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Where Have I Been? U.S.A. Bound!

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Over the last few months, I have been implementing a huge change in my life. For the last six years, my husband and I have been living in México most of each year. We initially moved to Ajijic, Jalisco, where the climate is close to ideal. Unfortunately, it was like living in Little America, rather than México, with so many expatriates from Canada and the United States. After two years, we took the plunge and moved to the mountains of Pátzcuaro, Michoacán.  We spent four years there in a quiet, rural, gated community, learned a little Spanish, and enjoyed the culture and the kind people we encountered.

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Ajijic, Jalisco, México–our “yard” was a tropical garden

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Our house in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, México

We are now in a different season of our lives. A four day trip with two dogs in tow, twice a year, has become increasingly difficult physically and more stressful. If you are following the news, you know that the trek is also fraught with dangers from cartel activity and random acts of violence. Mexican drivers are generally untrained and adhere to their own set of rules. My husband and I are both licensed to drive ALL vehicles in Mexico including semi-tractor trailers, merely because we paid a fee. A bribe was not involved. On our last trip  north, we witnessed the aftermath of several different accidents involving multiple trucks. It was sadly clear that some drivers would not be retuning to their families—ever. Road hazards include often unmarked and unexpected speed bumps called topes on the highway, drivers converting a two-way, two-lane road into a three and a half lane road according to custom, and small herds grazing unfettered. Due to these dangers, as well as the increased potential for criminal activities, the general recommendation is to not drive at night.

So now, we anticipate winters in Farmington, New Mexico, and summers in Chama, New Mexico. To travel between houses we have a two and one-half hour drive rather than four days. We can enjoy either house whenever we choose, dependent only on snow conditions. We are already getting involved in local activities that in México we would not have participated in due to language limitations. Great shopping is available seven minutes away rather than one hour. We feel free to drive to restaurants and civic events at night.

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Farmington, NM

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Chama, New Mexico

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Chama in the summer

We enjoyed our time in México and the everyday challenges of living in a different culture and communicating in a different language. We will miss friends we made in Ajijic and Pátzcuaro. It was not easy to arrange the movement of some possessions and decide what to leave behind. We also wanted to return with some mementos of México to decorate our new home.

I don’t know what the future holds for us. Perhaps more community and church involvement, excursions in the Four Corners area to explore ancient Native American cultures, motorcycle trips from our two home bases, time to explore our hobbies and, after life settles down a little for us and for some of the countries we would like to visit, maybe some trips abroad. Argentina has terrific Italian food!

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The border

I did a happy dance and a cheer as I crossed the international border and felt the immediate relief of having survived the journey and the elation of being home again. It was an oddly different feeling from returning to the U.S. for a few months as in the past. “Welcome home,” the border seemed to say: home, sweet home. 

To my fellow bloggers:

I was more or less (más o menos) without Internet for a month during this transition. Internet was installed for us about a week ago. I have over 600 emails to deal with, and I have only rarely been able to post on my blog. Even my reading has slowed way down. Please forgive my absence, and be patient as I try to establish a new normal at the same time that I review books I have already committed to. I am looking forward to reading your posts and reviews again. I will still occasionally write posts about my experiences in México and my views on education. 

As a bellwether for my productivity in the immediate future, I should note that I started writing this post a week ago. Much to my frustration, life has not settled down yet as we still have purchases to make, installations to schedule, and so many decisions to make. I must declare, however, that all of this is easier in my home language, and I am enjoying that change. 

Trip North of the Border

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Bienvenido a Casa!

Welcome Home!

This little lady and about 20 more greeted us on our arrival at our cabin in Northern New Mexico last week.20190402_155707_resized

We have returned a little early due to some events north and south of the border.  It is not the pretty scene of midwinter with everything covered in a white snowy dress. The  display is piles of dirty snow, some ponds where there were none, and muddy areas with deer prints. Although it is not pretty, it is a welcome relief from the drought of recent years. As soon as the temps rise, we should see a lot of green as the trees and grass spring to life.

But backtracking a little, we had four long days of travel with 2 dogs in tow to get from the middle of Mexico to Northern New Mexico. We spent 3 hours inching along in our manual transmission pickup at the border crossing into the U.S. Here are a few pictures of the Plaza de las Culturas (Plaza of Cultures) as you exit Mexico at Tres Piedras to cross over into Eagle Pass. We have crossed there before, but I hadn’t really noticed the replicas of ancient temples, because in the past we had zipped right past them.

