Thursday, August 27, 2009

Missing My Life in Ajijic

I return to Ajijic on the 5th of Sept. I am looking forward to being back there, although I am going to miss my family. I sometimes scroll through my photos on the blog just to remind myself of my life back in Mexico. I have a short memory. I need constant reminders. Sometimes when I am in an environment, I get to thinking that there is no other way to live.

Last night my daughter-in-law, Christine, took me to a Whole Foods grocery store near her house. It was in the Tigard area. What a place! There was an abundance of everything; fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, sea foods, canned goods, bakery products, beauty products, on and on. The store was so large that just walking around it exhausted me. But the biggest drain was the prices. Everything was expensive. The entire shopping center, to me, is like walking into the future. So much wealth! I wonder how the average minimum wage working person could possibly afford to shop there. I was overwhelmed by it all. It is such a different life style than what I have in Mexico. I like Mexico better. I can cope with it. I can't cope here. In Mexico I can live a comfortable life on my income and even save a little bit every month. Here I am in poverty. If it weren't for my family, I would never be able to live in Portland.

Do I want to live in Portland? No! I want to live in Mexico. I feel very disconnected from people here. In Mexico when I walk down those cobblestone streets, I say hi to everyone I meet. I know many of them too. I walk into town by way of the lake shore. I take local buses for longer trips. I rarely get into a car. In Portland, everything has to be accessed by car and that means freeways. They make me nervous. One false move and you are dead. How about all those people in other cars? We will never meet except, God forbid, by an accident.

Sometimes I go to restaurants here with my family. I don't know the waiters. They don't sit and talk with me. I don't know their life stories. I haven't seen their families and they know nothing about me. They don't care to know anything about me except how much of a tip I will leave for them. I don't know the owners and none of them get up and do line dancing when the local band plays one of those hokey songs. There are no bands to play music anyway. I love line dancing, in spite of the lyrics. I love to see the smiling faces of my friends as they go through the motions. We are all equal and having fun.

Why do people go to coffee shops and bookstores here and then ignore each other? It looks like they are there to have some socialization. But they would prefer to talk to people on their cell phones rather than risk making face to face contact with someone new. Maybe I am just too old for this new society. I like the simple life. I miss Mexico!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Family Dinner, Everyone Helps Clean Up

Above, Oscar is the big dog and Foxy is the little one in the background. Oscar loves to have his picture taken. I wonder what it is about the camera that attracts him so much. Could he possibly understand about photos? Maybe he just likes the attention.

The top photo is the sunset from my son and daughter-in-law's deck, using my new camera. The others are in the kitchen. Everyone is helping to clean up. This is the first time Betty wanted to help. I think she is coming out of her shell and finally understanding that she is living with her family and not in a nursing home. Lots of love can do wonders. She will probably live to a 110 with all this love and attention. She will probably out live my ex husband. He is working hard to take care of her. He appreciates all the help he can get with his mother. The one above it is my daughter-in-law and her sister. I am enjoying my new camera. Every photo comes out clear. I changed my flight. I return for Ajijic on Sept. 5th. I will miss my family. I miss Mexico too. Now I have two homes. I am a very lucky woman.

Family Relationships and Maintaining a Sense of Self

I am still in Portland, staying with my family. My 94 year old ex-mother-in-law is still here demanding and needing 24 hour one-to-one care. We haven't been able to get a passport for her so she could live down the street from me in a nursing home. My ex-husband is running himself ragged, taking care of her.

I have been enjoying being a part of a family again. I have been living alone since my mother passed away four years ago. I love the evening meals with everyone together. There is my 94 year old ex-mother-in-law, my son and his wife, my ex-husband, and a friend of my son's. This man went to high school with my son. He lives in the house too. It is such a huge place that we can all live together and still have privacy.

Yesterday I went to the local farmer's market. I was stunned at the high prices.... I am used to the Wednesday market in Mexico. I can buy all the fresh fruits and veggies I want plus chicken for around twenty dollars and it will last me a week. A very small watermelon in the market here was three dollars. I decided to pass on the fresh fruits until I get back to Mexico again.

