Unpacking My Racism

12 Jul

I have always said that racism is in the water. Whenever a white person declares indignantly, “I’m not a racist”, I have to laugh. Being raised white almost anywhere on the planet ingrains racism into our being. This week I saw how true that was for myself. I looked in the mirror and had to come down off my high horse. I am no exception.

A Visitor

I was kayaking one beautiful morning this week on Laguna Bacalar where I live and met a young couple sitting with their toddler on a dock near my house. We began talking in Spanish, because after all we’re in Mexico. When I realized that the man was translating our conversation for his wife, I asked them where they were from. The answer was, San Diego (California USA).

Sunrise on Laguna Bacalar

Our conversation continued with them asking me questions about Bacalar, and I then committed what is referred to as a micro aggression. I asked this brown skinned woman again where she was FROM.

Our Dock

I’ve been to San Diego. I was in awe of its perfect climate, big homes, flower filled streets and high cost of living. I guess my racist brain could not imagine this brown-skinned family being from such a white, wealthy place. I discovered that she was Philippina, which is besides the point. She was from San Diego.

We’re All In This Together

Seeing my unconscious assumptions is what unpacking racism looks like. Processing the immediate shame and embarrassment is important, only NOT with a person of color. My black and brown friends do not want to hear about my racism. They already know. My prayer is that seeing my stupidity will help me be less stupid next time. I will however make different mistakes, cuz that’s what it means to be human in this world.



Living On Borrowed Time

5 Jul

My passport expires mid-December 2020. I was reminded by a friendly airline attendant the last time I traveled. (Seems like ages ago.) With added security measures, one cannot travel with less than six months left on a passport. You do the math, July! And somehow July is already here.

Leaving myself lots of time, I had an appointment for March 18 at the US Consulate in Playa del Carmen, about a two hour drive toward Cancun. New photos, check, directions to the Consulate, check, application filled out, check, prepaid return envelope from FedEx, check, renewal fee, check. I was all ready.

While giving up my passport always makes me nervous, my research told me that it was a relatively painless process and that I would have my new passport fairly quickly.

Then it happened, Covid and the quarantine. An email arrived the night before my appointment. The Consulate would be closed until further notice.

I have called several times for a status update. Still closed. They will issue emergency passports only. I once had my passport stolen, in Greece. I was issued a temporary passport to get me home to the US. That wouldn’t be bad if I absolutely needed to leave Mexico. The trouble is that the US is not renewing passports either. That means that I could be stranded in the States for who knows how long. Not what I want for sure.

Stela helps write my blog.

I will keep calling but with the cases of Covid going up in both Mexico and the US, things are not looking good. What would it mean if I were living in Mexico on an expired passport? I have no idea. As with so many other things in our lives, I’ll say a prayer and take it one day at a time.


Adiós Carla

28 Jun

My friend Carla says adiós to Mexico and leaves for Europe with a one-way ticket tomorrow. She bought a little house on Laguna Bacalar, sight unseen eight years ago. For a long time she was the only person who spoke English in her pueblo.

While the view from her dock is beautiful, the little village she lives in on the east end of the Laguna is riddled with poverty, lack of education and little infrastructure. With Covid, there is more fear and crime.

Breakfast with Carla

We have been having breakfast together once a week for about a year. We talk politics, community drama, aging, and the tilting world we live in. I know she has been unhappy for quite awhile but hoped she could find peace.

Women’s March 2017

Friendship is not easy to come by among the expats in Bacalar. Actually anywhere. I will miss her.


The Streets of Kansas City

21 Jun

In 1985 I left the desert for a job in Kansas City, Missouri, a city that had long been racially divided. I moved to have the chance to live closer …

The Streets of Kansas City

Rainbow Lives Matter

20 Jun

In 1993 I was fired from my job for being a lesbian. I hadn’t thought about the experience for many years. This week’s US Supreme Court judgement brought it all back. I was surprised by the emotional response the ruling triggered.

Celebrating equality.

One of the plaintiffs of the case before the Supreme Court was Gerald Bostock who was fired after joining a gay softball team. ‘We don’t want people like you working here’ what people, softball players?

Memories flooded back of my own personal experience of loosing my job in 1993 and the shock and helplessness I felt. I was hired as staff development coordinator for Austin Community College. I was so excited. The school was doing great things for the community and I got to schedule and influence the training of newly hired teachers.

My boss at the time had a habit that made me feel very uncomfortable. She was going through a messy divorce. Every morning, coffee in hand, she would park herself at my desk and relay all the gory details, whether I wanted to hear them or not.

