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Questions for Readers of Innocents in Mexico

If you read all or part of Innocents in Mexico, It would be a tremendous help for me if you would answer the below questions and also make any suggestions of your own re/ how to make the book better.

  1.  Was the introductory chapter sufficient or do you feel you need a better introduction of the characters?

2. What specific information do you wish had been included in the first chapter?

3. Were the chapters dealing with driving down to Mexico interesting? Any details you wish had been left out?

4. What character do you wish you knew more about in the story?

5. Was anything unclear to you? What details were unclear or insufficient?

6. Would you read another book that took the story from this point?

7. If you hadn’t already read my writing or known me, would you still have kept on reading this book?

8. If you lost interest, at what point was this?

9. Is the book long enough?

10. If I were to write an entire book about one character in Innocents in Mexico, what character would you want that to be?

11. What further comments do you have about the book?

12. Did you read the entire book? If not, which chapters did you read and why did you stop?

13. Would you recommend this book to friends?

14. Who do you think the audience would be for this book?

Thanks for completing this questionnaire. I’m going to choose one person who has written the most helpful comments and I’ll send them a book when it is in print… Or if you prefer, send them to my email at



“Three Words” Wordle 607 for The Sunday Whirl

Three Words

Words shake loose like feathers from my morning head,
ascending, then descending to my night-tossed bed.
Caught here between dreams and thought, I try to lift a hand
to capture words before they have a chance to land.

I find I’ve cupped a poem, but then I set it free,
hoarding just three words that I have saved for thee.
It’s words that build the roads that storytellers  pave—
like the one I build for you out of  the words I save.

I seek to pull your love to me by my words’ emotion
rather than by trickery or by magic potion.
These simple words are everything that I choose to say.
Pressed into your palm, they beckon, “Come this way.”

Words for Wordle 607 are: ascending morning head dreams between hand road storytellers poem potion feather three

The Ants Go Marching Home Again Until They Don’t (For Lens Artists)

This is a reblog of a former post. To see the rest of the photos and the story of these industrious ants who seek to strip my bougainvillea, go HERE.


This post seems perfect for the Lens Artists “What’s Bugging You” prompt this week, so I’m reblogging. Hope that is okay!

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

Please click to enlarge these photos! I swear you won’t be sorry.

The other day, I went out to inspect the wall that Jose had repaired and painted that day. For the first time in a long time, it was devoid of coverage by plants and accessible–which also made all the wall damage viewable as well. It was as I was inspecting his admirable work on the wall that I suddenly realized why it was so open to view—a solid line of leaf cutter ants moving so rapidly along a bare branch laden with the incisor-chopped pieces of my bougainvillea vine! As usual, I became fascinated by their industry and organization. Met with an obstacle, they simply switched to the bottom of the branch and walked upside down. If a burden proved too heavy, it would be transferred to another ant, or in some cases, it seemed to be a…

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Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 23. The End!!!


The House Then

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 23

After a quick trip to San Miguel and Back, we loaded our extra stuff into a cubicle at a storage place conveniently located on the Carretera in Ajijic and settled into a lcasita on a street conveniently located near the Nueva Posada as well as another restaurant and the Lake Chapala Society.  The rooms were homey and traditional with lovely gardens and pathways in between.  Here Bearcat was welcome and roamed the pathways, firmly leashed, with little trepidation. Like Bob, after a few initial fears and traumas, he had acclimatized himself admirably.

There was another couple staying in a room near ours who were also looking for a house, although they seemed to be more sure than we were that they actually wanted to buy.  Strangely enough, their names were also Judy and Bob, and we shared information about our daily viewings nightly over drinks and dinner at The Bodega, a cozy restaurant just a block away.

Lucy seemed almost psychic in her ability to show us homes we loved, be they small homes in town neighborhoods or fancier homes on the cliffs up above.  We saw condos and mansions—one of which looked like the Taj Mahal. Years later I discovered it was purchased by  and American religious cult that was using it as a retreat center.  We saw homes from Chapala to Ajijic to Jocotepec, on the far western edge of the lake. We even saw homes in the tiny pueblos on the south side of the lake where very few expats lived, but for us they were too divided from cultural activities we knew we’d enjoy on the north side, which was an expat haven.

