Photos for January Stones and April PAD 2012 property of M J Dills (exception 1/16)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


As much as I’ve wanted to write a blog about re-entry into the United States after years of living outside her borders, I just haven’t been able to ignite that particular muse. While I have a lot to say about the matter, I’ve been too busy seeking employment, looking after family and recovering from an inevitable bug I managed to contract (what a funny way of saying getting sick. Surely, this is not the type of contract I’m looking for.)

Thanksgiving approaches with such rapidity; I was astonished to wake up this morning to realize it is tomorrow! Christmas decorations are everywhere and many houses already have lights dripping from gutters and shutters. I’ll miss the holidays in Vallarta, where there is no Black Friday and Christmas shopping at the worst of times might mean a 10 minute wait in line at Wal-Mart.

There is a huge banner hung on the street side of Stanford’s Restaurant advertising Black Friday Breakfast starting at 5:30 a.m. This must be for those who storm the doors at Target, which opens at 5 a.m. It’s hard for me to imagine anything so necessary or so cheap. My past experience with waiting in line for deals that are too good to be true is that they are, indeed, most likely too good to be true.

I do anticipate a family Thanksgiving. Snuggled in the foothills of the Cascades at my son’s cozy house, his wife browning the turkey, my mother visiting with her great granddaughter and the first holiday I will share with my older brother in a very long time. There will be eleven of us and we shall pray and give thanks for the well being of friends, loved ones and strangers; the benefit of shelter, jobs, love, food, central heating, church, friendship, peace, schools, and a mechanic in the family.


It is with dubious pleasure I share the following poem:

Black Friday

Giving their thanks with no ordinary feast

Americans from coast to coast

Shamelessly devour food enough to cause complaint,

Which quite often puts them to sleep

So they may

Store energy for the equally traditional

Black Friday shopping on the following day,

When consumers boost the country’s economy

And push the red ink over the line,

Turning it magically to black.

Doorbuster Deals to entice the post-Thanksgiving shoppers

Was not a concept taken seriously by Jdimypai Damour

Until the entrance bulged, snapped and overflowed

With eager New Yorkers

At the darkened hour of 5 a.m.

Seeking a most important supreme Christmas gift.

The blood and bones of Jdimypai Damour

Remained on the floor

Of the Wal-Mart store

As checkers scanned the treasures of holiday shoppers,

Who went back home to eat leftover turkey sandwiches

With chilled cranberry sauce,

And watch the 6’o’clock news

Of the California shootings that left

Two people dead in the aisles of Toys-R-Us,

For the sake of one sought after toy,

Giving new meaning to Loss leader.

(Based on actual events Thanksgiving 2008)

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let's Not Kiss, Shall We?

A few years ago while I watched my nephew tightly gripping his Game Boy about six inches from his face, completely oblivious to his surroundings, I was alarmed by what looked to me like a sure method of de-socializing a child. Television and the Nintendo had taken on a new, much more intense contender.

This was long before one could golf, bowl, kick a soccer ball, surf, skateboard and participate in several other sports, just by standing in front of a television, at home….alone. Wii was to be the shocking wave of the future.

Telephone texting has robbed people of real conversation and even developed “predictive” mode to increase the speed one can talk.

As much as I have found these activities annoying, I will confess that beyond the irritation, I am profoundly alarmed.

We don’t see as much of this behavior in Mexico, perhaps due to a less materialistic approach to living and lower economic levels all across the board.

I’ll be returning to the US soon, where I'll need to adjust to the lack of good manners, of which I've become accustomed. Strangers greet one another on the street, with few exceptions. Sneeze in the grocery aisle and you are likely to be saluted with a blessing to your health by someone hidden by a row of cereal boxes. Children and babies are touched, patted and fondled by waiters, grocery clerks, bankers, receptionists, and countless other unfamiliar persons. Kissing upon greeting is not just acceptable, but expected. Hand shaking is an art form.
Last night, a friend returning from the states exclaimed how people no longer are hugging, shaking hands or kissing. The air kiss/hug/hand shake is being promoted on the six o’ clock news, in schools, offices and even homes, amongst relatives, as well as acquaintances. This, due to the swine flu.

