Monday, December 23, 2019

My Son

44 years ago today, I birthed this one.


I was 23 years old and knew nothing about anything. Had gone from my parents' house to marriage. And was 100% in love with BOTH Jons from the instant I saw them. I thought that was enough.

My childhood was stolen by a sex pervert grandfather and seriously messed-up monster of a mother. I felt I'd earned a do-over. Partying, drinking. Divorce, remarriage.

My son learned he was beloved, but somewhat secondary to my social life. He became self-sufficient. Learned to cook. Got quiet.

I did wise up and get sober, but it was too late, he was in high school. Brilliant mind, slightly skewed re: love, family, priorities, but nothing terminal. He sought and found love with a girl that gave him two of the most perfect children ever. While the marriage didn't last, the love for those kids has. Dylan and Nora have known nothing but acceptance, affirmation, and love from their dad. They got the best of all of us, but especially from Jon.



Happy birthday, Jon. You're a true mensch, absolutely loved, and a survivor.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Dos Palmas Life: My Truth

I've been asked often by people "up north" what it's like where we live. Some have only been to developed resorts or timeshares in Mexico, some had traveled around Mexico long ago. Most seem leery of the bad press. Kino Bay, Sonora, Mexico is a sleepy, poor fishing village, a 5 hour drive to Tucson.

Dos Palmas is the name of our small community 10 miles north of Kino Bay. It's a neighborhood of mostly retired Americans and Canadians, maybe 12 homes, a number of seasonal RVs, and assorted temporary workers. It's in a gorgeous valley between rocky hills, and about a mile uphill from the beach. Where the desert meets the sea.

The 2 palms are dead now

Upper Dos Palmas
Santa Rosa Estuary. Margot Wholey, photographer. Labels are mine.



 There's good fishing.

Les, Jim, Jaap, and Ron with Yellowtails

Ron and Don (and Calvin) with Yellowtails
Ron, Buddha, and Jack with a Grouper


We have electricity unless it rains, propane tanks for hot water and stoves. There's a water cistern at the top of the hill, gravity-fed by old PVC piping to the lots that haven't put in their own cisterns yet, and prone to frequent breakage. This year, the water is SWEET water, i.e. not salty, but we still use purchased bottled water for drinking.

Most homeowners have septic tanks, some have simple buried barrels with holes in them. For that reason I've never been tempted to grow my own tomatoes here...

The roads are dirt/sand and adequate, except annually after the hurricane season. Then you need 4WD or we have to pull you out.

After the rain
6 inch deep arroyo in driveway after the rain


There is no cell tower, therefore no cell phone service. REPEAT! NO CELL SERVICE. However, some of us have US satellite internet with cell phone plans that include wifi calling. Others use Magic Jack or Skype calling. Some just drive to the top of the hill until they get a cell signal, some can get a signal down on the beach. Some pirate other people's wifi. US satellite internet is unavailable for new owners unless someone dies or leaves. The newer US systems won't work here any more, and the Mexico satellite plans are prohibitively expensive. Some residents have satellite TV, either US DirecTV, DISH, or the Mexico Star satellite.


It's quiet here. If a car goes by, we hear it and see the dust cloud so we know where it's going. There's a gate that some want to keep closed to keep out riff-raff, but it's not locked so we do get riff-raff. And banditos, unless you have dogs and neighbors, are home, and don't leave pawnable items outside overnight.


We get along well. Some are joiners, some reclusive. Almost all are older, 65-80. We get together a few times a year for a bonfire, a birthday, a holiday feast. Some go out to eat regularly as a group. There are groups with frequent Happy Hour gatherings, shared dinners, or fishing trips. It can be a bit clique-ish. If you want to be hermit-like, you can be.

Big group at Pancho's

Girls' birthday lunch


The weather is mostly ideal, although summers are brutally hot and humid. But not very many are here summers, and we just stay inside in the AC. Winters are balmy-breezy days and cool nights. The dawns and sunsets are euphoric.

