Skin of our Teeth

!5 YearsI am not excited about writing this post, I feel embarrassed. But, it’s possible that the information may help someone, so I’ll brave the discomfort.

Above is a photo taken on August 8th, our 15th wedding anniversary. We barely made it to this anniversary.

When, two years ago, I realized it was quite possible I would be living the rest of my life without Felipe, and  I was in a third world country with limited resources, I did the only thing I could think to do: I went online.

I typed in: how to save your marriage.

I don’t remember how I ended up choosing Brad Browning’s book, but what I learned from it was essential to me at the time. It is not required that both partners “work” on the marriage to save it, as Felipe was not interested in trying at that point.

I followed Mr. Browning’s advice, which was basically to be kind, and slowly, very slowly Felipe began to unthaw. His actions toward me softened, he opened to the possibility of reconciliation.

When I was invited to Nicaragua, I told my soon to be boss,  I had no decent clothes, no makeup, and hardly an idea of how to function in a professional situation anymore. As I struggled in my new position not look like I was raised by wolves, I realized how distant I’d become from my femininity and  not just in the superficial aspects, but my sensuality, my warmth, my nurturing side were absent.  Not surprisingly, this had a negative impact on my relationship with my husband.

I went back to the internet and I found Rori Raye. She taught  me how to be female again,  in ways I had never considered, to great results. She gave me permission to be a sacred part of myself  I had confused with sex and power and need, in a way that uplifted and supported me and my relationships.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not but, men and women are different. I know, you’d think I would’ve figured that out  in my first 50 years. But somehow, in my principal years of feminist reading, I decided it might be true, but it shouldn’t matter. A decision did neither me nor my relationships with men any good. So I asked a man what he thought about it. Christian Carter.

I learned  a lot about the male perspective from him, and the running theme through all of these programs was reinforced. You must love yourself. You must take care of yourself first.

It seems simple, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize how much our insecurities impact our relationships. It had never occurred to me that being capable, confident and in control is not the same as valuing yourself,  loving yourself, and being strong enough to take responsibility for your own needs.

I learned more about that from these books.

The Law of Attraction

The Vortex

In them, I also learned the invaluable practice of seeing the best in Felipe, regardless of what was happening in the present. By consistently focusing on what I love and admire about him, I saw more and more of his best self and little of the behaviors I felt were tearing us apart. It did not happen because I reasoned with him, or nagged him or asked him to change.  I stopped projecting the belief that he would act hurtfully, I stopped expecting the worst from him, and I starting getting his best. It was difficult.  It took practice. My mind was focused on my unhappiness with him.  I was hurt and angry and it’s hard to break habits, especially from a weakened position.

Are you wondering why I did all the work, are you thinking it’s sexist? That is not the case, Felipe also had to change. My change of perspective only gave him room, desire and a supportive environment to do his own work.

I bounced around these programs, depending on my need at the time, I bought others, and returned some(almost all come with a money back guarantee) . I spent about 1000$ in a year in a half, well worth it. I felt silly at times, the programs are sometimes hokey and sensationalist. But, I also felt supported, and it worked.

Ultimately, it has been a journey in my relationship with myself, and happily, Felipe has decided to stick around for next 15 years.

Other notable mention: Susan Bratton, hot sex advisor to millions! She’s a little campy, but fun and her newsletters are informative and stimulating.

 

Have you ever used online counseling? Have you ever shared something publically  that exposed more of yourself than you were comfortable with?

I love hearing from you : ) And, though not a marriage counselor, I would be happy to give anyone more information about how I used the internet to save my marriage.

 

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While Away

IMG_1607Hello, my name is Abby Smith and I used to write a blog called “Very Simple, Very Easy Very Good. It had a cute tag line; ” I write about the complexities of the simple life”. It was actually about what happens when ridiculously idealistic people move to another country without enough money and try to live an ridiculously unrealistic “self sustainable” life.

It was a pretty entertaining blog. Lots of humor, tragedy, beauty, loss, and hard won triumphs. Mexico made writing a blog easy, there was mayhem most weeks(mayhem is great fodder for blog posts) and I didn’t have an job. I could put writing first and washing our underwear in the creek…whenever. As long as we had beans and tortillas I was free to create.

It was great.

Except for all the horrors, the poverty, and what I felt was the likelihood that my husband was working himself to death.

