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October 16th, 2017



All the things I have been reading in the news these days, really has me worked up! Gropers, flashers, rapists, and all around bad behavior!!! Not just by men, but I am sure there are women out there that do it too. This isn’t just about women getting mistreated. Men experience the same!

So many women are coming out publicly with their stories. It’s kind of giving me flashbacks of the times it has happened in my life! Those kind of things have happened to me a lot!

My earliest memory, my first predator….I was probably 8 years old. I was walking through an empty lot, with tall grass, going to a friends house. I did it all the time. I always followed a well worn path through the long overgrown grass. On that particular day, there was a man laying in the grass, next to the path. His pants were down and he was openly fondling himself. I ran and never looked back. I don’t think I ever told anyone about that, but the memory has always been very vivid.

The next time that stands out in my mind...I think I was probably 17 or 18 years old. It was the gynecologist. My mom dropped me off for my appointment and would be back in an hour. I was in the most vulnerable position, as you all know. Feet in stirrups, speculum inside me. The doctor reached up, petted/stroked my pubic hair and made a lewd comment. I was stunned speechless! He then left the room, me still with feet in the air and speculum still inside. It felt like he left me laying there forever! I was frozen. He finally returned, finished the exam, and I left. My mom found me sitting on the front steps of the clinic. The minute she saw my face, she knew something wasn’t right. When I told her, she was outraged. She told me to tell my family doctor, who sent me there and demand something be done. I did. My family doctor didn’t even blink. He just referred me to another gynecologist. No shock, no “let’s report this”, nothing. It wasn’t until quite some time later that my mom was telling a physician friend about it. He was horrified and reported the incident to some medical governing body. Those people came to my home, took a statement, then….nothing. Never heard anything about it again.

Then there were all those years I spent working in lounges and nightclubs. Geeezuz, there were so many incidents!!! The more high end the establishment, the worse the behavior! I was grabbed by the “pussy”, breasts, ….all of my parts, too many times to count. By car salesmen, teachers, an off duty RCMP officer (ya YOU, Dirty Harry!), rig workers, men from all walks of life. Many times, while ordering drinks at the bar, a particular manager would regularly come up behind me, put his hands on my hips and would grind his semi hard dick into my ass. When I finally threatened to smash him in the face with a beer bottle, he stopped. BUT he wrote me up for drinking at work. Luckily, when I was questioned about it by the owners wife, she tore up the drinking reprimand and he was sent to another nightclub to do it to someone else. But that was it.

I’m living in Mexico now. Not even walking down the street or taking a bus is safe. I’ve been flashed in residential neighborhoods in broad daylight. I have been felt up and rubbed against on the bus. Both incidents were while I was in the middle of cancer treatment! I was bald and funny looking. I was in my 40’s. I was wearing 3 layers of I wasn’t “asking for it” in slutty clothes. Each and every time, I am always shocked into silence. Frozen. My Mexican friends respond with, “oh ya, that happens all the time”, “he wanted to give the gringa a thrill”, “oops, sorry, I should have warned you”.

Ug! There are a million stories! The really sad thing is….I never felt that I could report it. The occasional time I would complain about sexual harassment by a customer, it was never taken seriously. I would hear, “he spends a lot of money here”, “why are you so sensitive?”, “what happened to you to make you so sensitive?”, “let someone else serve that table”. The bullshit went on and on. It wasn’t just the men that blew off my complaints. It was female co workers as well!! There wasn’t much “sister” support. It was more like, “get used to it”, “it’s the job”, “go work somewhere else”, bla bla bla. It’s all bullshit! When I would see a young, new waitress coming in, I would think, “these guys are going to eat her alive”. I always stood up for them! I always protected them! I always believed them!

No wonder women don’t report!!! We become the “problem”! We are too sensitive. We over react. We are unreasonable. It makes my blood boil! Why do some men (some, not all), think that kind of behavior is acceptable?!

There are a lot of great men out there, that would never in a million years, ever do things like this! There are also men out there that get sexually harassed. If it’s almost impossible to be taken seriously as a woman reporting sexual harassment, I can’t even image how a man must feel when it happens to them!! If our bosses, managers, and FEMALE co workers won’t stand up for victims, why would we ever expect to be taken seriously by police?! Then it would come down to how I was dressed, or was I drinking, or was I too nice to that guy, or just quit your job and do something else.

I think speaking out about our experiences is the start to making changes. I think men need to start raising their sons differently. I think it all needs to be out in the open. I think laws need to be changed. Will it happen in my lifetime?
I hope.
I pray.
I stand up for those who speak out!

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living her dream in Mexico.

I Could Be Hit By A Bus Tomorrow....

February 9th, 2017

A friend died yesterday......for the last 4 years he lived his dream of tequila and palm trees without a care in the world....except his health. He could have lived that dream for 10+ years if he had started it 6+ years before. At what point do you throw your hands in the air and live by the motto "I could be hit by a bus tomorrow". Tracy Bonin, please share your input.

A friend sent me this message the other day. I have been really struggling with how to respond to her.

My idea of living each day like it was my last, would look like the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I do not live that way, I do not have the funds to live that way, but it certainly does not stop me from dreaming about living that way!

When I made my move to Mexico, to live my was not about living each day like it was my last. It was about living a life that I had been dreaming about for a very long time. Is that the same thing? Maybe it is.

One day, my life came to a cross road. I was living a life that was not working for me. I was not happy. I was feeling unfulfilled. I did not know exactly what I needed at that moment. I just knew I needed change. Change is difficult and scary. I knew I needed to do something different. So I did. I guess that was the day that I made the choice to step out of my comfort zone and take charge of my happiness.

My heart breaks for the loss of her friend. But thank God, he got to live his dream for 4 years!! How many people can say that?! How many people wish they had the courage to live life to the fullest for just one day?! Sure, he could have done it sooner and enjoyed it longer. Hopefully he enjoyed those 4 years to the fullest before he passed. I bet he felt like the luckiest man alive for those 4 years!

Each and every day, I quietly thank the Universe for this life that I am living! It is amazing! It is the best thing that has ever happened to me! So I am not worried about how much time I have left. I just make damn sure that each and every day is full of happiness and love. So if tomorrow, I am out on my paddle board and get eaten by a shark.please do not be sad that I only had 4 years in thrilled that I had that long!! Be thrilled that I left this earth doing exactly what I wanted to do, the way I wanted to do it! Not everyone gets that chance in life.

So I want to celebrate the life of your friend that passed. I will raise my glass to him for being so brave to take that chance to live his best life, no matter how much time he had. Not everyone is brave enough to do that!

To all of the people that have made a change to live their dreams.what was the turning point for you? How did you know it was the right thing to do?

Tracy Bonin
A Canadian artist, living her dream in Mexico.

Just a Girl, Working the Rigs

December 7th, 2016

Just a Girl, Working the Rigs

Just a girl, workin the rigs.
(Warning: may contain swearing and TMI)

I am an artist at heart, and always have been. But it never seemed to pay the bills. So I have had to do many things over the years to earn a living and pay my mortgage. After many years of waitressing in the nightclub industry, there came a day when I had to give that up for a so called, real job.

