Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rescue Mission

Today my co-workers and I served lunch at the El Paso Rescue Mission. In lieu of exchanging gifts for the holidays we decided it would be nice to give some of our time to the community. I was blown away by the experience and the people I met. I am very happy that the borderland has this mission as a resource. The mission has around 80 people on their roster currently that they provide services for. I was especially happy to learn about their rehabilitation program which provides housing and career opportunities to those overcoming addictions. It was awesome to see such things but after we left I was touched by something completely different, and extremely unexpected.

The mission is located smack dab on the US/Mexico border, just steps away from The Border Highway. You could spit and it would land in Juarez. I became overwhelmed with the idea of what it would be like to grow up on the other side of that line in the sand, where the only things that separate you from opportunity are some green and white SUVs, a piece of paper and a whole lot of politics.

I imagined what it would be like to grow up in Anapra, with the Asarco Towers and a poorly constructed fence being the only things blocking the view of The University of Texas, and this Rescue Mission that welcomes the poor, the hungry and the homeless. I imagined what it would be like to dream of having an education and all the opportunities that the US provides, and it all being so close you can almost taste it. I imagined what it would be like to be a little kid, living in a cardboard house, looking to the US with a fire in my eyes... pining after a better life.

That is REALLY what blew me away today. The borderland really is a land of it's own, with so many rare triumphs and tribulations that the rest of America never really thinks about. It's a weird position I am in. One foot in the US, one foot in Mexico. It's a lot to take in and evaluate. Every day I seem to learn something new and I really hope that's a trend that continues.

After today I became even more thankful for the card I have been dealt in this lifetime. I hope that one day, some of those kids I saw today, staring longingly over that fence, will get their chance at the life they have always dreamed of; the life that I was lucky enough to be born into. I also hope that one day, I can pay it forward.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Guisado del Patron

For those who are not familiar with Filiberto’s Mexican Food restaurants, let me school you. Filiberto’s is, in my opinion, the king of all Berto’s restaurants. In Arizona you have your Julioberto’s, Humberto’s, Eriberto’s, Aliberto’s, Alberto’s, Rolberto’s, Roberto’s, Roliberto’s etc, etc, etc. I could keep going but you get the idea. These restaurants are somewhat of a cross between Mexican fast food, like Taco Bell, and an actual sit-down Mexican restaurant. They are always open 24 hours a day and have a drive-through window.

I grew up with these restaurants, although the favorite of my high school was actually called Amado’s (formerly Armado’s, formerly Armando’s) and not a member of the Berto family at all. The joke around school was that each time they failed a health inspection, the restaurant was sold to a different family member and the name was changed. I don’t doubt that the rumors were actually true.

Regardless, Filiberto’s is something I really miss about Arizona. It was a great place to go at 2 or 3 in the morning after a late night out, or for a filling lunch when you only had 5 bucks, or the place to go at noon when you had a horrible hangover from the night before. No hay nada que te quite la cruda mejor que un burrito tamano de tu cabeza. There are tons of great things on the menu, but Fili B’s is most famous for it’s burritos. If you look at their menu, you can see that they have tons of delicious options, but my favorite isn’t even on the menu. Gordo's favorite isn't listed either. I am only assuming but I think this might be because they don’t serve these particular burritos in California or New Mexico.

My husband’s favorite is called the Burrito Arizona and has steak, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and cheese. He is a meat and potatoes kind of guy I suppose. My favorite is the Burrito Patron. It should really be called Burrito de Dios. But whatever, I didn’t pick the name. It has steak, ham, bacon, onions, jalapenos, tomatoes and cheese. Guess who’s made a version of their favorite burrito for dinner tonight? =)

There is no science to this recipe, and the quantity of ingredients is really irrelevant because the mere combination of these particular meats and veggies is heavenly; the rest is just details. Because they don’t sell 20 inch tortillas in Mexico (to those who weren’t aware, burritos in Mexico are TINY) I didn't actually make huge Fili B style burritos. Instead I made more of a guisado, which literally means stew in Spanish. I don’t personally consider this a stew, but it’s really what they would call it here in Chihuahua. To me it’s more of a Mexican stir fry of meats and veggies.

I never made this when I lived in the US because Filiberto’s was always just around the corner. I have always used pulpa for the beef although I have no clue what pulpa even is. All I know is that it’s beef that always comes pre-cut into little bite sized pieces, and since I am lazy, pulpa it is! One less thing to cut… I suppose if I was in the US, any cut up steak would work. Maybe chuck to keep it affordable?

As for the ham, I am a bit picky. I cannot stand the overly processed, lunch meat taste, so I buy actual slices of a whole cut ham. This package was actually purchased in El Paso. I have made this before with ham that I bought at Soriana, I just had to be very careful to specify that I did not want “jamon de pavo” and that it needed to be cut in “rebanadas super gruesos.” As with bacon, I will probably always prefer to buy it in America.

Here is the recipe that I typically use, but the quantities are approximated as they always vary based on what I have on hand. Usually I would use equal parts beef and ham, but it doesn’t always work out that way. For example, tonight I have a lot of ham, but not even a half kilo of carne. Don’t worry though, it always tastes good. I promise, it is the best combination ever.

Guisado del Patron

1 lb. beef (pulpa, chuck, flank steak, whatever) chopped into bite sized pieces
1 lb. ham, chopped
½ lb. bacon, chopped
1 whole onion, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 whole jalapeno with veins and seeds, diced
Salt, to taste


In a large skillet, cook beef until no longer pink and then drain and set aside. I usually just leave it in the colander until I am ready for it. Rinse and dry skillet. Use the same skillet to fry bacon until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. Leaving the bacon drippings in the pan, add ham and cook until heated through and slightly browned. Then add onions and jalapenos and cook until the onions are translucent and the jalapenos are tender. Then return the beef and bacon to the skillet. Finally, add in the tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt to taste (lightly because of the sodium content in the ham and bacon) and mix thoroughly. Continue to cook until heated through.

Serve with warm tortillas and cheese or crema if desired. This should render 4 very generous servings.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Losing Limones

My husband called me this afternoon to tell me that one of his co-workers was found dead along with his wife and two young children. This time around, it had nothing to do with the violence of Juarez; they died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Details can be found in this story in today's issue of the El Paso Times. My husband said that what was left out of the article is that they left their propane powered heater and their gas stove on to keep warm as temperatures dropped into the teens Monday night.

The young man, who everyone called Limones, was well known as the resident jokester at the maquila. He worked in the line next to my husband's. Gordo said Ruben was always in a good mood. He had tons of friends and could always cheer you up with his humor. When anyone wanted a good laugh, all they had to do was listen to Limones for a bit.

Today I would like to give my sincere condolences to the friends and family of Ruben Limon, you are in our hearts and minds. I would also like to warn everyone not to use their propane heaters at night. I know these heaters are a popular go-to in Mexico because of the price of natural gas or electric alternatives, but please, please be careful. Bundle up, sleep together, pile on the blankets, but never use your propane heater at night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Life Lessons in Juarez

It's snowing here in Juarez. It's been snowing for a few hours now and it's pretty impossible to forget last year's winter. We had no heater, I was inventing crap in the house alone to stay warm. Maybe you remember the rice sock? I sure do! I swear it was colder because my husband was working second shift and I was all by my lonesome every night. I think there is much to be said about body heat.

