Monday, June 25, 2012

Time is Growing Short...

A week from now I’ll be gone from here…This is the week I say goodbye to Laredo, TX.

As departure day gets closer I’ve become ridiculously sentimental. I have even been known to get misty eyed as I put groceries in my cart at H.E.B. Oh, how I love H.E.B! Not just the store itself but I always see friends, hear Latino music and experience the local vibe here in an everyday sense.  I love this part of my life, where I feel like I blend in and get treated like everyone else.  

Oh… Laredo, my friends, my family here (not blood relatives) - my heart aches and I’ve not been gone a day yet!  I love so many of you, so many things about this place. I’m forever grateful to God for my nine years in Laredo, TX! Nine years!!!! What a treasure you will always be to me. I will not forget you. You are mine, mine, mine…

Laredo hasn’t always been easy though. I remember the time we had some crazy neighbors in Plantation, a few monumental battles with UISD teachers/administrators, some near death experiences on the road during Paisano season, wanting to pull my hair out over the numerous blunders at a few of the doctor’s offices here… and last but not least- the horrendous problem with nepotism that hobbles just about every public and private office/business in this city (Laredo, you can do better!).

Despite those ugly parts of life here, the good far outweighs the bad. Therefore, I’m likewise compelled to share some of the sights I might see on a nearly daily or weekly basis over the last nine years. In case you're curious, here are a few pictures that show you my world -in no particular order:

  • The paleta man and his cache of frozen treasures- melon, coco, sandia, and of course… mango! Paletas are Mexican Popsicles but are made with real fruit.  The Paleta Men are local heroes who brave tremendous heat in order to deliver frozen fruit pops to everyone they can before they  run out for the day. Paletas are $1 typically and well worth it. 

  • Talavera bowls and Mexican tiles. 

  • Nopales y tuna (aka... prickly pear cactus and "tuna" is what we call the fruit, or the pink part seen here)

  • Amazing athletes that play soccer like pros (kids included! Futbol is an AMAZING sport in this town)
  • Laredo’s amazing tacos- Number one reason to visit Laredo!!! This place has tacos that will bring you to your knees!

  • Corn On a Cup... No, I did not write that incorrectly. People here also "get off of the car".

  • Sunsets from the HEB Plus parking lot. This is not an actual photo from that exact location but it is a beautiful shot of a Laredo sunset. 

Here's another off of the same Loop 20 - breath taking sunsets here!

Heatwave Berler... the most enthusiastic man about 100 degree weather that you'll ever meet! 

  • Mariachi bands!!!  This was  a group of high school mariachi bands that met for a world record session in Laredo, but you can find a number of wonderful groups all over town. On the north side you can usually find them at Taco Tote or Taco Palenque on Friday night. Mariachis maintain a beautiful tradition in South Texas.  

  • Very pointy cowboy boots.

  • Sunday brunch at La Posada Hotel. (I think they stopped serving Sunday Brunch but you can set outside and enjoy margaritas and tacos anytime)

    • The way people smile and try to pretend they don’t notice my poor Spanish pronunciations (in the photo is my friend, Lily, who was almost a pro at hiding her smile when I messed up in Spanish). 

  • Green jays and other amazing birds in our unique landscape. Laredo is well known to bird watchers for the many beautiful and sometimes endangered bird species that winter here. 

  • Mr. Foster, a local legend/choir director. Thank you, Mr. Foster for all your amazing work with the UHS Choir.  You truly made a difference and your hard work does not go unnoticed! 

  • The smell of carne asadas coming from neighbor’s backyard.

  • The Monte.  This part of Texas is called Scrub Country. Huisache and mesquite trees are short,  the cacti are profuse and there is a lot of clay dirt and rocks in between. Almost every plant in this part of the country has serious thorns. Trust me when I tell you, well hidden rattlesnakes, javelinas, white tail deer and coyotes fill this landscape. It took me a while but I learned to think of this as a beautiful place.  