On my roof


We get bugs. NoSeeUms, scorpions, tarantulas, mosquitos, ticks, flies. Rattlesnakes galore. Mice. There are chemicals for most of those.

Tarantula on my couch
Ron, NoSeeUm bites

Sofia, snakebite
Ron, giant scorpion

The upkeep of owning a place in the sun is onerous at times. The sun rots plastic, paint, tires, and clotheslines. The blowing sand and coursing water re-routes our roads, yards, driveways.

We're too far from a hospital for emergency care. A heart attack or severe stroke is probably a deal-breaker here. 90 minutes away is state-of-the-art CIMA hospital in Hermosillo (affiliated with Baylor in Texas). There's an AED (defibrillator) on my enclosed porch. We do have a Red Cross clinic and ambulance available. IF they have gas in the rig...I took a neighbor to the clinic once. He needed IV fluids and I had to run to the drug store to buy the IV tubing and run it back.


Dos Palmas isn't for everyone. Nearly perfect for me, though. I have both internet and TV satellites, wifi calling through my ATT phone plan, my own water supply, a real septic tank, AC, dependable vehicles,  an ATV, a dog, and neighbors. I'm not a joiner, quite reclusive and quiet. I drink gin and watch the sunrises, sunsets, storm clouds. I have Netflix, Acorn, Hulu, Amazon, Britbox, and a craft room. We built a guesthouse for family who rarely-to-never visit. I go dust and vacuum it sometimes, and the bi-weekly poker game is played there.

Guesthouse above garage, left, my house right.


Poker game in my guesthouse


Kino locals appreciate our influx of trade, and are courteous and helpful. While largely poor (not enough work for them), they are hard workers and I employ several sporadically to regularly for jobs I don't want to do. We often get charged "gringo prices". Still far less than what we'd pay in the US. A very thorough hand car wash is $5. Inside, too.

Gas and diesel cost more. Produce is abundant and fresh, as is seafood. You can live pretty well here on only Social Security. Hermosillo has Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, everything.

Kino Bay has 2 parts, Old Kino and New Kino. Old Kino is older, poorer, livelier. Eateries and little bodegas every block, sometimes several. There are near-ghetto-like area on the edges without utilities. Starving street dogs, but better than it used to be: there's a vet that does spay/neuters with subsidized help through the Kino Bay Spay Neuter Association. There's an ATM inside the police station that usually works, and a couple at the gas station that sometimes do.

New Kino is a several mile swath of newer white homes, condos, and apartments along the bay. Several restaurants, a few beer stores and bodegas, and the Finisterra Marina at the end. Can be crowded on weekends.

New Kino


Club Deportivo is there, a membership club. From their website: "Club Deportivo offers Rescue One, the only 24/7 rescue service of its kind in Mexico. The club also offers a social life, connection, security and information." Lots of activities, desert golf course, full bar, lending library. Everything they have or do can be found here CLICK

Now for some more of MY truth.

Not fond of Club Deportivo generally. More clique-ish than even Dos Palmas, actually a bit snooty. I do the annual Halloween party (I usually win), donate pieces to their annual big art auction, and donate/use the library. I help in the kitchen only when forced to, as "Dos Palmas" usually puts on one breakfast and one dinner yearly. This last breakfast I got away with cutting up melons and making toast. My husband likes it for the fishing networking and the Friday night Happy Hours. I think it's pricey for what I get out of it ($100 per person annually), but do it to support the Rescue One marine rescue service.

I rarely go to New Kino. I usually need more than the few bodegas there stock. There's a back road to Old Kino that bypasses the beach and you can drive fast. Grocery shopping requires several shops. A few have butcher counters, some have more produce, shrimp and crab at the pier, beer and liquor at certain bodegas. We do have some gringo friends that live in New Kino, but we see them at restaurants/gatherings often enough. 