Soon we can simply stay at home, have food delivered, sit in front of the computer or stand in front of the television screen. We can eliminate all human contact by texting; webcamming; playing Wii sports; chess, dominoes, Scrabble, etc online. We can do away with touching, hugging, kissing.
Eventually we will have little or no need for one another. Even babies can be made in a petri dish.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Satisfied Mind Thanks to Bobby Dylan

I’m supposed to be at a Bobby Dylan concert tonight in Seattle. I won tickets from KPLU, my favorite radio station in the NW, when I was there this summer. It was painful to realize I would need to leave the US, returning to Mexico and miss seeing live, at this later stage of both Dylan’s and my life, my teenage idol. The guy who told us to lend a hand or get out of the way, ‘cause the times were changing.
How prophetic, as I listen to, via internet, an interview with Rosanne Cash, singing her father’s List , hearing her talk about Johnny, Dylan, American folk music and singing songs that I love. I’m lucky to have Terry Gross to entertain me tonight, keeping my mind off the thrill I would’ve experienced at the WaMu Theater this evening.
My times are changing right now and there are wistful, melancholy feelings along with the excitement of knowing that I am opening a new chapter in my life. I listen to 500 Miles and North Country Girl, sung with a beautiful voice; not Dylan…but a woman who has gone through so many changes in her own life.
Imagine how I feel listening to "Motherless children have a hard time when the mother is gone." These lyrics strike so many chords.
I am making choices during this time as I have all my life. Making decisions and uprooting myself and sometimes my very own children to follow one dream or another. I am going back to Seattle to live with one child, be close to another who has seen far too little of me in the past decade and spend time with my 88 year old mother (who as spry as she is, is after all, eighty-eight). In that process I will leave behind my eldest daughter, her husband and my two youngest grandchildren, who followed me here to Mexico almost exactly two years ago.
Things we sacrifice, things we desire, things we face, conquer and win or lose…this is life. If life were not about change, it would be stagnant, close and so very meaningless. I tried to make light of missing seeing Dylan live. Aw, that it could have been Leonard Cohen that I had won tickets to see, I lamented.
I truly knew my loss, my chagrin, my tiny sorrow. Now that I am actually making this move and have sold all my furniture and dig through my collection of possessions (wondering why, over the past 13 years, I brought this or that), tossing, packing, storing, selling, I feel certain burdens lift and sense an anticipation regarding my immediate future. There will also be sadness, real grief and anxieties about making this change.
I’m going to wonder if he will sing this song tonight, an obscure one. But if I were there, and could write a little note, make a request and put a dollar in the tip jar, I would ask for this:

A Satisfied Mind.

How many times have you heard someone say
If I had his money I'd do things my way
Hmm, but little they know
Hmm, it's so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.
Hmm, once I was wading in fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed of to get a start in life’s game
But suddenly it happened
Hmm, I lost every dime
But I'm richer by far with a satisfied mind.
Hmm, when my life is over and my time has run out
My friends and my love ones
I'll leave there ain't no doubt
But one thing for certain
When it comes my time
I'll leave this old world
With a satisfied mind

