Ch Ch Changes. Time May Change Me, but I Can’t Change Time. Time Remains the Same.

Even though San Miguel is changing and growing, you can still see things like the scene in this photo. These are the things I love most about being here.

Things are going to change. Either they change, or they die. This applies to almost everything, but it especially applies to places. FaceBook certainly proved that this morning. Within 5 minutes I saw a post from a friend and neighbor in Nashville. The post was complete with sickening photo of a beautiful old home being scraped away by a bulldozer.
That teardown is going on very close to the house where Fred and I lived together for about 35 years. We renovated that house and we loved it. We had wonderful times there with wonderful friends. When we returned from a six month trip in Mexico in 2014-15, we realized how much Nashville was changing, and how fast. We got it why you would love the “New Nashville” if it suited you. We also realized that it didn’t suit us anymore, for a number of reasons.
We also knew that one really good thing about this kind of change was that we could sell our house (which had dramatically increased in value since Fred bought it, thanks to not only our work, but in large part to the booming real estate market in Nashville) and buy a new place in Mexico. Honestly, the main reason we left was because we wanted to have the experience of living in a different country. I had felt for years that living in Mexico was part of the grand plan for our lives. In retrospect, I believe that being in Mexico literally did save my life. I made a big commitment when I decided to stay here for some extremely important health care. That’s how sure I was about being in Mexico.
This change was huge. We sold our house, cars, and a ton of stuff, and headed South. The commitment was made, and we knew we wouldn’t turn back.
As things tend to go, we chose to move to a Mexican town that is also experiencing growing pains. (Being declared “the best city in Latin America” by Conde Nast does have an effect on things). The weekends are jammed with tourists, mostly from other places in Mexico, and the traffic is intense. More new people from the US and elsewhere are showing up, and some of them are staying. More and more upscale restaurants and shops are opening. And, it is getting really hard to get a cab. These are changes that I have seen since we started coming here in 2010. Some of the expats who have been here for years are not happy about these developments. The town has changed, and will likely change more. I love it here, and while I know our friends here sincerely love us, I sometimes get a little uncomfortable about all that “too many new people” stuff in general. Even though I know my personal friends don’t feel that way about us, it is unsettling to realize (based on FaceBook comments) that a few people really do resent new people coming in and somehow changing their town.
Look…I wish I had had a crystal ball. Believe me, if I had, we would have been here much, much sooner. One thing I have done a few times in my life is to wait too long to make needed changes, because sometimes it’s easier to complain than to change. Sometimes I need a change in my attitude, sometimes I need a change in my situation. I applaud anyone who figures out how to make a major move so that they can live where they will be happy. Many people are very unhappy with where they live. If you are at a place in life where you still need to earn an income, it’s even harder to figure out. So, to people who managed to make it work before they retired, right on. I would encourage anyone who feels like they want to do a new thing to do it. Life is short. Make yourself happy. Just know that other people are trying to be happy, too. And know that no matter where you decide to go, if it’s attractive, it’s definitely going to grow and change. I imagine that 15 years ago San Miguel was already growing and changing, just at a slower pace. And so was Nashville. For that matter, so was New York.
Nothing is really preventable about growth and change. It just doesn’t always suit us. We knew that the changes we were seeing in Nashville weren’t suiting us. We could stick around and bitch and get bitter, or try something different. We decided to try something different. We had to be pretty motivated to do this and we are happy that we did. As to people who are bitching…as far as I’m concerned…not my monkeys, not my zoo.

In the past year, so many things are happening in the USA that don’t suit me that I know even more and without a doubt that we made the right decision. I am very happy to be alive and well in Mexico. Since I left the US I have grown more and more detached and that has been very healthy for me. I could bitch all day and all night, but what I really did was say goodbye.

The Short List for Staying Sane and Well in the face of Real Trouble

(This is the third in a series of posts about my own experience with cancer. The photos used in this series have no direct connection with the text. They are just random pictures taken during this time of my life. I claim no expertise. This is just about my own personal experience, and what it was like for me.)

After my previous post, When It Hits the Fan, I have had questions about what the alternative therapies were that I used in addition to chemo and radiation. I plan to write in more depth about most of this, but I am going to go ahead and answer that question for those who are curious, and possibly don’t have time to wait around for me to write about each specific thing.

