Cancer-The great instigator

Me being diagnosed with advanced state ovarian cancer in May 2015 was a life-changing event. Dare I say even a blessing????  Well, maybe blessing is the wrong word, but my cancer diagnosis and three words from my oncologist to ‘live life now” changed everything for us.

Cancer was the great instigator. Should I say thanks?

Every since Andy and I got married 20 years ago, we’ve always talked about moving abroad for our retirement. We knew we could successfully live abroad because we did it in our early 30’s as Peace Corp volunteers in Jamaica and we were jonesing for a repeat performances. We talked about moving abroad at least once a week during our entire marriage, so the thought of not being able to do it was simply terrifying to us both.

We jumped and we haven’t looked back.

Now we are a bit over the half-way mark in our six-month stay in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. In May, we will have lived in Mexico for a year and we continue to love the scenery, people and culture. Now it’s time to make some major decisions about what comes next!

Here’s where the wind will take us in the next few months.

First, the first week of February we have been invited to San Miguel de Allende to attend the 50th birthday party of a close friend. She’s asked 10 of her besties to join her. All are coming from the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles to participate in four days of festivities.

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The house we are staying at is two blocks off the main square

San Miguel de Allende is about 8 hours away from Zihuataenjo and we’re going to be traveling for the first time by first class bus. First class buses in Mexico are supposed to be very nice. They have bathrooms, seat chargers and they show movies. After the party, my friend, and the birthday girl, (Shannon) will bus with us back to Zihuataenjo and stay for a few nights but first we’ll stop in Morelia for a night of big city living. We will once again stay at my favorite Mexican hotel, the Hotel Soledad.

Then, visitors a-plenty start arriving from the middle of February through the middle of March pretty much non-stop. I’m looking forward to the company. Unfortunately, there’s NO MORE room at the inn for this remaining winter season. We’re completely booked. Sorry peeps.

At the end of March we’re being kicked out of this great country. Our 180 day tourist visas expire at the end of March. Mexican law requires that we flee–anyplace is fine as long as it’s out of Mexico for at least 24 hours. Then we can come back for another 180 days.

Asia here we come!  We’re off to Korea and Japan for some new adventures.

Hello Cherry Blossoms

I’ve always loved cherry blossoms. Whenever I see them a complete feeling of peace envelops me. Since we have to leave Mexico, we decided to take a seven-week trip to Korea and Japan in the spring to become cherry blossom groupies. I’ve been to Japan twice for work, but never with Andy. I really love all of Asia, but I’m particularly fond of Japan and I’m excited for us to travel throughout Japan together. I’m also excited to take my first trip to Korea.

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Being a cherry blossom groupie isn’t as easy as it sounds.  When we first booked our tickets to Asia, we didn’t quite understand that cherry blossom season is short. The trees have a very short viewing period and variations in temperature can affect when they bloom from year to year. The Korean and Japanese governments both provide excellent guidelines to help tourists follow their foliage, but it’s all based on speculation until the season draws closer. Another drawback…hundreds of thousands of people want to see them, so it’s hard getting hotel rooms in many cities. And if there are hotel rooms available, they cost over $150 a night for a budget property. Nicer hotels are running closer to $200 a night. That’s a bit steep for our budget, especially when we are used to paying $50 a night for fancy hotels in Mexico.

But we’re not daunted. We’re pushing on. We’re mostly planning our trip to geographically follow their sproutage, but we may be SOL depending on the weather. Already I know that while in Tokyo we’ll probably miss them by a few weeks. In many of the other cities we plan to visit, we could be several days early or even up to a week late, or we could hit the cherished “full bloom” state as I anticipate we will while visiting Kyoto. Thankfully, we were lucky enough to get lodging at a very huge and famous Spring cherry blossom festival in Takayama and I’m sure this will be one of our highlights of our trip, especially our stay there in a youth hostel!

To fund this amazing adventure, we’re mostly using hotel and airline points. In our former professional lives, we  both traveled extensively for work. Over the last 15 years or so we’ve become serious hotel and airline point hoarders. We’ve even sat through some very long and pressure -filled timeshare presentations just to earn extra  Starwood points. That’s dedication!  Now it’s time to reap the rewards and go on a point spending spree!