There were nights that were so cold, ice formed on the walls inside and I was compelled to call my mother asking such things as, "How do you know it's cold enough, that you just won't wake up?" I know this may sound silly and exaggerated to some in the Northern US, but when houses aren't equipped for such cold, it makes a big difference. There is no insulation in the homes in Juarez and pipes are buried mere inches beneath the Earth, if not above ground. At one point we spent 8 days in a row without running water and a few without electricity.

And so this year, with a husband working days and an old-school heater in the mix, I feel disgustingly grateful. We purchased this 20 year old Solmatic gas heater for 250 pesos.

I really thought it was older based on the looks and mechanics of it, but after some Googling, I see that it's from about 1992. Yes, we had to purchase a carbon monoxide detector, and no we cannot have it on while we sleep, but this is a HUGE improvement from last year. I am only wearing 2 sweaters as I type this.

And so I get to what this post is really about. A couple of years ago, prior to moving to Juarez, I read that some 30% of the inhabitants of this city do not have access to running water, electricity or gas. I am assuming the majority of this statistic come from the outskirts and areas such as Anapra. I don't know the validity of the statistic (then or now) but after living here for over a year, it doesn't sound far-fetched. Now that I have seen such things, and experienced such a winter, how can I not feel eternally grateful for the warmth I feel in this moment?

Even in the midst of my misery last year, I was in a far, far better situation than many, if not most of the people in this world. I cannot imagine how the people of Anapra and other colonias of the like are fairing tonight with this weather. I hope and pray that they are okay. And for all of my blessings, I would like to thank God. I would like to thank Him for my situation and for the lessons I have learned in this experience. I do not regret a single second of this new life, and I wouldn't take back a thing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

'Tis the Season

Spiritually, this has been a year of exploration and self-discovery for my husband and I. We are both baptized Catholics, yet never really identified with the Church. Neither of us find it absolutely necessary to put labels on our beliefs, but I recently found the appropriate label if I were to do so for myself. And as much as my suegra would be disappointed, it’s not Catholicism. And so for the past week, I have had an internal debate as to whether or not to put up the Christmas decorations. I say internal because I wouldn’t dare tell my husband that religion had anything to do with why the tree didn’t go up the day after Thanksgiving. He would just get annoyed and tell me to stop thinking about things so much.

For us, Christmas is a time to be with family and friends, and celebrate those relationships. It is a time where we remember what God has given us, and take extra time and consideration to appreciate it. It is a time when we relax just a little bit more and enjoy seasonal foods and traditions. I don’t want to be the one “taking the Christ out of Christmas,” but I am still struggling to determine what exactly I believe. That uncertainty has brought me a lot of guilt recently but I am beginning to see that it's unnecessary. After a lot of thought, I decided that it’s okay to put up the decorations, even if I don’t have a concrete reason behind it. At the end of the day, traditions are good and faith is good and we’ve got plenty of that at the Cruz house, even if the principals behind them are not always black and white.

Here are some pictures of this years decorations. I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far!

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's the Little Things

There are about a million reasons why I love Juarez, but most of them are little things.

It's a cold, rainy night here with snow in the upcoming forecast. After a long night of YouTube and karaoke and Tecates, my husband and I were ready to grub. And so we walked with umbrellas to the closest street vendor. As we waited for our food, we listened to Everclear (yes, that Everclear) which is the CD the vendor was listening to. He grilled our burgers on a charcoal grill and topped them with onions, tomatoes and jalapenos that he had roasted and sliced right in front of us. $3.57 US. If the price and deliciousness wasn't enticing enough, there was the fact that I am legally out and about with my best friend. I don't care where we are. It's yummy.

Okay... so maybe the picture doesn't look that amazing. But hey, it's almost 11 o'clock, and life sure feels amazing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks To 070

Am I really going to do the cliché thing with this Thanksgiving blog? Hell yes. That's how I roll. I love Thanksgiving. I am all about family, traditions, food, history, giving thanks and immigration; To me, these are the things Thanksgiving is all about.

Today at work we had a little pre-Thanksgiving barbeque. In true El Paso style we had carne asada, carnitas, tortillas and salsa. The event ended with everyone saying what they are thankful for, which is my favorite part of Thanksgiving. It was pretty much the consensus that what we are all most thankful is our jobs, and rightfully so. I feel more than certain that I work for one of the best companies out there. It was built by a family with hope and ethics and determination, like many. But what is rare is that it is still run with those same values, over 75 years later.

When I started my job search in El Paso, a few weeks prior to my impending move to Mexico, the first company I looked into randomly came to mind. This is a company who's corporate offices are in Arizona, so I was familiar with the name. My Dad had mentioned it on many occasions over the years since I had gotten into the industry, because they also have offices in El Salvador. When I think back to the day that I first looked at their website and saw they were hiring in El Paso, I always want to laugh. It seemed like it was fate that they were hiring for the exact position I was looking for. I was excited, to say the least. If I had even a slightest idea of what was in store for me, I would have cried myself to sleep with joy that evening.

I work with the best, most interesting, determined and hardworking people out there. The friendships I have made in the last year are those that some people can only dream of. I cannot even begin to explain how blessed I feel when I think about it all, and about my co-workers. Getting into line at the bridge every morning is discouraging, to say the least. This company, and these people make me excited to get in that line. And being that most of them are natives to the area, they seem to understand my struggle, and appreciate it. They make it all worth while. Waiting out my husband's ban doesn't seem like an impossible feat anymore. 2020 seems like it's right around the corner. Punto y fin.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just for Fun

I know I am always saying I need to blog more, and surprise, surprise... I still need to blog more. I can't make excuses and say I'm super busy, because I honestly have time. I just lack inspiration most of the time. And so, here is a little questionnaire moving around the expat blog circuit. Tara, Jennifer, and Lisa brought it to my attention. Without further adieu, here is a bunch or random crap you may or may not know about me!

What was the first thing I noticed of my husband's when I met him?

His University of Texas baseball cap, and the fact that he was ignoring me. I like a challenge. I don't know why, but that hat really stuck out to me. It's funny to me years later because we live in an area full of Longhorns fans, I kind of think this was all meant to be.

Where would I like to go on a honeymoon?

I can't say I've ever thought about that. My dreams and fantasies generally revolve around us being together, legally, in the US... Maybe Spain? Or Costa Rica?

Do I consider myself an adventurous person?

Not at all. I am a creature of habit. Spontaneity scares me.

Do you have a secret you've never shared with anybody?

No. At this point, I think I have told my husband everything, even all the things he wishes I would keep to myself.

Beach or pool?

I love to swim, but I would rather be at the beach, even though I don't like to swim in the ocean. Staring at the vast horizon is so humbling and really puts life into perspective.

Summer or winter?

Winter! Hands down, no questions asked.

Kisses or hugs?

Hugs. And by the way, I am not very cariñosa.

Sweet or salty?

Both! Give me chocolate covered pretzels, bacon and ice cream, ham and pineapple... I could never choose!

Strawberry or chocolate?


Black or white?

It's usually grey.

Favorite color?