I did many things, and I am not sure how it all worked. I do think that all the things I did worked together. I did 6 rounds of chemo that were three weeks apart. I started most of the alternative things in the four weeks between the surgery and the beginning of chemo. I can’t explain why I chose these specific things. I simply did what made sense to me. After the chemo, I had a scan that showed no cancer and my liver restored to health. I then had 25 rounds of radiation over a five week period and a two night stay in hospital for one last blast. I did the radiation as a preventative measure.
Here are the alternative things I did during chemo and radiation. Most of these things I will continue to do to maintain health. I will write more detail later, in future posts.
–I did a diet that is designed to starve cancer cells. I highly recommend the book that was written by Mike Herbert, Stay Healthy During Chemo. It is available through Amazon.com. Mike is a nutritional doctor who lives here in San Miguel, and his advise is extremely helpful. The diet was very strict and I followed it with no exceptions. Basically, I gave up all sugars (including alcohol and high glycemic foods) all dairy, and the only meat I ate was fish. I eliminated soy from my diet. The only fats allowed are healthy ones. No processed foods. No coffee. I will continue this diet permanently. I have added some more fruit since finishing all the treatments. Also, I eat a white potato now and then, if I want it. But no breads that aren’t whole grains. Brown rice instead of white. And, still, no processed foods. One side effect of this diet is that I have lost weight. I am presently trying to gain a bit of weight…never thought I’d be saying that in my adult lifetime.
–Acupuncture. I did this at least once a week. It really helped with any side effects I was having. I will continue to do this every other week for maintanence.
–I found massages to be very helpful for dealing with stress.
–Supplements. I take a very good supplement program, also put together by a nutritional doctor. Your healthy cells need all the support they can get. I will continue to work with this program, with whatever changes are recommended to maintain health.
–Craniosacral Therapy. This was extremely important to help me cope emotionally.
I have found this therapy so beneficial that I plan to continue with it.
–There is some herbal medication that I am sure you are aware of. It has been a mainstay for me and approved of by the all the traditional medicine doctors  I had, as well as alternative specialists. I have used it medicinally in the form of oil and also brewed as a tea.
–Blue scorpion venom. There has been a lot of work done with this in Cuba. It might be possible to buy it online if you live in the States. I get it from Mexico City. I take it 4 times a day. I will continue to take it indefinitely, as a preventative. It does not interfere with traditional treatments, and has no side effects.
–Soaking baths. These came from Mike Herbert’s book. It involves sitting in a hot bath for 45 minutes. I added  1 cup salt and 1 cup baking soda to the hot bath water. Sometimes I added a bottle of apple cider vinegar. The whole point is to sweat in order to detox. It always helped. I wasn’t allowed to do this during radiation, and I really missed it. The doctor was concerned about the hot water causing burns.
–Coffee enemas. There are videos about this. Make your own decision. I resisted this one, but I think it was very valuable. These work to detox the liver. I did this twice a week during chemo. I wasn’t allowed to do it during radiation, because of the location in my body of the radiation.
–Fasting. I fasted for 24 hours before and 24 hours after each chemo treatment. There is research that convinced me to do this. The point is that the chemo will work more effectively if your body isn’t processing food, and you will have fewer side effects. I did this for the first 5 treatments. I ate just a little with the 6th one, because I was concerned about losing more weight.
–Dealing with myself, also known as meditation, visualization, and prayer.  Lots of that. I also avoided (like the plague) any person or information that I found negative. This is a great time in your life to be very selfish. You don’t have to worry about hurting someone’s “feelings.” This is not about them. It is about you, staying alive.
I researched all the things I did and they made sense to me. I believed that they were what I needed to do, and that made it easy to do them. Once I “set my course” I stayed on it. I got through the chemo without any terrible side effects. I had a few days when I didn’t feel well but I was never incapacitated. I managed to maintain a reasonable social life, and was involved in getting settled in to a new home, not to mention a new country. The radiation was harder in some ways, because the food restrictions during radiation that affects the digestive system are rigid. No fats whatsoever. I did well for the first three weeks, but then for the last two I did experience being very tired. But, I bounced back pretty quickly. It has now been three weeks since my final radiation. I have a very healthy appetite and I feel very good. In fact, I feel like a brand new me.
Again, I am no expert. This is only my own experience and the things I did. I hope some of this is helpful to someone who reads it. It is a troubling experience, but not as bad, at least for me, as I had feared.

