Nosotros Vamos a Mexico

My (Joy’s) husband had always dreamed of retiring internationally. This is the man I married 40 years ago! A dreamer, an out of the box thinker, someone who didn’t care if his opinions were not popular or main-stream.We had a subscription to “International Living” magazine when no one had heard of it, its readers, hippy-dippy types who chose to live in Ecuador or Panama long before these places were considered cool.  

Me, the girl from the Upper West side of New York City who lived in the same apt for 23 years until the day she got married. I guess this was my alter ego saying, try something you have never experienced before.  So we poured through these monthly issues voraciously thinking of cool places to retire.  We were never going to be the people who moved to South Florida, as my parents did or Arizona or Nevada, the Carolinas, typical choices of Northeast folks when it came time to leave the workforce and the cold winters of this part of the country. As a twenty something year old reading this stuff, it seemed a lifetime away.

About 12 years earlier, for my 50th birthday to be exact, we planned a trip to Belize, a country getting a lot of attention at that time for being atypical Caribbean and non touristy.  I hated traditional resorts and all inclusives, being a sophisticated traveler.  Belize sounded cool and I only knew a few people who had been there. I picked a beach resort and figured we’d check it out at the same time for possible digs in that next chapter of life. Our whole family went including our then 15 and 18 year old daughters. We traveled to Grenada, a beautiful colonial city that some people had mentioned as a potential candidate for retirement.  Beautiful architecture, a city feel, but also armed guards with serious looking weapons at the local bank, and a true third world feel.  

Adventurous, I am, but stupid I am not.  This just didn’t feel like a place I’d call home!

From there we took a small plane (the kind you have your knees up against your chest in and pray until you land on terra firma safely) to our lovely beach resort.  We had a wonderful vacation and I will always remember Belize as the place I spent my 50th birthday with my family, but its less than smooth non white beaches were underwhelming and not even on the list of possibles when we returned home.

Next, several years later, as that 60 something decade was getting closer, we tried Panama and Nicaragua.  Both lovely destinations for a vacation but they didn’t make the cut. Panama City reminded me of Miami Beach, — not a fan and the humidity was oppressive.  In addition, the currency used is the U.S.dollar, so no benefit in terms of buying power.

 Nicaragua, while beautiful on the coast, many likening it to Southern California of 50 years ago.  But we must not forget that a wacko by the name of Noriega ran this country not that long ago. When discussing the idea of buying property in Nicaragua with one of my friends, who is actually from there, she advised me not to touch real estate in her own beloved country.

With 3 down, all giving us very enjoyable vacations, the attention was brought back to Mexico, our neighbor to the South.  International Living had recommended Mexico for years:  it had a stable government, the peso advantage (now 18 to 1, but as high as 21 to 1 last year when we arrived) and people who are welcoming and friendly.  They actually like Americans, or they did until we had this crazy person in the White House, but I digress…

My husband being the researcher in the family, me being the shoot from the hip, ask questions later kind of girl, came up with this place called Ajijic, a long time destination of expats, artists, and hippy types for over 30 years. Such famous people as  Meryl Streep, Marilyn Monroe going way back, D.H. Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway, and the little brother (Todd Karns) in the eternally famous movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  Who knew?

It’s not as well known as it’s more expensive and much larger sister San Miguel Allende, known as SMA, but it offers incredible weather, temperate for about 9 months out of the year, and a rainy season for 3 months that makes the mountains turn into broccoli, so I hear. It’s considered to have the second best climate in the world after Nairobi.   We being snowbirds, can only tell from photos and friends.

 

This is our second winter here and so far so good.  We have returned to friends, a vibrant social life, far more than we ever had in Southern Westchester for 25 years, and a quality of life that is pretty good.  La Vida es facil and an average dinner costs about $30 U.S dollars complete with wine, appetizer, entree, dessert and coffee.

I’d rather be on this side of the Wall any day!  We’re only snowbirds, so I see my children when I get back and we can roll our eyes at the Tweets El Presidente issues from afar!

 

Viva La Mexico!

 

Today’s Takeaway—

. Be open minded.  Would I ever have thought I’d live in Mexico as an expat? If not for my EPH’s out of the box thinking, I wouldn’t have experienced Mexico and the benefits of living abroad.

. Stretch that comfort zone. If not now, when?!

