This Old (Haunted?) House

 Bienvenidos a Casa Limon.  Yes, this old, not so attractive house is our home.  Don't let the shabby exterior fool you, it is much nicer on the inside. 

Many of the older houses in Mexico aren't only rich in history, but also very rich in folklore. (By that, I mean ghost stories!)  And my house isn't the exception.

The owner's family has lived in this house since before my in-law's moved into the neighborhood almost 40 years ago.  The parents, Don Fausto and Doña Chayo, made the best menudo in town.  They also ran a small general store, where my hubby's upholstery shop is located.

Sadly, Don Fausto and Doña Chayo passed on.  With their children in the States, the house sat unattended for years, until we rented it.

When we moved in, we placed what little furniture we had in our cozy living room.  We had a loveseat and an ottoman that my hubby crafted himself.  And of course, my favorite piece, a rocking chair.  Not an old rocking chair, but a new, squeaky, wooden rocker that my mother-in-law bargained the price down to two rockers for 500 pesos. We gave her the other rocker. I digress.

My brothers-in-law enjoy telling ghost stories almost as much as they enjoy scaring me.  They both loved telling me tall tales of the ghost of Doña Chayo lurking around in the kitchen and back patio. 

Ghost stories don't scare me.  (Mice, rats, insects and loud fireworks lit outside my door scare me!)

My grandmother always told me stories about a haunted house she lived in when my mom and uncles were teenagers.  According to Gramm, ghosts are mischievous little spirits that love wreaking havoc, but ultimately behave when spoken to in a firm voice.

One night, while laying in bed, my hubby and I heard a squeaking noise.  It sounded as if someone was sitting in our rocking chair.  But that was impossible, because the kids were asleep and we were in the bedroom. 

Hubby got out of bed to investigate.  It didn't take him long to get to the living room, its only 6 or 7 paces away.  When Hubby got to the living room, the rocking chair was as still as a mountain.  He checked on the kiddies to see if they weren't playing around, but they were sound asleep.

When Hubby returned to bed, we joked that it was probably Doña Chayo's ghost watching T.V.

The midnight squeaking persisted, and Hubby and I continued to jokingly blame it on Doña Chayo.

Then one day, the squeaking stopped.  We had just purchased a three piece furniture set for the living room.  There was no longer any room for the rocker, so we moved it to our bedroom, where it never squeaked again.

We had almost forgotten about the squeaking, when one of Doña Chayo's daughters came for a visit.  She asked if we had experienced any paranormal activity.  She told us the tale of "something" pushing the grandkids down the stairs in the back, unused part of the house.  They all figured it was Doña Chayo's ghost trying to get her grandkids to behave. 

We then told her the story of the squeaky rocking chair and how we joked that it was probably Doña Chayo.  She let out a long sigh and agreed with us.  She explained that Doña Chayo liked to sit in her rocking chair late at night, after a hard day's work to watch her novelas (Mexican soap operas). that I know I have a ghost lurking around, I am extra careful walking down those stairs.  And I gave away the rocking chair!  

Halloween Rebellion in Mexico

I love Halloween!  I always have and probably always will. 

Halloween is NOT a Mexican celebration.  Here, we celebrate El Dia de Muertos on November 2nd.  (More about that on a later post.) Slowly, Halloween is starting to invade Mexico and it is quite the controversy.

Mexicans are very proud of their traditions and frown upon any Americanization of their traditions.  Such is the case with Halloween. 

More and more Mexicans are embracing Halloween.  Whether they have been to the U.S. or not, kids and adults alike are dressing up in costumes, decorating the house and even going trick-or-treating.  There are even Halloween parties and dances at some of the bars in town.

I have witnessed over the years, the increase in Halloween merchandise being sold at the shops in town.

I for one am happy that one of my American holidays is being celebrated in Mexico. But not all people feel the same way.

Some see it as an affront to Mexican culture and tradition.  Some Mexican traditions are being lost. And people feel that embracing Halloween is encouraging that loss.

The teachers at the schools forbid the students to celebrate Halloween.  My children have had teachers threaten to lower their grades if the teacher sees them dressed up for Halloween.