One highlight of the trip for me was the small Texas town of Eldorado. On our trips from New Mexico to east Texas, we have fun finding the doughnut shops as we pass through little towns. We don’t eat at all of them, but Eden, for example, has delicious fresh doughnuts. On this trip, the doughnut shop in Eldorado appeared to be closed. As my husband turned around to tell me the bad news, a sheriff’s vehicle pulled in. We had a friendly conversation, and he shared that the doughnut shop was now part of the liquor store in town. He not only gave us directions, but when I pulled out to go there, I found he was at the stop light waiting for us and gave us an escort! As in many small towns, for purposes of survival, the shop (called A’s) was not only a doughnut and liquor store but also a short order grill and convenience store with some of the nicest owners you would want to meet. Texas friendliness at its best! 

As we were leaving town, we pulled over for GPS adjustments and I hopped out and snapped some gorgeous 

Bluebonnets!

As my lack of inactivity on my own blog and those I follow demonstrates, the last few weeks have been hectic–preparing for the trip, making the journey, and transitioning into life in the U.S. again. I am so far behind, that I will probably alleviate the stress of unread blogs by deleting most of my email notices. My apologies. The good news is that, perhaps, due to a new tower and Internet provider in my rural area, I may actually have a good connection this summer. I am currently using a loaner device and it is fabulous. Under past “normal” conditions, I would be unable to make this blog post. If my actual connection is only half of what I am currently getting, I will still be happy. I find I have less time in the U.S. for reading and reviewing as I have a different lifestyle here, but the future looks bright!

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! A Word for 2019!

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In the last few years, a reflective approach to the New Year has risen, ditching resolutions because very few people really keep up with them all year. If you make it through January in following your resolutions, you are doing pretty good.

So what is the substitution? A word. A single word you focus on all year. Last year I chose “joy.” I thought about my choice for about a week and my mind kept coming back to joy. So throughout the year I made a point of finding songs, Bible verses, and quotes that focused on joy. 

I find I like a word for the year better than resolutions. There are books written on the subject, but it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. God gave me my word for 2019, “trust,” as I was drifting off to sleep one night last week. I remembered it the next morning and will count that as affirmation of my choice. In my heart and head, it feels right.

rideYour word is very personal to you, and the direction you go with that word is personal. Just like a good motorcycle ride, enjoy the trip, exploring new roads, and don’t worry about the destination.

This year I plan on doing a little writing about my word—thoughts as they come to me and things I have learned. I doubt I will post much about my word as I do consider it a personal journey. On the other hand, I have a blogger friend, Wendy, who explores many subjects but whose blog, Ramblings and Musings, focuses on gratitude. I have appreciated her posts as she discovers gratitude in the big and little things in her life. Again, your word and your response to it can take a variety of pathways.

So, here is my invitation to you. Join me today in finding a word to explore in your life in 2019. Take your time in deciding on a word. If you haven’t decided on it by January 1, 2019, it’s okay.  No one is going to be checking up on you, and it is not yet another item for your daily to-do list—although a few post-its around the house might be helpful at first. If you choose a word and want to share it here, I’d love to hear about it. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

Linda

happy 2019

Technology—a Bane or a Blessing?

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My parents used to describe someone who was perpetually late and low on cash as “a day late and a dollar short.” In the parlance of my day, it was “he needs to get his act together.”  Even though I am retired, have few deadlines, and more than adequate resources, I have felt more and more lately that these apply to me, and it is not for lack of trying. I even know the culprit, and I bet it is a problem for some of you too—technology, mainly in the form of social media.

We all know some good things about our digital abilities. We can keep in touch with family and friends easily and quickly. We can accomplish financial tasks with relative ease, and shopping is a breeze. The world is at our fingertips!

I wager you recognize the inherent problems in our use of technology as well. To begin with, the “world” doesn’t stop at our fingertips, it knocks on the door and then pushes on through in the form of unwanted emails, and Facebook requests. The negativity continues on social media where people say hurtful, thoughtless things that I hope they would never say to someone’s face and shouldn’t say online. Bullying happens all too often and is inexcusable.

My problem, however, is the overwhelming feeling of being incapable of keeping up: keeping up with posting on my blog, reading the blogs of those I follow, and then commenting on their posts. There are some truly significant posts going up every day. I want to read them and interact with other bloggers. Meanwhile, there is email and more email. Several times a year I unsubscribe from some email senders, but the dent is small. Ironically, the more active I try to be in communicating with bloggers, the bigger my inbox grows resulting in less time for blogging.

Facebook can be a huge time drain, and I have cut back on my use of it. It is, however, a wonderful way to keep in touch with family and friends. Instagram is a new part of my repertoire, but I only follow a few people and I personally don’t post. I have no plans for expansion.