I lived in Alberta, the land of oil and gas. I served drinks to the men of the oil and gas industry for almost 20 years in a variety of places. So when the time came for me to give up being a cocktail waitress, I decided to get into the biggest industry in the province. I went back to school and got my license to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). That meant I could go to work in the oil and gas industry, and hopefully be there to save lives. After so many years of contributing to the debauchery of drunken rig crews in the nightclubs, I was feeling pretty good about finally doing something more than getting them drunk..

Thankfully, I never experienced anything crazy out far as saving lives goes. But I did deal with some pretty weird shit!

The women of this profession were either called Medics, or Band Aids. If an oil company consultant called the office for a Medic, they would usually want a girl that was all business and would not distract the rig crew. Which meant, she would not party or sleep with the crews and was smart enough to save a life if need be. Quite often, they would want a Band Aid, which would mean they wanted someone young and cute, with big tits to be eye candy out there. I was still young and cute enough, but was not interested in all the other bullshit! So sadly, my job options tended to be limited.

When I first started working as a Medic, I got sent out on the Band Aid jobs. I was asked to deliver drugs, women and booze. Which of course, I turned down. So then, I would get sent out on jobs, that were waaaay the hell up in northern Alberta, that no one wanted! I took those jobs, just to have work. Sometimes I would be left out on rigs for months on end until I would absolutely lose my mind!!! I remember more than one job, where I had been out in the wild tundra, staring at snow and trees and rig, for so long that I would just sit in my truck and cry for no other reason than I was going bat shit crazy! I used to hate the rig crews that would come into my bar and behave like complete idiots. Their excuse would be, they had been in the bush for months and it was time to let loose and spend all that money they made. I was never very sympathetic. I just did not get it. I did not like them. I would have them kicked out. But after working out in the bush for months on end.I got it!! I came home half crazed, with no idea how to function in the real world. So I found myself behaving just like them. One night, after a three month stint in the bush, I visited the strip club where I used to work. I caught myself being loser-pissed and yelling at some stripper to show me her tits. Not my proudest moment...but now I understood what those men of the oilfield went through!

Then there was another job, that the consultant thought I was there to be his personal maid. He expected me to cook, clean, and service him, like his last, big titted, Band Aid did. So when I didnt, I got fired!
Once, I got sent so far north, I had to stay in a rig camp of about 800 men. The only women in the camp were the cooks, and they were not pretty! So when I would walk into the dining hall for breakfast, there would be 800 eyes on me, because I was the first woman they had seen that weighed less than 300 pounds in months!! It did not help that we had cable tv in our rooms that 90% of the channels were hard core porn! I did not last long there either!

It was not all bad though. Once I had built a reputation for being a no nonsense kind of Medic, I started to get sent on some really great jobs. There was still some oil companies that wanted a really great girl to come out and actually be able to save lives. I built relationships with these consultants and rig managers. They would introduce me to their wives. They would request only me to work on their rigs. They would want me to live on their rigs, 24-7. They would bring out trailers for me to live in that would come complete with full living quarters. I would live in luxury on those rigs with a full kitchen, living room, laundry room, bedroom, office, satellite tv, leather furniture, jacuzzi tubs, the works!! If I was not living on the rig sight, they would always make sure to set me up in a swanky hotel! I always travelled with my dog, so I would normally get a shitty, bottom of the barrel room. But with these guys, they would make sure I was put up in style. Rooms that had kitchens, living rooms, and fire places. All at the oil companies expense.

On one rig, the rig manager even set me up with a patio outside my onsight trailer, complete with pine trees (dug up from the surrounding forest and replanted around my patio), strung with christmas lights and brand new patio furniture that he had bought at the Walmart, a two hour drive away from our rig!

On that same rig, there was a young rough neck that could barely read or write. So for an hour each day, the rig manager made that kid come to my office and I would teach him to read and write. We did not have any textbooks to work with, or any decent internet connection, so I went to the rig crew and collected all their Penthouse Letters magazines. I figured the kid needed something he was interested in if I expected him to learn anything. Each day I would have him read the Penthouse Letters to me out loud. I would also send him back to his room in camp to read more of those stories and come back to me with words that he did not know. My favorite vocabulary word he came to me with was fornicate. I just laughed my ass off and told him it was a fancy word for fucking! Of course, we also worked on practical things, like how to fill out the safety meeting reports and writing grocery lists for the crew. The rig crew would tease the shit out of him...but little did they know...he was learning to read and write with porn magazines!! He said to me one day, I would have never quit school if they would have taught me to read and write this way! He was actually on a reality TV show, called The Rig. They called him Cowboy. He was a sweetheart.

One of my favorite consultants, I like to call, Uncle Bill. He would never come into my office on his own because he thought it was inappropriate to be with me alone. But there was a time when we were the first to be on the rig site. The crew and the rig had not even arrived yet. So I invited him to my trailer for dinner. We were the only ones there, in the middle of nowhere. I thought it was ridiculous that we eat alone! He finally relented and came to my trailer for dinner and some cocktails. But, after a delicious dinner and some rum and cokes, he had to pee. He would not even use my bathroom.he felt that would also be inappropriate. So he went out into the dark, to pee outside.and while he was doing that, he leaned over to inspect something on the side of my trailer.and ended up peeing on his shirt! So he had to go back to his trailer and change his shirt. When he finally came back, he was mortified that I might think he changed his shirt to impress me and had to confess to the fact that he accidentally peed on his shirt! I just love that guy!! We became the best of friends after that! Sometimes, he would need to get away from the hustle and bustle of his office, and I would find him in my my trailer, fast asleep on my couch, snoring and cuddling with my dog! While we were stuck at work one Easter, I stole his coveralls and hard hat out of his office while he was sleeping and attached huge, paper bunny ears to his hard hat and a big fluffy cotton ball tail to the butt of his coveralls. He wore that with pride throughout his entire night shift on the rig! He eventually attached those bunny ears to the bumper of my medic truck, and I drove around like that for weeks!

My most favorite consultant was, Duncan. He did not want a Band Aid on his rig. We became the best of pals. He had a soft spot for red headed girls. His wife was a red headed girl. He believed there should be a Red Head Handbook. His wife liked to visit his rig for extended periods of time and it was hard for him to juggle his wife and work. His wife and I hit it off! She would spend all her time in my trailer visiting with me and he would not have to feel guilty about not spending time with her. It was the perfect scenario! He was happy, she was happy! I loved working with him so much, I even did his laundry! Duncan hated the salesmen that would visit his rigs, so I would always intercept them. If they did not leave really good free swag, they did not get to see the boss! I had a lot of time on my hands! When my shift was over we cooked dinners together. We even spent time together when we were on days off, having meals at his home with his family. They became my family. I would always walk my dog on the rig roads...and he was always worried I would get eaten by a bear! So he made me take a radio with me every time I went for a walk so he knew I was safe. We also implemented the use of Hurt Feelings Reports. It was an unofficial report that was mandatory to fill out whenever someone had their feelings hurt or was being a whiney bitch. Each one was proudly displayed on the walls of the rig crews trailer.