I am an Immigrant.

Lots of things to process lately. I had promised to stay off FaceBook and all US tv news. Have done extremely well with the news. I’m not even reading many articles in the New York Times to do with the election. But, I have spent time on FaceBook, and I have found some comfort in seeing how so many like-minded people are feeling. And, I see people  on FaceBook who are feeling the same things I’m feeling. But, the thing I see that I am not feeling is physical fear. From my friends who are not straight, white men, I sense a great deal of fear, all the way from a general uneasiness, which we are all feeling, to a serious fear for their physical safety. I think the fears are very real, and not without cause. I see reports also on FaceBook and NY Times, of protests all over the country. I see large groups of white people trying to communicate to the world, “Hey, we aren’t all assholes.”

I don’t know what I would do if I were there. We did not leave the USA for any political reason. We simply did it because we both realized, at just about the same time, that we wanted to live in Mexico…that we desperately needed a change (and, boy! did we get one!), and that while the “New Nashville” was coming on groovy, it really wasn’t the place where we wanted to spend our “golden years.” I am very thankful that Mexico has welcomed us. I do not really see myself as an expat…that seems to imply that i am no longer something that I used to be. I don’t think that is the case. I haven’t changed as much as I have simply moved on. I’m an ex lots of things, but patriot is not one of them.

We started coming to Mexico about 25 years ago, and I was never ready to leave. It finally reached a point, towards the end of my work career, that I realized I was basically waiting all year for 3 weeks in this country. I can’t say what it is that I love so much about this place. What ever it is, that feeling hasn’t changed after living here for a year.  I was seriously wanting to spend more time in Mexico, and had inserted a two week summer trip into our work calendar, along with the 3 weeks in the winters on the beach. The summer trips were to take us to the interior of Mexico, and we saw a style of life there that felt very manageable.

Retirement was not easy for me. I knew without doubt that I had done enough, but it was still the thing that I was identified by in Nashville. I felt that once I stopped doing what I did, people just didn’t know what to do with me. It was a very uncomfortable time for me. I was ambivalent about so many things. One of the beautiful things about just hauling off to another country is that nobody really cares what you “used to do.” Your identity is totally based on how they perceive you. Anyone who is looking for a location for the next act of their life should really consider a move.

We continued to travel to Latin America after we retired. We had a 6 week twirl in Costa Rica and Panama; not for us. We felt we needed to check out a little something other than Mexico, but after that trip we developed an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude. So, our next big adventure was a 6 month drive, the entire length of the country. We spent 3 1/2 of those months in San Miguel, because we were already very attracted to it.We could see ourselves living in San Miguel.The underlying purpose of this trip was to decide for sure where we wanted to spend 6 months a year. We wanted to check out Oaxaca City and San Cristobal de las Casas, too.

Our plan at that time was to spend 6 month a year in Nashville and 6 month a year in Mexico. By the time we drove the length of Texas, heading back to Nashville, we were both realizing that would be kind of a hard job. Plus, finding rentals that take dogs is a bit harder than a regular rental. And, not to mention, the bright idea we had about renting out our house while we traveled turned really dismal. We both agreed it was a  “never again” on that plan. We were very fortunate to have our Nashville house sell, and sell fast. (Thanks Keith and Jonny). And, of course, it was a much more valuable place than it had been in 1977, when Fred bought it.

We could see from all angles that the 6 month here, 6 months there thing was not going to work. We could sell our Nashville house and budget enough to get a nice house in San Miguel, or we could split the money from the sale and buy a place in Nashville that we wouldn’t like and a house in San Miguel that wouldn’t suit us either. Or, we could go for the whole enchilada and just move to Mexico and live here year round. We were totally unified in our decision, and that made it all much easier. So, we sold our house, much of our belongings, gave many things away, and by some feat of magic cleaned out the attic and basement. Then all the work of packing what we intended to take, and setting up all the details of the move was combined with getting the house ready to go on the market. This was a huge deal, and a real Murphy’s Law situation. By the time we actually got out of the house and handed over the keys my brain was fried. Things were getting extremely real.

