Sunday, August 9, 2015

Preparing for the Next Chapter in My Life

I hinted in my last post that some changes were coming, and now I am sure enough to share them.

I've lived in Mexico for over eleven years now, and for eleven years I thought that I would live here for the rest of my life. Then one day I realized that the thrill is gone and it's time to move on. Friends have asked me why, but I find it hard to explain the reasons. There are really many...

Reason number one is definitely my children. One lives in Portland, Oregon, and the other two live near Boise, Idaho. I've only seen them for about a week every two years for a long time. That's not enough.

I lived just outside of Portland before I moved to Mexico and I've always said that if I went back, that's where I would go. I've always loved Portland... all the libraries, the great public transportation, so many things to do, the rivers, the nearness of the coast, the mountains, the greenness, and even the rain. My time there before was a temporary stop and wasn't nearly long enough, so I'm going back.

I'm tired of the hassles of being a home owner. Tired of the maintenance and upkeep. Tired of fighting bugs and weeds and squirrels and possums in my garden. I'm looking forward to renting a small apartment - one bedroom, or maybe just a studio - and furnishing it simply and living simply. If there is a problem, I'll call the landlord to handle it!

Suddenly, I find that the crazy uneven cobbled roads and broken sidewalks and constant dust in the air are not as quaint as they seemed for the past eleven years. I'm a barefoot person, but I'm tired of mopping my floors daily and still having filthy feet a few hours later.

A huge reason is that I had to pay my first bribe and it was totally unfair and I hate it. I bought a small property (next door to my house) almost ten years ago. The "nice" little old lady who sold it to me and her daughter double crossed me and tried to take the property back. I didn't even realize there was a problem until I had already put more into fixing it up than I paid for it. I paid a lawyer 20% of the property's initial cost to fight it in court for five years. I won, but the lawyer forgot to ask the judge to put the title in my name. And then she refused to help me any more. I had to hire another lawyer and go back to court. We pretty much started all over.  After four and half additional years, the second lawyer finally told me that they were ready to hand down the decision, but it had been suggested to him that it might not go my way unless I came up with a bribe for the court clerk. I hated it but I did it and the court finally decided that the property is mine, but I still have to wait for the judge to get back from vacation to declare that the title be changed to my name. I am very uncomfortable about the fact the I am right back to where I was almost five years ago. I've had possession of the property all this time and I've been paying the taxes all these years. I just don't have the title in my name.

I think that was the straw that finally broke the camel's back!

Anyway, it's not all that easy to undo a life that I've spent so many years putting together, and it will take a while to get everything done. I've got a house at the coast to sell, and I've just begun figuring out what I have to do to get my Chapala house ready to put on the market. There's no big rush, though. My goal is to move at the beginning of 2017 - when I'm old enough for Medicare.

Making a big move like this is definitely part of early retirement, so it seems that I do have a lot more to say in this blog. Stick around and I'll share the challenges and the excitement of starting over once again.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Winds of Change

You got your life planned carefully
But you left out one detail
The hidden hand deals just one round
And the winds of change prevail

Walk softly through the desert sand
Old dreams lead the way
Nothing new in the sands of time
Just changes every day

                                                                             - Jefferson Starship, 1982

Six months ago I told everyone that I was done with this blog because I had run out of things to say here. It is still true that I have been devoting my writing time to sketching, and I really do love that, but it seems that I haven't run out of things to say here after all...

One of the great things about being retired is that life offers us so many possibilities, especially for the baby boomer generation. They really are endless. Some of us want to spend as much time as possible with our grandchildren. Others decide to devote themselves to becoming the artist that has always been hiding inside of them. One person's dream may be to throw off as many responsibilities as possible and spend all of their time fishing. Some enjoy working so much that they never want to retire. The only limitations I can think of would be money and health. I hope all my readers are doing whatever is possible in these areas.

I know that some people hate change. They want their lives to continue exactly as they have been. But I agree with Helen Keller: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." I think change is what keeps life exciting, and I always try to stay alert for the next possible adventure. I'm feeling some changes coming on, so be sure to come back to see what I decide to do next.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Out with the Old and In with the New

As you can see, another six months have passed without a post to this blog. I really have tried to stay inspired, but I think I just ran out of things to say here. I'm ready to move on to new things.

And so... I've started another blog! The introductory post came online this morning. It is completely different than what I've been focusing on here. I hope you will join me here for 2015: A Year in Sketches.

I'm excited about using Urban Sketching to improve my drawing skills as I share scenes that I see around me every day. Since my retirement is an adventure in Mexico, most of my sketches will be of local scenes. But if I travel, I'll take you with me.

