Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I live with weird people

Let's start with Maya. She's a cat. Cat's are supposed to hate water, right? Apparently not Maya. She will be lying behind a planter on the back terrace, and if I start hosing it down, she just lies there, even when the water makes its way to her spot. She might move eventually, but only to walk around IN the water.

She sleeps in the sinks in the bathrooms and on the back terrace, even if they are still wet from use. If it starts raining when she's outside, she lays on her ledge that is sort of covered, and just looks at me with a quizzical stare when I call her, as if to say "What's the problem? I'm happy here".

Then there's Negra/Blacky. She loves to eat, and when she's not eating she's protecting her food dish so nobody else eats her left-overs. Sometimes she is so lazy about eating she will pull the dish over to her bed and eat while lying down. And sometimes she won't get up when I give her fresh food - she waits until I've gone back inside and then she goes over to her bowl and gobbles away.

Minina is a nibbler - she doesn't eat much at any one sitting. The cats all get one feeding of canned food a day, augmented with dry food. Minina gets a small helping of canned food, because she mostly licks the juice and never finishes what's on her plate. You can tell when she's done because she uses her paw to make a motion like she wants to 'bury' her food. Two or three swipes on the ground beside her plate and she walks away. That's it, had enough.

All the animals have their favorite sleeping places, and some even have favorite sleeping positions. Loco lies on his side with his paws pressed up against the couch to hold him in position. Negra sometimes sleeps right on her back with her feet sticking up in the air. Maya likes to sleep as close to Loco as he permits. Smokey has a hiding place behind the couch. Last night I discovered a new sleeping place for Miguel...

He came home after having consumed some beer - he was happy, but not drunk. Beer makes him sleepy, but he had to prepare his red sauce before he could turn in. We have guests so are sleeping in the room downstairs. I went to bed while Miguel puttered in the kitchen. Later he went into the bathroom and was in there a long time. I roused out of my daze and went to check on him - he was laying back in the warm water. He said he was 'thinking'. Hmmm...looked more like he was sleeping, but ok...

I went back to bed, and the next time I woke up Miguel still wasn't beside me. The bathroom door was still shut - could he STILL be in the tub? I didn't know how much time had passed by since the last time I'd checked, since there is no clock in the room. I got up and opened the door and this time it was clear that he was sleeping in the tub. I just shook my head and left him there.

For all either of us knows, he slept there for an hour, or he slept there half the night. In a tub filled with water that must have turned cold. Slept like a baby. He eventually made his way into bed. But I really think he slept better in the tub.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Easy come, Easy go

So, I've been playing the same numbers in the daily lottery and they finally showed up. Not a huge windfall, probably about enough to cover the cost of tickets since the last win. A nice surprise. But...(here's the proverbial 'but')...

I didn't even have a chance to think what I might need to spend it on.

Last evening I heard a dog crying like it had been hit by a car. I went out to check but couldn't see anything, and people around didn't look like there was anything to be concerned about. I decided it must be a puppy complaining about being left behind, although it sounded a little more serious. I got fooled a few weeks ago by a similar racket only to find out it was a small dog up on the roof of the house on the corner. Why it was fussing, I don't know, but I could see that there was nothing wrong with it.

During the night we had a wicked storm - I was sure we had category 1 winds (we probably didn't, but it felt and looked like we did). In the morning everything looked pretty good, considering the amount of rain and wind. I noticed a small dog under the moped of my neighbor, and figured it was the little dachshund I wrote about the other day, although there was something about the dog that didn't quite seem like it was that dog. I need glasses - don't see well long-distance. Actually, I have glasses, I need to wear them...

Later in the morning I walked down the road to run an errand, and noticed a dog under the truck of my neighbor (same neighbor, different vehicle). Peering underneath, I saw that it was a puppy - a dog I've never seen around here. It had a piece of cloth tied around its neck, so it had had an owner at one time. I asked the guys at the workshop next door if it was their dog (they keep showing up with dogs), but they denied it, and as I walked past, they went over and looked under the truck to check it out.

When I came back, I saw the puppy at the side of the workshop with a plate of food. The guys told me it was not their dog, and it had 'sarna' (mange), but they fed it anyway (they seem to be good-hearted young men). The puppy's face and head looked bald, like it had been burned, but it was eating so seemed happy enough. Later I saw it sleeping under the truck again, and began to wonder if it was lost.

Did it get lost in the storm? Did it run off when the wind blew up and didn't know its way home? That was how I figured it must be. Now for another dose of reality about life here on the island...