 

Enjoy the ride

Xox Barclay and Joy

Lessons from Muriel

My dear friend and co contributor, Barclay, blogger from the Midwest, wrote about her eccentric mom, Peggy.  My mother, Muriel, was also a character, a woman who I remember as a wonderful mother and my best friend. She too was eccentric and ahead of her time, in different ways. As I bemuse my mother’s quirky antics, I smile and have a tear in my eye.

My mother was born a snob.  She came from money having been brought up with a nanny, a maid, and everything a Jewish girl from an upper middle class family could want.  She and her brother, my uncle Morton, went to sleep away camp from the time they were 6.  My grandparents hobnobbed with the Loew’s family of movie theatre fame and the Farkas family of Alexander’s Department store.  (If you never  heard of it, Google it and it means you are too young to be reading this post!)

My grandmother, a 2nd generation American, making my mother a 3rd generation American, was certainly no immigrant.  Her mother’s mother had come to this country from Germany on a steamship, not part of the huddling masses.  They didn’t speak German, they spoke Yiddish, unlike my father’s family who had come from the old country.  That being, we think, Austria, but it could be Poland! My mother married below her status economically, although by that time her family had lost their money in the great Florida swamp land swindle.

Muriel liked to be considered Goy, so much so that during the 1939 World’s Fair, in order to work, she changed her name to Winslow from Weinstein in an attempt to not be seen as Jewish.  She had an aquiline nose and didn’t look it so what difference did it make to anyone.  As I write this and I think how proud I am to be who I am and what I am it’s hard to understand, but I guess at that time it wasn’t the popular religion to be.  Anti-Semitism was rearing its ugly head.  Today, everyone is Jewish in New York City or wants to be!

She sewed designer labels in her clothes that she had purchased at Loehmann’s, the famous one from Jerome Ave. in the Bronx.  It had gold lions in front of the store and I loved going to look at the racks and racks of clothes that I would play in as Muriel tried things on.  You see Loehmann’s took the labels out when they sold them and my mother being the snob that she was put them back in so that everything hanging up in her closet was some fancy shmancy name.

Muriel also took off Tuesdays, even though she didn’t work.  She was a 1950’s housewife who had chosen to go to secretarial school pre marriage rather than college, though her parents at the time could have afforded it.  I guess she was of the mind set that good typing skills and shorthand would take her further than the academics of a 4 year academic program.  Too bad, because she would have been dangerous with a formal education!

Why she needed to take of Tuesdays was beyond me since she didn’t have a job.  I guess she needed time out from being a mom! So every Tuesday I went to someone’s house for a playdate (not that they were called that back then) so that Muriel could go shopping downtown.  I guess it was the 1950’s version of a mental health day! She always dressed up to go “downtown” and she ate at the Bird Cage in Lord & Taylor taking in the peace and serenity of a solitary woman who enjoyed her own company.

I now understand that taking off Tuesdays, or whatever day, was about taking care of yourself, the idea that “I matter” as a woman, that I need time to be with my own thoughts, my own company, Me Time, before the phrase was ever coined.  Now, almost over 50 years later, I get it!

Muriel didn’t like anything that smacked of Judaism, which included foods such as lox, herring, whitefish, although a bagel was on the approved list, they were the frozen Lender’s bagels that no New Yorker would ever eat today.  More like white bread with a hole in it!

My generation wants to know where they came from, their roots, their heritage, as do my Millennial children, so it’s a shame that I didn’t get more Muriel stories down in print.  I remember enough though to get us through several posts and it gives me great pleasure to share them.   

My mother was a character, but with a heart of gold.  People loved to talk to her because she was a great listener and she never betrayed a secret.  Whatever, her shortcomings, she loved me greatly and I feel lucky to have had her for the years that I did.

 

More Muriel stories to come…

 

Today’s Takeaway–

. Listen to your own inner voice. Be true to yourself. Muriel was unconventional for her time and she didn’t care!

. If it makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone in the process, (i.e. sewing designer labels in clothes) then what the hey?!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy

 

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The Problem with Mirrors

I can still hear the clack of my mother’s heels on the hardwood floor outside my room.  “Barclay, I need you to come to the bathroom mirror.”

She clacks back to her room. I trudge behind her, a mature adult reverted to age 12.  The bathroom lighting will be unforgiving and her mirror more so.  Soon we’re facing that mirror, my mother, all 5’ 11” of her, behind me, staring.   “Which side of the bed do you sleep on, dear?”

