White Skin, Mexican Heart (Preview)

I see my younger daughter’s eyes glaze over as her daddy and I tell one more round of “remember that time in Mexico….” Used to be, she’d chime in with her own recuerdos. Now that she’s a teenager, her memories seem to be pushed back into the closet of her mind, stored like winter clothes no longer needed, but pulled out when the chill comes to the air once again. She is living in America after years in Mexico. I am still living in Mexico, at least in my dreams.

For as long as I can remember, my dream was to live in Mexico. There was never a solid reason why; it was just something I had in my heart and guarded until the right time. When I met my husband, things suddenly made sense. He took me to visit there, and I was in love—with him and Mexico. My mom jokingly told me I was dropped by gypsies, and that’s where my urge to travel came from.

My husband, mi media naranja, and I relive Mexico like it was yesterday, for it feels that way. We lived through hard times, no doubt, but we have made it—back on top after years of struggling and separation. And, yes, we do remember vividly all the battles we fought to be together and make a life that matters. As he says, “When the children are gone, what will we have? We have to build our lives, not around them, but as an example to them.” My hombre is a smart one.

I remember when I took our young daughter, Ysabela, to Mexico for the first time. We drove from Virginia to Merida, then on to Seye. To home. My father-in-law came with us to “protect” and smooth the way. I suspected he just wanted to go home and relive his old times with his friends. He did help, especially when we crossed the frontera. Everyone was crammed into a blue Suburban bought for four thousand dollars. We received many funny looks—a gringa with her hija, suegro, seven huge cats and a guard dog bigger than most had ever seen in the pueblos. Amigo was his name, and he was magnificent. Part chow, part German shepherd, he had a cinnamon Chow physique with the black muzzle of the shepherd. In his eyes, I could see an almost-human intelligence. Once we got to the village, he was my guardaespalda. Nobody dared come near me when he was close. One wrong move and I know he would have gone for the throat. Somehow, the malvados knew it too.

I was excited to see Mexico through Ysabela’s eyes. All she knew of Mexico was from our stories. The first day of our new life was full of wonder—for us, especially Ysabela—and for the gente in the village. Apparently we were the first gringas to be there in a long time. They were accustomed to the church missionaries visiting and leaving soon, but we were different. I moved the pets in and secured the house while I watched Bela out the living room window. I lost sight of her, so I went outside. She had been playing in the park across the narrow street. All I could see at first was a mosh pit of Mexican children. I finally caught sight of her in the very center of it all. Girls were touching her hair and looking at her like a doll on the shelf at Wal-Mart. Bela has always had the black hair and eyes of her daddy, but pale skin like me. The first few weeks were difficult for her, I know. You would have never known it just by watching her, though. Full of herself at just seven years old, she expected to be liked and accepted. Eventually she was. She learned Spanish the easy way—she was surrounded by it and consumed by the desire to make herself understood. In three months, the bad kids no longer could insult her and sit back and laugh. She could defend herself quite nicely—or not so nicely. While she learned the language and soaked up the culture, she would tell me some of the kids called her “inglesa.” I told her she’s americana. That’s different. Many of the children were simply curious; others were hostile and envious. In their eyes, Ysabela had it all. She brought toys with her, of course, and everyone wanted in the house to see and report to their mamas. There was much chisme about who we “really” were.

To be continued….

The Chicken Chick


I just LOVE old quilts, especially the ones that have been passed down in my own family. These two bring back memories for me. I can remember clothes made from some of the fabrics. I’ll bet my mom can recall where every piece of fabric came from.

I love old quilts.

I love old quilts.

I like this Dresden Plate pattern.

I like this Dresden Plate pattern.

Moody Monday

I don’t know about you, but I am glad to have Monday’s work behind me! The day went quickly, but tomorrow is coming fast. I have a list of assignments in my head for my students, but for this moment, I am taking a brain break. 🙂

I looked at some pictures we took in Virginia and found this restful photo.

This is the duck pond in Narrows.  My kids used to visit to feed the ducks.

This is the duck pond in Narrows where my kids used to feed the ducks.

Lonely Only? I Don’t Think So!

