The road to adoption came to us in the form of an 10-month-old, 8-pound, white “ferocious” fluff ball of a sweetheart named Luna…aka Luna Love ❤️.
We had long wanted to bring a second dog into our home, but the timing and circumstances just weren’t right…until it was.
We knew that part of our moving from San Pancho to San Miguel de Allende would include welcoming another sentient being of love into our home, and without a doubt, a rescue.
Luna and her brother had belonged to a family who unfortunately could no longer afford to feed them. Thankfully, they did the right thing and took them to a vet’s office rather than abandoning them on the street. The veterinarian notified a woman here in SMA who is very involved in dog rescues and fostering, and viola (serendipity and luck), Luna and The O’Grady Family’s paths crossed!
We had four fun-filled home day visits with Luna including one sleepover—pillows, blankets, chew toys and all–required by her very careful and loving foster Mother, who without hesitation selected us to be Luna’s family upon seeing the love we had for her, and she for us.
Luna Love is a such a gift. She reminds us daily of the importance of staying in the moment and honoring the natural rhythm of life. Who doesn’t want to have their tummy rubbed, take multiple naps, hang out in the garden to watch the birds, and listen to the sounds of Mother Nature?
Thank you Luna, for the gift of you ❤️
I asked my son Liam, “what was the best part of and greatest lesson from Luna”. Wide-eyed and thoughtful, he said, “Mama, that anything is possible.”
Yes, son, it is.
It was an interesting adjustment for Seamus, our then 90-pound, 7-year-old chocolate lab…RIP. He was walking around with a ball in his mouth, wondering what all of this meant for him. Was she a friend, a replacement, his competition? Why could Luna sit in Mom’s lap and he couldn’t? I could see him wondering if he was no longer the only reigning furry family member in Casa O’Grady…what in the world is going on, his expression spoke to me.
Seamus will always be my Big Brown Bear King. It was now time for us to welcome a Queen into our home–and a pint-sized one at that! A love of a Gentle Giant, I knew that Seamus would accept Luna into his heart as he did with every other living being he met, small and large alike. You, Seamus, could never ever be replaced.
Life indeed changed for Seamus, but for the better. Normally an outside dog because of his size and the fact that our daughter is allergic, his allowed inside space expanded and I found myself doing more and more sweeping! The Roomba has been one of my greatest saviors in this pet and human parenting gig, lol!
Tiny water bowl inside for Luna? Seamus got one too. Novelty toys the foster mom brought over for Luna? Seamus’s toys too. Extra attention (yes, more than normal!) for Seamus to equal all of the hugs and kisses Luna was getting? Absolutely! I became a dog’s slobber toy. Luna’s 8-pound kisses were one thing, but I now felt obligated to let Seamus lather me with his big slobbery love more than I normally did. For sure I was ready for a good shower at the end of the day! #itsadogslife
We went to the pet store and bought Seamus the world’s largest bone…a conciliatory gift of sorts to comfort his questioning heart at this time of transition.
We made sure Seamus knew that he was loved like always, and that the addition of Luna to our family only had benefits for him!
We bought Luna her own pack of pint-sized chew bones, but she was more interested in Seamus’s–imagine that, little bugger!
It’s a Dog’s Life~Lessons from Luna Love ❤️:
1. Slow down, look at the birds, smell the flowers, study the bugs, take a nap in the sun
2. Don’t take things too seriously–laugh everyday, be silly, be playful, have fun
3.Nothing is more important than friendship, communion, community and family
4. Cultivate and nurture your friendships, value the love in your life
5. Live in the moment, take it all in–it’s your here and your now that really matters
6. There is always more room in your heart for love and happiness
7. Love your tribe without restraint and unconditionally
Luna is a true gift to us. I have a distinct feeling that we are to her as well. ☘️
Luna Love seeing snow for the first time in Utah
Adopt A Dog in SMA:
If you will be relocating to or even just visiting San Miguel de Allende (or any other region of Mexico), there are plenty of fur babies looking for a loving home. No doubt you too have space for more fun and joy in your life.
Contacting Yo ❤️ Animalitos is one of many ways to bring some more love, fun and laughter into your home.
