April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Nicole Salgado

Hi, my name’s Nicole Salgado. I’m from Syracuse, NY but now live in Queretaro, Mexico.

I originally came to Mexico to build a house here with my husband. My husband and I met in the SF Bay Area after we both migrated there for work in 1999. He was an undocumented immigrant and we weren’t able to adjust his status in the U.S., so the plan was we would leave the U.S. for 10 years until we could submit his green card application.

Well, now I feel like an expat, someone who has left their home country. In our case it wasn’t by choice – I would have preferred to stay and live and work in the United States, where I am from. But, by honoring my marriage vows and accompanying my husband to a place where we both can be 1st class citizens, my life has changed accordingly.

One funny thing that happened to me as a result of living in Mexico is that I have an adopted a lot of cultural customs that once exasperated me – for example, I have a flexible relationship with punctuality now. I also use indirect communication more now than I ever used to – I am by nature pretty direct, but since the culture here has a different way of being in many ways, I’ve adapted.

My beliefs haven’t changed much – I still highly value friends, family, the environment, culture, artistic expression and individuality, social justice, a strong work ethic, continual improvement, and the like.

I have had to become much more patient. I have had to accept governmental corruption and non-enforcement of laws. I have had to accept less time outdoors and more time in cities and in an office. Queretaro is a pretty big city, and even though we get a little more country exposure living on the outskirts, at the end of the day it’s still a metropolis. I have also learned to embrace the Mexican culture much more than before.  Although I had a grandfather who was born in Tijuana, we really weren’t steeped in the culture like I am now.

I think everyone has their stuff to deal with as a kid, in my case, I overcome typical adolescent taunts about my poor eyesight and my weight by getting into sports and being more social, and learning to ignore “the haters,” so to say.

At the university level, I overcome stiff competition at an Ivy League school and being the first in my family to complete a 4-year college education by seeking out allies and mentors, and never giving up – and also, by giving back to my community as a volunteer and in socially and environmentally conscious activities, which has rewarded me multifold.  While I don’t currently volunteer, there are many worthy causes that one can participate in. I do make both in-kind and monetary donations to a variety of things such as progressive political campaigns, migrant relief, and youth empowerment efforts, and of course environmental conservation.

As a young adult, I overcame the emotional burden of being far from my family by maintaining good long distance communication, and again, relying on and trusting friends to support me in many aspects of my life.

In Mexico, many things have been hard. For one, I am a naturalist, biologist, environmental activist, and outdoor enthusiast, so it’s been strange not having immediate access to as many natural, green, or wilderness areas as I did in New York and California, where a high value is placed on environmental conservation and enjoying nature as recreation. Here, most people are just struggling to get by or build their businesses or the local economy so it’s harder to place emphasis on conservation.

Another thing that was difficult was finding myself again professionally, but again, I had to just keep putting myself out there and believing in a positive outcome, and it eventually happened.

Finally, I have had a lot of health challenges, several of which I think are related to stress and our move south, but I have tried to see the silver lining by focusing on different ways I can get and stay healthy.

It still affects me and depresses me that American immigration laws and public perception are just getting more and more xenophobic, and they are making our country less and less welcoming to immigrants worldwide. The prospect of never being able to (or wanting to, due to our perception of how unwelcoming the U.S. is getting for immigrants and brown and black people) go back to the U.S. is a little frightening. Not because our life here isn’t good, but because I would like to be closer to my family in the States, and I always dreamed of my daughter experiencing the culture and wonderful things I grew up with at some point – and all the anti-immigrant rhetoric just is really threatening to my family and our prospects in general.  I miss all the time outdoors and spending time with family and friends in the States.

My father once said one of my worst characteristics is also my best, and that is that I am very stubborn, or headstrong, so to say.  That’s how I persevere.

My family, my friends, my coworkers keep me going. So does my conviction that there is a better way. I believe in myself and others. Having contributed directly to many positive outcomes in the past convinces me that I/we can do so again in the future, with the right approach, or mindset, and sometimes even surrendering to divine will.

It is hard to say what accomplishment I am most proud of. I am quite proud of my education and profession, but I am also very proud of my marriage, and my daughter.

I still laugh when I think back to my teenage years and how much I coveted material items, fancy dresses, cars, big houses, etc. I think a lot of that was because of marketing, advertising, and catalogs. Seeing ads and comparing it to what you have makes you feel almost incomplete, inadequate. I no longer feel that my status or quality of life is determined by what I don’t have. That’s not to say I never like to get new things, but I do believe the mantra “live simply so others may simply live” can inform our lives if we let it.

