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You Win Some You Loose Some

30 Jul

On Wednesday this week, I lost and found my diamond necklace and had my iPad stolen from my luggage, both on the same day. Travel has its perils.

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Winery beauty Northern California.

Sitting on the plane as we landed in Mexico City to start our U.S. vacation, my hand went to my throat and my necklace was missing. With an attempt at no drama, we looked through the plane seat and sent messages to our house sitter and friend who drove us to the airport. No luck. There wasn’t much else to do, so we continued with our travels.

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Petunias

Hours later, Lisa pointed incredulously at my foot, “what’s that?” and there was the necklace tangled in my shoe laces! It must have fallen and in my 3 a.m. stupor, I tied it into the bow! How crazy is that? I was feeling pretty smug at not having gotten upset at the possible loss of my beloved necklace. Not so fast, the day was young.

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Blooming artichoke.

Any way you look at it, travel these days is getting more stressful, especially international travel. There’s the luggage, fees, passports, immigration paperwork, security, finding your gate, layovers, delays etc. etc. In our case, all is negotiated in Spanish.

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Who doesn’t love goats at a winery ❤️ she looks pregnant.

We landed without further event in San Francisco. The plane arrived thirty minutes early. We slid through immigration and ran to catch an earlier shuttle than we expected for the two hour ride to my daughter’s house. Things were clicking along until I reached into my suitcase to retrieve my iPad. I had it stowed in my checked bag due to newly released security warnings. Drum roll….

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The cover was there but no iPad. Our very long day just got longer. Fast forward to today, I have a new iPad and thanks to that mysterious thing called the cloud, my old pad has been erased and a new one restored. I wish I could say that there was no drama. I understand in my head why people steal, but it’s hard not to take it personally. Replacing a device is an inconvenience, not to mention a pain in the ass and an expense. Lesson learned, nothing of value in checked luggage. When we moved to Mexico we had visions of zipping north to visit the grands. Not as easy as we though and one more thing to consider when making plans to retire in Mexico.

DOS TORTAS

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Advice For Living In Mexico

28 May

What advice do you have for those planning to move to or travel in Mexico? I penned “Retiring To Mexico Is It In Your Stars?” and reposted in July 2016. It has been my most popular blog. It’s worth taking a look back and see if things have changed in four years of life on the Costa Maya.

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Lisa making friends everywhere.

Learn Spanish – Our Spanish has improved tremendously in four years. But not without lots of work. Lisa had zero prior Spanish. Her first words were highway signs as we drove south from Texas. Today she understands almost everything. She will miss words but understand the basic conversation. She also speaks passable Spanish. Lisa is not afraid to make mistakes and will try to converse in all situations. People love her for her willingness and she continues to grow in confidence. We both use the Ap Duolingo. Mexican friends are the best.

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After an hour conversation, a shop owner in Ticul shares local history and gives great discounts!

I had passable Spanish upon arrival. I was worthless on the phone. Understanding was my weakness. I now too understand most conversations. I no longer avoid making phone appointments. I feel confident and am continually improving.

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An international group of friends celebrating our marriage in July 2014.

So yes, LEARN SPANISH. Don’t avoid it no matter how uncomfortable.

Start Preparing Today – I did a lot of research before we took off for Mexico. Many people want to get on Facebook and simply ask questions. It’s lazy and does not prepare you for the strong independent life you will need to lead. If you are planning on living in a gated community with only English speaking immigrants and hiring bilingual help, you will miss much of the beauty that is Mexico. No strong opinions here.

Come Happy – I stand fast with this suggestion. There is so much here that delights, the people, the culture, and the natural beauty. However, like life, the same things that delight will dismay if you take them personally or impose your own standards. The relaxed living means things don’t get done in a timely fashion. The use of plastic is through the roof and recycling cannot begin to keep up. Much of the natural beauty may be littered in trash.

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There was so much trash floating in the water of this little village, it was hard to be here.

Words are incomplete to describe our chosen life and country. It is painful to see the distrust and animosity between the US and Mexico. We are like sibling who’ve had a falling out and haven’t spoken in years for an infraction we can no longer remember. So sad. We will continue to be ambassadors. Please ask questions and suggestion topics.