She doesn’t wait for an answer.

“It appears you sleep on your right side.  Do you see this wrinkle over here?   When we compare it to the left side, it’s more pronounced.”

She pauses to let this observation, apparently evident to all, sink in.

I cringe thinking about how I rest my face in one hand while sleeping, thereby scrunching this poor right side into its present state.

“You really should be sleeping on your back, as I do.  Have you tried that?”

How to respond?  She will proceed to my forehead if I don’t take the offensive.  It’s a forbidden topic, but under bathroom lights, all’s fair.

“I wish there was something I could do.”  Pause.  “Mom, did you ever have plastic surgery?”

At the time, my mother was a smooth faced octogenarian with model cheekbones, arched eyebrows, and a sculpted nose.  

“I once had a few spots removed …and while I was there, well, they may have done some treatments.”

I had secured an admission. Victory?  Hardly.  Short of undergoing “treatments” of my own, this overly ambitious wrinkle would only deepen along with its forehead counterparts.

The really sad part is that upon returning home I did try sleeping on my back.  Unfortunately, this caused a nasal situation and a thunderous noise, jarring me awake at 2AM, certain an intruder was pounding at the door.

Of course I blamed Codie, our golden retriever, for this unladylike noise.   My husband only chuckled – a bit meanly I thought.

I hated my mother at that moment.

 

So I am not a fan of mirrors.  

Have you noticed they love surprising you with something NEW that you could swear wasn’t there the night before?   A line, a blotch, a vein.  (Let’s pause in  honor  of whoever invented concealer – which I will soon be applying with a putty knife.)

My advice is to avoid mirrors unless you just spread lipstick on your teeth. 

And beware of “treatments” that have the power to seduce your wallet and your retirement joy. 

Eventually my mother’s smile looked downright scary.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

  • There’s a saying, The gods we worship write their names on our faces.  Having a positive outlook, even smiling more, goes a long way in promoting attractiveness.
  • Find compassionate mirrors (it’s all about the lighting); but know that the state of your heart takes precedence.  Along with gobs of concealer!

 

P.S. I hate to admit it….but my mother was right.  Sleeping on your side DOES cause wrinkles.  And sleeping on your back IS better.  But there is hope for us snorers.  According to this 2012 article in the Huffington Post — we should purchase a “beauty sleep pillow” or a satin pillowcase.  Just be sure your dog is nearby to take the blame for any emissions during this side-to-back process!

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy

Boomerang Daughter

Who would have ever thought my (Joy’s) 30 year old daughter would come back and live with us?  After being on her own for the last 7 years, she  made the decision to advance her career with a Master’s degree. I applauded her decision knowing that in her field of non-profit work, an advanced degree was a must to be taken seriously and to earn a better paycheck.  So off she went to live a year in London studying for her Masters of Science.

Super proud of her!  Her  hard work and studying paid off and she earned the accreditation, completing the program in one year. She knew that getting a job in her field and reentering the workforce would not be a slam dunk, even in a robust job market. In our current administration, funding for these types of programs  relevant to her field of study has been sorely impacted. Oh, to be able to start her own foundation and create her own job, but Bill and Melinda Gates we are not, but I digress!

When a millennial child needs a free place to live, enter mom and dad.  I certainly came from the type of home that if ever I needed my mother or father, even as a 30 plus year old person, for any reason at all, they were  there for me.  Naturally, I would want to do the same for mine and have.

The statistics indicate that Boomers have children return to them for all sorts of reasons. For the first time in more than 130 years, young adult children ages 18-34 are more likely to live with their parents than in any other  living situation, according to an analysis by The Pew Research Center. An astounding 32.1% live in their parent’s home with the statistic for male children being even higher at 35%.

Economics are a big contributor.  In major cities a studio apartment (less than 600 sq.feet) can run  $3,000 per month — that coupled with staggering amounts of student loan debt, and it is no easy task to launch a child.  And  keep her  launched! As the saying goes, ‘’The best laid plans…” or “Shit happens”!

On the plus side, this is truly a wonderful opportunity to connect with your adult child whom you may not have spent long quality time with for a while. In my case, this has been a treasured benefit, getting to know this person again, to remember the funny things you share in everyday life, the nuances, her wry smile, her sing-song way of talking to the dog, her laughter. She makes me some concoction of natural herbs to help me sleep, binge watches a tv series with me, occasionally lets me in on a private thought or asks for guidance.  This is special and will be tucked away as a memory that only we share.