Again, we didn’t come here because of trump. Or, because we don’t like the USA, or any of those reasons. We came because we simply love the simple life in Mexico. It feels good here to us. I love walking out the door and being in another country. I love walking down the street and not having everyone I see look just like me. I love hearing a new language, and I even love trying to speak it. I know Mexico has problems. I have no interest in Mexican politics, which is good since I am not a citizen of Mexico. For my own well-being I am very glad to have already moved to Mexico. I support all of you who are tin the US right now and feeling this election on a deep, personal level. Each one of us will have to deal with this chapter however we deal. I trust all my friends in USA to know what is right for them to do. Follow your own inner guidance.  Stay alert, and walk towards the light.

[Note: the photos I use with this series of posts may or may not actually relate to the post.]

 

Turn the Page

Our wonderful real estate agents Keith Merrill and Jonny Gleaton put this sign in the yard this morning. This house has been like a friend to me. I have lived here since 1980, and we have devoted so much energy into working on this house while we have been here. The changes have been gradual, mainly happening between 1995 and 2003. The result of each phase has pleased us, and this house has really been our home. But, even though all those things are very true, we are ready to begin a new chapter of our lives in a different place. When we came back to Nashville in April we started to seriously think in a deliberate way about how we wanted to go forward with our future. We both realized that we are ready to live full-time in Mexico, and that is the plan that makes the most sense. Since we are so ready to do this, the sacrifices that have to happen do not feel like a hardship. Of course, we will miss not only this lovely house, but many friends here that we really enjoy,  but the need for this adventure has overshadowed any feelings of nostalgia.

Fred and Pinky and I are really up for it. Once we decided that selling the house as soon as possible was a key to making the rest of the plan work, we spent most of the late spring and summer getting the house in tip-top shape. It took lots of work to clear out decades of stuff that we really don’t want. Everyday was a challenge –bring things down from the attic and go through them, rent a PODS, and have workers in the house constantly. Every drawer, every cabinet, every closet had to be dealt with. Every bookcase and hidey-hole had to give up its secrets. We either gave things away, packed what we wanted to take, or decided it needed to be sold. The criteria for what we will take is simple–do we love it? We had a housing inspector come over when we first started talking with Keith about how to do the sale. We worked down his list and got everything as right as we could get it. That part of the move became an obsession with me. I really have loved this house and I wanted to leave it feeling that it had been cherished. Fred shared these feelings. Once things were as perfect as possible, we put the house on the market.

There was never any doubt that Keith Merrill would be our agent when (and if) we were ready to sell. Keith has been a good friend for years, and he has always loved this house. He proved to be extremely good at what he does. Living in a house that is on the market is an unsettling experience. Things have to be kept in spotless condition, with everything in its place, and you have to be ready to clear out whenever the house is to be shown. We were very grateful to our friend, Arnold Myint, for opening his home to us—it became our “hide-out” when the house was being shown.

And then, this Tuesday, it happened. We got a contract. And, the good news is, they seem to love the house in the same way that we do. (We got this report from Keith. We haven’t actually met them.) But, they did ask if they could keep the porch furniture, which made me quite happy. That porch has been a special place for us, and I love to know that the next people are going to use and enjoy it. Fred and I are both pleased with the way this has all gone down, although I have to confess the time factor was a bit hairy. Everything had taken longer than it should have this summer as far as getting things ready. The plan had been to put it on the market July 15, and it actually went on the market August 25. Fred and I had to schedule the movers to come the week of October 5, so we didn’t have much breathing room. There is still so much to do. Now that the house is sold and the showings have stopped, there is more packing to do. When you move to Mexico you can take one truck load of personal things without paying duty. We have to get our Mexican Residency started. We are selling our Mini-Coopers. (That is one of the sacrifices I was talking about.) There will be an estate sale October 15-17 by a professional, so please don’t ask for early viewings, just come early. The miracle of the estate sale is that I don’t have to do anything. They do it all, from pricing to clean-up. I had really, really dreaded that sale.

So, now this busy summer seems ready itself to shift a gear into early fall. The light that is coming through the front window is different than it was in June. I can feel change in the air. I am ready for it—just as soon as I finish this packing.