Tag Archives: Mexico


This week someone told me that I can be a bit negative. I didn’t particularly like to hear that, but it did make me stop and think. And the more I thought, the more I realized that person was right.

It’s been nearly three years since I was in a hold up in a cartel town. I and the people I was with thought it was a cartel hit and that we would die that day. I fled back to the U.S. This week as I looked for military pictures for my work, I had a panic attack. The pictures of soldiers and guns did not bring good memories, and I realized I was still affected, still a bit scared.

It’s been one year, two months, three weeks and four days since I finished my last radiation treatment. This week as I sat waiting for my surgical oncologist to see me, I couldn’t breathe. I realized how angry I still was.

I think often of the fact that I was homeless and jobless, that I can’t find full-time employment now. And then I get angry.

People have told me to look at the bright side- I didn’t die in that hold up. I left Mexico safely even though I had to drive through some of the most dangerous areas. I got cancer, yes, but it was the easiest kind to cure. And when people have said this, I have gotten angrier, and asked them, Why did any of that have to happen to me in the first place? I quit believing that things would work out. I lost my faith in happy endings.

I have raged at the universe for a long time now, asking why. Sometimes, though, the answers aren’t clear. Sometimes you have to create your own so you can come to terms with what life throws at you.

Maybe I had to dance with death a bit to appreciate life.

Maybe I didn’t get that full-time job, so I could learn to slow down and get to know people around me.

Maybe those people were put in my path to teach me a bit more about myself, teach me that maybe I am likable, maybe even lovable. Maybe they will teach me how to trust.

Maybe that part-time job was put in my life so I could discover a career that I love and that I do well.

Maybe circumstances have conspired to teach me that things can work out. When I stop to think about it, things have worked out for me.

And maybe I have it all wrong about happy endings. Maybe it isn’t about endings at all. Life is a continuum. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad, but mostly, it’s neutral. So maybe the key to contentment is to embrace the neutral.

Una Calavera para el Día de Los Muertos

Feliz Día de Los Muertos!

Jose Guadalupe Posada, "Gran fandango y francachela de todas las calaveras" - 1913

Y para celebrar, una calavera tradicional:

Estaba la calaca flaca
sentaba en una pitaca.
Sus ojitos le lloraban
porque no podia hacer caca.

For my English speaking friends, Happy Day of the Dead. The poem above is a traditional type of poem called a calavera that comes out specially for the Day of the Dead. They are usually humorous and make fun of the living. The one above is one my mother and her siblings would chant to tease each other when they were children. Here is a general translation (but of course it doesn’t rhyme in English):

There was a skinny skelton
sitting on a chest.
His eyes were filled with tears
because he couldn’t poop.

You can see why I say they teased each other, and you can imagine when they would chant this poem. 🙂

If you would like to know more about the Day of the Dead, I found a pretty good explanation at Thinkquest.

What to Say, What to Say?

I had a bit of writer’s block trying to think about what I could write, so I decided to write about writer’s block. These are just some of the things that I like to do to get inspired:

1. Watch your pets. My pets like to embarrass me. Many years ago, my cat ran happily down the street with a feminine napkin clutched in his mouth. I pretended I didn’t know him, but the neighbors knew where he lived.

2. Or, they like to annoy me. This week my cat, Nicolas, discovered my bra hanging to dry. As I was carrying laundry to my room, my bra flew past me with Nicolas in pursuit. Then I pursued Nicolas to save my bra before he could fling it again.

Nicolas, resting before hunting undergarments.

3. Watch nature. I was exiting onto a highway heading toward Beavercreek, Ohio. I looked to the grassy area to my right, and there was a beaver exiting onto the highway heading towards Beavercreek.

A light snack before the journey.

4. Listen to people. They say strange things. I told a girl my mother was from Mexico. She responded with, “But was your mother born there because she was from there or because your parents were traveling through there?”

Say what?

5. Watch people. That’s fun. How many times this summer did I drive by couples mowing the lawn- the wife pushing the mower with all her might, and the husband standing and watching her do it!

Behind every one of these is a tired woman.

6. And sometimes it’s sad. I remember seeing a very old indigenous woman in Cholula, Mexico. Her back was so distorted she was bent over double, and she was carrying a large bundle of sticks. I think carrying bundles of sticks is probably what messed up her back to begin with.

Ok, so that's not an old, indigenous woman. That's my mom. (And she is gonna kill me when she sees this!)

7. Pay attention to your surroundings. I drove past a prison in Texas. There was a giant sign on the highway that said: “Prison Area. Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers.” This was placed next to a covered rest area where the escaped prisoners could rest while they hitchhiked.

Anyone need a lift?

8. Family is a gold mine. Well, at least mine is. My great-grandfather was killed during the Mexican Revolution. Cool, a hero! Not quite. He was an accountant and he kept the soldiers’ books- and their wives.

Can't keep his eyes off the babes!

9. Then there was a great-grandmother, I think, on my dad’s side who dressed her dog up in children’s clothing, placed him in a high chair, and spoon fed him.

This one's not in a high chair, but you get the idea. My family likes to dress their pets.

Ok, writer’s block has taken over. Someone give me some more ideas, please!

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com

The Loss of Innocence

He appeared one day on the street corner to sell newspapers with his father. He caught your attention, and you studied him. He was a gangly boy of about 13 with arms and legs he hadn’t quite grown into. His face was open and fresh, his eyes were bright, and he had that exuberance that you only see with youth. He walked side by side with his father, both of them wearing baseball caps, and in between running to cars to deliver papers, they conversed and laughed and smiled. You wondered what they talked about. You smiled when they smiled. It was his innocence that attracted you.