I was working on a rig just north of Edson, Alberta. Living on the rig in my own trailer along with the consultant and the rig manager. We decided it was time to drive to town to buy groceries for the week. So we all went together. Once we finished buying about 500$ worth, we thought it was time to stop into a strip club for a quick drink. Since I had worked in a strip club for many years previously, I knew many of the girls on the stage. That made me pretty popular with the crews, because the dancers were so happy to see a familiar face they would always sit at our table to visit. So our quick drink turned into many. The rig manager decided he was the most sober to drive...but when we got stopped by the police...he ended up in handcuffs! Neither I, or the consultant was sober enough to drive back to the rig. So I explained our predicament to the police officer...and he kindly called us a taxi, that would take us up the mountain to our rig in the middle of winter! The officer even moved all our groceries to the taxi for us, in about four feet of snow, so he could impound our truck! The next day the consultant and I had to drive back to town to bail out the truck from impound and the rig manager from jail! During a spring job, with the same consultant and rig manager, on another trip to town. There was a rainbow in the distance that we were admiring. As we came around a bend in the road, the end of that rainbow landed right in the middle of the road! I have actually seen and touched the end of a rainbow! And we drove right through it with our hands out the window! We all looked at each other and said Did you just see what I saw?! We all bought lottery tickets that night! Sadly, none of us won.

For those rig crews that treated me well, I would always bring my crock pot to work. I would leave a recipe book in the crew trailer. The crew would look through it, pick a recipe, buy all the food, and I would put it all together for them so they would have a hot lunch everyday. Instead of the gas station sandwiches they would usually bring. It always made me laugh to see a crew of big burly men passing around a recipe book!

Thankfully I never had to deal with any major medical emergencies out on the rigs. Most of the time I would just deal with small cuts, scrapes and burns. I would always carry a very large supply of childrens band aids with Barbie on them. Whenever we took any supplies out of the medic truck, even a band aid, we had to fill out first aid reports in triplicate! No one wants that for just a band aid! Many of the guys did not want a Barbie band aid. It is not very manly. So they had the choice of filling out official reports in triplicate, or Barbie! If they chose neither of those, I would just hunt them down later and stick that Barbie band aid on their hard hat! That is where the Hurt Feelings Report would come into play!

I will never regret my days on the rigs. It gave me an incredible amount of respect for the men in the oil and gas industry. They work in the most ridiculous and extreme conditions. Anything from -60C in the middle of winter. Spring conditions, where the mud on the lease is so deep and sticky that the ruts from the rig trucks would be as high as my waist, and would pull your boots right off your feet. The summer heat, with the biggest and creepiest bugs that you have ever seen would be flying at your head! Those men would go months and months without ever seeing their families and would miss every holiday, birthday and anniversary. All this to support their families. High fives to all those men! I may have had some encounters with some sleeze-balls on occasion. But, for the most part, I have fond memories of working with so many quality human beings. We had each others backs, we built relationships, and we became family.

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico

It All Began With Poop

September 16th, 2016

It All Began With Poop

It All Began With Poop.
(Warning: may contain swearing and TMI)

Quite often I get asked how long I have been painting. Have I always been creative? When did it all start? This summer I went back to Alberta to visit with family and spent some time speaking to my parents about just that. I dont really have many vivid memories of my childhood, so I was curious about those questions as well. Who better to ask than, Mom?! Mom remembers everything!

Well, I hate to say it...but Mom says it started with poop! Like every good Mom story, you know, the embarrassing ones. The ones that Mom always saves for your first boyfriend or for your wedding day. Thankfully, she had forgotten some of these stories until I asked about it. So my boyfriends were spared these gory details! Apparently, around the age of about 6 months, my artistic abilities and use of mixed media was already appearing. On more than one occasion, Mom was greeted by a smiling, ginger haired baby, happily painting her crib with poop! At the time, Mom was working in a care facility for children and adults with mental challenges. Poop painted cribs was a common occurrence there. So, she was slightly concerned for her first born child. Thankfully the poop painting stage did not last long. I had found a new favorite medium to create with instead. As my little brothers arrived in the house, I was very much the moms little helper. And since I had watched Mom powder my little brothers butts, I thought I could help too. One day Mom walked into the baby room to find me, the cribs, the walls, the floors, and everything else within reach, covered in vaseline and baby powder! Mom said it was cute the first time, but it did not stop there. I did not give up that particular medium until the day Mom sat on the floor in the middle of my masterpiece and cried her heart out. Sorry Mom!

To save her sanity, Mom figured out she needed to give me some other tools to work with. She made sure my brothers and I always had a place to create. In every home we lived in as we grew up, there was always a wall for us to draw on. Just one space on a wall. Where all of us kids could draw, paint and scribble to our hearts content. In one house, there was a sort of crawl space under the basement stairs. That was our space to create. We splashed color on every inch of floor and wall space in there. It was our fort. We loved that place and would spend hours in there! Give your 3 crazy ginger kids crayons and lock them in the crawl space under the stairs.. How smart was my mom?! She was probably doing vodka shots while we were in there!

Over the years I have used many mediums. It may have started with poop, but I have branched out to better and less smelly things. I have painted on a lot of things. Cars, windows, signs, canvas, lamps, name it, I have probably slapped some paint on it. When I started the Fine Arts program at the Red Deer College, a whole new world opened up to me. There were no limitations. I was introduced to drawing, print making, sculpture, glass blowing, photography, ceramics and the wonderful world of abstract painting. At first I did not even know what ceramics was. But I completely fell in love with it. I loved every single thing about it. It was physical, sensual, and messy.all the things I love! Remember that old movie, Ghost, with Patrick Swayze? Do you remember the scene where Patrick and whats-her-name were getting all sexy at the potters wheel with a big lump of clay? Well, that is how I feel when I play with clay, except without Patrick. Another great thing about working with clay, is there are kilns. All different kinds of kilns to cook your clay in. My favorite was using a sawdust firing. I could stick all sorts of weird things in a big metal wash tub, put in my clay pieces, top it up with sawdust and straw, then set it on fire with a tiger torch. There was smoke and flames and you could roast marshmallows! When the fire was finally out, I would open up the tub and find the most wonderful surprises! Working with clay was the best thing ever, and I hope one day I can get back to it.

I was incredibly excited to learn about photography too. I loved that class, but sadly, I was a complete failure at it. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not make anything good come out of it. But I loved the process and threw myself into all the assignments. One project we had to do, was to photograph an outdoor installation that we would design. I cannot remember what my installation was about, but it involved life size wooden stick figures, a very large hill of dirt and fire. All went well until the local fire department came along and shut me down so I did not burn down the whole neighborhood. Another assignment was to photograph a self portrait. This was before internet selfies existed. I covered an entire room in my parents basement with black paper, set up 2 cameras on timers, got naked, covered myself in white paint and rolled around like a maniac while the cameras snapped away. The idea was great, the photographs were not. The instructor loved the idea, but neither one of us could figure out why I could not produce a quality photo! The instructor never returned that project to me.I wonder where those pictures are?!