Things generally are way different this year. My husband fell and broke his hip last winter, and it apparently severed the nerves that make the leg work. Has to wear a leg brace, uses a cane, SHOULD use his walker but refuses, and he falls nearly daily. I'm shouldering a whole lot more than I used to, and have to rely on my friends here to help me with things. They're very kind. It was a perfect example of the medical care I was talking about earlier: way too much of an emergency to drive him 5 hours to Tucson. Drove him to Hermosillo, had a total hip replacement the next day. Had to pay $9000 US to get out. His VA insurance won't cover it because MEXICO. So consider that. Going to be looking at those "fly-you-out-of-there" plans.

It's become not a big deal to run up to Tucson overnight. VA doctor appointments nearly monthly. I order groceries online at Fry's for pickup. Don't even have to get out of the car. They have groceries here, but not diet tonic water, dog biscuits, decent hot dogs, Jif, real Ritz crackers, Folgers, paper plates, real canned corn, salted butter, pastrami, and dill pickles. Other than those, I've adapted to what's here. Oh, and the brand of cat food Luther likes THIS month...



I think a general truth for me is this: This place is perfect when newly retired and still able-bodied. Few more considerations with medical issues. Great for joiners or hermits. No snow. I couldn't do it without my satellite TV and internet. Or my friends.



















Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ron's weekend: "You'll fall and break a hip!"

Late Friday afternoon, Ron was preparing to drive to Los Angeles to pick up his new boat. He'd packed a bag. Filled his med box. Then went to clean out his truck.
While wrestling the newly-filled big propane tank out of the back, it rolled and knocked him off his feet and he fell out, landing on the gravel on his left hip.

I was over by the clothesline next door at the guesthouse. I didn't hear him calling for me, maybe 10 minutes. In the interim, Ron somehow managed to crawl over to the bottom of the roof stairs and sat there. When I came back, he said "I think I need your help".

He couldn't put any weight on his left leg. Didn't want to go to the hospital, wanted his recliner. Took us 45 minutes to get him there. Sat there an hour, pain worsening. Decided to go. I packed ME a few things, and we thought if they said it was broken we'd drive on up to Tucson to the VA. Stopped at Panchos where our friends were dining and arranged pet care in case we didn't come back.
The 90 minute drive to CIMA Hospital in Hermosillo was a nightmare, Ron moaning and writhing, wanting to stop and lie down. I refused, drove faster. It was full dark then. All I knew was he probably had sharp bone tearing up the meat in his hip, and was a prime candidate for embolism. Faster.

The ER there was efficient and  competent. XRays and Fentanyl. Enough English speakers to get the job done. Yes, he'd broken off the head of his femur, the thigh bone, the ball that fits into the hip socket. The orthopedic surgeon Dr. Javier Baidon Romano was called, came right in. He walked with a cane. Startled, I said "An orthopedic surgeon using a cane?" He laughed, explained a recent skiing accident, spiral fracture of his femur. A four hour drive to Tucson's VA was not an option.
Surgery was scheduled for Saturday at 1 PM, papers signed, and he was up in his room by 1 AM.



Mexico hospitals:
  • You pay as you go. They wanted $7500 US before they'd admit him, stated that was just the low estimate for the ER, surgery, doctors, and the 3 days expected stay. I talked them into 1/2 that, hoping to get the VA to pony up before discharge.

  • If the patient is elderly or a child, the family must be there 24/7. They don't have extraneous staffing like nursing assistants. I knew that before from friends' experiences. There's a couch in the room, rather firm cold vinyl. No extra pillow, no blanket. The cafeteria's only open 8 AM to 5 PM.

  • Most of his nurses were men, all terrific. They'd let me run outside for a smoke, or get coffee from the cafeteria whenever I wanted. Once a nurse made me a cup of their instant coffee in their breakroom. I bought them a huge jar of Nescafe at Walmart.

The Fentanyl was keeping Ron's pain level to a dull roar. He was pitiful alternating with zonked. I slept maybe an hour on that couch. Karen and Jim Benson drove in and brought my laptop computer I didn't take time to pack up. My phone suddenly wouldn't dial toll numbers out of Mexico.