As the granddaughter of a former Chief of the US-Mexico Border, the story of why my husband, our 8-year old-twins and I decided to immigrate to Mexico in 2012 from the States is one that I am compelled to tell.
Our remaining earthly treasures included every lego known to mankind, our twins’ organic mattresses, a large-screened tv and the bicycles you can see hanging off the back of our boat! Our 95-pound chocolate lab Seamus rode in the back seat right behind Frank, panting and slobbering in excitement on the entire 4-day drive down!
A sight to see we were, something like a scene from the sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies!
Growing up a half an hour away from the San Diego-Tijuana Border gifted me with a bilingual-bicultural upbringing and hence an ability to move easily between both worlds. Communicating in both Spanish and English at school, work and play has always been my norm since I was a very little girl.
I have always had a profound love and respect for Mexico–for her people, her magic and her fervent sense of community. I value and treasure the freedom and safety I feel immersed in Mexico’s rich culture.
With my parents working outside of the home in their careers as Psychologist and School Teacher, MariaElena (our co-CEO of the family) was a blessing of a second mother to me. She cared for me as if I was her own until the age of five when my parent’s painful yet necessary parting of ways took us away from each other.
It was with MarieElena, that the template of my life was established–a life destined to be immersed in Mexico and with her people. Crossing the border as a teenager in the 80’s to go clubbing in Tijuana or to head further down south to Puerto Nuevo for lobster and off-roading in the sand dunes formed a huge part of the tapestry of my youth.
My husband Frank and I leased a 30 by 60 piece of sand in Bahia de Los Angeles where our twins Mairead and Liam spent many a barefoot vacation enjoying freedom and discovery to their heart’s content.
“Big Joe”, Former Chief of US-Mexico Border
Dressed in his signature crisp-collared Oxford shirt, ironed slacks and shiny leather shoes no matter the occasion, my “Big Joe” as we affectionately referred to him, was a thoughtful, bright, witty gentleman with no time or concern for nonsense. His words were concise and powerful, leaving an echo in the rooms in which they were spoken.
My relationship and time spent with my Grandfather was one of the most significant influences in my love for and connection to Mexico.
He modeled such a deep respect and brotherhood for our south of the border neighbors, that I too could not help but fall in love with a land and a people so magnificently rich in corazón y alma (heart and soul).
Sitting in his living room overlooking Mission Bay, he would speak to me of his many adventures, of his life on our family’s dairy farm in Chula Vista, of the beautiful horses in his care, and how at the age of 14 he left his home to become a cowboy on the last ranch that spanned the US-American border.
Family historians share with me that he was considered the “Paul Revere of Chula Vista” by warning the Otay Valley on horseback of impending rain that ultimately ended up bursting the Sweetwater Dam.
I would listen in awe, taking mental notes of these sacred conversations, knowing that I was bearing witness to a living history book.
My Grandpa Joe was as tough as nails and lived his life to the fullest until the age of 94.
A Living History Book
We would drive down to Rosarito Beach on weekends for an early dinner at El Nido and I would marvel with pride and joy at my Grandfather’s ability to conduct himself so eloquently in both languages and cultures. Sitting in front of the open, wood-fired oven where quail, whole potatoes and lobster tails would cook, my Grandpa turned the ordinary into magic.
His affinity for conversation, his charisma, thoughtful ways and sharp sense of humor made for a dynamic that simply attracted people to him. It felt good to be in his company and I was lucky enough to be his granddaughter.
Although my Grandfather passed before I began my teaching career, I know that he would have been so very proud that I had chosen to go into a line of work that shares the beauty of the Spanish language and culture with the youth of today.
Life in Mexico
I thank my beloved Grandfather for setting the bar high, for leading by example and showing me a love and respect for Mexico that is forever imprinted in my heart and has forever changed the trajectory of my life.
Life in Mexico WAKES you up from whatever slumber you might have previously found yourself in, RESETS your outlook and REMINDS you that true, mindful, engaged living results from paying attention and participating in a life of design.
Mi Querido México, thank you for taking my family in, for welcoming us with open arms. These past ten years have been one heck of an adventure and we are better people for it.
