October – Turkeys and Pink Ribbons

October is not just Canadian Thanksgiving, It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For me they kind of go together.

I cannot believe it’s been a year since I last wrote in my blog.  Today.  Exactly 1 year.  So much has happened in that year.  We continued to deliver food hampers until Christmas and then we moved to delivering soup in the back of a van throughout the neighborhood.  In April we opened Refuge of Hope to children who come every day for meals, school and love.  If you want to know more, check out our Facebook page or website. Lots of stories and photos there!  I got so busy caring for these sweet little ones that I forgot to take time to write about it.  Honestly, I think I forgot to take time to process it much at all.   It was a whirlwind and it was scary and it was so awesome.   Single moms.  Their broken children.  Our desire to keep families together while they found a way to get back on their feet.  A pandemic.  Fundraising.  Hiring staff.    It’s been a lot.

And then out of the blue the diagnosis.  A blindside.  A new journey that I didn’t expect or want and yet I embrace because it’s my new story.

In mid August I went for a regular checkup to a new doctor I had found whose office was right around the corner from my house.  It had been years since I had gone for a checkup and I knew my blood pressure was high and that I had a painful lump in my breast.  The internet told me not to worry – painful lumps are almost always fibroids, seldom cancer. But it was an irritation that needed to be dealt with and I squeezed the appointment in late one afternoon. Dr Susana did all the good doctor things – sent me for some blood tests and a mammogram.  Here in Mexico, there is almost no wait times – I could get a mammogram any day I wanted and I scheduled it for a week later.  There is also little wait time for results.  By the time the test was finished the technician handed me a giant white envelope with the films and the report – things looked suspicious, a biopsy was recommended.  I was not really concerned – there is no cancer in my family and the internet – it said it was a fibroid. 

A week later I saw the doctor who would do the biopsy.  I expected the jab of a long needle but he told me that the mass needed to come out, so he wanted to do surgery.  Do you want it tomorrow or Monday?  Well – Monday I need to be at Refuge of Hope, so let’s do it Saturday.  Tomorrow. 

The surgery went well.  Because of the blood thinners I am on, local anesthesia was out of the question, and they used a general which meant I slept like a baby.  There were a few small complications – the mass was close to the muscle which made it a bit trickier.  My blood pressure didn’t want to come down so Grant had to go home for my meds.  But when I woke up Dr. Chacon told me everything looked good, he wasn’t concerned about the mass.  The sample would go off to Guadalajara for testing and he would send me the results on Thursday via What’s App.  Which is a weird way to get a cancer biopsy result, but Mexico does love What’s App!

On Thursday I heard nothing.  On Friday I heard nothing.  Late that afternoon I sent the doctor a message “You said I would have the results on Thursday and I have heard nothing.  I’m getting nervous…..”   Silence.  Ghosted by my doctor who always answers right away when I text him.  On Sunday afternoon he sent me a message “Sorry I was busy all weekend so I didn’t answer you.  See you at your appointment tomorrow”.  No thumbs up.  No “All’s well”.  No smiley face emoji.  Nothing about the results.    That’s probably not good right?

On Monday afternoon I went to Dr. Chacon’s office.  From the start he was struggling to look me in the eye.  Stumbling over his words.  “Your results….. your results…. Wait let’s look at your incision first.  Oh, very good.  Ok your results.  Oh wait, let’s take out those stitches.  Okay the results.  Well, I can print the results.  Where’s the paper.  Oh, the results…..”   I felt bad for him.  He’s young.  He wants his patients to be okay.  He wants biopsies to be negative and lumps to be fibroids.  So I looked at him “Should I ask my husband to come in?”  “Oh yes please”.  Relief on his face.  A 2 minute reprieve.

We sat at his desk and he looked at us.  “It’s bad.  Your results are bad.  It’s malignant”.  Then he started talking cancer stuff, Spanish and English words flowing together.    Understanding completely evading me.  They would send the tumor for more tests to see what type it was.  I would need more surgery – the margins of the first one were not clear.  I would need radiation.  I would need lymph node biopsies.  I would need to meet with the oncologist.  It was September 13th and I had breast cancer.

A few days later I met with the oncologist and 3 days after that I received the results of the chemical tests.  By What’s App of course.   A whole new vocabulary I was just learning.  Estrogen negative.  Progesterone negative. HER2 positive.  Ki-67 30%.    Aggressive Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.   Fast growing.  Radiation would not be enough.  The recommendation is minimum 6 months chemo, then 16 sessions of radiation. 