On my phone there is text messaging and WhatsApp which is very popular in Mexico. Lest I forget, my computer is a ready tool for looking things up and for Spanish dictionaries, translators, and tutorials. Like the cute mouse in the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, when given a little, I always want more. Perhaps like me, when you get on the computer to accomplish one task, you get distracted and find yourself down Alice’s rabbit hole pursuing an entirely different line of thought.

The bottom line is that I am digitally overwhelmed on a good day. When I am in rural New Mexico, my Internet connection (as I have whined publicly so many times) is abysmal. Should there be interruptions such as illness or travel, to the normal flow of life, then the tides pull the sand out from under my feet and the waves cover me completely.

Certainly I could withdraw from all of this. Literally pull the plug. There are, however, so many benefits to the digital world. I love reading and sharing thoughts about books online, thus helping authors, publishers, and fellow readers. I used to doubt that one could make friends online, but I now see that it happens, and I value those friendships along with relationships with my other  friends. I enjoy watching the growth of my family and friends’ little ones over the quickly disappearing years. I can keep in touch with those I love even though I live in a different country. For me the benefits do outweigh the issues, and so I keep fighting the good fight.

This discussion does not even try to address the balancing act of virtual life with real life; that is a whole other topic. Does anyone else feel the pain and pleasure of the digital age? I would love to hear your thoughts and solutions.

Amazing Auto History in Asheville

This summer I took a short trip to Asheville, NC and while there got a peek at the impressive Grove Park Inn.

After touring some craft shops with beautiful furniture, paintings, and sculptures, we went to the Antique Car Museum behind the Inn. It is housed in a former weaving shop belonging to Biltmore Industries. I’m sure the large windows were essential to the 40 workers making bolts of homespun fabric. Now the long building displays horse drawn carriages, a 1921 fire engine, and vintage autos.IMG_6276

My favorite is this beautiful 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham of which only 400 were produced.

Here’s the displayed information if you want to know more about this magnificent vehicle.IMG_6272

I can’t resist adding a picture of a cute restaurant that looks like it jumped off the pages of a fairy tale.IMG_6278

Mountain Motorcycling Picnic

IMG_6385Recently my husband and I decided to go on a ride on our dual-sport bikes into the New Mexico mountains between Chama and Tres Piedras. Perfect distance–not too long, not too short.IMG_6389

My husband is famous for transporting unlikely things by motorcycle. Like the time he brought me a dozen red roses in a vase inside his motorcycle jacket. So, while I envisioned a couple of sandwiches, some fruit and water, he prepared barbecued ribs, roasted corn, deviled eggs, bolillos, and watermelon. It was a delicious picnic with an awesome view of the mountains and valley below.IMG_6393

It was a little breezy and cool on top, but really a perfect ride. This is a great destination  for those suffering from the August heat.  When done, we decided to venture further and found a great backcountry road in the Carson National Forest. It was warmer there, the road was in great shape, and peace and solitude abounded. This is an area we plan to return to.IMG_6394IMG_6397

Happy Easter–from the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico

Today we celebrate new life in a resurrected Jesus Christ!

Photos taken towards the end of February:

Happy New Year–Feliz Año Nuevo

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What does it look like in January at 7,785 feet in the mountains near the town of Pátzcuaro in the state of Michóacan, Mexico? It is not as cold as the same altitude in northern New Mexico in the U.S.: the lows where we live in Mexico are currently about the same as the highs in northern NM (the 40’s F). This is the dry season of the year, so we have to water the grass and other plants. But it is beautiful. I took a side trip into a neighbor’s yard, always looking for even a little flat land for walking. I mentally call it my secret garden because it is tucked away behind tall grasses. So, join me as I enter my borrowed  secret garden and take a peek at the beautiful plants growing there.

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Naturally Thin–Lasting Weight Loss without Dieting

Naturally Thin

by Jean Antonello, RN, BSN

Naturally ThinAs both the holiday eating season and 2017 draw to a close, sharing a book on losing weight seems appropriate. So many of us focus on resolutions at this time of year, especially health related issues.

A little personal history: In the late 80’s I read the first book by Jean Antonello, RN, BSN, entitled How to Become Naturally Thin by Eating More. I remember successfully following the principles. Fast forward to a lengthy period during which, due to health problems, my concern was being underweight. Fast forward again to better health, but also to some life changes which resulted in an undesired weight gain. Recently I wanted to lose that weight, and I did lose some with a low carb diet, but then I hit a plateau for well over a month despite adherence to the diet and increased exercise.

