Tag Archives: Family

This Week In February.

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This Week In February.

February is a short month, and this past week has not been the greatest. The groundhog saw his shadow back on February 2nd, so maybe that explains all the snow we’re getting now. It may also account for the temperatures that have plummeted from the forties down to the teens.

But I’m not complaining too loudly. When I talk to friends back in Winnipeg I hear stories of extreme windchills and cars not starting. That’s a typical winter on the Canadian prairies.

A friend in Winnipeg is back in the hospital as they still try to determine the cause of an infection. Another friend just lost her brother to cancer. More friends in Mexico are struggling with Covid and one has died.

While Canada is imposing even stricter restrictions, here in Washington state things are opening up. I must admit that I’m confused by church gatherings with no masks and dine-in restaurants open in some towns but not in others. So much for state mandated rules.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Last year on this day I was in Aguascalientes at the park coloring and visiting with a friend. Today I’m coloring inside at home, glancing out the window at the falling snow.

The highlight of this past week is undoubtedly the three video calls I received from my eleven-year-old grandson in Culiacan. He usually calls me twice a week, so the extra call was truly a blessing. He tells me what he is studying in his online classes. He reads me stories he’s written. He tells me about his favorite videogames. Occasionally we talk about Covid.

I hope next week will be a better one. I’m tired of hearing about illness and death and quarantine.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yesterday

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Yesterday

Yesterday was February 9th. My dad died on February 9th, 1977. That was forty- four years ago but sometimes it feels like it was only yesterday. I have learned to live without his physical presence and that is sometimes quite painful. After all, he never even met his grandchildren and has not been by my side throughout most of my life.

My dad had a heart condition. Back then there were no stints or even angioplasty. What gave us all more time together was that he was able to escape to a warmer climate in the winter. San Diego was far removed from the harsh winters on the Canadian prairies.

We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic. Travel is being strongly discouraged and in many cases is all but prohibitive. And I wonder what the quality of life would have been like in those final years if my dad were alive today.

From a mental health perspective, the suicide rate has skyrocketed during the past year. Quarantine and isolation are dangerous. Depression and anxiety have become more prevalent. Far too many people are living in fear while being sequestered in their homes. Isolation is detrimental to our health and well-being.

Domestic violence has escalated. While some families feel ties have been strengthened in their households, others have felt nothing but increased stress and faltering relationships. Zoom and other types of video calls lost their charm months ago when it comes to extended family relationships and keeping in contact with friends.

Some areas have more restrictions than others causing people to reevaluate whether the trip to the grocery store is really necessary. Standing outside in long lines in frigid temperatures just does not appeal. Nor does juggling fast food on our laps after going through a drive-thru when we’d much rather be sitting inside a restaurant with healthier food choices.

More than ever I cherish the memories of the freedom I once took for granted. As much as I miss my dad, I am thankful that he is not here now to experience the travesty of living during this pandemic.

Time To Vent

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Time To Vent

Is it just me or is anyone else having trouble remembering things BC? Before Covid is starting to feel like a far away dream.

Why can’t the children play nicely in the sandbox? Democrats and Republicans need to put the people of the USA first instead of merely themselves.

Back in 1968 the downfall of Canada began with the election of Trudeau as prime minister. And now in 2021 Trudeaumania continues with the next generation in the form of the mishandling of the Covid situation and the latest ridiculous cash grab re quarantine.

COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I expect that it will be around long after my lifetime comes to a close. It’s time to acknowledge this and learn to live with it.

Vaccines will not make Covid disappear. Travel is far from the leading cause of transmission of this virus. Rewarding people with more money to stay at home rather than work is disgusting.

Avoiding bankruptcies and lowering the suicide rate is where the focus should be.

That’s my rant for today.

Wear your mask, wash your hands often and do your best to maintain physical distance. Maybe then we stand a chance of opening up the world again. Maybe then we’ll be able to hug our kids and grandkids again instead of just blowing kisses on video calls.

Family

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Family

Snow has arrived in Leavenworth. I decided to escape to the warmth of California tonight and tuned in to YouTube to watch Season 1 Episode 3 of one of my favorite TV shows. Family aired in the 70s and 80s and featured Kristy McNichol as Buddy.

When my son Kyle was three years old, he enjoyed watching this series with me. In those days we had a VCR and the episode I watched tonight was Kyle’s favorite. He called it “the swimming Buddy.” He admired Buddy because she learned to dive by herself. His favorite expression back then was “self did it”, so he really identified with Buddy. He was always eager to do things on his own without any adult help.

That episode struck a chord with me because Willie was such an awesome older brother to Buddy. That’s an experience I never had growing up although I do now have a couple of close male friends who are like the brothers I never had before.

I also treasure a number of close female friends whom I consider to be more like sisters. Two of them even date back to middle school years. And have we ever changed since then!

