A Fireside Chat?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Life on the road in an RV or Sardines on the move!

Cath just stepped on several of my toes. She said that she was trying to miss them. . .imagine if she had been aiming!

After six weeks, Gertie the motor home is getting small. Initially, opening a cupboard and getting cracked in the head with a coffee cup was mildly funny in a Keystone Cop sort of way. But tonight after six weeks in this mini house on wheels my sense of humor is being stretched to its raving point.

I was walking back with my laundry late this afternoon when I noticed a man standing on a ladder cleaning the bug bodies from the windshield of his motor home. I thought to myself that that was probably a good idea and that maybe I should do the same but alas: about the only thing that I don’t have on board is a ladder. And that’s not just an excuse; I would really love to chisel away one body in particular . . . the one whose eyes are now peering at me from the windshield, a grim reminder of what can happen if you fly into oncoming traffic. Maybe I should just leave it there as a warning to other insects on a road trip: FLY HIGH.

Another guy that I noticed today was a man standing by a huge rig playing with a satellite dish. I’m not sure why he was bothering because in this park all you have to do is plug in the cord for your cable and voila: TV! Anyway he was there when I went to the laundry room to start my wash and he was still fiddling with it two hours later when I returned. All the while I had been sitting in the air conditioned lounge adjacent to the laundry room watching Oprah on the big screen!

After Oprah the news came on. By that time I was folding towels and didn’t pay a lot of attention to the first report which was about two people found dead in an RV. My first thought was that they were probably fatally injured after opening a cupboard while not wearing a helmet.

Well I should go change the bandages on my toes now. I do so with a certain joyful delirium over our good fortune as we head back to sandal country!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Like driving into a mural

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We have temporarily left the land of Hola, Buenos Dias, Tarde & Noches for the country of: “Yall Come back now . . . ya hear?” And at last night’s camp ground, after giving up my search for a dumpster I was told: “Yall just did not wok fer nuf; it’s just down the hill a piece an to your royt. Ya kin see it poking out just a bitty piece down the road cher”. I looked; and there it was “yonder under the Mimosa”.

Soon we should be dismissed with a toothy “yall have a nice day now . . . ya hear?” But it doesn’t matter so much what is said, or in which language, the sincerity behind the delivery of the message has a way of transcending all the obstacles that lie in the path of comprehension.

Along the way we have had some minor problems: we were lost a couple of times and we had a broken wire leading to the signals on our toad (towed HHR) and with every incident we have been fortunate to find help and advice from people who took the time to see us though the dilemma of the day. It has been said, and we have been warned that travel can be dangerous, and we don’t underestimate the need to be vigilant, but I do believe in the goodness of human nature and just as the last time we took this long drive, we have been helped along the way by the kindness of strangers.

We have just checked into a Mount Vernon Illinois camp park and it has laundry facilities and cable TV and the big bonus is that it is cooler. Cath is having a shower and I’m next. After that I don’t know if I should do the laundry or watch TV . . . it’s wonderful to have such choices after nearly a week on the road!

For your viewing pleasure (I hope) I am going to add a few pictures taken on the road leaving Mexico. I apologize for the blur but it is almost impossible to take a shake free picture while driving down the road!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Packed and Almost Ready to Roll

I noticed, moments ago, that it was twelve forty in the morning. I was standing in the shower at that time and glanced at my watch when I felt the familiar bump of the watch band while lathering up. I hope the watch is waterproof; it’s special; it says congratulations on the back and it is dated June 10th, 1992: the day that I graduated from University. It was a gift from my Mom & Dad and I have barely had it off my arm since then.

I have never worn a watch in the shower before but I’m chalking it up to the last straw in a week of set backs as we tried to get ready for the big trip north. We had planned to be gone a week ago but Gertie (the motor home) didn’t pass muster and to save you the long and boring details suffice to say that a thousand dollars later we still have no cabin lights unless we are plugged into shore power. However we do have three new batteries, an oil change for both car and motor home, radiator flush and new antifreeze plus a bath and wax for Gertie.

