Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our Crazy Lives!

Lately, I've been feeling a lot of stress and it comes out in various ways; some of them are inappropriate, causing people to worry about us and that's the last thing I want. I thought I would share our story so people can understand why I sometimes make a dramatic comment about my life. My high school friends will remember my sarcastic style of humor and my flair for the dramatic. I also feel things very deeply and I have a lot of empathy for people.

Bruce has ataxia. It's a neurological symptom of something, and in some cases, it doesn't matter what the cause is because there is no cure. It causes the cerebellum to shrink over time. We are fine and we are handling this with the help of friends and family. This whole thing is a process and a learning experience like no other I've ever experienced. We have incredible emotional support and I am very grateful. Sometimes I'm in awe of all of the love we receive from our friends and family. Bruce and I have always been really close. It's the old story - we were great friends before we fell in love. When we met we were both leaving abusive relationships and we helped each other regain our love of life. It was a wonderful time in both of our lives. We will celebrate our 25th anniversary next month.

The ataxia started about four years ago with subtle signs. The hardest thing for Bruce since the beginning is that he is dizzy all the time. We've been to neurologists, various specialists, ENT doctors and chiropractors. We've tried experimental medications, acupuncture and on and on. Many of these things do help a little especially things like acupuncture and other Eastern medical concepts. This is a progressive disease and now Bruce has difficulty speaking, walking and of course, there's the ever present vertigo. He's also very tired most of the time. Recently, we've seen and read a lot about Lyme disease and how, if untreated, it can look just like what Bruce has. However, it's really hard to get a doctor to even test for it. I'm currently trying to get an infectious disease doctor in Hermosillo to take this on and I think he's going to do it. Throughout this whole ordeal Bruce is still working as a designer. His mind is still sharp and he is still the fabulous man he has always been. He still comforts me when I'm at the end of my rope. That was happening a lot at the beginning of the summer, but I'm feeling a lot stronger now. Somehow I feel like I turned a corner in the last couple of weeks. I have to give credit to my friends who are always there for me, not matter what! It's amazing and I love every one of them very much. I've learned to ask for what I need; something I never did in the past.

Tomorrow I'm going to Tucson to pick up a wheelchair we ordered from Ebay, my favorite place to buy things. Medical supply store price $950.00; Ebay $150.00 - brand new, guaranteed. As a side note, the drug companies and the medical supply people should be tarred and feathered for ripping off people, especially people who need these things. Ok enough of that rant. Bruce does fine with his walker, but he loses his balance and I just feel a whole lot better knowing that he won't fall getting from point A to point B. I know that every time he has to make a little adjustment, like walker to wheelchair, it feels to him like he's giving in to the disease. I know how hard it is for him to have to do that. The wheelchair makes things a whole lot easier and reduces the stress level for both of us. He spends a lot of time and effort trying NOT to fall. I find that one of the keys to dealing successfully with this disease is to make everything as easy and simple as possible. Stress is another killer with this disease and it makes all of the symptoms worse. You can imagine the stress from building a new house. Naturally, people ask us why we decided to go ahead with it - it's simple - it was our dream home and it still is....we couldn't just stop in the middle. We do have an elevator which is a lifesaver and it makes everything accessible for Bruce. We also have a pool which is great for keeping the muscles alive and it's just plain fun. We've learned that while so many people understand and are so supportive, others give advice that doesn't help. In fact some of it hurts. I used to feel that people were being critical of me and thinking I should be doing more for Bruce or doing things a different way. Now I realize they are just trying to help and they are frustrated that nothing has worked 100 percent. Because I was already upset and frustrated, everything seemed bigger and more important than it really was. I have learned so much through this process. I've learned not to judge other people - ever - no matter what. You just can't do that unless you have literally have walked in their shoes. That old saying is so true. I've also learned that gossip really is mean spirited. There's never a reason to gossip yet some people thrive on it. Again, it comes from insecurity.