My friends tell me I collect family. I don’t like the word “collect.” It’s true that my extended family continues to grow over the years with all the traveling I do. But these amazing people are much more than a collection. We’ve been there for each other through thick and thin. We’ve shared laughter and tears and it doesn’t matter where we live now. We are more than friends for life. We are family.

What’s Next

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What’s Next

The clock is ticking. I’ve been in the USA for over two months now and still don’t have a clue as to where I’ll go when my 180 days are up.

I know that I am not anxious to travel. If anything I’m anxious about travel, whether it be to Canada or to Mexico.

One thing I do know is that while Covid-19 is crazy everywhere, I am also determined not to live in fear. I’m not going to seek out crowds, but I do intend to continue to do my own shopping and to go out with friends. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the library has reopened although the book club and craft activities are still cancelled.

By nature I am an extrovert. However after all the quarantining and closures, I believe I am now leaning towards being more of an introvert. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

While it is nice to have a less hectic schedule, I miss my volunteer work in Leavenworth and in Cashmere. I miss my friends and the programs at the senior center. I miss the children’s ministry at church. And virtual Thanksgiving celebrations just don’t cut it.

It’s been well over a year since I last saw my daughter and granddaughter in Kelowna. I haven’t seen my son in Winnipeg in well over three years. And I haven’t seen my family in Culiacán in a year. Duo video calls are enjoyable, but they don’t take the place of in person interaction.

In one of my recent conversations with my son, he asked me what my long term plans were. He was adamant that 180 days in the USA is not a long term plan. I disagree. For me it’s as long term as I can fathom right now.

Before Covid I kind of had a long term plan. From Mexico I was planning to go to Winnipeg to see my son. I was planning on going to Kelowna to see my daughter and my granddaughter. I was also going to take some time to find a quaint little town somewhere in Canada where I might want to settle down in a couple of years. But now all of that is on hold.

I was also planning on doing a few months in Leavenworth again before heading back to Mexico for the winter. But it now appears that I am about to experience a Washington winter instead.

There always needs to be a Plan B or C or D because the only constant in life is change.

Memoirs On My Mind

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Memoirs On My Mind

On February 9th, 1977 I lost my best friend, my hero, my father. More than 43 years have gone by but in some ways it seems like yesterday.

I was so young when he died and there is so much more that I wish I knew about him. Although we were very close, because he left me so long ago, there are questions that have surfaced over the years as I have grown.

My dad never met his grandchildren. They came along years later. It’s sad that he missed out on the opportunity to be a grandparent. And it’s also sad that my children never had a loving grandfather in their lives.

One of my writing projects involves writing my memoirs for my granddaughter. Madeline is 2-1/2 now and it will be years until she will read and understand the significance of these stories. Yet it is important to me that this history be recorded. Indeed my own daughter is not aware of some of these memories.

I must admit that compiling these memories at times is overwhelming. How much information is too much information? And wow is some of it emotionally draining for someone who practices mindfulness on a daily basis to avoid unnecessary sadness and anxiety.

I had hoped to attend another memoir writing class this year while in Leavenworth. Due to Covid-19 there is no class. And as I continue to work on my memoirs, I wonder just how much Covid-19 will impact my writing. Only time will tell.

Nomad On The Move Again

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Nomad On The Move Again

I’ve enjoyed my time in Aguascalientes. But 6 months became 11. I’m not used to staying in one place for such a long period of time without traveling. But now that travel health insurance has become available again and covers COVID-19 it’s time to move on.

My destination is Leavenworth and I leave tomorrow. I’ve missed my friends and my church family. I can’t wait to see the trees and the mountains again. Autumn is my favorite time of the year.

My major regret is that I haven’t been in Culiacán with my family since December and won’t see my grandsons before heading up north. I’ve never gone so long without seeing them in the last ten years since I’ve been coming to Mexico. And I always squeeze in one last visit before I head north. Leaving feels really strange this year.

The worst part of leaving is always saying goodbye to people. It’s especially hard this year because I don’t know when I’ll be coming back. My familiar pattern of six months here and six months up north has been disrupted by the virus.

In the meantime, let’s take care of each other. Wear your masks, use lots of soap and antibacterial gel and practice physical distancing whenever possible. Above all, avoid crowds.

Stay safe!

I Will Miss You Raul

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I Will Miss You Raul

When I head up north next week, I know I am going to experience the reverse culture shock I usually do. I will miss the laid back life I have here in Aguascalientes. And one person who I will really miss is my friend Raul.

Two years ago this October I arrived in Aguascalientes from San Luis Potosí. I had researched the city and thought that two or three weeks would suffice to visit the museums, templos and pueblos mágicos close by. Instead I stayed for three months.

