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The Story of Us & How Mexico Has Changed Our Destiny Forever

Frank and I are going on 19 years together, and like any long-term relationship, it has had its ups and downs. Yes folks, normal life.

We dated and were in a committed relationship for 3 years, 3 months before we married. It is noteworthy to mention that my favorite number is 3 and no we did not plan on marrying on our 3.3—serendipity is an amazing thing.

I was just shy of my 29th birthday when we met, immersed in my teaching career, and dating freely as time and desire permitted. I might have had a little bit of “wild and free” going for me as well, just sayin’.

My cousin Dianne who is more like a sister to me, called me to tell me that she knew this “really great guy”—a firefighter and a coworker of her husband Chuck who was a Captain on the same fire department, who she thought I might like to meet. 

“Tell me about him”, I asked.

“Well…he likes to dance—like you…he loves Mexico—like you…he is a firefighter (bonus points!!! does he come delivered in uniform?!), he is really nice, easy going, and an overall great guy.”

Hmmmmm…my interest was piqued. But what was she not telling me, I wondered.

I inquired more, “What does he look like?” (Yes, very shallow, but important nonetheless.)

“Welllll”, she continued, “He has red hair, is in good shape, medium height, and has a mustache.”

A mustache?!?! Now this was the late 90’s and while very much “the thing” and in style in the fire department—then, and now—it was not so much my thing nor a feature in a man that I would normally be attracted to based on looks alone. 

Admittedly, I was drawn to the dark, tall, latino, bad-boy and none of them had red mustaches (sorry honey).

My cousin Dianne then went on, after my nudging her to tell me more about Frank the Fireman, to share that he was 35, divorced with two young children. Oh. That was something to wrap my mind around for sure. After all, I was in my 20’s, never married and no children other than the ones that I wholeheartedly took responsibility for in my classroom. 

“But, but, cousin….I really think the two of you would have FUN together, even if just as friends. Can I at least give him your number for the two of you to talk?” she persisted.

FUN?! She had me at `F´! No matter where or how, no matter what trials life can throw one’s way, I have always been about the fun and adventure! I mean, really, why not? If not now, in this lifetime, when?

Frank, according to my cousin Dianne, fit that bill of a carefree, unadulterated spirit that I also embodied, and she saw something in the two of us, that…what-da-ya-know, would lead to marriage and the creation of our two little miracles, Liam and Mairead, a.k.a. “The Reds”. And to think that I had no intentions of ever marrying, and Frank—no intentions of having more children!

Love is an amazing thing!

Thank you Cousin Dianne, for your vision and insight and amazing matchmaking abilities! 

Frank and I spent the first few months just talking on the phone (not having met yet in person) while he was at the fire station, in between calls. I remember his voice—deep, strong, solid, manly…his sense of humor, his intelligence and wit, that fact that he intrigued me, kept me on my toes, and most importantly, made me laugh—a lot. And, he seemed to “get me”. Imagining him the “hero in a uniform” didn’t hurt either.

After getting to know the phone Frank, we made arrangements for an actual in-person, face-to-face date. The fact that he was divorced with two young children and sporting a big red mustache seemed to take backseat to the fact that I really enjoyed our conversations of laughing, connecting, and getting to know each other in a very easy, unpretentious way. He was down-to-earth, easy to talk to, and quite frankly, a breath of fresh air!

Feeling slightly tentative while waiting for him to arrive for our first date, I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw him walk through the front door. In fact, something to the effect of “hot damn!” might have rolled through my mind. 

I saw his profile first, his chiseled features, and strong stature—dressed in jeans, Dr. Marten shoes, a nice shirt and NO red mustache. We were off to a good start! The in-person Frank was just as great as the over-the-phone Frank and it didn’t hurt either that he was easy on the eyes. 

