn’t a bad way to go, except Nan was mostly deaf and totally ornery. As her 24/7 caregiver, I’m sure that my mother had mixed feelings though she’d never admit it. She adored her mother and repeated frequently how she could never make rice pudding nor potato salad as good as Nan’s.

I was named for my grandmother which didn’t keep our personalities from clashing on more than one occasion. She once prevented my six year old daughter from joining her grandparents for weekday mass because, “you can’t go to church dressed like that.” I had been looking forward to a quiet hour sans daughter. I got mad and told my grandmother to mind her own business. Not my finest hour.

My mother to the left of center. Nan also lost a child to whooping cough and another died at birth.

This Mother’s Day I am thinking of her. She was a single mother during the Depression, working as an operator for Bell Telephone and just about any job she could find, to provide for her family. She loved to drive and frequently flirted with truck drivers by honking and waving. She always had a lifesaver or some other sweet in her purse to delight a grandchild. Nan thought nothing of inspecting me and my four siblings for dirty ears and sending us off to the bathroom if we didn’t meet her standards.

Left bottom was her 81 birthday. She wore a wig because of her thinning pate.

Today her twelve grandchildren (actually there’s two more, but that’s another story)have managed to produce twenty-six grandchildren, and forty-seven greats, as far as we know. Her Irish Catholic blood is passed down from a line of strong women. Her own mother Anna outlived three husbands and was married mother and widowed in one year.

Happy Mother’s Day out there, today and every day, however you mother, whoever you mother, and whatever you mother.

DOS TORTAS

Four generations of moms.

For The Love Of Dogs

25 Apr

I’m not sure when I first started making our dogs’ food. Neither the cheap croquetas sold in Mexico nor the $40 a bag specialty diet the vet offers, fits the bill. I’m too cheap and don’t care to drive 40 minutes if I were low on fancy food.

Probably I just started adding leftovers to their dried food and it took off from there. I have looked at Pinterest and YouTube for recipes but mostly, as with the rest of life, I make it up as I go along.

A sad street dog to a princess.

It’s easy and I probably make a batch about once a week. I label the container, which Lisa appreciates, as sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s what in our refrigerator.

This week we had lots of leftover salad, including beets.

Caveat, I am not a purist. I will not buy them steak. I just want my doggos to be healthy. The truth is, they snarf down whatever I put in front of them, no thanks given, none expected. They’re dogs.

A street urchin to a beauty.

Main ingredients:

Brown rice, stale corn tortillas, cooked barley or raw oats.

Tuna fish, eggs, beans, occasionally meat

Fruit and vegetables- such as grated carrots, apple cores, ripe bananas, etc

Any leftovers, soup, spaghetti, or casserole we’re tired of.

We eat predominately at home, so there’s always leftovers.

Once when our kids were young, we went to the Texas coast for a long weekend. A beach goer walking by and glancing into the open trunk of my Honda Civic, said “You all eat better camping than we eat at home!” Eating a fresh, varied diet has kinda always been my thing. Our dogs eat well, are healthy and we have very few leftovers. Win win.

DOS TORTAS

The truth.

Finding My Way

25 Apr

Swimming has now become a daily routine. I no longer have to brace myself for the plunge into chilly water, as days are creeping into the 90s (32c) on Laguna Bacalar in southern Mexico. The water is getting noticeably warmer and in a month or so, it will feel like stepping into a bath.

I have been working on my swimming stroke for years studying and practicing Total Immersion Swimming. I point my nose toward the bottom, keeping my neck and spine aligned. Catch and pull toward my thigh while cork screwing my body through the water. Pull, rotate, pull rotate, 1, 2, 3. Kicking is not the frantic churning of feet in an effort to propel oneself through the water. Stroke, kick, stroke, kick. It’s a beautiful dance gliding with the grace of a porpoise (at least I try) rather than laying flat like a squat tugboat. 163, 164, 165.

Sometimes I count, sometimes I sing, “Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you ooo may say I’m a dreamer….” I also like to float on my back watching the clouds and the birds. An occasional kayaker passes but for the most part the lake is all mine.

There is one thing, with all this pulling, and singing and counting, I am swimming all over the place. There are no lane lines as in a public pool and I’m not sure if it’s the currents, the wind or my uneven pull, but one minute I’m paralleling the coast and the next I’m heading for open water. I zig and zag and without repeatedly lifting my head, I never know where the heck I am.

My goal is to reach that point off in the distance.

I suppose it’s all a metaphor for life. Some days I certainly am going around in circles. Regardless, when I climb the ladder out of the water, I am flush with gratitude, a feeling of supreme accomplishment and a laugh at not knowing where I am or where I’m going, but so happy to be alive.