I am so busy here that I haven't had time to write on the blog. I try to clean as much as I can to make it easier for everyone. A 94 year old woman takes a lot of work! I hope I don't live that long. One good thing, she has brought the family together. When she is happy, she is a blessing but most of the time she is complaining about something that isn't right. She thinks we are stealing from her or we don't love her or pay her enough attention. (She is getting constant attention.) Being around her makes me think of my own life more. What do I value? How am I progressing along my own life path? Am I putting too much energy into unimportant things and missing the big picture? I don't want to be like my 94 year old ex-mother-in-law, overlooking all the love and caring that is bestowed on her and focusing on the negatives, the details that mean nothing.....

I see that people don't change much as we age. We just become more of what we have always been. It takes tremendous effort to change our negative characteristics. Mostly, we don't even see them in ourselves. One thing about living with others, those flaws get quickly reflected back to us. It is a growth opportunity if we can see it as such and not take offense.

It has been a very interesting experience for me to be here these weeks. Now I am getting ready to return to my singular life again in Mexico--where I can afford to live. Hopefully I can get a ticket for Sept. the 5th. I will miss my family but my son and daughter-in-law will be down to visit me in December. It is a balancing act, moving back and forth between being a part of a family group and having a single life. It is easy to neglect my own life and needs and priorities when I am living with others, especially when it is with my family because I love them so much. I want to give them as much love as I can but not lose myself in that process. It is tricky business, maintaining that balance. One thing that has been neglected is my blog. I have a lot to learn about living with others and remaining true to myself too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My 94 Year Old Ex-Mother-In-Law and My Daughter-In-Law

My family has been running around in circles, trying to take care of Betty, my ex-mother-in-law. She now requires 24 hour one-to-one care. She has no long term health care insurance. It costs 6,000 dollars a month to keep her in skilled nursing and they require an extra out-of-pocket fee from the family of $17.50 an hour, 24 hours a day!!! We don't have that kind of money. We can't get her into a home in Mexico where I live. There is one down the street from my house in Mexico. It is very nice and only costs $1400 a month, all care included.... Because she is so old and the court house burned down in the small town where she lived, she has no birth certificate. The American government is making it impossible for her to get one. It has become a real problem. No answers so far and I am too tired at this point to even think. In the grand scheme of life at the moment, this fact seems trivial, but I took these photos with my new camera, the Canon ELPH. All the photos turned out. I wouldn't have gotten any good photos with my old camera. Now I have several books to read on how to use it. No time now......

Thursday, August 13, 2009

American Health Care

Okay, I am going to do another bitch session. This one has to do with the American Health Care System. If you aren't interested in this subject, then skip it. I am going through another encounter with it. I already talked about my two thousand dollar knee operation in Guadalajara. At the same time my friend in the States had the same operation and it cost thirty thousand dollars.

This time I am going to complain about the skilled nursing homes. There is one down the street from my house in Ajijic. I have photos of it on my blog in different posts. The cost is 1200 dollars a month. There is also one down the street from that one for Alzheimer's Patients. It costs 1400 dollars a month. I have seen the inside of both of these units. They are nice. These two are the high end homes in the area.

My ex-mother-in-law fell and broke her hip. She is 94 years old. They recently did the operation to replace the hip. She is in a skilled nursing unit in Portland to the tune of six thousand dollars a month. But now they say she needs 24 hour one-to-one minding. They call it a Sitter! This will cost the family an extra $17.50 an hour, every hour all day and night.... add that up....won't take long to bankrupt the entire family. So, I ask, What does the six thousand dollars a month pay for at the nursing home? Room and board? Too bad she can't make the trip to Mexico. She is too frail to travel. It cost seven thousand dollars just to fly her up to Portland from Northern California. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Arrival in Portland

I am in Portland now. The trip went okay except a two and a half hour wait for the plane to be fixed in L.A. That is okay. A wait is better than taking a malfunctioning plane. My son and daughter-in-law are living in a beautiful home. Nothing like being with family to remember what is important in this world. I have my new camera but don't know how to use it yet. Hopefully I will know by tonight. My son is playing a gig. I am looking forward to hearing his music again. All is well in my world at the moment. But I miss Mexico and Ajijic. Everything is so different up here. I feel like I have traveled into the future. We went to a huge box store yesterday. I was overwhelmed by all the people, buying and returning things. I also went to some yard sales and that was great. I bought three pairs of nice tennis shoes for less than ten dollars. Yard sales. I sure miss them in Mexico. I could do without all those box stores and parking lots and freeways.....