Your favorite movie?

The Breakfast Club... "That's very clever sir, but what if there's a fire? I think violating fire codes and endangering the lives of children would be unwise at this juncture in your career, sir."

Your favorite table game?

Gin Rummy

What's your favorite drink?

Red wine

What is your favorite [alcoholic] beverage?

Ummm.... RED WINE.

Your favorite month?

December. I love the holidays, winter, spending time with family, eating, drinking and just generally being merry.

What's the first thing you think about when you wake up?

I've got to hurry so I can beat the crowds to the line!

Would you forgive infidelity on the part of your spouse?

Possibly. It would depend entirely on the circumstances. I do not personally (for me and my marriage) consider infidelity to be an "end-all" factor as I have made many mistakes with my husband in my immature "youth" and I know my love and intentions hoy en dia. I believe that people make mistakes that they may regret for a lifetime and I believe that people can change.

How many rings before you answer the phone?


Do you know how to keep secrets?


Do you tell your honest age?

Yes, although sometimes I forget how old I am. Last year my husband was reading an article about this blog in the newspaper and noticed that they had misquoted my age. Apparently I had given the wrong age in my interview... When I am asked my age it is pretty common that I think to myself, "Ummmm.... 2011 - 1984 = ?"

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

I am almost always extroverted but I definitely have my moments when I feel extremely shy and self-conscious (i.e. Zumba with a bunch of strangers) and my moments when I am very quiet and just don't feel like socializing (i.e. early morning after waiting 2 frustratingly long hours to cross into the US.)

What's under your bed?

Carpet! I swear I still can't get over the fact that we have carpet in our house and that it is in pretty good condition. I wasn't expecting to have that in Mexico!

Have you missed school or work due to the weather?

Absolutely! Growing up in Kansas City we had our fair share of snow days. And just last year the international bridges were iced over and closed so I couldn't get to El Paso for work.

How long have you had this blog?

15 months

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Dinner: Chipotle Pineapple Ribs

When the weather starts to cool down, my barbeque cravings inevitably follow. I attribute this to the hot Arizona summers I grew up with, and that knowing that come October, I just may be able to withstand the heat around the grill for longer than 30 seconds. For the past couple of days we’ve had temperatures with highs in the mid-60’s to lower 70’s and I’ve been itching to grill up some ribs.

Usually, when I make ribs, I prepare them 2 different ways. Half of the ribs get a traditional barbeque glaze (with my fave, Sweet Baby Ray’s), and the other half get smothered in a homemade salsa made of blended tomatillos, tomato, jalapenos, onions and garlic, which better suits my husband’s taste. This time around, we are going for something we both like which has become a family favorite over the years. Here we are, compromising again… although this time, it doesn’t feel like compromise at all.

About 5 years ago I decided to make Christmas dinner for my husband for the very first time. I knew from the get-go that the traditional ham glaze wasn’t going to work for him, so I went on the hunt for different recipes. I came across this baked ham recipe and it changed my world. Yes, food changes me. After some experimentation, I found that the glaze outlined above is much more involved than necessary and in my opinion, the chipotle/pineapple combination is bold enough on it’s own that there really isn’t a need to add any extra salt or spices. I have tweaked (and seriously simplified) the recipe over the years and make large amounts of the sauce during the holiday season because we love to have it with (leftover) ham and eggs after our Christmas and Easter dinners.

Super Simple Chipotle Pineapple Ribs

1 rack of pork spare ribs, cut St. Louis style (link for instructions below)
20 oz. can of pineapple in 100% pineapple juice
7 oz. can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
½ cup loosely packed brown sugar
Garlic salt & pepper to taste

After trimming them St. Louis style, cut the rack of ribs in half, sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper and put in your crock pot on low for about 8 hours. Carefully remove the ribs (they should be falling off the bone at this point) and transfer to a baking sheet. Throw pineapple, chipotle peppers and brown sugar in the blender and puree. The sauce is done! Top ribs with sauce and throw them (errr… carefully place) on the grill (or broil in the oven) until the sauce has caramelized and the ribs have developed a slight char. Carefully remove these from the grill (or baking sheet) and put them directly your plate. I don’t recommend bothering with a serving platter at this point, because they really do fall off the bone and with all that movement, you could quickly ruin your presentation.

There are a couple of things I would like to mention. I use pork spare ribs because they are so much cheaper than other cuts, and ever since I learned how to cut spareribs St. Louis style, I never went back to those pricey, baby back ribs. After trimming them St. Louis style, I still cook the scraps in the crock with the rest, but then set them aside to be shredded for pork tacos later on in the week.

Also, I think it is very important to point out that this recipe renders much more sauce than you will need to slather over your ribs. I probably only use 1 cup of sauce for the rack of ribs, but you should get about 4 cups of sauce from the above recipe. However, if you do it this way, there isn’t really any measuring involved (which the exception of the sugar) and you will have plenty left over to enjoy with your eggs in the morning. This sauce can be kept in the fridge for about 5-7 days and also freezes very well. I freeze the leftovers in half cup portions and use it for everything from topping our eggs at breakfast to a unique salsa for pork or chicken tacos.

The results of my invento:

I chose to serve these ribs with baked potatoes, roasted corn with grilled poblano chili strips and a salad. Of course I had to throw some tortillas on the comal for the Mr. as well. That’s a given.


This sauce made such an amazing addition to the rack of ribs; I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner! I wouldn’t change a thing. FYI, the chipotle pepper packs some serious heat, so if you are sensitive to spice, you might want to scale back to only use 1 pepper and about a teaspoon of the adobo sauce. You could also remove the seeds to make it a bit milder and/or add an extra ½ cup of brown sugar to balance out the effect of the chiles.

I enjoyed my dinner with one or 3 of these:

And, in celebration of Halloween, we’ll be following up la cena with this:

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I just wanted to update everyone on Lucy. She ended up having 5 puppies, despite the x-ray and the vet insisting that she would only have 2. Looks like it's time for a new vet?

On October 5th I was on my way to a parade that my work was in when my husband called to tell me that Lucy had 4 puppies while we were at work but one didn't make it. Of course I turned around and shot straight home. I was really worried that she might have problems with the births because she is just a little nugget. While he was telling me the story he started freaking out saying, "Tengo que colgar, tengo que colgar! Algo esta saliendo de la Lucy!!" And #5 was born. He said she didn't even make a sound as she delivered the pup. I'm not sure if that was because she is such a brave, strong girl, or if because after 4 births, the 5th is just like a fart. Who knows... Maybe Kate Gosselin will chime in?

I rushed home thinking about all the horrible things I had read that could happen to dogs while giving birth without assistance, and thought back to all the YouTube videos I watched over the last couple of months. I took so much time learning about everything, from how to help pull a pup out to how to cut the umbilical cord to when to let the dog have at the placentas and when to take them away. My husband told me I was nuts and that she was a dog that would be able to instinctually do it alone.

Of course he had to give some long speech about how in Mexico dogs don't go to the vet, and in Mexico dogs don't even get to sleep in the house and blah, blah, blah. Now I know that may be the case for many, but I don't care. Moving to Mexico isn't going to make me stop fretting over my doggies. No ifs ands or buts about it. But, when it came down to it he was right! She did every last bit on her own and didn't even leave the slightest mess.