When Miguel came home, I told him about the puppy. He went to talk to the guys at the shop and they all discussed that the puppy had 'sarna' and would die. What? So we're just going to walk away and let the puppy suffer until it dies? No, seems that was not what we were going to do. I spoke up and said that we would take the dog to the vet and get it treated. Miguel picked up the dog and we brought it home and put it in the passage between the houses. Miguel said that the owner probably threw the dog in the street because of the skin condition. Obviously Miguel has seen it all, he knew what the true story likely was.

Now to find a vet. I thought Delfino would probably be tied up with arrangements for Renee's memorial service and other things he might be doing for the family - I didn't want to bother him. I wasn't sure Pepe was around, and didn't have his number. Zina to the rescue - I knew if anyone would know how to reach a vet, she would. So I called and probably disrupted her siesta, but she was kind enough to dig up Pepe's number for me. I called Pepe, and although he said he would take the dog, he is working at a spay/neuter clinic in Cancun this week, and could not come until Sunday morning. Would that be ok? Yes, we'd keep the dog here until then. Or, he said, we could take the dog to Alison's house - someone would be there to receive it.

So a couple of hours later Miguel went to get the puppy for his ride to Alison's. As he put the leash around the piece of material around the puppy's neck, he found a piece of wire that had been wrapped around the puppy's neck. Not tight, so maybe it was supposed to be like a collar - don't really know.

The puppy rode very well on the cart - he wasn't at all nervous and he just seemed to enjoy leaning his head on my leg and watching the scenery from the side of the cart. We got to Alison's house but were out of luck - nobody answered our calls.

What to do? Well, I figured even if Delfino wasn't available, the clinic might be open and we could just leave the puppy there for Delfino to attend later. We were in luck, not only was the clinic open but the attendant told us Delfino would be coming by shortly. So we sat and waited.

As soon as Delfino saw the puppy he said he knew it. He said he'd treated other siblings of the dog, said that the entire litter had been born with 'sarna'. He pulled out a file and called someone, who said they were not missing a dog. Delfino said that he thought whoever was the owner that they had just thrown the dog away because of the 'sarna' - people are afraid it will infect their children so they get rid of the dog. By throwing it away. Leaving it to fend for itself in the streets. So considerate.

The treatment for mange is not cheap, and it needs to be given over a period of weeks or months. So I told Delfino that although we cannot adopt the puppy, we will pay to get the treatment underway and for him to keep the dog there. We'll check in a week or so to see how things are progressing, and hopefully if he gets the mange cleared up, someone will adopt the puppy. It is really a very cute dog, very quiet, relaxed and friendly. The puppy will make a good pet for someone, someone who I hope will care enough not to throw it away if it needs medical care sometime in the future.

So...half my lottery share paid for the dog. He needed it more than me anyway.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Snapshots from daily life

The other day we were driving through La Gloria when we passed a sidestreet with some boys playing. Out of the corner of my eye I caught something that made me take a second look. It was a boy of about 8 or 9, all soaped up with lots of suds all over his body, throwing the suds through the window at another kid inside. They were whooping it up and having a great time. Not sure the mom appreciated the extra soaping on the floor.
Three doors down there is a new workshop - they seem to do a bunch of things, not sure what the main business really is. The owner has some young men working there, and along with the workers came three dogs and three kittens. One of the young workers just loves cats - he is constantly playing with them, and often will take one for a ride on his bike up and down our street, with the kitten perched on his shoulder.

The three dogs are friendly and an odd mix - a black lab mama, a small wiry terrier black and white dog, and a short dachsund mix. The terrier dog has a lame back leg which doesn't touch the ground - the story told to Miguel was it was a complication of his castration surgery. Not sure how that could really happen, but that's the story. The dachsund has a broad face, and his lips don't quite meet, so he always looks like he's faking a grin.

Our two dogs have made peace with these new residents of the street. Loco of course had to bump them all a few times to show him who's boss, but now he doesn't pay any attention to them. The two smaller dogs like to sit in front of our gate, hoping for handouts. We try not to feed them as they are fed where they belong, but they are often the beneficiaries of the leftovers we put across the street for any stray that comes along.

Yesterday I was sitting on the couch and heard a noise at the gate. When I got up to investigate, it was the black and white terrier - he had managed to wiggle the gate enough to cause the latch to spring and the gate to open. His intention was clear - he was going to drink some water and steal Loco's food. Since Loco wasn't interested in eating, I took the bowl of food and dumped it across the street, where "tres patas" had a feast.
For the last week we've had thunder and lightening and rain in the middle of the night. Loco knows it's coming before we do - he'll paw at the patio door to come in and hide under the bed. A few minutes later comes the rain - last night it came with a nice big wind that put a little chill in the air. Great for sleeping! And the daytime temperatures are much more comfortable. Finally - relief from the baking heat!