  • The awesome views from La Bota, Laredo Stepping Stones, and The Holy Spirit Retreat Center. This one is a photo of the Holy Spirit Retreat Center, run by the community of St. John.

  • Laredo’s Farmer Market in Jarvis Plaza (website here will tell you more!)

  • The yogurt nieve at La Palatera, Springfield/Calle Del Norte.

  • Kumar and Monica Matani and their amazing bead store at Santa Maria/Zaragoza- shopping in El Centro!

  • The awesome plays and musicals at LCC and TAMIU, also the Laredo Philharmonic.

And the plays/musicals....

  • Citrus trees! 

  • Pozole with cabage and lime on top.

(Why yes... I do realize there is a theme going on here, it's just that the food is seriously amazing down here!)

  • Mexican candies and mangonadas. Thank you, Cynthia... Sweet and Sour does have the BEST ones in town!

  • Hearing doves outside my window every morning.

  • Making tamales with dear friends!  (thank you, Gloria!!)

  • Neighborhood Chihuahuas… every street here seems to have one or two. And yes, some of them are dressed up the max! The one on my street isn't nearly this cute, though.

  • Mexican Birthday parties!!!!!  Sorry, gueros... you can not compete!

So, we aren't going to know where we are going for a while but we do know this... We love the place and the many people we leave behind. Thank you, Laredo, TX.... it's been great to be included and made a part of the big family.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Packing Peanuts

Since we’ve reawakened our family’s need to blog I can tell you that writing has been the last thing on my mind. I’ve got work… lots of work to do. I plan to write quite a bit once we get to Virginia but I’ve had lots going on, piles to level, mounds of crap to sort through and favorite finds to pack away. I won’t bore you with the current list but let me just say this…Holy smokes me and my family are bloated with material goods!  And to think that Sean and I used to be good at moving! How on earth did we do this over a weekend’s time all those years before?  Did I get old?  No… we had less STUFF!

Those who know us well can verify that Sean and I took our sweet time to grow roots and settle down in one place, but when we did… we took sick delight in filling every nook and cranny of our beautiful home with stuff!  Cool stuff. Not junky stuff. Every drop of it quality and “valuable”- so much so that it just seems wrong to give or throw these things away, for example- my white trash bag filled with packing peanuts. That bag full of love has taken me a long time to grow and gather over the years. I’ve saved every handful of those crunchy squiggles out of warmly welcomed packages over the years.  I found my treasure under a bag full of old unused sweaters (because I’ve lived in a blasting HOT desert for nine years now) in the corner of my utility room. It took some soul searching but I decided let the bag of packing peanuts go.
I simply love a big bag full of potential like that. I placed a $4 sticker on the bag and tossed it into my Garage Sale pile. A true bargain! It’s comforting to know others see these things as a source of joy as well:

Well, it seems the folks at my garage sale weren’t nearly as convinced. Several ladies picked up this amazing treasure and  rifled through the bag as if there was a hidden goodie waiting to be discovered at the bottom. When they had finished pawing through the bag they would look around, confused and simply toss it back to the ground in disgust. Not a single one of them found the same value and joy I do in owning a big bag filled with recycled packing materials… really?  Sean gathered it up along with the kids old shoes, tons of books and lots of other things I found pretty cool and worth keeping before I had to decide what I would really really need in the next five years and took them to our favorite charity here in Laredo- Volunteers Serving The Need.

 It’s just that all this stuff has to go somewhere. Some of it will be given away but the rest of it will be packed up and will move with us- somewhere in the world.  All the stuff that moves with us is being stacked up in my garage- slowly.  Eventually, I will sort that stuff into three new piles- the long term storage pile, stuff that will be shipped to us eventually, and the more immediate stuff we must have when we arrive in Falls Church.

So… more to come from me in the near future but for now I’m knee deep in the hard work of deciding what to do with all of this stuff.