≡ Menu

While we consider ourselves to be fairly seasoned travelers and informed citizens of this thing called life, never once did we think that packing a carbon monoxide detector would be an essential and life-saving item in our travel preparedness until tragedy struck and my retired firefighter husband was poisoned by carbon monoxide at a “boutique hotel” in Lake Chapala, Mexico in 2017.

After dropping our children off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp outside of Guadalajara, we set out to enjoy our weekend together, knowing that our twins would be in the good hands and company of their camp counselors and classmates and that we would get to enjoy some time together.

Never would we have imagined that instead of spending our weekend sightseeing and relaxing, that we would spend it fighting for Frank’s life at an Emergency Room in downtown Guadalajara. 

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer

How Could Such A Thing Happen? 

Do mistakes and bad things happen? Absolutely.

So does gross negligence.

After working at his computer for several hours next to an open window in our hotel room (where just on the other side of it, was–unbeknownst to us–a malfunctioning, carbon monoxide leaking hot water heater), Frank, upon standing up, was overcome by severe visual disturbances, full-body weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking, extreme nausea and a ghost-like color to his skin.

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer

Confirmation of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

To recount what those time-standing-still minutes and moments were like, waiting for the Red Cross to arrive and load my nearly lifeless husband up onto the gurney, is a memory that words escape and that I can only hope and pray will one day stop haunting us.

Confirmation by the hotel itself that in fact two carbon monoxide leaks had been found in the hot water heater just outside our bedroom window, together with all of Frank’s symptoms, hospital diagnostics and treatment, verified that carbon monoxide poisoning was in fact the culprit. A simple and affordable installation of a CO detector would have easily prevented this tragedy, not to mention the proper checks and maintenance of the hot water heater by the hotel management and owners themselves.

Shameful, careless and deadly, to say the least. 

Only removal from the carbon monoxide itself and immediate medical intervention with continuous high-saturation oxygen therapy in a hyperbaric chamber would save Frank’s life. Friends from Vallarta showed up at the ER to help us in any way they could and I will forever ever be eternally grateful for their loving kindness in one of the darkest times of our lives.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning~The Silent Killer

As a result of this terrifying experience, where my husband’s life was spared (not all are), we now ALWAYS travel with carbon monoxide detectors as well as outfit our home with them. We have CO alarms in each of our bedrooms and next to any gas-supplied appliances–i.e. the stove, clothes dryer and hot water heater. Even if your hot water heater is outside the house, it is highly advisable to have a CO monitor in close proximity to where it is located, as well as check it periodically for proper functioning. 

Please protect yourself and your loved ones with CO alarms for both home and travel safety. Carbon monoxide is odorless, and cannot be seen or heard. The first sign of poisoning is severe illness, or worse, death. 

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If one is suddenly overcome with nausea, headache, vision disturbances, confusion and other mind-boggling symptoms, consider a CO exposure and get OUT of the room/building ASAP (and to a medical facility) until authorities can perform necessary tests, repairs and assure that the area is safe to return to.

Don’t rely on the hotel, vacation rental, airbnb or even a loved one’s home where you might be visiting to have done the proper and required maintenance checks of all gas-fueled appliances. It is important to also consider possible exposures by nearby neighboring structures. Simply bring your own CO monitors for your and your loved one’s safety and peace of mind.

*Carbon monoxide is silent, odorless and tasteless*

Carbon Monoxide~The Silent Killer!

I hope this information saves just one life. Please share it with your friends, family, workplace and community. 

Get your CO monitors today and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for battery replacement and equipment checks.

With gratitude for this one precious life,

~Katie O’Grady






{ 1 comment }

Many thanks to my husband Frank for taking the time to share with us how his love for Mexico began, the challenges of having been a career firefighter in Southern California, and how his dream of making the world better–one roof at a time–is coming to fruition via Sol Luz Power

By Frank O’Grady

I have been asked by my wife Katie to write a bit about my goals, my dreams, my aspirations and not just my willingness, but my desire to live well outside of the bounds of what is considered normal life in our country of origin—Los Estados Unidos.

How I came to be a retired firefighter in Mexico has its backstory and to tell it effectively, I need to return to the very beginning of this dream of mine.

It all began well before I met Katie, sometime in the early 90’s, when I started taking day trips to Rosarito Beach and Ensenada in Baja California, venturing off onto any little side road I could find within a few hours of the border.

I needed a belt for my work uniform and having never been further than Tijuana, I decided I would head down to Rosarito and have a look around.

20 minutes after crossing the border, I pulled into north Rosarito Beach and slowly drove the length of town–which at that time, took me all of about 10 minutes!