The cooler temperatures encourage the cats to play. And if I go into the downstairs bedroom for a siesta, one or more will follow and snuggle in with me. Maya has pretty much ignored me since the spring when it got so hot, but yesterday she was following me around the house like a puppy dog, and she joined me for a short siesta. Even Luna came up on the couch to lie beside me - guess she was feeling a chill too, with the temps only in the high 80's.

This morning there is a lovely cool breeze, and Maya is pressed up against Loco on the floor. The plants are looking happy and healthy, and the wind has blown a lot of the dead leaves off the vines. If the black clouds blow by, I will be tempted to wash some sheets and put them out on the line - they should dry in no time.

In another month or so we'll be complaining that we're cold. Hopefully someone will remind me that I complained when it was so hot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life goes on, but...

Renee's death continues to be at the forefront of my thoughts. Why her? Or...rather, just, Why?

It's frustrating to read the reports in the media, because they contradict each other and nobody can really glean the truth out of what is reported.

The most important thing I wanted to know was...did she know him? And it appears more and more certain that yes, she did know him. Her neighbors have said (maybe not in the media, but here amongst each other) that they had seen him at her apartment before. How well did she know him? Does that matter? Not to me, all that matters is that she knew him. That makes it a personal motive, not a random one.

Not justifiable at all. But a good time to remind ourselves to pay attention. Because I don't know about you, but there have been times when I unintentionally put myself in what could have been a precarious situation. When I look back on those situations, I realize I was just plain lucky. All it takes is one mistake with the wrong person, and awful things can happen.

All the travel I've done has sometimes meant coming and going in the wee hours of the morning or night. Loading luggage into a car in a deserted parking lot when it's dark makes one feel spooked. Wandering up and down aisles looking for my car at the airport is not smart; I should have made a note of the parking area. Scraping ice off my car for 30 minutes in the middle of the night just so I could open the darn car to start it up does not count as one of my favorite things to do. All those instances set me up should the wrong person come on the scene.

I worked in some big cities, known to have areas that one should not enter, even in broad daylight. One day I got lost driving through the south part of downtown Chicago. I realized I was in a bad situation, and didn't waste any time getting myself out of the area as quickly as I could. The same thing happened to me in downtown Buffalo, Hollywood, and New Jersey. I was actually on foot in Atlanta when I crossed into a section of town I shouldn't have been in. A kind shop-keeper moved me to the front of the line and got me out of the store and told me to go back 'that way'. He knew the dangers, I didn't.

Just last week I went to the drugstore around the corner from my home in Canada. As I got into my car, an older man came out of nowhere, and approached my window. My instinct should have been to lock the doors and drive off, but when he called "Excuse me", I sat with the door open and let him ask me for a 'toonie' (two dollar Canadian coin). I fished in my wallet and handed him the coin, and he thanked me and walked away. That's not what we're taught to do, is it? Women are told over and over to be on the alert for such things and to stay out of those types of situations. I didn't even think about it until later, and then I realized what I'd done.

Probably the most dangerous situation I got myself into was on the island of Grenada. I was leaving the island and was at the top of the hill waiting for the local bus to take me into town. I was the only person on the bus when we stopped to pick up a young local - a guy of about 20. Despite the fact that the bus was empty, the guy sat right beside me and started a conversation. Not wanting to be rude, I engaged in conversation with him. When he found out that my ferry wouldn't be leaving until the afternoon and I would have several hours in town, he suggested taking me on the tour of the north part of the island, a part I hadn't seen yet.

In town we took my luggage to the ferry office, and they stored the bags behind the counter. We took off walking out of town, assuming a taxi would be along to pick us up for the tour. Turned out it was lunch time and no taxis were around. We finally got picked up by a jeep driven by a friend he knew. It seemed like a pleasant little trip until we got dropped off at a boatyard, where Roger led me down a muddy path to the rocky beach.

We walked along the beach, strewn with conch shells, and Roger told me about his life. He was taking me to see his grandmother's home, he said, and I blindly followed along. There was nobody else around, and he easily could have attacked me and stolen my wallet, had that been his intention. At that point I realized I'd put myself into a potentially dangerous situation, but I was lucky - Roger was just a nice guy who wanted to make a little money by showing a tourist around his island. He did show me the family home, and the graveyard, before we hailed a taxi.