The pups recently opened their eyes and started trying to crawl around. Soon we will be on the look out for people to adopt them. We've given them generic names and are trying our best not to get too attached. There's Patas, who has white feet, Raya, who has a white line on her chest, Gordo, who is the largest, and Chiquita, who is the youngest and by far the smallest. (Oddly enough she was the first to open her eyes!)

Hopefully it won't be too difficult to part ways and we will be able to find responsible owners. Cross your fingers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Dinner: "I wish I was at Rubio's" Tacos

I am a predictable woman. The most spontaneous thing I have done in life was move to Mexico, and I spent 2 years planning that. I was crazy enough as a teenager, so now I like life to be something I can easily control. I like traditions and mundane activities. I like that I rent a movie every Tuesday night while I drink wine and try to pretend it’s Friday and that I wear the same shirt to work every Friday. I like that I put an orange in the toe of the Christmas stockings every year because that’s what my mom did and that I make my husband cinnamon rolls every year on his birthday because he hates cake... What can I say? I’m a sucker for tradition.

Of all of our silly Cruz/Bonderer traditions, my favorite is Sunday Dinner. I cook quite a bit. It’s the one part of the “housewife” label that I can wear proudly. I don’t mop the floors, I sulk as I put away the laundry, I burn clothes when I try to iron them, and I don’t even know where we keep the Fabuloso, but damned if I don’t make sure my husband eats a homemade meal almost every night. I know I lucked out with a man who is willing to do all those other household chores. I try to suck it up and pull my weight, but I must admit that he easily does 3 quarters of the housework. I do make all of our meals and keep the kitchen clean… but the rest? Not so much.

Anyway, back to the food. I love to cook. I know my blogs here have been few and far between (due to lack of inspiration) and because I’ve always wanted to start a food blog, I figured I’d combine the two. After all, a big part of being a “real housewife” is feeding your family, right? I will be blogging each week about our Sunday Dinner. I hope everyone enjoys it, and based on responses to my Facebook posts about Sunday dinners, you just might. Now I should warn you, I am no Leslie Limon. I cannot say I know what I am doing, because even after several years of cooking for my husband, I still feel as though every meal is an experiment. I just cook things I like to eat and make crap up as I go along. Fortunately, my mom is always just a phone call away if I need to know how long to cook a certain cut of meat, or what a certain herb is used for.

I aim to try out new things for Sunday dinner, because I have more time on my hands than I do during the week, but I like to stay true to my Midwestern roots with classic stand-by entrees, like fried chicken or pork chops or barbeque ribs. Speaking of my beloved BBQ, I also have the added struggle of being married to a Mexican man who doesn’t like “sweets, salsa marinara, or barbeque sauce” among many other things. You probably won’t find spaghetti or barbeque chicken on my Sunday dinner menu. My husband's hatred of barbeque sauce is what really boils my Kansas City blood, but he likes what he likes. I wouldn’t eat lengua or pulpo if you paid me, so I can’t gripe about his preferences either.

I promise I will be honest about how things turn out. It isn’t always pretty. I can only remember one thing that my mother cooked that we all hated. It was what I refer to as the "Turkey Rice Incident of 1997". We all gave her a hard time, and joked with her for years after the fact, but it wasn’t that bad. I have many more “incidents” that are practically catastrophic because they usually involve undercooked meat. There was a particular incident in 2005 where I made fried chicken and when my husband bit into it, blood squirted out. Oops. With that being said, please do not make any of the recipes I may post until you read my "afterthoughts" section where I will post what I thought about the recipe and what I would change for next time. I can say I have been doing better in the last couple of years and have even been able to get a bit more adventurous with my menus without putting anyone in the hospital. Score!

Tonight, I am seriously wishing I could teleport us back to Arizona, so we could go to Rubio’s. The Mexican food here in Juarez is not anything like what I was used to in Arizona. I think Arizona has more influences from the Baja than they have here in Chihuahua, or even Texas for that matter. The Mexican food is good in Juarez and El Paso, but I have yet to be blown away, with the exception of The Corona Special from Julio’s Cafe Corona in El Paso.

So here I am, wishing I could have a delicious 2 taco plate from Rubio’s, more than I wish to be 5’10” like Cindy Crawford. It’s not happening folks. All I could do was dig through my taste bud’s memories and see if I could recreate a recipe that would slightly resemble the OH.MY.GODness of Rubio’s chicken tacos and beans. The menu’s brief description of the tacos that my husband and I always ordered is “Grilled chicken, fresh guacamole, jack and cheddar cheese, lettuce and salsa. Served on your choice of a soft corn or thick flour tortilla.” My love of Rubio’s was formed long before we ever moved to Mexico, and before I ever learned to appreciate the delicacy that is the corn tortilla. I used to be an harina fan, all the way. So tonight, I stuck with our old traditions and used flour tortillas as I attempted to recreate the euphoria that is a Rubio’s taco.

“I wish I was at Rubio’s” Tacos Recipe:

Chicken Marinade (recipe to follow)
2 chicken breasts
Guacamole (avocado smashed with lime juice, garlic & salt to taste)
Lettuce (I prefer Romaine but can’t find it in Mexico so I had to use Iceberg)
Jack/Cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top of each taco
Chipotle White Sauce (recipe to follow)
Small flour tortillas, about 5-6” in diameter
Tortilla chips
Beans to dip your chips in (recipe to follow)

Marinate chicken over night. Before you throw them on the grill, pound out the breasts until they are about ½” thick. Pound it with whatever works. Your fist or maybe a hammer? I used a rolling pin because I have yet to add a cool meat mallet to my kitchen utensil collection. I will confess that I have (even recently) used the hammer from my husband’s toolbox and, 2 Sundays ago, I used a 2 lb. dumbbell. Whatever works. I like to pound out chicken breasts before grilling because then more of the chicken gets those yummy, crystallized/charred bits, and it cooks faster, which is always a plus. Grill the chicken a tu gusto. Let the grilled chicken rest for about 5-10 minutes before you give it a rough chop. Heat the tortillas on a comal or in a skillet on the stove or over the grill that you used to cook the chicken. Spread the tortillas with a bit of guac and then add your grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and cheese. You can add salsa at this point (as my husband does) but I like to eat these tacos with just a bit of the Chipotle White Sauce.

Serve a small dish of beans to dip your tortillas chips in. We like to dip each chip in the beans, and then in the Chipotle White Sauce. Heaven.

Chicken Marinade Recipe:

½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp fresh cracked pepper

Mix all together in a Ziploc bag and add chicken to marinate as long as possible but no more than over night.

Chipotle White Sauce Recipe:

¼ cup Miracle Whip
¾ cup sour cream
2 chipotle chilis (in adobo sauce) + 1 tsp of adobo sauce
Juice of half a lime (use the other half for 2 tequila shots)
1 tbsp cilantro, finely diced
1 tsp Garlic salt
½ tsp onion powder

Add all ingredients to the blender and puree.

I have no clue what the Chipotle White Sauce from Rubio’s has in it, other than chipotle peppers (duh) and a bunch of chemicals (according to their website.) This recipe is my best guess. My husband and I had a lengthy debate as to whether or not I should use Mayonnaise or Ranch in this recipe and in the end, we compromised with Miracle Whip. For the record, I wanted to use ranch.

