Springtime – and the living is easy

Well, it’s been a while. You’d think I’d have something to report. I guess I actually do have some newsy things but I just don’t have much reflection at this moment in time. I guess that’s why I haven’t written. I mean, the news is the news but what’s it worth without perspective? I think when I last left you, I was barely home after spending time in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island this summer to finish up one ghostwriting project and do some business development. That was in late October – sheesh.

You know Junior died in July, my old white boy. The house felt pretty lonely without him and we thought Rosie was lonely too. So, around the end of November, we got a pup who was born on September 3. Oh, my. What a handful. And Rosie alternately loves and hates him. He’s almost seven months, we’ve had him four months next week (he’s brand new in the photo above with Rosie). And thank God, just a few weeks ago we engaged a fantastic trainer (who is also a good friend) and the little one is learning. But it’s fun to have a puppy in the house again, we haven’t had one since Kato (1993) – Junior and Rosie were both rescues and about one year old when they came to us so we missed that puppy stage.

Piggy Caesar (left) and Junior (immortalized in oil)

We were going to call him Puck (if he had papers, it would be his registered name) but settled on PJ – short for Piggy Junior. Piggy Caesar was my first bull terrier, who died in in Texas in May of 1993 (at about 12 years old) and Junior was the most recent – both were solid white like PJ. Half the time, I end up calling him Junior, and it’s okay. So, that’s kept me out of trouble since November – my hands are pretty full.

I went back up to the Island and the mainland (YVR) at the end of January to wrap up a few other things. My long-running ghostwriting job has finally gone to press – 672 pages (!!) and we have proof copies. That one, albeit part-time, kept me busy for three years. So I was itching for another project and got one – a memoir for an entrepreneur on the Sunshine Coast (half hour ferry from West Vancouver). Really interesting guy and I like him a lot so it should be a fun project. I’ve known him casually for some years and we’ve been trying to work together on another project for the past couple of years so this is timely.

The book is more for posterity (and his kids) but it could be saleable. The BC literary folk and award-givers always like that local shit (his family settled the Sunshine Coast as pioneers) and there’s a lot of colour in his life. Should be fun. In any event, it keeps me off the street.

So I’ll head back up at the end of April or early May for a “brain dump” – I’ll hang out with him for a couple of weeks and interview him and observe him and record it all. The project will last through the beginning of next year (January-February are the scheduled production dates). It should all go smoothly and not require much more travel.

I do have one thing in the middle – I’ll head back up to Vancouver Island in early July because we’re going to sell Mexican folk art and handicrafts at the annual one-day Chemainus Giant Street Market. I’ve already been to two trade shows (one good, one not so good) and we’ve bought about half our stock but need to get on it more seriously now. Thousands of people come to the event, held on the main street of the quaint little Vancouver Island town where Randy Bachman (Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive) lives. And regularly pisses off the loggers with his anti-logging activism.

There are three of us – Buffy (our point man on the Island), Judy (point man in Tlaquepaque and Tonala) and me. The Guadalajara area (Tonala, Tlaquepaque) is a hub for a lot of Mexican folk art – and we’ve found a killer trade show with hundreds of artisan exhibitors from around Mexico selling to retailers. So we’ll see what happens. This is just a test – this first one. And we’ve gone wide to see what sells. We’ve got everything from Frida bags (they’re gorgeous) to Day of the Dead dogs and cats. Pewter and tin. Textiles. Silver. No glass. It’s heavy and it breaks. We’ll see. I have excel charts from hell. Whatever does best is what we focus on. But at the very least, it will offset some travel costs and give us an idea of the market. I’ve wanted to do this since I moved down here – only took me five years LOLOL.

Christmas lights

And we’ve had a lot of company. Friends from Ottawa at the end of November, full house (six guests) over Christmas. We had a Toronto friend here for a little bit (I can’t even remember when) and another Ottawa friend for just three days in early February. The kids came for a quick visit at the start of March break, on their way to their own place on the beach.

Oh, we got solar! Serious solar – to power the house. Well, to power the grid and thereby the equivalent of powering the house. We should end up paying about $10 a month in service fees and that’s all. We’ve got 21 big panels and on most days, they generate 40KWH or higher. It will take just under two years to amortize under current rates, quicker if there is an increase in that time period. Really seemed dumb not to use the sun down here, we have so much of it.

That’s something I am very grateful for – the sunshine. It’s sunny almost every day here and temps are highs of 25 – 27 (80-85F) and lows around 15 (60-65F). This is what it’s like 11 months of the year (mas o menos). A few weeks in late May or early June where it will hit 30 or 31 (90F) mid-afternoon. And a few weeks between January and February where lows are 10 (50F). But other than that, those temperatures are fairly consistent.

This is all just a ‘what I did on my summer vacation’ post so far. What have I been thinking about? And how does Mexico fit into all that? What have I (we) learned since we’ve been here? What else does Mexico have to teach us? Big questions. Do I have answers?

The past year has had me thinking too often about death. I’m really trying consciously to shut it down when it happens. It’s good to know and realize every day that one day you will die, but my thoughts were getting out of hand. For example, we were in Mexico City for a couple of days and I remember waking up and looking at CW and thinking, what would I do if he was dead when I woke up? Where does that come from? I guess because lots of people in my life have died suddenly (sister, cousins, mother – but none lately). Some, we had notice, but some, none at all. The ones who died suddenly will often pop into my head out of nowhere. I suppose I’m still trying to make sense of it all before I remember that you can’t. It’s the philosophical thoughts that get me hung up. Yet, they are kind of important. That whole ‘What’s it all about?’ stream of questions. The meat skeleton hurling through space on a rock meme reminds me not to worry too much, though.