This is what upsets me.  If people want to get mad because Mexicans are embracing Halloween, fine.  What I don't appreciate is that they threaten my children.  I'm an American.  My kids are Mexican-Americans.  My hubby and I are raising our children to embrace (and be proud) of both cultures.  I feel, that as Americans we have the right to celebrate an American holiday, even if we are in Mexico.  We also celebrate Day of the Dead.

There are other reasons that people don't like or want to celebrate Halloween.  One of which is that some people believe Halloween to be Satan's birthday.  (I kid you not!) 

Last year, Hope decided that she wanted to be a devil for Halloween.  Wouldn't you know it?  I was accused of being a devil worshiper for celebrating Halloween and letting my daughter dress up as The Devil.  Ay, ay, ay!

I was worried that my kiddies wouldn't want to celebrate Halloween this year, but the liitle rebels have been thinking of nothing else since September!

With Love,
Leslie Limon

Celebrating 9 Years in Mexico & Why We Decided to Move to Mexico

As of tomorrow, I will have been living in Mexico for 9 years.  In honor of this anniversary, I thought I'd explain how and why we chose to move to Mexico.

To properly tell this story, we must go back to mid-October 1999.

Hubby and I lived in a one bedroom apartment with our 22 month old daughter, Hope.   I was due to give birth to our second child in 2 short weeks.  Our car, that Hubby purchased on our wedding day had died.  We were trying to save enough money to buy another car, but with a new baby on the way, it wasn't going to be happening very soon.  To get around town, we took the bus, walked or borrowed my grandparents' car. We weren't so poor that we needed public assistance, but money was tight.

It was during this time that my eldest brother-in-law Gerry and his wife, Rosita, went to visit us and Hubby's two siblings that were also living in California.

They stayed with us for a few days, getting to know Hope and me, visiting with Hubby, and talking about Mexico. They also observed how much we were struggling. 

On the last night of their stay, Gerry asked, "Why don't you move to Mexico?"  He then gave us a number of reasons why life would be easier in Mexico.  I don't recall all of his valid points, but the ones I remember are:
  • If we lived in Yahualica, we wouldn't need a car.  EVERYTHING is within walking distance.
  • We'd have more family close by to help us out when needed.  I only had my grandparents, who were 20 minutes away. 
  • Hope could play outside.  We lived in an apartment building that frowned on children playing outside. Plus, being so close to my due date, we weren't getting out much.
  • Hubby could start his own business.  Our money troubles would be much lighter.
  • And our stress level would all but disappear.  Life in Mexico is slower paced and much more laid back.
The picture that Gerry painted for us seemed almost Utopian, but there was no way that I was going to move to another country when I was about to deliver our second child!  So the thought left our minds almost as soon as it had entered.  The subject never came up again.

Fast forward to September 2000.  Hope was almost 3 and our baby, Nick, was almost 11 months old. Life was much easier.  We had bought another car shortly after Nick was born.  And my suegros (mom and dad-in-law) were visiting. 

They mentioned that Gerry still wanted us to live in Mexico.  I couldn't help but think "What? Why?"  Then all of a sudden, the little seed that had been planted a year ago, was sprouting a few leaves.  Hubby and I talked and talked and talked about whether or not to make the move.  One day we would agree that moving was out of the question, but the very next day, we were convinced that the move would be good for us.  We talked of nothing else for weeks.

Finally, on September 22, 2000, the day of my 26th birhtday, I gave Hubby an ultimatum.  "Make a decision.  If you want to move, we'll move.  If you want to stay, we'll stay.  But once you make the decision, there is NO turning back!"

Hubby decided that we would move to Mexico and I fully supported his decision.  We gave notice to the apartment managers, we sold/gave away most of our stuff, packed the rest of our belongings and said goodbye to our friends and family, who watched us in disbelief.

We arrived in Mexico on October 27, 2000.  What we thought would be a six month trial run has turned into 9 years of happiness!

Signs of Fall

Orange and yellow tinted leaves scattered on the ground and an abundance of pumpkins were always signs that Fall had arrived when I lived in the States. 

Now that I am in Mexico, I neither see the multi-hued leaves nor the pumpkins.  So, how do I know that Fall has arrived?  Guasanas!