While living in Mexico, there came a time when I had to let go of toxic relationships – with certain in-laws, with certain friends/acquaintances, etc. I had to realize the role I was playing in continuing negative thought processes and/or relationships with negative people. By starting to meditate, and distance myself from toxic or dysfunctional individuals, although at first, I felt guilty as if I were neglecting something/someone, I actually found a lot more freedom to be myself, make progress, and experience less drama.

I work full time for Peace Corps Mexico, whose office is in Queretaro. We have a team of a couple dozen staff and over 70 volunteers serving in over 9 states in Mexico. I am in charge of the environmental education program, I help to select sites, train, and provide follow-up support for EE volunteers, who do a lot of really great work in conjunction with our partners in the SEMARNAT (National Protected Areas Commission, National Forestry Commission, others). I am pretty much exclusively working with and for Peace Corps Mexico at this time, due to the full-time schedule. Previously, I offered workshops on urban gardening and a few other speaking engagements on environmental topics and my two books.

A couple things have changed that affect how I spend my free time. I have very long work hours and travel a lot, so on the weekends I am pretty tired out and spend a lot of it recuperating. Before, I used to garden and do yoga more, but now I like to read, spend time with my family, be in touch with friends, and cook if I have the energy. I also enjoy ecotourism and “puebleando” (visiting quaint small towns in Mexico) as they call it and luckily I can still do that when we get long weekends or I take vacation time. Photography is a pastime I have always been able to maintain and enjoy, luckily. I have also recently taken up learning piano.

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To me, it’s important to balance opportunities for work, free time, and friends and family. It’s also very important for me to express myself creatively, whether through art, writing, or currently, I am learning about music through the piano. I also like to think that I am part of a movement for sustainability on this planet, although I’m aware we could always be doing more.
I have co-authored 2 books in Mexico.  In 2009 I self-published “The Bajio’s Bounty: Home cooking for the Queretaro, Mexico Region” which is essentially a collection of family recipes (my husband’s family were farmers, and his father still is) and fusion recipes. In 2011 I began co-authoring “Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders” with Nathaniel Hoffman, Boise-based journalist and friend/colleague from Cornell. We published under our own imprint, Cordillera West Books, in 2013. The Kindle version is available here. Even though our project was self-financed, we did have a successful crowdfunded kickoff campaign where we raised enough funds to take our book to Washington, DC and deliver a copy to every Congressperson, Supreme Court justice, and the President and First Lady.  You can read about that here.  We still blog from time to time and recently launched a new project, #buildbridgesnotwalls which we are hoping will gain more participation.

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A wise midwife friend once told me: fear is F.E.A.R.: false expectations approaching reality. I think I was less fearful and more adventurous as a young adult. Now as a mother and wife, I have to remember I am thinking for the rest of my family. But on the other hand, letting fear get the upper hand can cloud your decision-making ability or prevent you from making positive changes in life, so you have to find a balance in your relationship to things that intimidate or frighten you.

I am inspired by people who live their principles. People who rise out of poverty, abuse, or addiction, and break cycles of negativity and/or violence. People who dedicate their lives to serving others.

I am angered by people who don’t appreciate their blessings. Greedy, violent people. I especially am angered by those who take advantage of others, especially those who hurt women and children. People who don’t respect Mother Earth or their neighbors. Hypocrisy, double standards, disrespectful attitudes bother me a lot.

The most important thing for me right now is to continue putting food on the table for my family, making sure my daughter gets a good education. I am currently pretty happy with what I am doing, but I am also interested in working for myself again, more with plants, art, writing, and maybe helping my husband to grow his own business. We’re not sure where the future will lead in terms of geographical locations, so any future plans have to have a certain level of flexibility built into them.

There are a number of misconceptions about the process of legal immigration to the US.  Amor and Exile not only provides personal accounts of couples trying to negotiate the shaky and ever-changing landscape of immigration but also provides a history of US immigration and explanation of current laws.  Find out more on Nicole’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Erma Note

About the Author

Author Erma Note is originally from the suburbs of Chicago. After moving to Mexico to volunteer with an orphanage, she ended up meeting her husband and becoming a permanent resident in Mexico. They are raising three children in Mexico City, and they love visiting the myriad of museums, archaeological sites, markets, churches, and other beautiful, historical places Mexico has to offer. Erma felt compelled to share her love for the beautiful capital city of Mexico in her children’s book “Travels with Grace.”