We safely made our way back to town, picked up my luggage, and walked to the ferry. I paid Roger $20 for his tour, and although I think he was expecting more, he glanced at the money and after a slight hesitation, said it was ok.

These are just a few instances that come to mind - episodes in my life when luck was with me, and the people in my vicinity were good people, nobody looking to harm me. I easily could have been in a situation such as Renee. Is there anyone out there who can claim they have never endangered themselves unintentionally? A time that you look back on and say "Wow, I was so lucky"?

I just wish Renee had been so lucky, and had found a "Roger" instead of a killer. I wish there had been men around to answer her calls and over-power the guy. I wish the guy had just been a thief and stolen her stuff and left her alone. I wish she hadn't opened the door. I wish she was alive to continue living her dream.

But she's gone. Mourned by those who knew her, and those who didn't. We used to drive by her place almost every evening on our way home from buying lottery tickets. I'd look up at her windows and note if the lights were on, or the windows were open. I'd think about her up there enjoying the view and the breeze, and the sunrises in the morning. She loved that apartment; she'd made it into something very cozy, and she planned to spend the rest of her life there. Actually, I guess she did spend the rest of her life there, only it was much too short. I'm so sorry Renee's trust in another human being was abused. But it could happen to any of us.

Monday, September 21, 2009


We have three bullies in the house: Luna, Loco, and Maya.

Luna is mostly a hands-off bully - she bosses everyone around simply by growling. Occasionally she will take a swipe at a passing cat, or my legs, but it's just a swipe - easily avoided if you are on the alert. Everyone in the house respects her because she just looks like she'll tear you to shreds if you don't. She can be very nice, but when she's not, look out!

Maya is the heavy-weight champion in the house. I was looking through pictures to try to figure out when she ballooned into the large mass of cat she has become. It looks like it happened between April and June of this year. I suspect she weighs about 15 pounds by now, and she's solid. Despite her size, even Maya stays out of the way of Luna.

But Maya has learned that she can flatten Minina and Smokey and sit on top of them, pinning them down while she bites them. They struggle to retaliate and get away. They cry, and it sounds real - like she's really hurting them. She chases them and is so fast, despite her size, that they can't outrun her. They hide under furniture but Maya just sits guard, waiting for them to make their move.

Maya is not like this every day, so I don't know what her trigger is. Most days peace reigns in the household - the cats play, they lick each other, they clean each other's faces and ears. On the days that we realize that Maya is playing rough, we try to intervene. Someone gets a "Time Out" Last night Maya slept in our room, which means she slept in our sink. I think Smokey and Minina appreciated the peaceful night.

Loco is a strange dog. He used to be pretty social, playing with any stray that came along (he even had a girlfriend, although he wasn't able to do his part so it was platonic). But he has always had a weird streak, especially when on the golf cart. If he sees a stray, he growls and fusses and does his best to get loose and chase the other dog. If he is out in front of the house and a stray comes along, Loco chases it until he catches it and then he bumps into it with his chest. Most dogs whimper and run away, scared to death. On the golf cart he sits poised until the dog approaches, and then he lunges.

I've tried various methods to calm him and stop him from getting upset in the first place (distraction, soft talking). Nothing works. Yesterday we were driving along the back road and were being chased by the usual yappy black and white dog. Loco pays no attention to that dog, and we know he will stop dead in his tracks if we also stop. But yesterday there was another shaggy brown dog just ahead of us, and Loco spotted it and started trying to get away to chase it. He made so much noise that the brown dog got scared and took off running. We were quite the sight - Loco on the cart whining and growling and barking and thrashing around, the black and white dog chasing alongside of the cart, barking his head off, and the brown shaggy dog running at full speed in front of us, occasionally stealing a look behind him to see if we were still there.

In the end, the brown dog zipped down a side street. The black and white dog got scared off by the fright of the brown dog, and that just left Loco licking his chops and looking around trying to figure out where his victim had gone. Why Loco thinks he owns the island is beyond me. I hate the aggressive behavior and hold him off if I'm around. Most dogs are not the least bit interested in a fight and they sort of just look at Loco like he's nuts (he is), and they saunter on. Actually, Loco isn't interested in a fight either, he just wants to 'bump' them and show them who's boss.

Maya and Loco are buddies. They sleep at the foot of the couch, close to each other, and usually on top of Miguel's sandals. Miguel calls Maya his 'gato pero' (cat dog).