After several days Sal (our mechanic) called to say that she was ready to be picked up. He and his family had washed and waxed every inch of her and detailed the engine; it probably wasn’t this clean when it left the factory. The makeover only lasted about twenty four hours before Cath had a close encounter with the gate to the colonos. The bad news is that we will be looking to replace the strut for the awning when we get home. The good news? . . . now the gate guys run to open the gate wider when they see us approaching!

I was ready to start packing when we went to town for a few last minute things and decided to go out for lunch. We are always so careful and even as we were sitting at our table trying to decipher the menu and tamp down the grass around our feet, we were thinking that it might be best to order nothing more than a bottled drink and leave. It wasn’t that things didn’t appear clean. On the contrary, it was sparkling, but we did wonder about the source of the water and whether it was treated (gringonized) before vegetables etc. were washed. But we looked at the guy’s seven kids and decided that he needed the business and so we stayed.

Long story short: I have met the amoeba and it is an ugly beast. Cath had a day of crampiness and nausea but I ate the salad. For three days I got absolutely nothing done and so I went to see the Doctor today and I now have pills and some pea green liquid to drink three times a day. I can walk upright now and it is possible to pass a bathroom without any inclination to pay a visit.

Carpe Diem. Seize the friggin day! When we left the doctor’s office we grabbed a couple of piñatas for the kids and headed home to start piling everything in Gertie and to get the car hooked up to be towed. Everything was going well until we blew the fuse on our brake buddy (I hope Sal is up early tomorrow). And then right on time the thunder started and three of four dogs started following me around, drooling on my legs, vibrating etc. I should have paid more attention, been more sympathetic but I was pushing for a close to the day so that I could get some sleep before we leave.

When I finally went in to turn down the bed before my shower someone had peed right smack in the middle of my bed. So now I am waiting for the laundry to dry so that I can re-make the bed that I changed earlier this morning. I did ask, in not too humble a tone WHO DID THIS? Lizzie looked the guiltiest but Cayden is often nonchalant about these indiscretions, so I will never know and in the end who cares?

We are finally one fuse away from heading down the road and perhaps all of the incidents of the past week will wipe the slate of retribution clean before we start out. It just seems that no matter how much order we try to bring to a plan there is always reprisal whereas flying by the seat of one’s pants seems to go without penalty!

As many of you know we are coming home to help my Mom get moved into her new apartment and to attend my Dad’s memorial service. It is going to be a tight schedule but we are hoping that we might see everyone at Tim’s for at least a short visit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Small Patio Big Mess

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Building the Boveda Ceiling is an art form

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Work on the Studio Extension

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Swallow's Nests

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I've Grown Accustom to this Place . . .

I was walking with Cayden this morning and at some point I realized: HEY! I’m living in Mexico!

I suppose that seems incomprehensible to some that I should suddenly have this epiphany nine months after we made the big move but though the thought comes infrequently and unexpectedly it always comes at me like a curveball, hitting me upside the head when I least expect it. This morning’s “ball to brain” came from the many, many radios playing all over the neighborhood.

It wasn’t that long ago that I would have noticed and made note whether the music was Mexican or 1980’s Gringo as soon as I stepped out the door; sooner if the volume was high enough on our friend and gardener Ricardo’s radio. Although in the case of Ricardo I wouldn’t have had to listen . . . Ricardo always listens to Gringo songs. Maybe it is to improve his English which is already quite good and leaps and bounds ahead of my Spanish.

But this morning as we walked along I was thinking of the dozens of swallows that keep trying to nest up under the eaves of our house. Is that what they call it here? Eaves? I don’t know -- but anyway we have had to go around most mornings and knock down the mud ball foundations that the swallows keep building because we are having an extension built (yes renovating already) onto the studio and the place that the swallows have chosen to raise their off spring is currently a human construction zone.

This morning as I walked along, enjoying the sun on my shoulders, listening to the birds sing and the “rain birds” (Scarabaedae?) screech a warning of impending rain I suddenly noticed that all around me there were radios blaring Mexican music. I have grown so accustomed to the sounds of Mariachi that it no longer sounds foreign and I do believe that once you begin to take something for granted you are home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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Swine Flu

I guess the last man standing get’s all the groceries. Yesterday we helped two more of our friends get ready to head north by taking all of their groceries!