Then I was introduced to abstract painting. The assignment was to show up for class with 10 abstracts. So I hit the library, did some research on abstract artists and started to paint. I have never looked back. I can paint on anything and in any size I want, with any medium I want. I have used all kinds of paints, crayons, chalk, pastels, fabric, string, coins, dirt, and sand. My parents once took a road trip down the west coast of the United States and collected sand from every single beach they stopped at. They kept track of the name of each beach that the sand came from and I used that 5 gallon pail of sand in many of my beach sand paintings. When I ran out of the sand, I took to digging dirt out of my moms garden. My mom was pissed. Not that I was taking dirt from her garden, but that I was doing it at midnight, in -30 and she was worried the neighbors might think I was burying a body out there! My parents did not know what to think of my new love of the abstract. One day, while my parents were looking over some of my work, my mom said to me, I wonder what a shrink would say about all this? HA! My dad would just slowly shake his head back and forth and say, I am sorry, I just dont get it! Abstract painting is just so liberating for me. It is physical, sensual and messy, just like ceramics. I learned all the rules in college about color theory and composition. But I do love to break a rule and that is what painting is about for me. I once taught a painting class to a lady that was coached about all sorts of rules from former teachers. So many rules, that she was too afraid to paint for fear of breaking those rules. I do not know if she learned any painting skills from me but she did learn to break the rules, let loose, have fun, feel joy, laugh, dance and sing while she painted. I gave her permission to use forks, straws and all the colors of the rainbow in her work. She learned that it does not have to be great work, but it does have to be great fun! And it is even better when it is messy!

Thankfully, I have moved on from poop and now I paint in my own physical, sensual, and messy way and hope to inspire others to let their own creative inner freak fly!

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico.

I am not the same girl I was yesterday.

September 8th, 2016

I am not the same girl I was yesterday.

Im not the same girl I was yesterday
(Warning: may contain swearing and TMI)

Cancer treatment ended for me on the morning of Christmas Eve 2013. I was so happy to be finished! No more doctors, no more travelling, no more living out of suitcase, and no more poking and prodding. I was deliriously happy to be home. To be in my own bed, with all my people near, the beach, the sun, the heat! There was lots of celebrating! It took me about a week to get settled back into my life. And finally, I started to paint.

I had not painted since this whole thing started. The inspiration just was not there, in any way, shape or form. But now, it was just pouring out of me! I was simultaneously painting on as many canvasses as I could possibly fit into the studio! I just could not stop. I was painting with wild abandon and a sense of complete joy. I could not wait to get into the studio each day, which happened to be the master bedroom in my house. It was tiny but perfect. What was coming out of me was very different than what I was painting before cancer. I think it was better. And even if the art was not better, I was having the time of my life doing it.

My life felt like it was totally different. I did not feel like the same person all of a sudden. So many things had changed since the diagnosis. Some good and some not so good. Being back in the studio was definitely good. And by this time, keeping myself healthy was my main priority, so that was good too. But there are things that happen to a person once they have been through cancer treatment. Things that people do not really talk about. Things that I wish someone had given me the heads up about so that I could have been better prepared. I just thought once treatment was done.cancer and anything related to it was also done. In reality, it is not done. Cancer is the gift that keeps on giving, and not always in a good way. Things like chemo brain, drug side effects, the never ending after cancer doctor visits, tests, and the fear that goes with all that. I will never forget that first mammogram. I honestly thought I might have a heart attack that day! I was so freaked out about what they might find, I had worked myself into a state of craziness. While I was waiting for the results of that mammogram, in the cold little room with the hospital gown still on, I remember curling myself into a ball in the chair and rocking back and forth trying to keep myself from totally coming un-glued. It was awful. I think I was on the verge of a total mental breakdown. I was completely unprepared for that. I really thought I was losing my mind! After talking to some breast cancer survivors that I know, I found out that it is normal to have those fears and feelings. That they will get less and less over time. I am much better now. I still have my moments where the fear can sometimes bubble up over me, but I have coping techniques to help me through. Why did no one tell me about this?! And there is more!

The chemo brain! Aaaarrrg! Seriously, it is real! I have done quite a bit of reading about it. Mostly because I want to know how long it will last. Studies show that for some people, it can last for years and years after treatment. There are memory lapses, (a lot of them), disorganization, trouble with remembering common words, trouble learning new things, lack of focus, and the list goes on. I think I have all of those! Most of the time I just laugh it off, but there are times when it is extremely frustrating. Then there are the side effects from the after cancer drugs. Drugs that I will have to take for many years to come. Things like, hot flashes, fatigue, weakness, bone pain, dry va-jay-jay, itchy skin, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression. That is the short list! Good times! There are even studies being done about PTSD in cancer patients. Some studies I have recently read, say that 50% to 80% of breast cancer patients will suffer from some form of PTSD. More good times! Now you put all that stuff together and it can be potentially devastating for some people. For me, my biggest struggle is what goes on in my head, and it is probably just side effects of all the drugs, but it is very real for me.

I have times when I cannot seem to get my shit together. I move from one room to the next with no idea of what the fuck I even got up for. So I sit back down and hope it comes to me and hope like hell it was not something important. Like all the times my kitchen sink overflows because I forgot it was running. It happens at least once a month like clock work. Then there are the times when I actually get up to pee and then quickly forgot what I was getting up for. So if I ever pee my pants, you will know what happened! Or the days when I walk into the studio to work on painting, and for the life of me, I cannot remember where the hell I was going with that particular painting! And then there is the crazy shit that goes on in my head. Things like, do I have any talent at all? Am I crazy to think that anyone will buy my art? Is this really what I am supposed to be doing? What happens if it comes back? Am I doing enough to keep cancer from returning? My friend was cancer free for 9 years then BAM, it was back.that shit freaks me out!

No one likes to talk about this stuff. No one wants to scare a cancer patient. No one wants to admit out loud that sometimes they feel bat-shit crazy, and cannot remember the name of someone they have known for years. No one wants to admit that sometimes they are paralyzed by fear at every follow up appointment. I think it needs to talked about. I think every cancer patient should be informed about what happens to us after cancer. So that is why I wanted to write this. I put on a brave and happy face, that is part of how I cope with it all. But behind closed doors, there is some scary shit that goes on for people after treatment is over. Coping with all this is getting easier as time goes by. I have little tricks here and there, along with a really healthy diet, exercise, meditation and breathing exercises, so I can usually pull out of whatever funk might be happening for me.

I am certainly not the same girl I was before cancer. How I navigate my life has completely changed. I am bigger, better, kinder. I feel that life for me has no limitations.
All I have to do is say yes, to all that life has to offer. No more living small. I will continue to glide through this life with as much grace and humor as I can muster! I will paint from my soul. I will love with my whole heart.

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico.