Bean Recipe:

1 lb dried pinto beans
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 tbps bacon drippings
Salt to taste

After sorting and rinsing, cook pinto beans in the crock pot for about 10 hours on low. I do not presoak the beans or add anything to the crock with the beans. I’m sure some people will think that’s nuts, but I add my seasonings after the fact. After the beans are cooked drain all of the liquid. Put beans in the blender and mix to desired consistency. Some people like their refried beans thicker (my husband) and some like them very thin (me.) I usually set aside about half a cup of the beans and add them after the rest is blended. The whole beans added to the pureed beans provide a texture that we can both be happy with. Put the bacon drippings in a pot large enough to hold the amount of beans you have and heat on a medium low heat. Once the drippings are melted, add your minced garlic and sauté until slightly golden. At this point add your blended beans to the pot. Mix thoroughly and salt to taste.

This is way more beans than you will need for dipping your chips in, but I make these a pound at a time and freeze the leftovers in sandwich bags with ½-1 cup of beans in each bag for future meals.

The results of my “invento” (as my husband calls my made-up recipes):


The biggest changes that I would need to make with this meal would be to the Chipotle White Sauce. In the future I will nix the Miracle Whip all together and use a whole cup of sour cream. I would only use 1 chipotle chili in adobo because using 2 turned the white sauce orange and didn't lend enough to the overall flavor for it to be worth changing the color. . Kind of ruins the title, don't ya think? I would also cut the salt in half and leave the lime juice for my tequila. It didn't do much for me in the sauce.

The chicken was delicious although next time I don't think I will pound out the breasts. The texture was a little off compared to Rubio's and I think that was attributed to my pounding them out.

I know it's hard to achieve that same restaurant taste at home, but I had to try. My husband scarfed down 4 tacos and said, "No era como Rubio's, pero sacaste un 10." And he's right. All in all, this was a really good, restaurant quality meal, but it was not Rubio's. I think making those changes to the chicken and sauce will make a big difference next time I make this.

For dessert we had pecan bars, which I am excited to say that my husband declared he loved more than cinnamon rolls or Edward’s Hershey Pies which are the only 2 desserts he thinks he likes in the world. I suppose I should take back my previous mention of cinnamon rolls on my husband’s birthday because it looks like he’ll be getting candles in a pecan pie from here on out. Although I like to cook, I cannot stand baking, so the pecan bars were made from a Krusteaz box mix. I did try to make a pecan pie years ago but it was such a disaster (as are most of my baking attempts) that it ended up in the trash. I think I still have the corn syrup in my pantry from that pathetic attempt. Yes, I even moved my pantry stash from the United States to Mexico. :psycho: Does corn syrup expire?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

I suppose I should start this blog by mentioning that my husband and I have been together for almost 7 years and have no children together, much to his despair. Hence, our pets have become like children to us, whether we'd like to admit it or not.

We have 2 dogs. Meeko, our Pomeranian, has been a part of the family for 3 years now and about a year and a half ago, Lucy, our Miniature Pinscher, was added to the mix. I never thought we could handle 2 dogs, but my husband fell in love with Lucy and he was determined to bring her home. She was one of his friends many dogs and was treated poorly by some of the children in the house. I now can't imagine what it would be like without her.

An American's view on pets can be very different from that of a Mexican's. Growing up, my family's dogs went to the vet, had their shots, slept in our beds and ate Iaam's and the occasional (forbidden by mom) table scrap. My husband's dogs lived outside their front door, didn't know what a collar was, and got a crusty old tortilla or maybe some left over beans if they were lucky. When we adopted Meeko and I promptly made an appointment for him to be neutered, my husband thought I was crazy. When I announced that I was taking him to the dentist to have 2 stubborn baby teeth pulled, he thought I had officially lost my mind. He didn't get it then, and I don't think he gets it now.

So when Lucy came into our lives, he firmly announced that she was HIS dog and no veterinarian would be doing anything with her teeth or her lady bits. Well, I don't think he said lady bits, but you get the drift. I was floored by the idea of not getting her spayed. It wasn't in my realm of understanding. I responded to his demands by going out and purchasing a package of doggie diapers.

"What the hell are these?"

"I think it's obvious babe."

"Seriously? Diapers for a dog?"

"Well, yeah, what do you think we are going to do when she goes into heat?"

"Heat? Oh... ummm... yeah."

See it never really crossed his mind that we weren't in Mexico, and Lucy didn't live on the street out front, and that things really were different. He didn't think about things like her making a mess all over the house every few months, or having to pay 10 times as much to register an un-spayed dog in the State of Arizona because that's just not something he worried about with his dogs growing up in Hidalgo del Parral. Fast forward to the present.

The first night we moved into our new house, we hadn't put screens on the windows yet. Also, this is our first house in Mexico that isn't entirely tiled, so we secluded the dogs to the first floor so they couldn't ruin the pretty beige carpeting that covers the stairway and the upstairs. I expected Lucy to cry that first night, being that she is a hardcore cuddle bug and it was the first night she wasn't sleeping with us. So when I heard to whining and barking I thought nothing of it. I thought I'd implement a little canine version of The Ferber Method and she would calm down eventually.

After a couple of hours I grew restless and asked that Gordo go check on Lucy. When he got downstairs, he realized why she was crying. She was outside! She had shimmied behind the entertainment center and jumped out the cracked window and couldn't figure out how to get back into the house. And yes my friends, Lucy was in heat that night. Of course at the time we just brought her inside, shut the window, felt a little guilty for letting her cry so long, and went back to sleep.

It took about a month for me to realize she was pregnant and Gordo doubted it. Her nips and laziness were what gave it away for me. At 49 days gestation I took her to the vet for x-rays. My biggest fear comes from the fact that we have no idea who she hooked up with (that doesn't sound right) and if it was a larger dog, she could have issues with the birth. The images from the radiografia somewhat calmed me. It appears that she is only having 2 puppies and they are relatively small. But whatever comes out is going to be like a Kinder Sopresa.

I'm as prepared as I can be. I've got 2 whelping boxes set up and a little kit ready with scissors, rubber gloves, a nasal aspirator, alcohol, string, clean towels, etc. I've watched every dog birth video on the internet. I've read the reproduction chapter of Manual Para El Cuidado del Perro to my husband no less than 3 times. The couches are covered with old blankets. Lucy's been licking them like crazy and hell if she thinks she's having these puppies on my pretty couches! Gordo thinks I'm going overboard.

"What's this string for?"

"To tie off the umbilical cord."


It's been 55 days since she jumped out the window and my husband finally believes that she is pregnant. And of course it wasn't the x-rays that changed his mind. Los Cruz don't believe in all that Western medicine crap. Bring on the spells, bring on the brujas! Actually, when I showed him the x-rays, with the clearly defined spinal cords and rib cages of 2 dogs, he said, "I just don't see it." No, the x-ray didn't convince him. He finally believes me because Lucy is enormous. I feel horrible for her. She won't go on a walk anymore and when I took her outside to use the restroom this morning, she did her business, took 2 steps to get away from her business, and then practically collapsed in exhaustion. Poor girl. "This is all your daddy's fault," I tell her.