When I lived in Mazatlan a few years ago I was looking for an opthalmologist and asked for a recommendation on an expat Facebook group. Jose Alberto responded along with a few others. I wound up going to Guadalajara for the cataract surgery instead.

Flash ahead two years and I’m in San Luis Potosí. Again I post in Facebook groups looking for recommendations. Jose Alberto responds and tells me that Aguascalientes is his hometown. He refers me to his nephew Fernando who still lives there. Fernando refers me to his cousin Raúl who owns a hotel.

Fernando offered to pick me up at the bus station and take me to Raul’s hotel. However he had to cancel as he had come down with the flu and was running a fever.

I took a taxi to the hotel. Expecting a hotel, I was quite surprised when I was dropped off at the door of a house. Two workers repairing a drain answered the door and showed me to my room.

I was anxious to settle in and go exploring despite the light drizzle but wanted to talk to Raúl first. What if the workers had let me into the wrong room? And of course I had no keys.

A few minutes later Raúl showed up. And he spoke English!!! I felt better already. That day was also the first of many times I would hear the comforting expression “don’t worry” from Raul.

Seeing as Fernando hadn’t picked me up and taken me to the ATM as I had anticipated, I didn’t have rent money for Raul. He assured me I could pay him when I found an ATM once I settled in.

I then asked him where I could find a garrafón of drinking water as tap water is a no-no here. He asked me to wait and in five minutes was back with one and installed the pump as well.

Another comforting expression I heard for the first of many times was “anything you need, anything you want, just ask” And I admit I did take him up on his offer a couple of times.

His son had a birthday party and I was invited to the celebration. His wife and all of his family were most welcoming. Fernando had a loncheria and I would often see family members there as well.

It was time for the Ferria and I was supposed to have left by then. Raúl had already rented out my room. No problem. Raúl moved me into his home for the weekend. And he drove me to the bus station when I left for Puerto Vallarta.

I told him I wanted to come back the following winter. There was a communal kitchen at the house that I didn’t use. I asked if it was possible to have a fridge and a microwave in my room. No problem. Just a week’s notice before I return.

And return I did. At first I moved into a room on the second floor in another house. However when a main floor room became available at the house I’d stayed in last year, Raúl moved me over.

I had intended to stay for six months, but COVID-19 changed my plans. I had numerous frantic emails from the Canadian government urging me to return immediately to Canada. I couldn’t go to Leavenworth as the insurance companies refused to cover COVID-19. I decided to stay in Mexico.

My FMM expired in April. At that time Mexico was allowing tourists to obtain another FMM, for humanitarian reasons, without leaving the country. When Raúl offered to help me deal with INM, I’m not sure he realized it would mean four visits (two on one day once) and a mountain of paperwork. It was great having him as a translator. The staff at Immigration spoke really fast and the masks made it even more difficult to understand.

Then came the advisory from Mexico Hotel and Tourism that hotels would be shut down and tourists would have nowhere to stay. Raúl said that didn’t apply to him as he was registered as a long-term hospice. He also assured me that if he was shut down that he would move me in with his family.

For three months we were under lockdown. I went out for daily walks to pick up groceries only. Raúl chauffeured me to the ATM and to Telcel to renew my phone plan. He also stopped by regularly to check on me and chat.

I had begun to stockpile some extra medication in anticipation of spending six months in Leavenworth. When that ran out, I went to Farmacia Similares where I was told it was no longer available in generic form. I then went to Farmacia Guadalajara where something got lost in the translation when I was talking to the pharmacist. Raúl to the rescue and the medication magically became available.

Yesterday morning I walked down to Farmacia Guadalajara to pick up extra medication for my upcoming trip to Leavenworth next week. I bumped into Raúl at the pharmacy and jokingly suggested he stick around when I talked to the pharmacist. And it was a good thing he did!

There was none in stock and the other locations weren’t answering their phones. Raúl offered to drive me to Farmacia Ahorro and I eagerly accepted.

His translation skills were extremely helpful once again. This pharmacy had a slightly different medication that also had a diuretic included in the formula. So now only one pill a day to control my blood pressure. A separate diuretic not necessary anymore.

Then it came to paying. I had a discount card I’d gotten in Guadalajara years ago, but my card was at home and not with me. I speak a lot of Spanish but don’t really know the alphabet all that well. Raúl helped me spell my name so it could be checked on the computer. And they found it!

Thank you Raúl for being more than just a great friend, for being a part of my family. I never worry because you always say “don’t worry” and I will miss your comforting words “anything you need, anything you want, just ask”

At the moment I’m not sure just when I’ll be coming back to Aguascalientes, but I know I have more than a room here. I have a home.

The Dilemma

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The Dilemma

There is a part of me that says it’s time to settle down in one place. I often think it might be nice to have one home again. I could have houseplants and a dog again.

But then there’s that other part of me that says I’m not getting any younger. The time to travel is now while I have my health.


