Someday in Tennessee

This week a crew from school will be heading to Tennessee to complete in the DI (Destination Imagination) Global competition.  I’ve been trying to think of fun things for them to do, and it has made me long for the day that I get to share East Tennessee with my family.

Someday, I am going to take my girls to the Knoxville Zoo.  I can’t wait to pay for those overpriced day tickets.  I will watch with delight as they squeal with glee over the gorillas and the bears.  I will shiver as they discover snakes through the windows of the reptile observatory.  And I will shell out the big bucks for zoo treats and souvenirs that will I will one day regret buying when I pick it up off the floor.

Someday, I am going to wake my husband up early and stop for coffee at an all-night Pilot service station as we drive up to the Smokies to watch the sun rise.  I won’t know where we are going, but my “map” will be the road.  Up will always be the choice–until we reach the perfect place to park the car and see the sun peek out over the trees as the hills come to life.  (I will probably end up singing some cheesy song from a musical or recite “Tennessee Sunrise” much to his dismay.)

Someday, we are going to be tourists in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  We are going to play mini-golf, and ride all the rides at Dollywood.  We are going to spend way too much money on those tickets, unless some niece or nephew happens to be working there at the time… (hint hint)  We are going to eat funnel cakes and sing along to all my favorite Dolly songs.  I am going to tell my family all about Dolly, and how she is my hero for never forgetting where she came from after she left (but more importantly, for all her work with the Imagination Library… #literacystartsyoung, afterall…)

Someday, we are going to drive down to Cardins and eat hotdogs, cheeseburgers, and drink milkshakes.  I am going to tell stories about my Mamaw, and how we would buy hotdogs on the way home from Wednesday night bible study.  We will fill up on fries AND onion rings, because if you are going to “do Cardins,” you might as well live it up.

Someday, we will go watch a drive-in double feature.  We will stock up on treats at the gas station, then back in to a spot so that we can sit in the back of the truck together on piles of blankets.  We will let the girls go to sleep late that night, and will surely regret it the next day.

Someday in Tennessee, we will get together with our friends on Fourth of July, eat tacos, and shoot fireworks.  We will swat hands that sneak black olives, and will tease each other over how much eating has happened, and we will watch the new generation of kids catch fireflies before dark.

Someday, we will sit on the porch in a summer thunderstorm and watch the waterfall created by the warm rain.  We will read aloud something appropriate for summer storms–something that will make us giggle with delight.

Someday, we will pack up a cooler, and take off for the lake.  We will slather on sunscreen and squish our toes into some Tennessee mud.  Then we will drink sweet tea with our friends as we reminisce about when we were young while enjoying all the babies playing together.

Someday in Tennessee, my sisters and I will stay up late and snuggle together on the couches.  We will laugh and tickle each other like we did when we were young.  We will inevitably ruin that fun time by fighting over something stupid.  Then, we will make up by singing old hymns together at the piano while mama cries because her “babies” are together in harmony.

Someday, we will load up the kids and the bikes and head up to Cades Cove.  We will take lots of water and a picnic lunch to share.  After 11 miles of hilly countryside and kids complaining, we will head back down the mountain to sleepy snores in the backseat.

Some Saturday morning, Mama and I will get up earlier than everyone else and make biscuits and gravy.  We will work together to fry up enough sausage and bologna to feed a small army.  She will make the lightest biscuits ever tasted, and I will stir together some gravy–thinking about Mamaw and her methods.  We will slice some Grainger County tomatoes, and fill up glasses with sweet tea.  After calling everyone to breakfast, we will bully someone else into doing the dishes (but will probably end up doing them ourselves later…)

Some summer day, we will drive up to the farm stands and buy bushels of tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn.  We will wash and sterilize mason jars that will later be filled with chow-chow, stewed tomatoes, and maybe some strawberry jam.  We will listen to the “pops” of success while warning everyone around to leave them alone.