Guasanas are fresh garbanzo beans that have been steamed.  They are kept warm in the specially equipped carts where they are sold.

Guasanas have a slight butery taste.  I like my guasanas seasoned only with salt. But Hubby and the kiddies like theirs topped with bottled Valentina hot sauce.

The way to eat guasanas is very similar to eating pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  You pop a whole guasana into your mouth, suck on the juice, then remove the outer husk and eat the round guasana.  Mmmm, mmmm, good!  

If you happen to see a guasana cart, I highly recommend that you try them! (You will look forward to them each Fall.)

With Love,
Leslie Limón

My Wedding

October 15, 1994.  The day I married the love of my life.  I remember it as if it were yesterday. 

It was early morning, the sun was shining and the birds were chirping as I laid in my bed in the small bedroom of my grandparents 5th wheel trailer.  As soon as Pappy heard me rustling around in my room, he entered to offer me my daily cup of coffee.  (I was spoiled rotten!)

Ever so attentive, he asked how I had slept and how I was feeling.  As had been our custom for the last 10 years, we talked about everything under the sun.  We talked about the news, the trailer park gossip and of course we talked about my impending marriage.  I felt a bit sad to be leaving my grandparents who had raised me off and on since I was 5 years old.  But I was also excited to be starting a new chapter in my life with the man of my dreams.  (That's an entirely different post to be written someday soon!)

Later that morning, my best friend and Maid of Honor, Carmen, arrived to help me get ready.  I was a giddy ball of nerves.   I was so nervous that I could not get my dress on without Carmen's help.  But like the good friend that she was, she was always there to offer a helping hand.   

Before I knew it 12 o'clock rolled around.  One more hour and I was going to get married!  Pappy, who usually ate lunch at noon, and wouldn't be eating until after the ceremony, decided to snack on the beans and rice that Gramm had prepared.  Bless her heart.  I could see that she was just as nervous as I was.  She was cooking up a storm to help ease her nerves.

The next 45 minutes disappeared in a blink of an eye.  I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my husband-to-be and his best friend, David.  I know what you're thinking, its bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding.  But, Hubby and David needed directions to the church.  Plus, we were too young to care about silly superstitions.  (I had just turned 20 and Hubby would turn 22 the following week.)

It got closer and closer to one o'clock, and still no sign of Hubby.  Where was he?  We were set to get married at one.  I won't lie, my stress level was skyrocketing!  But Carmen did her best to calm me down by thinking up a number of possible reasons to explain Hubby's tardiness. 

If only Pappy had thought the same way.  Always the pessimist, he was sure that my hubby-to-be had stood me up.  That the no good #%@ had only been toying with me and had no real intention of marrying me.  Yes, this is what every Bride-to-be wants to hear.  I was now on the verge of tears.

At 1:05 p.m. an unfamiliar car drives into the trailer park, stopping right outside our trailer.  Who in the world could that be?  Carmen and I ran outside to see who it was.  Both of the front doors opened and out stepped my future Hubby and David.  Thank you, Lord!  Hubby apologized for being late and explained that he had just signed the rental contract for our apartment. 

My grandparents came outside to see what all the fuss was about.  After seeing that all was well, Pappy commented that he knew that Hubby was a good guy and never doubted that he would show up.  (Yeah right!)

I had planned on going to the church with my granparents, but Hubby wanted to take me in the car he had just bought that morning.  It wasn't new, but it was our first car!  How could I resist?  Carmen and I rode in the backseat, while David drove.  (Hubby was too nervous!)  My grandparents would follow us to the church.  They knew where it was, but they too were nervous and fearful that they might get lost.

On the way to the church, we laughed and joked.  Then suddenly, Carmen and I screamed in fear. David, who would act as Best Man, was also nervous and almost ran a red light.

Finally, we arrived at the church, safe and sound.   

We had a small wedding in the church office.  The only people in attendance were my grandparents, Carmen and David.

I later asked Hubby why he hadn't invited any of his family to the wedding.  He had told his brother that morning that he was getting married, but my brother-in-law thought Hubby was joking.