Rosarito was very quiet and I spent a lot of time chatting with locals and eating at different taco stands to practice my Spanish and to sample as many fish and carne asada tacos piled with fresh salsa, cilantro, onions, guacamole and a squeeze of lime as I could. 

From Retired Firefighter to Solar Designer Extraordinaire~One Man's Journey of Reinvention in Mexico

I wandered the beach, smelled the air, kept my eyes wide open to all of the color and contrasts and just enjoyed conversing with whomever I met. Ready to find the belt, I headed on foot towards the north end of town where I had seen a leather shop.

Love at First Sight

You just never know what is behind a door in this country which is quite metaphorical for life here.

From Retired Firefighter to Solar Designer Extraordinaire~One Man's Journey of Reinvention in Mexico

This was my first introduction to shopping in Mexico and as I stepped through the door, I realized it would be like no other shopping experience I’d had before! It wasn’t just one shop—it led to an entire market I would have never known was there from the outside!

There were dozens of stands with vendors selling everything from clothing to tools, food, alcohol, flowers and shoes. I was amazed! It was, truly, a very Mexican experience.

Near the front of the market a man had all sorts of belts on display–deer skin, horse skin, cow skin, sheep skin, snake skin, ostrich and who knows what other types. It was getting later in the afternoon and I was quite thirsty so I chatted briefly with the proprietor about his belt selection. He showed me the differences in softness and texture, the different types of dying and engraving.

It was a show and a personal shopping experience like I’d never had in my life! I didn’t know what to buy so I told him I was going to go have a beer and come back and decide which one to buy.

He said he too was thirsty and he just happened to have a six pack of Tecate beer in his little fridge. Go figure! He handed me a bottle and grabbed one for himself. Marvel of marvels, the bottom of the bottle was formed perfectly to twist the cap off of another bottle! 

We sat and chatted about belts, life, kids, women, sports, lifestyles north and south of the border, differences in culture, the sky, the sea…it didn’t really matter–we just talked and meandered our way through those six beers.

It was time for me to get across the border before it was too late, so I went ahead and purchased a few belts (for probably too much), but I think both of us were quite happy with the exchange. He made a bit more than if I had really bargained, we drank beer and, best of all, we conducted business in a way where the purchase of my new belts was practically an afterthought to what was truly important in life.

I walked out of that store, found a few more fish tacos and conversations on the way back to getting my truck, and I was profoundly struck with the realization that I had found a new love in my life. That very day, I fell deeply in love with Mexico and I knew without equivocation that I could happily spend my life living there, amongst her people…becoming one of her people.

I do believe in love at first sight and twice in my life I have been fortunate enough to be struck, but that’s another story.

From Firefighter to Solar Designer

I will jump forward a couple of decades and tell you about my foray into the world of solar energy.

From Firefighter to Solar Designer~A Reinvented Life in Mexico!

Near the end of my career as a professional Firefighter for the Lakeside Fire Protection District in East San Diego County, I was rapidly losing my capacity to deflect human misery without absorbing it. The forced overtime hours and subsequent time away from my family was detrimental to all of us. 

To say that I missed many important days in my family’s life would be an understatement. With as finite as time is, I set my sights on being able to retire as soon as I was eligible.

I believe in unions. Workers are the backbone of our world. Mine had the foresight while the economy was freighting along to negotiate and pay for the best retirement that CalPERS offered its safety employees, 3%@50. Sure, I could have worked another 7 years and increased my pension by 32%, but I also could have damaged my body worse than it already was, or, died on the job. My back could no longer ignore the physics of my work and my head was filled to the rim with tragedy.

It Was Time for A New Life While I Still Had Life and Vitality

After my retirement in 2012 and once in Mexico, I would be running on the beach in the humid air, smelling the ocean, absorbing all the greenery and just decompressing in our new hometown of San Pancho, Nayarit and I would tally all the deaths I was personally involved with over the course of my career–easily over 1500. After a period of time that level of involvement in life and death takes a toll.

I began to look at options to get myself into a new line of work that would augment our pension and stimulate me mentally. It was also about doing something right for the world and to be an example to my children. My sights were set internationally.

From Retired Firefighter to Solar Designer Extraordinaire~One Man’s Journey of Reinvention in Mexico

Having installed a small stand-alone photovoltaic system at our place in Baja, I was intrigued by the prospect of assembling systems that could generate electricity out of the sun. I found the whole application fascinating and I still do.

At the age of 47, three years before I was eligible to retire, I started taking Electrical Theory classes at San Diego City College. 

I studied at work between calls and drills to progress well at school and pave a path for the future. My co-workers often wondered why I didn’t promote more than I had and why I concentrated on something completely unrelated to the fire service.