Lucy encouraged us to attend Open Circle at the Chapala Society so we could acquaint ourselves with some of the other people who had chosen to make Lake Chapala their home. It was a weekly non-denominational Sunday gathering that celebrated mind, body and spirit via speakers who shared their experiences and information about the lake and environs as well as views into alternate religions, beliefs and meditation practices.  No one way was espoused, but all were invited to be presented. People were very friendly, and at the two sessions we attended, we met people we knew would become our friends, and in fact, some of them remain my friends 22 years later. Others have passed away or moved away, as is likely in this area that contains the most expats of any place on Earth. But I am getting ahead of myself, putting the cart before the horse.

Of course, we had immediately shown Lucy the house in the Raquet Club. She was amazed that she had not yet seen it, probably due to the fact that it was unlisted because the owners did not wish to pay a realtor’s fee, but the more likely reason is because the gardener had never put out the flags and “For Sale” sign other than when he knew the owners were coming to view it.  It was our good luck because I’m sure if he had that it would have been sold.

Lucy could tell, I am sure, that every house she showed us came up wanting compared to this house, and she, too, expounded on its merits.  She had a good friend, a Canadian who was a builder who lived in her compound, who, she was sure, could find the fault with the pool.  The Raquet Club was noted for its good maintenance, for it’s hot water Olympic-sized pool that offered pool aerobic classes, for its tennis courts and raquet ball courts, its dog park and various social activities.  Many Guadalajarans had week-end homes there but other American and Canadians lived there fulltime along with a number of Mexicans who had made their fortunes in the U.S. before retiring back in Mexico.

We did not need Lucy’s encouragement when it came to our admiration of the house, and we visited it again each time we went to see other houses in the Raquet Club or San Juan Cosala, the village located on the lake directly below.

We found another condo we liked in a neighborhood about half-way between the center of Ajijic and the Raquet Club. It was a good deal less, yet our hearts kept turning back to the pale yellow house with the lovely rose-colored domes.

But. $180,000 dollars?

There was something that we had not told Lucy, in fact we had really not considered it ourselves. This was that in the past five months we had lost both of our mothers, and the truth was that both had left us money—some of which would come to us later, but each had left a lump initial sum which just happened to amount to exactly $180,000!!  It seemed pre-ordained––too much of a coincidence to overlook.

For the past few years, Bob had not displayed his usual enthusiasm for thingss and this was the most excited I’d seen him about anything for years. So, if not now, when? And one morning ,we woke up of a mind.  Let’s make an offer!  We used the phone in the lobby to call Lucy and she kept us connected on one phone as she used another of their office phones to call the number on the spec sheet we’d been given which turned out to be an invalid number! No wonder this house had sat empty for three years. The gardener had done everything he could to insure it. Lucy made calls to the Raquet Club and eventually uncovered the real number, called it and . . . . discovered that they had  just that morning received and accepted an offer for full price!

We had waited too long. Crushed, we told her to go ahead and make an offer on our second choice, the condo.

But no, she said.  She knew we really wanted the house. She was going to see what she could do.  She called them again, asking if the other people had made a down payment. No, she was told. They were in Canada and hadn’t had a chance to. In fact, they had not yet seen the house except in pictures sent to them by a friend.

How much of a down payment were they asking for and when did they want it, she asked. Within three days, they said. The people had promised to make a bank transfer.

On her other phone, Lucy transmitted the news to us.  Could we make the down payment in three days, she asked? Yes, as a matter of fact we could make it today.

When did they want a full payment made, she asked the sellers. Within another two weeks, they said.  Could we meet that deadline? asked Lucy. We looked at each other.  Yes, in fact, we could pay the entire amount today, for it was exactly the amount we had inherited from our two mothers and we had not had time to invest it before we left for Mexico. It was sitting  right now in our bank savings account just waiting to be put to some useful purpose! What were the chances?

Lucy conveyed to the owners that we were ready to make arrangements for a bank transfer today and the deal was struck. They rejected the other offer and accepted ours.