5 days later I arrived at the hospital for another surgery.  More lump removal and the lymph node biopsy to find out if it had spread. If they found it had there would need to be brain and bone and lung scans.   By the time I woke up in the operating room the pathologist already had the good news – it had not spread.  It was not in the lymph nodes.  The surgery had removed the cancer.  Unfortunately, because of the aggressive type of cancer and the danger that cells might have been left behind, chemotherapy and radiation are still the recommended treatments.

6 weeks.  From a simple checkup to a second surgery to remove cancer. From spending my evenings searching Pinterest for preschool crafts to days researching cancer terminology and clinics and treatments.  From mornings being dive bombed by hugs from little ones to having to tell them that Tia is a bit sick and can’t pick them up right now.  From planning work trips and Christmas plans to counting the weeks on the calendar to choose the best dates to start treatments. 

Honestly this has been hard.  The day I was in the hospital recovering from surgery, we found out my father-in-law was dying from Covid.  In Canada.  My poor sweet husband, having to choose which hospital bed to sit beside.   

But also, it has been easy.  Because it’s just how life is.  We don’t get to choose the path.  We are tenderly placed on it and when it hits a hard spot, we gather up all that we are and all that we have in our souls and we walk through it.   We gather our people and we ask them to pray because really, we know it’s out of our hands now.  We can’t embrace how wonderful life is and how good God is if we don’t acknowledge that there is also brokenness around us and within us and the goodness surrounds that too. 

Why am I sharing my story here?  Why am I telling strangers about my toughest times?  Because I simply don’t want to hide.  I don’t want to try and remember who knows and who doesn’t and when people say “How are you?”  I don’t want to just say “Fine” and do the fake dance. This is my story today.  I am okay showing my weakness and asking for grace.   I have lots of decisions to make very soon.  I am not committed to the standard treatments being offered.  I am also not scared to look at them and analyze them.  To weight the percentages and prognosis. To look at alternatives. 

So in this October, this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I choose to focus on Thanksgiving, rather than pink ribbons.    On turkey and pumpkins and family and gratitude.  Because the choice is mine and I am truly thankful!

“For the Lord is always good. He’s so loving that it will amaze you— so kind that it will astound you! And he is famous for his faithfulness toward all. Everyone knows our God can be trusted, for he keeps his promises to every generation!” Psalms 100:5 TPT

For Everything, There is a Season

shutterstock_1298850127I have had many people tell me the main reason they couldn’t live in a southern location like Mexico is because they would miss the changing of the seasons.  I know what they mean.  The crocuses and tulips popping through the ground in spring after the many months of cold.  The hot days and nights of summer with vacations and BBQs and lake swims.  The reds and golds and oranges of fall leaves.  The new crisp air and the change of wardrobes from cutoff jeans to long jeans.  From flip flops to sneakers.  Everything pumpkin spice.  And then the inevitable sudden blast of that first snow.  The beautiful frosty trees and the not so welcome blizzards and wind chills and trapped at home snow days.  Life in Canada, especially in Saskatchewan, is defined by the change of the seasons and conversation about the weather.    Good and bad.  So much talk about the weather.

I have learned that here in Mexico there are season changes too – they are just more subtle and don’t look all that much different to the untrained eye of the tourist.  But after a couple of years around the calendar, I now recognize that it is time for the shift.  We are heading into rainy season and the signs are around us.

First is the temperature.  Last week, for the first time in a few months, I felt the trickle of sweat running down my back.   My hair screamed to be tied up on top of my head rather than resting on my skin.  We turned the air conditioner on in our bedroom to give us overnight relief as we slept.   It is getting hotter.  Here in Bucerias, the change in temperature is slight – only a couple degrees higher – but the humidity makes it all feel more uncomfortable.  There is less difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures, so our cement houses just do not cool down.   We are fortunate that our house stays comfortably cool – I can’t imagine those families who live in home with no fans, with thick tarps for walls and roofs.

The dust.  Oh, the dust.  It has not rained since January – and that was only a few drops.  The last real rain was in November – 6 months of closed skies.  The unpaved roads spit out giant clouds of dust every time a vehicle rolls by.   The plants are gasping for air, their leaves completely choked by the fine dirt.  And yet, amazingly, flowers still bloom.  The bougainvileas who don’t love water all that much are in their prime now – thick with every color imaginable.  And the mangoes.  The mangoes are coming! My house has not fared as well.  With windows open for needed breezes, every surface is covered with a thin coat of the fine dust.  As fast as I remove it with my soft microfiber glove, it returns.



