Tag Archives: gratitude

As Thoughts Turn Home Toward Mexico

21 Nov

As my time to return to Mexico from Austin, Texas looms on the horizon, I have such mixed emotions. I wish I could be in two places at once, which always happens when I have to leave my dear wife. My departure requires her to be more independent, fixing her own meals, arranging transportation and most of all, finding support that is not me. All of it while juggling medication and healing from major surgery. She’s a trooper, I’m the one who’s nervous.

How I’ve been passing the time in Austin.

I do get the bennies of returning home to the jungle of Southern Mexico, seeing the dogs, returning to daily swims and sleeping in our bed. There is also much to be done. We have been navigating a lot from the US, including my mother-in-law’s care and clogged toilet. Daily messages from our workers, house sitter and MIL do not make for peace and quiet.

Home sweet Bacalar.

This week we will celebrate the US holiday of Thanksgiving. It will be a lovely visit with family and a delicious meal round a large table. A day devoted to gratitude while gazing on the faces of those we love is a good thing. We haven’t been in Austin for Thanksgiving since 2012.

February 2012 My 60 birthday.

Whether you’re in the US or somewhere else on the planet, take a whole day to devote to being grateful. I find that listing things I’m grateful for and WHY helps me to connect more to my heart.

Blogging has afforded me the opportunity to write, connect and hear from followers around the world. I appreciate each of you. So Happy Thanksgiving and catch my socially distanced hug.

DOS TORTAS

Could You Lend A Hand?

16 Oct

I think we are not good at asking for help. Is it women? Men? US’ers or everyone? It is certainly not just me. In a recent conversation with my daughter, she mentioned an App for organizing meals for anyone who needs help. Her aunt and uncle were recently in a car accident, and a friend stepped up to organize meal delivery. MEAL TRAIN is quite popular, especially for moms with new babies. What a fabulous idea!

What struck me right between the eyes is that it never occurred to me to ask for help. My partner is scheduled for major surgery in less than two weeks and I am the chief cook and bottle washer. While I would love someone to step in and organize the whole thing for me, it hadn’t occurred to me until this minute that I could even ask someone to do that!

This week the sunrises were amazing in Bacalar.

I remember when my now 38 year old son was born. Two friends brought food for which I was supremely grateful. We visited for awhile as I sat on the couch nursing my newborn. After some time they made moves to leave, putting on their coats and standing at the front door. Before exiting one woman casually said, “is there anything else you need?” The dishes piled in the sink flashed before my eyes and I took a deep breath. “Could you do the dishes?” They looked at each other, took off their coats and a few minutes later, the kitchen was spotless. It was a tiny kitchen and they had four hands. It meant so much to me, and all I had to do was ask.

Perfect swimming days.

It has been eight years since we left Austin to retire to Mexico, yet I had no trouble listing twenty people who would probably be quite willing to lend a hand. I need to look into the whole thing and see how it works. One thing for certain is that I can use the help and if I don’t ask, I certainly won’t get it.

DOS TORTAS

My Life Goes Better With Yoga

2 Oct

I was first introduced to yoga about 1972. I was studying at The University of The America’s in Cholula, Mexico where there was a young teacher who did asanas (yoga postures) out on the commons. He piqued my curiosity and I joined his weekly class.

1973 That’s me on the right celebrating my 21st birthday in Mexico.

Over the years, yoga has come in and out of my life. Before we left Austin for the wilds of Southern Mexico, I paid $99 a month and walked daily to the Yoga Yoga Studio for unlimited classes.

Downward Facing Dog variation with bone. Stela supervises.

Having scoliosis, the bones in my spine have realigned themselves and moved internal organs to places they wouldn’t ordinarily be. I am blessed to have been able to carry and birth three babies and live most of my life pain free. I believe that yoga has helped.

Stela waits for class to start.

I have lately returned to morning yoga practice. My body feels better for it. I’ve long given up having to prove anything. While structured class with a teacher would challenge and improve my flexibility, the times we live in don’t lend themselves to group practice. Online classes require watching a small screen and interferes with my peace. Since I am not a newbie I have a routine that works for me.

Stela masters child’s pose.

Yoga keeps my body flexible, relaxed and focused. It is something that makes a difference in my day to day life. I can see and feel the benefits which is motivation enough.

OMmmmmm. *dog yoga pictures taken by our lovely house sitter Lei Chen

Yoga is not for everyone but if you are so inclined I recommend it as a gift to your body and soul that will last a lifetime.

DOS TORTAS

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

26 Sep

This week we are settled back in Texas waiting for a medical appointment. While sitting out on our friends’ deck this morning with a cup of coffee in hand, I was enjoying the coolness before the Texas heat kicked in later in the day. A hummingbird flew across my line of sight and popped me out of an early morning haze. Staying in the present moment is sometimes illusive, at least it was this particular day. Until the hummingbird that is. Who doesn’t love those tiny blurrs of beauty.