The ceremony was sweet and simple.  And bilingual.  The Pastor insisted that it be done this way.  I wanted it to be entirely in Spanish, so that Hubby, Pappy and David would understand.  Gramm, Carmen and I were fluent in both languages, so we'd have no trouble.  But I guess the Pastor couldn't believe that this fair-skinned, blue-eyed redhead spoke Spanish.

During the ceremony, Hubby and I held hands and our eyes focused only on eachother.  We said our vows, exchanged rings and then we kissed for the first time as man and wife.  (Sigh!)

With Love,
Leslie Limon

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Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid...

Are you the type of person that jumps with fright when a black cat crosses your path?  Would you dare walk under a ladder or open an umbrella indoors?  If you're even the slightest bit superstitious, then I suggest you exercise extreme caution.

Today, Martes trece is the Mexican equivalent of Friday the 13th.  I once argued with Hubby that this couldn't possibly be right.  After all, there are how many Friday the 13th movies?  

But now that I am in Mexico, I've learned that there is even an old saying about it.  "Martes trece, ni te cases ni te embarques," which means on Tuesday the 13th, neither marry nor embark on a journey.

I did some research on Wikipedia.  It seems that Martes, the spanish word for Tuesday, is derived from the planet Mars. And that Martes' (Tuesdays) are ruled by the red planet of destruction, violence and blood.  And it is believed that the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel happened on Tuesday the 13th.

I don't consider myself a superstitious person, but why take any chances.

I wish you the best of luck today!

With Love,
Leslie Limon

Leslie vs. The House

Call me crazy, but I truly believe that my house has it in for me.

Murphy's Law states "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong". That's exactly how I feel about my house. I refer to it as "The Battle of the Decade", because I feel as if I've been fighting a losing battle with my house for the last six years

Round 1: The Kitchen Sink
How often must one replace the kitchen faucet? Really, I'd like to know! In the last 5 years in our rental, we have had to replace the faucet atleast every six months. (I kid you not!) I don't speak maintenance, so bear with me as I try to explain.

The knobs on the faucet were busted and the faucet would leak. Changed it.

3 month later, the same thing happened. Changed it.

The pipe thingamajig where the water from the sink drains to, fell off. We have had two plumbers look at it. They applied some type of smelly glue to hold it in it's place. Didn't work. My hubby had a brilliant idea. He cut a piece of cardboard tube (that he uses to store his tapestry material) to stick under the pipe, holding the thing in place. It still works!

Faucet starts leaking again. Cold water knob not working. Bought and installed a new one.

Hot water knob not working and faucet leaks. Hubby fed up with having replaced it 5 or 6 times, decides to leave it as is.

I don't like it. Every time I need to turn on the faucet, I have to bend down and turn on the water under the sink. The cold water pipe is busted. Thankfully, the "hot" water is usually warm to cool. It only gets hot when we turn on the boiler.

My optimistic take on this is that neither I nor the kids will be wasting water. There's no way the faucet is going to leak if the water is usually shut off! Plus, the bending over is a great stretch, so it keeps me limber.

Today, the hot water pipe broke! Now I can't wash dishes at all!

Round 2: The Washing Machine
My house has 2 tinacos (water storage units) on the roof. The main tinaco (Tinaco "A") is located in the back part of the house and the other (Tinaco "B") is located in the front. When I turn on the water pump, water goes from my well to Tinaco "A". Tinaco "A's" water is mostly used for my lavadero (wash sink) and washing machine.

On a good day, I can run a large load of laundry in 55 minutes from start to finish. But then the house turns against me.

When I turn on the water, instead of a beautiful cascade of water, I get a slow, thin and barely visible ribbon of water. At this rate it would take 3 hours to do a load of laundry. My genius hubby usually removes the water pipes from the back of the washing machine and cleans the filters. After everything is re-installed, he watches as the cascade of water falls into the machine filling as it should.

But then as soon as hubby leaves the room, the water pressure disappears, leaving me with the something that resembles a leaky faucet. Hubby returns to jiggle things here and there and the water pressure miraculously returns. But when it's time for the rinse cycle to start, it starts all over again. It is really a vicious cycle!