So much dust….



And yet…. new life….

Critters emerge.  First the ants.  A couple of weeks ago we sat down for our regular breakfast in the garden and saw a GIANT pile of dirt that had been pushed up through a crack in the pavement overnight.  As we looked closer, we saw hundreds – maybe thousands – of large ants running around the hill they had created.  Coming out from their underground palace.  Some say ants sense when rain is coming.  That they are getting ready to head indoors.  That will NOT be happening in this house my little friends!

toadWe also were visited by a large poisonous cane toad last week – probably looking for water after a long period of winter drought.   As per usual, puppy Nacho needed a 3:00 a.m. visit outside.  I haven’t decided if he really needs to go peepee every night, or if he is just too bored to sleep – I strongly suspect the latter.  But I staggered down the stairs and into the garage to let him out the front door.  I could see something in the stray cat’s food dish which sits in the garage and as I bent down and looked closer, I saw the dangerous cane toad.  Nacho sniffed at is as well which could have been deadly for him.  Cane toads are extremely poisonous and dogs who touch their skin can die within 20 minutes.   Being as it was 3:00 and my superhero protector was snoring deeply upstairs, I found a pail and covered the food dish, leaving it for a morning evacuation by someone other than me.    Unfortunately, when hubby went down in the morning to bravely save his family, the little poisonous darling had escaped and now I live in fear of whether he is long gone or whether he is waiting amongst the garage stuff to reappear.  We have moved all pet food and dishes inside to keep everyone safe, and I am wondering if that was raccoon cat’s plan all along – conquering the final frontier to move from the garage and into our home for good.

The most obvious telltale sign that seasons have changed is the absence of straw hats and palm tree shirts.  The tourists have left. Our town is quiet.  Many restaurants and shops have closed until October.  Our garage is full of unrented golf carts getting bright green makeovers in preparation for fall.   Soon Mexican tourists will begin to arrive on the beaches with their giant coolers and pulsing boom boxes.

accuweather.brightspotcdn.comThese are the signs that tell us that rainy season is almost here.  Hurricane season officially began this week.  There are 19 hurricanes predicted for the Pacific side of Mexico this season.  Living in a bay, we are mostly sheltered from such occurrences, but many of our neighboring communities are at risk.  As the dangers of the hurricanes pass us by, the winds and rains of the accompanying tropical storms will make themselves known.  The clouds have started to roll in.  It is almost time.  Time for the heavens to open and the pounding rains that come quickly and stop just as quickly.  The fun of watching little children dripping with sweat, running around enjoying the cooling waters on their faces.  The deep puddles for jumping in…. and getting stuck in.  The powerful thunderstorms and mesmerizing lightning shows over the ocean.

These are now my signs of the changing of the seasons.   As I think about why that matters, why people love to see the beginning of a new season, I realize that change always brings hope.   A new season means the possibility of a new dream, a new experience, a new start to a difficult chapter.  We are wired to look for crocuses and sunshine and rains.  To rid ourselves of dust and disappointment.  To start again.  So Happy Spring to you up north and Happy Rains to me and my neighbors here!  For everything….. it is time.

To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.
                                                                                          Ecc 3:1-8


We’re in Business


It was exactly 43 months ago that we found a house to rent and started to move our belongings and our lives south.  It was 28 months ago that we signed the final papers to sell our house and our business and became official residents of Mexico.  Since that time, I have continued to work at a distance as a Sport Executive for a Provincial Sport Governing Body in Canada.  I work at my desk most mornings and I don’t think most of my colleagues have really missed me much.  We still talk via email and text and phone and What’s App and Facebook Messenger and Skype almost every day.  I attend meetings or events in Canada 4 times a year. I write a LOT of reports and E Transfer money around to athletes and coaches and volunteers.  The rest of my time is spent volunteering at the local Children’s shelter here in Bucerias – teaching English, serving on the Steering Committee, helping raise funds, and hanging out with really cute – but badly scarred – kids.  Our life here is full and we are loving every bit of it.  In between the work and volunteering, we walk with our crazy puppy on the beach, eat chicken tacos and explore our town on our bright blue golf cart.