First we’ll stop in the Bay Area for 3 days to see my oncologist and to pick up some appropriate traveling clothes. I can’t go to Asia wearing nothing but sun dresses. I will look sorely out of place!

Then we’re flying business class to Seoul, Korea on Asiana airlines and then we’re going to be using hotel points to stay at a brand new Starwood property, an Aloft. Alofts are cool. We like the brand and stay at them often.  Then from Korea we will fly to Japan.

Over the course of one month,  we’ll stay in many different places including an airbnb in Kyoto. Supposedly the bathroom/shower is so small that Andy will have to crouch down to shower!  When we can, we’ll stay in a youth hostel or two, with a smattering of luxury Sheraton and Westin properties thrown in so we can cash in points. I like the approach of staying at both low-end and higher end properties when traveling. It makes for many fun adventures. I’m also lobbying for us to stay a few nights at the St. Regis in Osaka (on points) where every room has private butler service!  After traveling around Japan for a month, we’re going to board a Celebrity repositioning cruise on the Celebrity Millenium outside of Tokyo and take a 14-day cruise from Japan to Vancouver. If you are not familiar with repoisitioning cruises, they are dirt cheap. They are cheap because they have tons of sea days, as opposed to port visits and they need people to fill up the ships as they transition to another season. In our ships case, it had been cruising throughout Asia, but come the end of May it will start its spring and summer season in Alaska. Along the way we will visit Sapporo and Hagadote, Japan and one port in Russia called Petropavlovsk.  I’m super excited about the cruise because it was much, much cheaper than flying home and way more fun!  We’ve booked a basic interior cabin but don’t expect to spend much time in it. We’ll spend long sea days playing cards, reading and watching movies. Paradise. After we disembark in Vancouver, Canada we will stay with close friends for 3 or 4 days.

After Vancouver we will fly straight to Morelia, (the greatest city you have never heard of) to begin a four month stay.  Book your reservations now. We already have a lot of people who have expressed an interest in coming to visit.  After Morelia, we want to spend the month of October in Oaxaca. Then, who knows where the wind will take us? We’re strongly considering returning to Zihuatanenjo, and we are going to make a final decision soon.  Life is just a little bit slow-paced here for me. While I do love it, it doesn’t have any of the big city life I crave. But after four months in big city Morelia, I may be ready to return to paradise. We’ll have a better idea of our plans in a few more weeks. Until then, we are in full Asia planning mode.  Have you ever used Tripit to organize a trip?  If not, check it out. I’m finding it to be a fantastic planning  tool.

Misc Musings:

1. I had a wonderful time with my dad who came here for 9 days. He was a really easy guest and we did a lot of fun stuff including visiting Ixtapa Island.

2. Last night we ran out of propane gas and today the gas man came with his huge truck and refilled it. Total cost $107.00.

3. Having no gas means having no hot water. When the gas tank was filled, the stove and oven started working again, but the hot water did not. Andy could not light the pilot light try as he might. Andy sent our landlords a message about two hours ago via email and they are already here trying to fix it.  They are so amazing and helpful. And the adventure continues!

 

Old West-style shootout

A few nights ago, captain Andy and I were chilling around 11:15 p.m., Andy in the living room watching TV and me in the bedroom reading. Suddenly I heard some very strange sounds. Andy came in the bedroom and said, “Did you hear that? I’m pretty sure it was gunfire.” It was a bit off in the distance, but it sounded like a shootout in the Wild West. Over the course of about 10 minutes, it sounded as if 100 or maybe even more than 200 rounds had been fired, by machine guns. Late in the sequence, we heard one short barrage of gunfire from what sounded like the street behind our backyard.

I was shocked. I was scared. This was the first time we had ever heard gunfire in our safe neighborhood in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. We’re still not fully sure what happened, but from the local news reports we’ve read, it appears as if cartel (ie. gang) members in two cars, after being spotted driving oddly by law enforcement officials, started to trade gunfire with said law enforcement officials — a confusing web of municipal police, state police, federal police and military, all of whom constantly drive around town in military-type Jeep vehicles, some with a mounted machine gun at the ready.