"Hey baby, if you thought cutting the umbilical cord was gross, wait till you watch Lucy eat a placenta."

"QUE?!" (Oh he's listening now, isn't he?)

"Yeah, you heard me right. Placenta. P-L-A-C-E-N-T-A."


"And make sure she doesn't eat more that one. She'll get diarrhea"


"Gordo, now do you see why we should have had her spayed?! Didn't you ever pay attention to Bob Barker?"



Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Schedules

I got the best news ever last week. Well, maybe not as good as having my son living with me, or a green card for my husband, but as good as it gets in this life I live. Awesome news. My husband finally got switched to day shift. I know I haven't really talked about it in the blog, but this schedule was eating me alive. I never saw my husband. I am gone for work from 5:00am-6:00pm. It's a long day in itself. What has made it worse is that my husband left for work at 2:45pm and came home at about 12:45am.

At first it was fun. I was so excited that he was working because those 5 months when he wasn't were rough, to say the least. He had lost his motivation to succeed, second guessed the decision to move to Mexico, and drove me completely insane. So when an opportunity finally came up for work, I considered it a gift from God. I didn't care that he was earning $1 US an hour, he seem revived, proud and productive. He had reconsidered his place in this world. It is impressive and dramatic really; what a low-paying, back-breaking job in a third world country could do and did for him emotionally is indescribable.

Only a month or so later our "Mexico fund" ran out. Everything we had saved, for almost 2 years, while planning our move was gone. With our accounts depleted we realized what was important. The logistics of my El Paso salary surfaced and it was finally time for us to adjust to my 30% (and my husband's 90%) salary decrease. Suddenly, the $50 US he brought home each week became a huge deal. Sure the cost of living is lower in Mexico but we still have several bills in the US such as medical and auto insurance as well as student loans. My checks are now gone the day I receive them and we depend on his check for groceries, gasoline, etc. The importance of his job became quickly and ridiculously apparent. And so his inconvenient schedule had become just that, an inconvenience. It wasn't a "make or break" factor for us.

After about a week the novelty of having my "alone time" wore off. About two months in we had encountered about 15 instances where his schedule affected our daily activities, such as car repairs or bill paying and something as simple as him getting a haircut became difficult. We only have 1 car. 3 months in we were dying for a day shift. It wasn't so much the little details that bothered us, but we never saw each other. Ever. That's no marriage, in my humble opinion. I may catch some back lash for saying this because I know I have readers that never see their spouses (due to immigration issues), but for us in particular, that is not a long-term option. In our eyes, if we weren't ever going to see each other, this whole move made no sense. I began to wonder why I was even living in Mexico. If we were only going to see each other once a week, why didn't I live in the US and commute to Mexico on Saturdays for visits?

Upon inquiring he was told that he needed to wait until he had been with the company for at least a year, or find someone who was willing to switch shifts with him. After about 4 months of digging, he was able to find a man whose wife was pregnant and was longing to spend time with her during the day. In the end, after quite a bit of struggle and paperwork, they ended up switching shifts. My husband now works 6am-3:30pm. I even drop him off at work in the morning. At this point, with the schedules we have and the companies we work for, I couldn't be happier.

Everything is falling into place for us here in Juarez and I am amazed to see that, over a year later, I have yet to regret our decision to move here. Now I just have to figure out how to get Mr. Cruz in bed by 9:00pm!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What does your Facebook Status say about you?

They say your Facebook Status updates say a lot about who you are as a person. I have really read into this more and more recently as I become increasingly more annoyed with some of the things I read. Some people have no clue how draining their negativity is on Facebook. This is a relatively new problem/debate as social networking such as Facebook and MySpace is still pretty new; it still hasn't been super popular for more than what, 10 years now? They haven't had time to write too many self-help books on the topic. Anyway, I decided I better stop pointing fingers and take a look at myself for a change. Here are my status updates, without editing, since I got my internet back just over a week ago:

Who else misses Baywatch?

My husband cleaned the whole house for me today!! Not unlike him but not common on a Monday! Gracias Raymundo Cruz! Eres lo mejor...

Just sitting here thinking about it, and, the killer in me really IS the killer in you... Wow, I really need to stop listening to Exitos de las 90's.

Listening to Chumbawaba and pissing the night away. You know, singin the songs that remind you of the good times, and the songs that remind you of the better times...

Fried chicken and red wine on a Tuesday night. 'Cause I'm classy like that...

Just realized that I have been reading Wikipedia for 3.5 hours straight! :stuck:

I am so excited for winter. I am going to wear scarves, take my morning nap with a fluffy blanket and eat pot pies for 3 months straight.

‎50 Primeras Citas ♥

I just almost hit a coyote...

My grandmother had her first round of chemo today and I am so inspired by her attitude and outlook on life. I am so proud to be related to her. Keep on keepin' on Grandma!!

went to Kohl's today with my birthday coupon and got the cutest pair of earings for 72 cents. Now if I could just get them in my ears...

Watching Man vs. Food. Bacon Cheeseburger on a Krispy Kreme ♥

I am so happy to have Cablemas back in my life. I get to hear things like, "cuando Behind The Music continua..." in between FB status updates. Sigh... :first world feliz:

Up, feeling good and ready to start the day. Wait... it's 1:30 AM? Crap! Didn't really think through the whole falling asleep at 7 thing now did I?

Talking to my dad and I hear nothing but roosters and helicopters. He's still truckin' in Haiti... It's so nice to talk after 2 weeks without communication!! ♥ Skype.

Dinner will be chicken breasts stuffed with cream cheese, jalapenos and onions, wrapped in bacon. Sides are a spinach and roasted red pepper salad and beans... what should I do with the beans? They are home cooked pintos but I am not sure what to do with them. I'd like to do something different. They are still whole, fresh out of the crock. Any ideas?

I passed =)

And of course Facebook has the cool new feature: On This Day In... which shows me my status updates on this day in the last couple of years:

2009 -

breakfast in bed with soap net :D

2010 -

Dawson's Creek on the Liv Network!! Geez, Mexican cable really caters to a rerun whore such as myself =)

Loving the Sony line-up for today! Beverly Hills 90210, ANTM, Real Housewives of OC... =) PS. I want a dryer and a burrito.

Obviously, I haven't changed much over the years...

So what have I determined with the little project folks? I think it's pretty obvious. I can't believe such a wonderful man married me because I am a disgustingly weird lush who eats too much, watches too many movies, has poor taste in television programs, a goofy sleep schedule, and gets excited over the dumbest things. Oh, and a little solo karoake streak/YouTube marathon never hurt anyone, right?

I could be ashamed or embarassed by this experiment, but, in all honesty, these updates pretty much describe me in a nutshell, whether I like it or not. And so I have decided that I need not care about people's negativity because my irrelevant babbling is equally annoying. I am just as lame as those whiners and quite frankly, I don't care. I may bitch about someone's constant complaining but somewhere out there someone is reading my updates saying, "Seriously? I don't give a crap what you ate for dinner and if you quote one more 90's pop song I am going to figure out how to slit my wrists with my iPad!"

Oh well. They can whine on while I wine on.