But lately Grant has been itching to get back to some kind of work.  He too loves to volunteer with the children, and he can often be found driving truckloads of them to the various surrounding villages or relentlessly pushing them on the swing in the patio.  He has spent the last year working tirelessly to raise funds to help a little deaf boy receive a cochlear implant.  He too has been busy.  But a few months ago, an idea settled in his mind and he has been nurturing this idea through the bureaucracy that is required to create anything in this country.

The idea came to us because every time we are spinning around town in our golf cart, someone stops to ask us where we got it.  Many tourists in our community do not have vehicles and love the idea of having a simple and safe way to get to the restaurants and shops and grocery stores here in Bucerias and in the neighboring community of Nuevo Vallarta.  The cobblestone streets are not easy to walk on and let’s face it – holidays are an excuse to be a bit lazy.

And that is where the idea for Banderas Bay Carts came from.  We had already set up a corporation a few years ago in anticipation of someday building houses here.  How hard could it be to get the company up and running?  It was just a matter of finding some carts; opening a bank account and a Paypal account and a credit card merchant account; creating a logo and color scheme and mascot and getting some business cards and posters and signs printed; creating a website and a Facebook page, and an Instagram page and a Twitter account;  finding an online booking system and GPS tracking systems, securing liability and accident and theft insurance, and hanging out our shingle.  You can imagine that every one of those things came with problems.  Every single one of them.   So much red tape.  Weird regulations.  Some of it still isn’t working great.  And while Grant has always been self-employed, we have never been in the retail business and definitely not in the tourism business.  Basically, we have no clue what we are doing.  But we are doing it!  It took a trip to Texas to buy 6 carts, 3 or 4 trips into Vallarta to government offices, a trip to Tepic just to get a letter stating we didn’t need to go to Tepic, many trips to our bank and to our accountant, 2 or 3 hours on hold with Paypal, and countless conversations with our Insurance broker.  And don’t even talk about all the YouTube videos Grant has watched to learn how to fix those darn things.



But my stubborn hubby didn’t give up and after 2 weeks in business, tonight I pulled up the calendar and I see that we are SOLD OUT!  Rafael just called to rent a cart for tomorrow and the Banderas Bay Carts booking guy (that’s Grant – I’m the Social Media 20190301_084400_resized.jpgguy) had to tell him we have no carts available.    We have bookings into September.  We have an Art Gallery in town acting as an agent and they also have more bookings than they can handle.  It’s still a tiny business.  It’s not exactly going to change the world.  But for Kelly whose husband can’t walk very well, it has meant they can get out of their condo and enjoy the next month of their vacation.  It means families can take their children on real Mexican adventures in a new culture, seeing more than the fake Mexico of an all-inclusive resort.  It’s a service that is welcome here and that is good for us.  It means we can earn enough to allow us to continue to give freely to the little ones we have grown to love so deeply.  It means we can finance the life that we know we have been called to.  And it means that we too can continue to jump in our own cart with our shaggy puppy and be part of the fabric of this town.

And of course, we have ideas to make Banderas Bay Carts better for our customers.  Scavenger hunt maps, and Self-Guided Food Tours and Graffiti Hunts and Art Rides.  Adventures.  Family Fun.  It might mean more long trips to Texas to buy more carts.  More bureaucracy.  More aggravation.  More possibility to fail.  But that is what keeps life fresh and keeps old people young.

So check out Banderas Bay Carts and give us a call next time you’re in town – we’ll take you for a spin and if you’re lucky, we’ll rent you the vehicle to take you to your next great adventure!

The Staycation Solution

One of the strangest things about moving to your favorite vacation spot is that, well, now it’s your home.   Can it still qualify as your favorite vacation spot?  Because generally vacation is the place you go to get away from home.   Dictionary.com says vacation is “an act or instance of vacating”.   But why would I want to vacate my favorite vacation spot?  It is all a bit confusing and this week we found the perfect solution – the STAYCATION.  I know that usually means you stay home, close the blinds and turn off the phone but for us it meant packing an overnight bag and heading 10 minutes down the road to our favorite resort.  And I found out that it is still my favorite piece of beach to relax on, but now it’s even better because it’s without the crappy things that most vacationers experience:

  • Day 1 Sunburn pain – we already have a suntan, so we did not get that overeager tourist sheen that I saw on most of the other guests
  • Pushy salesmen – oh to watch the light go out of the eyes of the timeshare guys, the beach vendors, the tour operators when I said, “No we live here – not interested”. They still tried but with no conviction – they knew they had lost before they began.  And the braid lady.  She knew darn well that no one actually wears those braids in their real life.
  • The whole travel experience – getting a taxi to the airport, fighting the lines at the airport, the rushed stripping down and redressing in the security line, the lost passport, the crunched knees in the tiny seats, the lost luggage….. no, we packed in under 5 minutes, jumped in the convertible and were at the resort in 10 minutes. Already rested before we began relaxing.
  • The stuff you forgot or just can’t take – you know that giant straw hat that doesn’t fit in the suitcase but looks really stupid at the airport? Threw it in the back seat.  And the pillow.  We didn’t bring ours, but we could have – because fat pillows can ruin a vacation.  And the coffee maker.  And some snacks.  A couple of bottles of wine because you know how much they charge for that at a 5-star resort.
  • The expensive meals and fake shows. When you’re on vacation in a new spot you feel the need to experience the ‘culture’ that the hotel offers.  But I can eat real Mexican food and watch actual Mexican dancers in my town any day of the week.  Which means I felt no need to spend $59.99 on fake Mexican night.   We listened to the music on our balcony while sipping our own cheap wine and watched the tourists dance like fools with those balloon hats.   Oh no, they’re actually singing YMCA now.

Instead, I got to enjoy the parts of my favorite vacation spot that I really needed this weekend  – the alone time walking the beach, the lack of responsibilities, the absence of deadlines.  The nice housekeeping lady making my bed and cleaning my toilet.  The restaurant chef making my omelet.  There was no dust, no dogs, no chickens.  For just a couple of days I felt like I was on vacation, even though I could almost see my home as I walked.  I read lots, watched some cable TV since I don’t have that at home, enjoyed a bubble bath, laughed with my hubby.  I vacated my regular routine and to me that is a true vacation.

And the day after tomorrow I’m getting in a taxi to the airport.  I’m going to fight the lines and the security and pray that my luggage arrives.  I’m going to be a tourist and explore the city of Oaxaca with my family.  And who knows, maybe I’ll find my new favorite vacation spot!

We Made It!

It definitely wasn’t easy but we made it!  With our truck and our trailer and our giant assortment of tools and ladders – we made it.  We had 4 main tasks – to import the:

  1. Trailer
  2. Truck
  3. Tools
  4. Ladders

We spent weeks researching the process and preparing the documentation and finally made a run for the border.  I am not going to tell all the details – it would take more pages than you would ever want to read.  Let me just say that every one of those items had some type of major challenge or incident – it took 2 full days and one sketchy night in Nogales to get it all done.  But it is done and our trailer is now Mexican and filled with Mexican tools and ladders.  Our truck is temporarily Mexican – it can stay for 6 months.  And we are in Bucerias.  The drive itself was beautiful but not easy hauling a heavy load – many mountains in Colorado and New Mexico and in various states in Mexico.  We spent many hours on the verge of overheating as we climbed mountains.  We have one smashed in truck back corner thanks to a run in with a concrete divider as we tried to get out of a customs line that we didn’t mean to be in.  Our GPS took us on a couple of impossibly narrow streets and down one completely washed out road near Tepic.  We had one scammer at a gas station rip our windshield wiper and then insist we had to pay him $650 pesos for new ones – and since it was about to rain we had no choice.  We have 2 new cracks in the windshield.  We did not see a white face for 3 days and most of the places we stopped did not have an English speaker so we had to bungle through with our crappy Spanish.  We were stopped once at some type of inspection point but both my Spanish our paperwork got us through. The roads were so bumpy that my FitBit interpreted all the movement as me taking over 15,000 steps a day while I sat on my butt.


But we met amazingly kind people all along the way.  People in small towns stopped to watch our big rig go by – children waving, old men smiling.  Hotel managers who worked hard to find a safe place to park at night and security guards who promised to keep our stuff safe.   It was a week we will never forget, but we are more than happy to be sleeping in our bed in Bucerias tonight.  As we came around the corner from Sayulita heading into Bucerias, we both just grinned.  It felt like home – it felt right!  WE MADE IT!


Can I Be Content?