In the last few weeks we have inherited all sorts of delicacies from one Gringo pantry or another. I’m liking this end of the season bounty. We have some asiago, camembert and blue cheese, and many varied and exotic salad dressings. We have Bailey’s with a hint of crème caramel (reportedly good on ice cream) and crèma de macadamia con café (we need more ice cream). We’ve got containers of crescent rolls, peanuts, rice chips, more mayo . . . pie shells, bananas, raspberries, chicken and frozen vegetables.

So maybe we can skip the market this week which would be disappointing. I love the energy of the market. The noise, the music, the colour and even the elbow to elbow shopping experience conducted in both broken English and attempted Spanish is enjoyable. For Cath and me the coup d'état of market day in Mexico is the stuff that leads to yodeling and chest pounding when we have successfully managed to infiltrate a sea of humanity, grab some fruits and vegetables and live to talk about it!

But now in view of the fact that much of the population is hiding behind blue masks and avoiding contact with one another maybe we ought to exercise a little caution until the swine flu scare is over.

I’ve been listening to CNN the last couple of days and the bulletins that they keep releasing makes it seem like Swine Flu will turn out to be the forerunner to Armageddon and eventually we will all be shaking our heads from the grave saying: “I guess I should have stayed home with my mask on”.

Maybe it is just me but I am considering yesterday’s numbers of one hundred and forty nine dead in Mexico and trying to decide what that figure means to my household. The reporting is nothing less then sensational and misleading when you run the numbers. And, oh, by the way: those cases are overwhelmingly in Mexico City and as of yesterday the cause of death for the one hundred and forty nine souls was not confirmed. These are two facts often omitted from the CNN reports.

At last count the metropolitan area of Mexico City exceeded nineteen and a half million people while the city itself is estimated to have more than 8.8 million permanent residents. Anyone who knows me realizes that math is not my strong point but I do believe that when you consider the statistics and combine them with several hundred miles of separation, the odds of us avoiding Swine Flu are in our favor.

For friends and family who are worrying about Cath and me I can only say: don’t. We are healthy and doing what has been advised by cooler heads: keeping our hands washed, and avoiding crowds and if it becomes necessary we will purchase masks. So far there are no reported cases Lakeside but should that change we can just stay home and ride it out. After all the larder is full to capacity!
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting Back to Normal

Ok. As many of you have pointed out: it has been awhile.

I started this blog for family and friends who were interested in keeping up with our move to Mexico but mostly I started it for Mom and Dad to help them over their reservations about our move here. I thought that if I could show them pictures and describe our surroundings that they would come to appreciate our home and location as something perfectly safe and acceptable.

After Dad died I kind of lost heart in the project, especially since Mom hasn’t got much of an interest in the internet. I know that she could handle the internet just as she has mastered her serger (it cuts and sews?), intricate quilt patterns and argyle socks! These accomplishments are all self taught; she is amazing and the most remarkable thing about that is that she doesn’t have any idea how impressive she is.

Anyway this isn’t about my Mom and it isn’t about my lost Dad . . . it is just an explanation for the long silence. First off I didn’t have much to say (I still don’t) and secondly without Dad to open the blog for Mom I didn’t think that there was much reason to carry on with it. But, apparently it has been missed and for those faithful few who are still looking, on occasion for updates, I will try to be more conscientious.

It has been two and a half months since my Dad died. In all of that time I have not been able to convince my Mom to come and stay with us for awhile. She has been determined to get things settled at home, and to make the adjustment to living on her own without delay. I admire her tenacity and her courage and I have to support her in this decision but I do miss her and I do hope that she might be ready to return with us next fall when we are heading back after a visit home.

