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 (my mother in law’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

Creative Practice to Get Us Through

9 Aug

This week I shared my most recent painting with my art coach Connie Solera.

Goddess Mother Crone

Her response to me was, “I love what you got going on here too.  I’m so curious to who those figures are. What they mean to you. What story they press on your heart.”

Our Lady is pissed too!

Sometimes the women that show up in my paintings feel as if they are calling to me to bring them out of the ethers.

No idea about these two.

I can smear paint around and see them, hear them, sharing their pain, joy, and confusion, or is it mine? Such times we live in.

One of those paint smearing days.

I started out journaling my quarantine experience in a beautiful handmade journal that I bought on my most recent trip to Oaxaca. It called for paint more than words. Color and line seems to better express emotion than dialogue these days. There just are no words.

Sadness overwhelms.

I have filled the entire journal which makes me long to return to Oaxaca. Using up what we have is a wonderful lesson from staying home. I have dragged out my watercolor pencils, pastels, markers, oil crayons, acrylics, lord I have a lot of art supplies.

Makes me want to dye my hair lol.

I share most of my art on Instagram at dos_tortas if you want to take a look. Also photography is a new creative pursuit that I enjoy. There’s no telling how long before we can safely travel again. For now I will continue to smear paint and see who or what shows up. What is your creative activity? It’s what will get us through.

DOS TORTAS

The Fine Art of Not Complaining

2 Aug

I’ve been pondering the line between talking about a thing and complaining about a thing. How to tell the difference?

Blooming in our yard.

This week I’ve been writing a lot of blogs in my head, but none of them seemed to settle into my bones. It’s been one of those weeks, hot temperatures, body aches and not sleeping. It’s left me lethargic and cranky. Last night going to bed I was crying, sad after having read stories about people who died this week from Covid. Lisa asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t talk about it. An explanation would have required a thought process. I was immersed in my feelings and didn’t want to put them in words. She patted my shoulder and we went to sleep, at least she did.

Sunrise on Laguna Bacalar

The night was a swirl of thoughts. Sometimes I feel like my dogs doing zoomies around the couch. My brain jumps from subject to subject and sleep eludes me. I was then up way too early when the dogs wanted to go out. As Lisa appeared from the bedroom I announced that I was heading back to bed, something I don’t think I’ve ever done. She began to ask me what was wrong but caught herself. That woman is a quick study.

My mother in law’s cat. Gato

Back to the topic at hand, how to talk about my thoughts and feelings without complaining. For me, factors include:

Tone – if I find my voice getting whiney or high pitched, I am surely complaining. Even in my head.

Intention – If I’m wanting sympathy, I am complaining.

Responsibility – if I’m trying to avoid taking responsibility, I’m complaining.

I guess I have two choices, 1) come up with a solution or 2) live with the situation. Complaining has never made me happy. Sometimes other people have good ideas but I find that I have to be in the right place to hear them. I do have one thing that seems to help no matter what the problem, exercise!

Daily swimming in Laguna Bacalar.

If I feel cranky, am not sleeping, or have body aches, I know I must exercise more. Sometimes it feels counterintuitive. It would be so easy to tell myself that I need more rest, but that’s almost never the case.

How do you handle the swirling thoughts or lack of sleep? Until next week.

DOS TORTAS

Moms Are Pissed

26 Jul

This week has been a stellar week for women and moms in the US news. While I have held to the commitment that this is not a political blog, I simply cannot fill it with pictures of my dog (as cute as she is, and as happy as she makes me) which was where I was leaning this week.

My own artwork.

The news broke in Portland with the “Wall of Moms” being tear gassed. https://youtu.be/fNBiWnl1H8g Their motto brought tears to my eyes.

Then there was the fiery response by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the floor of our seat of government. https://youtu.be/LI4ueUtkRQ0

Our hope, our voice.

And lastly I read a blog by Jon Katz https://www.bedlamfarm.com/2020/07/24/one-mans-truth-aoc-moms-women-mayors-its-on/ which puts it into perspective beautifully.

Author, blogger and keen observer.

So this week I will rest. My eyes burn from crying. I just bought a book on Mary Magdalene. I will fill my time wrapped in her inspiration. She was another strong woman beyond my experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts on where you find peace and inspiration. Stay home, stay safe, until next week.

DOS TORTAS

A Birthday Letter To Our Granddaughters

19 Jul

Dear Sara and Analise,

This past week was your second birthday. Your Grandma Lisa and I felt sad because we couldn’t be there to celebrate with you. It is the year 2020 which will go down in modern history as one of the strangest times, certainly the strangest in my lifetime.

A Premie Ambulance

Grandma Lisa and I were at your house in California after you were born. We came to see you in the hospital when you were very tiny babies. You were born premature and mom had to stay with you in the hospital. We took care of Max until you were big enough to come home.

Sweet babies

It was so fun to take care of you when you came home from the hospital. Grandma Lisa and I took turns with your dad getting up in the middle of the night when you woke up. I remember getting up in the middle of the night with your mom when she was just born. She would look at me with eyes wide open. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I still do. I was 24 years old.

Your mom as a newborn.

We will be around as much as we can while you are growing. I have a few thoughts to share. I don’t know how wise they are, but here goes.

Be kind, especially to people who are not kind to you.

Lots of people love you. And it is not your job to make them happy. It is their job to love you and teach you how to be responsible women.

Always pick your sister and brother. They will be with you a long time. Sharing memories together when you are older will be the best. Especially when you are as old as me.

We miss you all.

Mom said you will get these letters when you turn 18. What an exciting time for you. Be happy and know that I love you. Nana aka

DOS TORTAS

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.

DOS TORTAS

Amen
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