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Often my dreams consist of saving people, frequently leaving me more exhausted when I wake up than when I bed down. The objects of my rescues are my children, grandchildren, ex-husbands and lovers, occasionally extended family members, and sometimes friends and unknowns.
A lady I know insists she has an innate skill for interpreting these dramas that go on in my sleep. She informs me that in my effort to maintain calm in my everyday life, I allow my anticipation and fears to visit me in a place where I can relinquish control to some other authority.
If that’s the case then I’d like there to be some Port Authority for checking ID’s, passports and past records of former violators. Some of the people that manage to pass through the portal of my Netherland are doing so without permission, invitation and consent. I am rarely surprised to see them. I have learned to accept their presence and dutifully view the show from my front row observation pillow. These images follow me around in my waking hours, sometimes influencing my thoughts and actions. That can be good, reminding me to not commit the same errors of the past. Other times I am simply haunted.
In real life I’ve lost people in crowds; been left on docks; missed planes, trains, busses; forgotten appointments, classes, birthdays and directions. I’ve misbalanced checkbooks, overdrawn, underestimated, forgot to mail the check, forgotten the day (forgotten the month), picked Door Number Two, mistaken a name, misplaced a face and transposed the number. Most are occasions I have memories of and can recall, relate and share. Dreams are different. They are ethereal, and as with lies, fade away, having no material substance with which to cling.
Throughout the day, images enter my perspective like cartoon bubbles, hovering and disappearing. I close my eyes again in an effort to freeze an image; just long enough to get a perspective, but… it was just a dream. Or at least a part of one that fluttered through my unconsciousness long enough to cause a disturbance on my personal Richter scale.
As far as the maintenance of calm in my life? That is something that will never happen. I’m sure of it. I suspect I will continue to be consumed by all things irrational, behind the curtains of my eyelids. Asleep or awake. And not be surprised.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Sixty. I don’t feel sixty. Nor, have been told, look sixty. But the facts are there, in black and white, on parchment paper and family bibles.
I have not accomplished my life dream and though I realize many go out without even knowing what their true purpose in life is, I am not one of them.
However, to begin the course for my next chapter of living, I have some tasks to accomplish.
Today I will begin the process of elimination. That is: eliminating things I have collected and schlepped around over the decades. I must sort and dust and decide.
There are… photos albums and overflowing boxes of images that begged to be catalogued and will now be purged. Dishes: crystal, china, silver, plates, mugs and ceramic bowls made by my erstwhile teenage potter, her name etched carefully on the bottom of each. Toys; some that were hugged and abused by my own babies. Books; reference, novels, children’s, bios and guides; loads of these. Curtains, blankets, linens, serviettes and table cloths, and delicately embroidered pillowcases. Projects; half finished, unframed, requiring mending, long forgotten or purposefully ignored. Art. (The word stands alone.) Framed photos, large and small. A sizable music collection of CD’s and cassettes, even vinyl, a few long out of circulation and some painful to the ears. Electronics, furniture, and computer paraphernalia that will always mystify me. Files, papers, drawers and cabinets full of information, useful and obsolete. Clothing, the easiest perhaps. Trinkets, mementoes, tchotkes. Memories, sorrows. Joys.
Sixty. A few days ago, I celebrated this benchmark with a group of dear friends. I’ve taken inventory of the past six decades and find myself bewildered as to how I even got this far. I often joke with visitors who ask “What brought you to Mexico?” Yes, a plane brought me to Puerto Vallarta; and at times a car. Now the joke’s on me.
A series of complications found me back in Vallarta this time. I have an FM2, a visa that allows me out of Mexico for only 90 days. While this is a hardship in certain ways, it also permits me to own property and not pay capital gains (28%), once I sell. Since I am trying to immediately sell a piece of property, I became hogtied by Mexican immigration.
My era here has past. It’s time to open the door to new and more innovative, cleverer, more ambitious people than I.
So I will be a homeward bound angel. And I will diligently search for that elusive agent and publisher for my books; perhaps produce a chapbook of my excellent poems and continue to write, for the amusement of myself and hopefully others.
I’ll take that 28% loss. I thought it might be painful but there are things other than money that impinge upon the emotional spine.
Money and time; the ultimate equalizers. One, perhaps negotiable, the other, never really. Not having much left of either, I am encouraged to make a new plan. It won’t be the first and with any luck, not the last.
Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Party

I was very happy to spend the day of my 60th birthday on a rooftop overlooking the ocean, dipping in the pool and playing cards, looking forward to strolling next door at sunset to join a group of friends for a celebratory dinner at one of my favorite beach restaurants. It would have been quite satisfying. I just didn’t expect too much, having made it clear that low-key was the operative word for this year’s commemoration.
My good friend Candace picked me up shortly before noon and with a bit of frustration, explained the errands she had to run before we could get to our first destination: the pool and card table. I told her it was fine with me, we had the whole day ahead of us. We drove out the coast highway and came to a lovely cliff-side villa, where she encouraged me to follow her while she conducted her business. My first inclination was to feel like an intruder, when we ran into a couple who were purportedly guests of whom we were disturbing. They nodded curtly as they gave us their permission to enter, then disappeared. We wandered down a grand staircase into the foyer and living room, with a sweeping view of the ocean and famous volcanic rocks Los Arcos.