In the meantime we have really started to settle in and make this home. Years ago, a friend of ours called and instructed us to rent The Money Pit. He was laughing so hard that he couldn’t breathe but after a few snorts he managed to tell us that the movie was about Cath and me and our infamous house renovations. Well . . . after watching the movie I have to agree: Shelly Long and Tom Hanks seem to have been acting out our lives.

With that in mind we have decided that we will do the painting and decorating but we will get estimates from people who know what they are doing for the plumbing, electrical and brick laying. The nice part is that we don’t actually have to do any of these things but, although things are fine as they are, we have some improvements in mind and so we are off! I’m sure that you are asking why I would mention any of this in the blog but for those of you who know us best it is a sure sign, when we start renovating that we are getting back to normal!

I've added some pictures below as proof that even when your heart skips a few beats . . . life goes on and we are all doing well.

A Really Big Bug!

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Geese Louise

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Cath on the "Berry Road" with Hadley

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Ayelish and Cayden

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Me with our friend, Janet

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Cath at Janet's concert

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Clean for a Minute

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Thank You

Today I was washing the car. I don’t think that I have ever washed a car before. My solution to a dirty vehicle is to run it through a car wash when it is really disgusting.

Ordinarily I keep the car covered with a thin layer of dirt to protect it from the dust but once in awhile we give in to the army of squeegee kids who haul buckets of water around parking lots waiting for a dust bunny on wheels to arrive so that they can earn a few dollars while the driver shops, eats or whatever.

Anyway the car has been washed a couple of times since our arrival in Mexico, but due to the dust we usually don’t bother. What’s the point? We no sooner have it all shiny and then we drive down the road in that cloud of dust that follows us (everyone) every where, and before we reach our destination the car is once again covered in silt.

Today it is just past a week since my Dad died and it was one of those restless days where I just couldn’t settle into anything. On the hundredth time, when I looked out the front door, I finally noticed what a disgrace the car was.

Now I can not leave the house without my four bad girls so I put all of them into the car so that they could lick the windows while watching quietly, instead of standing at the front door barking, or worse: fighting. I got a bucket, sponge and hose and set to work. It was somewhat therapeutic having something to do and as I worked away at picking the bug bodies off of the windshield and blasting the mud from the wheel wells, I eventually tuned into a sound that I have been subconsciously listening to all day.

There is a huge gathering of people over at the club; I think that there may be a soccer tournament there as periodically kids of all ages have walked past the house kicking soccer balls or passing them back and forth. But what I heard this afternoon was music and singing, and though I could not understand the Spanish song it was certainly a joyous celebration of some sort and I couldn’t help but be reminded that life goes on.

I am still shaking my head over my Dad’s death, but clearly I have so much to be thankful for . . . too many blessings to examine one by one at this late hour, but probably none more important than the many friends who have enveloped my family with warmth and kindnesses this week.

I did not return for my Dad’s funeral because I knew that there was really nothing I could do for Dad. It was a difficult decision to stay here but in the end I recognized that it would be more important for me to wait until things settle and see if I can’t convince my Mother to join us in Mexico for the rest of the winter.

My Dad was so concerned about what would happen to Mom when he was gone and I had promised him on more than one occasion that we would all look after her. My greatest regret to date is that we could not bring my Dad here, but now that he is gone Cath and I are hoping that my Mother will join us so that we can take care of her for the rest of the winter, while she recovers from the demands of the last few months of caring for my Dad.

I am sorry that I missed you at the funeral home last week. But I am so grateful for everyone who ventured out into the cold to visit with my family. You will never know how much I appreciate the love and support. It is one of my most recognized blessings that during my life I have met some of the kindest, most considerate people and I am so grateful. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on Dad

The morning that my Dad died, Cath was sitting in the studio and she noticed a small bird that she had not noticed in our garden before. It was a small black bird with a brilliant orange beak and orange tips on its wings.

At about the same time I was looking out at the front gardens and noticing all of the new blooms and for a moment I was overwhelmed with such a strong sense of my Dad's presence that I knew at once that my dreams of bringing him to Mexico, where we live now, had become a reality. He was here with us. He lingers still.