The last months have been a tug of war of emotions – and I am the one in the middle of the rope that keeps getting pulled back and forth over the line in the dirt.  We spent much of the winter and spring settling into our Mexican neighborhood before returning to Canada in April to get our house finished and up for sale.  We headed back to Bucerias at the end of June to prepare for the arrival of Team Restore – the great group of warriors who joined us to work their butts off at the orphanage and surrounding communities.    But it was a quick trip and we are back in Lumsden to finish packing.  Grant’s business here is sold but he has a LOT of tools he will be taking to Mexico to assist in his business there – Banderas Bay Enterprises.  Grant would not be himself without his tools, so he has been sorting and boxing and I have been cataloguing and valuing them for the Mexican border people.  We have also been sorting and selling our personal stuff, and this week we really got serious about it all, packing in final boxes and recording every item in my fancy Excel spreadsheet.  Nothing is ever easy in Mexico, and importing our belongings will be an uncertain adventure.

It is in this area of material possessions that I have been struggling.  Our house in Mexico is simple.  The road out front is dirt so the house is often dusty.  It is hot and noisy and the kitchen is tiny and I have a clothesline instead of a dryer.  The shower spits at me.  The kitchen sink has no cold water.  But I love it and feel totally comfortable there.  Then I come home to this beautiful home that my husband built with his own hands and it is clean and quiet and peaceful.  The kitchen is amazing with every type of convenience.  Not only do I have a dryer but it has a million settings and sings a pretty song when it wants my attention.  The shower has 6 jet things and an overhead rain shower.  And a hand held faucet just to be sure.  I love it and feel totally comfortable there – and that makes me feel really guilty.  So I have been processing this a lot.  I know in my head poverty is not something to strive for – it is not more holy or more loving to be poor.  So how do I reconcile my two worlds?













IMG_20151027_121932 front-home-for-sale-lumsden-saskatchewan-medium-6304086






Recently I read a Scripture verse that really put it all in perspective:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 

I have read that verse a million times – and I always focused on the importance of being content when life sucks, when I am sick or broke or someone has let me down.  But when I read it last week it hit me that it is also important to be content when I have plenty.  It is okay to just appreciate the blessings when they appear – to be thankful and grateful and most importantly generous with them.

ensuite-home-for-sale-lumsden-saskatchewan-medium-6278443So tonight I think I’ll relax in the Jacuzzi while I watch a movie in my spa bathroom – and tomorrow I’ll pack up more of my ‘stuff’ in anticipation of the day when I will wrestle with some Mexican border guy about why I need all this crap!

Our First Week in a New Life

IMG_20151219_133229We have been here for 1 week now – and it has been a joyous combination of vacation, family reunion and settling in.  Having our children with us for the start of the adventure makes me feel like this is a place where we can all be happy, where we can gather together from time to time even though most of the time we are far apart.  They are part of our journey and contribute their opinions on what dishes we need and which taco stands are best and what color we should paint the pots in the soon-to-be garden.










We have shopped …. a LOT.  Boring household items that I have never really had to buy since most of it came from wedding showers many years ago.  But we are starting from scratch like newlyweds trying to find the best bargain on a potato peeler.  Today we purchased paint and pots to create a little garden in the back – a sanctuary from the crazy noise and activity around us.

Speaking of noise…. It took us a few nights to finally get a proper sleep.  Between dogs and roosters and our neighbor who played music louder than any nightclub until the wee hours of Sunday morning, this is a very ‘vibrant’ neighborhood!  But that is one of the things we love about Mexico – people here have a joy for life and family that permeates everything they do.  And they are not quiet about it.  So we embrace it and play our music a bit louder.


Little neighbors lighting their fireworks…..


…. pretty proud of themselves. Of course not an adult in sight!










We have eaten a lot of Mexican food.  Breakfast at Poncho’s of course.  But we were also thrilled when we realized there is a Mexican restaurant right behind our house.  Well ‘restaurant’ is a bit of an exaggeration – it is a few tables in a backyard under some trees.   But truly a delicious meal of mole enchiladas, sopes, tacos, drinks – the 5 of us ate and drank until we were stuffed for $210 pesos – around $17 total.


Juggling on a unicycle between the traffic – typical day waiting in traffic!

Signs of Christmas are around us – more tourists than usual, some trees and lights and decorations, lots of fireworks and pinatas.  I have spent a lot of time this week stressing about how to either recapture our family Christmas traditions or start new ones.  In the end, we’re figuring it out as we go.  We’ll have some of our favorite dishes like our hashbrown casserole (with fresh potatoes because they don’t sell frozen hashbrowns here and Mexican crema instead of sour cream) but we’ll substitute Mexican egg burritos for our normal quiche.  Luis has made us a giant pot of amazing beans and a nopale (cactus) salad.  We’re going out to a restaurant for a turkey dinner – next year I’ll be set up to cook my own.  Instead of sledding outside of our house in Lumsden tomorrow, we’ll boogy board at the beach.  Traditions are important to keep us connected as a family – but it’s okay to let them breathe and grow and change.  That’s what make life an unpredictable adventure.