DOS TORTAS

In Search Of Poo

16 Apr

Before moving to Mexico from Austin, Texas in 2013, I had tried my hand at gardening for years with minimal success. Raised, postage stamp, and self watering beds were always fed from the compost in the corner of our yard and the rainwater collected off the roof. We even built a PVC Quonset hut, covered with shade cloth in the summer and plastic in the winter and hung with lightbulbs to survive the occasional freezes of Austin’s unpredictable weather.

One year I had a surprising success with a small bed of strawberries. Our grandson, Hunter would walk in the front door and out the back in search of all the tiny, sweet, red morsels his pudgy little fingers could find. Another year I had a bumper crop of cucumbers and then could never grow them again. Mostly I was feeding the insects. Gardening is both an art and a science, and while I’ve learned a lot, my green thumb seems to be intermittent at best and completely nonexistent the rest of the time.

Hunter and Lisa

I had big plans for coming to the Costa Maya. Surely the tropics would support my lifelong dream of a smaller footprint if not outright sustainability. We would grow our own veggies! We hauled gardening tools and various sundries in our six foot trailer, none of which contributed to our food-growing success.

We do have a lime tree which I planted before the house was built and is producing enough fruit for our use. I have a very sad, sickly avocado and a mango tree that may be large enough to produce fruit before I die.

One sad avocado.

We’ve built a row of beds, hauled in organic soil and again with the shade cloth. Every beginner gardener’s veg, the lowly radish was a dismal failure. Tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and cilantro all withered. This week, with dogged determination, I set off to find manure aka estiércol aka poop (cow, chicken, or goat).

Rancho Bacalar

There are many ranchos out in the less populated areas surrounding Bacalar, how hard could it be to find manure?Our search took us to a corral and house set back off the road looking like something right out of a Texas playbook complete with cowboys, horses and of course, cattle.

Bramin cattle. So beautiful and curious.
The foreman, welcoming and helpful.
Her foal was tearing around not liking that mama is a working girl.

We were directed toward a pile of seasoned dung, filled three trash cans and were off. The foreman told us to come back anytime and blow the horn and someone would open the gate. Mission accomplished. I still won’t hold my breath on the avocado.

DOS TORTAS

MAYBE

Not A Food Blog

8 Apr

There was nothing in my childhood that compared with walking into the house after school and smelling my mother’s spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove. She learned the art as a young bride in Newark, New Jersey in 1942, living in an apartment complex peopled with Italian immigrants. The women took pity on her, taking her under their collective wings to teach her how to cook.

My parents as newlyweds.

She used large cans of peeled whole tomatoes and small cans of paste to thicken the crimson mixture. Garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves and an array of Italian spices gave the sauce its deep, rich fragrance. It’s funny how a particular aroma can transport you through time and space. Spaghetti sauce is my mother’s kitchen.

Staples you will find in my kitchen at all times.

I remember returning home as an adult to find a jar of prepared sauce on the kitchen counter. I expressed my shock at her sacrilege, but she only laughed. No longer cooking for a large family, with just my dad and her, she took the easy way. I can’t blame her but it was certainly not as good.

Can’t you just smell it?

I continue to make her sauce recipe. I don’t cook it for hours like she did, and I’m sure it doesn’t taste the same. With my own family, I got in the habit of adding a lot of vegetables, mushrooms, cauliflower, grated carrots or zucchini. It was a way to make it a bit healthier (IMHO) and get vegetables into my kids. But I do still use whole tomatoes and paste and lots of garlic.

Three generations circa 1994.

My daughter always asks me to make spaghetti when I come to visit. In this day when children no longer wish to inherit possessions, my mother’s spaghetti sauce can live on. I think that would make her very happy. It certainly does me.

DOS TORTAS

Life Is A Bloody Inconvenience

4 Apr

Of course we are all living through the biggest inconvenience of the century. For that reason alone, surely we should be able to control SOMETHING! A seemingly quiet day of bread making, art project, and exercise can go in a completely different direction fast.

I have been wanting cinnamon rolls. So I made them!

I can always lock myself in my studio, or escape to my hammock with headphones. Interruptions can be many, boohoo.

Don’t let the sweet face fool you.

I find that living with people, dogs, neighbors, the weather, you name it, can all have unforeseen consequences. Some days I’m ok with it, others, it’s a challenge.

Studio time.

On the scale of introverts to extrovert, I fall somewhere off center to the introvert side. I like being alone. In life before Covid, I scheduled a yearly retreat with paints, knitting, journal and a good book. Long walks, sans dogs are such a luxury.