Three days later, we were property owners in Mexico!! We took Bearcat to see his new home for the first time and he promptly climbed a tree and rested on a low branch—something he had never been able to do on the redwood trees that surrounded his former home.  Bob and I sat on the floor in our empty house and looked at each other in wonderment.  “How did you know this is what we were supposed to do?” he said, and pulled me into an embrace that rivaled that first kiss that I will someday tell you about, perhaps during our long drive back to the states to complete the sale of most of our worldly goods or the return trip with the van stuffed to the roof with what we have chosen to bring with us down to our new home. We were off on a new adventure, and this time we were absolutely sure that it was exactly what both of us wanted.



(Click on photos to enlarge)
The House Now

Euphorbia Bloom: FOTD June 1, 2023

Click on photos to enlarge.

Closeups are deceiving.  These yellow flowers are actually minuscule, as you can see when I show them next to the other plants in their planter. Look again and you’ll see the little creature that has spun those web lines between the flowers. The plant is a euphorbia mata francisco, I believe, but I am open  to being contradicted.

For Cee’s FOTD

Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 20

Night-Blooming Cereus

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 20

For three weeks, we spent most of our time looking for houses.  It was confusing.  We saw perfect houses down in town, within walking distance of the parroquia.  We saw houses that were larger, with more space for our money, which were located farther out––near the rapidly diminishing and slightly smelly lake.  We saw houses we’d never consider buying ––the outside of the house Mexican, the inside looking like it had been transported here from a suburb in California or Michigan or Iowa.

We saw houses so to our taste in design, from tile to furnishings, that we could have moved in and been comfortable immediately––but at twice the price we wanted to pay.  We saw perfect houses in foreign enclaves, perfect houses in Mexican neighborhoods, houses we couldn’t wait to get out of and neighborhoods we couldn’t wait to get out of but unfortunately, could not find our ways out of.  Bumpy cobblestoned streets ran into dirt roads that finally fizzled out in a rubbish heap or a ravine.  Streets got smaller and smaller until they became walking paths only or wound around and around in an unsolveable maze––even for Bob, who had an inbuilt radar and sense of direction which rarely failed him.

Finally, we found three houses we would consider renting for a year and a half, but now that Bob was more enthusiastic about the possibility of living in Mexico, he had decided he wanted to buy!  I, however, feared the rashness of buying this soon.  We already had a house in the states that we’d need to sell. We barely knew San Miguel.  What if we made no friends?  What if we ran out of things to do?

Bob, on the other hand, needed a project to get him into the swing of life again.  He needed a studio to build or furnish.  He said that he knew me. I needed a garden to plant  and change, to shove pots around in.  We were nesters and not much nesting could be accomplished in a rented house. 

            We decided to take a few days off to explore San Miguel and to try to establish a life here.  We hung out at the Biblioteca.  I even joined and checked out some books.  On the day I joined, we had lunch in the terrace restaurant at the back of the library.  At the table next to us, a woman was writing on 3X5 cards and sticking them onto cassette cases.  Having listened to both of the books on tapes I’d brought with me, I had a sudden burst of inspiration. 

            “Do you have books on tape here?”  I asked her.

            Thus began an hour-long conversation that started with her life story:  (short marriage, daughter, a career in microbiology, lots of travelling, and her present volunteer job at the library) and ended in an invitation for drinks at her house on Sunday.  There we met her 95-year-old flat mate, Trayla, who still taught piano to local children and who was singlehandedly handling the music section of the library:  cataloguing, indexing and filing all of the donated sheet music, listening to all donated records to decide which were of a quality to be transferred to cassette.  When I met her and looked through page after page of the contents of the music library, I asked if she used a computer.

            “Heavens, I predate the computer age,” she said.  “I use a typewriter.” 

            Nancy, her flat mate, who was a youngster of 80,  functioned as her legs, carrying material back and forth to the library, for Trayla never left the house anymore.

            The stories  these women told were varied and numerous.  Their voices interrupted each other like shuffled cards as they filled in details or merely cut in, impatient that the story was being told wrong or less completely than it deserved to be. 