That first date back in October of 1998 was one of many nights out on the town dining on sushi, day trips down to Mexico, runs on the beach, home-made meals at Frank’s place—complete with demonstrative signs of his affection like this flower arrangement he gifted to me the first time I came over. We both had a good laugh at the grandiose presentation of it—not one he had designed himself, but rather had given the florist free reign to create!

First Dates, 1998

First Dates & Impressive Floral Arrangements! 1998

About eight months into our dating, I met his two older children. When I saw what an incredibly present and loving father Frank was, I realized even more what a solid person he was and that our connection was beyond casual. Great guy, great dad, great person—a powerfully winning combination! In no short order, I took them all into my heart and life forever and being a “step”, “other”, “special” (my preferred term) mother to them allowed my heart to dig deep and grow in ways that escape explanation.

A couple of years later he showed up on my doorstep at my studio in Hillcrest, San Diego—still in uniform after getting off shift—and asked for my hand in marriage. I said “no”, that I wasn’t ready. Another year later, he gave it his best college try again, got down on both knees, professed his deep love for me in the garage after I got home from teaching. This time I was ready, and I responded with a big resounding “Yes!” (And yes, what you read is true…Frank proposed to me in a garage AND, I said yes!)

Wedding Day July 21, 2001

“We Do” 2001

This summer we celebrate 19 years together of a union and bond based in friendship first. Without a doubt, the honoring of it as the foundation and core of our relationship has carried us through some of life’s more trying times. It always sees us out and through to the other side, back to the fun and rejoicing that we get to partner through this earth experience together. 

Our shared love of Mexico is a natural extension of our friendship and a vehicle to deeper understanding of each other. Mexico is not for the faint of heart—there are times and places where it feels very wild westy and when marching forward requires a certain amount of guts, determination, and picking ourselves up from the bootstraps. A healthy sense of humor goes a long way as well. No doubt Frank’s and my combined backbones make for a formidable duo.

We have always been a good team, but something about life here in Mexico has made us even stronger, more solidified, exploring our own paths but always converging together with a mutual focus to live our lives to the fullest and provide the absolute best that we can for our children. 

In many ways, Mexico shows you what you are made of, how self-reliant and industrious you are, and that your choices and their consequences are first and foremost your responsibility.

Frank and I embrace our wanderlust and nomadic tendencies and at the same time know that our number one priorities are the hearts and well-being of our two incredible children Mairead and Liam. There are times when we feel like pioneers, paving a brave new way for our family in a new culture, a new world. Living outside one’s norm or the prescription that might have been culturally indoctrinated into you, requires a certain degree of solidarity, courage, determination and focus—even if that focus wavers at times, but a focus nonetheless. 

Bahia

Camp Gecko, Bahia de Los Angeles 2005

Our twin children’s first introduction to Mexico was to our place in Bahia de Los Angeles—a little fishing village on the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula and an over 400 mile and two day drive from San Diego with lots of potty stops. They were just seven months old, although technically their first trips south where when they were still in-utero, as we ventured on down when I was both three and six months pregnant with them. I will never forget being out in the middle of the glass-like calm bay with my fishing pole resting at the apex of my very pregnant belly—a sight indeed!

Our Baja years laid the foundation for our full-time move to mainland Mexico—both unique regions of one amazing, dynamic country. 

Kids and I at fishing dock Bahia 2005

Bahia de Los Angeles 2005

Our children wasted no time falling in love with Mexico—her beauty, the freedom and family time she represents, the opportunities for unstructured, unregulated play, and the ability to connect with Mother Earth and all of her amazing gifts.

Mairead Vaulting 2012

Vaulting lessons in the jungle, Nayarit 2012

Mairead and Liam have been fearless warriors since a very early age, always up for the next adventure. Their time and experiences in Mexico have undeniably impacted and contributed to who they are.

From clamming in estuaries and learning about tidal flows, to dune buggy rides and open sky nights by the bonfire, to learning how to surf and horseback ride in the jungle, to quad riding in the central high desert plains, to climbing pyramids, swimming in natural springs watering holes and living in a 16th century historic colonial town, their story has just begun!

