29 December 2016

Hello From The Sub-Basement

When it rains, it pours. In fact, all of our troubles started with a rainstorm. Tijuana is not built for the small amounts of rain we get here. I of course, hailing from Oregon, find anything under 5 months of rain straight as a small amount. Nevertheless, it rained a couple of inches over a couple of days, and every dirty storm drain became clogged with the debris that washes downhill. Backed-up storm drains cause flooded roads and standing water that mask the axle-breaking potholes underneath. Common sense would tell one not to plow through these puddles. But things happen.

Christmas eve morning, I got an early call to rescue my sister-in-law because her car broke down on her way to the line. She tried to drive through said puddle and stalled out. Oi vey. We came in my truck, and while I took her on her errands, Hector had her car towed. No biggie, she and I can carpool to work. It takes a little longer, but it's not the end of the world. I had to go to work that evening, so I took my sister-in-law back to Mexico and I left again. I finished my shopping before work, leaving Hector with exact instructions for Cecilia's big Santa gift. At work, I arrived early and wrapped up what I bought. I worked my 8 hour shift, then headed home, hoping and praying that the kids were in bed, asleep, so I could finish wrapping the presents.

When I-5 reaches the border it ends. There's a very sharp turn at the end onto a road that drives between the two fences and on into Mexican customs. As I was driving into this sharp curve, my clutch jammed in neutral and gave out. I  used what little momentum that I had left to edge my car to the side of the road, while cars going 40 or 50 MPH sped past me. In this border purgatory zone, cell phones get confused. They don't know if they want to bounce off US towers or Mexican towers. In most cases, your phone will lose signal all together. I left my car with it's hazards blinking and walked along the fence until I got a small amount service. I let Hector know what was happening. I learned at this time that he never went to get Cecilia her gift- so she would have no Santa gift on Christmas morning. I tried really hard to push all of this anger down and deal with the disaster at hand. There was no way Hector could rescue me where I was. At the moment I began to feel some despair, a kind gentleman stopped and asked if I needed help. I explained the situation and he offered to push me through customs into Mexico, meaning I could avoid an international tow truck.

There was much crunching coming from the repeated bumping of our cars together, but customs didn't bother stopping us, and I made it into Mexico. The man's light was half out and his license plate was all banged up, but he just wanted a hug and said, "It's Christmas". I don't know who he was, but he completely saved me that night. Thank you Mystery Truck guy! Once in Mexico, Hector came to my rescue. As we sat in my car, we waited for a tow truck. Who was I going to find on Christmas Eve night- one of the biggest parties in Mexican culture- to tow my car? My brother-in-law called 4 places and we finally got an answer from a guy who was already going home. A mile tow ended up costing about $40 USD and we tipped him graciously. It was about 1 a.m. When we got home, and my brother-in-law dropped off the kids, wide-awake.

Stress was running high, and Hector and I fought a bit over the fact that Cecilia wasn't going to get her gift. We're real like that, I promise. Finally around 4 am, I made it to bed. The Secret of Santa had been revealed to Cecilia age 10, and I was heartbroken for her. I was hoping to enjoy a few more years of the Christmas magic with her. I never finished gift wrapping. I was so tired after everything, the gifts just sat out.

Christmas morning was a relaxed one after the night before. We eventually got up and opened the presents that were under the tree, then we went out to church. Since our main car was out, and my sister-in-law's car was out, we were all carpooling in Hector's Subaru. Hector made the remark about "At least this car's still running". On our way home from church, we were headed up the hill where my brother-in-law lives. Hector noticed the car was not pulling as well as it usually does, and it was starting to overheat. Once we pulled in front of the house, Hector's car, our last working vehicle, shut off. We let it cool, then began to check it out. There was no water in it. We added some water and it dripped right out of the bottom. The Subaru's water pump blew. Rock bottom apparently has a very dark basement.

The problem is that I work 30 miles or so from the border. There is not a bus that goes to my job, and I get off from work very late at night. However, I can't not work. My family depends on me. So, my sister-in-law and I planned to bus it to our jobs. She is fortunate that the bus goes very close to her job. When I get to the town where I work, I have a two-mile walk. However, we can go half way together, and misery loves company. The morning of the 26th, as we're contemplating how to fix all of our cars, we get a phone call- someone stole our license plate off of Hector's car.