Friday, August 7, 2009

La Nueva Posada Writer's Group

Anita asked me to have lunch with her at La Nueva Posada today, my last day before going back to the States. When we got there I noticed that the writer's group was having lunch in the garden. I always forget about it. When I first came here I was sure I would be going to every meeting. They meet at La Nueva Posada the first and third Friday of every month from ten a.m. to noon and then most of them have lunch in the garden.

Anita and I talked about all the things we thought we would be doing when we first arrived. There are so many interesting things to do here, things that we did not continue to pursue. I have heard this same story from several others. They start out like gang busters, joining groups and going to this and that function. Sooner or later they get tired and the activities drop off. There is just too much here to do and not enough time to do it all. We eventually pick and choose what is important and leave the rest to others. Now that I am writing on this blog and people are communicating with me, I have no reason to stand in front of that group of people and bare my soul. I do it here. Thanks for listening. I know I am high strung. I know my quirks and bad writings and I don't have the courage to listen to their feed back. I never liked reading out loud anyway, not since reading in the second grade when a little boy in class always yelled out the words before I could get to them. That ruined me forever as far as reading out loud was concerned. I don't bounce back easily from criticism. Okay, I don't bounce back at all.

Last Photo of the Lake Chapala Society Before Leaving Here

Exactly WHY am I leaving this beautiful place? Oh right, to see my family!

Travel Worries

I leave tomorrow at five a.m. for the States. As expected, I didn't sleep much last night and I probably won't sleep tonight. I am not good at this travel business. I never have been good at it. I force myself to do it. Sometimes I get messages from people who worry about leaving the States and moving to Mexico. They have so many worries and I totally understand! I too suffer from the disease of worrying too much. I try to anticipate what could go wrong. It is amazing how many things do go wrong that I would never have thought about. The world never ceases to surprise me.

Once I missed a flight in Boston because of the time change and I didn't know about it. I read in a self help book this week about trying to control life. It said, at least fifty percent of what happens to us in life is out of our control, so why not just relax? You can't control it anyway, no matter how hard you try and how much you worry. Wish I could do that. I would love to be able to pick up a suitcase and go without all these jitters. Am I taking too many clothes? Will they be warm enough, or cool enough? What if I need something that I left behind? What if the taxi driver doesn't show up? What if he drives too fast in the dark on the way to the airport and hits a cow on the road? (Don't laugh. That happens often here.) What if the taxi breaks down along the side of the road and I miss the plane? What if I get seated on the plane next to a sex addict? (Ha! I should be so lucky.) What if I have to sit next to a screaming little kid? ( I already have a headache just thinking about that.) What if this Valium that my friend gave me is too strong and I over sleep and miss my flight? What if it doesn't work at all and I sit up all night worrying? (I should have asked for a whole bottle. Then all my worries would be over. Just kidding.) And these worries are not even mentioning the BIG WORRIES. They are almost too scary to even consider. Maybe that is why I distract myself with all the little worries. Number one big worry, What if the plane crashes? ( I have no faith in those little flotation seats.) What if there is a terrorist on the plane? What if I catch an incurable disease? How about the Swine flu? ( Even my son worried about that one on my last trip. I was surprised and kind of flattered at that.) What if? What if? What if????

My son is the opposite of me. Maybe because he has witnessed me going through so many changes in planning for trips. He waits until the last minute to pack. He seems to be at ease in airports. He expects the taxi driver to be on time. Last time when I went to Portland to visit him I had to take a taxi to his house. The taxi driver swore to me that my son's street address didn't exist. He drove all over Portland while I was trying to tell him from the back seat that it did exist because I had been there many times. I didn't know the area well enough to give him directions. At one point, with his anger and my anger to a boiling point I almost got of the taxi but the neighborhood looked a bit too rough for me with my three suitcases and no running shoes on that day. He finally found it and charged me an arm and a leg for his mistake...So things do happen, unexpected things......

