A Russian kingpin wants her dead… the only one who can stop it is the man sent to murder her.
Toni Flores loved her dream job working for a respected US senator until he raped her. She’s determined to bring him to justice, no matter the cost.
For years, Dimitri Valesky, head of a Russian crime family in America, has bought off those in government. Just like the senator responsible for Toni’s assault. When she won’t keep quiet about it and risks Dimitri’s business, he orders his stepson Michael to kill her.
Michael’s a lobbyist not a mafia enforcer. He refuses the insane demand, but Dimitri insists. The power he holds over Michael and his brothers is absolute… or so he believes.
Rather than murder Toni, Michael intends to romance her. Once he convinces her to keep quiet about the Senator, she won’t be a target any longer and Dimitri will back off on the hit. The plan falls apart and now they are dodging mafia enforcers, bullets, and Dimitri’s outrage.
Michael and Toni fight to stay alive and save those dearest to them as they also fall hopelessly in love.
This is book one in the Valesky Crime Family series and has an HEA.
Publisher’s Note: This contemporary dark mafia romance contains elements of mystery, suspense, action, adventure, adult themes, and possible triggers for some readers.
Tina’s an Amazon and international bestselling novelist who writes passionate romance for every taste – ‘heat with heart’ – for traditional publishers and indie. Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times and numerous online sites have praised her work. She’s won Readers’ Choice Awards, was named a finalist in the EPIC competition, received a Book of the Year award, The Golden Nib Award, awards of merit in the RWA Holt Medallion competitions, and second place in the NEC RWA contests. She’s featured in the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Before penning romances, she worked at a major Hollywood production company in Story Direction.
On a less serious note: she’s an admitted and unrepentant chocoholic, brakes for Mexican restaurants, and has been known to moan like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally while wolfing down tostadas. She’s flown a single-engine airplane (freaking scary), rewired an old house using an ‘electricity for dummies’ book, and is horribly shy despite the hot romances she writes.
Janett Zizumbo was born in Chicago, IL, USA and currently resides in Veracruz, Mx. She has received a Bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and a Masters degree from University of South Florida. She is a writer, illustrator, visual artist, and teacher.
Being bilingual as a child, she always found it difficult to find resources to help with her fluency. Specifically, having grown up in the United States she only had the opportunity to learn English academically and learn Spanish through conversation with family. This is where she got the idea of creating stories for bilingual children to read and have easy access.
The Kangaroo / El Canguro
During my stay in Australia, the family and I spent some time in one of the nature reserves in Melbourne, Australia. We went during dusk and had a small picnic watching kangaroos hopping around completely unfazed by our presence. It was such a surreal moment to live. A pair of joeys playing with each other inspired me to write this book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it.
Durante mi estadía en Australia, la familia y yo pasamos un tiempo en una de las reservas naturales de Melbourne, Australia. Fuimos durante el anochecer y tuvimos un pequeño picnic viendo a los canguros saltando completamente imperturbables por nuestra presencia. Fue un momento tan surrealista para vivir. Un par de joeys jugando me inspiraron a escribir este libro. Espero que lo disfruten tanto como yo al escribirlo.
Readers are absolutely perfect for building fluency. These readings include a story, along with reading comprehension questions and a writing/drawing exercise all in Spanish and English.
This reader is a bit more advanced aimed at 1st grade–2nd grade students slightly advanced with fluency.
Los Readers son absolutamente perfectos para desarrollar la fluidez. Estos Readers incluyen una historia, junto con preguntas de comprensión de lectura y un ejercicio de escritura/dibujo, todo en Español e Inglés.
Este lector es un poco más avanzado y está dirigido a estudiantes de 1º a 2º grado ligeramente avanzados con fluidez.
What it contains/ lo que contiene:
An E-book in Spanish and English/ un E-book en Español e inglés
Reading comprehension questions in Spanish and English/ Comprension de lectura
Writing portion/ejercicio de escritura
Drawing portion/ ejercicio de dibujo
crossword puzzle/ crucigrama
Total of 17 pages/ 17 paginas en total
An audio will be included on the website to help the student understand the pronunciation
Hello, I’m Lynda Lock. I’m originally from British Columbia, Canada, and now live in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico. It’s an island about seven kilometers long and a kilometer wide 15 minutes by boat from Cancun. It has all the peace and quiet of island life combined with all the big city amenities, including a large international airport just a few minutes away.