Cancer In Paradise part 4

August 16th, 2016

Cancer In Paradise part 4

Cancer in Paradise (part 4)
(Warning: may contain swearing and TMI)

By now, I had been in Bucerias for more than a year. The magic was still there, regardless of having to go through cancer treatment. Now that chemo was finished, I was gearing up for radiation. 30 treatments over 6 weeks and it would be done in Guadalajara. The word spread that I was needing a place to stay. Once again, angels appeared. Sue and Harold, complete strangers to me, had heard the news and offered their second home in GDL to me. It was perfect! Close to centro, public transportation, parks, restaurants, groceries, laundry,and was large enough for family and friends to stay with me. We agreed on 500 pesos a week and they handed me the keys! The consult was set up and Gwen, my parents and I, hit the road for the big city. After we arrived, my dad and I hit the streets to see if we could navigate the bus system to get me to my treatments. It was challenging at first. Some buses never arrived but others did and we got it figured out. We met with the doctor to learn about all about the next step. The doctor was particularly concerned about my pastey ginger skin and how bad the radiation burns might get. In my head, I just wasnt interested in anything bad happening. I figured chemo was pretty much a breeze and radiation was going to be the same! Bad side effects were not even an option in my mind. At the end of it all, he was very surprised at how well my skin tolerated treatment!

I was all set up and ready to go. Gwen drove my parents back to Bucerias, as they had to return to Alberta in a few days. It must have been so hard for them to leave. My energy levels were increasing and I spent some time out walking and checking out my new surroundings. But now I had a lot of time on my hands. My beach was gone, my support system was 5 hours away, I was all by myself in a strange city. I brought my art supplies with me but I really had no urge to be creative. That is when some crazy shit started to happen in my head. Even though I was feeling pretty powerful about how far I had come and that I was determined to kick cancers ass.I was feeling a little sad, and ugly, and scared and generally having a pity party. Maybe it was the nasty chemicals of chemo that had been pumped through my system? The instant menopause that chemo creates? The image I was seeing in the mirror was a strange looking girl with little sprouts of ginger hair, some pretty intense scars, a blue boob and soon to be radiation burns. I had crazy thoughts of, who is ever going to love me like this? Ridiculous, I know. But it was very real for me at the time.

Another angel arrived in my life. Someone I had just recently met, that was now living in GDL, and he wanted to help. We had meals together, listened to music, went to parks. He took me to amazing places in the city that had great art. It was amazing. I saw incredible architecture, old murals in fantastic old buildings, and I was in awe of the amazing street art! He kept me busy, he made me laugh, he introduced me to other really cool artists that he knew. He also showed me that I was safe, loved, cherished, beautiful, sexy, desirable and there was no reason for me to ever deprive myself of all the joy, passion, pleasure and love that I could ever want in this life. In his eyes, he didnt see the goofy bald head, the purple scars or the burns. He just saw me. He helped me see that too. It was like the warrior goddess within me was finally given permission to emerge and be the person I had always wanted to be. I will never, ever forget what he did for me and will be eternally grateful for all that he brought to my life.

Every weekday morning, I had treatments. On the weekends I would usually hop on a bus to Bucerias. I was getting homesick! I was tired of the big city. Of being stared at, of the crowds, and of the flashers and molesters on the bus. There was a few times that my treatment was cancelled, which was delaying the process. The plan was for me to be home by Christmas. One day the doctor told me, that I may not be done by then, because of those cancelled treatments! I had a complete melt down in the middle of the clinic! Being stuck in GDL over Christmas was not an option for me. Its amazing how fast things can move along when they have a sobbing bald woman in their reception area! I was counting down the days and they finally got me home for Christmas. My last treatment was the morning of Christmas Eve! Happiest day ever!

I have the most amazing people in my life. During those 6 weeks, people looked after my house, fed my gangster street cat, and some even raised money to help me pay for treatment. They auctioned my art, shaved their head, waxed their chests, and had garage sales! They did it with love and behind my back, because they all knew I would have never agreed to it otherwise! I was using facebook as a journal, so all my family and friends could keep an eye on my progress. One day I posted a big FUCK YOU to cancer. After that I began to receive all sorts of pictures on my facebook page from people all over the place. Pictures of them with their families and friends, at their Christmas dinner tables, all giving the finger to cancer! It was brilliant and beautiful and filled my heart! When I finally went to pay Sue and Harold the rent on their house. They reneged on our deal! The deal was 500 pesos a week. They would only take 500 pesos for the entire six weeks!

People say that everything happens for a reason. That there is a lesson in everything that happens to us. What was my lesson? I learned that humans are generally good and kind. That its ok for me to ask for and receive help. That it doesnt make me weak. That its actually a gift for the people that are offering to help. I learned that I am beautiful and desirable in whatever physical state I am in. That I deserve to have joy, passion, pleasure and love in my life. I learned that life is too precious to be angry or to hold grudges. The biggest thing I learned, was that dreaming a dream and letting nothing get in the way of that, is the best thing that I have ever done! No regrets, ever!

And then I started to paint.

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico.

My First Year In Paradise part 3

August 5th, 2016

My First Year In Paradise     part 3

My First Year In Paradise (part 3)
(Warning: may contain swearing and TMI)

Each and every morning I would wake up, look out my window and pinch myself. I still couldnt believe I was so lucky to be living this life in paradise! I thanked the Universe every day! We were finally on speaking terms. Maybe the Universe had this planned all along. The Universe knew I needed to be in this magical, healing place to face my battle with cancer. I have learned, the Universe is much smarter than I am!

Now I was gearing up for chemo. At the time I had pretty long hair. I knew I would lose my hair. So I figured, if I cut my hair short now, it wouldnt be such a big shock when I had to lose it all later. No biggie, right?! So I made an appointment at a local salon, and with a picture of a new hairstyle in hand, I sat in the chair and explained why I was there. Then it hit me. Up until then, I looked normal. I didnt look sick. No one knew about the cancer, unless I told them. My hair was my thing. It was long and gorgeous and curly and big and kind of like a security blanket for me. I had awesome hair!! With the first snip, I started to cry. I was mortified! The harder I tried to stop, the worse the crying got. I am pretty sure there was snot. I felt so bad for that guy cutting my hair. He didnt know what the hell to do with me! There was a lady in the salon, watching me cry like an idiot. I had met her briefly on the beach one day, but didnt know her at all. She came over, held my hand and she prayed. Thank you for that, Wanda! I needed a friend that day. I hated that haircut!

I met with a chemo oncologist, Dr C. She was awesome. I had written out many pages of questions about the treatment and all the alternative treatments I had been reading about. She was all for adding alternative therapies! Including diet, exercise, juicing, supplements and high dose vitamin C. We decided to do 10 treatments of high dose vitamin C by IV throughout chemo. It made me feel like a million dollars! Chemo was scheduled to start on August 12, 2013. The one year anniversary of living my dream in paradise. Go figure!

There would be 4 treatments over 4 months. I had heard horror stories of people going through chemo. I was a bit worried. But my doctors in Puerto Vallarta were total rock stars! Dr. C informed me of all the possible side effects, and promised me that she would do her absolute best to make it as easy as possible for me. She kept that promise! There was no puking, no feeling like death. And we managed any side effects with the most natural remedies possible. For the most part, I was just tired. Really, really tired. But hey! I live in paradise, where napping is not a dirty I napped! I had some days where I felt.oogey. I tried ginger, tea, ginger ale, but nothing worked better than a beer and clamato on the beach! My favorite beach bar kept non alcoholic beer on hand for me on those oogey days. Worked like a charm, every single time!