My friend Charles who also worked at ACC wrote this article in the now defunct Texas Triangle. I have kept it all these years. Although I was within my six month probationary period, and this week’s ruling would not have helped, federal law will go a long way towards making employers think twice. And hopefully prevent others from going through what I did. Rainbow lives do matter.


A Journey with Anxiety

14 Jun

It was New Year’s Eve 2006. I remember looking forward to heading to downtown Austin for the annual community bash. Gerald Ford had died unexpectedly and as a state employee we were given an extra day because of his funeral January 2, 2007. A four day weekend, woohoo! My condolences President Ford, but I was riding high, or so I thought.

Austin, TX New Year’s Eve Celebration
The only picture I have of my scooter. Taking my daughter for a ride.

My youngest son was in college, a half hour drive away and had moved into his first apartment. It was a beautiful day in Central Texas so I hopped on my scooter, a Yamaha 250cc and headed out for a visit. I traveled back country roads because a scooter ride on the Interstate was not my idea of fun nor is it safe.

Dylan with his grandfather.

While visiting my son, I began to feel off. I did what every mother does and took him to buy groceries. My vision seemed blurry and my head was pounding. I broke out in a sweat. Back in his apartment, I began to have chest pains severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. I was shy of my 55 birthday.

My triathlon days.

The bottom line was the diagnosis of a panic attack. ME!? I had never had a panic attack and was not one of THOSE people. Whatever that meant. It’s funny how mental health prejudice can show up when you least expect it.

Lisa my support crew.

The doctor referred me to my family physician who was absolutely no help. I was offered medication or to figure it out on my own. I tried counseling. No help there either.

At work in the following weeks I would feel symptoms coming on, chest pressure, sweating, dizziness, which of course caused panic which only made it worse. A spiral of scary feelings. I was at a loss.

Danskin women’s triathalon.

I had practiced meditation twice daily for years and was in training for a marathon. How could I be having panic attacks? What ended up working for me was massage. I began getting weekly massages which seemed to reboot my system. I hadn’t really thought about the whole experience until now when I am again finding anxiety creeping back into my life.


I have been having stomach aches for awhile. The pains come and go, wrecking my sleep and, well, causing me anxiety. I finally broke down and went back to the doctor, thinking maybe a previous ulcer had returned. I love my doctor. He is incredibly caring, kind and smart. Not knowing any of my history with anxiety, he gently suggested that my pain may be just that, anxiety. I cried to be seen so completely by this man.

Smiling with his eyes

We will medicate my stomach pain again for a month and then revisit the results. I am starting here, sharing myself and my judgment about “those people,” of which I am one. Anxiety does not have to be a full blown panic attack. It apparently can appear as low level pain of any sort. Who knew? Isn’t 2020 a hoot?


Stela the Blind Pug

7 Jun

We adopted Stela in January. I’ve never owned a blind dog before and had no idea what to expect. We saw a post from a local rescue group on FB of this sad little dog. We agreed that she needed help and we were willing to give it.


In Mexico it’s different from in the US or EU. No application, no screening, no home visits, if you’ll take the dog, it’s yours. The vet guessed her age to be about four. She had had puppies and was probably used as a backyard breeder. The story was that she was found roaming the street and had been abandoned because the owner moved. Her enormously deformed eye and blindness probably had something to do with it

I brought her home and opened the side door to take her outside to relieve herself. I wasn’t quick enough and she darted out of my reach and right off of a four foot high wall. I watched in horror as this little potato did her flying squirrel imitation. Legs out in all directions to slow her descent. She bounced off of a bench below and landed hard. By the time I got to her, she was on her feet and off to a new adventure. I was the one most traumatized. In hind site it was hilarious, but not at the moment.

For weeks I kept her on a leash. She was eager to explore and being tethered to her, I was regretting my decision to adopt. I began tapping my foot to show her where stairs were. As she trusted me and followed my voice, she began avoiding ledges. She had an amazing memory for her environment both outside and in. Little by little I gave her more freedom and now she goes out the front to explore the yard and knows her way back to the door.

Stela had the bad eye removed. It hasn’t slowed her down in the slightest. When she’s unsure where she is or what’s in front of her, she has a stiff-legged, spread toe march that makes her look like a Russian soldier goose stepping in a May Day parade.

Stela’s two favorite pastimes are eating and finding my MIL’s cat. Gato loves to sit just out of her reach and watch her walk in circles, bumping into things until she finds him. They play and romp. It seems a bit mean, but Stela doesn’t mind.

Her only fear is thunder. She’s woken us two nights now totally freaked out by the tropical storm we’ve been having. Otherwise she has little dog syndrome and is willing to take on all comers. She is my shadow and I love her dearly. Both Lisa and I think that Frida sent us an angel and for that we are deeply grateful.