We are still hoping for improvement and at least a partial recovery. I feel very hopeful in a lot of ways. Bruce is not dying and he is not in any pain. He's very much alive and he's physically healthy in every other way. He's still smart, sweet and compassionate. We are really lucky have each other and the disease is not just Bruce's; it's mine too. It's been very hard for him to learn to cope with people who feel uncomfortable around him. He's learned not to take it personally. He's learned to accept that some people are so uncomfortable with illness that they avoid him. His only sister and her husband haven't contacted him in over two years. While it's very sad and heartbreaking for Bruce, we weren't completely surprised. They live in a very superficial world and illness is not part of their world. I have been furious with them, but Bruce has accepted it. Now, after a lot of therapy, I accept it too. The rest of our family has been incredibly supportive. We also have a group of wonderful friends here in San Carlos. We've been practicing Reiki for quite a while and have an incredible Reiki mentor. From this experience, I've stumbled on to a really positive spiritual path. I wholeheartedly believe in angels too. Some people think I'm nuts, but it really works for me and for Bruce. In many ways, Bruce's illness has forced us to take a better path in life and for that I am grateful. For years, I was struggling with my traditional Episcopalian upbringing and trying desperately to believe in all that I was taught as a child. I realize now - there's nothing wrong with the church, it was all me. I wasn't ready to believe in anything. I had to do a lot of soul searching and find a positive way to deal with this illness. I started really thinking about our marriage vows and what they mean to me. I feel like they are sacred. Dealing with an illness is very hard work, not only for the one who has the illness, but their partner. In many ways, I'm grateful that I've had the chance to show Bruce how much I really love him. I know that I will do anything to make his life easier. I will never give up hope. I will always believe in him and I won't take "no" for an answer from the medical profession. At our most recent visit to our neurologist in Hermosillo, Mexico, the doctor gave us bad news about the function of Bruce's brain stem. Then he told us to try a homeopathic powder that he uses himself. I bought some yesterday and we're giving it a try. I found it comforting and painfully honest that a neurologist that deals with life and death situations every day still has confidence in, and believes in alternative medicines. I have a lot of respect for naturopathic medicines and treatments. I love Eastern medicine and the concept that the body can cure itself.

As you can see, we both feel very positive about our lives and we're really grateful that we live in this beautiful area. It makes dealing with the not so great days a little less painful. I have to mention our dogs, Teddy and Zoey and our beloved and weird cat, Niko. They give us so much joy and they are a constant souce of comfort to both of us. To all of my beautiful friends and family, and to Bruce, thank you for being part of my life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Going green for real

We are building a "green" home in San least as green as we can afford. We can't afford all of the solar panels yet, but every extra dollar I have will go towards that purchase. We have a solar heater for the pool, a rainwater collection system and solar panels. The power company will give us credit for the electricity we save. They just started doing that a few years ago in Mexico. Mexico is changing, slowly but surely. We would love to be completely off the grid, but we're not quite there.

In about six weeks our house will be done. It's been nearly two years and while I've been kind of impatient lately, each time I go down to the house (two blocks away), I feel really good. I'm so excited. For years, Bruce and I have been talking about how we can be more "green", but I didn't know what I could really do to make a difference. It finally dawned on me that I can at least change to non toxic earth friendly products in our home and I can support and encourage other people who do the same. I do what I can now, but we're in Mexico and it's a country that is just starting to pay attention to the environment. I don't think there's a regulatory system here in Mexico and I've noticed over the last few years that products are getting stronger. Everything has chemicals in it and it's also the land of plastic. Most of the plastic comes from China. Plastic products from China are cheap and toxic and they are distributed all over the world, not just Mexico. That's scary.

It's also scary to think about the reality of global warming, but how can you not think about it? Last night was the coldest night most people have ever experienced in San Carlos. It was about 36 degrees and windy. We were absolutely freezing. It's unheard of. Niko and Teddy (our cat and dog) have to be pushed out the door. They don't like it at all. We have a couple of portable electric heaters and I remember laughing about that when we first moved into this house. I thought it was absurd. I mean, there is a season change here and we sometimes wear sweaters but this is just crazy. The worst part of this extreme cold snap is that a lot of Mexican families have absolutely no heat and no insulation and they are freezing. This is going to last for a couple of days. I feel a little helpless because there's not much I can do to help the families. Everyone who knows me, knows that I tend to feel guilty about things like this. I think about it all the time. Our friend Rosalia told us that her neighbor's tin roof blew off last night. The neighbor came to her house and ended up spending the night to stay warm.

About a month ago it dawned on me that we can go even greener. We can use earth friendly products in the house. It's a start. Moving into the new house is the perfect time. Seriously, if we all switched to non toxic products we really could make a difference. Now that we live in San Carlos, we have easy access to the U.S. where I can get all the natural products I need. There's no disputing the rise in disease caused by exposure to toxins in our food supply and in the household products we use. Of course, I've become a lot more sensitive to these issues since Bruce was diagnosed with ataxia. One type of ataxia is inherited and the other kinds are caused by something unknown; most likely toxins of some kind. Not enough research has been done to be certain, but common sense tells me that I am right. For years, before Bruce was a designer, he had his own construction company and he also worked on our boat constantly, painting, varnishing, fixing engine parts and on and on. When we were growing up, most of us didn't even think about it. It never even occurred to me in the 60s that I shouldn't be smoking. I loved the smell of turpentine too. Of course, I don't smoke anymore and I don't sniff turpentine. My first jolt of reality came when a neighbor in Seattle many, many years ago got throat cancer from smoking. That was the day that I stopped smoking and faced reality. I really am an optimist about life and I believe that we can make the world better for our kids and their kids and on and on. I also want world peace, but that's for a different blog. Thanks for listening. When I write down my feelings and intentions it feels like I'm really doing something.
Peace, love, and a healthy and long life! Jan