Perhaps the badmen engaged the police; perhaps it was the other way around. We’re not really not sure. But after the shootout, three men were reported dead with four wounded, including a policeman who sustained minor injuries.

I’m upset. I’m perplexed. I’m sad. I’m speechless. What I am not is worried for our overall safety. As it turned out, even though it sounded close at times, the shootout happened a mile from our house in an area where we would not be late at night. It’s not in a bad neighborhood; just a place we wouldn’t be. Still, no matter where it occurred, the shootout was a sad commentary on the state of life in contemporary Mexico, where cartels have too much influence, and politicians have either too little (or are controlled by cartels or corrupted by other influences).

I pray for people’s safety and security. I pray that an increased police and military presence around town keeps Mexicans and tourists safe. I pray that those of you who want to come visit us still want to come, because I remain positive that we and you will be safe. I pray that those of you who are new to Mexico learn to love it as much as we do and that you get to experience true Mexican hospitality and a nation’s zest for living.

Amen

The greatest love story ever told!

I’m married to a man named Mr. Tuffy.  

Today is our 20 year wedding anniversary so this posting is about love. It’s also about ovarian cancer and Mexico. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to wax poetically about matters of the heart. Can an amateur writer with absolutely no experience writing about love properly describe it?  This posting may turn into one gigantic snooze fest, but dear reader, in honor of our 20 year wedding anniversary I want you to meet the love of my life.

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Meet Mr. Tuffy!

Mr. Tuffy became Mr. Tuffy on our third or perhaps fourth date. I honestly can’t remember. He’s named after Tuffy Rhodes a former major league baseball player. Mr T took me to a baseball game early on. There stood Tuffy Rhodes at the plate. Sexy third (or fourth) date guy said “that’s a pretty cool nickname.”  Right there and then he became Mr. Tuffy.  Me?  I ‘m Stuffy.  It’s sickening. I get it. But I’m allergic to everything Mother Nature tosses out. This is true. So Tuffy and Stuffy is who we are and for the past 20 years we’ve been pretty damn happy.

Here are some trivial and utterly boring  details you should know about our love story:

  • We met through a personal ad placed by me in the San Francisco Jewish news, now know as J. We lived only two miles apart, (me, Berkeley, him, Oakland) but had it not been for the ad, our paths would have never crossed.
  • We make the bed together most days. We agree making the bed daily is important
  • He asks for seconds (and usually thirds) every single night at dinner. He always compliments me on my cooking except one time when I made steamed Kale.
  • He likes meat, but happily eats vegetarian food or fish since I don’t eat meat. And yes, he likes tofu!
  • He watches old movies with me.
  • He looks great in blue.
  • He handles all of our finances competently and without complaint.
  • He cleans up after himself, and sometimes after me.
  • He helps me stay organized because I am forever losing things.
  • When he makes promises to me, he always keeps them.
  • He likes to watch Family Guy.
  • He takes me to amazing sporting events like minor league hockey road trips through Canada, and to professional soccer matches, and to funky Mexican wrestling matches.
  • He taught me how to love Mexican food.
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Then he became Super Tuffy

Mr. Tuffy became Super Tuffy in May of 2015 when I got diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer. Here’s my favorite Mr. Tuffy cancer story.

When I got diagnosed, the oncology folks told me straight away that I would lose my hair during chemo. They also told me to cut it short before chemo started and to prepare for it to slowly start falling out. So I moseyed down to my hairdresser, and got a short cut. Two weeks after chemo started, I woke up to a guest appearance of wads of hair in my mouth.

Disgusting, right?

Mr. Tuffy volunteered to use his beard/hair trimmer to remove the remaining offending party. He took me into the bathtub and said  “you are the bravest person I know” then he let the shears fly. After I  was sans hair he left me teary eyed in the bathroom and went away. He came back with this present. (far right).