I came to Mexico with my husband. We are both from British Columbia Canada, having lived in a variety of small communities and large cities. My original hometown, located in the coastal mountains of British Columbia, is now a deserted ghost town. It was a thriving gold mining town that shut down when the mining company ran out of easily accessible gold. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in the city of West Vancouver, located directly across the harbour from the much larger metropolis of Vancouver BC. We met on a similarly sized island in BC Canada called Bowen Island in 1975. We have been together since 1980. We married in 1987. My husband and I are currently retired. For the most part of our working lives, we were self-employed entrepreneurs with a wide variety of businesses that included an antique store, a freight boat business, a solid waste disposal company, an award winning bed and breakfast, and a micro-brewery, to name just a few. He was also the Fire Chief and I was a volunteer firefighter for many years in another small island community in BC Canada. I’ve also been an ambulance driver, a control centre supervisor for a high-tech computer-driven train, a park attendant, and have written a safety magazine.
My husband and I frequently say that we have Adult Attention Deficient Syndrome. As soon as a business was running well, we got bored and sold it, only to immediately start a different type of business. In the later years of our working careers, we switched to managing businesses for other companies. He managed a large winery and restaurant complex and I managed a mid-sized hotel.
We had enjoyed short vacations on the western side of Mexico for many years and then we discovered the Caribbean side in 2002. Wow! The turquoise water, good food, friendly islanders; we were hooked. After four visits to the island, we purchased an oceanfront lot in 2006 on Isla Mujeres with the idea of building a home. Since we were still working at that time we had planned to live part-time on the island and the balance of the year in Canada.
When it was time to return to work we happened to arrive in the middle of a late spring snow storm. A meter of snow! That was it for us. We told our employers that we would be leaving permanently in October of 2008, and worked until it was time to move to Mexico. In the meantime, we sold our home, furniture, paintings, decorations, books – everything. The only possessions that we kept were some articles of clothing and a few tools or special mementos. Our rule was; if it won’t fit in the car it isn’t going.
We drove from the Okanagan Valley to Isla Mujeres in our Nissan Hybrid car, taking twenty-three days to sightsee across the south-western USA and central Mexico. Our then nine-year-old cat, Thomas, had to wait until we arrived on Isla Mujeres before he could fly with my sister to his new home in Mexico. Thomas starred as the hero in my children’s book The Adventures of Thomas the Cat: Las Aventuras de Tomás el Gato. He thrived in Mexico, living until his seventeenth birthday.
Since moving to Mexico, my relationship with my family hasn’t changed. I still see everyone almost as frequently as before. We have an adult son and two grandchildren. They love that we live in Mexico. They visit as often as possible. As for friends, some I see less, others more and I’ve made many more new friends. As I was already retirement age when I moved here, learning a second language has been a big challenge. I miss the easy, silly conversations with the locals, things like chatting about the weather, what’s happening in their lives, and how they are doing. I should have learned Spanish about 30 years ago when my brain was younger and I was smarter. It’s a daily struggle, but I keep trying to pick up new words and phrases. I don’t take lessons because I don’t have the patience for classroom learning. Like all things in my life, I learn as I go. My Spanish is limited, but I keep trying.
I love Mexican culture. It is like being transported back in time to the 1950s. There are large and close-knit families who look out for each other and easy freedom for the kids, not so many organized and scheduled activities, just outdoor fun with friends. I especially love the climate by the ocean in the tropics.