“To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice, though inasmuch as he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.” ~Hermione Gingold
I owe it to Seamus, to our family and to our children to honor his memory and legacy, to memorialize this sentient being that was so much more than “just a dog”…to tell his story.
This is my tribute to you, Seamies…
Seamus, My 38th Birthday Gift!
Our three-year-old twins Mairead and Liam were just starting to sleep through the night when my husband Frank surprised me with the grandest 38th birthday gift of all–a chocolate lab puppy! Working as a firefighter and away from home for days and sometimes weeks on end, he wanted to bring a gentle dog with a big bark into our family.
Living in San Diego at the time, we traveled up to Bonsall for the four required visits, until at last, at 9-weeks old, we were able to bring Seamus home to begin his life as an O’Grady!
Fate Smiled at Destiny
Seamus was from a litter of nine chocolate, roly poly, running, jumping, kissing, wagging balls of Labrador love. While it was difficult to pick just one, serendipity was at play as Seamus chose us, and we him.
He buried himself in between our twin toddler’s car seats on the way home, butt up, tail wagging incessantly, coming up for many slobbery kisses, only to return again quickly to his chosen position.
Although Liam and Mairead were a bit overwhelmed and cautious at first with this energetic, playful, new presence in their lives (that quickly became and surpassed their size!) the three of them became the best of buddies in no time at all.
Honoring our Irish heritage and love of traditional Celtic names, ‘Seamus‘ was ever-so-fitting for this handsome, destined-to-be addition to our O’Grady family. My dinner time calls would now be “Mairead…Liam, Seamus”…
They say you can approximate the adult size of a puppy by its paws. At 9 weeks old, Seamus’s were huge and by 6 months he was practically full grown, knocking over everything in his path with that big tail and chewing through all of our shoes one by one.
Famous Seamus Immigrates to Mexico
Seamus moved to Mexico when he was five years old, making the four-day drive down South with Frank, drooling the entire car ride down on the back of his neck.
From San Diego to San Pancho and San Miguel de Allende to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle–with many Stateside and Baja trips in between–Seamus lived an amazingly full and adventurous life! He was a well-traveled dog with a 12-year life story that contained plenty of O’Grady shenanigans!
Our Gentle Giant
If you were ever lucky enough to be in the presence of this Gentle Giant, you would have known what a special, wise, kind soul he was…a noble gentleman, a comedian, a loyal playmate, a never-do-harm pup with a heart of gold.
Born a water dog, Seamus’s favorite place in the world was the ocean. That, and being with his family…especially in the ocean.
Seamus Gets A Sister
Seamus wasn’t what one would call a lap dog (we never told him that), weighing in at 95 pounds of slobbery love! We not only wanted him to have a canine companion, but also for our children to experience the gift of adoption and the taking in of another sentient being–this time a much smaller one.
Seamus had been an “only dog” for the first seven years of his life and while he was initially excited to have what he thought was a temporary playdate in Luna, he went through a period of acting rather concerned about this new addition to our family, bringing me more treats and toys than the norm.
Seamus soon realized that Luna Love had a permanent status in The O’Grady Clan and that he now needed to share the attention, walks, toys and pats on the head.
He handled it like the noble gentleman he was and graciously welcomed Luna into his family with lots of kisses, love barks and tail chasing around our yard!
Our sweet boy had battled skin ailments most his life–made worse in the jungle heat–and in the last year of his life had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for which he was receiving treatment. In spite of those real challenges, he was a very happy, active boy…a sweet, lovable lab. While he was in his senior years at almost 12, he surprisingly did not have any joint or musculature issues. In fact, on one of our stateside trips, Seamus had a thorough check-up including a head to toe x-ray whereupon the vet stated that he had the bones of a 5-year-old dog! We were grateful to know that he wasn’t suffering from the hip issues that lots of large breed dogs usually do as they age.
On the Sunday morning before Valentine’s Day 2019, instead of being greeted by my normally goofy and happy pup, I found him sitting sideways at the top of our back door steps, clearly in discomfort and not interested in eating at all.