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This is quite a “gem”

See what I mean? It’s pretty damn thoughtful to get a super funky blingy hat like this right after you’ve been scalped!

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I really love this hat. It’s feminine and highly functional- with or without hair.

He did many other great things for me when I had cancer. Too many to name. I could not have gotten through it without him, period. I could list everything he did, but you’d be reading forever. Yeah, he massaged my feet when I had neuropathy and he came with me to every single chemotherapy session, but better to tell you what he does for me each and every day.

Day in and Day out…

  • At night he tickles my back when I have hot flashes to cool me down!
  • Since we’ve moved to Mexico, he goes to the store at lugs home five gallon jugs of water so we always have fresh water to drink and to cook with.
  • He let’s me drink coffee and doesn’t complain when I spaz out from caffeine overload.
  • He always tells me I look nice when we go out for date night.
  • He cuts fruit and vegetables so we always have healthy food to eat. When he is finished everything is symetrical. I do not like to cut!

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    Mr. Tuffy is a good cutter.

 

  • He listens and listens and listens when I start freaking out about the possibility of my cancer returning. OK, maybe this doesn’t happen every day, but when it does happen, he’s 100 percent non-judgmental and present. It’s got to be depressing and painful  to listen to your wife talk about possibly dying, but he does it and I’m grateful.
  • He usually laughs at all of my jokes and even when they fall dead, he smirks.
  • He never holds a grudge
  • He takes out the trash without me reminding him.
  • He wraps his arms around me before we fall asleep.

When he proposed

When he proposed he did so with a ring out of a gumball machine. It was a cheap, plastic ring with a snake on it and I loved it. I have a great picture of me wearing it the day we got engaged. Unfortunately, the ring disappeared not soon after and I was crushed. I lamented its disappearance several times during those early years and asked him repeatedly where it could have gone.

Then on our 10 year anniversary, Mr. Tuffy surprised me with it!  He kept it hidden from me for 10 whole years!  It brought me to tears.

These days he’s not quite so romantic, but he does have his moments and I’m often quite touched.

How many more years?

I’m not a cancer statistic. So far I am a cancer survivor.  I hope we have many, many more years to share our love. I try not to take this time for granted. I cherish each day we have together.

I wish and hope we will have many more joyous years together, but if we can’t, I’m blessed to have experienced everything he is.  To feel loved and cherished by him every day is the greatest gift a person could have. What a blessing!  And now…

A (not so) personal ending to a great love story

Dear Mr. Tuffy,

Happy anniversary. I thought long and hard about a gift to give you to celebrate these past 20 years, but as you know, you poo-pooped all of my great suggestions (including lovely matching bracelets) and you are incredibly hard to buy anything for. I did like the idea of matching tattoos but maybe for our 25th????   Truthfully, you have given me everything a girl could want and Mexico is way too hot for matching velour robes so telling our story seemed like a good idea at the time.  I know you’ll get it since you are the writer, not me. I’m confident you’ll understand why I felt compelled to share our story with family, friends and yes, even strangers. Sometimes stories just have to be told.  I’m so grateful that every single day I get to feel the love you bestow on me.  You rock my world Mr. Tuffy.  I love you. Thank you for helping me live my dreams each and every day. Happy anniversary.

Love,

Mrs. Stuffy

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Channeling Bo Derrick

Soon we’re heading to parts unknown, and taking roads less-traveled. Mexico is a huge country with 31 states. There’s so much more to do and see!

Captain Andy and I are celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary on December 21. What better way to celebrate 20 years of wedded bliss than by taking a trip?

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These lovebirds are celebrating 20 years.

Did we want to stay at a fancy resort for one or two nights in Zihuatanejo?

Did we want to visit an all-inclusive resort in Ixtapa?
Hit the high seas for a cruise?  Go to Mexico City?

Or maybe the best option was to do something more low-key and just have a romantic dinner out?

Eventually all of the above got rejected by yours truly because 20 happily married years is special. 20 years deserves a big-ass celebration. Don’t you think?