My hair hung in there for quite some time. At one point I asked Dr. C if the chemo was working, since my hair hadnt fallen out! She laughed and assured me it was working and it would fall out soon enough. One morning it was coming out by the hand full. I was ready this time. With the help of my buddy Juan, we shaved it off right away. No tears, no snot. It took a bit to get used to and I startled myself when walking by a mirror. But I think I rocked that bald look! Friends offered me wigs, hats, and scarves. My mom mailed me hats and scarves that a friend gave her. They were hilarious! Gwen and I almost peed ourselves laughing over those, they were so ridiculous looking! It was summer, it was too damn hot for hair anyway! I wore a wig once. For Halloween, that was it! At one point, a couple friends and I did a run for cancer in Nuevo Vallarta. I was the only bald person there! I didnt run. I walked. I dont know how many kilometers it was, but I cheated! I took a short cut, and still came in dead last!

Everyone thought that this would make me paint great art. They were all looking forward to seeing what I would produce during this life altering event. I was looking forward to that too. I didnt paint. Not one single thing! Every time I walked into the studio to get started, an overwhelming sense of exhaustion would come over me. Every single time! So much so, that I could barely make it to the couch for a nap. It was weird. I didnt stress over it. I knew in my heart, my one and only priority was to take care of my body. So when my body said nap, I napped. I would paint later.

My Bucerias family was amazing! They cooked, they sent cleaners, some came to chemo with me. I am truly blessed! The last chemo session was October 15th, 2013. That was also the day my parents flew in to see me. Even though I kept telling them I was doing great, my mom was convinced I was dying and keeping it a secret from her! I picked them up at the airport, an hour after my last treatment. They were staying a month, just to be sure that I was doing well. They would also be around for my consult with the radiation doctor in Guadalajara. So, now I was resting from chemo, and getting ready for radiation.

We put the word out that I would be needing a place to live for 6 weeks in Guadalajara. There was no possible way that I could drive the 4 to 5 hours back and forth every day. Once again, I had more angels walk into my life.

To be continued..

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico.

My First Year In Paradise part 2

August 5th, 2016

My First Year In Paradise     part 2

My First Year In Paradise (part 2)
(Warning: may contain swearing and TMI)

I hadnt even been in paradise a year! 10 months to be exact. Now they say I have cancer.
They said they caught it early. They said they could fix me. They said everything will be all right. They said the mammogram showed classic signs of cancer. I stood in the parking lot of the doctors office with my best friend, Danielle, and I sobbed. I sobbed like a hysterical child. She sobbed with me. God bless her! How could this be happening?! My flight back to paradise leaves in two days! The doc told me, We will get you started on treatment and have you back to Bucerias in a year. A YEAR!!! Every time Danielle and I looked at each other, we sobbed. There was snot. We just couldnt seem to stop. My parents sobbed too. The doc convinced me to cancel my flight and have the biopsy in Calgary, just to be sure. So the flight was cancelled, my friends in paradise were notified, and we waited for the biopsy results.

While waiting, my days were filled with absolute terror and sadness. And I was angry...very, very, angry. Why was this happening?! I was living my dream! My life was magic. I had shown my paintings in a gallery, I had an amazing painting studio. People were actually buying my paintings! I had adopted a gangster street cat! The Universe wanted me to live my dream...or did it? Was this some sort of cruel game? Was the Universe telling me that I was waaaaay too happy, and that kind of happiness just isnt allowed in Tracys world?! Danielle and her fiance told me I could live with them for the next year, they would find a way to make it work in their tiny little house. My parents wanted me to come home to them for the year of cancer treatment. I was in a fog, I was starting to realize that my dream had come to an end. It was then that I decided, Fuck You Universe! Nothing will stop me from living my dream! Especially cancer! So I informed my parents, Danielle and the doc.if this really is cancer, then all the more reason to live my dream! I told Danielle, if I am gonna die, I will die living my dream. I shouldnt have said that, I was being overly dramatic, and I scared her. Im sorry Danielle! The doc was totally supportive, so I booked a new flight back to paradise and flew home. The doc and I had plans to have a skype appointment when the biopsy results came in.

By the time I got back to Bucerias, my friends had rallied. They had already paid my rent and booked an appointment with an oncologist in Puerto Vallarta, 30 km away. I saw the oncologist, and for about $40 (500 pesos), he spent 2 hours with me getting my history and going over the mammogram with me. He was lovely, we hugged, he kissed my cheeks, and we both hoped we would never see each other again. But we did.

This is when an angel appeared in my life. Did the Universe or God send her to me? I dont know, I was super pissed at both God and the Universe and we werent on speaking terms at the moment, so I didnt ask. The angels name was Gwen. We barely knew each other. But she walked into my life and said she was there to help, and I let her. Asking for help or receiving help was not something I was good at. In fact, I was terrible at it! But Gwen got me. She stepped in and did it all. She took notes, she cracked dark jokes and made me laugh when I wanted to cry, she asked all the questions I didnt think of, drove everywhere..the list goes on and on. I cant even begin to tell you how much that angel did for me! That angel had lost her husband to cancer many years ago and she was committed to holding my hand through this.

Everyone back in my old life thought I had lost my mind! Cancer treatment in Mexico?! Are you freaking crazy?! Maybe I was crazy. All I knew was, I needed to go home. Bucerias was already in my soul, it was my happy place, and deep in my gut, I knew it was the right thing to do. I honestly dont know what it was like for everyone back in Alberta that cared about me. It must have been terrifying and agonizing for them to see me fly away to a foreign land for cancer treatment. I cant even describe how lucky I am to have people in my life that were willing to watch me walk away and live my dream. They loved me enough to let me do that. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for them. I am truly blessed!

By this time, I had decided that my tiny studio apartment was too dark and musty and was being over run with termites, I needed something brighter to live in for cancer treatment. So I found something closer to the beach, bigger, brighter, a little more money but it had a reasonably large master bedroom that would work as studio space. Nothing like the space I had, but it would work. Again, my friends rallied and got me moved in. I gave up the large studio space in the Art District and planned to paint in the master bedroom and sleep in the little bedroom. Viola, another problem solved!

The treatment plan was made. The surgery was booked. The doc said, If you do what I tell you to do, I will fix you. I believed him.

Full blown survival mode had now kicked in. Gone were the tears and sobbing, and even the anger was almost gone. I was still a little pissed off at the Universe, but I was handing it all over. I was no longer trying to control everything in a life that felt like it was reeling out of control. I opened my arms, wide open to the sky and said, Lets do this! With my angel, Gwen, at my side, I shut down the pity party and went into full fight.. It was all very overwhelming. There was so much information, I just couldnt process it all. But Gwen was on top of all that. She would repeat all the doctors orders to me when I just couldnt hear him. It was like I had cotton in my ears! First off, the oncologist (Dr V), wanted to do a second biopsy on another spot that he was concerned about. That would tell us if we could do a lumpectomy or mastectomy. That biopsy was so totally different and bizarre from the one I had in Alberta, that I was seriously questioning my decision to have treatment in Mexico! It was a wire biopsy. A long wire is inserted into the breast with the aid of the mammogram machine, to the center of the tumor, so the surgeon knows where it is to get a sample. Google it! We then had to change locations for the actual biopsy. So here I am, in a hospital gown, shorts and flip flops, walking out of that clinic to Gwens car with about 4 inches of wire sticking out of my boob! We looked at each other and both said, WTF??!!, and off we drove to another clinic where they would do the actual biopsy. But we got it done, all was fine, and the lumpectomy surgery was booked right away. I have to say, other than the scary biopsy, my medical treatment in Mexico was first class! Fabulous modern hospitals and rock star treatment all the way!

