Twenty Days of Silence.

Wow.

I have been trying to figure out why I’ve turned into such a bad blogger.  I haven’t reached a conclusion, but these are some potential reasons:

  • I’ve been lazy.
  • It’s hard (If you want it to be good–it can be a little taxing…)
  • I’ve been busy.
  • What was novel is now normal.
  • I’m ready for summer.
  • I started playing Candy Crush.
  • I discovered an online library.

I will try, people, to step up my game.  Be prepared for an onslaught of meaningless posts.  (I might need to add “Too Much Facebook” to that list–because I just tried to add a winking face at the end of a normal sentence…)

I have a lot of thoughts in my head right now about Easter.  This was brought on by my husband, who asked, “Why is it a bunny that delivers eggs–why not  a chicken?”  I found myself speechless.  Then I started thinking about all these posts I keep seeing:  Easter this year is the same day as 4/20 (A day you should apparently smoke pot…).  Somewhere some kid is putting joints inside plastic eggs.

I feel a bit puzzled by both of these holidays to be honest–pretty much for the same reason:

People who smoke pot don’t need a special day to smoke pot.  It’s like having a special day to eat cake.  (Does that day exist???) People who believe that Jesus was resurrected, don’t need a special day to praise him.  Every day is a pretty good day to do that.  And finally, what’s with the eggs?  and the bunny?  Wouldn’t they feel more comfortable on some day like the first day of spring?

Sigh.

Life is confusing.  I think I will go smoke a joint.

Just kidding.

I’ll eat cake instead.  (I totally would tear into some Peeps–but those don’t exist in Mexico…)

Wow.  I just had an ingenious idea too late.  I could have said I was giving up blogging for Lent!  Next year…

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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…

 

 

 

Hiding (Deep) Inside

She’s inside of me.  I know it.  I feel her whispering to come out when I see the people in the park in front of our house.  She was even louder this weekend as the Torréon marathon took place.  We stood on the corner as we walked back to our house and cheered.  Turned out, the taxi couldn’t really make it through the race route–and I was pretty happy about that.

Si, se puede!  I heard a girl on the sidelines yell, Vamos!  “You can do it!” “Let’s go!”  I joined in with the onlookers–clapping and quietly saying, “Good job!” Eventually, I gained my courage and began yelling earnestly in Spanish.  I gave high fives to the runners who held out their hands to me, and I cheered especially for the runners who looked like they wanted to quit.

A marathon here isn’t quite the same as the races I’ve participated in and observed in the States.  One of the best things about running a race is how you feel as strangers tell you how strong you are.  I remember quite vividly going to my siblings’ cross country and track competitions as a child.  They were both quite good, but my brother often would win.  I remember being so proud of him–and now I am even more proud because of a lesson that he taught me.

After the race was over for him as a competitor, it was far from over for him as a runner.  While other racers would collapse with their team or families–or perhaps jog a little to cool down–my brother would began walking back towards the course.  With each runner who came along, he would have words of encouragement.  “Just a little bit further!” he would say, “You only have about 100 yards!”  Sometimes, he would even jog the last bit with them again, helping them across the line.

I’ve been on the receiving end of his encouragement to keep one foot in front of the other, so I know how valuable those simple words are.  When I lived with him and his little family for a short 5 months,  he began his campaign to turn me into a runner.  I had no idea, or I may have protested more.  It started with just a tiny jog/walk.  While I had been active playing soccer and jogging during high school, the previous couple years couldn’t be described the same.  I remember that first day like it was yesterday:  It wasn’t even a half a mile–and I couldn’t do it.  I was winded.  I was out of shape.  I was exhausted.  I was embarrassed.  Joe never said a word about any of that.

Instead, he timed us.  And out we went again the next day.  This time, the goal was just to go a little further.  Time wasn’t the issue.  And the next day–the same.  He bought me a little notebook that week, and we began a journal together.  In the front, he drew a graph, “I am just going to go up to six miles,” he said, “but we probably won’t get there.  It’s just goes that far.”  I readily agreed, appreciating his consideration.  He encouraged me to write how I felt after each run, the time of day, how long the run was, where the run was, etc.

The following months he would (almost daily) ask, “You want to go run?”  When I would groan or make excuses, he would say, “Well, you can stay here–but I am going to go run if you want to come too.”  I couldn’t refuse him!  He cajoled me into running the same way my mom could guilt me into doing household chores.  They would both tell you that wasn’t their intention, but maybe that’s why it works!