Someday, we will pack up, and drive 20 minutes down the road to convention.  We will wake up early and help with breakfast.  We will stay up late and drink hot cocoa while eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  We will soak in the heavenly rain and fill up on spiritual food–and we will relish in the fellowship with sweet forever friends.  We will leave that oasis with new purpose for the next year, and promises to keep in touch that will go forgotten until the next spring.

Someday in Tennessee, we will wake up and check to see if school is out because of the flurries that were predicted.  We might get lucky enough to make snow cream and build a snowman.  We will regret having not bought a sled, but we will improvise with garbage bags and clothes-baskets.  We will eat too much, sleep too much, and play until we are frozen solid.  Then we will sit in front of the fire, and thaw out with soggy socks and gloves all around us.

Someday, my family and I will enjoy all that I miss about Tennessee.  But that day isn’t today, this summer, or this year.  So until then, I will make my plans for someday…


Lemonade: A Labor of Love


I’ve had my share of convention chores. When I was younger, one of the sister workers had me cut the grass in the dining shed with scissors. I have put away the spoons–a job I viewed as a baby job. I remember trying to skip out on that with my friend–and our moms were always there to remind us that we had a job! (Thank goodness they cared so much!) The year before I started serving drinks. I practiced at the house: “Tea. Tea. Tea. Tea…”

Yesterday was our convention here in Torreon. It is strange to say that–because there were maybe 20 people there. The meal was a group effort: everyone brought a little something that gets mixed into a big bowl of Tuna Salad.

When our visitors came Friday night, we were super happy to have them! The school had just delivered a bed for us to use on Thursday, and we couldn’t get it upstairs without assistance. So we took advantage of the extra men to help out! Actually, it took four of us on the ground and two on the balcony to hoist the king size mattress to the second floor.

The next day, we woke up early to begin preparing breakfast. The conversation that we had was food for the soul, and it was more substantial than our humble comida. Our older sister grew up with a lime tree in her yard, so when she saw our tree overflowing, she helped us out. We could take the juice, she told us, and freeze it. Then, when we wanted lemonade, all we had to do was put it on some water until it was as lemony as we wanted, take it out, and freeze it again.

Not a bad idea…

I had already volunteered to bring lemonade to convention, so we went to work. The four of us picked well over two hundred limón. I know. Because with every lime we sliced and juiced, we counted. There were 170 limón in the two bags of juice that we froze.

What makes this a labor of love, is that the tree actually has briars in it. So while you’re going for a piece of fruit, you get scratched up pretty good. Then when you squeeze juice, it stings like no other…

To top it all off, we actually didn’t use the lemonade the next day! Someone froze a bunch of mango for a Agua de Mango (juice). Have you ever cut fresh mango? THAT’S a labor of love too! I guess it doesn’t matter what the job is, huh? From cutting grass, to cracking eggs, to cleaning commodes–it’s the little we can do. But it is all done with such great love!

A Longfellow Moment

Ahh! How good it feels!  The hand of an old friend!

You know, the best friends on earth are the friends that you can see–and things just click back into place.  CLICK!

I feel so blessed to have you in my life, sweet friends.  You have been so patient–I know it isn’t easy to have a friend whose head is in the clouds.  Whose dreams of traveling have kept her away from home for so long.  Whose current lifestyle only allows for little snatches of time here and there.

And yet, no matter how long we go without phone calls, letters, or visits it seems like yesterday…

It seems like yesterday that we sang every Harry Chapin song we could remember.

It seems like yesterday that we pretended Mama was an evil old stepmother who only gave us saltines and water to eat.

It seems like yesterday that we tried to steal cookies from the dining shed find a cup to get some water in the middle of the night.

It seems like yesterday that we made fun of Mr. Sage for everything under the sun.

It seems like yesterday that Mama read us How to Eat Fried Worms while we laid on the floor.

It seems like yesterday that we made it to almost every Friday Night Midnight Movie.

It seems like yesterday that we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning talking.