On the negative side, you are now sharing a home – there’s the lack of privacy, (not that we are romping around naked or anything like that! I’m a Jewish girl!), the cleaning of the stove, preparation of meals. Who does what — putting gas in the car, picking up clothes, you get the picture.
My husband being totally obsessive about our new high-end stove watches her every move and makes visual grimaces as she fries her veggie burger.  Will the grease splatter across the highly polished stainless steel? What will she do about it? He drives me crazy with this type of Felix Unger behavior and knowing that this is a potentially explosive situation for argument, I try to be the go between.  Really, did anyone ever die of grease on their stove?!! This is what happens when you pair a neat freak and a “ I can take care of that in the morning person”!

 

The lesson to be learned is that three grown people are now trying to live under the same roof, one that was meant for two, (sold the house, bought the next chapter in life house for the two of us).  Throw in a senior citizen canine, 15 ½ years old, pooping randomly, plus a refugee puppy adopted from Mexico and you’ve  got the makings of a sitcom that Norman Lear might have created!

 

I am thrilled to have my first-born home, even if it’s a temporary blip on the road back to independence and she can stay for as long as she wants or needs.  The opportunity to sock money away when she is gainfully employed is very tempting and something I am more than happy to offer.

Nothing in life is permanent, as they say, except death and taxes, so for now this is the new dynamic.

 

I will look back fondly on this time of life when my Boomerang child returned and know it was meant to happen in this way. As always, the most colorful words tell it best in Yiddish, bashert!

 

Today’s Takeaway—

. Accept life’s little surprises as a sign from the heavens. Be happy for the time you didn’t expect with your adult children.

. They’re not in high school anymore.  Let them have their space and learn from them. My knowledge of pop culture, music, tv, jargon, comes from them.  That’s how I stay a cool, hip mom!

P.S- She got a permanent position in her field!

Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy

Woulda, coulda, shoulda

I (Joy) can hear my mother’s voice utter the phrase above. She must have said it a million times. The words of someone’s mother when you are young and know more than they do, is meaningless. I now understand what she meant. It’s only taken me a lifetime to figure it out!

We can always look back, conjecture as to how something might have turned out differently.  We second guess ourselves, doubt our choices, hesitate to move forward beyond what’s comfortable.  We are creatures of habit and even though we might protest and complain, that is the way most of us like it.

Me, being a true Cancer, astrologically speaking, cling to life the way it has been.  I want to hold on to the special memories that made me smile, gave me pleasure, solace.

My father on the other hand was just the opposite.  He was a crepe hanger, a Dr. Doom before Nouriel Roubini! He was the chicken little the sky is falling to my mother’s passivity. He panicked and sold all his stocks the day President Kennedy was assassinated, saw the world on the verge of nuclear annihilation.  Truly, it is a wonder that I am halfway normal!

I am trying in this new chapter of life to not think “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” to not think disaster, but to take one day at a time.  I am not the person who embraces the unknown with open arms; I never will be. I hate roller coasters and am a dud at an amusement park. I am me and if it takes me a little longer to get the hang of this new state, that’s okay. There is no race, no time clock.  It’s getting your head and emotions to be on the same page and to accept, “Wow, I made it this far, now enjoy!”

Today’s Takeaway…

. Don’t dwell on things you have no control over.  It’s a waste of time. As my compadre Barclay says, move forward, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

. You indeed are a product of your upbringing, but can make changes to the person you are and have been until you breathe that last breath.  How wonderful is that!

Enjoy the ride!

x0x Barclay and Joy

Owning Your Age – Suzanne Somers and Me

She pops up in my (Barclay’s) Facebook feed with her airbrushed face touting make-up tips and exercise routines.  Her thigh master has parlayed into products that will tighten those Baby Boomer sags and smooth that Baby Boomer cellulite.  Or at least that’s the pitch.

And I buy it.  I am her target audience.  Mid 60’s.  Not a friend of gravity.

Gone are the days where make-up was an option. As my friend Cathy says, now we wear make-up  for “the good of the world”.  Meaning, NO one – not even a grocery store clerk – wants to see us without a layer of foundation.  

Today Suzanne is touting a new product.  I won’t get the details until I click the link.  Like the Geico ad… it’s what I do.   