Oh yes, I must mention the time when I went to my son's house for Christmas and was planning on going on to Mexico. A few days before my departure I was just starting my worrying process and I casually thought of my passport. It was midnight. Everyone in the house was sleeping, except me. I was worrying. Where was it? I hadn't seen it since I had arrived in Portland. I frantically rummaged all through my suitcases. I turned them upside down, all the clothes spilling out on the floor. I shook out each article of clothing. It wasn't there! I had lost it or forgotten it in my house in Red Bluff. After several frustrating calls to my friend down there and no passport ever being found I had to cancel my flight, stay another month, go to Seattle to get another passport and pay out a couple of hundred dollars extra. Instead of sitting on the beach for that extra month I was staring out the window at the snow in Portland. This is not even mentioning the extra stress I caused to my son and his wife by hanging out with them an extra month.

Then I can't forget about my trip back to the States when the man in the L.A. customs said I was traveling on a stolen or missing passport. I insisted that it was my new one. He had no sympathy. He was rude and insulting to me, treating me like a criminal. He sent me to a little room in the back where they ignored me long enough until I almost missed my next flight. I sat there wondering how that old passport managed to jump into my suitcase when I wasn't looking. I had gone through it with a fine toothed comb many times before I left from the States. And then if it had jumped into my suitcase, what happened to the new one I was issued? Finally the woman looked at the back of my passport where it states very clearly, THIS IS A REPLACEMENT PASSPORT....So I got out of jail and had to run to grab my suitcases and catch my flight..... No apologies from that rude man. No apologies from anyone in that office.

No fun, this traveling business...I hate it.....I think I will get an FM3 and stay in Mexico for a year next time.....I guess I am saying all this to let you know that if I can travel and live in a foreign country, anyone can do it.... Because I am the worst traveler in the world. Just ask my son......

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Garden at La Nueva Posada

Above, mother and daughter gazing at the lake.
This little girl was having a lot of fun in the garden.

Anita and I had lunch together in the garden at La Nueva Posada. Tonight we are going out to dinner with another friend and then over to the Old Posada to listen to a Cuban Band. I am going to miss this place; the friendships, the beautiful weather, the delicious food, the music, the gentle way of life, Chico. On and on, I am counting up the things I am going to miss. But I will be happy to see my family. I haven't seen my son and daughter-in-law since Christmas.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Photos to Remind Me of What I am Leaving So I Will Be Sure To Return

I am leaving for the States in a couple of days. I will be there almost six weeks. I have a bad memory. Maybe these photos will keep the beauty of this place in my mind so I will be sure to return. This feels like home now..... I am happy here.

More Wednesday Market Photos

This little boy thinks he is hiding.....
The bread vendor.

Fresh pomogranate seeds are in the plastic cups.

The coffee vendor..... I am going to miss the Wednesday market. I leave for the States for six weeks this coming Saturday, Aug. 8th. I will come back with a new camera. I am looking forward to trying it out.

Tuesday Evening at Tony's Restaurant in San Antonio

Chito, above, is one of the mariachi singers from the Real de Chapala on Sundays.

Chito is Victor's father. I love to watch them playing together. The first time I met Chito and Victor, I was living in Chapala and I heard them playing at a local coffee shop. I was impressed with the beautiful music they make together and the obvious love that Chito showers on his son. This group plays at Tony's every Tuesday evening from six to eight. Don't miss them. They are probably two of the best musicians in this area.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Christiana Park and Lunch with Friends in Chapala

Water that was left over from the rain. It usually just rains at night.

All the flowers were in the park. We went to a new restaurant, for us. We had heard good things about it but we were very disappointed. The service was lousy. The food was awful.... So I won't mention the name of it. And it was overpriced. Anita paid these mariachi singers to do one song for us and even they were a disappointment. She paid the man and he left. We thought he would never come back with his group. We are used to the our favorite mariachi group and we are spoiled with all the good feelings that come from them. When a group is just playing for money, it isn't the same. The lunch was a disappointment but I enjoyed my swim and the park was beautiful. Can't have everything all the time!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Mariachis Again at Hotel Real de Chapala

I told my friend Bob that I had a sad photo on my blog from his last visit with us. He wanted me to take it off but he agreed to let it say on if I took one of him smiling. At least I hope he agreed to that. It was a little vague as a lot was going on all around us at the time. This is Bob smiling.