It seems like yesterday that we followed our sisters around.

It seems like yesterday that we played ball, ran to the concession stand, and ordered suicides (ick).

It seems like yesterday when boy problems were our actual biggest problems that we delt with.

It seems like yesterday that we swam in the lake–letting the fish nibble at our fingers and toes.

It seems like yesterday that we went to Friday Night Football Games together singing “Oh, McGee, you’re so fine...”

It seems like yesterday…

Where did the time go, old friend?  And why haven’t we taken more time to write, call, and visit?  Has living in a Facebook world made us closer or are we more displaced?  Because like always, we part promising to get together, write, and Skype more.

Will I be writing a blog in ten years talking about the good memories of today?  I hope so–but let’s make a point to make some good memories, eh?   Because before we know it, we’ll be watching grandchildren play while we reminisce about the good times we had.

Ah! How wrinkly it feels! The hand of an old friend!

A Hula Party

We have a sweet friend from Mexico City who remembers everyone’s birthday.  She will call, a country away, to wish you happy birthday.  This year she called me about a week after apologizing for having missed my actual birthday.  She didn’t forget it–she just was super busy that day.

I thought that she was something special rare (she is really special), until I moved to Mexico.

No one does a birthday quite like a Mexican.  And it doesn’t matter if you are rich or on limited income, birthdays are really special days.  That’s why I never miss an opportunity to attend a party.  It’s a lot of fun!  These are the essentials of a Mexican birthday party:

  1. Decorations-  I’ve been to birthday parties here where everything is homemade.  The decorations are made from tissue paper folded and cut to create beautiful flowers and poms.  And then there are parties like the hula party–where the parents MUST have shopped in the States.  There were blow up decorations, garland, table center pieces, etc.
  2. Snacks–  On the table tops, botanas are a must.  This at cheaper parties might be delicious and inexpensive chicharron with Valentina sauce.  Swag parties have crackers and cheese, or a popular strawberry and chipotle sauce spread over cream cheese as a dip for crackers.
  3. Drink– Each table often has a 2-liter of soda sitting in the middle with the snacks.  Sometimes, ice is even included… 
  4. Food– MUCH later, food is served.  I’ve been to parties with tamales and gorditas.  Both of these are stuffed bread.  A gordita is like a thick tortilla that has been cut to make a pocket (similar to a pita bread pocket).  This is filled with mixed meats or maybe peppers and cream sauce.  One party I was at served a sandwich with a cold macaroni salad.  On Friday, they went all out with individual pies stuffed with rajas (peppers and cream sauce) and a salad with chopped mango, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries and blueberries.  Yummo!
  5. A cake– Cakes in Mexico are amazing.  Or at least in Chiapas they are.  I always had delicious, rich, creamy, moist cakes in Chiapas!  Here in the north, they tend to be a little dry.  Cakes also often have a whipped frosting and fruit on top.  Cupcakes are gaining in popularity, so sometimes you can find cupcakes.  Most times layered cakes have jelly in between the layers.  Sometimes they have caramel sauce.  Singing the birthday song is special.  The birthday child stands behind the table as the candles (or sparklers) are lit.  Their family joins them behind the table.  And the group sings “Las Mañanitas” to them.  This is my favorite time…
  6. A piñata–  But the piñata also gets a lot of my attention.  I have NEVER been to a party where the person pulling the rope doesn’t almost get whacked.  They start with the youngest, and work their way up.  You always get a rough little kid with built up aggression that makes the crowd take a step back.  The crowd is bigger when the candy really IS inside the piñata.  At the party on Friday, I saw a mean little boy pick up the leg from the piñata and start hitting his nanny with it.  He literally chased her around the party while she said, “No! David, I am NOT a piñata!”  Piñatas are seemingly harmless when they’re cartoon characters or giant hearts.  But have you ever seem people take turns beating a giant replica of your student?  That is a little strange…

I am looking pretty forward to having some cute birthday parties for my little girl.  The thing that I love the best about them is that usually the emphasis is placed on spending time together.  Neighbors will join parties in small communities.  Fancy parties that are supposed to end at 7 are extended way past the time.  And I have never seen a child open her gifts.  The gifts aren’t obligatory, and they are placed on a side table as you enter.  That’s where they stay until the child goes home.  I love that!