Daily life in Mexico is an opportunity and call to tune in to that which is around you, to connect to that which is important and disconnect to that which is not.

Thank you Mexico…you have changed our destiny forever.

Frank & Liam Baja in Water 2006

Frank & Liam having some boy time in the Sea of Cortez 2006

 

M & L Black and White 2005

Nature Discovery 101–Mexico Style

 

Mairead & Liam Baja 2010

It’s a twin thing…a bond like none other

 

kids with friends san pancho beach

Friendships and memories that will last a lifetime! San Pancho, Nayarit 2012

 

Fun on a Quad

Off roading fun in Central Mexico! Guanajuato 2014

 

IMG_1602

Cañada de la Virgin, Guanajuato 2015

 

Frank on Guerrero

The life of a retired firefighter in Mexico!

 

DSC_0455

Freedom to dream!

 

How has Mexico changed you or made your life better? Would love to hear about it in the comments section below this post!

Cheers!

~Katie

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{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Antonia Reed March 16, 2015, 1:57 pm

    I loved reading your love story and your history, and the fact that I also got to see pictures was awesome! Mexico changed me from someone who just felt that there was no where to go but the rat race, to understanding that materialism is not my bag.

    I love Mexico, and how it changed me. I will always be a better person because of my time with every aspect; from the culture, to the language immersion, to the music and food, to just being in a 3rd world country with all its bad and good qualities. I am a more empathetic person because of Mexico. I now understand generosity in a different way. And I owe all of that, ALL of that, to Mexico and living there on and off for 19 yrs.

    Someday, I will retire there.
    Toni

    • Katie O'Grady March 17, 2015, 10:08 am

      Hi Toni!

      Thanks so much for sharing parts of your own story and how Mexico has impacted you, clearly all for the better!

      I love how you say that you are more empathetic and understand generosity in a different way….so beautiful and powerful.

      Mexico waits for you….

      Cheers,

      Katie 🙂

  • Ulises Zarate March 16, 2015, 3:06 pm

    Another great post and awesome pictures to boot!

    • Katie O'Grady March 17, 2015, 10:09 am

      ¡Muchas Gracias Ulises!

      This was a fun (and long!) one to write!

      🙂
      Katie

  • Frank March 16, 2015, 5:31 pm

    Love it, baby…. I love how you capture “us”….. all of us.
    We are still in the beginning of our story.
    Keep telling it.

  • Terry Van Orshoven March 16, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Katie. As your Dad, and Franks Dad in Law, and in Spirit. As Liam and Maireads , Grandpa Terry, with Grandma Sandee and Granny Marsha, if my heart and spirit could be filled more with love, respect, and admiration, with a tincture of relief, I would burst. At 78, I am on my ten to fifteen year bucket trip. What a bucket you, as a family and individuals, give to all of us in this wonderful time of our lives. Love to all Dad. (from the Elders)

  • MONNICA O'GRADY March 17, 2015, 10:02 am

    love seeing the pics, and hearing about the early courting, etc. glad to be part of your lives. sending lots of love

    • Katie O'Grady March 17, 2015, 10:11 am

      Hi Monnica!

      Glad you enjoyed this piece.

      I am sure happy to be part of The O’Grady Family!

      Much Love,

      Katie 🙂

  • Leeanne March 17, 2015, 10:44 am

    Just wonderful! God Bless your family.. what a beautiful family Love story indeed! I am a tad bit older then you, but mine also has been a love story of ups and downs and all that make us who we are,, warriors at times. Married over 40 years with grown children and beautiful grandchildren. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your life with others! God Bless your family, Katie xo

    • Katie O'Grady March 17, 2015, 1:05 pm

      Hello Leeanne,

      Thank you so much for the kind words…..