There was a woman in the pool; her back turned, taking in the scenery. She looked vaguely familiar but then at my age, many people do.

We wandered into the kitchen area and dining room, me following Candace obediently. She had requested margaritas, which I thought was a little cheeky and even cheekier still for me to ask if maybe we could get them to go. Candace was the one complaining that all this running around was cutting into our card playing time. As we waited for our margaritas to be mixed, we wandered in the direction of the pool.

The woman who I had glanced at moments before seemed much more familiar to me and I stared at her, trying to understand what my good friend Shawn was doing there. She stared up at me and I stared back at her. Candace pulled her dress over her head to reveal a swimsuit and dove into the water.

Maybe my eyes popped out, perhaps my jaw dropped; I don’t recall but just then Shawn said Surprise! Happy Birthday!
What are
you doing here? I asked.

I still wasn’t totally getting it.
It took me a while to get my bearings. I didn’t really understand at first until it dawned on me what my friends had done.

The guests, Patti and Gary, who we’d disturbed on our way in, turned out to be Shawn’s friends, visiting from California. They were great actors, playing up the disgruntled vacationers. I wasn’t expecting Shawn to attend my birthday at all, since it was her husband Greg’s birthday as well and he was flying in that day. The foursome had planned to spend that night in Yelapa, down the coast and only attainable by boat. Or so I thought. Greg was not privy to the plans, either, so there were more surprises in store for the day.

At some point, I watched tables being set and nosily counted the place settings. Twenty-four people would be joining us for dinner.
We swam. Played cards. Moved everything inside when the skies opened up. Relaxed. Read. I never really got over my astonishment. In our well appointed rooms, we freshened up and dressed for the arrival of others.

At the appointed hour, they began to drift in. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends. We ate and drank for what seemed like hours. The food was divine. The company was delightful. When the evening ended long past the midnight hour, I retired to my room in this lovely villa and slept like a lamb, only to be awakened in the morning by a knock at the door and a breakfast tray. We didn’t leave Villa Luna Creciente until past 7 p.m., the whole day spent in absolute bliss. I cannot thank my friends and family enough for making this possible. Like a dream come true.

And reflections on turning 60?
It was more than I could have realized. More on that later. I promise.
Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back Home

I am home again; arrived a week ago today. Not sure how it feels to be home. Tomorrow I will be sixty years old and as I consider the past decade, I have been very fortunate. We could say it is a matter of luck, but as Dad always said “It’s a good thing there are two kinds of luck or I wouldn’t have any.”
I am in the process of considering how my future will play out and realizing perhaps ten years in Mexico has been enough. I love this country. I love the people and the culture. My experiences here have been rich beyond what I could ever have imagined a decade ago. For the most part, leaving my Mexican friends will be what pains me most. To a person, they have provided me with an understanding of kindness and love. Certainly, I have met a fair number of rogues, but admittedly, one will find those types anywhere. Since many Mexicans are not able to travel to the United States, due to immigration procedures or lack of funds, I will be obliged to return to Mexico on occasion to be filled again with their affection, good will and chicken mole.
I am often dismayed when I hear my non-Mexican friends grumble about some of their problems, criticisms and complaints about the country they have adopted. Foreigners are so welcome in Mexico, which has a very generous and tolerant immigration policy. This is, of course, a part of what makes up the country’s wealth: her mixture. In the beginning, these were conquistadors, who themselves were welcomed by the innocent and vulnerable. From the slave ships that embarked on the eastern shoreline to the present day ex-patriots from all continents, Mexico has been enriched.
I don’t know exactly what happens next for me. That remains to be seen and I am anxious and willing to discover. Thinking that life would be very different at this time, I need to somehow devise a new plan. Getting through tomorrow is my foremost goal. When I am sixty years and one day old, perhaps I will be more enlightened than I am today.