Great article about Mexico…it helps shed some misconceptions!
Great article about Mexico…it helps shed some misconceptions!
As I have mentioned previously, finding a job is one of the difficult parts of returning to the US. Especially for professionals. Its hard to imagine going back to being a drone in a big company. I want to continue to make the world a better place and I am looking for that opportunity. As part of this mission a good friend of mine in Mexico suggested that I meet Kimberly Wiefling, author of Scrappy Project Management and editor of Scrappy Women in Business. She is an amazing woman, full of energy and loves to share the wealth! She invited me to be a guest blogger on her Scrappy Women blog:
Its short and sweet but I think it will encourage people to volunteer more and do things that fill their heart. Please check out my blog and check back for more awesome stories by amazing women!
I decided to move my book reviews and recommendations to its own blog:
Check it out!!
WOW!! This blog certainly has evolved over the last year. It went from blogs about life in Mexico and the PC training, to the many wonderful trips I took all over Mexico to book reviews and recommendations. I want to thank everyone for reading! I hope you have learned a lot about life in Mexico and the Peace Corps. It was an amazing two years and it was…and still is hard to leave. I made lifelong friends and I can’t wait to return!
Sooooooooooo now I bet you are wondering…what’s it like to be home? What changed? What didn’t? What do you miss?
Well I am writing this blog in Japan so I guess I still really don’t know what its like to be home. I am still feeling pretty homeless and unsettled. In the month that I was “home” I spent a week in the bay area (with two different people), then a week in Oregon getting to know my dad and his family and then finally two weeks in Arizona with my mom and family. At that point I called my brother and said “Hook me up!! I am ready to stay in one place for a while!” and then I was invited to Japan and a week later…Japan here I come!
So…having said that…what changed? Really not much and I guess that was the surprising part! Besides my mom buying a new house nothing really changed. I went to the same nail salon, the same massage place, the same taqueria, the same grocery stores, the same everything…I guess it seems weird because I have changed so much that its surprising nothing else did.
The other thing I am noticing is that I am still speaking a lot of Spanglish…even here in Japan I find myself speaking Spanish…gracias, aqui, si si si! It’s great though when someone answers me back…de nada!
In general though I guess the hardest part for me and I am sure it is true for most returned PCV’s…is finding a job. We joined the PC to change the world…or at least make a small difference in part of it. I find myself wanting to still do that…but of course I want to get paid for it this time. I don’t want to be another number in some giant organization! I want to be a person who matters and who does things that matter. Do those jobs even exist? Am I being selfish in wanting something like that?
The good news is…is that I feel like I am in a place where I can dream the big dreams and take risks. I have very few things to lose at this point (hence why I am in Japan). I am having a difficult time dreaming big but I am hoping that some of that is fear and I will clear it soon. Before I left for Japan I signed up for a temporary agency for contract work. It won’t be life altering work but at least it will keep me busy and stop the bleeding! Even with telling myself that I am job hunting “fulltime” I am tired of being home all day long doing nothing but job hunting. After a month I am finding very few new items.
So what else is new? I miss the simplicity of Mexico, walking every where, cooking with super fresh veggies and the people. I have tried walking everyday since I got back…super easy to do in Tokyo but harder to do in the US. I have had to give myself assignments in order to motivate myself. Walking dogs and going to the grocery store are good ones but other than that I feel like I am walking aimlessly around. Like I said…I am hoping getting job helps some of this. I also think being settled in one place for a while will help. We shall see…
So, aside from not having a job and looking to create something wonderful…moving back to the US hasn’t been as hard as some people would think. Yes, TV has gotten even more insane (so I am choosing not to get one) and now I have to start paying more attention to the news (and sports). I am a lot more flexible and adaptable than I was before so I think that helps a lot but only time will tell!
I have been asked to blog for a couple different groups. One is Scrappy Women and that one should be published sometime this month. The other is a Silicon Valley Project Management group and that will be published in May. I am thinking about making some changes to this blog since my service is over and maybe create a few new blogs…maybe one specifically for book reviews and another for positive thoughts and coaching. Who knows…regardless I will keep you posted
Doing a lot of traveling this month so not sure how much I will be able to read. A couple of my favorite authors are releasing new books this month though so I will HAVE to make time to read them.
Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson – (Mystery) JP did it again! As always its suspenseful, scary and a super fast read!
Immortal Ever After by Lynsay Sands (Argneau #18) – (Paranormal) You would think that the author would run out of ideas after 17 books but LS is still going strong! If you love vampires this is the series for you! The books are fun, sexy, dramatic and action packed. Very little of that back and forth drama that some books have.
Scrappy Women in Business by Kimberly Wiefling – (NonFiction) I was blessed to have been given a copy of this book by Kimberly herself. Its a very inspiring and motivational book written by Kimberly and other amazing women. I recommend this book to any young woman trying to figure out their path.
Come Fly With Me by Sandi Perry – (Chic Lit) Cute book that is mostly about finding yourself and maybe along the way finding love. Fast read!
I Funny by James Patterson – (YA) A hilarious young adult book by my favorite author. Who knew he was a comedian too? Very cute book…I would recommend this book to people of all ages who love to laugh.
Blood and Snow Series by RaShelle Workman – (YA Paranormal) Snow White and the Seven dwarfs meets Twilight. Interesting concept and it got weird at times. I read the first three books in the series (very short books) but I didn’t like them enough to read the rest of the series.
How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donahue – (Chic Lit) Super cute book based in San Francisco. Its about friendship, assumptions, betrayal and of course the best method for eating a cupcake! A fast read that’s perfect for the beach
Scarlet (Book2 of the Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer – (Retelling FT) I loved the first book (Cinder) about and cyborg Cinderella, this one introduces Little Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf who work together to help Cinder. The story is still unfolding and I can’t wait for the next one!
Dark Hunter Series by Sherrilyn Kenyon – (Paranormal) I am only a couple books into this series but its already proven to be a winner! Who wouldn’t want a god for a mate? This is a great series for people who like paranormal romance series!
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abby by Fiona Carnarvon – (NonFiction) If you are a fan of Downton Abby then you will love this book. Its not a super fast read but its really interesting and it includes pictures!
The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine – (NonFiction) I actually listened to this book which was read by Michael Caine himself and it was cool when he would laugh at his own life. A very interesting book because his life was and is so interesting!
I have been sharing my blog a lot recently and it seems weird to keep these book reviews but I still think they are worth while….well maybe only for me. The book reviews do keep me reading different types of books. As I mentioned in my last post I do have a lot to say about Mexico and about living again in the US….but that can wait. In the meantime… here are the books I read in Feb. Its hard to update this a month later because honestly I barely remember the details… I will try to go back to updating the blog once a week…
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor – (YA Fantasy) I really like how the first book unveiled itself. I like it when you don’t really know how something happened until later. This is a very different type of book although it does have Seraphim angels that are at war with monsters. Its a fast read because you have to find out what happens next!
Unenchanted by Chanda Hahn – (YA Retelling Fairy Tales) This is a different twist to your Grimm’s Fairy Tales. In this story the main character is a Grimm and she needs to break the curse her family is under but completing the tales. Fast read and entertaining twists.
Nothing to Lose by Lee Child (Reacher #12) - (Mystery) Another great Reacher book.
The Man Within by Lora Leigh (Breeds #2) – (Paranormal) This is another great series for people who love sexy Paranormal stories with lots of action and an evolving story line.
Love Left Behind by SH Kolee – (Romance) Typical love ‘em, lose ‘em and find ‘em again book. Not exactly different but a fast and fun read.
Mythos Academy by Jennifer Estep – (YA) I love these boarding school books. Instead of just vampires this one is about descendents of Vikings, Valkyries etc… and based on the Greek and Norse gods. Of course its the battle between good and evil.
Argo by Antonio Mendez – (Non-Fiction) This book was actually written AFTER the movie and was Fantastic! If you are a fan of spy books, disguises and suspense then you will love this book. Its an insiders look into the CIA during the cold war. I found it very interesting to learn about what happened in Iran and how things changed between our two countries.
Down to You by M. Leighton – (ChicLit) This was a very interesting love triangle story with a great twist.
Taking Chances by Molly McAdams – (YA Romance) This was a deeper book than I thought it would be. Typical love triangle but with lots of twists. Not sure where they are going to go with the next book in the series.