AutumnISH Ramblings

Yesterday the high was 86F and the low was 66F. It was a little cloudy to start but the clouds broke mid-morning and revealed a clear blue sky. Delicious. I was walking my dogs when that feeling came over me... Autumn. You know that leaves falling, pumpkin pie spice, trick-or-treat, cardigan over the t-shirt, back-to-school, fresh pencil shavings feeling? I don't care that I've spent the last 15 years in the Southwest where the leaves don't really fall and school starts at the beginning of August and I wear cardigans all year because I'm self-conscious of my arms and I despise using pencils anyway. That feeling still comes over me. I still remember actual seasons from when I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and the same feelings still take over at the exact same time, no matter where I am. All it takes is one cool(er) day to bring it all flooding back to me.

I know I complained about the cold last year but we really weren't prepared for that freeze. Everyone told me that it only snows once every couple of years in Juarez yet our first winter it snowed 3 times. We were without running water for 8 days due to pipe damage and didn't have a heater. My rants were warranted, right? This year we are bit more prepared with a working heater, the new and improved rice sock, and a whole lot of faith that there won't be record breaking freezes 2 years in a row.

I am beyond excited for the coming months! I cannot stand heat and sunshine and I am thrilled to be done with it for a little while. I would much rather bundle up and watch movies while the snow falls, or go for a long walk on a crisp cool night than sit by the pool eating popsicles while all my concealer sweats off. I know it is supposed to be 95F tomorrow and I am getting ahead of myself but I am going to go through my winter clothes. Did you know scarves are one size fits all?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Catching Up

There has been so much going on, so I would like to forewarn everyone that this is another long-winded blog of randomness in a quick attempt to fill you in with what's been going on in my life.

We moved. We lucked into a house once again and although the outside looks horrible, the inside is gorgeous. When I say we lucked into it, I just mean that it is extremely difficult to find a rental so close to the border that fits into our budget. Plus, it's everything that the last house wasn't. Don't get me wrong, our last house was very nice compared to many (most?) here in Juarez, but after 8 months, the bad began to outweigh the good. There was no air conditioning, no heat and the floors were a mess (some concrete, some broken tile, some laminate) so it constantly felt dirty. There was no natural light, the patio roof was caving in and when it rained, every room on the 2nd story would leak horribly. There was mold in the bathroom, no drain in the shower, and parking was near impossible. We tried to grin and bear it, but the leaky roof was the straw that broke the camel's back for us. We attempted to contact our landlords about the air and the roof, but their phones had been disconnected. Of course. As much as I hate to use the old cliche, it's true. When one door closes, another really does open. We began talking to our neighbors, and as it turned out, the house 2 doors down from ours was for sale. Given the situation in Juarez, you can imagine that the real estate industry isn't really booming, and so the owner was open to renting it out instead.

The house looks horrible on the outside. It's beyond dirty with oil stains all over the driveway and paint splatters or cracked paint covering the entire front. But looks can be deceiving! This house is in much better condition than the last. The swamp cooler is new-ish and the heater is about 15 years newer than the one at the last house. The patio roof is in great condition and the boiler is only a couple of years old. There is beautiful light gray tile on the first story while the stairs and the 2nd story have a light tan carpet that is in pretty good shape. There aren't wacky paint colors on the walls like the last house where we had a bright red bathroom and a sunflower yellow living room. In this house the living room is white, while the kitchen is a very light blue and the upstairs walls are painted tan. We've got cool light fixtures from IKEA in the living room that operate on a dimmer switch and there is crown molding throughout. Yeah, I admit it, I like my little slice of America, even in the middle of Juarez...

This has been a very difficult, yet humbling, month for us. A bad combination of moving, car problems, and a lower income from my vacation to Missouri, created the perfect financial storm. It brought us back to our roots, and reminded us of a time when we had so much less. When I first met my husband I was still on drugs. Although I got sober shortly after, it took me a while to re-establish some resemblance of a normal life. The majority of our first couple of years together was spent in empty apartments, sleeping on the floor, eating a whole lot of eggs and tortillas. We could barely pay the bills and had to walk everywhere because we couldn't afford to buy a car. Years later, one tends to forget that struggle. We've spent many years now not wanting for anything (other than a greencard) and losing touch with the difference between necessity and desire. This month served as a much needed reality check. Although we had a serious shortage on cash, it wasn't detrimental to our well-being in the least bit. I was still able to pay all of our bills, I was just reminded that eating out everyday for lunch is ridiculous, paper towels aren't gold, and it's okay to pay bills the day they are due. I got creative with my cooking and was reminded that going to the grocery store with a list and a budget should be a given, not just something you do when cash flow is low. I feel so blessed that I have been through tough times in the past, so these moments aren't so shocking, and I am well aware of the steps to take in order to ride out the storm.

Because of the move and some "quality issues" with Cablemas we have been without internet and cable since August 13th. It made me realize how much I depend on my online networks, and my friends, for my sanity! I have felt so disconnected from the world and just being able to type this right now is extremely refreshing. I did an interview recently for an online podcast that should be coming out shortly, and this month really solidified everything I said in that interview. Being able to communicate with all of the other women going through the same thing really does make or break my emotional success in Mexico. If it weren't for all of you, I don't know if I would be able to do this.

I guess that is enough randomness for now, and I hope everyone is having an awesome Sunday. Enjoy what's left of it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

And then you eat lunch...

My biggest fear in life is car problems. Yeah, you read right, I live in the murder capital of the world and I am more worried about possible transmission failure than with being kidnapped and decapitated. I have trouble prioritizing.

When you live in Juarez and work in El Paso, being carless = being jobless. The city buses on the Mexico side of the border don't start running early enough to get to the border in time to catch a bus to my work. And even if I took a taxi to the border, I would have to take 2 more buses and walk over a mile before I would get to my work a bit after 9. Even if I was ambitious, that wouldn't work considering I start at 8am. Maybe this is because I don't work downtown so I am not near the major bus lines? I'm not sure. I swear I have a point here.

Today I went to Fashion Bug because I'm low on cash, needed an undergarment, and have store credit there. It's on the end of town (at least my vision of the end) in an area I'm not familiar with at all. I found it just fine but while on the freeway my car just began to... rumble? And then came to a slow stop. Nothing on the dash signaled trouble, there was no smoke, and when I restarted the car, it continued without problems... for about 5 feet. Then it would die again. I called my husband hoping he would be able to advise me but just got his voicemail. 17 times. He was 30 minutes into a 12 hour graveyard shift.

And this is when I felt it again. To anyone who has read my blog since the get-go, you might remember my first post. It was the one where my trailer tire blew out on my final trip from Phoenix to Juarez. Where I was so insanely dramatic and desperate that I mentioned feeling "as though life as I knew it was over and I would be forced to build a hut from the wood of my trailer right then and there and live the rest of my life alone on the side of the I-10." Cue the violins.

I'm not sure why I lose a sense of reality when things go wrong, but I do. I burst into tears, have a panic attack, and instead of realizing how many great friends I have at work, and back home in Juarez, I just shut it all out and try to solve things on my own. I'm too proud. It's always been an issue. I don't like it when someone else offers to pay for dinner, I feel compelled to give a person gas money if they give me a ride, even though we're going to the same place and I can't take a compliment. Asking for help when I'm broke down on the side of the freeway? No thanks.