My angel, Gwen, sat most of the day at the hospital during the lumpectomy and she kept all the family in Alberta posted on how things were progressing. Once the surgery was done, Dr. V came out to see her with what looked like a jar of tomato soup in his hands. She figured he was going for a late lunch. Nope! That was a big ol jar of goo and lymph nodes! Ahahahaaa! Gwen damn near fell out of her chair! OMG, only in Mexico! But all had gone well, Dr. V was very happy and expected no troubles. He came to see me later and was thrilled with himself about what a great job he had done manipulating the tissue to make the breast look just like the other one. To this day, every time we get together for the mammogram appointment, he still marvels at his work on my boob, lol! I just love that guy!!

Now we waited for me to heal. 3 to 4 weeks of healing before chemo would begin. The healing process after surgery was tough. Every day Gwen would come over and bind my boobs for me and we would crack jokes about my smurf boob. You see, they put a blue dye into me, to see where it travelled in the nodes. But the blue, was smurf blue and took forever to go away! My pastey ginger skin held that stupid dye for almost 2 years! It was hard to look at. Not so much the blue, but the scar. It was huge! It went from the middle of my arm pit to the middle of my nipple. It scared me. It hurt. I had a tiny bit of a pity party over that big purple scar. Dr. V was confident he got it all. Friends cooked for me, grocery shopped for me, Juan sent over a cleaning lady because I wasnt supposed to use that arm. There was a gross drain hanging out of me. I eventually broke it, it wouldnt drain. I was in a sling, because I was experiencing swelling. When Gwen had to go out of town so we needed to find a person to fill in for boob binding. So we posted that job opportunity on facebook! Along came Irene. Irene agreed to fill in for Gwen, as long as there was no gross-ness or blood, she was in! Thanks Irene! Looking back on all this now.its all super funny to me. Most of it was super funny at the time as well, lol! I honestly cant remember if I was even painting during this time. I was just so focused on fighting the battle. Next step, chemo!

To be continued

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico.

My First Year In Paradise

July 21st, 2016

My First Year In Paradise

My First Year In Paradise..
(Warning: may contain swearing and TMI)

That first year was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I had done it. I had given up my old life and pretty much all my possessions. I started something crazy and exciting in a new country, a new town, with new people, a new life! Every single day was an adventure!

I arrived in Bucerias, August 12 2012. It was the middle of summer and the heat was incredible! Nothing like I had ever felt in central Alberta. But I loved the heat and the humidity and the laziness of this quiet little town. All I wanted to do was recover from my old life, so thats exactly what I did. I walked a lot, mostly because I was afraid to drive, lol! I explored, napped, read books, drank beer, ate tacos, rode Mexican buses, sat on the beach, admired the ocean, and just melted in the summer heat. It was glorious! I was in heaven and in no hurry to do anything!

But there were still things that needed to get done. For starters, I entered the country illegally. That needed to be addressed! Somehow, someway, I missed the stop on the drive down, where I was supposed to get the entry visa. No Bueno! Thankfully, some wonderful new friends set me up with their lawyer and he got it figured out. He drove me around, did all the banking, dealt with immigration and in a couple of weeks he handed me a temporary resident visa! Sweet! Problem solved! Then there was the issue of finding a place to live. As much as I wanted to, I couldnt live in a hotel forever! With the help of some other new friends, I found a tiny little studio apartment, 2 blocks from the beach, with a great outdoor patio to paint my heart out. Another problem solved! The whole year was pretty much like that. There wasnt a single thing that I couldnt make happen! The Universe wanted me here, I just knew it! Life was glorious. My new friends and I, helped each other navigate our new lives. We drank too much beer on the beach, got too much sun, had dinner parties, met more new friends, and we volunteered at our local community center to teach english to little kids. I had even rented a fabulous second floor studio space in the middle of the Bucerias Art District to paint in. I had quickly outgrown the patio that I was using as a painting studio and needed more space. It was huge! I could paint on at least a dozen canvasses at at time. It was open air and looked over the main street. Each morning I would walk to the studio, and sit on the little balcony and give thanks to the Universe for my amazing life. By mid afternoon, I would usually hear a shout from the street, Its beer-o-clock!! It would be my friend, Irene. She had a gallery down the street. The crazy summer heat told us it was time to stop working and enjoy a cold one. Those were my was like a dream.

Each and every day I was in absolute awe of my new life. I never imagined it could be this good! My friends came to visit and I got to share my magical life. You know how a really happy dog likes to lay on their back in the grass and roll around with their tongue hanging out? Well, that was me! That is how I felt, every damn day! I was delirious with happiness! Just before the year was up, I decided it was time to make a trip back to Alberta for a little visit with my long lost family and friends. I was welcomed back with open arms and everyone wanted to hear of my adventures. In between all the welcome back BBQs and parties, I decided I was due for a trip to the doctor for my annual physical. I was actually excited to see my doctor! The last time he had seen me I was a complete wreck! I was fat, stressed and close to a nervous breakdown. Now I had color in my cheeks, a sparkle in my eye, a hop in my step, and was down 35 lbs! I had never felt so good! The doc figured, I was at that age and should have a mammogram along with all the other poking and prodding. Thats when shit got real.

I had breast cancer.

To be continued..

Tracy Bonin
Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico

How I Ended Up In Paradise

July 18th, 2016

How I Ended Up In Paradise

How I Ended Up In Paradise

I get asked the questions all the time..How did you do it?! Are you independently wealthy? Did you leave a marriage and take him for all he had?! Yup, those are just a few.
Just to clear those up. Nope, not wealthy. Nope, didnt rob a man of his bank accounts.
But, what I did do, was DREAM!!!

I have dreamt about living this dream for almost forever. The dream of living in a tropical place, with sun, surf, sand, palm trees and doing my art. I have actually been dreaming it much longer than I realized. My dad recently told me, that on a family vacation to Venice Beach, when I was a teenager; I told him I wanted to live there in a tent on the beach. Of course he told me, Over my dead body, like any good father would say to his teenage daughter. But that must have been when the dream was implanted in the back of my brain.

From then on, I always wanted it. But it wasnt until I attended a personal growth seminar, as an adult, that I said it out loud to a room full of strangers and it became an obsession. I spent all sorts of spare time on the internet, researching, reading and dreaming of how I might make that happen. It was kind of like, When I win the lottery dream. You think about it, dream about it, plan for it, but you know its probably never gonna happen. I would hear all sorts of stories of people that had actually done it, but I had never met any of them. Did they even exist?! Was it just an urban legend?! Its like Bigfoot. People say its out there, but no one has ever seen it! Well, that was how I felt about it. But that didnt stop me. My plan was to travel to all sorts of fabulous, warm, tropical places and then one day, pick my favorite and move there once I retired. Cause thats what people do, right? They retire and get to do cool stuff, right?! But I was far from retirement!

