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


Culiacan, Mexico is a hot, humid locale on the Pacific coast of Sinaloa. It was there that I was to make my home, and I moved with high hopes. I found a nice house to rent in a suburb not far from my new job. My new home was a two-story structure with a walled-in patio that wrapped completely around the house. The patio roof and front gate were covered with decorative metal bars, which provided security and allowed me to keep my doors open to let in the cool night air. It also allowed my cats to have unaided access to the outside. It was perfect, or so I thought. It wasn’t long, however, before my life turned into an episode of Wild Kingdom crossed with Friday the 13th. It all started with a demented cat.

Late one evening, just after I had drifted off to sleep, I was awakened by a chilling scream from downstairs. I ran as fast as I could to see what was happening. There, in my living room was a street cat. It was a scrawny male with thick jowls and dirty grey fur, and he looked mean. He had cornered my cat Ari in the dining room near the patio door. Floating around near the floor were tufts of Ari’s black fur that the street cat had yanked out in his attack. Poor Ari had no teeth or nails so he couldn’t defend himself. I frantically ran to his rescue and chased out the demon cat with a broom. It took me over an hour to get over the fright. I thought about what I could do and came up with an excellent solution.

The next morning, I bought some screen to attach to the bars on the patio’s front gate and spent over two hours wiring it in place. It worked well. It just didn’t solve the problem. Two nights later I heard another bloodcurdling scream from downstairs. I jumped out of bed half asleep, but was so confused I ran into the bathroom instead of the hallway. I quickly redirected myself and ran downstairs. The wild cat heard me and dashed to the front of the patio. I could hear him trying to get out of the front gate, but I had attached the screen so nicely on the gate he couldn’t escape. I quickly closed the back door and back window to the house so the cat couldn’t enter my home from that direction. I flung open the front door to confront kitty. Psycho cat ran to the back of the patio immediately. I stood there in the open doorway in the little shorts I slept in, a tee shirt, no bra, no makeup, hair in all directions with the whole neighborhood staring at me! There was a party next door that I did not know about.

I got it from the numerous witnesses in the yard that the cat had jumped over the wall and entered the patio through the bars above. The ground is higher on the outside than the inside of the patio, so the demon cat could jump in, but not jump out. I opened the front gate, told the little kids in the neighborhood to get back, and went to the back patio where I scared the stray cat with the broom out the front gate, again. I think the broom was unnecessary. My appearance alone should have done the trick.

The next day I bought more screen. I wired it to the bars over the patio. All was peaceful and harmonious once again in my home. That is until a new houseguest moved in.

Ted arrived on a stormy evening. He slithered through the sliding glass door as I was closing it to keep out the rain. I screamed in terror and tried to stop his progress, but he was the quickest fellow I had ever met. Ted was a five-inch long, very scary-looking centipede who quickly crawled between the wall and my kitchen cabinets to set up house. I did research. Centipedes have poisonous mandibles and their bites feel a bit like bee stings. I decided that Ted was dead once I finally found him. Until then I moved around my house with trepidation…waiting for my toes to be unexpectedly attacked. I even had nightmares about Ted jumping into my bed at night.

Not long after Ted moved in, I was once again awakened by a bloodcurdling scream, this time around two in the morning. I leapt up, slid into my flip-flops and headed down the stairs at full tilt, ready to battle the crazy cat. I threw back the curtain that hung at the bottom of the stairs and came to a screeching halt.


There he was, taking an early morning stroll across my ceiling from the dining room to the kitchen. Let me tell you, at two in the morning in semi-darkness a five-inch centipede looks like a twenty-foot train! Ok, I remembered that the pesticide was on the patio. I also remembered that I was after a wild cat on the patio. The problem was that Ted was between me and the patio. What a horrible situation to be in!

I calculated my options and found them to be very limited. I decided to move slowly around the edge of the dining room all the while keeping an eye on Ted who was completely oblivious to my situation. As I neared the patio I kept my other eye out for a wild cat (I have very flexible eyeballs) I carefully entered the patio, but there was no sign of kitty. I moved quickly for the pesticide, ready to run from super cat if necessary. I grabbed the pesticide, headed for Ted, and sprayed with all my might. He began to quiver and a few of his legs lost their grip. It wasn’t enough, and I began to panic. I sprayed again furiously until he was all frosty like a Christmas tree. He was dangling from the ceiling with only about eight of his legs. In frustration, I swatted him down off the ceiling with a fly swatter and pinned him to the ground. I moaned in despair as I realized the fly swatter was not strong enough to kill him. I ran madly to the patio again, grabbed a dustpan, ran back to Ted, and beat him to death before throwing his mangled body into the street.

Memorial services will be held Saturday afternoon. Flowers and donations are welcome.

I never did find super kitty.  I think my cat Ari just saw the centipede and screamed in terror. After that day, the problems with wild creatures stopped and everything was smooth again- well, mostly. Psycho cat did like to lounge on the screen that I had put in place and taunt my cats, but he never again gained access. From then on, he picked on the neighbor’s cat.

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

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