I recognize that my Dad's body was worn out and that try as he might to keep it functioning it became increasingly harder for him to maintain his life's work as husband, father, grandfather, friend, advisor, caretaker and so many other roles that he played throughout his life. It was time to give up his earthly existence so that from heaven he might still watch over all of us.

With his passing those of us whom he loved without reservation are charged with the simplest task of keeping his spirit alive through remembering. Memory will be aided, if we allow it, by the feeling of that first warm breeze of spring on our faces as we look towards the sunshine, the source of all renewal. He will be behind the force that stands the hair on the back of your neck when you witness extraordinary, often impossible, events that have the capacity to move the human spirit in solitary celebration. I believe that these moments are gifts of life sent to us by those departed souls who have loved us in life. They are sent in forms that the muses of music, poetry, art, and humor would approve to still us for a moment as we absorb the message: I am still here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Never without a camera!

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My Dad 1924 - 2009

This morning, January 23, 2009, after a life well lived, Howard Duncan Miller left us to take up his place in heaven following a courageous battle with failing health.

Howard was a Veteran who served his country during WWII with the Canadian Navy, and was later employed by Imperial Oil until his retirement. He was an amateur photographer who spent much of his free time on the banks of the St. Clair River, in all kinds of weather, photographing the freighters that sailed the great lakes.

He is survived by his much loved and devoted wife, Jean and his children: Jennifer and Cathy Broderick-Miller, Jacquie and Fred Jackson, Marlene and David Black, Michael and Lona Miller, and Mary Miller and Michel L'Heureux. He is also survived by his grandchildren: Derek & Darryl Jackson, Amanda Madere, Catherine and Justine Miller, Mathieu & Brianne L’Heureux and 10 great grandchildren and Emma the cat.

About forty years ago the Beatles released "Yellow Submarine". It was our Dad's favorite song at the time and although he did not sing, at least not in front of people, he could often be heard whistling the tune: "So we sailed up to the sun till we found the sea of green and we lived beneath the waves in our yellow submarine. . ."

He is now free to sail to the sun and though it pains us to say goodbye we are grateful for an end to his suffering. We are all stronger for having witnessed the courage, the loyalty and the love my parents shared particularly in these last few years when Dad struggle with failing health.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Romance Language Goes to the Dogs or Romancing el Perro

I believe that Spanish qualifies as one of the recognized Romance Languages as it has its roots in Latin. In any case Ayelish, our second youngest Wheaten, has become enchanted with the Spanish speaking Veterinarians at the clinic where she has become a weekly visitor.

By now I am sure that many of you know that Ayelish had a cancerous tumor removed the week before Christmas and started chemo immediately after. I hasten to add that her prognosis, with chemo, is very good and although it breaks our hearts every week while we sit with her during her treatment, she seems to be handling it well with few side effects. She will not loose her hair and other than a restless night the day of chemo, and some feverishness she is holding up well under treatment.

But for those of you who know “Ayelish the Nut” you would be amazed at the changes in her demeanor. Until recently her most notable characteristics were trembling or hiding behind either Cath or I, or at the very least looking as if, given the chance, she might skidder off to hide under a table or behind a chair at the approach of a stranger. These traits have not vanished entirely but nevertheless I have often wondered these last weeks if her Mexican veterinarians have preformed a lobotomy on the girl during the removal of her tumor.

When we first decided to pursue the chemo therapy option I worried that she might have to be sedated before each session. This was necessary before her surgery to keep her calm before they got started. I expressed my concerns and reminded the vet of her neurosis and her fear of EVERYTHING and he quickly, and kindly, invited us to stay for the treatment and has allowed her to sit in her stroller for the hour long session.

Now, each week, Ayelish sits in her stroller under the spell of a wonderful technician who administers the potion that will hopefully make her well again, and speaks to her in Spanish while stroking her face. And all the while mi muchacha Hermosa sits attentive, romanced by the softly spoken Spanish words of encouragement; she gazes into their eyes with a look of absolute trust while Cath and I fight tears.
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This is MY Giraffe and I don't want it Packed!


Soon to be Our Home on Wheels