Is it too early to start planning for March of 2014?  Let’s see…




Making Mistakes–Part of Learning the Language

I did it again.  Only now, I’ve learned to laugh at myself.  Which is good–considering everyone else was laughing too!


Rosario and Antonio in Santiago

When we went to Monterrey, we stayed with a family there.  While the father and a son lived a little over a year in Texas–their English is developing.  So the majority of the time (99.9%) we spoke Spanish.  Or rather they spoke Spanish, and I tried…  Actually, upon leaving I felt like I had learned so much!  It’s amazing what five days with just a little English will do for you.

I have a friend from Monterrey who I contacted prior to visiting.  Her parents live there, and I thought that if we had time we could see them.  Fortunately, their photography shop was just a short distance from the family we stayed with.  We stopped by one afternoon, as they were leaving the next day for a trip.  Victor and I sat and chatted with the older gentleman–as he speaks English.  But we went back and forth with a bit of Spanish too.


REALLY old church in Santiago, Nuevo Leon

Eager to show my skills when we were leaving, I gave a parting goodbye.  Here in Mexico, they often will say, “Que tenga un buen dia.”  Which means, “Have a good day.”  Or in the south they more often will say, “Que la vaya bien.”  Which is something close to,”Have a good one.”  I wanted to say, “Have a good trip.”  And I really thought I knew what I was saying.  So confidently, I said, “Que tenga un buen viaja.”  Which my husband told me later was like saying, “Have a good old woman (or can also be used as a term of enderment like ‘honey’.)”  older woman=vieja, trip= viaje

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVictor at Cascada Cola de Caballo 

Later that weekend, we were looking at photos of the family on the computer.  Both parents have large families, and it was a lot of fun to find out who’s who.  Rosario has three brothers–and she is the only daughter.  Upon looking at her family, I ask, “Quien es mejor?”  She looked at me strangely, and said, “Well, they’re all good–but I guess him,” pointing at the man standing next to her in the photograph.  Victor knew what I was really asking, and let her know I wasn’t wondering about the best brother–just the oldest…  mejor=best, mayor=oldest

I may make a lot of mistakes, but I sure do it with gusto!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFamily picture at the overlook in Santiago

The Weekend Ahead

Our bags are packed. We’ve got everything except a tie. Turns out the men don’t wear those to convention here in Mexico.

I. Can’t. Wait.

The convention in Torreon was really more like a special meeting–only the size of a union meeting. This convention near Monterrey is rumored to be pretty big (about three hundred people).

I am mostly excited because this will be Victor’s first real experience with convention. I am pretty quiet about it–I don’t want to paint a picture for him. I want him to love it like me, but because HE wants to. So, I answer questions as they come, and explain what an amazing weekend it is in the States. I listen as he tells me the things he learns (he understands what’s going on much more than I do…). Seeing the life and wonder makes my heart happy.

It’s great spending time with my husband. Last night I realized we’ve only KNOWN each other just over six months. Wow. No wonder my friends freaked out a little.

Sigh. Whatta life! A year of change can do wonders for a body!! One year ago I was happily basking in my freedom! And now? I am slowly becoming Mexican from the inside out…

Keep Calm (And Trust God)


These are my favorite verses, and I wanted to share them with you today.

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

These verses have been special to me since I left Tennessee back in 2007. My sister pointed them out with an emphasis on in all thy ways. She said, “We should look to God for guidance in all things: relationships, jobs, etc.” It was then that I started praying about my relationship(s).