Anyone at this point, heading into Rock Bottom's Sub-Basement, would naturally feel a bit defeated. I know that I do. I am tired, angry, sad, and overwhelmed. I know all of these problems are still fixable. However, who can prepare for all of them, all at once, on Christmas of all things? I have been on the bus all week, getting very acquainted with San Diego's public transit system, and deciding that the walk to work is worth the exercise. I miss driving myself home, when it's cold and I'm stuck on the mercy of others to have pity on me and take me to the trolley stations somewhere in South County so that I don't end up stranded. It's humbling and humiliating, but I am trying  (and failing) to let it sanctify me. I feel a lot like Job lately, so I must remember that suffering is rewarded when suffered for God.

Hopefully 2017 brings sunshine instead of rain storms.

23 December 2016

The Demon and I

Most people who have never met Hector- and many who have- think I'm mad. They think that anybody who got themselves removed from the US is probably not a model human being. They question my judgment as a woman- why would any sane woman give up her entire existence for a criminal? They look at Hector's unshaven face, or that he doesn't have a paying job, or a million of his imperfections. People who know him accuse me of not knowing him and his major personality flaws. How could I do that to myself?
The Colorado river is a powerful, ever important body of water. It runs through the Grand Canyon today as it has for millions of years, wearing away at the stone. Little by little it chips away at the rock, and after so long now has a deep course right through the stone. However, it still is eroding the stone, a few grains of sand at a time. Slowly, it is revealing the beauty that's still hidden deep inside the earth. Hector is not a romantic. Long gone are the early days of handwritten notes and throwing pebbles at the window at 2 a.m. Hector is a stong, precise, and critical lover. It's not out of lack of love that he points out my shortcomings; it's a deep love that has had years to cut through my stoney heart. He sees deep into my soul, to the places that even I can't see, and chips away at the external, slowly revealing the beauty inside of me.
Some people would look at me and say that I'm perfect the way I am, and that Hector should love me exactly as that- they miss the fact that he already does, and it's because of this love that he wants me to be the very best version of myself. Hector tells me to eat right and work out. Some people would say that he is 'fat-shaming' me; he wants me to be healthy and not die prematurely. He doesn't want me to spend all of my money on stuff that isn't necessary; he wants me to save and be responsible. He reminds me that I am not the most important person in the universe; he wants me to have perspective and compassion.

Yes, Hector has a colorful past that I am 100 per cent aware of. Yes, his life experiences are vastly different than any that I have had. Yes, he has a lifetime ban from my country of origin. Hector may be what can be portrayed as the "bad-guy", but he is anything but to anyone who truly knows him. I never regret one second of any of my life with him, regardless of the struggles and difficulties we've faced. Hector sees me in my darkness, in the shadows where I can't even find myself. He found me there when I was a girl, and has repeatedly pulled me out of there as I grew and our relationship developed. Hector may be a dark soul, but that is how he pushes me back into the light. He may be a demon, but I have not always been angelic. 

22 December 2016

December Daily Week Three

Welcome back to the blog for week three of my December Daily project for 2016. You can find Week One here and Week Two here.

Well, it was a slow December week around here. It is hard to create Christmas cheer when your whole life if spent sitting in the border line or being too tired on your days off for anything. I truly know how my mother felt all those years and why she was so tired! Anyways, onto the pages.

December 15


The fifteenth was a boring day, but it was a day spent watching my beloved Portland get a blanketing of snow and ice.  As I warmed my self in the Baja sun, I contemplated how comfortable I am getting with the climate here.

December 16

I do have a page for the sixteenth, but it includes many pictures of a work potluck/Secret Santa party we had with my coworkers, and I am not sharing the pages to respect their privacy. 

December 17


Tamales happened in the seventeenth. My sister-in-law and I spent the entire day making them. I taught her the way our mother-in-law taught me. This is one tradition I didn't grow up with, but that I've incorporated from Hector's life. 

December 18


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When I first moved to Mexico, I had a collection of Christmas mugs simply for cocoa drinking. After that first year,  most of them didn't survive the time floors here and we're all broken. Three survive still, however, and I brought them out for some hot cocoa. 

December 19


Here's a little glance at what's on my Pinterest board right now. 

December 20


The kids penned simple letters to Santa. Since I'm doing this project all digitally, instead of with physical product, I can't include the original letters. So, to preserve their handwriting, I took pictures of the letters. 