I Just Want My Pants Back by David Rosen – (Romance) This book was very interesting because it is a romance from a guy’s point of view. It starts out very funny but it does have its sad and tense moments. The ending felt rushed though and I was left disappointed but overall it was interesting.
Dark Swan Series by Richelle Mead – (Paranormal) I decided to finish up the series and I wasn’t disappointed…well until the end of last book! The main character is still pretty bad ass and she faced some pretty tough choices.
The Shoemakers Wife by Adriana Trigiani – (Historical Fiction) This books starts in Italy and tells the story of Italian immigrants prior to WWI. Intense and sad at times but in general this is a love story that keeps you cheering for them!
I am approaching my last day in Mexico more rapidly than I expected. Originally, my last day would be around June 1. It’s never set in stone because it depends on the individual and what they are working on. I am headed home early because I need to have surgery. For over a year I have been suffering from continual ear infections. Once a month, and now once ever two weeks I get an ear infection and it looks like its because I have an enlarged adenoid which is blocking my ear drainage. For at least 6 months the doctors were blaming it on allergies, luckily our new PC Doctor finally decided to check to see what I was allergic to, and as it turns out…nothing!
I am sure you are like…what you’ve been sick? You never said anything??? I don’t like to complain much and mostly what it does is cause pain and some discomfort. The thing that bothers me the most is that I lose all my energy. I am glad this problem happened when I was acting as a volunteer. If I was in the US I would have been fired, either for missing too much work or low performance because I worked through being sick. I am nervous about the surgery but glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am tired of always being sick.
So as you can tell I feel like I have to justify why I am leaving. There is a huge part of me that feels like I failed. I only have three more months, why can’t I just suck it up and finish. There are soooo many reasons to stay and just as many reasons to return home. I didn’t make this decision easily but truth be told, I am bored, I have finished all my projects, my kids are on to new and different adventures and I miss my friends and family. It just feels like its time. I did what I needed to do in Mexico and now its time to face reality.
So I write this blog as an explanation…I know a lot of my readers have been following my many adventures and even living vicariously. I am so grateful to my friends and family who have supported me through my service here in Mexico. I named them on FB but I want to give them another shout out!
My family: Mom, Maisie, Mary Jane and Hannah! You guys were a blessing…clothes, Christmas decorations, candy, electronics, school supplies, random shit like Krazy Glue, chocolate, chap stick, salad dressing mix…etc… Most importantly love!
My sorority sisters: Lisa, Crissie, Jenny Lynn, and Lynnae! Coffee!!! Chocolates, Twizzlers, school supplies, owl stuff, Lipton Tea Bags, etc… and again most importantly LOVE! They all have kids and they helped me not only with materials and support but the chocolate, tea and coffee certainly refueled me when I needed it. They are all super busy with their careers and children and I appreciate the support, words of encouragement and love that came with the packages and cards. I LOVED the pictures that came with the packages.
Tiara and Tim! My two bestests Both of them sent me tons of letters and cards along the way and even visited me! Even the most mundane details kept me connected to home. They are the kind of friends who even after not seeing each other for 6 months once we are together it seemed like only yesterday.
I am so grateful for all of the people above and the many other people that prayed for me, sent me words of encouragement through cards, FB or email. I know that what I did at this time of my life is unusual. I left a perfectly good career to work for nothing in a foreign country. I was blessed to be able to do this and I hope that I represented my family, my friends and my country well.
I had an amazing experience in Mexico and I hope that I have shared it with you all effectively. I hope that through my words you have learned about the beauty of my Mexico, the culture, places, people and food!
Years ago I ran across the quote below and decided to live by this definition of success. I hope that at least one person breathed easier because of me… we certainly had a lot of laughs
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)
I have a lot more to say about Mexico, the places I have visited, the things I will miss and of course the books I have read. So keep checking back!!!
Thanks again…friends and family in both the US and Mexico! Te amo mucho!!