PS - For more information about Urban Sketching, check out

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Lessons in Organic Gardening

One of the first new plants I added to my garden after deciding to try this organic garden experiment was a single dill plant that I saw for sale at the local market. I stuck it in the ground with some fresh new soil and watched proudly as it quickly grew to a couple of feet in height.
Then one morning I noticed lots of bright yellow aphids covering the stems. I might have been tempted before to grab the bug spray and put a stop to them, but I've never sprayed any of my herbs. I instead tried to wipe off (and squish in the wiping) as many of the little rascals as I could.
Each time it seemed that I might be winning the battle, I would suddenly find lots more aphids. Then one morning when I went out for my usual routine, I noticed three ladybugs and a small praying mantis on the dill. I finally had reinforcements!
For the next little while, the good guys seemed to be advancing on the bad guys, so I left them to do their job. Then one day I noticed a bunch of strange-looking black and orange critters all over the dill. No more ladybugs and no more praying mantises and only a few aphids, but what what going on now?
I carefully went over the plant and picked off each of the 10-12 critters along with the piece of branch he was sitting on, placing them in a small box that was handy. I set the box in the patio intending to 'deal with' them before I went inside, but I forgot all about them.
The next morning when I went back outside, most of them had climbed out of the box but were still nearby. I began to gather them up to get rid off (squish) them, when I realized that something was nagging at the back of my brain. Could these critters be baby ladybugs?
I went back inside to consult the internet and, sure enough, they looked just like the baby ladybugs in the pictures. Relieved that I hadn't killed my babies, I went back out and sprinkled them back onto the dill plant. I wanted all the ladybugs I could get!
After a few rainy days that kept me inside, I again went out to check on my babies. These things definitely weren't changing into ladybugs; they were now twice the size they had been and looked very much like caterpillars and were eating the plant, not the aphids.
Once again, I picked all the caterpillars off my dill by cutting the bit of branch they were on. I stuck them into a bottle in preparation for anihilation, but, once again, I got curious.
Back on the internet, I searched for photos of caterpillars that like to eat dill. My very own critters came up in one of the first photos. It seems that I had captured a bunch of developing swallowtail-butterflies-to-be!
I was hoping to use the dill for some pickles, but I also was excited by the idea of growing a crop of swallowtail butterflies to pollinate the rest of the stuff I had growing. Of course, one plant isn't enough for all the pickles I hope to make, and the squirrel that showed up a few days earlier had eaten the tops off all the cucumber plants anyway, so I carefuly removed each caterpillar from the bottle and returned it to the dill plant.
The caterpillars and caterpillars-to-be are all doing fine. The dill plant is still trying to grow faster than they eat. I don't see any more aphids, so I guess that battle is won for now.
I hope I'm right and they will become swallowtail butterflies, and I hope they stick around and enjoy my garden. I'm sure this has been only the first of many such experiences as I learn to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Next time I will do my internet research before removing the critters in question. And may the good guys continue to win!

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Note to My Readers

I know, I know... I haven't been keeping up with my blog for a long time. I'm sorry, but I guess my priorities have just changed.

I began work in November for a quilt competition in Mexico City. It was probably the most time-consuming quilt I've ever made. At the same time, I was working on hand-piecing and hand-quilting a quilt for a very special (to me) baby in Japan. The good news here is that the quilt made it from Mexico to Japan, and I won the "Judge's Choice" award and a new sewing machine. (No photo today but I will write about the quilt and contest soon.)

As soon as I'd finished the quilt - and before the competition - I began digging out and throwing out or moving almost all the plants in my garden. I loved the Jungle look I had going, but so did the bugs. As they say here in Mexico, I had a "plague" of scale insects. All the healthy "Jungle" plants are now in my various patios, but I had scale on just about everything else and nothing seemed to help. We trimmed tree-like bushes back to 2-3' bare branches with no leaves for the scale to hide on, and everythig else is down to  bare ground. I'm bringing in new top soil and planning to replant with herbs - both the culinary types and the smell-good types. I'm also planning to expand my beds to make room for a few Heirloom vegetables in between the other stuff. Growing season is pretty much year around here. We have just entered the hot, dry season. In mid-June, the rains will come and will bring cooler weather. That seems like the best time to plant.

And that will be good timing, too, because am I leaving in two weeks for what has become an annual long vacation. I had thought I'd stay closer to home this year, but a good friend invited me to join her trip to London, Greece, and Turkey. An offer I couldn't refuse! Adding a week of shopping time in California, I will be gone for 6 weeks. We have rented an apartment in Athens and she has arranged a couple of home exchanges in Tinos, Greece, and Ortakent, Turkey, so we will be in hotels only in London and Istanbul.