They look so innocent, but dont' be fooled - underneath lurks a bully.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fractions and Pi

Miguel is working hard at his school work. This is not a walk in the park. He is trying to complete three years in just one year. His exercise books, that must be marked by the teacher, give just one example for a situation before posing questions related to the subject matter.

It's been a long time since I did anything with fractions, and I've certainly never taught anyone anything about fractions. The concept of coming up with a common denominator in order to do anything with fractions was a hard one to teach. I didn't remember all that stuff either until I saw the example in the book. Ah, it's all coming back to me now...

I created numerous examples for Miguel to work through just for addition of unlike fractions. He wasn't grasping that he had to use the same number on the numerator that he used on the denominator, he kept wanting to use different numbers. We went over it and over it until I wanted to hit him over the head with the book. (I probably should never change professions and become a teacher).

I found a website for fractions, but it was in English. I retaught myself a few things about fractions, but that didn't do much to help Miguel.

Finally I drew circles - one ended up with 24 segments. But it was a light-bulb moment for Miguel. Ah ha - he learns better with pictures than with words (words made out of Spanish and English, no less). Off he went to work on the exercises, drawing his own circles to come up with the answers.

He went to school and worked with the teacher. He is moving along in his book. He moved away from pure fractions into area, radius, diameter, and Pi. Good grief, the only Pi I've thought about since high school is cherry Pi.

But the book had an example, and the answer was in the back of the book. Knowing the answer I'm striving for helps me put the right pieces together. I figured it out, we did the exercise, and Miguel went back to the teacher for additional help. He returned with these departing words from the teacher - "Pi = 3.14, now, and for the rest of eternity". For ever and ever...

Yesterday he sat out on the front terrace all day long, doing his schoolwork. In the afternoon he asked for some help. Lord, if it wasn't a tunnel of 10 arches, 20 m in length. They wanted to know the 'area', what I would call 'circumference', of one arch. Somehow we worked it out, Miguel actually did as much as I did to come up with the right anwser. Yeah!

Last night he was not tired, so I went up to bed and left him studying. About midnight he came up and said he'd been stuck on one question. He wasn't settled in for more than 15 minutes, as I was drifting off to sleep, when he spoke out loud - "OH! It's thirds, not quarters! Yes!". Lying there, away from the books, his mind came up with the answer to the question that was puzzling him.

The mind is a strange thing - it continues to process after we've given up. At times I've been stumped on a programming problem, only to wake up at 3 am with the answer. But I will never have to wake up at 3 am with the answer to "what is Pi?". It's 3.14, from now until eternity.

Friday, September 18, 2009


We "met" through Julie's Isla message board, and then met in person at one of the chatter gatherings here on Isla - probably in 2001.

We shared a love of animals, and especially cats.

In the early years we would get together when we were both here at the same time, usually with friends. A couple times we went for dinner together, and it was then that I learned about Renee's past life in Belgium and how she single-handedly raised her three children, educated herself, and moved into a successful career.

She was proud to be a Canadian immigrant. She loved Canada, and especially Montreal. She planned to share her life between the two countries. Canada because she loved it, her children and grandchildren were there, and she needed to be there 6 months out of every year to keep her health coverage. Isla because she loved it, she had many friends here, and she could live affordably. She seemed to have the best of both worlds.

Renee loved to walk, and we often came upon her during her walks - sometimes alone, sometimes with a female friend who was visiting. Renee was heart-broken over the development at Punta Sur, so much so that she stopped walking in that area. She got a bicycle, and we'd also see her cruising through the colonias to do her errands.

Renee spoke French, Spanish, and English. I spoke English, Spanish, and French, although not nearly as fluently as Renee. Between the three languages we managed to understand each other, mostly. Renee helped me find a pedicurist, she explained the options to get Miguel to Canada for a visit.

Renee was passionate about dolphins in capture. She would describe the suffering she witnessed with anger and sadness. She loved the pelicans, and used to tell me to say "Hi" to them when she knew I was coming to Isla.

Renee was a strong woman, very sure of her opinions and not afraid to express them. She had just received her FM3, doing all the work herself. As she said to me just a couple of weeks ago, when I asked if she used a lawyer - "No - I speak Spanish, it's no problem for me".

Renee and her daughter Emily were great friends of Delfino's (our vet). Renee would take in sick kittens and nurse them back to health, and would grieve for the ones she couldn't save. Renee gave much of herself to the people and animals of the island - she cared, and she did something about it.

Emily often assisted Delfino at the clinic, and I remember that even at the tender age of 16 she had a mature understanding of the life of the vet - the joys, and the sorrows. Renee was proud of her daughter, and along with a love of animals, they shared a love of diving.