Living in Mexico has helped me to discover the ability to just live and not worry about the silly stuff that we have no control over. I have learned to be patient, when to give up and when to move on. For example, having a guarantee doesn’t mean much. You have to be calmly persistent to get service for any appliance or piece of equipment that is theoretically under guarantee. After seven weeks of polite and daily phone calls with the help of one of our Mexican friends, we finally got our new refrigerator fixed by the manufacturer. My friend’s words of wisdom regarding guarantees were “It’s a game of Survivor. You have to outlast, outwit and outplay your opponent to win.” That really made me laugh. The accomplishment that makes me the proudest was self-publishing my first book in hardcover “The Adventures of Thomas the Cat: Las Aventuras de Tomás el Gato.” It involved figuring out how to get it printed in China as the printing costs in Mexico, the USA and Canada were too much for my budget, arranging the shipping to Mexico, clearing the shipment through customs, and arranging for trucking to our city. It was a great learning experience.
In my free time, I write for my own pleasure, walk on the beach with our low-to-the-ground rescue mutt, socialize with friends, enjoy the sunset and a glass of wine with my husband, who is my best friend, and take pictures.
I write a weekly blog called Notes from Paradise–Isla Mujeres with my husband. Whoever has the bright idea for the week, writes the articles. I take 90% of the photographs because I habitually have a camera attached to my hand. Since we began in September of 2011, we have had over 434,000 page views with the weekly average now hitting around 10,000 page views. The response is astounding!
I don’t specifically volunteer for any one charity, just help out where I can with student scholarships, donations to helping animals, and entertaining the island’s youngsters during the Christmas Golf Cart Parade and the Day of the Kings, with our Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes.
I was born in Toronto but spent two decades on the west coast of Canada (Vancouver and then Vancouver Island) before moving to Mexico in 2012. We work from home (we are writers, editors, producers) so we could live anywhere in the world that had internet. We briefly considered Europe as I have due Canadian/Irish citizenship but it rains in the winter like it does in BC. We were done with Canadian winters – even though the west coast is much kinder than Ontario.
We explored destinations like Costa Rica and Galveston, TX (where we spent a number of winters). CR did not have the culture, the vibrancy or the food of Mexico and while the weather was spectacular, we found the environment lacking in something. Galveston was comfortable – we had previously lived in Dallas for a year on assignment – but that was in the Ann Richards time period. We witnessed a shift in the US over the years we spent wintering in Galveston and as Canadians, weren’t happy with the direction. So we started checking out more locations in Mexico. It was all research.
To be honest, it’s our environment that has changed – our lives are pretty much the same as they were! We still work at home, so get up, make coffee, go to the office. I do have a housekeeper once a week and a gardener once a week, which was a luxury I didn’t have up north. More sun instead of winter rain, and a longer gardening season, We really don’t eat processed food as much as we did, I suppose.
I actually have a stronger appreciation for Canada, as I watch the news from Mexico (being writers and editors, we are news junkies). And I realize how incredible the health care system is in Canada. I appreciate my home country more than I ever did before. But I do think some of that is the global situation and gaining perspective from distance.
I have been trying to learn the language for six years off and on and finally, my latest instructor says I would be considered ‘intermediate’ now, were I to head for a Spanish classroom (I do one on one Skype lessons with a local teacher – much easier to make that happen than a physical class for me).
Emergency medical care in Spanish (my husband has had both a gallbladder attack and an emergency appendectomy) is a gong show for me. I can’t communicate on any medical level, and I am sure they run every test in the book (private hospitals) because we are gringos and have insurance – never mind that we have to pay on our credit card and wait three months for reimbursement, My heart jumps into my throat every time anything happens that might result in a hospital visit, If anything will drive me out of Mexico it will be my own inability to manage the language well enough to deal with medical issues. And the medical system itself. Again, I was raised in Canada where one’s health care is almost taken for granted.How does anyone persevere? I stick my head in the sand and pretend we aren’t hitting an age where things start to break. And when it happens, you deal with it. I think it’s probably true that the anxiety worrying about anything is more painful than the event. When anything happens, so far we have dealt with it. We’ll see how it goes in the future. I am very grateful that we have a country we feel is worth going home to, should we decide to leave. We don’t plan to live in Mexico for the rest of our lives – maybe another five to 10 years. But who knows? Maybe we will. We love the way Mexico deals with death spiritually (the Day of the Dead).