Travel Plans

First we’ll be leaving Zihuatanejo via a rented car and we’ll head inland to Morelia for one night where I’ll visit my oncologist and get some tests for my three-month check-up. As usual, I’ve got horrible anxiety waiting for my test results but fingers crossed, I’ll still be cancer-free. We’re staying at my favorite hotel, the Hotel Soledad. Check out the link and look at the rooms. This place is really special. It’s 100 percent romantic and the decor is to die for.

Then we’re going to a fancy spa for a night (couples massage package), then we’re off to a small Mexican town called Colima,  I hear it’s got a really lovely main square where our hotel is located. After Colima, we’ll visit Lake Chalapa and the town of  Ajijic which has the largest ex-pat population in all of Mexico. Then we’re headed back towards the coast to Manzanillo for four nights for some all- inclusive resort fun at the Barcelo, Karmina.

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I hope to look at good as Bo Derrick in my bathing suit on the beach.

Remember the movie 10 with Bo Derrick and Dudley Moore? It has an iconic classic beach scene where Bo Derrick runs on the beach towards Dudley Moore. That movie was filled at Las Hadas in Manzanillo, Mexico, right next store to where we will be staying.

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We looked into staying at Las Hadas in Manzanillo, but the reviews were mixed.

After four nights at the Barcelo, we’ll head down the Pacific Coast to some more tranquil and remote parts of the coast. Andy has planned out all of the details of what to see and has made a list of fish shacks to visit, so I’m sure it’s going to be a great and highly romantic trip.

Packing shall commence now. I’ll write more soon.

 

 

 

It must be five o’clock somewhere!

I like to drink. I’m not shy about admitting it.  I’m an equal opportunity drinker. I’ll pretty much drink anything alcoholic, my favorite things being.

  1. Ketel One vodka
  2. Cocktails such as martinis, mojitos and other interesting mixed drinks including basil margaritas served at Las Palmas. 
  3. Craft brews especially Indian Pale Ales (IPA’s and Double IPA’s)
  4.  Lesbiana

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In my old life in Oakland, CA one of my favorite thing to do was go out with a group of women to a nice bar and enjoy a few cocktails. I  particularly loved ultra lounges (photo below) that played  down-tempo chill music, but sadly there are no ultra lounges in Zihuatanejo.

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Grey Goose or Ketel One martinis are the perfect lounge cocktail.

Thankfully, even with my love of drinking, I have always had a relatively healthy relationship with alcohol. That being said, I went to great lengths to keep it healthy.  I had a few informal rules I tried to live by.  I wasn’t always perfect, but these are the general rules that guided my relationship with alcohol.

  • Not drinking at home alone (with rare exceptions)
  • Not drinking after having a bad day. (broken a few times)
  • Not drinking Monday-Friday
  • Not having more than 2-3 drinks in one sitting
  • Not pre-drinking at home before I went out for the evening

Then I moved to Mexico…Hello lushdomness (a great made-up word, right).

There are just too many opportunities to enjoy catching a buzz here. Why not have a margarita or a rum punch while sitting on the beach enjoying a book?  What’s a second pina colada going to matter when there are no obligations in front of me?  6:00 PM already?  Why I’d love to participate in 2 X 1 happy hour!

A beer overlooking the serene and exceedingly beautiful Bay of Zihuatenejo before we mosey to dinner?  What a lovely idea!  That sounds delightful!

See what I mean?

The opportunity to indulge in an orgy of small umbrellas is everywhere and the longer we live in Mexico, the more ex-pats I meet who share their stories of knowing other ex-pats who drink more than they probably should.  While researching this blog, I read several internet stories on ex-pat websites about alcohol and drug addiction facing ex-pats and after living here, I’m not surprised. Every day can be a party if you want it to be.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a “ladies luncheon.”  Every participant was asked to bring a bottle of wine or champagne. I think there were  15 of us. By the end of a wonderful and festive lunch, there were not ANY bottles of wine or champagne remaining.  Now I hope the ladies invite me again because I had SO much fun and I don’t want anyone to think I’m judging them. To each his own, yes?  I’m simply describing my experience. After my 3 glasses of white wine and 1 (or was it 2) glasses of champagne, I  walked home, laid down, passed out, and woke up an hour later thinking it was the next morning.  It wasn’t. It was only 4:30 PM in the afternoon. Oops!   Mr. Andy had to set me straight.