He looked up at me with sadness in his eyes, turned away and laid his head back down. My heart was in my throat, knowing that something was seriously wrong with my boy.
I went outside to get a better look and saw that his left hind leg was swollen and retracted, unable to stand or walk unassisted.
What had happened???
Was he stung by a scorpion? Did he somehow fall, twist or break his leg? Was he bitten by a snake?
My mind went through all of the possibilities of what could have happened to Seamus, who just one day before seemed fine on his afternoon walk. While he was slowing down, he was still mobile and always up for some playtime at the beach.
Seeing my big, sweet boy in obvious distress and pain, trying to navigate those 95 pounds on three legs, was heartbreaking, to say the least.
We took Seamus to the vet, fearing that our day had arrived or was soon in sight, but Dr. Jorge said to give it a few days with anti-inflammatory injections and oral meds at home. And so we did, willing to do anything to give him some more time with us–as long as it was free from pain and suffering.
Dr. Jorge ruled out any venomous poisoning or bone break, conjecturing that Seamus might have tripped and fallen and therefore perhaps sprained his leg, but to me, it seemed to be much more serious.
A Mother’s Intuition~It Was Time
I knew in my heart that we likely weren’t going to come out of this one with dry eyes or intact hearts, even for as much as I wanted to deny the reality right in front of us.
Over the next several days, Seamus continued to suffer and decline. His breathing became labored, he lost interest in eating, could not relieve himself without assistance, and then began to hemorrhage.
We knew it was time. Time to do only what love propels you to do. Time to do the right thing. Time to do the humane thing. Time to release Seamus from the physical condition that now held his body captive in pain with no apparent hope of improvement.
In a “perfect world” or a “best case scenario”, maybe Seamus would have passed in his sleep. But life and death are not so neat and tidy and they certainly have their own timeline.
I believe that Seamus wanted us to each have our own individual and then our family time to say our goodbyes, and we did.
Thank you, Seamus, for the gift of you…thank you for picking Valentine’s Day, a day of love and friendship, as your day to transition from one energy form to another. Thank you for the undeniable impact you have forever left on our hearts.
Rainbow Bridge, Valentine’s Day 2019
I laid with Seamus throughout the day, in those last hours with my sweet boy in this realm between life and death.
I brought him warm, lavender infused towels from the dryer and sang, talked, laughed and cried with him–telling him all of the funny stories about his life as a 9-week-old puppy up to now, this very moment as my senior pup, hours before his rainbow crossing. I named all of the people and animals that loved him, each and every one by their first name. He looked at me with acknowledgment and understanding, hugged me, wrapped his paws around my arms, smiled, snorted and slobbered with all the energy he could muster up. Noble and gallant to the very end, my gentle giant.
I asked Frank to bring home the largest bone he could find, but Seamus was not interested in it at all.
We picked our children up after school, came home to get Seamus, and the five of us drove to the vet’s office for our 4:00 appointment, nothing but the sounds of stifled sniffles and Seamus’s panting audible in the car.
To say that the next few hours, days, weeks, months, (and yes, now even years) were and have been profoundly painful for our family, would be an understatement. We each lost a huge part of our hearts and lives that fateful day, knowing however that the memory and love of our Famous Seamus will always be with us no matter where we go.
From my husband Frank:
Our dog Seamus had to leave us this afternoon. If there were ever a dog to represent unconditional love he was it. He taught me many lessons regarding being happy in a moment. I do and will miss him mightily. I hear the ocean outside my window, and I feel his physical absence palpably…but, I know he is free from that pain he tolerated with no complaint and he is happy and at peace. He grew up with my babies, he was one of our babies, he was part of our O’Grady Tribe. I am so grateful to be part of a family that stayed with him until the end, grateful to Dr. Jorge at Pets and Vets in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for his sincere compassion and care and his tenderness not only with Seamus but with us. My hope is that we can all carry forward a bit some love, tolerance and compassion in this oftentimes hard world we live in. I have to say that I marvel at the strength of our children. They were with Seamus until the end…laying with him on the floor of the vet’s office, giving him their hearts and love with hugs, petting and no shortage of tears until well after his heart stopped beating. Seamus died literally surrounded with love and touches…and touches and love were what he lived for. My family, Seamus included, give me reason to marvel every day. It is beautiful outside and I will reflect on Seamus’s life, my children, Liam and Mairead, my amazing wife Katie and us as the family we are often throughout this day. Peace and love to all of you.
