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Life Markers

18 Oct

For most of us, we have life markers, events that forever changed us, our world and the way we look at things. Nine-eleven was a huge marker for many. It’s hard to find anyone in the world who wasn’t touched by it. I realized from visiting the book depository/museum in Dallas, TX that the assassination of President John Kennedy was a marker of my childhood, comparable to nine-eleven. It too affected many people around the globe. Kennedy was a charismatic and beloved world leader.

November 22, 1963, fifty-seven years ago.

On a more personal level, the death of my youngest brother from glioblastoma/brain cancer in 2000 left a big gap in my life. Our parents get old and we know they will pass, but the death of a child or siblings can be extremely hard. It was for me. I can’t believe December will be twenty years.

On the left, Michael, older brother Ken on the right.
When we were lots younger. Michael on the right. I still tell folks that I have four brothers.

Covid is certainly an historic marker that we all share. There will be many stories of life before and after. And since we are still in the throws of it, it’s hard to imagine what the after will look like.

What are your life markers? This post started out with thoughts of how my life has changed after moving to Mexico seven years ago. It has turned out quite different from what I expected. However, clearly the blog took on a life of its own. Maybe another time.

DOS TORTAS

In Mexico Count on the Motociclistas

11 Oct

Thursday evening I got a call that no one wants to get. My phone said the call was from my wife, Lisa, so why was some guy speaking garbled English? He was telling me there had been an accident. It took my brain awhile to process.

The chariot that brought us to Mexico.

I jumped in the car heading to kilometer 51, about 15.5 miles away. I arrived on the scene to find a band of motociclistas directing traffic and surrounding Lisa who was sitting on the side of the highway holding her head. Her truck was off in the jungle. It was very dark by this time, and all I cared about was getting her to the hospital.

She is fine, a slight head injury and wearing a cervical collar. Her beloved truck is likely totaled. I didn’t get to thank those guys, not the guy who scooped her up and carried her to my car, or who went back to the truck to get her purse, nor the one who called me, or who stood on the highway slowing traffic keeping her safe. They were an incredibly sweet and caring group of men.

She had been side swiped while passing a car. Her truck went spinning off the road. The other driver did not stop. Thank you motociclistas. It could have been so much worse.

DOS TORTAS

Mucking About

4 Oct

My friend Jack Scott writes an hilarious blog “Perking the Pansies “. He and his husband Liam escaped the hustle and bustle life of London in 2011 for the expat world in Turkey. What followed are no less than five eye rolling, belly laughing books and a whole new career.

I remember the first time Jack commented on the Dos Tortas blog. I was thrilled to have my first celeb and REAL author comment on the blog. His Saturday posts always give my weekend a chuckle which is especially appreciated these days. I’ve also added some British slang to my vocabulary which feels worldly and helps me translate the movies and TV shows he recommends. This week, it’s muck, as in mucking about. Translated into Spanish, perder el tiempo, or waste time.

Thank you Jack, we can all use a bit of mucking about in our weekend.

DOS TORTAS

Time To Tell Our Stories

27 Sep

Maybe it’s my age, or the absence of my parents and the missed opportunity to ask them questions, that motivates me to write down the stories of my youth. Not spending time with my children and grandchildren, makes oral tradition impossible. So blogging it is.

The little house I grew up in. Two parents, five kids and a dog.

My father was a blue collar worker, something you see less and less in our country. He worked in a “machine shop” milling parts for large machinery. Every year the company had an employee picnic. I can’t tell you how much we kids looked forward to the day.

My dad worked hard, but he also loved to play. He loved the beach and swimming.
William, Tomm, and Me holding Michael.

The event was held at Schwaebische Alb, a large restaurant/picnic/event center in Central New Jersey. It was named after a beautiful area of Germany filled with castles, verdant valleys and the mountains of the Black Forest. It was a perfect location for a day of family fun.

Schwaebische Alb Restaurant CLOSED
1960

The picnic was a magical day. We kids were given free reign to play, eat and participate in a myriad of games and activities. There were unlimited hot dogs and hamburgers. Jersey corn on the cob floating in butter was served in the afternoon. I especially loved the troughs of soda on ice as we could have as much as we wanted, unlike at home where soda was off limits. My favorite was root beer.

Late in the day, chests filled with ice cream sandwiches, cones, dreamcicles, and rockets appeared. It was all the variety that was sold in the ice cream truck that came through our neighborhood in the summer, but Mom rarely said yes. We were in heaven.