After that party, I went on the wagon for six days.

I’m not thinking that I have a problem with drinking, but I would like to drink less for a wide variety of reasons including to reduce my caloric intake and to improve my overall health, but it’s hard because I really enjoy being a social drinker and there are all sorts of occasions to be social here.  But I’m better off monitoring my drinking because middle aged, highly educated women (me in a nutshell) are more prone to have problems with alcohol.

The citation below comes from the Institute of Alcohol Studies based in England, so the citation below focuses on UK women, but it’s interesting anyway. You can see more about their report, here.

Women and education

“There is evidence to suggest an association between education and consumption levels. A 2010 study based on the drinking habits of individuals born in 1970 found that the more educated women are, the more likely they are to drink alcohol on most days and to report having problems due to their drinking patterns. The relationship is stronger for females than males”

and  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has this to say.

Risky drinking for women is defined by more than three drinks on any single day (a standard drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or a 1.5-oz shot of distilled liquor like vodka or whiskey) or more than seven drinks per week.

I’m not even close to the seven drinks per week. I’m probably closer to 3-5,  but even so, I’ve decided to implement the same rules I had at home here. I’ll allow for some exceptions, like when we go away to celebrate our 20 year anniversary in December and stay at an all-inclusive resort, but for the most part, I’m going to be slinging back more mineral waters and coconut waters and less tequilas and Modelos.  A cold coconut always tastes good. Not quite as good as some other things, but…

 

How do you keep your relationship with alcohol healthy?   I’d love to hear from you especially if you are an ex-pat. Do you worry about how much you drink in paradise?  Feel free to share your stories.

How I chose happiness and Zen on the beach

In light of the recent election, I know a lot of unhappy, angry people. Most of my friends and my family are fearful about four (or  even eight) years of Trump. They spend their time on Facebook flaming others who do not share their views, or surfing for news stories or political commentary bemoaning the state of our failing nation.

Most of my friends (though not all) would argue that our nation has gone to hell in a hand basket, and we must fight to 1) get Trump impeached and 2) ensure the civil rights of immigrants, LGBT people, Muslims,  African Americans and even Jews are protected in the Trump era.

Me, I’m not so much of a fighter. Instead of fighting, I’m choosing happiness.

Because of my past brush with death,  I feel OK  justifying my political apathy and choosing happiness. It’s not so easy to choose happiness when you feel the country you love is moving in the wrong direction. The choice is even harder when respected friends and family members are constantly angry and really, really scared.

But here the facts as I see them. I  don’t have the time or energy to live any other way but happy. I don’t have time for the “unsocial” network such as Facebook where people are now de-friending one another and calling each other out because of who they voted for. I don’t have the mental fortitude to read editorial pieces on where our country is headed and why wherever it’s headed is the wrong way. Whatever time I have left to live, I don’t want to spend it  making enemies (real or imagined). I just wanna have fun. I just want to be. And after two surgeries, four blood transfusions and 18 weeks of chemo, I think I’m entitled to do just that. So I’ve made my choice.

Choices, choices, choices

I’m choosing  warm ocean breezes, watching great documentaries and enjoying precious time with friends and family. I’m choosing to be  kind in my daily life, even kinder than I normally am. I’m choosing to respect diversity of opinions. Especially when I don’t agree with them. It’s time for me to be a better listener, and now it’s not so easy. Not easy at all.

Here are some simple steps I’ve taken which I hope will lead me on the happiness path:

  1. I am limiting my time on Facebook  to 10-15 minutes a day, but I’m trying for even less. My Facebook addiction is awful, but the longer I’m away from Facebook, the happier I feel.
  2. For the most part, I have stopped reading political commentaries. Goodbye anxiety!
  3. I am limiting the amount of news I read and for me it’s very hard. I love the news!