After the mouse in the washing machine incident, the water pressure died. I couldn't get water to come out of the washing machine or the lavadero. A handyman came and cleaned out Tinaco "A", removed all of the pipes that run around the house and made sure that all was unclogged. Life was good. But it didn't last long.

Happened again at the beginning of September. It's nearly impossible to get anything fixed during Las Fiestas. So, to do a load of laundry, I had to fill buckets of water at the kitchen sink and carry them to the washing machine. Did you know that it takes 14 buckets of water to do a complete load of laundry?

I try to look on the bright side. My arms are getting a great workout!

Round 3: The Lightning Round
This electrifying round confirms my suspicions that my house has it in for me!

It started about 2 months ago. I went to use my microwave and when I pressed the button to open the door, I felt a little shock. Hubby's practical explanation was that it happened because my hands were still wet from washing dishes. I stopped using the microwave for a few days.

After observing my hubby and kiddies use the microwave with out any problem, I worked up the nerve to use it again. I bravely opened and closed the door, pushed buttons, including "Start". Feeling confident, I pressed the button to open the door and was met with another shock. Hubby explained that it happened due to my lack of shoes. This made no sense to me, because I never wear shoes indoors from Spring to Fall!

Again, I refused to use the microwave for a few days. Hubby and kiddies continued to use it with no problem.

My third (and final) attempt happened during a family movie night. My hubby and kiddies wanted popcorn. Without the slightest thought to my previous mishaps, I went to prepare the popcorn. As soon as I touched the microwave, I received an electrical charge that burnt 3 fingers and ran all the way up to my shoulder. It hurt like hell! Adios microwave. I made hubby remove it and store it in the back patio. There is no way that I was going to put my children at risk.

This cloud also has a silver lining...we are learning patience in heating things the old-fashioned way.

Final Round: TKO!
Today was the straw that broke the camel's back. It happened while my hubby and I were taking a shower. We were both lathered up in soap and shampoo when we ran out of water. But that couldn't be, because I filled the tinacos early this morning. We sent the older kids to turn on the water pump, and they confirmed what I already knew, the tinacos were full!

Our eldest son brought a handful of tools to my hubby. He removed everything in the shower and bathroom sink. No water at all. (Remember, we're still covered in soap!)

Hubby has concluded that the pipe that runs from Tinaco "A" to Tinaco "B" is also clogged. That means no water for the kitchen or bathroom!

After working with his tools for a few minutes, Hubby is able to get a little ribbon of water from the bathroom sink. We take turns, slowly filling a plastic cup with water so we can rinse off. What was supposed to be a quick shower turned into an hour long ordeal.

But Hubby and I are good sports. We couldn't help but laugh at our predicament. We are just happy that this happened while the weather is still warm. Had it been January, we might have frozen to death or at the very least caught a bad case of pneumonia.

Hubby and I have declared war on the house. We are determined to have everything repaired tomorrow. I pity the handyman that says no!

With Love,
Leslie Limon

Hanging Up My Gloves (For Now)

Las Fiestas have come to an end and life has returned to some sense of normalcy. I love September, but after celebrating for 25 days straight, I'm exhausted!

Its back to business as usual. The first order of business was making a decision about my teaching career. In mid-August, I decided to end my ESL courses due to low attendance. (A recurring theme in my teaching career!) I had 3 adult students and 4 or 5 child students that never missed a class. I love teaching, but earning 10 pesos per student, per day wasn't enough. (I was making about 5 dollars a day!) Unlike most working moms, my income wasn't contributing anything to our household expenses. Honestly, by the end of the courses, I was getting more money from the weekly allowance my hubby gives me! (By allowance, I mean spending money for me alone!)

When I ended my classes, I had every intention of starting new ones on October 5th. But 2 weeks after I took my leave of absence, all four of my children started school. My afternoons have been filled with numerous homework assignments for each child. My hubby and I believe that our children and their education is our main priority. I began having doubts about returning to work.

Yesterday, I received a call from La Casa de La Cultura inquiring as to when my new courses would begin. I explained my situation hoping to find a solution. It was then, that I realized that I had already made my decision. At this moment in my life, I am needed more at home than in the classroom. Nothing comes even close to being as important as my children and their education.

With Love,
Leslie Limon

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