I came to Mexico almost ten years ago at the tender age of fifty-eight after having lived my entire life in one city in Canada. Teaching ESL here meant assimilating into a new culture and learning a new language.

The huge bonus was the opportunity to travel. Christmas break that first year I found myself on El Chepe and an amazing train ride in the Copper Canyon.

Over the years I have lived in different areas of the country. I have visited art galleries, museums, botanical gardens, canyons, pyramids, churches, beaches, parks and zoos. I’ve celebrated Independence Day, mesmorized by the throngs of people gathered to hear the gritto and watch the fireworks. I have visited cemeteries in different places for Day of the Dead  although I admit that my favorite place is Tlaquepaque for this holiday. The parades and festivities in Mazatlan for Carnaval are awesome and I went on a cruise one year to view the fireworks.

But it’s the people I’ve met along the way that have enhanced my life here. It’s the friendships we’ve developed and the experiences we’ve shared that have contributed so greatly to my enjoyment of this beautiful country.

I have taught with teachers of all ages from all over the world. I admire the younger ones who gain a far greater education from traveling and working in a foreign country than they would ever get from a classroom in their own native countries. When I was their age I never would have dreamt of such a thing.

COVID-19 has certainly put a damper on my travel plans this winter. I didn’t get to Mexico City to see Angie and her family. I didn’t get to Cuernevaca to see Elsa. I didn’t even get to the beach in Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan this year and I’ve been here for eleven months.

But mostly I regret that I only got to Culiacán once to see my family. And I don’t know when I’ll see them again as I’m leaving Mexico later this month and am not sure when I’ll return. Until then video calls will have to suffice.

I guess this is still my mantra.


               


             

When Are You Coming Home?

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When Are You Coming Home?

I’ve just begun to research travel health insurance in the hope that I might still get home to Leavenworth this fall. But for the time being I’m staying here in Aguascalientes, even though our state went from orange to red this past week. I don’t believe any of the statistics we are fed down here and have little faith in the ones up north. COVID-19 has invaded our world and we need to learn to live with our despicable new neighbor.

So other than the question of where to go when my FMM expires for a second time, I’ve been trying to figure out why the time is going by so quickly even though I seem to be doing so little.

I have an extremely laid back life here. My big dilemma yesterday was should I pick up chicken for dinner or try out the new Argentinian takeout place. Big decision.

The calendar on my wall seems to fill up with video calls and phone calls. I go out with friends here occasionally and I take courses and do church online.

There is no such thing as a typical day. My blog posts are up on Wednesdays and Sundays. That’s about the only routine in my life. Even my daily walks are not consistent in terms of time of day or distance.

What I really enjoy are the conversations I have with the locals when I’m out and about. Being the only gringa does have its advantages. ( Even though I’m Canadian I’m still labeled a gringa.) People are always curious as to why I’m here in Ags rather than basking on a beach in Puerto Vallarta. And when they hear I’m a retired teacher, they seem to forget the word ‘retired‘ and want to know where I teach English classes. So a five minute trip to the pharmacy for toothpaste often takes close to an hour. And my Spanish gets a workout!

I do video calls with my daughter in Kelowna. I get to watch my granddaughter Madeline do such things as eat olives and decorate cupcakes. She’s almost 2-1/2 now and no longer a baby. Vocabulary and dexterity are growing right along with her. And I hope she doesn’t think that I live in a phone!

I am now doing regular video calls with one of my grandsons in Culiacán. These calls are in English! I am really proud of the progress he’s made in learning a second language. Schools are still closed here in Mexico, so I’m delighted that I have the opportunity to help him with his English online.

Some of this month’s news from friends……..Audrey became a grandma for the first time! She has a beautiful new granddaughter. Rita’s son and family moved back to Winnipeg from Montreal. Joan is adjusting to life in a personal care home but is disappointed that she is unable to go out due to COVID-19 restrictions. Deborah in Toronto is enjoying going out cruising on a new boat her partner just bought. Becky in Indiana is starting a new job this month. David is still in Winnipeg separated from his wife in Cuba due to COVID-19. Lise has been back at the office in Winnipeg working for quite a while now. Cheryl is disappointed that cases are rising in Manitoba and is staying home mostly as she has COPD and is awaiting a transplant. Carolyn is delighted that visitors are now allowed to come to the personal care home where she lives in Winnipeg. Carole in Minneapolis is working from home and is quite concerned about the race riots that all started where she lives. And on a sad note my condolences to Rochelle in Arizona who lost her father recently.

I talk to my friends in Leavenworth regularly and hear all about life there pretty well on a daily basis. I only wish I could be there with them as they struggle with health issues and other concerns. Of course we always talk about COVID-19 and how life has changed, and the conversation often drifts to politics and the upcoming election. But the following question is a constant.

When are you coming home?