I think that’s what helped me in my last breakup. I prayed the entire time we dated that if it was God’s will–it would work. And if it wasn’t God’s will–he would help me to accept it. He did too. It was rough. I won’t lie: I really wanted it to work. But, it didn’t.

When I met Victor, it wasn’t planned. I was so excited when I saw that there weren’t any young singles in my meeting. The last thing I wanted (in January) was to fall in love with a Mexican. I was happy when we hit it off though.

Two days later, I wanted to see him again. My phone was not functioning, and I hopped on a bus without a word to him. Imagine my surprise when he walked up to me as soon as I left the bus station. It was like something from a movie. That town is way too big for something like that!

I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like Victor and were brought together. Too many things had to work out just so for us to meet. Many years of praying (on both of our parts) culminated in that weekend in San Cristóbal. And it feels right.

I know that my family and friends are a little shocked and in awe from yesterday. Keep calm. And know that those verses mentioned before have been the prayer of my heart for years. I can trust that my feet have been directed–and who knows where God will lead when he’s allowed to guide?!

Something Good’s a Cookin’!

I have a friend from Knoxville. It’s interesting to tell people about him, because they always think that I met him before I came to Mexico. He’s a total sweetheart–and I also like to say that he is a male version of me. I really think it is because we are southern to the core.

We decided a couple of weeks ago that we should have a southern supper. Mainly because who doesn’t like some delicious home cooking when they are thousands of miles from home? Unfortunately, it didn’t work out due to my silly schedule/sickness. Finally, last night was the night.

I was surprised. I am so used to people not coming to gatherings, that I really forget who I have invited. We had a house full last night!! In addition to Robert and I, there were nine other people who came. My table seats six. We were squeezed together, sharing seats, swapping seats, and piling on nearby living room furniture.

I decided what better southern food then fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and sweet dinner rolls. yum! Now, here is the catch: Yes, I am from the south. Yes, I love to cook. Including last night, that was the second time I have ever made fried chicken. And I am twenty-eight years old! How does that happen?!?! I actually had to call Mama last week (the first time I made fried chicken) to see what I should do. It was really easier than I thought it would be.

Now, mashed potatoes I have down to a fine art–but the rolls were really a sensation. I also was able to tell people my baking/quarter-life crisis story. I don’t do it justice anymore. It’s one of the benefits of forgetting bad things: I can hardly remember why life was so tough. I mean, if I think about it, it all comes back, but why do that? I do know this: the best thing (or one of the best things) to come from freaking out and learning to live is when I decided to make bread. I am no longer scared of making bread, and more often than not–it really turns out amazing!

The highlight part of the night is when I tasted the tea. “Robert, I don’t know–it might need more sugar.” Grabbing the same ladle I used to take a sip, Robert says, “Yeah, it needs more sugar. I like my tea like Cracker Barrel syrup!” Gotta love a southerner…and his sweet tea.

Coming to You Live From Chiapas, Mexico!

I remember sometime last year hanging out in Jenny’s apartment on South Washington.  SOMEONE got out the computer.  SOMEONE found karaoke on YouTube.  SOMEONE sang all night.  Or at least until the neighbor downstairs banged on the ceiling…

Last night I had a repeat of that night, only no neighbor downstairs to complain!  Only Victor, and while he seemed to lose interest quite frequently, I was able to reel him back in with my womanly ways amazing singing talents.

This is a progression of the night:

I always like to start out with some easy listening.  This was when Victor was interested.  He not so secretly can really belt out some Spanish country music.  English was a little tougher.  Especially when you don’t know the songs.  I have to give it to him though–he really tried!  Jason Mraz “I’m Your’s” Video (<——- Mom and Dad, you have to click on that!)

I then moved on to some country songs.  I sang a couple Reba songs, belted out Alison Krauss, and finally sang “Mama He’s Crazy.”   By this point I still had Victor’s attention.  It must be something other than my looks (I look a mess…) and ability to sing The Judds (yikes!) that makes him crazy over me.  “Mama, He’s Crazy” Video

We sang “Hotel California” (I was actually pretty proud of myself for that one–considering that I have apparently never really known the words to that song…).  Then, he lost interest.