December 21


We put together our annual gingerbread house. I really love this tradition, but I was nervous as our first year in Mexico, the house brought an infestation of ants. Not wanting to relive that nightmare, we waited until close to Christmas day, and I put it in a tray to move it to the refrigerator. The kids did all the decorating themselves, with me only setting up the frosting bags. That's a win for me!


So, that was our week. Not a lot of super Christmas-y things going on that one would think would be happening right before Christmas, but this year it's just beena challenge to adapt to life here in Mexico again, plus chase the three kids, and work full time. 

If you don't hear from me again beforehard, Have a very merry Christmas from my family to yours and a prosperous and blessed 2017.

15 December 2016

December Daily Week Two

Last week, I posted week one of our December adventures. Click here for that post.

December is trucking right along, and I must say again: I LOVE this project. Every year, I findmyself creating holiday activities for myself or my family. Some people might call that 'fake', but my motto is "Fake it till you make it". I always seem to sink into a December slump, but this project helps me find the tiny bits of joy every day that create the season.

I am really loving the use of the Project Life app. I originally thought that by using the app instead of physical product, I was going to lose the overall creative outlet that this project provides. However, with a mobile baby, homeschooling Isaias, Cecilia's busy activiy schedule, and my full-time job, there is no way I'd have this project done. So, this year I'm greatful for this app that allows me to document my life while giving the chance to actually live that life. Speaking of living life, the past week looked like this:

December 8

 I treated myself to my annual red cup at Starbucks. This is something I've done since they started making holiday drinks, and my only favorite is an eggnog latte.

December 9


This is about the time I get really stressed out and overwhelmed by the season and life in general. Plus, I almost ran out of gas. There's such a thing as being at the end of your rope.

December 10
                         

I was working, but Hector took the kids to the new workout area at the park. 

December 11


The local interactive science museum has a big birthday bash for itself, and it was free all day! We squeezed in for a little bit of learning and fun. 

December 12

My mom had sent the ingredients to make some peppermint bark, but I decided to try to make peppermint bark fudge instead. Hector is not a sweets can, but it turned out okay.

December 13

Every year, I make picture frame ornaments for the kids. This year, however, I could not find the little wooden frames that I usually use at any store. I did find these penguin photo frame ornaments at Michael's, so I bought three and put the kids' pictures in them. I'm happy with them.

December 14


Cecilia had a singing solo in English in her school Christmas concert  She was very nervous, but as soon as she saw me, she opened her mouth and sang her little heart out. I was so proud.

How's your December coming along?

10 December 2016

The How's and the Why's

Please bear with me as I try to crack my way out of a writing dry spell. I've been crushed under the weight of writer's block for awhile, and I've been trying to find a way out. My life in Mexico is now so commonplace to me, that I doubt myself into thinking anyone would actually want to read about it.

I get asked several times a week, how do you do it?, or even why do you do it? when people ask about my four-hour commute to work or decision to follow a man to a foreign country. Even though people ask me this multiple times, I still am caught-off gaurd that anyone wouldn't do this. I never quite know how to answer these kinds of questions. When people ask how, my answers usually are simple ones: "I just do it" or "I have no other option". While both of these answers are true, neither one truly scratches the surface of how or why I wait multiple hours in the line, or how I can live without a microwave, or can live the kind of life where I have to light the pilot light on my water heater.

How I do it IS actually a simple answer: I just do it. Hector knows I may not enjoy it, but life is not an endless ride of pleasure and happiness. Life is meant to be enjoyed overall, not every second of everything you do. Sometimes I need to do things I don't like, including sitting in traffic and going to work and being away from my family. Those are all normal adult things that every single person who asks me "how" also does. I just have to drive a little further than they do. When they ask how I live without multiple modern convienences I simply don't notice that I don't have a microwave or hot water until the second I need it and I don't have it. But fortunately for me, I know that hot water heaters and microwaves have not always been part of human history, and I can adapt easily. We don't make so much food at once that it has to be reheated later, we make just enough every time. We don't drink or cook with tap water here in Tijuana, so having hot tap water is not very necessary. Life itself is about a spieces' ability to adapt to it;s surroundings. Life in Mexico, or anywhere, is about adaptation.