            Nancy told a story about a friend who was a metalsmith.  He had been approached by a company that wanted to lure him away from both his hometown and his employer.  When he insisted that he had no desire to leave California and the foundry where he had worked for 20 years, they first offered to double, then triple his salary.  Then, when he had agreed to take the new job, they admitted that the metal they wanted him to work with was a metal he had not worked with before.  When he suggested that they should find somebody else, they said no, they wanted him only and offered to both send him to school to learn the process of working in  the different metal and to quadruple his salary.  So the man quit his job, went to school, moved his residence and settled down to work.  The Second World War began, and he worked on until its end, when he was finally told that the project he had been working on was the nosecone of the missile that delivered the atomic missile that had been dropped on Hiroshima.

            Trayla  told stories of her parents’ immigration to California––crossing the Isthmus of Panama on foot with six children.  Stories of their own travels down the Amazon, in Thailand and throughout  Mexico. 

            What had brought them to Mexico, I asked.

            “A burglary,” said Nancy.  “I was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  It was on Halloween night.  Someone broke in through our kitchen window and took the TV, the stereo, and   everything they could lay hands on.  My purse was on the kitchen table, so they took it.  Inside the purse were my car keys, so they took the car, too.  When I went to buy another car, they were offering a pair of tickets to anywhere the airlines flew, so I found the furthest spot they flew, which was Mexico City.  I asked Trayla to come with me.  In a magazine on the plane, there was an article about San Miguel, so when we got to Mexico City and hired a driver and guide, I asked him if he knew where it was and if he could take us there.  He did, and we fell in love with the place.  A few years later, I called Trayla up in Oakland and said, “Do you want to move to San Miguel?”  “Okay,” she said, and we both quit our jobs, packed up and went.”

            When we moved to the roof to view the garden, Trayla  followed us.  The night-blooming Cereus was in half bloom––with not only one but two blooms readying themselves for that night’s performance.  Succulents and cactus grew in profusion from large clay pots, along with bougainvillea, hibiscus, and other semitropical plants.  I climbed the ladder to the tallest rooftop.  A beautiful view of rooftops, churches, skyline, trees presented itself.  An afternoon mist furnished atmosphere around the lowering sun.  Beautiful.  San Miguel–– a different city from every rooftop.

            More stories, wine, talks of buying and selling houses.  When would they be forced to sell theirs?  For what price?  What had I seen?  What were the prices of houses here, there?  How did this house compare?  Offers of trips to museums, churches, spots they knew.  Nancy would drive us.  When I offered dinner at our house:  “No,” Trayla energetically declined.  “I never go anywhere.  If I went anywhere, I’d just wear myself out.  I don’t leave the house anymore.  Ever.  For any reason.” 

            She was not frail or immobile.  When she perched on the arm of a chair to tell a story or to discipline their  poodle, her face lit up, animated, and she looked sixty.  Her mind was as sharp as ours––-sharper, since all of us kept forgetting dates, names, locations.  Nancy had had what she feared were a few mild strokes lately.  She would be caught searching for common words, forget what she’d been talking about.  For a microbiologist, who lived by organization and mind, it was threatening.  I admitted to frequent bouts of absent-mindedness since turning 50, but not  Trayla.  She was still sharp as a tack, taking care of herself.  Five years before, her doctor had given her three months to live.  Here she was, still so busy there wasn’t enough time in the day:  piano lessons to teach, a whole room full of music and records to organize and catalogue.  So many stories to tell and now, two new people to tell them to. 

            She drained a full wine glass and filled it up again.  They were heavy stemmed water goblets.  Wine glasses were too small and boring, they said.  They preferred these.  She ate another smoked oyster, more dip, more chips.  Taking care of herself.  Still rounding out the fullest of lives.



Another Go: Echeveria, May 29, 2023

Click on photos to enlarge.

Sam wondered about the photo I posted today.  I think he feared that it was drying out as it appeared to be tan rather than green.  Here are three more photos of it in sunlight. It is a pale green.  And the container is the broken-off-at-the-waist sculpture that the kitties broke so I am using the bottom part of it as a planter.  There were two–female and male–and they knocked them both off their perches at the front of my house.

Here are the planters.


For Cee’s FOTD