As he wondered away, I asked where he was going.  Then I serenaded him with the sweet lyrics of Bryan Adams.  This is personally one of my favorites.  Especially when I had to start throwing things to get him to pay attention.  “Everything I Do–I Do it for You” Video  Yes!  Success!  He’s back!

Finally, we decided to sing some Spanish songs.  Or English songs with a little Spanish thrown in for good measure.  We first sang the one Spanish song I know.  Can you guess what it is?  “La Bamba” Video  We sang that “how far is heaven” song that I remember downloading when I moved to Minnesota.  As he lost interest again, I quickly found the song that we listen to aaaalllll the time.  It proved to be hard for both of us to sing.  You can see the part that we really know is, in fact, the English part of the song…  “Yo Tengo Tu Love” Video

I was forced to sing another love song to him, as he crawled back over to play on the iPad.  Luckily Rachel and I watched the 20/20 episode after TGIF one Friday night not long after Selena died.  I feel like I was really able to channel my inner Mexican here.  “Dreaming of You” Video  The best part are my mad Spanish skills at the end of the video…

This probably seems like a lot of singing to you.  Rest assured, I was still able to sing both parts of duets including “Whiskey Lullaby”, “Picture”, and “Estoy Enamorada.”  I sang until I was afraid I needed to take Victor’s clues of non-interest as a hint.  Then I proceeded to watch the videos of myself and laugh until the wee hours of the morning.

Not By The Hair Of My Chinny-Chin-Chin

I did it today.  I plucked the hair in my chinny-chin-chin.

This is how you know that you’re getting old.  You have chin hair.  I remember when I was younger Mamaw had this mole on the side of her chin.  She would clip the hairs that grew there occasionally.  I, on the other hand, remember playing with them.  I find myself doing the same thing–and that is when I know that I need to pluck.

I can also tell I am getting old other ways:

  • Today I watched this kid on the Ellen Show who is a skateboarder.  I actually felt sick at my stomach watching him flying in the air.  Being aware that I can and will die if I do something stupid makes me old.  I ALMOST had that in high school when we decided to roll down the hill in the huge metal pipe.  I though, “Hmmm, this will not turn out well…” a minute too late.
  • I am getting wrinkly.  They are on my forehead–and I blame that totally on my students.  I have to give them that “mom” look.  They are also all around my eyes and mouth.  I blame that on my students too.  Those suckers can really make me laugh.
  • I get indigestion.  And I know what causes it.  We used to make fun of one of our friends (and still do), because she would complain about indigestion.  Now, I know what foods I should avoid.  I know that when my tummy aches and I have gas, I ate something that really “didn’t agree with me.”
  • I use phrases like “that didn’t agree with me.”
  • I am dreadfully aware that everyone is having babies.  But for the first time in fifteen years, it actually is a little scary to think of having a baby.  Yet again, I know what can go wrong.  Plus, I live in Mexico, and I saw what that hospital looked like the other day.  I have been told that the baby-having hospital is better off.
  • I sometimes have to make people unhappy.  This is usually because I WANT to spend time with my family.  That’s right, you heard me.  I want to spend time with my family.  If that isn’t a sign of aging, I don’t know what is.  The thing is, my friends are getting old too.  They understand that because I haven’t been in town for a while, I might want to spend time with my family.  Weird.  Wonder if they realize it?

I sometimes have aches and pains when I wake up.  My knees creak.  I forget things.  I want to eat vegetables.  I haven’t played at the park across the street yet, and I’ve lived here a week.  I found a gray hair the other day.  I like antiques.  I wear sunscreen.  I take vitamins by choice.  I think about the future.  I lock the door when I go to bed.  I turn out the lights to save electricity.  I save random things that I think I might use again.

I have chin hair.