Little by little, our runs became longer.  But never easier–not really.  Because my brother is a runner–but he has the heart of a teacher.  He could sense when I needed a real break.  He could sense when I needed a challenge.  And never was there a run without words of encouragement.  He added speed drills (on hills), and cross-country trails (through grassy neighborhoods).  He taught me how to hold my body while running down hills to avoid stitches, he helped me concentrate on my breathing, and occasionally, we would sing cadences on a particularly difficult hill (dubbed Killer Hill).

By the end of the summer together, we ran six miles (sneaky, sneaky) in under 10 minutes a mile.  This was amazing.  That first 1/2 mile took me over 15 minutes (18 if my memory serves me correctly).  We ran–and never did I use music.  I had my brother to help me along…

My brother turned me into a runner.

I wish I could say that I kept up his training.  Because every time I think of running–I know it’s going to be like that first week in Omaha. Horrible.  Awful.  Discouraging.  But, because of those months with my brother, I know that it will get better.  I will get faster.  And I can do it.

Sometimes I think of how much I hate it–I mean, really!  I don’t want to go run–that’s why I am thinking of 15 other things to do!  Then, the jog is over, and I feel accomplished.  And I hear my brother’s voice in my ear the whole time, “You can do it, Nino!  Just jog to that light pole.  Now, everything you got all the way home!  It’s all downhill–let your body carry you there!” 

She’s in there.  And she’s coming out soon.  No, not my baby, but that runner that has been a lazy bum for the last two years.  Sigh.

Date Night

One of our favorite things to do here is go to the movies.  I know that isn’t a surprise to most of you, but last night we really roughed it.  We didn’t go VIP.

What’s a VIP movie?  Sigh.  Perfection.

Okay, you know how in the United States the movie price is now an arm and a leg?  If you want to see a movie with a date–you better make it a matinee, or you’ll be paying two arms and two legs.  Forget snacks–you’ll want to smuggle some candy and a bag of cold microwavable popcorn from home in your over-sized bag.   Your soda might blow up when you open it from all the shaking in the bottom of your bag–and be quite when you do that… No one needs to know you were too cheap to buy snacks at the cost of a fine dining experience.

Well, welcome to Mexico and movie heaven:

First of all, you have two options: the cheap route and VIP.  The cheap movies are theatres like we have in the States.  Stadium seating, get your food before you enter, etc.  The cost is about three dollars.

VIP movies are what you want though…

You pay about $6.50-7.00  for the VIP experience.  You are in a separate area of the theater.  The decor changes immediately, and you may feel lost.  While you’re thinking of where you should go, have a seat in the lounge area.  Have a cocktail or something to eat to clear your head.  And when you buy your tickets–you get to reserve your seats.  Oh! your seats!  Erase ideas of those uncomfortable regular movie chairs… You have a leather recliner!  They are grouped in twos–and on each side is a little table.  Should you get chilly in the theatre, feel free to request a blanket.  It will be delivered to you shortly.

On top of the table is a menu–because soon, a server shows up at your seat to take your order.  You might choose to go the regular route with some popcorn or soda, but don’t be hasty!  You can have hot cocoa, cafe style drinks, crepes, freshly made sushi  etc.

Just a word of warning, should you choose to get a hotdog–all the condiments will be delivered to you.  And if you happen to accidentally spill the jalapeno peppers/juice in your lap, it won’t soak into your seat.  So if your inner thighs start burning halfway through the movie, extra napkins should be requested.  I mean, surely that would never happen, but just in case…

My Ah-Ha! Moment

Yesterday my nephews were sitting at the table arguing.  Because I am 1) nosy and 2) a teacher I stuck an ear out first to listen.  Umm hmmm…intervention needed.  They were playing Monopoly, but they were missing 1) one die 2) a Pennsylvania Railroad Property Title (no one was allowed to buy it in their version) 3) the rules 4) me.  I helped solve all of those problems.

I remember playing Monopoly for days when we were younger.  My brother had this friend (on whom I had the biggest crush), and they would play for weeks.  The games never ended–they would just pick up where they left off the next time Sam came over to our house (This was probably because we didn’t have a TV–they also spent a lot of time exploring the woods outside).  Occasionally we were allowed to disturb the saved game, and we would play a family game of Monopoly.

Keep in mind, this is not that new-fangled Monopoly game.  Some third graders were playing that in Mexico, and I was appalled.  Gone is the money.   Gone is the adding, the subtracting, the math.  It’s basically a teacher’s nightmare.  They have credit cards for crying out loud!  Sigh.  What’s the matter with this world we’re living in?