In the back of my mind I remembered reading a book about eating, with a blue cover, written by a nurse, but that was not enough information for Google to help me locate it. As a book reviewer for NetGalley, I have an incredible number of books that I can request to review. Almost unbelievably, Jean Antonello’s new book popped up on my screen as I was seeking out answers for the plateau. Immediately I knew this was the same author. Naturally Thin_oldWhile I was waiting for my request to be approved, with names now in hand, I was able to find not only the new book, but also a picture of my original book which is now tucked away in a box in NM while I am in Mexico. I felt like I had just found the Mother Lode!

So what do I think of Jean Antonello’s theories and her revised book about 30 years later? It makes so much sense to my personal situation, and she has backed it up with years of research, working with clients, and eating according to the principles herself. She advocates listening to your body’s signals for hunger and for being full. She calls for eating real food and plenty of it. This is not a diet. You are encouraged to eat good foods and never let yourself get hungry which then results in bingeing. She refers to the season of adaptation a former yo-yo dieter needs to go through as “recovery.” You are in charge of your own eating for a change. The plan is based on the feast and famine physiology of our bodies. Dieting is counterintuitive to your body because when you hold back good food, then your body perceives a famine and does not want to let go of the fat. It also slows down the metabolism to protect us from starvation. Both of these things explain my plateau.

There is so much more theory and research in her book, which is written in a very user friendly style. The approach is not complicated, but it does require commitment, not to hunger as in a diet, but to listening to your body’s signals and not thinking like a dieter any more. Antonello debunks lots of dieting myths such as the blame game that is put on overweight people that they are lazy, have psychological problems, and lack will power. She does not guarantee the fast weight loss most diets promise. She does offer freedom from obsession with food and something that rarely happens with diets—you will eat like a naturally thin person and you will not regain the weight.

Obviously I am impressed with the book. I am going to implement the mindset changes, and I anticipate that this will be a gradual process. Will it work? I don’t know. This blog is primarily about education, books, and Mexico. I only occasionally insert personal posts, but I promise to follow up this one with information on my progress or lack of it. According to Naturally Thin, I can’t put a time table on that because everyone’s body is different. I like that viewpoint, and I like that she recognizes people as individuals.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Heartland Book Company for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Health, Nonfiction (Adult)

Notes: The Appendix includes a 31-Day Quick Start plan. These are motivational readings that reinforce the principles and help you make the mental changes necessary after years of being subjected to the dieting industry’s mantra of eating less. There is also a Reader’s Guide of questions for each chapter to help you focus on the principles in that chapter and apply them to your situation.

Publication:   July 11, 2017—Heartland Book Company

Memorable Lines: (I probably highlighted half of this book in my efforts to absorb the plan. I have just cited a few portions here.)

When they diet, they force their bodies to quickly burn fat and at the same time create an increased need for fat for the future. This is why dieters always go off their diets—for the necessary restoration of the fat they’ve lost during the diet.

Just like going hungry regularly, eating a lot of poor quality food triggers the body’s survival response. Lousy food doesn’t satisfy the body’s need for nutrients.

…typically people eat too much and all the wrong stuff because they aren’t eating enough of the right stuff—at the right time.

Probably the most challenging aspect of recovery is the patience required for weight loss.

Road Trip to the South!

This summer I took a road trip from New Mexico to the South to visit friends and family. My route took me through the Texas Panhandle, Oklahoma, Missouri (going East), Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas (going West). I was driving my appropriately designated “Desert Sky Blue” Ford Thunderbird, but going through my head was “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet.” I hope the people who came up with that ad campaign, tune, and lyrics were well compensated–now that was branding!

 

Most of my time was well spent reminiscing and catching up. I was treated to some sightseeing along the way.

 

Paducah, Kentucky, is restoring its downtown area. So much interesting history there! We had a delicious lunch at a bakery that survived a major flood and currently includes a café, walked the brick paved streets admiring period storefronts, viewed fantastic murals along the riverbank, and lingered in a local museum with fascinating memorabilia.

In Asheville, North Carolina, I enjoyed the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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In Chattanooga, Tennessee, I went to the National Cemetery.  It may seem like a strange place to visit, but I have memories of going there as a little girl with my father like you would go to a park. I had a fuzzy recollection of a “train statue” and was eager to make a better connection. There is a memorial there to Andrews’ Raiders and the Great Locomotive Chase, a military raid in 1862 during the American Civil War.  The locomotive pictured below is a model of The General. The memorial is surrounded by tombstones of some of those involved and indicates which ones were executed, escaped, or exchanged.

A bit of history has been brought to life in the James County Courthouse which has been remodeled with a wedding chapel upstairs and a tearoom, which I highly recommend, beneath–wonderfully decorated, delicious food, and a friendly staff.

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Always good to travel and always good to return to a place you call home. The New Mexico desert is a welcome sight as I head towards my mountain retreat.

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