Travels With Grace

Grace is a bicultural, bilingual girl living in Mexico City who loves to travel and learn new things. She is excited because her cousin, Connor, is coming to visit from the United States. Grace and her mom put together a plan to teach Connor about this city in Mexico: its language, food, culture, and important places. What new things will they do and see? A portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos orphanage.

Is the title of your book significant?

“The main character’s name is Grace, but there is another meaning behind the title. It’s also about traveling gracefully… Being a gracious traveler, to me, means having respect for the local people, their traditions, their language, and their values. In addition, one of the most important things about traveling to a new country, in my opinion, is really getting to know the people and places that are the heartbeat of that country. I love having conversations with local people and learning from them, whether that is an artisan in Santa María del Río talking to me about her woven textiles, or a Yucatecan cigar vendor telling me his story as we share a soda in the sunny downtown square. Learning to speak Spanish has opened a lot of doors for me, and that is one part of traveling gracefully…being able to communicate with the local people whose guest I am,” said Erma.

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April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Mima

About the Author

Canadian author Mima (aka Michelle M. Arsenault) is known for complicated and diverse characters, her dark style, and for never shying away from controversial topics. She writes for people who enjoy being a little bit shocked focusing on the counter-culture. A writer with a social conscience, Mima often touches on homelessness, indigenous issues, racism, and other issues.

The Hernandez Series

A former Mexican narco transitions into Canadian life with family, politics, and business while holding tight to his ruthless, criminal ways. Meet Jorge Hernandez.

Starting with We’re All Animals we follow naive Chase Jacobs from small-town Alberta to the big city, where he unknowingly is employed by a group of sinister characters. The truth slowly starts to reveal itself in Always be a Wolf but a horrific tragedy rocks Chase’s world and he quickly discovers that his new family will do anything for him. Anything.

Jorge Hernandez takes over as the protagonist in the third installment of the series, The Devil is Smooth Like Honey. The beloved character is bold, blood-thirsty and always gets what he wants because he sees no boundaries. Nothing and no one stands in his way. 

In A Devil Named Hernandez  Jorge is muscling in on the Canadian legalized pot industry but is distracted by enemies that crop up to threaten someone he loves. Do they really want to dance with the devil?

The collusion, corruption, and murder continue right through to And the Devil Will Laugh where he successfully takes over the pot industry despite a few obstacles that get in his way…but isn’t there always some collateral damage?

In The Devil May Lie,  Jorge Hernandez is groomed for Canadian politics with hopes of saving one of the major political parties after a public uproar. Will the Canadian political landscape ever be the same again? 

In The Devil and his Legacy, Jorge Hernandez starts to questions his own legacy after one of his foot soldiers is murdered. He opts for a simple life but will the simple life opt for him?

In She Was His Angel, Jorge uses his political influence to cripple his nemesis Big Pharma while simultaneously backing the incriminating docuseries Eat the Rich Before the Rich Eat You. Jorge might win the battle but can he win the war?

When a cop has the nerve to show up at his door and harass Jorge in We’re All Criminals, his fury quickly ignites. While Jorge wants to exhibit his power and publicly taunt the police, his family fears that this time, he may have pushed too far. 

Subplots, conspiracy theories, and a cast of characters that will jump off the pages. 

Loyalty above all. There are no exceptions.

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April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Leigh Ann Thelmadatter

Like so many foreigners, Leigh Ann Thelmadatter came to Mexico to spend a couple of years and never left. Teaching English paid the bills and supported an obsession with traveling throughout Mexico to learn about its culture, particularly its folk art. Her “apprenticeship” came in the form of writing Wikipedia articles, then a blog called Creative Hands of Mexico, which lasted for 5 years (until the pandemic). 

Both projects have brought home the severe lack of documentation of Mexico’s handcrafts, especially the more regional and innovative ones. Fortunately, the blog led to a column of the same name in the Vallarta Tribune. Since 2019, she has been writing regularly about cultural topics in Mexico News Daily, which is now working on a series of Mexican artisan profiles. She published Mexican Cartonería: Paper, Paste, and Fiesta with Schiffer in 2019 and currently works on two more books. One on cloth dolls in Mexico and one about foreign artists who live in the country. The first is to give credit to the housewives whose creative talents and economic contributions are often overlooked. The second is an outgrowth of many years of contact with Mexico’s fine arts community.