Finally, I want to explain that I have had to start approving comments before posting them. Unfortunately, I am being inundated with comments that are not much more than outright commercials or links to other sites. I am sorry if you are one of the people who has commented this way. I do not have the time to check out all of these links, so I will automatically mark any linked comment as spam.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Heathcare Mess, Part 1

I've been thinking a lot about this health care mess we have gotten ourselves into. I had huge hopes for universal healthcare, but it all just looks worse and worse as time passes. Many people in the US are quick to blame President Obama, but he didn't cause the problem. It has developed over many years, and it is going to take some serious changes from everyone to fix it. Maybe the Obamacare problems will be the kick in the butt that the US needs to straighten it all out.

I have some ideas that might help; you may have some of your own. No one is going to get anything done unless a real conversation gets going and we all accept that we have to make some changes in the way we live our lives. Everyone is to blame: insurance companies, hospitals, drug companies, doctors, and the rest of us who use their services.

The first thing we have to do is to recognize and accept some unavoidable truths:
  1. We are all going to die sooner or later.
  2. We have a lot of control over our health.
  3. We make a choice every single time we put a bite of food in our mouths, lift a drink to our lips, and plop down on our butts in front of the TV or computer.
Death is an inevitable part of life. We are all going to die whether we like it or not. There is no way out of this one.

A few days ago I read an article about the number of people who expect doctors to do everything possible to delay the end, even though that "everything" is outrageously expensive. Even though it often does no good. Even though it drags out the miserable painful illness of a person who is beyond being able to make that decision. That is crazy! Who wants to live longer if that time is spent in pain or without consciousness? And who is going to pay for that expensive treatment?

We all have a lot of control over our health. Very few of us can use the excuse that we don't have the knowledge required to stay healthy. There a thousands of books and internet sites with all the information anyone needs. There are libraries for those who can't afford books or the internet. Who can say they don't have the time or the interest to find out what they need to know? What can possibly be more important than maintaining good health? How many times do we need to be told that the majority of our health problems are brought on by our lifestyle choices?

We make choices every day that affect our health. Food is the fuel that powers our bodies. Some fuel is good, high octane stuff that is good for us; some fuel tastes good but offers almost nothing to nourish our bodies. What do you choose to eat? Is it healthy fuel or is it junk food? And what are you doing to keep your body strong? Are you getting enough exercise? Or are you sitting around in front of the TV or computer every chance you get? Little by little, we have slipped into such an unhealthy lifestyle. We don't get outside and move enough. We don't know anymore what to eat or when to stop eating.

I would like to see everyone able to afford the healthcare they need. However, I believe that we have to take some very harsh actions to make people take responsibility for their own healthcare. I hear people complaining that they don't like the changes that are coming about with their insurance. As hard as it may be to accept, the only fair way to do it is to make people pay according to their lifestyle choices:
  1. If you smoke, you should pay more for insurance.
  2. If you drink or use drugs, you should pay more for insurance.
  3. If you are overweight, you should pay more for your insurance, based on your weight.
  4. If you expect doctors to do everything possible to extend your life, you should pay for it.
  5. If you choose to have children, you should pay for maternity coverage.
Does this seem unfair? Look at it this way: Why should non-smokers pay extra to cover smokers? Why should people who eat right, exercise, and do whatever possible to stay healthy pay for those who don't? Why should everyone have to pay when someone chooses to have a baby?

Insurance should cover us for the things over which we have no control. Even those who try very hard to stay healthy will still get sick now and then, and some of us will have major medical problems, but why not do what we can to stay healthy and save the doctors for when we really need them?

So what do you think? Do you have anything constructive to add? Any ideas that might help? I'd love to get a real conversation going here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kindred Quilters Fabric Arts Group Exhibition

I have been very busy this week getting ready for and then participating in my art quilt group's show and sale yesterday. We held it in the beautiful garden of one of our members.

Although the small group has been together for about 2 1/2 years, I just joined this summer. We share ideas, try out new techniques together, and generally inspire each other at our weekly meetings.

The eight of us have very different interests, ideas, styles, and methods, but we enjoy getting together, throwing many possibilities into the mix, and seeing what we come up with.

Although there had been rumors about the existence of our group, this was our "coming out" party to let the expat community know who we are and what we do. We had a great turnout and a very positive response from those who came to see our work.

They will be hearing much more from us!

Posted by Picasa