How can I be so cranky living in paradise.? It’s an art I guess.

Today I make the decision to put my plans aside and do what needs doing, a quick trip to the doctor and pharmacy for my mother-in-law. Bladder infections come on so quickly at a certain age. I’ve managed to swim and the bread is rising. Complaining of any sort is such privileged behavior. If you celebrate Easter I hope it’s a good one. Weather here is lovely. Hammock here I come.

DOS TORTAS

Accepting Life’s Fire

28 Mar

In 1982, I couldn’t make up my mind which to pursue in my artistic quest, quilting or weaving. Then a job in a local quilt store was posted in the Austin American Statesman and I jumped at it. Do you remember the days of job hunting in the columns and tiny squares of newsprint? The Sunday edition always had the biggest Help Wanted section. One weekend, I hit the jackpot.

Bolts of fabric.

There it was, a part-time job in a hole-in-the-wall establishment that belonged to a mother/daughter team who claimed to be related to Willie Nelson. I don’t know about that, but they were an interesting pair who knew a lot about quilting. I applied with a little sewing experience and a lot of enthusiasm, and got the job.

I made this at the request of my mother. She collected cows. (The striped fabric)

I remember women excitedly coming into the store with ideas and patterns in hand eager to buy fabric and make magic. The shop walls were covered with bolts and more bolts of solids, calico prints, and stripes in all colors and shades. We happily pulled them off the wall and piled colors high to see the affect they would have when cut up and reassembled into a Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Log Cabin, Star of Texas or any of a million patterns old and new.

Lone Star
Notice the state of Texas quilted in the corners and armadillos across the bottom. The quilt was a gift for my mother-in-law who died of Alzheimer’s disease. It was later returned to me.

The owner would peruse our artistic efforts and pull out a special bolt she called the “fire”. A pink, yellow or orange fabric that was inserted into a blue, brown or green quilt. It was opposite on the color wheel. The customers would raise an eyebrow to which she replied, “trust me”.

Log Cabin
Machine pieced and hand quilted. All quilts made by me.
A variation on a Grandmother’s Flower Garden 1984
Hand pieced and hand quilted.

I am doing my best to trust life when it presents me with its “fire”, whether a pandemic, broken leg, or cancelled trip to visit the grandchildren. When the quilts were finished, sure enough, those unexpected bursts of color made them all the more beautiful. I hope I can say that about my life. The challenges teach me lessons I surely wouldn’t have volunteered for. The unexpected provides the fire, and for that I welcome it, to the best of my ability.

DOS TORTAS

Perhaps Swimming

21 Mar

It’s not surprising that reports of mental health issues are on the rise in this time of Covid. When my youngest brother died of brain cancer in 2000, I sat on the couch every night for a year, it was as close to depression as I’ve gotten.

Michael on the left. His hair was growing back after his first brain surgery,

One of the things that pulled me out of the dark was swimming. Last night I found an old diary where I wrote about loving to exercise, specifically swim.

Training for the Bacalar open water competition several years ago.

I moved to Bacalar to be able to swim. I have the answer to the blahs in my back yard, cold water and exercise. I just have to do it. My goal this week is to get up earlier and swim before the wind picks up causing the waves that make it more difficult. The motivation of even ten years ago is more difficult to find these days.

My triathlon days.

Fingers crossed it works. Seems I cross my fingers a lot these days.

DOS TORTAS

Ain’t it the truth.

My HerStory in Hair

14 Mar

I found my first gray hair at 17. Today at 69, my hair is almost completely white. I have never dyed it, unless you count the time I tried henna and my hair turned orange. I have gotten compliments on the color and even inspired friends to grow out their dyed locks.

33 years old

I’ve worn my hair short and spikey for many years. Last January I decided to grow it out. I’ve always judged long white hair to be “old looking”, something to be avoided. Well, guess what, I am and there’s no avoiding it.

2017 self portrait

My last haircut was in March 2020. I was planning a trip to Atlanta for my uncle’s 100 birthday. Covid and the quarantine happened shutting down my plans and those of the entire world. As the months rolled by I cared less and less about my appearance.

Eye glasses also changed with time.

I’m not sure I would have made it this long if not for Covid. I can now pull my hair back in a rubber band, or braid it in kindergarten style. I continue to look in the mirror and wonder who this strange face is looking back at me.

Braids to keep my wild hair under control.

Life is a hoot and this is aging. It’s certainly not how I thought it would look. I can’t imagine what my life would be like today if I hadn’t exercised, eaten well and generally been happy. Who knows it might be exactly the same, but I doubt it.

DOS TORTAS

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