The work on Creative Hands led her to learn about Mexico’s highly developed but almost completely unknown paper mache crafts, collectively called cartonería. They are figures made almost exclusively for the many festivals on Mexico’s calendar. The best known of these is the piñata, but also include effigies of Judas Iscariot for Holy Saturday, skeletal figures for Day of the Dead, and more. 

In the past 20 years or so, modern cartonería artists have been looking to push the craft as a true “folk art,” not only creating pieces that will be used for the festival, then destroyed/thrown away but as collectors’ items. 

The book begins with a definition of cartonería and its history in Mexico, themselves somewhat controversial as cartonería fulfills many, but not all, of the country’s definitions of “traditional handcraft.”  The following chapters profile important figures such as Pedro Linares and the Lemus family, traditional items made with the technique (and how they are used), modern masters, and what the present and future hold for the craft.

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April 2021 Virtual Book Tour– Kate Larkindale

About The Author

Having spent a lifetime travelling the globe, Kate Larkindale settled in Wellington, New Zealand fifteen years ago.  A film marketing executive and mother to two sons, she’s surprised she finds any time to write, but doesn’t sleep much.  As a result, she can usually be found hanging out by the nearest espresso machine.

She is the author of contemporary YA novels Chasing The TaillightsThe Sidewalk’s RegretsAn Unstill Life and Stumped along with several others that no one is allowed to see. Yet. She has also written one very bad historical romance, which will likely never see the light of day. She is working on several more YA novels that may or may not ever be finished.

Her short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Everyday Fiction, Death Rattle, Kissed Anthology, Just Me Anthology, Drastic Measures, Cutlass & Musket and Residential Aliens, among others.

The Latest Release

Find Chasing the Taillights by Kate Larkindale at:

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Excerpt from Chasing the Taillights by Kate Larkindale

And then he’s there.

He steps into the room, his huge frame filling the doorway. He starts toward the bed then stops, his lips pressing together into a thin, white line. He drops his brilliant blue-eyed gaze to the floor for a moment and swallows hard before he looks up again. The scruffy beginnings of a beard shadow his chin.

“Hey, Lucy.” He tries to smile as he crosses to the bed, but his lips tremble too hard for it to be convincing. A muscle jumps in his jaw like a tiny fish trying to escape. “Thank you for being here, Peter.”

“I wish I didn’t have to be.” Peter gets up and gives Tony a brief hug. My brother’s arms don’t move, just hang stiffly at his sides, hands clenched into fists. 

Peter lets go and moves aside to let Tony sit next to me. “I’m going to get some coffee. I’ll be back soon.”

Tony watches him go, not turning back to me until Peter’s tall, lean figure has vanished into the hallway. When he does, his eyes are red-rimmed and exhausted. Purple crescents lie beneath them. He looks like shit, but something about the way he’s studying me makes me certain I look worse.

“Oh, Jesus, Lucy.” He shakes his head, a pleading expression on his face. “I have no clue what I’m supposed to say right now.”

I blink up at him. I need him to tell me what happened. I need him to explain it to me. I try to form the words, but they won’t come. My mouth, stitched up like a quilt, won’t shape what I need to say.

“Dad?” I manage after a long battle. “…Mom’s…” I can’t say it. If I speak it aloud it’ll be true.

I’m holding my breath. My chest aches and I let it out in a gasp. The pain is back, sharp and stabbing at my side, a dull throb in my neck and shoulder. Tony reaches out and touches the side of my face. I flinch, hating myself for it when his fingers are as gentle as rain.

“They’re dead, Lucy. They’re both dead.” His eyes lock onto mine and I know he’s telling the truth. The bleak, stunned look on his face tells me more than any words could. A sob escapes him and he starts to turn away.

April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Judy King

Meet Judy King, author of Living at Lake Chapala, an excellent resource for those planning on making the move to Mexico.

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I was born and raised in Iowa – part of the 5th generation of two lines of ancestors: great-great-grandparents with the surnames Thomsen and Chrestensen who emigrated from Denmark in the 1840s. I moved to Ajijic (isn’t that a fun word, with all those letters to dot?) in Jalisco, about 45 minutes from Guadalajara, from southern California in October of 1990. I’m here now because this is la Tierra de mi Corazon – the land of my heart.