Our Christmas gift to ourselves – a fully loaded beach pack. Note the short lawn chairs – couldn’t bring the ones from home but found new ones. With a matching umbrella and matching boogie boards. Broke it all in at Sayulita yesterday.



So Feliz Navidad amigos!  I will miss the rest of our family this Christmas.  We will be thinking of you all and wish you a blessed day.  Don’t forget to celebrate the birth of the one who gives us ultimate peace and joy and freedom.

Ready for Liftoff

KitchenWe did it – we survived the last few weeks and we’re sitting at the airport waiting for our flight to be called.  It’s been a crazy ride. Our main task was to get the house we’re building done – it’s our financial plan for this new life.  It came down to the wire – we stopped working at 2:30 yesterday, appraiser came at 3:00.  House is officially done.  Except for all the little things that aren’t.  But enough that we can breathe and head out.  It wasn’t easy.  Last week saw flat tires, computer erased reports, scratched hardwood that had just been laid and had to be relaid (3 times), big challenges at work, large bank deposit that ended up in the wrong account, and little sleep.  We were so intent on getting it done that I actually used power tools…. twice…..

So we’re at the airport ready to go.  Meigan is at the airport in Vancouver and Brett is on a bus from Guadalajara.  By tonight the Swansons will be a family in our new home.  A great start to a new life.  As always Grant and I see it differently.  I say we’re moving today.  He says we’re “starting a transition”.  He won’t see this as a move until his tools are with him.  I guess we all have our attachments that define home.  As long as I’m on a beach by tomorrow he can call it anything he wants.  We will return to Canada sometime in January to finish up final house details, get taxes done, file year end business reports, etc.  So maybe transitioning isn’t so far off.

TimsThe very final steps of this move were obvious – have some comfort Canadian food.  So last night we met the Williams family for a quick supper of poutine.  This morning a final Tim’s coffee.  Now all is ready.  And I know the suspense is killing you….. yes the pig made it!  It seems kinda ridiculous but I just think we’ll need a friendly familiar face smiling at us while we sit in the garden.


A pig and some more hats

Merry Christmas friends!  If I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, we will be back in January and will do another round of goodbyes.  My word for 2015 was JOY and although it has been a year of many ups and downs – as life always is – focusing on finding joy in the journey has truly made me grateful for every single moment.  Can’t wait to see what 2016 holds for all of us.  For me, it starts with guacamole.


A Pig in a Suitcase

The countdown is ticking loudly and I am not as cool and prepared as I thought I would be.  In fact I am having reactions I would never have expected.  My heart has taken over and my brain is allowing it to happen.  I feel a bit betrayed really by my reasonable, practical self which usually navigates through unknown waters.

We have rescheduled our flight to the 18th to buy ourselves 5 more days.  5 more days to get this construction done, to finalize paperwork and transitions.  A very needed 5 days.  But that 5 days has cost me my sanity somehow.  I have been planning for quite some time exactly what things I need to pack to go with us to the new land.  We took 6 suitcases in October.  2 very stuffed carry-ons (that ended up too big to actually carry on), and 4 giant fifty pound suitcases.  Two were free, the other two cost $25 each.  Perfect.  We put a LOT in those 6 suitcases.  My plan was to take 6 more in December – the rest of our very important ‘stuff’.  We will not be able to take the majority of our belongings until we get our residency which can’t be for at least a year thanks to Mr. Tax Man.  So these last 6 suitcases were to be it for a while.

