Friday, March 27, 2009


Kind of a serious post today. With all the depressing things going on with the economy in the United States these days, it gives one pause. Everyone says it will be years before we get out of this mess, so it makes you wonder what we have to look forward to. People are being laid off left and right, and businesses are closing. And remember that empty new strip mall just down the road from me?

Well, they just built another mini one right in front of it...with nothing going in. You can see the larger strip mall to the right behind it. It seems like stupidity at its finest.

Here's the huge sign in front of it. Lowe's is the only place that's doing well.

And the sign in front of the larger strip mall is still empty...with a few more holes in it. Looks like it's making good target practice for bored kids.

Everyone has become paranoid and no one really wants to discuss the problem. I am one of the lucky ones being employed by the state. Texas State instituted a "flexible" hiring freeze, but they're not laying anyone off. But while I consider myself temporarily fortunate, I still wonder what's going to happen in the future.

If you are familiar with Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," you'll probably know that experts are saying that her fears of socialism back when she wrote the book in 1957...

...are gradually becoming fact rather than fiction. That is a very scary thought. And I don't think I want to be around when it happens.

So I read people's posts from Mexico on pretty much a daily basis and see a totally different life. Sure, Mexico has its problems, but I think the United States could take a few lessons from them. One thing I've realized more and more about America is how arrogant we are. We've only been around for a little over 200 years and yet we think we have it all over countries who have been here for thousands of years. We want our granite counter tops and pool in the back yard...and feel deprived if we don't have them.

I watch a couple of shows on HGTV called "Househunters" and "Househunters International." The difference is so obvious in Americans looking for homes as opposed to foreigners. American couples will walk into a master bedroom of a home which could be about 20' x 20' and they will say, "This is way too small...we were really hoping for something much bigger." But a European buyer will walk into a bedroom half that size and say, "This room is so big!" I guess it's all relative, but I think when we set our expectations so high, we will inevitably wind up being disappointed...unless we have unlimited funds to buy anything and everything we want.

And it's not only the material aspect, it's the "deep-down" happiness you feel living somewhere. I really don't know of anyone feeling that way these days. I told a friend not too long ago that between all the crap I've dealt with this past year, the only real happiness I felt was during the two weeks I spent on Isla last summer. The needs are simpler there and yet the pleasures are greater...and life seems to mean more. I'll have to say the people in Mexico seem happier than we Americans who supposedly have it all.

The American Bloggers in Mexico seem to be genuinely enjoying life there. I'm envious in many ways. I've taken the liberty to share some photos from some of my favorite blogs capturing the essence of Mexico. The first three live in Mexico, the last two don't, but I love their photos of life on Isla Mujeres. I hope they don't mind.

This is billieblog's blog...and the post that featured this photo is here.

In one of Billie's posts, she wrote:

"If we were living in Houston, or anywhere in the USA, would we have had the same opportunities to be with so many interesting people from so many different countries and experiences? I don't think so. It seems to me that in most places in the USA as people grow older their horizons narrow down. Friends die or move away and it is harder to make new friends and have new experiences. Here in San Miguel, I feel like my horizons continue to expand everyday. Always something new just around the corner."

Sad, but true, about living in the states.

This is Deb Hall's blog, ZOCALO de Mexican Folk Art...and the post that featured that photo is here.

This is IslaGringo's blog...and the post that featured this photo is here.

This is Jamqueen's blog...and the post that featured this photo is here.

This is Life's a Beach! blog...and the post that featured this photo is here.

And here are some of my own...

There is more to life than having granite countertops.

I have a friend who's spending the next month in Belize. I'm betting he will find a way to stay there rather than come back. And I know someone else who's thinking of moving to will probably happen. There are tough times ahead in this country. It might be beneficial to be somewhere else.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Memories of Connecticut...

No, this definitely isn't Isla. This is near Niantic, Connecticut, where my favorite aunt in the whole world lives. I have fond memories of my mom and me visiting her during the summer. My cousins, Kath and Jen, were close to my age so we always had a blast when we'd get together.

I love the east coast (well, except for maybe the traffic)...its quaint little stores and homes...that nautical feeling. Personally, I could live anywhere up through the coast of Maine...Bar Harbor is one of my favorite places. But after living in Texas for a few years, I don't know if I'd want to deal with the winters anymore. So, I'll get a winter place on Isla and a summer cottage in Maine or Connecticut. Problem solved.

My aunt's home is about three houses down from the beach of Long Island Sound. A lot of the places in this little community are summer homes for families. My aunt lives there year-round now.

These pics were taken in May of 2005 and if I recall correctly, it rained almost every day I was there, so I squeezed these in between rainstorms.

That's a little island just off shore.