DOS TORTAS

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A Week In The Life

14 May

Life in the jungle can be quiet at times. The question I was asked most frequently during our recent visit to Austin was “what is your day like?” This week the excitement entailed watching a rain storm (I am grateful, our plants were thirsty). Lisa washing the truck in preparation for its sale (thank you Lisa, it’s been hot here!) and a trip to Chetumal.

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All shiny and clean, inside and out.

Yesterday the Laguna was flat with no breeze so I headed out in my little blue kayak. Thirty minutes later, I turned around to race a storm home. The sky to the north looked ominous. The wind picked up and I surfed homeward. What fun with the wind in my back. How quickly the weather can change on the Laguna.

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On Wednesday we went to Chetumal, our nearest city and state capital. Halfway, there is a security checkpoint. We are near the border with Belize, so this is routine. We are used to being stopped in our big black pickup, but assumed it would be smooth sailing in Lolita. Not!

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Our new little car.

The security guards are dressed in black, long sleeves, bullet proof vests, boots, the works, and standing in the sun on a blacktop highway. I don’t know how they don’t pass out. We were signaled to pull over and asked the usual, “where are you from?” We said that we live in Bacalar, but the officer persisted in wanting to know where we were from. We told him, Texas and for some reason he proceeded to tell us all about his 15 day vacation to Florida. His eyes were wide and animated as he talked of Miami, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale…his enthusiasm for our country was palpable!!

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While this may have been an odd security checkpoint conversation for us, to him it appeared an opportunity to share his experience with someone who understood. It was sweet and comical. What a hoot. We laughed for miles.

DOS TORTAS 

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Inspiration And A Plan (3)

26 Mar

This is week three and the final week of my #21EmBody paint along. Who knew that a seemingly small commitment could have such a profound impact. But again, isn’t that how life is when you’re open to the unexpected and unplanned?

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BREASTS

It all started when a friend posted to Facebook an invitation to paint, heal and show respect for our various body parts. Mmmm what an interesting idea! The event was orchestrated by Connie Solera a well known artist’s guru. I was intrigued.

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BELLY

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NAVEL

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SPINE

And as I am prone to do, being the Torta that I am, I jumped in with both feet. Paintings are posted to Instagram and Facebook for the world to see. Not only did I get to follow the amazing work of artists from around the world painting the same subject, but I got to see my own work evolve. I have never produced an art journal before, and my 5×7 sketch pad is now a treasure.

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HAIR

I appreciate the many comments from other artists and friends alike. Even last night I ran into a friend out and about in Bacalar who had seen and appreciated my work on Facebook and is talking about picking up a brush.

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EARS

I couldn’t complete this story without a shout out to George W. Bush. Our forty-third has become an amazing artist with no background but a lot of heart. He was making the rounds of late-night talk shows and I caught him on Jimmy Kimmel. He was friggin inspirational. The man is amazing AND funny. I know, who knew?

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LEGS

What did I learn? The creative process cannot be rushed. It forces me to slow my mind and listen to my inner voice. At the same time, I need to NOT listen to the inner critical voice. It showed up loudly when painting my breasts and belly. Especially my belly. That was the hardest. I learned that my work is mine and doesn’t compare at all to anyone else’s. I love looking at others’ paintings of the same subject. Their amazing work does not diminish mine in the slightest. I had so much fun.

DOS TORTAS

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First Of All Have Fun

19 Feb

I’ve always considered myself a creative person. After all, I was an “art major” in high school which translated into hanging out with a cool crowd and having fun! In college I quickly learned that my lack of marketable talent meant bleak job prospects. I ended up with a degree in English and a blog. And so it goes.

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What all the fashionable watercolorists standing in a cemetery are wearing.

Upending our lives and retiring in Mexico has given me a chance to recreate myself. Part of that recreation, besides napping in a hammock has been watercoloring. Painting has always been one of those “back burner” dreams for someday when I retire.

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A sweet mother and child park scene. Learning about perspective.