Farewell Famous Seamus, Our Gentle Giant
We had Seamus cremated and released his ashes into the ocean blue, his favorite playground.
On this particular day, in this particular spot out in the middle of Bahía de Banderas, there were both whales and dolphins gathered together, splashing and playing around. We knew Seamus would be in good company here.
Seamus, my precious Chocolate Lab and best furry gift ever, you will always be our Gentle Giant, our Guardian Angel, our Big Brown Bear…a part of our hearts and family forever.
The Cycle of Life
The life and and death of our Famous Seamus is a powerful reminder of the transient nature of life, that all things have their time and place…their beginning and their end. Life is a precious and fragile gift.
That same puppy face that we saw the first day we met Seamus in 2007 was the very same puppy face we kissed goodbye as Seamus took his last breath on Valentine’s Day, 2019.
“Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk to me as if I were beside you. I loved you so… ‘Twas heaven here with you.”
~Isla Paschal Richardson
Love hurts, love extracts her price and stretches our hearts in unimaginable ways, changes the mosaic and trajectory of who we are.
Lucky are we to experience it in its fullest, most unconditional form.
Feelings of profound sadness and loss don’t go away on their own, if ever at all. Expressing them with the written word is one of the ways in which I choose to process through them…to journey through the waves of deep mourning to arrive to where only memories of laughter, adventure, kisses and warm, furry snuggles remain…that is my hope.
While we consider ourselves to be fairly seasoned and informed travelers, never once did we think that packing a carbon monoxide detector was an essential and life-saving item until tragedy struck and my husband was severely poisoned by carbon monoxide at a hotel in Lake Chapala, Mexico in 2017.
After dropping our children off at their much-anticipated 6th grade camp outside of Guadalajara, Frank and I 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.
But instead of spending our weekend sightseeing and relaxing, we spent it fighting for Frank’s life at both an ER and a Hyperbaric Chamber Facility in downtown Guadalajara.
Confirmation of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
After working at his computer for several hours next to an open window in our hotel room, Frank was overcome by severe visual disturbances, full-body weakness, confusion, headache, difficulty speaking, extreme nausea and a ghost-like, white color to his skin.
Confirmation by the hotel itself that 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.
Do mistakes and bad things happen? Absolutely.
So does gross negligence.
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–who, as an important aside–both buried their heads in the sand, denying and deflecting any negligence and responsibility. The owner went so far as to state on social media that it was “something else” that Frank had.
Shameful, careless, and deadly, to say the least.
Only removal from the carbon monoxide itself, oxygen therapy in the ER, and hyperbaric chamber treatments in a private clinic 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 grateful for their loving kindness in one of the scariest and darkest times of our lives.
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 in addition to outfitting our home with them. We have CO alarms in each of our bedrooms and next to any gas-fueled 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 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*
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.
Many thanks to my husband Frank for sharing 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
How I came to be a retire 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.
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~a metaphor indeed for life here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 now 11 years that recently saw our children graduating high school and soon to begin their University lives. What lays ahead is an evolving path that we are faithful will continue to reveal itself. Life, one big adventure, isn’t it?
“Katie tells it like it is, the good, the great and the not so good. She is very encouraging but honest and doesn’t sugarcoat. And that has helped me immensely in narrowing down my search for the perfect place to retire in Mexico. I will be making the move soon and won’t hesitate to use her services.” ~Sylvia
¡Eres como una especie de héroe para mí, cómo encajaste tú y tu familia muy rápidamente en una cultura opuesta a la estadounidense. Sigue escribiendo esos posts, hacen por menos estar allí cuando los lees y soñar!” ~José
Carbon Monoxide Alarms for Home & Travel Safety
“You are a force to be reckoned with and you lift us up with your postings. You spread a light and love that is not easy to come by these days.” ~MJ
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