Renee was murdered yesterday, here on the island she loved so much. Supposedly she was killed by someone she knew, someone who had threatened her. Rumors are rumors, but the horror of her death is unfathomable. She did not deserve this.

My heart goes out to her family back home in Montreal, and to all her close friends here in Mexico. Renee was respected and loved, she was a beautiful person. Renee found beauty in simple things - the sunrise, the sea, the sand. She described herself as a nomad in her latest blogs. She had that kind of soul.

RIP Renee.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just checking in...

I was away for the last week. On Wednesday I flew to Orlando to attend a conference and do some networking. I flew on JetBlue for the first time, and have to say I was impressed with the airline. It was a direct flight from Cancun to Orlando - about 1.5 hrs in the air. The plane configuration was 2 seats on either side of the aisle, and I was lucky that nobody sat beside me. There was plenty of leg room, and the flight attendant came around with a basket loaded with various types of snacks, and we could pick what we wanted. We could even pick two if we wanted, and it was free. Nice!

On Saturday I flew to Canada. Jen picked me up in the afternoon and we went to Cracker Barrel near the Buffalo airport because I knew she would love the macaroni and cheese. That kid ate macaroni and cheese for lunch many, many days during elementary school. Cracker Barrel macaroni and cheese is delicious - the best I've ever eaten. I actually ate at Cracker Barrel in Orlando the day before, but I didn't care - I love mac and cheese too.

Later in the afternoon I booted up my laptop for the first time that day and checked all the usual sites, intending to write a blog. But I was so shocked and sad to read about Zina's dog Lora being poisoned, and this incident has been weighing on my mind ever since. Killed any desire I had to write a blog. Much as I love a lot of things about living here on Isla, I absolutely am tortured by the awful things that happen to the animals here. It makes me want to leave and never come back. Out of sight, out of mind?

But I did come back. I have my own little crew to protect as best as I can. It's a constant worry, I feel so vulnerable because there are things that are out of my control. I despair that things will ever change, and I applaud those who are working so hard to try to effect change - Delfino, Amigos del los Animales, spay and neuter clinics, and many others. It is so hard to keep plugging along against such odds, and so discouraging when cruelty continues to go unpunished. It feels like one step forward, two steps back, and it's hard not to be negative about living here.

So I'm back home, and mostly happy to be here, even though I know I will be fretting and doing everything I can to keep us all safe and healthy. It's exhausting, to be honest. But it's necessary.

So now you know why I haven't blogged lately. My heart just isn't in it right now.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Foot Bone's Connected to the...


When the foot pushes on the accelerator, the golf cart is supposed to move. "Supposed to".

For years we've had problems with getting the golf cart to go, especially when the engine is cold. It's one of those things that is more 'on' than 'off'. After having mechanic after mechanic 'fix' it only to have it revert back to old habits, we've learned that the easiest way to get the motor warmed up is to put the cart in neutral, lift the front seat, move the yellow plastic thing to one of three stops where the engine doesn't make any noise when you push on the pedal (I'm sure that piece has an official name but I don't know what it is).

Then we balance on our right foot while placing the left foot on the accelerator. The left hand is holding up the seat, and the right hand pushes on the accelerator thingy, which gets the gas moving and the engine roaring. Once the engine comes to life we can let go of the accelerator thingy and just keep the gas pedal pushed to the floor while the engine revs its little heart out.

A minute or so later (or several, depending on whether we really gave it enough time or if we have to repeat the process again), and we can move that yellow plastic thing back into one of three positions where the engine doesn't make any noise when you push on the pedal when it's in neutral. We drop the seat and hop on, placing the cart in forward gear, hoping to take off. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't and we have to repeat the process all over again.

This morning we were out of milk for our coffee, and the little store around the corner hadn't opened yet. I decided to hop on the cart to find a store that was open. Of course the cart wouldn't go, and just as I was starting the well-known sequence, Miguel came out to help. But this time he lifted the BACK seat. Why?

Turns out there's a whole other section to the accelerator back there and I got to see how it all connects. First there is a spring that opens when you push on the gas pedal. The spring is connected to a lever, and when the spring opens the idea is that it pushes on the lever, which moves a cable on the opposite side of the lever towards the front of the golf cart. The cable on that opposite side is connected into the accelerator thingy that we are used to manipulating in the front.

Miguel got the engine going, and held down the gas pedal to warm up the engine. When he released the pedal, the lever sprang back and the piece with holes, attached into the end of the lever, popped off. It looked like there was a screw that should have been holding that piece on, but I didn't see a screw anywhere.

