December 28, 2014


This is an adaptation of a holiday letter I sent to family and friends. I have been wanting to blog more but it is one of things that is falling by the wayside in my return to a full-time job in the last couple months. 

2014 was full of happy days and new adjustments. 

In February, I had the great fortune to spend my birthday with friends and family on the coast in Sayulita and Vallarta. Afterward, we drove up the coast to give a reading to the "Writers Who Love Mexico" group in Xaltemba. We stayed in Guayabitos, where there is a lovely wide, shallow beach that is great for kids. 

In May, we were invited to another book talk by the Patzcuaro and Morelia book clubs. We were hosted at the lovely Casa Encantada over Mothers' Day. The local expats there were incredibly supportive to our family and the immigration issue in general. They lamented how terrible the negative narco press has really impacted tourism and business. It's a shame because in my opinion Michoacan is one of the loveliest states in the Republic.

In June, I finished up a four-month temp job as Training Advisor at Peace Corps Mexico, and my parents came to visit. We went up to visit volunteers in the Reserva de la Biosfera de Sierra Gorda and then came back and threw Margo a 40th birthday party. Soon after, we traveled to the University of Guanajuato to give a talk to an American-Mexican law student exchange program hosted by law professor Beth Caldwell.

This spring, we foster-homed a wheaten Scotch Terrier for a few months from April to June. I had taken her from a friend in the hopes that we could adapt to a dog in our lives, and it really was great for her to have more space to roam. However, Margo is not particularly fond of dogs, and didn't have sufficient resources to care for her properly (we lack fencing, and she roamed...and future vet bills would have been a problem). I eventually realized the best option would be to rehome her. Lucky for the pup, a coworker and his wife adopted her permanently, and it's a much better living situation for her. Everyone turned out happy!

Soon after we got an aquarium, which is definitely less time-consuming than a dog, but is still a mix of disappointment & delight :) I may have a green thumb but aquaculture seems to be a whole new learning experience for me.  To renew my faith in my ability to foster living things, planted a few garden boxes and held a late summer/early fall home gardening workshop series. This summer I also started a new regular exercise and physical therapy routine...which has been a nice little bit of time and care for me.

This fall we began to edit a translation of Amor and Exile with the hopes of completing an edition in Spanish. It's been an incredible way to improve my written Spanish, and we are working with an incredible team of volunteer editors (Mexican nationals) who are as committed to the vision of truth-telling on the issue of undocumented immigration as Nathaniel and I have been. Look for it in 2015. 

In November I returned to work full-time at Peace Corps as Interim Environmental Education Program/Training Specialist. I went on my first official volunteer site visit to Puebla and Oaxaca only a few weeks after starting. I hope to earn the permanent position in the near future...I feel like Peace Corps Mexico is a place where I can grow and contribute in a way that I had long wanted but had been unable  to achieve in exile. I am so very grateful for the incredible team of coworkers and the opportunity to provide training and support to volunteers who dedicate their lives to service in far flung rincones of this country! 

In the meantime I am now charged with maintaining a balance between work, home, and aspirations for the future. My daughter amazes and challenges me daily, and Margo impresses me with his reserves of commitment, devotion, and cariño for this family. Like any nuclear unit, we struggle to maintain connections with our extended family, but I feel very grateful for consistently supportive parents and for the blessings we´ve received from our wider community of friends and networks. Onward to 2015! There will be much to experience and discover. Felices Fiestas desde de la Tierra de la Flores de Nochebuena!

Elimination Diet Wrap-Up

I neglected to do a timely overview of the results of my elimination diet experience when I finished it, mainly because life got in the way. But overall I loved doing it because it gave my diet a much-needed injection of clean living with vegetables and protein sources. I only ended up losing a few pounds as a side effect, but I'll take it! :-)

About the results. I was expecting a gluten sensitivity. But I could not detect one. My naturopath thinks that if I still have thyroid antibodies, I might try to go gluten-free again for a while. But that's going to require time and testing. I'm up to the challenge though!

I am not surprised that I have a little sensitivity to chili peppers. I think we all probably do to some extent. It's kind of like a necessary evil living in Mexico. It's one that will have to be consumed in moderation though.

The big surprise from this diet was that I discovered that I have a sensitivity to eggs and potatoes. Both give me gastrointestinal symptoms, but I'll spare you the details. I even tried challenging them a few times afterwards, but it's really true. No more french fries, mashed potatoes, and omelets. I almost feel like I should be crying as a type this, because these were two totally cherished components of my regular diet (I even raise egg-laying chickens!) and I was NOT expecting to be sensitive to them. But I was also not expecting to feel as indifferent as I do about letting those two foods go. I still have small amounts from time to time as they are often ingredients in commonly-served meals (pancakes, for example...). But gone will be the days of having these as my main course. Oh well!

I was also happy that as a result of having done this, I have more empathy for folks who are gluten-free, and I have something to contribute when people talk to me about food issues they have or if they too are considering trying the diet. The coolest thing perhaps was being able to examine my own self without having to go to a lab for tests.

To that end, here is the wrap-up of several go-to recipes I made while I was on the total elimination diet, as well as a few from when I started to challenge. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I hope to keep coming back and adding to it as time permits. Happy Food Trails!

During the total elimination phase
During initial Challenge Phase (these recipes are not all 100% elimination diet, because they include one or more challenged ingredients):