So, we moved to Nicaragua. We got real jobs, the kind you get paid for! Our life now is the antithesis of our lives in Mexico. We live in a castle in comparison, with a pool and an ocean view, we have unlimited wine, hot water,  and electricity(most days :).  There are no snipers joining us for dinner, no vicious old neighbors, no babies to fail.

It’s great.

Except, we arrived in Nicaragua with a desiccated marriage, deteriorated health, and moral quandaries.  How do you begin again with someone you’ve suffered so much with you both feel dead inside? What does one do with tattered ideals? How does a political expatriate reconcile living in a US bubble in a third world country?

So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the two years I have been absent from vsvevg: resurrecting a relationship, revamping my belief systems, and ultimately myself. I like to do that about once a decade.  I guess that’s what this blog will be about for the time being, and probably some travelogue, some books, art…maybe even a bit poetry.

Now that things are truly, Very Simple, Very Easy and Very good.

Waste Not

“Machigua” Nica for pig slop.

I’ve worked in restaurants for over 20 years. It’s fast paced challenging work; I’ve always enjoyed it. Though, as with all jobs, there are aspects that have frustrated me. The most upsetting thing about working restaurants is witnessing the mountains of food thrown away every day —breakfast, lunch and dinner… breakfast, lunch and dinner, 365 days a year.  Reputable research informs us that forty percent of the consumable food in the U.S. is thrown away; a statistic that has consumed me in the way thoughts of the ocean’s garbage gyres can drag me below the surface of despair.

When I lived in Chicago, I would leave the restaurant and sometimes see people sifting through the still nourishing food we threw into a vile trash bin; salvaging bits, tainted only because we’d put them in an unsanitary place. We also sent weekly meals to a homeless shelter, but it didn’t assuage the guilt I felt for serving piles of food that few could possibly finish, but to many who would complain if the portions were reduced. Some want their money’s worth, even if it is only to throw it away.

probecho!

probecho!

Finally, I have a restaurant job that has solved this dilemma. At La Finca y El Mar all of our waste is sorted: citrus rinds for compost, plate waste for pigs, plastics, glass and cardboard recycled, which creates a significantly decreased trash output .

Lucas. He was so emaciated and infested when Felipe took him in we doubted he'd live. But, He's gaining weight...yes, he was thinner.

Lucas. He was so emaciated and infested when Felipe took him in we doubted he’d live. But, He’s gaining weight…yes, he was thinner.

Felipe comes to the restaurant each morning and collects the food waste bins. The pigs get a diverse and tasty supplement to their feed, his adopted farm dog Lucas, enjoys the pork scraps and bones he and his coworkers pull out of the pig’s portion, the compost benefits from a boost of acidity for our alkaline soil, and I am freed from agonizing over my contribution to waste and indifference.

Probecho piggies!

House Home

our first shower

our first shower in la tigra 🙂

 

In 2006 my husband Felipe and I packed two bags, fifty thousand dollars and the dream of a self sustainable life. We moved to his tiny home town in rural México. We were there almost nine years getting a whopping lesson in dream meets reality.

Four months ago, I packed one bag and left for Nicaragua. I had fifty bucks, and the idea that perhaps Felipe would join me. As followers of this blog know, he did; he came with one bag and 1500 dollars in the bank from selling our pigs.

This is to say, I know a little bit about up and moving to another country. You might guess the hardest part is making it happen, but in my experience, the difficulty is making it home.

When I moved into in my new apartment in Nicaragua I was elated. It was so clean! No crumbling  walls, no stumbling into the forest  before dawn due to broken plumbing, no corners of impenetrable grime. Seven years with no money for house maintenance = hovel. But after a few months of white walls and dark wood I missed character, even if that meant something beyond patina.

I wish I could say I remedied this deficit with something more apparently meaningful say… volunteering or starting to write  a new book, but…I went shopping, at the Nica version of home depot no less!

Pillows!

Pillows!

 

I bought pillows, and place mats, an apron and wineglasses and a vase! Best of all… I bought two big bright coffee mugs. They aren’t as grande as the big green mug that held my hand as I stuttered through my recitations last year, but  they’re an investment in wake up happy.

IMG_0438

Wake up happy!

 

Felipe visited the Pierda Rahda last week, I’m pleased to report he found River and Monty fat and wild, and our cats still inhabiting the adobe and turning there nose up at the food our caretaker puts down for them everyday. I could have asked him to bring my big green mug, but I feel better knowing it’s there, waiting for me to drink in sunrise under the amate someday.

I guess I am not yet totally here -but I’m closer.

What’s your first step in making a house a home?