Ok, so now we're short a screw (some people would claim we are short a few screws, but anyway...). I decided that the store was probably open by now, so walked back and got my milk while Miguel tinkered with the cables. On my way home I saw a pointed screw lying in the road in front of the workshop down the road, and wondered if I should pick it up in case it would come in handy. I decided to just leave it there, surely we had screws lying around the house.

When I got home I saw that Miguel was still searching for a screw, so I told him about the one down the road. He just looked at me and chuckled - I think he thinks I'm more Mexican than the Mexicans sometimes. To think I would pick up a discarded screw in the road!

Finally Miguel found everything he needed and he made the repair, and the golf cart is once more on the road. It was touch and go this week as to whether we were going to keep it running - the axle broke the other day and a new piece would cost $150. I told Miguel to forget it - I'm tired of sinking money into this cart, and it seems like it's at the shop every couple of days.

But not having the cart all week turned out to be quite inconvenient. I was housebound, and I do like my little tour of the island when we go out. So...I asked Miguel if the cart could be repaired at less cost, and luckily one of our mechanics had a used piece for the axle and we are once again out and about.

Until next time, because we all know there will be one...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Massage? Take your pick...

There are different types of massage doled out at my house.

1. The broom massage. Maya and Smokey lie on the back terrace while Miguel is sweeping up the plant debris. He runs the broom over their bodies while they lay there and enjoy every stroke, rolling over so he can get the other side.

2. The remote control massage. Minina thinks holding a remote control in your hand means she should jump up and meow for you to run the remote along her spine. During the massage she meows in ecstasy and rubs her head on anything close; she is one happy kitty during her massage. Sometimes she gets confused between the remote control and the cordless phone; the phone obviously doesn't have the same feel because she doesn't get into the massage with the phone like she does with the remote.

3. The tick massage. This is for Loco. He loves when I go over his body with my hands, searching for ticks. He lies on the floor limp, and lets me move him wherever I want. He closes his eyes and almost falls asleep. Sometimes he is in another part of the room and he scratches, and then he comes over to me as if to say - "there, did you see where I scratched? You might want to check me out there".

4. The under-the-hammock massage. This is for Negra. She loves when we are lying in the hammock, because that brings the level to the height of her back, where she can stand underneath and rub against us. The side effect of her rubbing is that she moves the hammock, so we get a good swing going while she gets her back scratched.

5. The phantom massage. This is for the grey stray cat in the garden. We just get close enough to reach out and try to stroke him, and he moves away, leaving our hands hanging in mid-air. He doesn't know what he's missing.

6. The finger massage. Luna likes to lie in my lap and have my fingers swirl through her fur - but just at the head and shoulders (if I touch anywhere else she will gently bite me to let me know she doesn't like to be touched there). I will be reading and absently playing with her fur and she's happy, but if I stop, she meows to let me know she noticed. I keep it up until I either get too hot and make her get down, or she dozes off and doesn't notice that I've stopped.

7. The sneak massage. This is when both of us are on the sectional couch and one changes position to put their head in the center part. This allows the hands to grasp onto a nearby foot and just rub or squeeze while reading or watching tv. The recipient rarely acknowledges this massage, because it is often done subconsciously and we don't want to disrupt the massage.

8. The traditional massage. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best thing going in my house. Better than spaghetti, better than chocolate, better than...(well, use your imagination and put your favorite thing here). I have a body that hurts every day and screams for massage, and it can never get enough of strong hands kneading sore muscles, especially the shoulder and neck areas. It's nice at any time of the day or night, but it's best as I drift off to sleep. Mmmm...

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Life centered around Family

The obituary reads "Mom devoted her life to her family". That was so true of my mother-in-law. She had five kids, lots of grandchildren and some great-grandchildren. She was a stay-at-home mom - she kept a spotless home, and cooked awesome meals. She baked yummy desserts, and she decorated cakes. She was the queen of "doo-funnies" (left-over pastry spread with butter, sprinkled with brown sugar, and rolled up and baked).

She loved to play games when her family visited, and she was not above a little cheating (although she always denied it). She taught her tricks to her son and my daughter, tricks she learned from her parents (who were also avid card-players). Someone in her family visited almost every day. Often her home was the center of family gatherings during traditional holidays, with everyone pitching in with food and cleanup.

Thelma never smoked and she didn't drink. She died this week of cancer of the kidney.