I came to Mexico the year my youngest of three children entered college. All three of them were in universities in Iowa and Missouri, I was in California. It didn’t seem to make much difference if I was 1800 miles West of them or 1800 miles South of them. As a fairly recent resident of that town in California, I had just a few close friends – who were preparing to move to the east coast.

My children went through a series of changes, as college students and young adults are meant to do and came out the other end extremely independent, and well prepared to live in the world on their own. NOT having the ability to move back to live with mom really does make a difference. Plus they really enjoyed spending holidays in Jalisco.

By the way, I’m an only child. My mother died in 1972 when I was 29, my father remarried, to a much younger woman, so I didn’t have the obligation to remain in California to care for him…I really was on my own. I came alone. I was divorced, the man I’d met and become engaged to in California had died of cancer, and with the kids in college, I sure was at loose ends.

I’ve changed so much and learned so much in these 26 years that It’s hard to know where to start and how to explain. I was a “bit” of a control freak, I learned those skills along with some other frantic traits at my mother’s knee

I’ve learned to slow down, to not push and shove and force my way through things, that stuff happens on its own schedule, that MY logic is not the logic of this country, that MY country’s way of doing things is not the only way and certainly not the best way. I’ve learned to live one day at a time, a habit that drives some of my newer in Mexico friends wild. Where are we going to lunch tomorrow? I don’t know. I’m answering these questions today. When we get to tomorrow, I’ll let you know. Why would we need to know today?

I’ve learned that time can be fluid. I’ve learned that when appointments are not kept or people are late, it has NOTHING to do with me. It’s just the way it is. AND that Mexico and the US/Canada have different ways of doing things. One isn’t right and the other wrong, they are just different.

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That means I’ve given up a good deal of judgment. Yes, some folks live in houses that others might consider hovels – they are just houses – and the people who come out of those houses every morning are spic and span, combed and coiffed, looking better than I do.

How my belief system has changed is worthy of a whole book—as “the chicken man on the road” said to me once, “Que lastima (what a shame) that extranjeros (expats) shop (and judge) with their eyes and not their hearts. He was killing chickens every morning, plucking and dressing them, and he didn’t refrigerate them, knowing that most people who bought the chickens would be cooking them for comida (meals) in the afternoon. I know from time spent at Great-Aunt Lulu’s farm and at Aunt Margaret and Aunt Betty’s places that fresh chicken is safe, doesn’t grow bacteria that is harmful to us in 4 or 5 hours, UNLESS it is refrigerated, allowed to warm up and then refrigerated again.

I’ve tried to look with my heart and not just my eyes while living here. I’ve learned that money certainly is not the basis of determining the value of people, or of deciding who has knowledge to share with me, or who is “worthy” of being my friend. Certainly a welcome change from the US, and especially Southern California where the pretense of wealth/upper class/ prestige is everything.

I’m angered, I get really HOT when expats, especially those who are new start in with “WHY DON’T THEY….pave over the cobblestones, make laws so it is quiet at night….and on and on and on….” Northerners Don’t have the right to decide what Mexicans do, with their money, with their lives, with their time, with their customs. It’s ok if it is different.

During these years I also converted to Catholicism. Ajijic’s parish church has had an English Mass every Sunday for over 50 years – fairly unusual in Mexico. I was born and raised Presbyterian – totally middle of the road, religion wise. I was a bit of a rebel and was attracted to the Catholic church in my teen years, but it was easier to give up what I wanted than to go face to face with my mother. SO, I waited until I was around 60. Mostly I did it because I was invited to so many weddings and baptisms and quinces that I really wanted to be fully part of the Mass, AND I had fallen in love with the Virgin of Guadalupe and had accepted her as my mother, as the Mexicans also do. Knowing her love and help in return had helped me heal from the leftover wounds inflicted by some born-again family members, and when I was able to accept that Her son really had nothing to do with what those people were doing and saying, I was ready to come back and be in a church again.

I’ve had my share of challenges too. I met an American man here and married him here. I didn’t realize he was an alcoholic and gambler. When my money was gone, he was gone, too. On to the next woman. Then when the divorce took longer than he wanted, he took her to Texas and married her too – I thought happily about putting him in jail in both countries for bigamy, but decided to sit down and shut up and wait until the 10th anniversary when I could collect my social security from his base, rather than mine. By that time the new wife had died of hepatitis, and he was living at the beach, I was here and never saw him, so it didn’t seem to make much difference. Hanging in was worth it. Now I’m collecting widow’s benefits.