My lovely wife hands me a cup of coffee every morning.

I began to observe and appreciate the sky, trees and general beauty of the Texas hills. I have so much gratitude for our friends who opened their lovely home to us.

Other things that contribute to my joy began to flow through my foggy brain.

Water in all its forms, rain, swimming, showers, and the ocean. Dogs, squirrel antics, birds, and roses with beguiling fragrance. The sky in Bacalar and Texas, sunrises, and sunsets. Then there are vistas, mountaintop, ocean, and even lovely backyards.

Looking for the sunny side of life.
Laguna Bacalar, Mexico

Some days are harder than others but I am always reminded by the evening news, it could be so much worse. I hope you enjoy your day and count your blessings along the way. I try to choose peace. We are still optimistic of seeing the surgeon before leaving Thursday for Mexico. My fingers are crossed so much I think they’re stuck.

DOS TORTAS

When The Dog Ate Chocolate

24 Jul

Have you ever have a day that started off one way and ended up in quite an expected place? That was our Friday this week, in spades. We had an appointment for Covid tests in preparation for the trip Monday to the States. Off we went to Bacalar with our house sitters in tow. The plan was to drop them off at the mercado, get our tests and then meet up to show them our favorite shops and explain some of the unfamiliar fruits and vegetables. That was the only part of the day that went according to plan.

We returned home to a peculiar and unfamiliar sight. There were bits of foil wrapping torn up all over the living room. Mmmm. Had someone gotten in the trash?

It seems our house sitters had some lovely good quality chocolate, unopened and wrapped in plastic at the bottom of a backpack, a perfect treasure hunt for a highly food driven, blind pug with an exceptional nose for trouble.

Who knew such a little dog could get in so much trouble.

Poor Luna who we later surmised had nothing to do with the caper, but got caught up in the tsunami of activity that followed. A quick calculation of the amount of chocolate consumed, weight of a tiny pug and the possible consequences, had them both bundled into the car and off to the veterinary clinic.

Luna said she was innocent.

The doctor was in the middle of another emergency and had us leave the dogs for observation. What a crazy day.

Stella and Luna spent the next few hours crated at the clinic and then home, with Stella passing chocolate diarrhea and vomit for the next few hours. The worst part was her inability to settle down, wandering in circles, disoriented and running into things. (Reminder, she is blind). It took until far into the night for her to finally quiet enough to sleep. This from a dog that sleeps most of the time.

We are so grateful that it was not worse. Dogs can die from chocolate poisoning. With two days until we leave! At least our sitters were not trying to find a vet, handle a sick dog and google translate, “damn dog ingested chocolate” in Spanish.

The good news is that the Covid tests came back negative. And I thought I wasn’t going to have anything to blog about this week. A shout out to our sitter who acted quickly and insisted we go to the vet. Disaster averted and two very scared moms relieved.

DOS TORTAS

I Want To See You Be Brave

12 Jun

As we plan our upcoming July trip to the US to attend to some long overdue medical issues, I find myself awash in fear and sadness. The reports of surging Covid leave me wanting to chuck it all and pull the covers over my head.

I found this timely reminder on Facebook this morning…

In times of trouble, carry on small steps.
Do what you have to do, but a little at a time.
Don’t think about the future, not even about what could happen tomorrow. Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make some soup.
Do you see that?
You are moving forward step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Get some rest.
Compliment yourself.
Take another step.
Then another one.
You won’t notice, but your steps will get bigger and bigger.
Time will come when you can think about the future without crying. ❤️

(Elena Mikhalkova, ′′ The Room of Ancient Keys ′′)

We have arranged house sitters and bought airplane tickets. I am working on transportation and housing. One step, one day, one action at a time.

We learned this week of another dear friend whom we saw and hung out with in Austin pre-Covid, is in hospice. She has a neurological illness that the doctors can’t figure out. She was next on my list of friends to ask for space in her spare bedroom. Some days there just are no words.

On Wednesdays I make myself go to my drawing group. It is a brief foray out of the house, that provides social interaction and a break from the sadness. Plus I get to draw naked people! I can see the improvement in my drawing. It’s the little things, the small steps.

Lisa got her second shot. We are now both fully vaccinated. Another step.

Brave by Sara Bareilles is my new theme song. Today’s blog is me being brave, refusing to push down my tears and sadness. One thing Covid has done is bring to light people’s mental health struggles. How could we NOT be sad. I would love to hear from you. We will sit and hold hands together. Small steps.

DOS TORTAS

Life is A Blooming Delight

23 May

We had a bit of long overdue rain last night. There are many flowers blooming, but I thought you might enjoy seeing the orchids popping up here and there. I once tried to raise an orchid in Austin, Texas. Epic fail. It can be done, just not by me.