My grandmother was also a woman who devoted her life to her family. She too loved to cook, and everything that came out of her kitchen smelled and tasted great. She was the queen of brownies - she would often call me and say she'd just made a pan, would we be coming over? She knew she'd get my brother to drive all the way from Toronto if she told him she had a pot roast on the stove (my brother's nickname was "Potsie").

Grandma's house was not spotless, nor was it tidy, but it was comfortable, and also a center of family during traditional holidays when she was younger. Grandma was always interested in hearing about our lives, and she had a fantastic memory. She had a habit of mis-using words, but sometimes the way she mis-used them actually sort of made more sense (i.e., the grocery store called "No Frills", for its lower prices and bag-your-own check-out, was "No Thrills" to Grandma).

Grandma never drank but she smoked like a chimney. She died 10 years ago of lung cancer.

Two women, similar and different, but both living their lives focused around their families. Nothing brightened their day more than a visit by a loved one. They were sweet women who asked for very little, but gave so much. They were dependable, you knew you would find them at home almost any time you might drop by (and they always seemed to have treats hanging around - "just in case someone drops by"). They always remembered birthdays and anniversaries. They always worried if one of the family had a cold.

I love to cook, I like to clean my house and do my laundry, and I love to prepare a feast for my immediate family. But I also work and have other interests. My brain cannot remember all the small details of people closest to me. I assume if someone has a cold that they will get better - I might offer a suggestion of aspirin and lots of fluids, but then I get on with my day and the cold is usually forgotten. I might remember a birthday, but often don't get around to sending a card. I am distracted.

Have our lives become too busy now to be 'centered around family'? Or will we too be like Grandma and Thelma when we're older and 'retired'? I would like to think there can be a balance. Living in Mexico will make it a different kind of challenge to keep family close - condensed periods of time together rather than day-to-day, year-to-year. I would like to be remembered as the mother/grandmother who had a great home in Mexico where family loved to get together. Time will tell...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Put some clothes on!

We live in a hot, humid climate. Sometimes it's so hot and uncomfortable that we shed a few articles of clothing around the house. We are not exhibitionists or nudists, we are simply dressing according to the weather. This is not normally a problem. However...

The other day I was sitting in the living room with the front door open. The screen door was the only thing between me and the outside world. I had taken my top off and had two fans blowing on me to try to stay cool. A Mexican came by and stood outside the gate at the street and called "Buenos". I grabbed a nearby throw blanket to cover my front and went to the screen door. I stood at the open door and conducted the conversation - hoping the guy couldn't see from that distance out at the road that I was wearing a blanket as a blouse.

We have been trying to get Luna to sleep on the back terrace at night to prevent her from showing up at 1 am and opening the patio screens and marching into the bedroom. The only fear I have about doing that is that I once caught the aggressive white cat in the process of climbing down the vines to get to the food on the terrace, and I did not want Luna to be trapped on the terrace if the cat showed up.

Sure enough, one night we were sound asleep when we were woken by a nasty cat fight. It sounded as if it was coming from the back terrace, and immediately both of us sprang out of bed and raced downstairs to break up the fight and rescue Luna. Picture two completely naked people, still in some state of sleep, old enough that our limbs are a little stiff when we first get up...marching naked and barefooted through the house. Not a pretty site...(and it turned out the fight was out in the front, not in the back with Luna - and we didn't go out front to check it out either).

Also another day I was sitting on the couch working. I wanted to sweep the floors but they were so humid they were sticky, so I closed the front door and turned on the a/c to dry out the air. I was hot, so I took off my blouse and laid it on a chair by the front door (learned my lesson from the blanket blouse).

A while later I heard a noise outside and got up and looked out the window in the front door. I saw a couple of tourists standing outside on the terrace, sort of looking around and trying to decide if anyone might be home. I pulled on my blouse and went out to chat with them, hoping they had not been able to see me sitting on the couch through the front window of the door. We chatted, and if they had seen me they were too kind to say so. They wanted to see the B&B suite, so I showed them around, including out on the back terrace to meet the pets (they knew them by name from reading my blog, I had to introduce them). Our house is not easy to find, but this determined couple found us, without a map, without instructions - I was impressed! (and glad I didn't make a bad impression on them with my lack of clothing).

We do dress properly when we have guests here, but when nobody is around - anything goes. We have a very private second and third floor, and don't think twice about how we parade around the house, or what we wear in the pool. We do have to be careful when workers occasionally climb the cell phone tower across the street to perform maintenance - I have caught them just sort of sitting there gazing. And sometimes I wonder about the planes that fly overhead - how high do they have to be before they cannot make out people on the ground and what they are or are not wearing?

I guess if anyone looks, then they deserve what they get.