A New World

We knew we would leave Southern California once I retired from firefighting. We were tired of the busyness of life in SoCal. It seemed as if one had to work non-stop to afford a life focused on consumerism and accumulation and a political climate of division and hate.

When I walk through a door it needs to be to a new world. I needed something completely free of the fire service–free of the stories, free of the capitulation to external labor pressures, free of the politics of it all…free of all of the tragedy and death.

When I walked away, I did it not just willingly, but wholeheartedly and eagerly–relieved and without any regret.

From Retired Firefighter to Solar Designer Extraordinaire~One Man's Journey of Reinvention in Mexico

We Wanted a Better Life for Ourselves and Our Children

In San Pancho, I surfed and practiced capoeira, wrote and exercised and lived life while we adjusted to a reality where we were not work dependent. We grew and learned and gained knowledge about our new country and we found we wanted to set new goals and direct our paths differently.

I kept my dreams alive, dreaming that I would get into the business of photovoltaic design and installation and that I would not only make money but also have the opportunity to travel with my family and use grant money to install solar systems on rural schoolhouses or community centers that had no access to electricity.

I kept following the trade and keeping my ear to the ground, having faith that it would all work out. 

From San Pancho to San Miguel de Allende

At a certain point, with our kids growing and needing different educational opportunities, we decided to move to the heart of Mexico. We felt, as new residents, that we had a responsibility to learn more about our adopted country and where else can you learn more but in the revolutionary seat?

This was another step off of a cliff in faith. We had never even been to San Miguel de Allende but we rented a vacation rental for a month, loaded up all our stuff and hit the pavement looking for a long-term house, a new school for our kids and a new life.

From Retired Firefighter to Solar Designer Extraordinaire~One Man's Journey of Reinvention in Mexico

I applied for a scholarship to Solar Energy International, and while  I really did not have much hope due to my retirement status, age and income, the only thing I knew for sure was that if I did not apply, I would never know.

I talked about my career as a firefighter, my time as a union officer, how I believed in serving other people while doing right in the world; opportunities for solar in Latin America and providing electricity where it is needed most, and being an example to my children while involving my family in projects throughout Latin America.

Apparently they found my application compelling because they contacted me and stated that they wanted to offer me not just one scholarship but two! I am still am honored and amazed!

After I finished my second online class, I traveled to Paonia, Colorado to take hands-on installation courses. This really rounded me out as a professional designer and installer and created important relationships within the industry for me. I founded my own business, SolPower Mexico, and am indeed proud to say that I have kept my commitment to improving the world, one roof at a time.  

I am A dreamer, I Dream Big

…of a life with adventure, independence, beauty, color, love and flavor.

And I dream of this life for the people I love, too.

It is a rich life here in Mexico. It is not a fairy tale nor is it all roses. We have been lumped up a few times down here but we got lumped up pretty bad in the USA a few times as well.

Life takes its shots wherever you are. 

To come here and live, to establish yourself in a new country far away from the border…well, you have to dream and you have to be willing to step off the edge of the cliff with faith in your soul.

My hope for our children is that they always remember:

*Dreams are important

*Having a highly malleable vision for your life is important

*Sticking with and supporting the dreams of your loved ones is important

*Living life with courage and faith is important

*If you let a dream die, make sure you replace it with another dream

Reinvention in Mexico

Living, parenting and reinventing in Mexico has been an active, daily choice, and a journey of 10 years that soon will see our children graduating high school and beginning their University lives. What lays ahead is an evolving path that we are faithful will continue to reveal itself while simultaneously staying present and grateful to our here and now. Life, one big adventure, isn’t it? 


Frank From Retired Firefighter to Solar Designer Extraordinaire~One Man's Journey of Reinvention in Mexico

Other articles by Frank:

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father’s Perspective





*Protect yourself and your loved ones with Carbon Monoxide Detectors for home and travel. 





Leave Your Ego at The Border~Moving to (or Visiting) Mexico 101

As a 10-year Permanent Resident and grateful guest of Mexico, I would like to share a few of my observations of the demanor of some of the visitors, transplants and expats in Mexico. Please understand that my comments come from a desire to facilitate cultural understanding, appreciation, and most importantly, respect.

While my experience of living as an immigrant to Mexico is in large part based upon my upbringing, my travels, my profession and my choices as an adult woman to raise my children in this magnificent land, it is not such a difficult to understand concept that when visiting or residing as a guest in another country (i.e. Mexico), that it is best to do so with some mindful forethought and preparation.