You might say that I’m burying my head in the sand. You might say that I am taking the lazy person’s way out. You might think that my approach is just plain wrong and very short-sighted. You might think turning the other cheek is so much easier because I’m not living in the United States. I’m OK with the varying opinions. I just know that I’m choosing happiness and, to me, it feels like the only choice and the best choice for me.

Being happy by the beach

I’ve always been attracted to water and to fish. I wish I was a Pisces, but I’m not. My mom is, but I got stuck being a goat. I even have the chin hair to prove it. Ha!.

Knowing how much I love beach life, we decided that any place we retired to had to have very easy beach access. Zihuatanejo fit this requirement. Zihuataenjo has two main beaches, Playa La Ropa and Playa Madera.  Our new six month rental is a four-minute walk from Playa Madera. To get there we just walk out our back gate, walk 1/2 block, make a left turn, and saunter a little more. Then we make a left turn, walk down a short hill and there’s the bay!  It’s simply paradise and we are so lucky to live so close to it.

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Playa Madera at sunset.

Another beach, Playa La Ropa is a 25-minute walk, or an easy 6 minute bus ride.

Here are just a few ways we’re digging the beach scene:

  • In the morning, we get coffee from a little coffee stand and we bring our coffee to the beach to enjoy it.
  • Andy has begun taking surfing lessons. Unfortunately he’s only had one lesson because the waves are too small in Zihuatanejo Bay to learn how to surf this time of year. Once they pop back up, he’ll be “hanging ten” for sure.

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    Andy’s surf instructor was very encouraging!

  • At the end of the day we go down to watch the sunset. I like this time of night. Families come down with their coolers and to catch the evening breeze and there are tons and tons of kids swimming in the Bay.  It’s serene and special.

As far as visiting other nearby beaches,  we haven’t gone as often as I thought we would, but we’re getting there at least once a week. I anticipate we’ll go more in the upcoming weeks once a routine develops.

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First step, practice on land. Then hit the waves

More blessings

Final blessing of the day… my mom’s friend lives in Chicago but her and her husband own a beautiful condo near our house above the Bay.  It’s rarely rented, and she only comes down once or twice a year. She’s worried about her property so she recently gave me the key to her condo and asked me to check on it once or twice a week to make sure water isn’t leaking and that everything else is up-to-snuff. She said that we might want to use her kick-ass community pool while we’re there.  Sweet!  Who doesn’t like sitting by a nice pool?  Key is in-hand!  Here we go!  If the photo below doesn’t give you an incentive to visit us,  I don’t know what will. She’s got a great tw0-bedroom available right in the heart of Zihuatanejo. What a view of the Bay it has!  Let me know if you want to rent it when you visit us. You won’t be sorry.  Look how beautiful the community pool is!

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This person is warming up my seat!

 

Cancer and Day of the Dead

9:45 a.m. Nov. 9, 2016 … The day after election day

Dear Diary,

There is so much I want to say to you. First, I have to write about the most important news! I’ve been in remission from advanced-stage ovarian cancer for an entire year!  I’m feeling pretty good. Some people with advanced-stage ovarian cancer never even get into remission, so I know that I am one of the very lucky ones. I’m really concerned that it might come back since it does 70 percent of the time, but as Andy often says, “Someone has to be in the 30 percent, so why shouldn’t it be you?” Maybe it will be me. Remember when I was bald as a baby’s bottom?

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Chemo made me bald. I felt like a bad-ass walking around bare-headed.

Having cancer was brutal on so many fronts. But it does feel good to not think about it coming back every minute of the day. Some days I don’t think about it much, but other days I feel really scared and I can’t let it go. I think this is how a lot of people feel. Attending Day of the Dead festivities in Patzcuaro gave me much to ponder about death and dying. More about this in a minute.

Like many people I know, I’m pretty distraught about the election results, but I’m trying to focus on being grateful that we live in a democracy and that people have the luxury for voting for who they want to vote for. I’m surprised more of my friends haven’t shared that same opinion on Facebook.  I’m just so, so sad that our country is so divided, but I’m happy that I’m not in the U.S. to feel this rift day in and day out. That’s a big blessing, I think.