It wasn’t quite that simple emotionally, however. It took a good long time for me to heal. If it hadn’t been for Al-anon, I don’t know if I would have. That’s one of the great benefits of living here at Lake Chapala – there is such a great support system of expats, and more than 100 organizations of all kinds meeting in English.

Any challenges these days are small, and usually self-inflicted if I’m honest. I’m almost 72, I’ve been here 26 years, Growing older has meant growing calmer, softer, easier, less stressed, less affected by what is happening out there. Living alone helps too!

There is a pair of accomplishments that make me the proudest. I’m delighted to be seen with respect by many of the Mexican community leaders. I’m not talking elected community officials, but the hometown guys who know who I am and how I believe and what I know about Mexican customs and traditions. They call me la media Mexicana.

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The ONLY thing on my bucket list was to write and publish a book, to hold it in my hands and see my name on the front. I used to “write books” when I was 4 and 5. When I was 6 all I wanted for Christmas was a BIG pile of paper (that I could do with what I wanted), a BIG box of crayons (in 1950 that meant the box of 48) and a lot of pencils and a pencil sharpener. I just received my 4th printing of Living at Lake Chapala, which continues to sell well on amazon.com, too.

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I hope to write another book this year – The working title is FIESTAS! Celebrations of Families, Fireworks, and Faith. In it, I’ll talk about the civic and religious holidays, the customs of celebrations, and the family events, baptisms, first communion, quinceaneras, weddings, anniversaries, deaths, funerals, etc. What I need is to put myself in the chair and stay there until I compile and edit the articles I’ve already written and rewritten over the years and collate them into book format. Thankfully we have a great German/Mexican printer in Guadalajara who will print as many as we want at very reasonable prices.

I have an immigration book ½ finished but I became so angry with the power and antics of the US government – ICE and Homeland Security that I quit about 18 months ago and put it back on the shelf. The name of that was Coming Home: Real Stories of Mexican Migrants. It was a series of interviews with local guys and women who have been to the states, some back as far as the braceros, who worked there and then returned home to live. The alternate chapters would explore issues at the center of the interview – applying for visas, detention, The wall (the original wall, not the newly planned wall) etc.

Things I miss about my life before Mexico include shopping and time with my kids, but in my head, it’s my kids when they were younger, not now when they all in their mid-to-late 40s! Two of them were here for my last birthday. One will be coming this year.

I sold real estate here at Lake Chapala for 11 years, I managed B&Bs for owners, I designed interior decorator accessories for local production to be shipped to the US, Canada, and Europe, I started, edited and maintained a subscription-based online magazine, Living at Lake Chapala for 12 years, I edited a monthly print magazine, the Lake Chapala Review for 8.5 years, and I was a columnist and reporter for the Guadalajara Reporter for 2 years before I retired January 1, 2016. (NOTE: that adds up to more than 26 years! Some of those jobs overlapped, I was multitasking frequently) Now I have social security from the US.

In my free time, I sew, quilt, play the ukulele, attend church, belong to a quilt guild, to a women’s writers group, to a book club, and sharing breakfast or lunch with groups of friends. The expats here are more prone to earlier activities – I hesitate to say we’re old, exactly, but I’m actually excited about the New Year’s Eve party I’m invited to – it is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. PERFECT…then I can come home and put on sweats and spend the evening with my dog – she doesn’t like fireworks. Besides English Mass is at 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

I learned a lot of the skills I needed for daily life growing up in the 50s in Iowa and then being an Iowa farmwife in the 60s and 70s. I was well used to phone, water, and electric outages, even running out of gas. I also read the book Don’t sweat the Small Stuff….PS It’s ALL Small Stuff.  This year I want to continue quilting. I’m making TV couch quilts for my great-grandchildren. I have 2 done, 3 to go. I’ve done quilts for my daughter and one son. Need to do one for my older son this year, too, to keep things even. (smile). Then maybe I can do one for me to use for my siestas.