I think, better than the food and treats were the games. Watching our parents, and sometimes joining them in three-legged races, sack race, egg toss (tossing raw eggs while getting further and further apart) and more. Seeing our parents relax and play was such a treat for us kids.

As manufacturing jobs slowed, my dad went to work in the “office”. His fellow blue collar workers shunned him.

My father worked many years for a company that valued its employees. There was a sense of family and belonging that produced some of my best childhood memories. I’m not one who longs for the “good old days” and I’m not sure why it came floating to the surface this week. Holding onto happy memories gives me hope for our future. Time to tell our stories.

DOS TORTAS

Life Is Strange And Wonderful

20 Sep

Looking back over my previous blog posts, I see that I have three blogs devoted to my house full of statues, paintings and pictures of the Virgin of Guadalupe (I love looking around and seeing her). Of late I am reading a book that was recommended by a friend. It has definitely taken things up a notch.

It is written by a man who began having visions of a woman who told him to pray the rosary. Not being Catholic he was skeptical at the least.

From a church in Cartagena, Columbia.

The kicker for me is that in January we were in Cabo San Lucas during a layover from our cruise. It was a lovely evening, the sun was going down and I went for a walk by myself along the marina. A woman was there with her young son in tow. There were no other tourists about and she looked quite desperate to make a sale. For some unknown reason I bought a rosary from her. I have no idea why. I’d completely forgotten about it until I was introduced to this book.

Sharing this personal shift in my life feels very vulnerable. All I can say is that since I’ve begun praying the rosary I feel more at peace than I have for a long time time. The mantra-like prayers from my childhood soothe the daily stress with their repetitive cadence. Saying the rosary also reminds me to be grateful as I think of the many people who are having a hard time in the world. Life is strange and wonderful. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

DOS TORTAS

Changing The Past To Change The Present

13 Sep

When the stay home order was issued in Mexico in April, I thought to myself, “cool, my introverted tendencies will make this a walk in the park.” As time has gone on, it’s not been as easy as I thought it would be.

This week I remembered where the desire to hole up, live in a cave, retreat from the world began. It started literally at a Retreat. As I have mentioned before, I was raised Catholic. I loved the ritual, incense, mystery of it all. In the early 60s the mass was still said in Latin. We learned the Lord’s Prayer in Latin at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Catholic School. Something about it spoke to my young spirit.

My first communion.

About a half hour from our house in New Jersey, there was a convent/retreat center run by nuns. My mother pulled some strings so that I could attend a girls weekend. Apparently I was below the age limit. When I arrived I was assigned a cell-like room containing a single bed, side table, bible and cross on the wall. It was heaven! With four brothers at home, three younger than me, I reveled in my own space and solitude.

Two of my three younger brothers.

We attended mass in a beautiful little chapel with stained glass windows and rich, warm, wooden pews. Quiet was everywhere. Meals were silent with a nun reading aloud to the clink of glasses and scraping of plates. During free time I walked the grounds among tall trees, flowers blooming and nature sounds. It felt like another planet compared to my day-to-day life in a small 1950s house with two adults and five children.

There was no front patio when we lived here.

On Saturday afternoon each girl met individually with one of the sisters who asked about our lives. It was perhaps a first that someone asked me about ME, how I felt, how my life was going, what I wanted, and then listened. I poured out my heart thinking, or perhaps not thinking that my words were confidential. I told the sympathetic confidant that I didn’t think my mother loved me. Innocent words from a child lost in the shuffle of her mother’s incredibly busy life.

These pictures are of a younger me than the story. All dates are dubious.

The nun told my mother, who felt ashamed and humiliated by my words. My mother had attended Catholic school as a child and was subject to shame and humiliation by the nuns then as well. I guess it all came back. On the way home in the car she passed on that hurt to me. “How could you say such a thing?” She was very upset and needless to say, I never went back.

My mother at 30 on my christening day.

The conversation was never mentioned again, as happened frequently in our family. But somehow I think it changed her. I used to have to go for weekly allergy shots and we went just the two of us. She would take me out for a banana split after the very painful treatments. It would have been prohibitively expensive with my siblings in tow. Although personal loving words were rarely uttered and the physical caress was lacking, I remember moments of feeling loved by her. Stringing them together, I can sincerely change the past. My mother loved me, and as all mothers, did the best she could.

DOS TORTAS

Pandemic Fatigue

6 Sep

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this whole pandemic thing. We got Alice’s permanent residency card, and I haven’t been anywhere since.

Up at dawn and off to Immigration.
Waiting outside of Immigration.

I used to think it was fun staying home. I don’t anymore.

My ladies are bored too.