Early this morning, after I found out about the election results, I started wondering what will happen if  soon-to-be President Trump repeals the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). What will I do about health insurance? What will Andy do?  Will we be able to afford insurance?  Will we go back to a system where applicants can be denied for having a pre-existing conditions? If this happens, I’m screwed. Will I have to move back to the U.S. and return to the workforce to get health insurance? Will Andy? I’m scared. I can’t dwell on this, though. I have living left to do. Sunsets to see, warm oceans to swim in, cold beers to enjoy. I just can’t focus on all this negativity! It’s not how I want to live my life. I have so much to be thankful for.  I’d much rather focus on that.

So now on to the positive. I had such a great time at Day of the Dead in Patzcuaro. I felt really happy to be celebrating alongside so many lovely indigenous people. We had an amazing time visiting their cemeteries on our nighttime tour, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. It was super cool to see so many people celebrating the lives of their loved ones, instead of mourning them. (On Noche de Muertos, many families sit graveside all night long and welcome the return, in spirit, of their loved ones. The graves are lavishly decorated, and it’s also cool that people bring the dearly departed’s favorite foods and drinks to the altars, as they’ll be hungry and thirsty when they return.)

When my time comes, I’d love it if people would celebrate my life, instead of mourn me. I’d be so honored if people would come to my graveside once a year and celebrate my spirit (and bring some good beer and vodka for me). Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for me to die if I knew my life would be celebrated instead of mourned?

The whole tradition is great. I love the fact that in Mexican culture, death isn’t something to be feared. When I was visiting the two graveyards on our Night of the Dead tour, a true sense of peace and calm came over me. It was kind of surreal. I want to keep that feeling inside me because it helped me feel no so scared of dying. It made me feel like it could be and would be OK, right?  Anyway, it was really awesome. Aren’t these photos great?  I had so much fun getting my face painted (which many, many Mexicans do in celebration of the holiday)!

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In other news (back to the election), I now really feel like an outsider in Mexico. I feel like the average Mexican will judge me because I’m American, and they will think I don’t like them and that I support building a wall. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth, but walking down the street now feels funny. I feel like people are judging me. I decided I had to tell others that not all Americans feel like Trump and his minions do, so I posted the following on the Facebook page “On the Road in Mexico.”

“I am not celebrating the decrease of the peso against the dollar. I want Mexico to have a strong economy for all of its businesses and for the extremely hard-working citizens who reside in this amazing country. I want to pay my landlords a fair price for my lovely rental and I would gladly pay an extra dollar or two for a nice dinner out. I do appreciate the good value living here provides, but at what cost?  If you are a Mexican resident reading this posting, let me publicly state that I love your country, I love your people and I respect and appreciate how warmly I have been received since I moved here in May. Please do know that you are valued, loved and appreciated by many. I am so honored to be a guest in your country. I am sorry the next U.S president and some of my American counterparts feel differently.”

Mostly expats go onto that page, but people seem to appreciate the posting and a lot of them have made nice comments.

In other news … Life with mom is good. So far it’s been fun living in the same town with her after all these years of living 2,500 miles apart. She’s giving Andy and me plenty of space to do our own thing. Sometimes I wish she wanted to do more stuff. I’ve asked her to go swimming with me in the pool at her condo complex three or four times, but she always says no and I can’t understand why. It’s a nice pool! It’s hot. Why doesn’t she want to take a dip?  And she’s not a fan of going out for coffee, either, something we love to do. But today she did join us at Zihuatanejo’s newest coffee shop, Quattro. She seemed to like it. We went for  a pedicure this week and it was fun. I like when she comes over for dinner and when she cooks for us on the one night a week we stay the night over at her place. She’s a much better cook than I am and whatever she makes always tastes great. A few nights ago she made a fantastic shrimp and coconut milk stew. Tremendous.

I guess that’s all I want to say for now. Thanks for listening. I gotta split. Mom has a friend in town whom I haven’t seen in years. We’re all going out for a nice dinner tonight and I’m going to meet her new husband.

Adios.