“Leaving Your Ego at The Border” is to arrive open-minded and open-hearted to the opportunities of experiencing another culture and all that is has to offer. Making demands of your host or expecting that everything will go exactly your way or how you were accustomed to in your home country, is highly unadvisable. People will not want to acquiesce to your every want and desire, trust me. 

Moving to Mexico 101:

  • Be mindful of the living room you are walking into.
  • Make an effort to learn Spanish
  • Learn the national currency so that you can conduct your financial transactions with comprehension, respect and patience.
  • Be a keen observer of the cultural norms (and nuances) and modify your own behavior/assumptions in accordance with them–always remembering that you are a visitor and–ideally–a welcomed guest.
  • Understand that yelling at the barista, wait staff or service provider in irritation and/or indignation will not make your order come faster, assure its delivery in your desired state, nor make you a decent person. Quite the contrary. 

A Course in Manners Is Not to Be Underrated: KISS

I have witnessed enough distasteful interactions of people in search of “fun and freedom” south of the border that are cringe-worthy and simply shameful. As a former middle-school teacher, allow me to share an important acronym passed along to my students: KISS

Keep It Simple Silly:

  • Be here legally Do not assume that your stay in Mexico on an expired FMM or Temporary Visa is a badge of honor for “skirting the system”. Quite the contrary, it is a total lack of respect and regard for the laws of this country, not to mention the fact that the possibility of being detained and deported doesn’t sound like such a fun memory to add to your #tripreport.
  • Contribute to the local economy in a thoughtful, additive, sustainable way. 
  • Volunteer, become involved in your community, extend a helping hand to humans and animals alike.
  • Improve and care for the environment by being a socially-conscious observer, consumer and action taker.
  • Leave your ego (and fear) at the border, the dividends will be great and the rewards immeasurable.

I am aware that as a Writer & Mexico Relocation Consultant, I am part of this process of a continual uptick in folks moving to Mexico. Would they have found their way here without me? Most likely.

I indeed feel a great responsibility to guide these “reinventions in Mexico” in a thoughtful, mindful and respectful way so that the footprint that we expat individuals, couples and families leave is one that carries with it the highest regard for and contribution to Mexico and her people.

Mexico’s reverence for community, family, history, tradition and conversation is palpable and something I will always hold near and dear to my heart, treasure, protect and honor.

Gracias, mi Querido México for being home to so many of us that came looking for a better life.

¡Viva México!

¡Te quiero!  

Leave Your Ego at The Border~Moving to (or Visiting) Mexico 101




Many thanks to my best friend, Father to our beloved children and love of my life hubby for his reflections on our family’s immigration to Mexico…

By Frank O’Grady

Our immigration to Mexico was my dream, not my children’s.

We moved here when they were eight years old, and in my eyes, still babies in so many ways.

They just turned 18 this June 2022 and have now lived more than half their lives in our adopted country of Mexico. 

Their faith in us was paramount to us having a successful move to a part of Mexico where we were not going to be able to bounce back easily over the border to whatever perceived comfort zone that might have existed. 

I knew there was a different and a better way and like with many of my other dreams I laid plenty of groundwork. We did not just pick up and leave a life in the USA on some fantastical mid-life crisis.

Moving to Mexico with Children, A Father's Perspective

My dream for Liam, Mairead and Katie was for a life that was not completely centered on commercialism and struggling to keep our heads above watera life without the incessant chasing and worrying about dollars in a world gone mad with the need to buy and consume just a little bit more than can be reasonably earned. A life with involved parents instead of home just being a place everyone gathered at night after a day or days at work.

Baja California~Our First Mexico Home


We prepared our children in a multitude of ways with many experiences in and about Mexico well before we even broached the subject of moving to mainland Mexico.

Katie was only a few months pregnant with Mairead and Liam fishing with us on the Sea of Cortez out of a tiny aluminum boat. 

We journeyed down the Baja Peninsula, stopping at the same restaurants, rest areas and hotels…our twins hugged and held and squeezed and cheeks pinched by every female worker in these stops.

A Love for Mexico was Nurtured in Our Twins from A Very Early Age

As Liam and Mairead became more aware of the differences in their country of birth and the country we vacationed in, they eagerly looked forward to our journeys to a place where we all felt very much at home–a place where we had the time to be together as a family instead of constantly trying to meet an agenda or drive across a city of two million to get somewhere.

Moving to Mexico With Children, A Father's Perspective


Moving to Mexico with Children~A Father's Perspective

It Felt as If Every Time We Went to Mexico That We Were Actually Going Home

At a certain point in our careers, Katie and I both realized that continuing to support our lifestyle in Southern California was going to essentially condemn us to many decades of work so that someday, when we were close to 80, we might have a paid off house that we hadn’t had much time to enjoy because we were constantly working to pay for it.