And then that’s that — and I remind myself of how incredibly lucky I am personally to be alive and to be in a nice climate. And to have an upcoming gig. With at least a clear month off beforehand.

Last year’s basil rocked!

Still, lots to do around the gardens. I planted some rainbow swiss chard and spinach and I’ve got all the annual herb seeds in and most are coming up – basil, dill, cilantro, chives. But they aren’t coming that quickly. It’s likely a little early in the light cycle. The perennials are starting to come back to life – the woody herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint. I could have sworn parsley was a perennial, but I don’t see it coming up so may have to replant. The herbs do very well through the rainy season, I do have to stagger plant the basil and dill to keep them coming until the fall, though. The greens are just a test. I planted some tomatoes, also. They apparently grow well here. I bought these super-duper gourmet seeds and they haven’t germinated and I think they may not. Yet, we get tomato plant volunteers when we use our own compost, so go figure.

Birds of Paradise, lavender and our kumquat, lime, lemon and mandarin trees do well. The pomegranate has flowers, we’ll see if it bears fruit. It’s young and last year, all the flowers and potential fruit blew off in a windstorm. The avocado hasn’t flowered yet but has new leaves all the time and still looks young.

There was a lot of drug violence in Mexico in the past year. Gangs fighting it out, for the most part. Very little affects expats (unless they are involved) or tourists. Yet there is no denying that the homicide numbers are increasing across the country. We are fortunate that our income comes from another country and we’re not dependent on any business in Mexico  – just the country’s continued hospitality. And we don’t feel unsafe at all.

There are still trade-offs to living in Mexico. But I think I get back up to Vancouver and to the Island enough to not really feel that affected. And they are minor trade-offs. For example, no grape jelly. No really good thrift stores. Banking is extremely time-consuming (as is paying bills). They are advanced online but at the stage where half the utility companies have spent a lot of money for systems that are far too complex and don’t work. But some of it does. Other trade-offs? It’s mostly time. Everything takes longer to do or get done. And I have no idea why there’s no grape jelly.

And the upsides are all still the same. It starts with the weather. Sunny, Mediterranean climate all the time. Fresh fruit and flowers from the garden. We live outside 11 months a year (and close the glass sliding doors at night the other month. We have great produce, fruit, and flowers in the markets at good prices. But I’ve said all this before. There’s just nothing going on so I’m repeating myself, LOL.

I’m sure you don’t want to hear about how the Cambridge-Analytica scandal shook our confidence in Facebook and we sold our stock (which was probably 30% of our stock holdings). Far be it from me to want conservative investments but I think the orange one’s little spat with China will affect the US dollar considerably and that affects any stock we Canadians hold in US dollars. And our confidence in US companies follows that trajectory. I loved the FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) but I think it’s time to sit out for three years. We’ll still hold Canadian stocks (pot stocks have been very good to us, LOL). The last few years have been great for the markets but I think the times they are a changing. So, we’re 80% out of our US stocks and maybe selling off the last couple soon (Amazon/Netflix). Including holdings in our RRSPs. Go big or stay home. trump is scaring me – now that the adults have left the White House, we’re putting our money (what there is of it) elsewhere.

This is from our Boxing Day party

I will have to replace all that stock market angst with something though (not that there isn’t enough other angst to go around). There won’t be any vacations to look forward to, but that’s okay. Because we’ve done some major work this year (including the solar), we will have to sit on our asses and not really travel anywhere except home to the Island. That can be a vacation of sorts. Just not very exotic once you’ve lived there for a couple of decades. And Mexico isn’t exotic anymore, isn’t that funny? We still love it but it’s no longer exotic.

The weather is truly the key, I can’t tell you how many times over the winter I forget that it’s winter somewhere else. And when I hear reports of snowstorms, I am first shocked and then I remember that there is winter up north. Vancouver and the Island had quite a bit of snow this year. But now it’s spring.

And today, we’ve just returned from a lovely Easter brunch at a private home here in Cuernavaca that used to belong to Papa Doc Duvalier. It happens to be next door to the former residence of the (deposed) Shaw of Iran. Sometimes I wonder how we got here. But as they say, here we are. I will leave you with a clue of what the future holds for us. Just a clue though (and really, this didn’t surface until very recently, or I might have talked about it, but for now, it will have to hold).

Until next time, hasta luego.



  1. Madeleine Nelson

    A treat to hear from you!
    Gosh, I go back to Kato days. I hope Rosey and PJ will bond over time. Where did PJ come from?
    I once owned half of 5 acres of waterfront in Sechelt. The pioneer family we knew there were the Caples.
    My niece lives in Victoria and I will tell her about the Chemainus show. Sounds great
    I have fond memories of Tonala and Tlaquepaque, Visited when I was at Rio Caliente.
    I also spend a lot of time reflecting on dying and death. Perhaps at my age it’s understandable.
    The solar addition looks great. So wise.
    No mention of the garden, pool, etc. which makes me think it’s completed.
    Hope this finds you and CW in good spirits after the holiday weekend.

  2. Dawna

    Thanks for the update. I always enjoy it. The whole pondering death thing gives me the willies too. Must be the age…..A minister once told your Grandma A ( she had just turned 70) and a group of her elderly friends that they were now “living on borrowed time” ……Sheesh it really ticked me off then. Now that 70 is on my doorstep those words keep popping into my head……but I’m fighting it off with my….. hey ho aren’t we all…….. ? Cheers xox Aunt Dawna