Last week’s blog was a walk down memory lane as I participated in Rendezvous 2015. I haven’t painted much since, and I was excited to travel to Merida, Yucatán for Rendezvous 2017.

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Carolyn, our mistress of ceremonies  is a painting unto herself. The entrance to Hacienda Misné day one.

The gist is, we paint on site at a different location daily for five days. Merida is enchanting with its mercados, parques, churches, a massive cemetery and of course, the nearby beach in Progresso. The hard part was picking a subject. Each evening we critique each other’s work. It is a growth opportunity or a fork in the eye, depending on whether you take it personally.

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Progreso beach scene.

The agreement is to produce five paintings, all matted and ready to display. We had a gallery showing/party on Saturday evening and felt very accomplished and exhausted.

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My favorite of the week, a lovely little market scene.

Our happy little band of participants has varying levels of skill and experience. People always say, “oh, I can’t do that.” NOT! I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter if you’ve never painted. My motto is, not know what I’m doing has never stopped me before. Be fearless, be bold, but most of all, have fun!

DOS TORTAS

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Can You “Plan” Adventure? But Of Course

15 Jan

We have been in our little house along the coast of beautiful Laguna Bacalar in the tropics of Southern Mexico for a little more than a year. The walls have been settling around us. Our gardens are bursting with color from a long rainy season. Life is good.

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Waking every morning to an amazing sunrise.

We left our life in Austin, Texas and made this extraordinary move in 2013 with certain pre-conceived ideas that were completely subconscious. Traveling and living in a foreign country is a great way to hold up a mirror to one’s assumptions. Here are some things that surprised us about our new life.

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Orchid like flowers blooming in the jungle. 

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A stone cross found in Valladolid, Yucatán. 

It’s not as easy to take off for the weekend and travel as we had imagined.

This may be a no-brainer for you but dogs are a lot of work. When we adopted Luna, our first dog ever, she was a throw away street puppy. We didn’t really think through all the ways she would impact our lives. Everyone told us, you HAVE to have a dog. Of course we adore her, but like every other relationship, there are inconveniences.

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A sad little puppy who needed a home.

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Lisa and Luna enjoying tour of the lake.

Leaving our house unattended for more than a day or two is not a good idea. There is crime of opportunity, much like in the US or anywhere else in the world. An empty house is a big opportunity. Since we have chosen not to live with bars on the windows, having a house sitter is the way to go. Finding the right someone takes time. Travel is less spontaneous than we had hoped. Another inconvenience.

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The front of the house.

We have also turned into the proverbial home bodies. The view from the porch is to die for. We can swim and kayak in our back “yard”. The food (my cooking) is the best and our bed is supremely comfy.

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So the “Adventures” of Dos Tortas has been looking more like the laid-back, staid life of Dos Tortas. We are not complaining.

As of today, I am happy to report there are adventures in the planning. Can you “plan” adventures? Stay tuned. We’ll try to step it up a bit.

DOS TORTAS

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Bark Sniff Poo Repeat

28 Aug

The exercise, entertainment and care of Princesa Luna requires daily forays into the mosquitoey jungle. We clothe our bodies head to foot and douse in repellant, especially at dawn and dusk. I don’t think she appreciates us.

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The lane in front of our property.

This week I brought my camera along. Taking a picture with a dog dragging me along does not lend itself to the best shots.

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There are always flowers blooming. Watch the sharp points on the leaves. Ouch.

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Luna knows the way.

The path is surprisingly refreshing as the hot sun does not penetrate the jungle canopy.

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Why did the tarantula cross the road?

Luna is so curious about everything. This tarantula would not hang around to play.

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Lovely green wall.

There is an open property up the way where Luna and I run and play. I lust after cuttings of this cactus. I must return with my machete, gloves and NO dog.

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The jungle is also home to these amazing blue butterflies. They are the size of your palm and impossible to photograph.

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She doesn’t look one bit guilty. Maybe a little.