The things that have always been important remain important – friends & family, being honest, not doing harm, trying to do good. We were never very material people and the typical middle-class aspirations have never been important to us. This is an interesting exercise. I hadn’t realized before articulating this but we’ve always been kind of nomads so having things wasn’t really practical. We have a 5 x 10 storage locker in Canada. We moved the important stuff to Mexico, even a couple of pieces of furniture. One is an antique Chinese cabinet that was the first item I ever shipped and imported into Canada on my own and we like it, but if it disappears tomorrow we don’t really care. I’ve gone off a bit here, sorry – but I really don’t have answers for some things. When we came to Mexico – we’d already figured out who we were. I know it can be a complete change for some – but we started freelancing 30 years ago so haven’t participated much in the rat race, lucky for us.
A defining moment for me was looking around at a social gathering in the first town we landed in, where every guest (big catered party) was gringo and speaking English. Incredible home, worth $1 million+. Half a block away, I had noticed a small house with the door open – the floor was dirt and the roof was a blue tarpaulin. I looked around and thought, “This isn’t what we came here for, I could be in any gated community in Arizona”.We have two dogs, we have a pond, a pool, a large garden. Lots of chores. Paying bills, grocery shopping in the markets – it all takes time.
We are both writers and consultants. We write books and also do ghostwriting of memoirs for select clients. I am currently working on two ghost jobs for clients – one is a Canadian story – a successful businessman who has run airlines and pubs and the other is a tragic (true) love story that happened in Mexico.
I was a real estate agent in Toronto and know Mexico well. We have bought and sold several homes in different areas and I have working relationships in assorted cities and have been consulting on possible moves to Mexico for clients. I conduct a series of interviews that helps them determine the area they would like to explore and I will find potential rentals or potential purchases for them to check out when they arrive. I can arrange any facet of their arrival and pre-planning and my co-author of The Move to Mexico Bible – Sonia Diaz – can assist with visas and other legal requirements/options once they arrive.
Sahara Roberts caught the writing bug early in life. She enjoys writing Dark Romance and Romantic Suspense. Her days are filled with international trade issues (the legal kind) and her evenings writing steamy romance.
She is currently working on Blood Ties, a Dark Mafia Romance series, along with the first spinoff, Rise of Faust, set in South America.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys socializing on Facebook and Instagram or watching The Blacklist, Pure, and My Hero Academia.
Sahara lives in South Texas with her beloved husband and their three furry overlords. She enjoys cooking, baking, and cake decorating, but she would certainly prefer to have someone else do the dishes.
Laura Roberts writes contemporary romance and short women’s fiction, with steamier stories under the pen name Laure L’Amour. She currently lives in Sacramento, California with her artist husband and their literary kitty, Percy. When she’s not writing, she can be found editing manuscripts for indie authors, transcribing reality TV (her day job), watching rom-coms, testing chocolate recipes, or searching for more typewriters to add to her collection (a Royal Quiet DeLuxe, an Olympia SM9, and a Hermes 3000, frequently featured in her Instagram posts @LauraRobertsRomance). You can find out more about Laura and her work at her website, Buttontapper.com.
A short series of love notes to the city of Sacramento, Sacramento Love features 26 fictional meet-cute romances—each sparked somewhere within California’s state capital. Follow along as our cast of local characters meet one another in diners, dive bars, coffee shops, restaurants, parks, and at some of Sacramento’s most beloved landmarks from the American River Parkway to the mysterious Ziggurat.
A sweet (and occasionally spicy) fictional companion to author Laura Roberts’ forthcoming travel guidebook, Sacramento From A to Z, each of the Sacramento Love stories embrace the spirit of the city while travel and other activities in the real world are on hold. Lift your spirits with the joy of meeting someone new, a little romance, and a lot of Sacramento Love!
I’m originally from Colorado and I now live in Guanajuato, Mexico. On May 1st of 2016, my family and I decided to travel Mexico and a friend highly recommended Guanajuato.
I would say my relationship with my family and friends started to change when I moved overseas for the first time about seventeen years ago. Making the decision to travel long-term changes our world view so dramatically it’s often difficult to return to the same relationships and even when we do they are not the same because we have changed so much.