The question of WHY I live a life I must adapt to on a daily basis is a harder question for me to answer. When I tell people I do it because of my husband, they are blown away that I, (or anyone maybe) would move to follow a man. I don't know if it's our culture's hosility towards men or Mexico that drives the sneers and comments that usually follow this question, but for me, it took a lot of careful consideration. I stayed behind in the US after Hector's deportation. I was not sure if I could live a life in Mexico. I told Hector I was coming, and backed out. I did not just jump up, drop my life, and start completely over like so many other women I've met. My decision to move to Mexico came after years of consideration and an ultimatum from Hector. I am here because my family and my marriage deserved a fighting chance. I chose this life, this man, to be my partner. It's true, that sometimes I am frustrated, lonely, angry, and sad. I really doubt life in the US would produce different emotions. I've learned through the fifteen years that our lives have been intertwined, that marriage is not rainbows and happiness, or even love. Marriage is a daily choice, common goals, and a lot of sacrificing. This seems to be counter-cultural. Is that the reasons for the why's?

This may not be the most successful life. This may not be the happiest life. This may not be the easiest life. But it's mine. It's the life I choose to live.

08 December 2016

December Daily 2016 Week One

I am a story keeper. I document the bits and pieces and the stories of our ordinary lives to document the extraodinary. In December, this means I participate in December Daily. I record one story a day from December 1st through Christmas Day, and compile them into their own small scrapbook. The end result is an album compiling all of the magic that is the Christmas season. I've been doing this project since 2008, and it is always amazing to see the things that are the same every year, that are now almost family traditions, as well as see the new stories we experience as we evolve as a family.

This year, my scrapbooking process has been streamlined by the Project Life App. For many years, I was a physical product scrapbooker, carefully selecting my papers and embellishments to creatively tell our stories. In 2012, I switched to pocket scrapbooking, using premade card its to simplfy the scrapbooking process. When I first moved to Mexico, I lugged several boxes of scrapbooking products along with me, taking up precious space in our tiny home. This year, the creator of the Project Life method, Becky Higgins, released the app for Android, and I was a quick sell. I love the ease and simplicity of scrapbooking right in my hand. I don't have to worry about printing weekly, or carving out time for journaling in my already hectic schedule. I can do it on my break at work. The real decision came down to if I wanted to go digital for December Daily. I decided that, yes, this year due to budget constraints and time constraints, I would use the app for this project.

Now, I still have to print all of the pages assemble them into physical albums. Maybe in years to come, I will print them as large photobooks, but for now, I want my albums to match, and I started out 2016 with pocket pages. The pages for our family's main scrapbook will be printed at 12x12,  but the December Daily will be printed at and 8x8 size, because I like the feel of it being an "extra" project, not necessarily included in our family book.

I thought I would share my first week of December with you, so you can see the app, and how I am doing this project this year.
The cover page for the album was made using different parts of the Merry & Bright kit. The pinks match our Christmas decorations. Ijust dropped the cards into the pre-designed template. It took only minutes to make this page.

Day One:


We put up our tree. We actually did this November 30, but I had to work on the first, and I wanted to make sure we got a good tree before they were all gone.

Day Two:



Our Elf on the Shelf is quite the traveller, making his way back to us in Tijuana. Again, in the app, I have the option of making full-page photos. I love the dramatic look.

Day Three:
For Day three, I'monly sharing one side, because it is a page about the friends I'm making at work,and I don't think sharing their faces on the internet is a good way to keep friends.

Day Four:

December fourth was a nice day in the park, picknicking with my family before work. Not every story has to be "Christmas-themed". Sometimes the stories are simple. What is Christmas-themed is the overall story of the album in its entirety.

Day Five:

Day five was a family movie night. These are one of the themes that I find repeated every year. Christmas movies really bring out the holiday spirit.

Day Six:

December sixth is the feast day of the real St. Nicholas, who is thought to have given 3 dowry-less girls bags of gold so they could have  respectable marriages, anonymously. In many part of Europe and in mnay Catholic households,St.Nick visits on the eve of his feast day and leaves presents, or at least, gold coins in the children's shoes. He visited us and left us our gold coins.

Day Seven:


I made two-page spreads each day during December, but on the seventh, I only had one photo of our nativity set that Isaias picked out last year and made the creche for. When I used phsyical products for the project, I would use a sheet of patterned paper. Using the app, I did the same thing here,only I used a digital card from the app and made it into a full-sized thing. I actually like the way it turned out.

So, that's the beginning of our December this year. I hope every one reading this is having a merry season, and I will show off the next week of pages next Thursday. Have a creative week!