I was writing my reviews during free time at work but my computer is running so slow that I can’t really do that anymore Looks like I might have to update this blog monthly.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – (Fiction) I hadn’t wanted to read this book because the synopsis made it sound so bland…a guy gets accused of killing his wife…blah blah blah…like we haven’t read a million of those… Since it was so popular (4 Stars with over 160k reviews) we decided to read this as our first Book Club Book. Overall I really liked it, it was different, had a great twist and was a fast read. I really didn’t like the way it ended though…
One Shot (#9), The Hard Way(#10) and Bad Luck and Trouble (#11) by Lee Child - (Mystery) Jack Reacher books are my go to books when I need an intense mystery. I have been trying to finish the series and I made good progress with them this month. All are super intense fast reads.
Dragonswan by Sherrilyn Kenyon – (Paranormal) I’ve been wanting to try different paranormal series to see which ones captivate me. I LOVE dragons so I this series really appealed to me. Very different story line as far as fantasy, paranormal stuff but still with a thread of romance tied into it. Not super sexy but enough to appeal to readers who want action and romance.
Bridesmaid Lotto Series by Rachel Astor - (Chic Lit) The first book the Bridesmaid Lotto was a free book from Nook and it did the trick…it gets you hooked and you want to buy the next two. This is a really funny, goofy series…a perfect beach read!
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – (Fiction) This book was completely different than things I have read, its frustrating at times (you want to strangle the main character) but its also intriguing and you won’t want to put it down. I loved learning what different flowers mean and how you can communicate using them.
Amazon: Get Big Fast by Robert Spector - (NonFiction) This is about the early days of Amazon and the founder. I was interviewing for a job with Amazon so I wanted a look inside…the book ends in 2001 I think…more of less so there is still so much more to the story but after interviewing there I see that a lot of the influence is still there (dogs and door desks).
The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn – (Young Adult) This is another big brother type book but instead of the characters being in the thick of it and trying to change it…this is more at the beginning. The change started small…not its growing more rapidly. Can these young people escape it? They tried but I guess the next two books will tell us more.
My Fake Fiance by Lisa Scott – (Chic Lit) Another cute book. She needs a date to a wedding and of course they end up being perfect together. Cute and a fast read.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – (Historical Fiction) This book is about Hemingway and his wife. It was mildly interesting but I just couldn’t ever really get into it…a slow read. It took me a week to get 1/2 way through…so I decided I didn’t want to finish it…
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - (Historical Fiction) A fun read especially if you like stories about the 1920s. I didn’t realize that this was written about a real person (silent film star) until after I finished it. Great combination of history and a romance!
Tempting the Beast by Lora Leigh – (Paranormal) Another paranormal series I wanted to try. I thought it would be about werewolves etc…but its actually more than that. Its about genetically enhanced humans. The first book the character is enhanced with Lion DNA. This book is action packed but also very sexy.
Private Berlin by James Patterson – (Mystery) JP knocked this one out of the box! The last two Privates were a little lame but this one was SUPER intense and scary. I loved how they actually made this somewhat historical too with the story of orphans and the Secret Police in Germany before the wall fell. A MUST read for JP fans!
This is my second Christmas in Mexico and its magical. Dia de la Independencia, Dia de los Muertos and Semana Santa are also awesome holidays in Mexico but for Christmas they really go all out…lots of decorations, fiestas, pastorelas, piñatas and ponche. Yes, I will explain what all of that is. I think what I like best is that we are still following old customs, we aren´t politically correct and its less commerical.
Officially Las Posadas are supposed to start on Dec 16 and end on Christmas day. The nine days represent the 9 months of pregnancy. Las posadas started in Spain (surprise!!) and there was a procession of people who went house to house looking for a place for Mary and Joseph to stay to give birth to Jesus. Las posadas in Mexico isn´t that much different but its more of a party and instead of starting on the 16th a ”Posada” can be anytime before Christmas…so basically your Christmas parties. In all posadas, in your house, your neighborhood or for your company, there is at least a nativity scene if not a full reenactment of the Nativity including the three wise men. What I found interesting is that they will not place baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas day. This took me some time to figure out…at first I thought at someone was stealing baby Jesus…
I have been to several official posados and they include reciting the rosary, singing songs about Mary and Joseph (Mary and Jose) and a piñata. This is where the piñatas became popular. Originally they weren´t shaped like burros or Dora the Explorer. Originally they were a 7 point star. The 7 points were to represent the seven deadly sins with the goodies of the world inside. The stick is the Christian faith that is beating evil to share all the goodies with the world. Of course the official drink served is “ponche” which is like a hot cider made with local fruits and of course tequilla is added when requested.
