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Finding Your Voice

28 Jan

I remember kindergarten and the teacher presenting a table of musical instruments for a pint sized marching band. For some unknown reason, I chose the baton to lead the band. I remember my teacher reporting later to my mother in a certain voice that I “liked to be in charge”. It is my first memory of having my voice squashed.


We are living in inspired times with women finding their bold, beautiful voices. Whether marching in pink hats, accepting awards, or naming their abuser. I understand the old need for self preservation and its long term consequences to our soul, and the heady power of speaking out.


The orchid in my yard has no trouble finding her voice.

My government job, at times helped me find my voice. I presented at national conferences and brainstormed around tables. I was respected in my field. Then the times changed, the funding dried up and my position disappeared. That’s the way it goes sometimes in a regime change. Also my gray hair made it impossible to find a comparable job. It was time to retire.

Photo on 2012-12-25 at 20.02 #2

Lisa and my last Christmas in Texas (2012). I was still working and planning our escape.

The question I ask myself and pose to you is, “how do you continue to use your voice as you age?” I find it easy to be quiet and let others make decisions, which affords little personal growth and is plain lazy.


Retirement looks good on us.

Looking in the mirror, I realize at least two ways I continue expressing myself, one is this blog and the other my budding art practice. Some weeks I know what I want to say and have my topic well fleshed out by Sunday. Other weeks, like today, it appears as I put fingers to keyboard.


Last night when I couldn’t sleep.

My art is becoming more and more fearless, at least for me. I leave next Sunday for a week of watercolor painting in Merida. We’ll see what shows up. I’m excited. So whether you need to be quiet and listen more, or sing your opinions from the rooftop, please share your thoughts in the comments section. It really is inspiring to hear from you.



Winter In Paradise

21 Jan

This is our fifth winter living in beautiful Bacalar, Mexico, on the Belize/Mexico border. In past years we’ve had a weeklong “cold spell”which required the addition of a light blanket and a long sleeve shirt in the morning until the sunrise. Our house is screened with persianas (Florida shutters) to protect from rain. We call it “glamping”, (luxury camping). This year has very been different.


Persianas looking onto the screened porch and out to the Laguna.

With extreme snow and ice storms covering Northern Mexico, the US and other parts of the world, we have been enjoying a very cool, comfortable two months here in paradise. My MIL Alice, skinny little thing that she is, has been “freezing” and has brought out her electric blanket. Lol.


The view to our front gardens.

Our nights have been in the mid 50s (13C) with lovely sunny days in the 70s (23-25C). Knowing how hot it gets in the summer, we are enjoying every minute.


The women’s solidarity march in Chetumal 2017 (I’m second from right with Lisa in orange and Alice in pink)

It has also been dry, so my jungle walks have been wonderful beyond description. Watching the dogs cavort, I have been reminiscent of my lifelong predilection for walking.


Luna heads for our jungle trail.

I used to pick wild blackberries walking down our country lane, crossing the railroad tracks on my way home from school in New Jersey. Those were the days parents didn’t hover fearfully over their children. My first homesick days of college, I walked the neighborhood around my school enjoying the falling leaves and breathing the cool air. In the 80’s I pushed my son’s stroller through the alleyways around our house in Okinawa, Japan, peering in windows, again homesick, but loving my new adventure.


Summer will bring heat, rain and mosquitoes. Even the dogs won’t walk in a shower. The dirt trail will be a mud slide that will likely shorten our daily ritual. For now I will enjoy the time with the dogs, the temperatures and my musings. When Luna gives me the look that can not be ignored, I will lace up my shoes and head for the door. Seize the moment! for the only thing we can count on is change.



The Dog With Nine Lives

17 Dec

When an animal is choking, there’s no time to think, you must react. And you better do it quickly. This week my friend pointed at Frida, there was something wrong. Camila doesn’t speak English and the word for choking wasn’t high on my vocabulary list. Frida was pawing at her face and making a gagging sound. She was spinning and pawing and stupid me, I thought she was sick.


Still the preferred nap location.

Camila then said juguete, which is the word for toy and I realized that my pup had swallowed something and was choking. I grabbed her by the hips (the dog, not Camila) and hung her upside down. The four inch dog chew was barely protruding from the back of her throat and I was just able to get a hold of it and pull. Getting it wedged in there took some doing on the dog’s part. OMG.

As with all near calamities, the impact didn’t hit me until after it was over. I think this dog has a death wish. I once performed the Heimlich maneuver on a co-worker and watched a piece of carrot fly out of her mouth. She claims I saved her life. Maybe I did.


One of many sleep positions.

After all, I was a Girl Scout and have taken a few Red Cross classes, but never for a dog. Fortunately gravity did its part. A doggy ER is not down the street as it was in Austin.


Life has been pretty mundane lately and I have been at a loss as to a subject for the blog. I’m just glad it worked out, as this little beat up street dog who was given a 50/50 chance of surviving, has wormed her way into our hearts. I think I’ll be checking out doggie first aid on YouTube and Pinterest. It never hurts to be prepared, especially with a dog like Frida.




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.


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.



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.


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.


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….


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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!


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!!


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.



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?



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.







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.



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.



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?



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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!



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.


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.


Orchid like flowers blooming in the jungle. 


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.


A sad little puppy who needed a home.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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


Luna knows the way.

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


Why did the tarantula cross the road?

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


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.


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


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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