I have done many things over the years for work. None of which made me wealthy. I had a 20 year waitressing career in fancy lounges, night clubs, and even a strip club! (Thats a whole other story!) I have painted signs, sold my art, worked on a pressure washing truck, made pizzas, poured ice cream, taught first aid classes, worked on Alberta oil and service rigs as an Emergency Medical Technician, was a security guard, an EMT at a chemical plant, and a 911 operator for the RCMP in Alberta. It just seemed that I never felt I belonged anywhere. Each job had its good and bad. But the jobs just got more stress filled and unsatisfying as I went along. I just couldnt help but think, there has to be more to life than this! I was totally stressed out and almost 80 lbs overweight and I pretty sure I was having panic attacks! So one day, after a long night shift, I went home stressed and miserable, and I called the boss and quit my job. Then I was really in a panic! What did I just do?! Now I am really fucked!! How could I quit a job without having something else lined up?! It was something I had never done. So I crawled into bed and fell into a deep depression, until a couple of amazing girl friends showed up at my house and told me to have a shower, put my big girl panties on and go live my dream! I mean, I had been talking about it forever, right?
So, thats exactly what I did! In 2012, I put my house on the market, got it all cleaned up, and sold it on Kijiji, by my own bad self! That house was everything to me. I had worked my ass off to buy it, renovate it and damn near pay for it in full. The money I made from that house, was all the money I had in the world, but I was determined, I was doing it!! I had a massive garage sale and sold everything I owned, except for the few clothes my fat butt could still fit into, some art supplies and my Ninja blender (for margaritas, ya know), and put it all in the trunk of my little silver Kia Rio.

The day finally came, the house money was in the bank, a friend was coming along for the drive and I had a hotel room booked for a month in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico. That was pretty much the extent of my plan. Why there? Because I had only been to Mazatlan, Cancun, and Bucerias by then.and Bucerias was by far my most favorite. I dont think my family and friends really believed I was actually doing it. I think they thought, I was having a midlife crisis and would be back within the year. I honestly had no clue, no fear and was on a mission to change my life. There was some serious tear filled goodbyes with my family and friends. Some said they were worried I was going to get killed down there. The drive down was certainly an adventure, but I survived! I didnt get kidnapped or beheaded by the Cartel, I didnt get pushed off the road into the jungle by highway bandits and I didnt die of food poisoning. What I did do, was arrived safe, sound and exhausted from my life, in a tiny, magical, Mexican town that I lovingly call home. A place where I finally feel like I belong, where I get to be the person I was always meant to be, and where napping is not a dirty word!

Everything fell into place within the first 30 days and I was convinced I was meant to be here. The Universe wanted me here! I made the hotel manager, Juan, my new best friend. (Ha ha, sorry Juan!) He introduced me to lots of other expats and before I knew it, I had a cute, dark, musty little studio apartment,2 blocks from the beach. Super cheap, and just what I needed! With some help, I had a cell phone, a lawyer, a temporary resident visa, and a new family. It hasnt come without some challenges. There is the language, which I am still struggling with. The laid back life that I wasnt used to, but I am totally on board now! And a breast cancer diagnosis, to name only a few. But the 80 lbs of misery and stress melted slowly off me in the scorching summer heat without even really trying.

I am loving, laughing and am happier than I have ever been. I have met like minded people that are now my family, and are no longer the urban legend I once thought they were.
Every single day, I look out my window and still pinch myself. I can hardly believe I am here. Just a small town, Alberta girl, who never gave up on her dream.
I am blessed. I am loved. I am happy!
Tracy Bonin
A Canadian artist, living the dream in Mexico.

I Sould Be Painting But Its Too Freaking Hot

July 17th, 2016

I should be painting, but its too freaking hot!

I live a super charmed life here in Bucerias, Mexico! And I should be doing what I came here to do..and thats painting!!! I havent done any work in at least two weeks, because I was back in Alberta, visiting family. But now I am back, and its hot as balls here!! Its probably only 30C-ish, but with the humidity, it feels like 50!! So instead, I am doing what I call, constructive procrastination. Right now, I am standing in my kitchen in a bikini, making a double pot of kombucha. As if its not hot enough already, I thought it was a brilliant idea to boil a huge pot of water in my already unbearably hot kitchen! Yup, just adding more humidity to my house! So with sweat dripping in my eyes, down between my boobs and butt crack, I am making kombucha tea. Sorry if thats TMI, lol. Probably not the smartest move, but hey, its super good for me!! Tons of fabulous probiotics for my belly, to keep the mexican cooties away. Thats my justification!
This winter, I somehow got an intestinal infection that had me in bed for weeks. No amount of antibiotics or store bought probiotics made it go away. It got a little better for a time. Enough that I could actually function and eat again, but my gut was never quite right. So for months I suffered, until a friend had heard enough of my whining about it and she brought me some of her homemade kombucha and sauerkraut. Within four days, I was 95% better! So I was hooked! My friend was already having enough trouble keeping up with her own kombucha habit, and sent me all sorts of recipes to make my own. And so it kombucha habit.
I have to keep up to my habit, or I might die! Well, I probably wont die, but my belly is much happier when I do. Quite often around here, the expats have tummy troubles. And I think to myself.I should make lots and lots of kombucha and share my secret to having a happy belly, and make a little money on the side. But that makes my kitchen too hot, and I am not really that keen on sharing my stash! And then I wont be painting! So today I am making kombucha and not painting..tomorrow I will paint.if its not too hot!
Tracy Bonin and loving life in Mexico!

Pocket Full of Horses

June 8th, 2015

Pocket Full of Horses

These paintings are a series I call, Pocket Full of Horses. Now, dont get me wrongI dont think they look like pockets or horses, lol! But, its a feeling I get.they kind of make me think of horses running through a field of grass and flowers, jumping and playing. They also make me think of my friend, Tessa. Tessa is 12, and just moved to Mexico, from Ontario, Canada and has fallen in love with horses! I picture Tess and Poncho (her new Mexican horse), running through small town Mexico in the scorching afternoon sun dirty bare feet, bareback, white horse, with his mane and tail flying behind them, kicking up dust and beach sand. Tessa, with her tanned, smooth skin and long, brown, curly hair flying in the tropical breeze as she secretly, or not so secretly (small towns have eyes everywhere!), breaks all the rules set out for her by her parents. Pure joy and wild abandon! A horse and a girl, plunging into the beautiful blue ocean , splashing laughing both of them catching their breath as the cool ocean waves hit their hot, sticky skin. Can you feel it?! Can you picture it?! Well, that is the feeling I get from these paintings. Tessa and Poncho, living and loving life. Breaking all the rules (I love a rule breaker!), even though she knows there will be consequences later.
Throw caution to the wind!Break the rules!.Let your hair fly!
Because life is just so much more delicious that way!