My belief system changed when I was 19 and on my first overseas trip to Myanmar. I’m from a very small town in rural America and I had no world view. I was raised with a few thousand people that for the most part are exactly the same. There’s not much diversity for the fact that they don’t welcome it. I saw how close minded I was and how I had been taught (mostly silently) that people who are different from me are less than or bad. I realized that there was so much more to see and experience. I realized how different and how alike we all are. I also learned that we always fear what we do not understand and that would impact me until this day. I wouldn’t say I have overcome fear. I have got comfortable feeling fear and acting anyway. Every time I do something new I feel fear. Every single time.
I returned to the U.S. ten years ago after getting malaria in Kenya. I knew Colorado would be a tough transition for many reasons including the change in climate. I decided to move to Tucson, Arizona and a few months later I met my husband on a blind date. We traveled together for a year before having kids and now we are traveling with our two sons. I feel like my husband and I have a much better relationship when we are traveling. Life, in general, is lighter and more carefree. We have more time and more fun and that’s always good for our relationship.
In some ways, our life is very similar to how it was before we moved to Mexico. Toddlers are still toddlers. We still own our businesses. My husband and I started a business together in 2008 and it has evolved into my consulting business. He does a little web design but for the most part, he is fully in his art business. He paints on the iPad and sells limited edition metal art online. I facilitate masterminds for female entrepreneurs and I have recently written a book called Success Redefined Travel, Motherhood, & Being the Boss. We still work and play. I would say the thing that impacts us the most, however, is the change of environment. We are living in a country where I feel much more supported as a mother. It’s very family friendly in Mexico. They love kids. They expect kids to act like kids here. In the U.S. kids are expected to act like adults. Parents have many pressures on them and it feels nearly impossible to do “good enough” there. In Mexico, we take more time to do fun things. Meals are longer. We walk everywhere. We spend less time working. We go with the flow more.
Because of my travels, I have changed entirely. I’m not who I was raised to be. I’m not religious in the traditional sense. After I started traveling I began an inward journey. I sought out to find what spirituality meant to me. I am pretty liberal. I’m inclusive. I believe everyone should be able to love and live as they choose. I don’t believe that anyone on the planet is illegal. I see borders as absurd. I don’t buy into the philosophy of hard work or martyrdom. I believe in living well and deliberately choosing my life. I would like to believe I have become a more compassionate and tolerant human being. I also have to say I have become more protective of my time and energy. I am incredibly particular who I allow in my inner circle and that has been very good for me. I would say the most valuable skill I have learned here (and everywhere I’ve lived) is to ask for help, to ask questions and to receive help.
There have been challenges, though. When I first started traveling I went everywhere by myself. That in and of itself was a huge challenge. I lived a very sheltered life and so this shift to independence had lots of growing pains. Looking back it was the single best thing I did for myself, my husband and my children because I know who I am as a woman. I overcame getting the deadliest strain of malaria while living in Kenya. I had always been healthy and suddenly I was bedridden for almost a year. The contrast in life helped me see how valuable good health really is. Later when my husband and I traveled together we had to overcome our clients backlash about out decision to leave the U.S. for a year. After we returned to the U.S. I had two babies in twelve months and had severe complications after birth that were life threatening. We also almost lost both our boys as babies. As a mother, this is extremely painful and yet it’s also when I found my strength. I fought for my own life and the lives of my children.
I would say the biggest challenge I face as a full-time traveler is the amount of criticism I receive. People who never travel or don’t feel the have the means to travel are the first to say my life is not good for my kids or that I am out of touch with “reality”. Truthfully I am out of touch with a reality that blames others for circumstances. In my life and business, I am passionate about empowerment. Most people don’t realize the biggest challenge standing in their way of having an amazing life is that they are unwilling to take ownership of their decisions. Spanish has also been a challenge for me. However, I’m focused on classes this quarter and I am excited to learn this language.
Professionally, the accomplishment I am most proud of is creating reoccurring monthly income for nine years in a row. Most people who start businesses dream of steady cash flow and I have experienced it. Personally, my kids make me incredibly proud. They are complete miracles and bring me tons of joy.