They took him down promptly at 12:45, the surgeon would call my cell when he was done, maybe 2-3 hours. I made a fast trip to Walmart and got a few things (gin, bottled Starbucks coffee, chips, and pistachios.) Used that time to assess our financial possibilities on the laptop. Notified the kids.

4 PM he was in recovery, they let me right in. No pain. All better. They'd placed a catheter in his spine for anesthesia, like an epidural for labor. He said he heard saws, grinding, a hammer. Doc said minimal blood loss and tearing occurred. Prosthetic hip:







I went to the cafeteria and ordered a burger and fries. Inedible. Not sure what that meat was. Fries slick with grease, limp. No salt anywhere. I ate Cheetos later.

Ron was brought up to his room at 6. Slept. And I slept maybe 5 hours off and on. I stole his blanket, he said he was hot, and used my rolled up hoodie for a pillow.

Sunday the surgeon came and personally got him up to walk with a walker. He held Ron's gown closed in back, walked him around the room. Can you imagine a US surgeon doing that? Still had the catheter in his spine, pumping anesthesia in. He had no feeling in his left leg/foot, and walking was slow. He slept in a recliner the rest of the day. And that day just crawled. SO slow, the passage of time when you just want to leave.




I ordered scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast from the cafeteria. Don't know what those eggs really were, inedible. Bacon was OK, and the toast and jelly were great. They brought Ron chicken soup for both lunch and dinner, but he never ate a thing. I ate one of the soups for dinner. It was OK, lots of zucchini in it.

They made Ron take a shower that evening. It took all the remaining strength and life out of him, totally exhausted him. The nurse stayed the whole time. Then he brought me towels and I took a shower too!

Monday morning, they took out Ron's IV. Discharge instructions were given, then they sent me to the business office. Total price for everything $9,000. Comped the parking.

(It's still unknown if the VA will cover this. Couldn't talk to anyone there til Monday of course, and the first woman at VA Choice said sure, it's covered. Vacationing in Mexico, accident, emergency, blahblah. Transferred me to their business office where they said it wasn't covered  because it's Mexico. Called the first woman back and got a different one. She's gonna work on it, will get back to us.)

AFTER I paid, they took out his spinal catheter and let us go. We stopped for beer and pain meds on the way. Friends met us at home to help Ron get inside. One friend had arranged to borrow a walker, raised toilet seat, bedside commode, and crutches from Club Deportivo's stash and had them all there already. Ron went straight to bed, and the dog (who never gets on the bed), jumped right up and wouldn't leave him.

Ron still hasn't eaten anything. Says he has a bad taste in his mouth he THINKS is from a forkful of those awful eggs he tried. I'm thinking maybe anesthesia. Very little to drink, just wants to sleep.Walking with the walker saps his strength utterly, gets all sweaty.

So. Impressions of emergency medical care in Mexico:

  • Modern, efficient, clean but no frills. Very low cost compared to USA. A total hip replacement in the US is $65,000-80,000. I had to pay the prosthetic rep separately. He came to the room with a portable credit card machine. The doctors speak English. Most of the nurses speak some English, and with my minimal Spanish, there were no problems. There were no egos on display like you see with US doctors. Courteous, caring, they listen. The food there sucks. Bring your own food, pillow, blanket. Lots of restaurants and fast food nearby, but I could only leave long enough to smoke a cigarette and fix a gin/tonic out in my car.





Sunday, December 23, 2018

2018

2018



This year sort of sucked.
Trump.
Kavanaugh.
And then Minnesota for the summer.

Was chilly and rainy for the 2nd year in a row in Minnesota. I'd been so happy to have scored a cheap summer home near the kids after we quit hauling an RV around. Too late. The kids and grandkids have busy lives and we hardly saw anybody all summer. Kind of like how we treated our own parents...

I had two eye surgeries and a bladder surgery, spent the summer in clinics, doctors' offices and recuperating.