This little orchid is currently blooming by our dock. It is very fragrant,
Aren’t they gorgeous?

There are more than 25,000 species of orchids worldwide. In the Mexican tropics, where we live, orchids pretty much raise themselves. They thrive in the humidity and shade, clinging to a tree trunk. They are epiphytes, non-parasites, living on another plant, wild and free. They’re a delightful surprise to find while walking around the property, a pop of color and in some cases a whiff of sublime fragrance.

So delicate.
This beauty ( Phaelaenopsis or moth orchid) bloomed for three months in the earlier part of this year.

So kick back. Enjoy whatever is blooming in your life, yard or neighborhood. Life is good and I’m grateful.

DOS TORTAS

Finding My Way

25 Apr

Swimming has now become a daily routine. I no longer have to brace myself for the plunge into chilly water, as days are creeping into the 90s (32c) on Laguna Bacalar in southern Mexico. The water is getting noticeably warmer and in a month or so, it will feel like stepping into a bath.

I have been working on my swimming stroke for years studying and practicing Total Immersion Swimming. I point my nose toward the bottom, keeping my neck and spine aligned. Catch and pull toward my thigh while cork screwing my body through the water. Pull, rotate, pull rotate, 1, 2, 3. Kicking is not the frantic churning of feet in an effort to propel oneself through the water. Stroke, kick, stroke, kick. It’s a beautiful dance gliding with the grace of a porpoise (at least I try) rather than laying flat like a squat tugboat. 163, 164, 165.

Sometimes I count, sometimes I sing, “Imagine all the people, living life in peace, you ooo may say I’m a dreamer….” I also like to float on my back watching the clouds and the birds. An occasional kayaker passes but for the most part the lake is all mine.

There is one thing, with all this pulling, and singing and counting, I am swimming all over the place. There are no lane lines as in a public pool and I’m not sure if it’s the currents, the wind or my uneven pull, but one minute I’m paralleling the coast and the next I’m heading for open water. I zig and zag and without repeatedly lifting my head, I never know where the heck I am.

My goal is to reach that point off in the distance.

I suppose it’s all a metaphor for life. Some days I certainly am going around in circles. Regardless, when I climb the ladder out of the water, I am flush with gratitude, a feeling of supreme accomplishment and a laugh at not knowing where I am or where I’m going, but so happy to be alive.

DOS TORTAS

A Day To Celebrate Gratitude

29 Nov

I wish I could ask my mother about her Thanksgiving menu. Why didn’t it occur to me until now? Her menu was the same every year. How it developed I’ll never know.

My MIL Alice, Lisa and myself. Pups Luna and Ms Bossy Pants, Stela, Happy Thanksgiving 2020

First there were the appetizers, celery stuffed with cream cheese, dates stuffed with walnuts and rolled in powdered sugar, tiny pickles and pearl onions. All were placed delicately on special plates saved for the occasion.

My mother, always in an apron.

Next there was turkey. My dad cooked the turkey, sealed in aluminum foil and baked to perfection. The turkey was filled with boxed stuffing mix, one of the only things that was not entirely made from “scratch “. There was always homemade gravy, silky mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes (sans marshmallows), mashed rutabaga (my favorite), broccoli and a salad almost no one touched. My mother made the best cranberry sauce. The bitter cranberries were lightly sweetened with apples from our tree and a touch of sugar. I have the cone sieve she used to separate out the skins. The fragrance filled our big kitchen. She would bake pies ahead of time, pumpkin, and minced meat. The desserts would vary when my grandmother was visiting.

Lisa and my first Thanksgiving 1994 (with family friends)

This year the beloved US holiday looked nothing like it has in the past, for anyone. We had one guest which gave me an excuse to get out my mother’s silverware. I thought of my childhood home, filled with extended family, my grandfather and his sister, my grandmother and my Uncle Jack who died this year, playing poker. Lots of grumbling but lots of love. Probably the best was my mother’s eggnog. It was more like liquid heaven, rich and delicious. One year my uncle spiked the entire bowl which meant we kids couldn’t have any. I thought my mother would kill him. My parents didn’t drink either.

Prayers of gratitude for you all.

Thanksgiving was a day to reminisce and tell stories. The Macy’s Parade in New York was always on the television. My dad loved parades and promised every year to take us. Watching the crowd bundled up and freezing, none of my four brothers and myself were in much of a hurry to go.

One recipe I actually got from my mom.

I wish you good memories and loving connections, even from afar. We had a Zoom call with our children, which was a sorry replacement for the laughter, smells and tastes from my mother’s kitchen. And best of all, the eggnog.

DOS TORTAS

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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

Emilie Vardaman

travel and random thoughts

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