If it weren’t for Luna insisting that we go for a walk, several times a day, we would miss so many amazing things. We have seen fox, coatis, parrots and more. I guess life  in the jungle is a dog’s paradise. Ours’ too. DOS TORTAS

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A Matter Of Perspective

14 Aug

A year ago we were up to our eyeballs in the construction of our house in Bacalar, Mexico, a small town near the southern border of Mexico and Belize. We had bought lakeside property in 2012 and then returned to our home in Austin, Texas to turn our lives upside down and retire to Mexico. Eight months later we kicked off the Adventures of Dos Tortas. And what an adventure it’s been!

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Our bright functional beautiful kitchen today.

 

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The floors were newly painted. Sept 16, 2015

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Building the center island. Lots of sanding. Aug. 24, 2015

Our followers can’t seem to get enough pictures of our house, so I thought I’d post some before, during and after photos. It gives us perspective on how far we’ve come. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

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Counter on the east wall. This morning.

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One year ago.

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Pantry off the kitchen. During and after.

Here are a few more pictures. Some days we have to pinch ourselves.

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The mistress bathroom. 

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Guest Bath. Building a stub wall.

Pictures of the outside will be in a future post. Thanks for this little walk down memory lane. As you can see, we’ve come a long way baby. DOS TORTAS

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Don’t Pour Gasoline

31 Jul

I try to keep my life chill. When a problem arises, too often the pull is to pour gasoline rather then step away from the ledge. I make problems bigger and scarier rather than talking them down. This week I had the ultimate test of my resolve…a car accident.

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Pulling out of our drive in Austin, Texas

The Tortas drive a large Ford F-150 truck that was perfect for hauling our possessions to Mexico but does not work well maneuvering in a small town like Bacalar.

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A busy mercado with limited parking.

During a quick stop at the mercado to pick up some veggies for dinner, I found a taxi double parked in front of my little fruteria and leaving me little room to maneuver. I squeezed through but did not leave enough room to pass the car parked on my right. I clipped the bumper and tore it off completely. My stomach began to flip flop and I was in a panic before I even got out of the truck. We all know what’s it’s like having a car accident, not fun at best and a complete life-altering disaster at worst.

A man and his wife and adult son emerged from an older sedan.  They circled the car, pointing out damage and shaking their heads. My fear was that they would call the police. It’s not that I’m afraid of the police, but the more people that get involved, the higher the price goes.

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Local police.

I didn’t know what to do. They began discussing mechanics. I was pouring gasoline.

When I asked what they wanted to settle things, the man meekly asked for two thousand pesos which I did not have and was an outrageous price. I pulled a 500 peso bill from my wallet and offered it as compensation ($30us). The woman looked me in the eye and said, “we’ll take it”. I handed her the money and we shook hands. When I came out of the store, they were gone. To put this in perspective, most laborers make about 250 pesos a day for hard manual labor.

It took me hours to get the adrenaline out of my system. How often do I create problems where there are none, but there “could be”? Valuable lessons were learned, among them, always deal with the woman. DOS TORTAS

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The Gods Were With Us

26 Jun

Watching a wall of rain barrel across Laguna Bacalar is a breathtaking experience. There’s barely time to batten down the hatches before the tormenta strikes. During the rainy season we close up the house before any outing, no matter how clear the sky or the weather predictions. You just never know.

Last weekend was the maraton or swim across as we fondly call it, across Laguna Bacalar. It’s a three quarter mile swim with hundreds of flailing bodies. I saw three boats almost run into each other trying to get to a swimmer requesting help. People were panicking in water that wasn’t even over their head.

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Over a thousand registrants.

The weather was perfect and the Laguna calm. The sun even peaked out as the race was beginning. After days of torrential downpours, the gods were with us.

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Checking out our medals.

Swimmers come from all over Mexico, Central America and the US to participate in this open water, fresh water event. There were many young people who left me far behind, some old people too. My official time was 37m 33sec. Not bad for not having trained. I was experiencing residual pain from the kayak marathon.

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Team Bacalar – Shawn, Alex, Jim, Polly and myself

I know so many people that say that they hate to exercise. I don’t go to the gym because I love going to the gym. I go because I can sleep better, walk further and lift more without hurting myself. I go because it helps me live in my body in a way that nothing else does. DO TORTAS

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Blog follower Emily came from San Miguel to swim!

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