When Liam and Mairead were around seven years old we really started talking to and involving them in our plans to move to Mexico. The existing paradigm wasn’t working for us emotionally, physically or mentally–we knew there was a better way and we were determined and committed to create it together as a couple and as a family.

We viewed this move through our children’s eyes…how they would experience it as 8-year-olds, as 10-year-olds, as now young adults. We knew that we had an age window to move successfully with them and to do it as a team.

Immigration to Mexico

I retired from firefighting at 50, Katie from teaching at 44 and with our 8-year-old twins and 5-year-old chocolate lab, we immigrated to Mexico in 2012.

Our children speak, think and navigate life in two languages and through the lens of two–if not multiple– cultures. 

Moving to Mexico with our children was a decision that we have not once regretted. They know that their lives are not just their parent’s dreams and creations, but also their own evolving adventure and story–that living a life with intent and purpose is both a choice and an opportunity. 

~Thank you for reading, Frank

For more on Moving to Mexico with Children: 

Immigration to Mexico with Children, A Mother’s Perspective





*Protect yourself and your loved ones with Carbon Monoxide Detectors for home and travel. 


The O'Grady Twins Turn 18! Coming of Age in Mexico...

Motherhood came to me in the gift of the two most precious, red-headed, cherub butterballs of pure Irish love and joy. To say that I have been blessed would be an understatement.

When Frank and I first met–back when I was 28 and just beginning my teaching career and he, 34 and well into his career as a firefighter–I never wanted to marry and he never wanted to have kids.


3.3 years later we were married in Bishop Mallory’s first ever outdoor wedding ceremony (he said he had never met a couple like us before) and 2 years later, we were pregnant with our two little miracles, Mairead Ema and Liam Quinn.

The O'Grady Twins Turn 18! Coming of Age in Mexico...

Life. She is funny like that.


Being a Mom is the the most fulfilling, challenging and heart-expanding experience unlike any other I have ever had. It has brought me to my knees and had me singing from the mountaintops, turned my heart inside out, and over again. 

Parenting guidebooks, words of wisdom from well-intentioned loved ones and copious amounts of personal preparation cannot take the place of what you, as a parent, are destined to walk and discover on your own. There is just is no other way other than figuring it out, with love always as your guide post. 

Coming of Age in Mexico

Barely a month into our immigration from San Diego to San Pancho in 2012, Mairead and Liam had an adventure that without a doubt set the template for the shenanigans to come in our reinvented, “out of the box” lives where freedom, fun, family time, community, connection and culture are the headliner events. 

Strapped into the back of a dune buggy with a group of their newly-made friends, down the jungle road they bopped and bounced until their horse-back riding instructor Ceci found a body of water that looked “suitable” for an afternoon swim! 

The O'Grady Twins Turn 18! Coming of Age in Mexico...

While trying to emote nothing but pure joy and excitement, it is safe to say that I was feeling a bit horrified at the prospect of what my children were swimming in–doing an informal assessment of bacteria counts as they submerged themselves over and over into this cow pie sink hole.

Adventure at its best, no?

They survived unscathed and had good showers when we got back home!

The O’Grady Twins Turn 18!

For those of you that have been following along with us since the beginning, it might be hard for you too to believe that it has been nearly 10 years since our immigration to this magnificent country, when Mairead and Liam were just 8 years old. 

The O'Grady Twins Turn 18! Coming of Age in Mexico...

As they say in Spanish, “con un cerrar y abrir de los ojos”–with an opening and closing of the eyes–time goes by so fast. I am savoring every moment as I know all too well that I will be staring the empty nest stage straight in the nose before I know it, perhaps even before I am ready for it. With love as our guidepost, I trust we will continue to navigate all of these sweet and bittersweet chapters of life with grace and unity. 

The O'Grady Twins Turn 18! Coming of Age in Mexico...

So many grand life adventures lived and still so many stories yet to be told–both good and others that simply remind you that life is not for sissies–since we walked off that one-way flight from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta.

The O'Grady Twins Turn 18! Coming of Age in Mexico...

Our children, our precious treasures, our greatest life teachers. 

The O'Grady Twins Turn 18! Coming of Age in Mexico...

I love you, from here to the moon and around the world back again times infinity.

Feliz cumple mis tesoros!

~Mom xo

Subscribe to Stay Up-To-Date:




*Protect yourself and your loved ones with an Expat Travel Insurance Policy (message me for a referral) & Carbon Monoxide Detectors for both home and travel *

Looking for a Residency Visa Specialist Recommendation? Feel free to email me at losogradysinmexico@gmail.com





Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)