      And yes, warriors for sure! 😉

      We are leaving for the Caribbean in 2 weeks, and will not only be showing our twins where their parents honeymooned many years ago, but have also decided to renew our vows on one of the magical beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula…

      Best,

      Katie 🙂

  • Edris March 18, 2015, 11:01 am

    Katie,

    I love how you convey your love story, not as perfect but REAL and attainable! I so enjoy reading your blog and thank you!

    Springing forward,
    Edris

    • Katie O'Grady March 18, 2015, 8:47 pm

      Greetings Edris,

      What a lovely comment to read…

      Thank you.

      We O’Gradys are nothing if not real!

      Best,

      Katie 🙂

  • Jeanette March 21, 2015, 1:08 pm

    Have a wonderful family trip. Check out Isla Mujeres in the state of Quintana Roo. We live here full time and my husband is experimenting with solar for our hot water. From reading your blog I know Frank is doing a lot with solar.

    • Katie O'Grady March 21, 2015, 1:12 pm

      Hi Jeanette!

      Thank you, we are looking very forward to our time in the Yucatan Peninsula, and a fun trip down memory for Frank and I where we honeymooned.

      Yes, Frank’s company, Eclipse Solar SMA, is very active and successful here in San Miguel de Allende. Our eventual dream is to get back down to the beach, where no doubt he will have plenty of opportunity as well.

      Best and thank you for the message,

      Katie
      🙂

  • Jill March 27, 2015, 10:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Katie! I love those “how we met” stories–especially when they tie into Mexico! 😉

    • Katie O'Grady March 28, 2015, 12:43 pm

      Hi Jill,

      It is a pretty amazing story filled with lots of magic, journeys and serendipity….

      Cheers,

      Katie 🙂

  • Michael L. Mattos March 28, 2015, 12:18 pm

    LOVE YOUR STORY – thanks for sharing! My wife and I moved to Cabo San Lucas 2 1/2 years ago from southern CA and could not be more happier – we were even here during Hurricane Odile… Hope your story inspires others to visit Mexico / Baja!

    • Katie O'Grady March 28, 2015, 12:37 pm

      Thank you Michael,

      And we love Cabo! Such a magical part of Baja. Glad you weathered through Olie…

      So many adventures to be had in this country!

      Saludos,

      Katie 🙂

  • Crystal February 2, 2016, 9:40 am

    Love your story!! It’s neat to see where and how it all started for you guys!! I love the adventurous lifestyle that you are teaching your kids!! Its so amazing when you realize you can pull something off that is so out of the norm for most- your kids are so lucky to have you guys:)
    Love reading your posts!
    Crystal

    • Katie O'Grady February 3, 2016, 1:29 pm

      Hi Crystal,

      Your guy’s adventures look pretty amazing too!

      It is nice to cross paths with like-minded, adventurous people who “get it”…

      Looking forward to following your family’s FUN and thank you for reading about ours!

      Best,

      Katie

  • ANGEL B March 22, 2017, 5:41 pm

    Hi,
    I am trilled I found this blog, I’m a Mexican-American retired Army veteran. I been wanting to go back to Mexico ever since I retired in 2013, with my wife and two children. Life here in the States has become though, rude, materialistic and surrounded by a fast pace kind of living.
    I will love my children to have the childhood I had growing up in Central Mexico (Michoacán). Please advice if you think, I could have a dissent living for my family on my retirement disability check.
    Thank you.

  • Sarah Beck July 11, 2017, 12:29 am

    Wow! Love your story so much! Very similar to mine. I met my red-head in Baja when I was just 16 years old. We proceeded to adventure together and travel the world from that day forward and are coming upon 21 years together. Just celebrated our 10 year anniversary of marriage. He also asked me to merry him down on both knees. He became a firefighter about six years into our relationship and we made a move to Mexico in January. We have two kids, 4yrs and 5yrs. A blonde and a red head! It’s been a bit since I last blogged…but check out our story! http://www.thisgypsypath.com

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful love story!!! I could relate on every level!

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