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I have learned to emulate my Mexican neighbors and live in today. That’s so valuable. As soon as I start to think about the past or the future, I’m prone to worry and I’m out of today. I’m inspired by the ability of people here to just keep keeping on, no matter what. Christmas is a perfect example. I grew up with a mother, and I became a mother, who had to have every flat surface decorated, who had to bake dozens of cookies, and dozens of loaves of banana and date bread to give to folks, to decorated every gift, who fussed until every gift (and there were many, too many) was absolutely perfect, and the house was spotless and the food was fit for Julia Child and the table for Martha Stewart….and we were tired to the bone and so so crabby that no one had a good time. My Mexican friends just don’t worry about it until the last few days – and then a gift or two, sometimes with their sisters making tamales, bonfires, some strings of lights, speakers, and chairs in the street on Christmas eve, and everyone has a great time. It’s all about family and not all about appearances and pretenses. WHEW…I wish I’d known this sooner.

I’d sure like to be kinder and less judgemental more often. (Note: my flares of disgust and anger are aimed at stupid expat behavior, NOT at local customs, traditions or daily life.

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I volunteer for a local orphanage – la Villa Infantil de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe y Sr San José. This children’s home houses between 35 and 40 children. Right now there are a dozen Little ones, age 2 and under and the other 25 are from 3 through 12. Some of these beautiful children are orphans, others have been abandoned in Guadalajara, others have been taken from their families due to abuse, drug use by the adults, etc. The home is run and the children cared for by three wonderful nuns – I have no idea how they manage to maintain their sanity, and they go so much farther and are calm, measured, sweet and loving to all of the calls of “Mami, Mami, Mami” (Nuns here are called Madre – so it’s automatic that they become Mami.) We do a monthly food and cleaning materials drive, we take turns providing and serving lunch for the kids when the older ones get home from school, we provide school uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies each fall. And we just provided clothes and a toy for each child for Christmas. “My” Christmas child was a 2-year-old girl. When she and her siblings arrived at the home they were so dirty and so infested with lice that their heads had to be shaved and it took multiple baths to get them clean. They are thriving now. Another little set of 4 siblings all had cigarette burns. The baby had burns on her temples. The older brother and sister had never been to school, the nine-year-old couldn’t write his own name and was addicted to the drugs his uncle had him selling and delivering and had to be in rehab for a few days to detox. Anyone wanting to help the home and the kids could call Father Basil (our English speaking priest who dedicates a good deal of his week and energy to making sure the children and nuns have what they need to keep the home running like a clock. His US VOIP number is 408-733-6042 and his Mexican Landline is (387) 763-0928

At the beginning of 2014, Our Club Ukulele de Laguna started an academy to teach local children to play the ukulele. There are 40 youngsters enrolled in the program. The adult group furnishes instruments for the kids, pays for the professional college-trained musical teacher to instruct them, and helps with all of their performances. Already some of these kids have moved beyond uke to guitar, violin, cello, and all will have the lifelong benefit in reading and math, and an advantage in life skills from the discipline and group experience of music.

Finally, I’m teaching a series of classes about Mexico for the Lake Chapala Society, a 60+-year-old expat organization here. All of my classes look at Mexico through literature and sometimes movies and music. The first class related to the Maya, Olmec, Aztec and the Conquest. The November 2016 class explored the winter holiday customs and traditions in Mexico. In January 2017 an eight-week class is titled Surviving the Revolution. We’ll look at the family in Mexico at the turn of the century and as the fervor built toward the Revolution which began in 1910. Then we’ll read and discuss the people and their experiences in several books including Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor, and The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. We’ll watch the movie, “Like Water for Chocolate” based on the book by Laura Esquivel, and possibly also “The Old Gringo” based on the book by Carlos Fuentes. A shorter book, written during the Revolution and included in the class is “The Underdogs” by Dr. Mariano Azuela.  

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If I had to do it all over again, I would move to Mexico earlier. I would not waste time living the first years in big gringo houses. I love my smaller rental house in the village.  I really haven’t had a defining moment in my life here. But then I chose to come here, I choose to stay here because I love it here, because this is my home, where my heart is. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. I don’t experience fear. I live in faith that all will be well. I know that may sound way too simplistic, but if you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it. When tough times hit, if I went to fear that the sky would fall on my head, nothing got better. If I believed, really believed that all would be well, even if I couldn’t imagine HOW, somehow it was.lake chapala

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Living at Lake Chapala recounts one woman’s adventure in Mexico with an inclusive guide on moving to, building, renting or buying your dream house in Lake Chapala. Here you’ll find everything from the average cost of living to language and culture tips that will make your life at Lake Chapala successful.  Find Judy on Twitter and Facebook.