Came home in October with good vision (can drive again!) and less-problematic bladder, where after much reflection led us to selling the Minnesota mobile home. Ron drove back up there and brought our stuff home, which we've been STUFFING into our two homes here. That's a work in progress. Our financial picture improves drastically without the year-round expenses (lot rent and heat) of the Minnesota home, and instead we'll fly up there every July. Can rent a car and a cabin there for three weeks for tons less money. In time, the family will maybe realize if they want to see us more, they're welcome here WHERE WE BUILT THEM A GUESTHOUSE TO STAY IN FREE!

Actually, the one that DOES visit is expected in a week or two, gonna stay 6 weeks.  They've been here, they know.

So we'll be living fulltime in Mexico. It truly is paradise, except for July-August-September when it's hotter'n hades and we just stay inside in the AC. 

Today's my son's birthday. I made the traditional lasagna he always got on his birthday. It was terrific. His dad made him one at home too, and I talked to them all on video-call. Not the same, but felt good.

Cooked all day for that and for upcoming holiday celebrations. We have good friends here, feels almost like family sometimes. Mitigates my annual holiday blues.

Yesterday I ordered this, it'll be the topper on my Christmas tree:
Haven't been making any art, feeling exhausted and self-isolating up til now. Netflix. I do feel that lifting lately, so hope to begin again. Ordered myself a Flamingos Paint-By-Number for Christmas!









Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Guesthouse

Just realized I never blogged about our guesthouse. I actually rarely blog at all anymore, as most of my friends and family know it all any way.

We used to have an RV out on the pad for guests, but got rid of it when we bought a mobile home in Minnesota for summers. This left us with just a one-bedroom house with no guest accommodations. Not that we ever have guests, but IN CASE, we built a guesthouse.

Actually, Buddha built it. This is Buddha, real name Luis.
We had him build it on top of our garage, with just a vague floorplan we made, plus a covered deck overlooking the ocean view.
Garage far left


We had him make it out of lladrillos, an adobe-like local brick. What I didn't understand until much later is that lladrillos are not waterproof, and we'd have stucco covering the outside. I thought I'd be looking at a rustic brick exterior. Oh well.
It took a year. Buddha works kind of slowly, plus finances demanded the work proceed as the money came in. Here are some in-progress photos.

Lovely rustic brick, alas, had to get covered up.


As you see, there were huge swaths of concrete on my lovely rustic brick interior, which I wasn't happy with. So I showed Buddha some google images of the "Exposed Brick" concept of decor. He got it perfectly, although it seemed to cement his opinion of me as a crazy gringa.

So here's what we ended up with. You can click on them to enlarge for more detail.







View from the deck!



Ta-DA!


Still needs floor covering, that's just the concrete garage roof. We furnished it on a dime, all Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace stuff. Plus stuff I made: counter skirts, shower curtain, kitschy stuff for the walls. It's already been christened, when Ron's daughter Caprice and her husband Don visited us in April.

Sleeps 4 with the futon and bed. Tiny minimal kitchen, propane cooker with oven, shelves behind counter skirting. Tiny fridge under counter. Tiniest toilet I ever saw since kindergarten. Best view in the hood. Bringing home a normal table and chairs from Minnesota next month, the set that's there is made from pallets and is supremely uncomfortably stiff and heavy. With exposed nails. Also a big dresser with mirror to go next to front door where the smoking cat picture is, and a small corner TV stand (and TV) for corner of living area by the patio door.

Will install a minisplit AC unit upon our return, and do something to boost our wifi signal from the house because currently you can only get a signal when kneeling on the sofa by the window.

This guesthouse isn't a guesthouse as in "Accommodations for Rent". It's for close friends and family only, people that would probably be sharing meals next door with us, and spending time with us. I'd be too embarrassed to have strangers there with its minimal comforts. Family and close friends, sure, because they love us.

Loads of thanks to friends who helped with donated cast-offs and bargains: Tunkes, Parkers, Bensons, Patricia, Cathie, and of course Marisela.