I can’t say I miss anything about living in the U.S. but that took time. In the beginning, I did. I missed some foods and some systems and procedures. Now what I miss is how simply my life was when I first moved overseas. There was no social media and I rarely even used email. I appreciate how technology connects me to my clients around the world and yet it was very nice to live without it.
Stuff, in general, is no longer important to me. When I moved to Tucson after being out of the U.S. for most of my twenties I thought I had missed out on something. My friends had gone to college (I did not), they were married, they had bought houses and cars and I had a suitcase of dusty clothes. My husband and I bought a house our first year of marriage and the second we did, I knew I didn’t want it. I didn’t realize how travel had given me a taste for experiences and I lost so much of my desire for status symbols in my country.
The defining moment of my life since leaving the U.S. nine months ago was when a client wrote a nasty blog post about my choice to travel. I lost clients over it. I lost friends over it. At first, it was painful and confusing and then I found my fierce, take no prisoners self. I raised the bar in my life and that was the best thing I could have ever asked for. I have a good life and a good family. I don’t need the whole world to understand it, I simply enjoy it.
I spend my free time downtown and in our favorite plazas eating street tacos and churros. When the boys are napping I sometimes sneak away for yoga, a walk or nap myself. My boys just turned two and three and the move has been good for them. They are loved by so many and are very happy. I believe kids pick up on the energy of their parents, particularly their mother in the early years and so having me happy and light is a good thing for them. My life is meaningful because it’s deliberately simple. I love a good cup of tea or playing Legos with my boys or having a nice dinner with my husband. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. It has brought me to the beautiful place I am today.
Cassie Pearse is a British writer and editor. She moved to Mérida, Mexico in 2016 with her husband, two kids and a whole lot of enthusiasm for adventure. Cassie is a monthly contributor to Yucatán Today, Yucatán’s foremost travel magazine, she has her own popular blog, mexicocassie.com and, at the end of 2020, published her first book, Moving To Mérida: How To Successfully Move To Mexico As A Family. The book details both the decisions and plans that led Cassie’s family to leave London and move to Mexico as well as information that is invaluable to making your own move.
When she isn’t exploring and writing about Mexico, Cassie is the senior editor of Saving Earth Magazine and Saving Earth for Kids Magazine, two stunning environmental magazines. She is also a freelance editor and has a small but thriving consultancy offering support to people thinking about moving to Yucatán or wanting help planning trips to the region.
Cassie loves being outside and five years hasn’t quenched her excitement for exploring the diversity of Mexico. She has a list as long as her arm of places she still *needs* to visit.
So, if you’re considering packing it all in and moving to Mexico, Cassie’s book will tell you everything you need to know in order to start your new, exciting life in Mérida, Mexico’s most desirable city. Look out for Cassie’s second book, Yucatán With Kids: Exploring The Mexico Cassie Way. It’ll be out later this year.
Moving To Mérida: How To Successfully Move To Mexico As A Family
Cassie does a great job of laying out facts and details about moving to Merida in the Yucatan region of Mexico. She answers all the questions you have and even the ones you didn’t know you had. While this book addresses moving abroad with children, the information is still helpful if you are considering a move to the city without children. This should be required reading for anyone that is considering making Merida their home
Cassie is able to deliver information that is not only accurate, but thorough and all with her own stories and humor scattered throughout. She answers questions you didn’t know you had and lays out information in a way that is easy and fun to read. This book would not only be helpful for a move to Merida, but for a move to most any part of Mexico. While the book is geared towards families, the information and insight is perfect for anyone. Whether you live vicariously through the Pearse family or you make the move yourself you’ll be glad you did.
I read this book this afternoon and it made my day! I absolutely loved it. I am so excited to visit this beautiful city, and hopefully move there one day soon. This book provides all the necessary info to make the leap! If you’re at all curious about Merida I highly recommend it!
Moving To Mérida: How To Successfully Move To Mexico As A Family can be purchased on Amazon or Gumroad.
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.
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.
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.