April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Kimberly H. Smith

About the Author

Kimberly H. Smith is an imaginative writer born and raised in south Louisiana. The former aspiring actress with a B.A. in Theatre never expected her minor in Mass Communications to be the passion that she would embrace. She stays busy with her blog, Being A Wordsmith, and penning freelance articles and reviews. “I survived chickenpox, Catholic school, cancer, and childbirth.”

Her debut novel, Acting On Her Behalf, is a suspenseful tale of murder, love, and secrets. She currently lives in the Kansas City area where she enjoys belly laughs with her husband and her teenage son.

Acting On Her Behalf

Colby Crenshaw, a beautiful TV and film actress, is arrested on live television for killing her longtime best friend, Sharon Darcy. Sharon had lots of secrets that are revealed as Colby finds herself in jail awaiting trial. Malcolm Morrow, a high profile Beverly Hills attorney, comes to Colby’s aid to defend her against the devastating charges. They are immediately attracted to each other despite the unusual circumstances. Malcolm becomes more determined than ever to exonerate Colby when her highly publicized arrest has friends and family turning against her. Colby is tested as her world crumbles around her. Malcolm may be Colby’s only chance at regaining her life and her freedom while acting on her behalf.

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April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Robin Rainbow Gate

About the Author

Robin Rainbow Gate was born in Chicago to a family of artists. Along the way, she lived in England, India and Kentucky. Since 2006 Robin has lived in an indigenous mountain village in Mexico where she learned from elder teachers and traditional healers. She teaches authentic Indian cuisine, and is author of Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following Your Heart and What Happens When You Jump. As an intentional living guide and teacher Robin writes and coaches to midlife women seeking to experience a soulful, connected life of self-care, listening, honoring and respect – with focus on simple living, nature, and care of the earth.

Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following Your Heart and What Happens When You Jump

Calling Myself Home: Living Simply, Following Your Heart and What Happens When You Jump,” is the true story of a woman’s complete reinvention of herself, a journey that takes her from suburban Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, India, England, and Appalachia, before she is drawn by visions to move to a rural mountain village in the south central highlands of Mexico. She leaves behind a career, financial security, close friends, her possessions–even her old name–and studies with elder teachers and traditional healers, all in search of a new way of living in harmony with the earth – and ultimately herself.

The book explores simple living, personal transformation, and the pertinence of living traditions in today’s world. At heart it’s a love letter to the rural community she adopted, and which adopted her.  Its core message that it’s all about relationship – among people, animals, plants, mountains, the elements, the seasons, the cycles of life, and the Beings, seen and unseen, that inhabit the world around us – will resonate with many readers. The book awakens the reader to indigenous ways of knowing and living, in service of a model of sustainability the planet desperately needs.

Equal parts travelogue, memoir, and guide to voluntary simplicity, Calling Myself Home will leave readers deeply moved and challenged by Robin’s unique journey. Through stories, reflections and inquiry the book inspires and encourages readers to follow their own inner voice. Her story dares the reader to consider whether they’re on the right path for themselves, and if not it helps them find the courage to step onto the right one, however frightening the “jump” may be.

The book includes recipes related to the stories, and a resource section. It is perfect for book clubs as it is sure to inspire reflection and sharing on many levels. A free gift package for book clubs that choose to discuss this book is available. It includes a discussion guide, live virtual “Ask the Author” visit, photo companion, and recipe booklet for in person book clubs that like to match snacks with book themes. Details at https://www.takegoodcareofyouwellness.com/book-me.html

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April 2021 Virtual Book Tour — Sarah Flores

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About the Author

Sarah Flores is an Engineer turned English teacher and author of the highly rated Ordinance 53.  

Sarah’s passion for science fiction and fantasy make an excellent backdrop for her series of short stories that encourage deep thinking and discussion for her readers.  

Ever one to push the boundaries of tradition, her stories are designed around the feeling of a moment leaving the reader to debate and search for answers from within.

Ordinance 53 

This series of short stories draws the reader into their own inner depths.
Read with an open imagination, philosophizing with the characters on their journeys.

From the Author

I have always loved writing for fun and for emotional relief.  After several years of writing and a lay-off, I decided to compile them into a book.

I used Amazon KDP to publish my book since these are unique stories and I was doing this for me, not for a big payout.

The most difficult story I had to write was the breakup. It was about my divorce and the feelings I was dealing with at the time. However the relief of being able to share the feeling and having others recognize it, was therapeutic for me.

I hope you enjoy my stories and discuss them with others. Each person’s view of the world can drive a different understanding of the story and what it means.