Growing up as an only child, I heard a lot of comments, mostly from adults, about what I was supposedly missing by not having siblings. Of course, the comments usually came from people with large families. Things like, “Oh, I bet you get lonely a lot,” always annoyed me. I’m here to tell you, those people had no idea what they were talking about! They had to have been projecting their fear of loneliness onto me! I found it amazing that they were experts about my feelings! 😉

Most of my friends have siblings, and I have observed the squabbling, drama and aggravation caused by multiple kids in the house—even when those kids are grown! I remember my school friends fighting with their sisters, or their siblings following and bugging us when I stayed with them. After a sleepover, I went home with a healthy appreciation for my only child status! I was rarely lonely; I did get bored at times. Bored and lonely are very different feelings! That’s when I would listen to music and/or read a book. I learned to be okay by myself. Kids today seem to expect constant entertainment. Life is not like that!

As I mentioned, I spent quite a bit of time in my room reading. My mom would always come to drag me out to “be social.” Even then, I preferred books to people. I never felt like I was missing anything by being an only child. I don’t remember ever wanting a sibling. If given a choice now, I still wouldn’t!

The results of being an only child: I don’t like drama and avoid people who cause it. I don’t share my stuff, and I aggressively protect what is mine. I enjoy time alone. Reading is still awesome. I rely on myself and my own abilities. To me, all of those things are positive! 🙂


Do you ever get to the point where you are tired of everything? I am there now. I’m thinking of possible solutions as I go. I am tired of eating the same food. I’ve got my eye on a couple of new recipes we might try soon. That will add some variety.

I’m tired of working all the time. That one is a bit trickier to fix. I love my jobs, though. The main problem is I’m tired of being tired when I go to work. To fix that, I need to put myself on a strict schedule. I know I’ll have to force myself to go to bed early enough! I’m not up all night, but it’s so easy to get distracted and stay up later than planned.

OK, done with whining…maybe I’ll take a nap!?


A Facebook friend posted something about not running over turtles in the road. It’s a sad commentary about society that posts like that are actually needed. I always try to avoid hitting anything when driving, and I can’t believe anyone would willingly hurt another creature. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. I watch the news, and I have been involved in animal rescue, so I have seen some ugly things. Those things make me sick.

Scientific studies have shown that animal cruelty is linked to violence against people. If someone abuses a defenseless animal, odds are good that a helpless human could be next, especially if the perpetrator gets away with it the first time.

I always tell my students, “Anyone who hurts an animal is no friend of mine.” I mean that, and I don’t care who it is. I will not tolerate animal cruelty. I will stand up for the weak, animal or human.



Now What?

I am already thinking about what I’ll do after this last grad class ends in June. The degree will certainly open more doors professionally like teaching dual credit classes, but my real question is: what will I study next?

I get bored quickly, and I’m not afraid to try new things, so I’ve been taking a mental inventory of my interests other than Spanish. Fortunately, I love to read, so that will serve me well in any endeavor. I spent some time browsing the MOOC database, and I found all kinds of options. The courses are free. The down side is that no credit is given. That really isn’t my major concern. I want to learn new things about a variety of topics, and I want to learn from experts. So far, I haven’t zeroed in on a class, but I’m sure I’ll find something to hold my interest. History? Forensics? Arabic? French?

Life after grad school can feel like a bit of a let down. The last two years have been filled with homework, reading and pressure. I imagine I will breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the course, but I’m not sure I’ll know what to do without a text book in my hands. I’m on my way to figuring it out! Life is a journey!


Small Town

There’s a saying in Mexico: pueblo pequeno, infierno grande. That means small town, big Hell. Based on my observations both in Mexico and the U. S., I would say it’s quite accurate. The rumor mill cranks up at the slightest hint of “news.” The rumors themselves spread at the speed of light, each version getting more outrageous. I think people make up things to fill in the blanks.

Shortly after moving to Mexico, two ladies with a Chihuahua showed up at my gate. She wanted me to take a look at her dog. There was a spot on his back that looked like maybe an insect bite or something. I was understandably puzzled by her request. I looked, told her I had no idea and sent her to the local animal supply store for a better answer. Turns out, she had “heard” I was a vet. It made sense to her, I figure, because I did move there with some pets.

The gossip changed periodically, but I was a hot topic for quite a while. My neighbor and friend, Marta, kept me updated. It’s a good thing I was paying attention because they knew things about me that I didn’t even know! I went from a veterinarian to a drug dealer overnight! I just laughed it all off. When someone finally asked me, I was happy to tell the truth: I am a teacher. I must not have had any street cred as a “narcotraficante” (drug dealer) because I was teaching English classes soon after.

The thing about a small town is that threads of kinship, friendship or work connect everyone. I just like to listen; it’s amazing what can be learned by being silent. At least that way I don’t stick my foot in my mouth!

our humble Mexican abode

our humble Mexican abode