The Fatigue of Caution

31 May

Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance

We are all familiar with Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief. In the case of Covid19, acceptance has been a moving target. What the heck are we accepting anyway? Oops, that sounded just a tad like anger…sigh.



When I was a kid in the 50’s, eons ago, I had asthma. The doctors had no definitive diagnostic tools and threw everything but the kitchen sink at my poor parents. I slept in an crank up hospital bed since I couldn’t breathe lying flat. For months I wasn’t allowed to get my hair wet. No swimming. My mother, bless her heart, found a dry shampoo to clean my hair. With three younger than me, it must have made her life difficult.


I remember having difficulty breathing looking at this picture.

One doctor wanted to remove my tonsils, yikes. Thank God that didn’t happen. I’m probably one of the few people of that era with intact tonsils.

Then came allergy testing. There were weeks of trays of needles used to insert little pillows of allergens under the skin up and down my arms. My mother would take me for an ice cream sundae after appointments. I cherished the time alone with her. I hated the needles.

The list of things I was allergic to was a mile long, chocolate, chicken, mold, dogs, dust. For a year my mother adhered as much as possible to a strict diet for me (we did not however get rid of the dog). Five children and one a special needs kid must have been hard. Nothing seemed to help my asthma, fatigue set in, and the diet went out the window.


So many pictures had dark circles under my eyes.

Being constantly on guard is exhausting. Whether it’s monitoring a diet or the distance someone stands nearby in the grocery store, it gets old. The stages of grief are not linear. I’m at the point where I want everyone else to be really really careful so I don’t have to be. Is that denial or bargaining? How long can I continue to look over my shoulder? Will I be locked in this house forever?

All I can do is take care of today. Lisa and I talk and make decisions day by day and don’t look back. We also try not to look forward which is very different. We always had our eyes down the road. Not any more.

Please stay home if you can. Take care of vulnerable populations around you. Be especially kind to our essential workers. Know that I love you.


When all is over, I will look for you and I will hug you so tight that we will forget time.

When all is over, I will need you more than ever.

(Translated from The Cathedral Restaurant, Oaxaca, Mexico)


A Lesson from Boredom

23 May

I stayed at home to raise my three children for ten years in the 80s to 90s. I know many women do not find the routine of child care, household chores or family life fulfilling or mentally stimulating. Staying home sounds boring.

Dylan, Cullen, Felice 1986

As my children aged, I went back to school to earn a master’s degree and spent many years working in the field of public health. I’ve experienced both sides of the equation, both staying home and working in a busy career. While I enjoyed my job, the meetings, travel, presentations and grant writing, I’ll take staying home any day.

I used to think that full time motherhood prepared me for the much anticipated retirement, when in actuality it prepared me for the isolation of a world pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, I totally respect today’s parents and the challenges they face that couldn’t have been imagined in my time. I simply mean that I have no trouble filling my days with quiet yet stimulating activity. I am extremely privileged to have adequate income. Living in Mexico means our expenses are few. The gas tank sits full.


I guess we never know how today’s experiences will prepare us for the future. One thing is certain, life as we knew it will never be the same. And in the opinion of many, myself included, that will be a very good thing.


Praying To My Mother

10 May

When my mother was alive she used to tell me that she would pray to her mother, my grandmother. Nan loved to gamble. Bingo was her favorite and nickel slots in Atlantic City. I’m not sure you would call that gambling but it kept her entertained. Mom would go on a cruise, play the slot machines and pray to my grandmother to help her win. I would chuckle and roll my eyes. What did I know?


My first religious experience. 1952 my mother was 30.

My mother and I were extremely different. She was very religious and me not so much. I never got the whole “praying” concept. I figured if God were omniscient, what would be the point? I’ve heard people pray to get things, as if God were their own personal Amazon Prime in the sky. It never made much sense to me.


A bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding.

I’m figuring out what prayer is for me. It’s about taking stock and being grateful. I’ve been praying when I’m afraid, acknowledging my selfishness, and expressing my desire to learn to be kind. God doesn’t talk back much and that’s ok. Sometimes I need someone to listen.


My mother and I shared a love for dance.

I’ve been thinking about my mother a lot lately and realizing that I’ve had a lot of judgements about her and taken some of her choices personally. I wish we could sit down over a cup of tea, something we didn’t do when she was here. Happy Mother’s Day Mom and to all of you. It’s time to make peace even if our moms are long gone. So I pray to her in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. She doesn’t say much, but I do think she listens and that’s just fine.



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