Kind of makes you think of "Jaws," doesn't it? I'm kidding...although I do remember as a kid they did close the beach once while we were there because of a shark sighting.

These are some of the homes in the area. They can range from very small and plain, to big and gorgeous. And a lot of them have been in the same family for generations.

Here's my aunt's living room. Doesn't it look like it's been there forever? Especially with all the paneling on the walls. Talk about a comfort zone. Good memories there.

Just more views. You have to have pretty thick skin to swim here because the water is icy cold.

But I think I'd take just about anyplace when it's next to the water.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Playing with the camera...

It's been cold and rainy the past few days in south Texas. But we've desperately needed the rain, so I'm not complaining. I haven't felt much like taking pictures lately but took my camera to the park for my walk. I've already done a post on Landa Park, but I wanted to see if I could get something different today. So these are just some "fooling around" shots.

This is the top of one of the old posts that sits on the edge of the park. I think they used to be connecting posts for a fence that used to run along the side.

These are of an abandoned rail car. I thought they looked neater in black and white.

This is actually bad photography. I was trying to focus on the duck and got the leaves in front instead. I kind of like the effect, though.

Here's what the duck really looks like. I'm sorry, but I think these ducks are weird looking. Those red things on their beaks looks like some kind of tumerous growth.

Mr. Squirrel...

Water-foliage shot...

This one almost looks like an inverse black and white shot, but it's not.

Some more bad photography. I was trying to get a "scene of the water through the tree branches" shot, but everything ended up being blurry. I kind of like how it turned out, though...sort of a whispy look.

And in black and white...

I stopped by a strip mall on my way home and as I was going back to my car, I noticed a splash of color. Good thing I had my camera with me. I've read a couple Mexico blog posts recently on the Jacaranda trees blooming down there now and how hard it is to capture the color. I agree. After the gray gloomy days we've had this past week, this color literally jumped out at me so I had to get some shots.

I don't know what kind of tree this is, but it sure was pretty. Too bad it's in a strip mall and not in my yard.

Not only that, it was right next to a bush with an equally gorgeous orange flower. Bad photography #3: I tried to get a shot showing both with the contrast in color, but got this weird blur instead. It's like a ghost of the flower.

This one's at least in focus, but it doesn't capture the vibrant orange color in the background.

The close-ups do it better justice.

Now that I think about it, I just should have said that those "bad" photographs were exactly what I was going for rather than admitting they weren't. Ha! I'm too honest.

On a final, totally different note, I just finished a little project which I thought I'd share. A couple years ago, I bought this little table at a re-sell-it shop for five bucks. It was all painted in that vibrant blue that you see on the top. Originally, I had painted it all white and put some ceramic tiles on the top, but the tiles got damaged, so I decided to re-do it.

Here's the result with some left-over shards of glass I had from stained glass projects. Now that it's done, I'm kind of sorry I didn't use a different color ceramic tile for the inset. I think black would have been better, but they didn't have them at Home Depot, so I settled for white. Too much contrast. Oh, well...the whole project cost me about ten bucks, so I'm not going to feel too bad about it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

ROAD TRIP...Mexico 1960...

I was looking for some pictures the other day and came across these from 1960. My dad decided he wanted to go on a road trip to Mexico so we all piled into the station wagon and headed south from St. Louis. (Can you believe it???) This is me, my mom and two older brothers. I have another older brother who must have stayed at home for some reason.

This must have been our luxurious 5-star hotel we stayed at because there's the station wagon. I'm sorry, but it looks like something that could be from some horror film. But back in those days, who could have been a pretty darn nice place. Looks like we were the only guests that day...which makes it even scarier.

Here's my brother Doug and me in a scenic picture of some pipes and some pretty barren countryside. I'm the one with the Paula Abdul-look...and rightfully so with those kickin' tennies and showing off my underwear.

Here are some pictures of ruins. I don't even know where we went or which ruins they are. Maybe someone could help me out with these. I'm thinking wherever this is, it would be a tad more crowded today than it was back then. And talk about some vintage cars.

Again, I don't know where this is, but I think it's a really good photograph. My dad was very much into photography and had his own darkroom.

He really captured some beautiful cloud shots.

And I love this one...

We went to a bullfight while we were there...something every young child should experience in order to witness the slaughtering of an innocent animal. This was in Saltillo. I still have the playbill advertising the fight. And look at the Coca-Cola sign at the top...

I sympathize with the poor bull.

But I came home with a souvenir back then. Kind of sad when I look at this now.

Then we visited the local Mexican jail.

...and took the obligatory jail photos. Everyone looks happy, but I think I must have been taking this pretty seriously considering the sad look on my face. Between you and me, I think we were really incarcerated because of the ugly dress my mother was wearing.

I don't remember much from that trip to Mexico because I was so young. But I intend to make up for it in future trips.