There was no other innocence on that street corner. The same beggars asked you for money every day, the same vendors tried to sell you trinkets, the same performers would do their tricks then ask for money. All the faces were weary with the weight of life, and everyone competed for the few pesos that were given out.

But he was fresh, and young, and happy. You bought papers from him. He was the bright spot of your morning commute. You wondered what his life was like. Would he ever get an education? There was an intelligence that gleamed from behind those eyes. Would he spend his life on that corner? And you wondered what twist of fate had kept you from a life like his. What fine distinction kept you from living on the street or in abject poverty? What separated you from him?

Then one day he was gone. Perhaps he was in school. You liked that idea, but you missed his smile. A few weeks went by and he reappeared on that corner. Your heart thudded in your chest when you saw that his arm was in a cast. What had happened to him? You felt a bit of nausea when you saw his face. The smile, the light, the joy was gone, replaced by hardened eyes and bruises. His jaw was set as he hawked his papers. He did not laugh and talk with his father or with anyone else. He simply existed, a shell of the boy you had seen before, and you wanted to cry for his loss of innocence.

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com

Psyche Soup

I have climbed up hills and fallen down mountains, swum in canals and come face-to-face with a water moccasin. I have played on rooftops and in trees. I wrote a book, at age 10, that was never published, and never will be, and won a writing contest and went to summer camp.

I have spent hours watching alligators swim lazily in rivers, and have rescued animals- lots of them. I have rehabilitated owls, hawk, ospreys, and other birds of prey. I brought a rabbit back to life with CPR, and killed a frog just to see how his insides were put together, then spent the rest of my life regretting it.

I have bared my soul, only to be rejected or ridiculed. I have bared my soul and found life-long friends. I have had boyfriends and lost them or left them, always avoiding a commitment. I have fought, loved, hated, felt homicidal and suicidal. I have had meltdowns and periods of life that were wonderful.

I have been chased around a parking lot by a strange man, and down a street by another. I was chased by a man with a hammer once at a traffic light, but I drove off and shot him a bird. I was chased in my car by two men who tried to run me off the road, and I chased a man down the street. I was in a car when drug deals went down, dozens of hands holding baggies waving their wares in the window. I hid my fear.

I have lived poverty and collected food from trash cans- before it was a popular sport. I have lived on food stamps and church charity. I have been without a home of my own and without a job. I turned my back on a man who needed bus fare, and still think about him with regret. I have given food to people who were hungry and rides to folks who had no transportation. I have denied money to beggars, and given money to others. I have volunteered and raised money for organizations and charities. I have offered shelter to friends who needed it.

I dropped out of high school then studied art, science, language, and linguistics, got a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. I learned a second language. I have worked in fast food and in retail, as a maid, a turn-down attendant, a receptionist, a cook, a rose seller, a kennel worker, a bagger, a veterinary assistant, a waitress, a bartender, a researcher, a teacher, a writer, an editor, a translator.

I traveled for hours by small plane, then bus, then boat to get to a remote rain forest in Costa Rica. I soaked in the hot springs fed by the volcano Arenal, and ate dinner while watching the glowing lava stream down its sides. I have been followed by monkeys who tried to pee on me to chase me away. I have seen endangered tree frogs and heard the distant roar of jaguars.

I have traveled to England, France, and Spain. I have traveled all over the US. I moved to Mexico with only 2000 dollars and no income and no friends yet at my destination. I drove for five days with everything I owned in my car to get there, after everyone told me not too- it was too dangerous. I did not encounter any danger, only difficulties in finding lodging that would accept me with my three cats. I struggled to understand and interact in another language. I received kindness from people who could see me searching for the right words to communicate. An indigenous woman gave me a mat to sleep on when she saw I was sleeping on the floor. I visited a shaman who got rid of my nightmares. I drove by a reputed warlock’s home every day. I made good friends who helped me become a better person. I learned it was ok to depend on others and be a part of the human race. Then I forgot that later when I returned to the States. I learned that life was not black and white. Mexico showed me the shades of grey.

I got typhoid and dysentery, then I got accustomed to life in a foreign country. I lived near a volcano and was showered on by eruptions. I exercised on a pyramid that was topped with a church. I walked to and from my school and work three miles a day. I bought fresh flowers from the market to brighten my bare apartment. I bought wooden crates to use as kitchen cabinets. I viewed the mummies in Guanajuato and smelled their earthy, papery skin. I saw the elaborate alters for el Dia de los Muertos. I have gone to Mardi Gras in Mazatlan and seen the parades for the Guelaguetza in Oaxaca. I lived in a cartel town with a population of 700,000 where there were 144 murders in one month. I was in a restaurant during a hold up, with four men waving automatic weapons and screaming for money. I fled the country I had grown to love.

I survived cancer. That’s still fresh.

Sometimes I think about how I could have done things differently, how that might have changed my life. But then I realize that these experiences, good, bad, or indifferent, are the network of my being. They interact with my psyche and form inextricable bonds, making me who I am. They fuel my thoughts and my actions and affect my relationships with others. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anyone elses’. During down times, when I think I have done nothing with my life, and I wonder what the point is, I look at my list. I think also about the things I have not written down, for whatever reason, and I remember that I have done everything I have ever wanted to do until now.

How many people can say that?

©2010 frayedges and http://www.frayedges.wordpress.com

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