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Back to Blogging

I have missed blogging and sharing my life. Putting words on paper is so wonderful and therapeutic. Somehow it makes my life seem more solid and meaningful. I'm inspired by my friend, Nancy, who writes a wonderful blog in Mazatlan. She is really enjoying her life with her husband, Paul, and their dogs. We worked together and were friends in our former lives in and around Seattle. Boy have our lives changed! Now we're both in paradise and I'm finally going to see her in March when I drive down to check on our house in Sayulita. The wonderful Sayulita house has been on the market for two years in a dead economy, but that's another story entirely. Feel free to buy it!

A lot of friends and family worry about us. They hear all of the bad things that are going on at the border and in Arizona. Most of us in this area of the Pacific or Sea of Cortez coast of Mexico cross the border in Nogales. There's a lot of drug activity there I guess, but we've never been affected by it. In fact, we cross the border in the downtown area and drive right through the center of town. Sometimes we stop for gas there or get lunch at Burger King. It never occurred to us to be afraid and no one has ever threatened us in any way. I hope people realize that a lot of the drug crimes involving foreigners are simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time and yes, it has been exaggerated by the press.

As for my town, San Carlos, it is a very special place. It's about five hours by car from Tucson. It's cool in the winter and hot in the summer. Spring and fall are nearly perfect. We have a large expat population here and with that, come pros and cons. We are able to get many more products from the U.S. and we enjoy Sonoran beef and the fantastic cuisine of northern Mexico. We have Sam's Club and Walmart in Guaymas which is just a few miles away. For clothes and shoe lovers, shopping is good here and since we have a kind of winter you can buy beautiful leather boots for about $200 pesos. I am currently working on my collection. Right now I'm wearing some black suede boots that were on sale for $150 pesos. I love them way more than I love my Nordstrom boots from Italy. I'd like to get some tan ones next. We have Dollar stores here with tons of odd and fun things. It used to be hard to get canned green beans in Mexico (thought we have fresh) and I found them at the dollar store. However, they were expired and canned in China so I put them back. I have to be honest, old canned goods from China do scare me. On the up side we can get the greatest Christmas lights here (from China) and they are very cheap.

We have many activities in San Carlos and most people are involved in one or two good causes. One of my friends, Kristin, has started a dog shelter and it's pretty amazing. It's not large but at this point, most homeless dogs in our town are being taken care of. Kristin is the kind of person who can't help herself. She is all heart. She gets some donations now, but for the last few years she and her husband, took care of a lot of dogs in our town using their own money. This is just one example of how things are here. San Carlos is a place where you can do whatever you want and be whomever you want to be. I have a lot of fantastic friends here and they are a big part of my happiness.

For the last couple of years, I have strengthened my spirituality and studied Reiki. I have learned to love myself more and I've learned not to judge other people. We all have our own lives and our own agendas and hopefully we can all live together in harmony. Life is not always easy and nothing is perfect. My husband of 25 years has suffered from ataxia for the past three years and he fights a battle every single day. We have limitations, but still, we are happy and we have a lot of friends here who help us in every way. Thankfully, Bruce is a happy and optimistic person and he does very well. I feel in my heart that everything is going to be ok. Still, it's not easy. We're building a house that Bruce designed and he oversees everything to do with the construction. It's really tiring for him at times because of the disease. Thankfully it's almost done. I do a lot of research on ataxia to see if anything is new and the one thing I have learned is that it's easier to live in a warm climate when you have an illness. Your immune system doesn't have to fight so hard here so it can spend more time healing your body. At least that's what I believe. Ataxia is one of those diseases that is not researched a lot. I think knowing what I do about this disease has helped me grow as a person too. Judgements about other people go right out the window. When you meet a difficult and unhappy person, there's usually a reason and it's not a bad idea to show some compassion because there's probably something difficult going on in their life. Life is not easy these days. Many, many people are battling some kind misfortune.