Well, let me tell you:  I think I know why Mom hates this game.  Who in the world would make a game about real life?–and not the parts we enjoy about real life!  Forgive me if you’ve played the game recently, but I must rehash:  You pay income tax.  You pay utility bills.  You pay fees for everything under the sun.  Granted, the game is based on the idea that you “buy” property.  When people land on your property, they must pay “rent.”  Therefore you can also earn money, but if your nephew owns three railroads, you must pay a lot of rent…

Like the real game of life, I lost when it came to accruing property and money.  Turns out that even the board game likes to leave me broke.  Go figure.  I believe I will follow my mom’s example, and avoid future games of Monopoly.  That is, I will until I really CAN collect $200 just for coming back to where I started–and taking off again.

Cades Cove Fun (Family Vacation Day Seven)

 

I remember making trips to Cades Cove when we were younger.  We would pile gingerly place our bikes in the back of Daddy’s truck, and head up to the Smoky Mountains.  It is understood that in order to see the most wildlife–and beat all the traffic–you must leave at the crack of dawn.

We failed.

I blame this on several factors: 1)  My brother took a shower that seemed to last forever.  2)  I wanted to stop for a biscuit.  3)  Early morning Starbucks is hard to resist.

When we finally arrived to Cades Cove, the parking lot was full.  We had decided that we would rent the bikes to complete the eleven mile bike loop.  Unfortunately, we didn’t count on one small hang-up.  See, the information on the website says that they rent bicycles to all ages.  My six year old nephew was just a wee bit too small for the bike they had for him.  And bikes with training wheels aren’t rented for the loop.

I willingly stayed behind with him to bike the camp ground instead…

As we passed campers in tents and rather large monstrosities, he waved and said, “Hello!”  Most of the campers were rather friendly, and even if they weren’t–I don’t think he would notice.  He did, however, notice every single squirrel.  And he stopped at every stop sign.  We loaded his cargo pockets with the keys to the car and my money.  He was quiet a sight:  A tee shirt proclaiming, “What happens in Pre-K, Stays in Pre-K!”, cargo pants sagging under the weight of change and keys, and a perky smile!

Before my sister headed out, I handed her the backpack I had brought along.  It was complete with a water bottle and a box of Band-aides/Neosporin.  Yeah, I know.   I blame that on being a teacher.  Turns out that it wasn’t for naught.  When the kids and adults arrived back to the meeting spot, we heard that my oldest niece became quite adept at wrecking.  As we enjoyed our ice creams, Landon (my riding partner), was stung on the face by a bee.

Over all, it was a success!  The kids exclaimed the need for a repeat excursion next time they come to Tennessee.  I have a feeling that won’t be an issue…

 

Rainy Day Fun (Family Vacation Day Five)

Well, it’s my oldest niece’s birthday, and in preparation last night we made a cake.  A big cake.  A thirteen layer cake.  My niece is thirteen, and this was her request.  What kind of aunt would I be if I refused to attempt a 13 layer cake?  A smart one…

Actually, it looks pretty cool (and tastes delicious!).  We added food coloring to half of the layers, and the kids helped stir it in.  The cake is a simple white cake, and in between are layers of cooked strawberries and butter-cream icing.  Que rico!  How rich (or yummy)!  I had a bit of a problem assembling the cake–and had to rely on my trusty sidekick, Mama.  Mostly she tends to calm me down and offer solicited advice.

After a delicious lunch of chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, and homemade rolls (Yes, I did say lunch…) the kiddos were herded outside to play.  In the rain.

Mama about had a conniption fit when she found out that a resourceful group of seven grandsons had turned on the water hose to aide them in the building of a canal in her gravel driveway.  Quickly she did what any other reasonable grandmother would do:  She directed them to fill in the canal, and take their waterworks to the red clay.  She then joined them in dragging her bare-feet in the mud to make gullies  for the rainwater to gather.  Abuelita mejor!  Best Grandmother!

Soon after the kids Mom and the kids played in the mud, they began washing off.  I think it at least started that way…  Anyone who knows my mom knows that she has this thing about water fights.  This turned out to be a water fight of epic proportion.  She (of course) was armed with the water hose, and the kids were trying to get their hands on anything they could that would hold water.  My nephew, Landon, was filling up a bucket with water that he first emptied from the wagon to the pool–then from the pool to the bucket.  He was sneaking up on the porch to get Jenny.

The natural progression was a mud-fight, followed by another cleaning.  After the cleaning Mama stood at the Slip and Slide and kept the water going for the kids.  (Keep in mind that it has been sprinkling the whole time…)

The kids were dried and changed.  The clothes were collected to be washed.  The children (and adult, Mom) began to calm down…

Ahhh…another exciting day at the Blakley house.  This is way better than Dollywood could ever be!

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.