So back to the tale of the extra 5 days.  We rescheduled our flight – but in doing so we had to switch airlines.  After paying the change fees, the cancellation fees, the who-knows-what fees, we had a new flight scheduled for the 18th.  But in reading the small print of this new airline I realized we cannot take a second bag each, and our first bag can only be 40 pounds.  So we have gone from taking 200 pounds to now only being able to take 80.  Now I have been lecturing/nagging Grant for 2 years that we really don’t need to take much stuff with us – we can buy what we need there.  It will be fun to get new stuff.  To pretend we’re newlyweds again setting up a new home.  But somehow when I was robbed of 120 pounds of my stuff, I seriously freaked out.  I am not kidding when I say that the stuff I was planning to take was really the weirdest combination of stuff ever.  It was not valuable stuff – it was just things I had decided I desperately needed to be okay.  Like 2 short lawn chairs that I may have used twice in my life but that would be great on the beach when we need a picnic.  The green vase that I hardly every use but it would look great in the kitchen.  This very large metal yard pig I had purchased in Vancouver – I absolutely NEEDED that pig in my tiny new yard.  Some totally average candles.  A bunch of shampoo because I can’t read labels in Spanish – and what if I don’t know how to Wash, Rinse, Repeat in Mexico?  The list went on – stuff that I barely use here, that I have never been attached to but that seemed extremely important to my new happiness.  What on earth is wrong with the sensible, practical, not attached to my crap person that I have always been?

Last night some of my dearest friends showed up with Chinese Food and Guacamole and memories to share.  We laughed and reminisced and talked about the sadness of saying goodbye.  We joked about my new suitcase crisis and Grant rolled his eyes at my angst.  But when they left I realized that it is just really hard to let go of those you love.  I don’t want to do it.  To make it hurt a bit less I have been gathering silly possessions around me that I thought would help me feel comfortable in a crazy time of transition.  If I could imagine the perfect sunset picnic with Grant on the yellow lawn chairs, if I could fill an unfamiliar house with pretty flowers in that green vase, if I could see my smiling metal pig when I sat in the yard with my morning coffee maybe I would be okay.   But now I have to let go of that strategy.  My 80 pounds will be taken up with a few months’ supply of vitamins, the last of my summer clothes, some winter clothes for when I travel up north for work in January. Practical stuff.

Pig in a suitcase

Gonna be tight!

There will be little room left for silly sentimental crutches.  And I’ll be okay.  My security has never been in what I own but in the God who has me in His hand.

But don’t be surprised if Mr. Pig somehow makes the cut – I haven’t fully given up!

Towels and Propane Make a Home

In August we nailed down our home for the upcoming year and I immediately began nesting in my head. I began to dream about how to turn the house into our home. It is a semi-furnished house and although the furniture isn’t exactly my style or favorite color, I’m grateful we don’t have to furniture shop quite yet. No, I was thinking about towels. Somehow I had the idea in my head that the house would be our home when we had correct towels. With that in mind I convinced my husband we needed a quick trip in October to ‘set up the house’ – by which I meant buy towels. He didn’t really get it “Don’t we have a lot of towels here – can’t we just throw a few of them in our suitcase?” My look gave him my answer. So we headed down to Bucerias for a week in October to get the house ready for our family’s arrival in December.

We spent the week shopping for house stuff and checking out as many local taco stands as possible. But we also knew we needed to start the difficult process of dealing with Mexican utility companies. We had heard many crazy stories and expected it to be time consuming and difficult – but we were ready. Our hot water and our stove is fueled by propane – and our rooftop propane tank was completely dry when we arrived. The first two days we had cold showers – which actually felt amazingly good – and you know I wasn’t looking to cook. But on the third day we decided we better get some propane in the tank. So we waited ….. and we listened….. and eventually we heard the sound we were expecting and needing. The Gas truck guy driving around screaming out of his loudspeaker to let the neighborhood know he had GAS. So I in turn screamed for Grant who went running out the door in pursuit of Gas Guy. Turns out Gas Guy only delivers tanks – doesn’t actually fill tanks, so he made a phone call and told us someone would be there in una hora – one hour. Now I definitely didn’t expect someone to arrive in an hour – I thought maybe 3 days – but we hung around for the afternoon unpacking the weird green dishes we had bought and 4 hours later we heard a big truck outside the house. Impressive really. Of course there was no possibility of English so we used our Spanglish Charade language and voila! we had propane! Gas Fill Guy gave me his card and told me at least 10 times to call him next time I need gas. I wasn’t so sure why he was being so insistent about that – but I realized why quickly. Within the next 15 minutes we had 2 other Gas company trucks arrive at our doorstep – apparently the word was out on the streets that Gringos were looking for gas. The utility company version of beach vendors!

So that went much better than expected. Next is phone and internet. Our gracious friend Fredy is helping us set that up and yesterday he emailed to say we are on a waiting list as phones lines are limited in Bucerias right now. He says we are waiting for a window of opportunity – I picture Grant chasing Phone Truck Guy down the street to crack that window open.

And as for those towels? Every room has soft grey towels ready for use and our bedroom even has the matching bath mat! How homey is that?