I paint and swim, watch Netflix and sit on my ass.

They’re getting a bit weird.
And weirder.

I think I need some new inspiration. What keeps you going?

DOS TORTAS

So true.

Learning From A Pandemic

30 Aug

One thing I’ve learned from a pandemic is not to put things off. I am a procrastinator at heart and have paid the consequences many times. This week I took Alice, my MIL to immigration to move along the process of her permanent Mexican residency. We were supposed to complete the last step before they issued her green card. Then the computers went down.

My Green Card

There have been many, many steps in this process. Once Lisa got permanent residency we were able to apply for her mom as a “familiar” or family member. Birth certificates and a wedding certificate had to be apostilled and translated into Spanish. Having documents mailed from the US took longer due to Covid.

My artwork 2018

Apostilles authenticate the seals and signatures of officials on public documents such as birth certificates, court orders, or any other document issued by a public authority so that they can be recognized in foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

So Alice and I will be up early on Monday to be first in line. Many people who arrived in Mexico before the pandemic have had their 180 day visas expire. They want to stay in Mexico and who can blame them, thus the reason for the long lines.

Our paperwork has been submitted and fees paid. All that’s left is fingerprints. Hopefully the next notice we get will be to pick up the coveted green card. Fingers crossed everything goes smoothly before something else can happen. These days it seems like it always does.

DOS TORTAS

Voting From Mexico – No Matter What It Takes

23 Aug

I would expect that everyone in the US and the world is aware of barriers currently being put in place to reduce the ability to vote in the upcoming US 2020 presidential election.

Living as an expat in Mexico, we’re used to having to stand on our heads to get our voices heard and votes counted. There are many steps involved. If we can do it, you certainly can, so please get on it.

Out permanent address in Texas is provided by Escapees.com. They are an information hub and a service provider to collect mail for RVers who travel and live out of their campers.

It’s handy for us. Escapees holds onto our mail until we are in the US or have a guest coming down to Mexico and has space in their luggage.

We use the address they provide on our driver’s licenses, for banking and for voting. Texas, as a red state does not make voting easy. Surprise, surprise. Here are the steps we go through to vote.

1. Download from vote.org a REQUEST for a ballot and fill it out.

2. That request form is then hand carried to the US by a friend who is traveling. (We had planned to be in the US to vote, but Covid-19 changed that option).They will then mail it to our county election office.

3. Polk County will mail our BALLOT to a friend who will forward it to us by FedEx or DHL which delivers to Mexico.

4. Upon receipt, we will fill out the official ballot and FedEx it back to Polk County Election Office.

This week I posted to a local FB page in an effort to get ballots NOTB (North of the Border) to vote in the upcoming presidential election. I was dismayed by the following response.

I do not know this person but presume the Biden-Harris frame on my FB picture had something to do with his comment. So much suspicion is sad.

If we can do it, you can do it. Please vote before November 3, no matter what it takes.

DOS TORTAS

Fvap.gov

Vote.org

Passing the Torch – A Generation Gone

16 Aug

This week my mother’s two brothers died. Uncle Bill was 96 and died of Covid. Uncle Jack was 100 and had been hanging on for a month after a stroke. We have good genes in my mother’s family.

My Uncle and me, Celebrating his 50th Wedding Anniversary

I was supposed to be in Atlanta in April to celebrate Jack’s 100th birthday. I had a flight and was excited to see my six cousins and their children and THEIR children. Covid hit and everything closed, especially nursing homes. We celebrated via Zoom. Jack looked amazing and I was sure he had a few more years in him. Once he had a stroke, that was it. He lost his sense of taste and quit eating. Fifty pounds fell off in a matter of days. He went almost a month without eating. A full military funeral is planned for this decorated war hero.

Jack and Irene at my baptism

He was my godfather and called me Alley-oop. I so wish I were telling stories with my cousins. Grieving over Zoom doesn’t quite cut it.

Bill, Bernice (my mother) and Jack

My Uncle Bill is a whole other story. He was in prison in Florida, a convicted felon, child molester. Many of my family will say, “good riddance “. He had been in prison almost eight years and would have been there for life, as he was. When I was in college in Mexico in 1974, he showed up without warning at the house where I lived. I was shocked to say the least. He loved Mexico and had arrived asking around the college until he found me. It was no small feat.

Disneyland with my granddaughter.

This week I stepped into the next generation. There are definitely things about aging that I’m not all that thrilled with. But for the most part I’m good. We think we will always have the elders with us and then one day they’re gone. And now I’m them.

DOS TORTAS

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