Throughout the season kids and adults hold “pastorelas” which officially translates to the “shepard´s play”. It was a way for the Spanish to visually tell the story of the birth of Christ and the fight between the Angel Michael and the Devil. As time went on in true Mexican fashion the mexican people added their own flavor to the play by adding shepherds to the story. These shepherds hear about the coming of Christ through the Angel Michael and decide to see it for themselves. Along the way they add more people to their pilgrimage and they fight evil. I watched several versions this year and I enjoyed them all. One even added a random dance number to it…and yes, of course, it was Gangnam Style! We can´t close 2012 without one last tribute to the Korean pop culture hit.
Both years I have left before Christmas day and have been pretty secluded. What´s interesting in Mexico is that Christmas doesn´t end when the presents are opened. Apparently Dec 28 is called Innocents Day and its like our April Fools day. Lots of tricks are played on that day and if you don´t remember what day it is you could be in trouble.
Turns out the biggest day of the season is actually the Epiphany, Three Kings day or Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos on Jan 6. The night before kids tie letters to the three kings to a balloon and release them. Since of course the kings brought presents to baby jesus, the kids get presents on this day too. Usually the biggest and best presents are given on this day. Most of my kids either got tablets or game systems this year. On this day a “rosca” sweet bread cake is served. Inside this cake is a baby jesus and whoever gets it is supposed to provide tamales during the Candlemas, or the Presentation of Jesus celebration in Feb. Unfortunately I keep missing this part of the celebration but it was a joy to hear all about it and see their gifts.
As I mentioned before and as my photos show, Christmas in Mexico is magical. Not only are there lights but they have full nativity scenes in the central parks. Christmas in Mexico is Christmas, it is celebrating the birth of Christ and not presents. Its not about how much money we can spend and how many presents we get but about the Saviour. I have been blessed to be apart of the celebrations!
Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Felicidad!
WOW! December in Mexico is absolutely crazy! Lots of parties, posadas etc… not to mention vacations. I went on a two week vacation to Oaxaca and Costa Rica but I will post those separately. I read a lot of series so I will just list the series and not the individual books. I didn´t read as many books as I had hoped but mostly because I was busy touring new places and being social.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - (Historical Fiction) Not a vacation read. I read this at home. This book is the first in a trilogy based in the 12th century and revolves around building a cathedral. Very interesting read, the politics at the time in England, the nuances of building a church and the lives of the people who lived there. A must read for English history buffs.
Reached by Ally Condie – (Young Adult) Last book in the Matched series and this was my least favorite in the series and it took me a long time to finish. Really I just needed closure. I really don´t like how they added a disease that kills everyone and that is how the new power takes over. In general this series was just OK, definitely not on my top 10.
The Enemy by Lee Child – (Mystery) This is the 8th book in the series and I love it how the author takes us back in time to when Reacher was in the Army. Great book with lots of twists and turns.
Simply Series by Carly Phillips – (Chic Lit) Cute series but they got a little formula after the second book. Great easy beach reads.
High Heels Mysteries by Gemma Halliday – (Chic Lit Mystery) Super cute mystery series starring a shoe designer. Of course she kind of stumbles across murders and they affect her personally so she has to solve them. Funny but at the same time intense. Fun beach reads!
Demonica Series by Larissa Ione – (Paranormal) Can there be good demons out there? Is there such a thing as a hospital for vampires, weres and demons? In this series there is. Very interesting side of the paranormal world. The demons in question need to find their mate when they turn 100 or they go crazy. These books were hard to put down!
That Boy Series by Jillian Dodd - (Chic Lit) I was loved this series as soon as I started it. It felt like home since its based in the mid west and has reference to sororities and the Chiefs. Turns out the author is a Chi Omega (me too!) so I am even more in love with the series. Super funny but also deep books which is a great combination!
I read a few other random romances. If you are interested in my rating of books in general add me as a friend on Goodreads.