A friend of mine recently said she believes that we are all here to help each other and I think that's true. There is nothing better than helping someone unconditionally. In San Carlos, you can work on your spirituality, be an artist, meditate on the beach or go bowling, fishing, four wheeling or have a beer and watch the sunset (or the people). I don't want it to sound like we're all saints here, but it does come close to paradise, at least for us. We have the Sea of Cortez, the mountains and hills, the desert and all the wonderful things that go with that. We also have the benefit of the Mexican culture to help us enjoy life and live in the moment. We have wonderful food, music and festivals; too many to count. Though the cost of living in San Carlos is not as low as some places in Mexico, it's still a lot more affordable than the US. We even have good hospitals and medical care. Did I mention cable T.V? A high school friend of mine from California just wrote to me about coming down for a dental vacation. We're working on that. I have a fantastic dentist and the cost is about 1/8 of what it is in the U.S. Oh - and bring your dog. Teddy, our border collie just had his teeth cleaned for $600 pesos (about $52 USD)which includes anesthesia and recovery time. Of course, you have to do your homework, but all in all I think I'll be staying here for the rest of my life. Please come and visit in April when the house is ready....more to come. Peace and love, Jan

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Goodbye Rudy - Rest In Peace My Friend

For My Friend Kristin and her Best Friend Rudy -

My best friend closed his eyes today, as his head was in my hand.
The Doctors said he was in pain, and it was hard for him to stand.
The thoughts that scurried through my head, as I cradled him in my arms were of his younger, puppy years,And OH...his many charms.
Today, there was no gentle nudge with an intense "I love you gaze",
Only a heart thats filled with tears, remembering our joy filled days.
But an Angel just appeared to me, and he said, "You should cry no more,GOD also loves our canine friends,HE's installed a 'doggy-door"!

--- Jan Cooper --- 1995

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lunch and Shopping In Paradise

Today is an exceptionally good day. I had lunch at a new restaurant out in the north beach area. I was with two good friends, LeeAnn and Janey and time with them is always fun and positive. They are both involved in making San Carlos a better place. We sat in what felt like an open Moroccan style area with couches and low tables - kind of a private room. The owners have designed several unique areas within the restaurant. They have incredible taste and the food is fantastic.
Although business is slow in San Carlos, a lot of people are taking the time to look into the future and make the town prettier and more cohesive as a community. We already have the surrounding beauty - the mountains and the Sea of Cortez, but there's no town square and we could use a good facelift in town. San Carlos needs to take more care of their buildings and regulate the signage. We want to keep our town feeling like Mexico too and that's not easy. A lot of people come from the north and don't like to use pesos or even attempt to speak Spanish. They want it to be just like Arizona or Texas. I strongly disagree. I enjoy interacting with the Mexican people and their families. I have learned so much in the past seven years because of my time in Mexico.
As usual I've gotten off of the subject, which was about an exceptionally good day. Lunch was great and we couldn't stop talking about our ideas and things that we would like to see happen in town to make it more charming. After lunch I drove back into town and bought two pairs of sandals that I have been admiring on LeeAnn for the past three you see it wasn't an impulse buy. Well maybe the second pair was. A store that I almost never go into has turned out to have fabulous and affordable shoes and clothing! I need some sturdy but great looking sandals for my trip to Hong Kong next week. Now I think I'm ready....almost.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Can't Believe It

I can't believe that I haven't blogged since November. A lot has happened and nothing has happened. Thanksgiving was fabulous with Petey and Maureen and the kids in St Louis and then Debbie and the kids in Columbia. Tommy was off in India for work and we were sad to miss him. Christmas was quiet, but nice. We had a wonderful celebration for El Cobijo and the men enjoyed themselves immensely. We shared our own Christmas with good friends, Bliss, Kris and Al. I found a recipe for "perfect" prime rib and it was fabulous. Did I mention that Sonora has some of the best beef in the world?
Bruce is still very busy with his work in Hong Kong. We're going over in a few weeks and I'm excited. I also have the added bonus of seeing Scarlett who will be turnig one. She is so adorable and quite a piece of work apparently. Her grandmothers have been busy adorning her with quite the wardrobe!
I have continued my work with El Cobijo though since they have moved back to their old building they don't need as much assistance. Luz, the head nurse has wanted to start a bazaar on Thursday mornings and hopefully make some money for incidentals.
Our house is coming along beautifully and we are hoping to be there by Christmas. My pizza oven is still happening. In fact we drove up to Tucson and picked up some fire brick last week.
Today is a truly historical day. I believe that the health care bill is going to pass. In spite of all of the controversy and so much bitterness I believe that everyone deserves health care. I don't think anyone opposing this bill has had a family member who has been ill and without good health care. Where is the spirit of humanity in all of the anti-health care advocates. I hesitate to bring it up because it is such a touchy subject, but it can't be ignored. I have not heard this much pontification by congress in a long time!
I plan to continue my blog on a frequent basis because I love to write and I love to share my life in Mexico with my readers so we will talk soon.