Wow, it’s a face system that will work revolutionary magic in toning and lifting.  I lean in. It uses microcurrent technology whatever that is.  A game changer for sure.  It’s Suzanne’s number one beauty secret.  

Oh my, there’s a special going on.  

If I act now.  Which of course I do.

And so it goes.  Suzanne has a financial empire.  I have saggy skin and cellulite.  And  a lighter wallet.

Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, famously said, “In the factory we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.”  That’s why I reached for my credit card.

How can I be so gullible?  My friend, Barb, has translucent skin and swears by Ponds cream.

When I was working I collaborated with young female teachers and I deluded myself into believing I was “one of them”.   Also, when teaching, bathroom breaks were rare.  So my “mirrors” were the faces of these younger women.

Now that I have time to brush my teeth more often (a good thing) I interact with mirrors throughout the day.  They don’t lie.  Yup, you’re over 60.  And you do realize don’t you – those cute teachers could be your grandkids.  Thank you, oh mirror.

So my new and improved attitude is Popeye-esque – I yam what I yam.  And I’m grateful that I CAN keep moving — that I CAN take up a new sport (pickleball); that I CAN write, read, walk my dog, dance, cook, drink good wine, volunteer, travel, see a movie.

May I embrace my 60s and beyond.  This life is precious and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.  

With the help of Suzanne’s micro technology of course!

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Today’s Takeaway –

  • Own your age!  Worrying about it will only cause wrinkles.
  •  Suzanne Somers probably uses Ponds.  

Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy

Dog Withdrawal

Don’t get me wrong, I (Joy) love my children dearly and miss them very much while I am wintering in Mexico.  My fur children though have those sad eyes looking up at you from photos. They  wonder why they were left up North in the cold! What did I do to deserve this?

We love our pets! We talk to them as if they are human, we tell them our deepest thoughts, our problems, our secrets.  (They’re very good at keeping them to themselves)

78 million dogs and 85.8 million cats are owned in the U.S.  Approx. 44% of all households in the U.S. have a dog and 35% own cats.  They provide warmth on a cold night, a pillow to lean on, and a body to cry on.

We left for our first winter in Mexico last year with our then 14 year old schnoodle Colby.  With his arthritis setting in, hearing loss, and cataracts, I thought the warm semi tropical sun would do him good.  After a 5 hour plane ride, Colby found himself in Mexico, a strange place for a little guy not too far off the ground.  The cobblestone streets were not comfortable on his little foot pads and he never seemed to settle in. It certainly beat trudging through the 3 feet of snow we got last March in upstate New York, but it wasn’t home for Colby.

Dogs are everywhere here in Mexico. It is a huge problem with strays on every corner.  Thankfully through the efforts of a large expat community active in rescue, there are many no kill shelters that scoop them up and care for them until they are adopted. It’s a wonderful mission and many dogs make it to the US as adoptees.

Last February, almost a year ago, I fell in love with a Mexican mutt.  The Ranch, one of our local shelters was holding an adoption day. I had no intention of getting a second dog, but I made my husband stop and look anyway.  One dog caught my eye.  He had been neutered the day before and was groggy and limp.  I asked to hold him and fell in love! He was so sweet and took to my arms easily and readily. I was smitten.  Before I knew it (with my husband dumbfounded) I had offered my name and contact details for adoption of this Mexican perro.

He came to be known as Winston, although my daughter thought he would be better suited to Rodrigo, so he became Winston Rodrigo Estaban! Nice ring to it.

This year my husband and I decided to leave both Colby and Winston up North and be dog free for the first time in our married lives.  No responsibility, no being awakened at 5 to be let out to pee, no accidents in the house.  Poor Winston has to suffer through his first winter in upstate New York and Colby, well he’s not sure where he is.  Age sucks!

Dog withdrawal is real.  I miss them both.  Pets become a part of us, they get under our skin, they touch our hearts, and they are there through thick and thin. Love them while you can, because they too are only on this earth for a short time.

 

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Winston preparing for Winter shock; Colby wondering where she is!

 

Today’s Takeaway–

  • Pets play a key role in our lives. In retirement, they may be more important than our EPH! Never underestimate the power of a lick!
  • Love them with all your heart and know that they are put on this earth to bring us joy.

 

Enjoy the ride

xox,  Barclay and Joy