I could turn the car off, wait about a minute, then restart it and drive about 5 ft. I drove like this in a huge circle for over an hour, not realizing that where I started was very close to the Zaragosa Bridge. I never really venture out in El Paso so I still don't know my way around very well. I felt pretty stupid when I chugged pass the Fashion Bug almost 2 hours later. I was determined to make it to Juarez. What I would do when I got there? I wasn't so sure. All I knew is that in Juarez I would have more possibility of my husband being able to help so that was the goal.

I managed to get to the bridge and of course caught Border Patrol's attention with my emergency lights flashing. What better time to be pulled to secondary inspection than this? Perfecto. A few minutes, and some German Sheppard paw prints all over my backseat later, I began to feel like I would actually make it and I did. At this point I had sucked up my pride and gotten in touch with my girls in El Club de los Deportados (fondly named as such by a friend's hilarious husband.) I waited for them to come for me in a parking lot on the other side of the bridge. Because I am so set in my ways, I rarely cross at Zaragosa and instantly felt uneasy because I was so unfamiliar with the area. I talked on the phone with my mom until my friends arrived as if our conversation would be my saving grace from criminals or the likes.

More puttering and laughter occurred before I finally made it home. Annalisa was right when she said it all seemed like a quirky movie. It's funny how friends can bring humor and reality to a situation that would have otherwise seemed so dismal. I really do have the best friends here and I never saw that coming... I left the most amazing women in the world behind in Arizona and I honestly didn't think I would find that again in life.

I am going to end with this: The moral of the story is that car problems are not the end of the world. Turns out I need to reassess my "biggest fear." I think an I2US's friend's family member put it best when they said, "Shit happens, and then you eat lunch."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Little Bit About Me

In the style of "25 Things I Love About My Ham Sandwich," we have another joint blogging effort making the rounds. This one was started by Lisa from From One Country to Another and is great way to learn a bit more about each other.

1. How long have you been with your husband?

We met in the Spring of 2005 and married on July 11th, 2007.

2. Can you remember one funny miscommunication because of language barriers?

We have a lot of these. I am fully bilingual now so most of the humor comes from my husband at this point. One that comes to mind happened while watching a movie with a child whose character's name was Cameron. Over an hour into the movie (which we were watching in English with Spanish subtitles,) my husband turns to me and says, "That poor kid, why does his mom keep calling him camarón, he doesn't seem that little for his age!"

He thought they were calling the kid "shrimp" the whole time. Epic.

3. What state / and or city have you relocated to?

Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico

4. Do you and your hubby have any children, How old?

I have an 8 year old son and my husband has a 10 year old daughter, both from previous relationships.

5. What is one things thing that your blogger friends don't know about you?

Generally speaking, I am a ridiculously open book so there probably isn't a lot you haven't heard in the past year. I don't think I've never mentioned that I don't like people in my kitchen. I have been known to scream and cry when my husband tries to hang around while I make dinner. He just does it to drive me crazy. I know. I'm awful. I've even given my own mother the boot. I just can't handle the chaos of additional bodies in my culinary bubble. I hate the American trend of open concept floor plans and pine for a kitchen that is closed off from the world. I once heard on an episode of House Hunters International that mine is a typical European opinion about the kitchen so it looks like I'm not getting relief anytime soon. We will live in the Americas forever I'm sure. Bottom line... stay out of my kitchen. Sorry.

6. What are some of your favorite hobbies or past times?

I love movies of all types. I am newly obsessed with Spanish films from the 1960's but watch a lot of American and British independent flicks because they are my husband's favorite.

I love to cook, write, draw, sing, drink and eat. I am also a mix-tape master.

My idea of the perfect day involves a movie marathon, my entire family, and copious amounts of chicken wings, wine and ice cream.

7. How did you stumble upon the blogging community?

The first blog I ever read religiously was Half of Me which has changed drastically over the years but I still love it. I came upon expat blogs via Facebook and networking with others who are in similar situations. Expat blogging is still relatively new to me and I am almost overwhelmed at all there is to read and keep up with. I really wish that I could get an email every time people post. If I follow your blog and you would like to add me to your email recipient list I would greatly appreciate it.

8. Have you learned something new about yourself during this whole process that has changed all of our lives?

I've learned that I can handle so much more than I ever thought I could. This process has completely changed me for the better. A year ago I was a very negative, impatient, immature and entitled person. I suppose I am still all of those things but it is all to a lesser degree. I have a much better perspective on life and a better idea of "the big picture." I think Americans as a whole have a very skewed view of the difference between want and need and between right and privilege.

The most obvious change is in my optimism. I have never been a particularly positive person yet at this point my positivity has become annoying to some and people have even rejoiced when I do complain. I get it. I know it can be annoying at times. However, I can't be pissed off all the time because this is the only life I've got as Emily (yes, I believe in reincarnation... maybe that should've been the answer to #5) and I am determined to make the best of it.

9. Something that you love about Mexico and something that you cant stand or miss living without.

I love a lot of things about Mexico. First and foremost I love that my husband and I are both legally allowed to be here together and don't have hide in the house in fear like we did while living in Maricopa County. I love the emphasis on family instead of career. I love being able to get in a screaming fight or have my dogs barking at a bird for an hour and no one calls the cops. I love street food. I love that it snows here, but not enough that I have to bust out a shovel. I love being able to walk to anything I need even though I'm not in a city center. I love how warm and accepting the people are. I love my neighborhood and how EVERY SINGLE house looks completely, 100% different from the house next to it. I love Mexican pork chops.

Aside from family and friends, the thing I most hate living without is Barro's Pizza. I also cannot stand my daily commute crossing the border, the fact that no one is ever on time and all of the dust.

10. Did you know your in-laws before moving and has it been a big adjustment being closer to them?

I spoke to my in-laws on the phone on a weekly basis for a couple of years before we moved to Mexico. We did not move to my husband's hometown so we are still 7 hours away from his family in Hidalgo del Parral. It hasn't been an adjustment at all because we never really see them because of the distance coupled with our work schedules. I did have the opportunity to meet my MIL and one of my BILs during the first week we were here because they took a bus trip up to see us. I am happy to say that they were both just as awesome and caring and friendly as they had been in all of our phone calls. I had met my husband's other brother years ago when he lived in Arizona. This December I will be meeting the rest of the family and I'm sure I'll have much more to say at that point.

11. If you were going back to the states next week where is the first place you would go, of course after seeing your family?

I'm sorry but the first thing that comes to mind is restaurants. I suppose I am a foodie to the core. First I'd go to Barro's (duh,) then to Rubio's, then to Burrito Express, then to House of Eggroll, then to Filiberto's... and I'd top it off with a little Cold Stone Creamery.

I would also like to show my husband around my hometown, Kansas City, and do all of the typical American touristy things, like go to Disney World, Niagra Falls, Lake of the Ozarks or Six Flags.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

When It Rains It Sprinkles

This has been a bad week. Coming home from seeing my son is always hard in that "smack reality in your face" sort of way. I can't talk negatively because that's just not the new me. I feel like when I was planning my move to Mexico I was over-run with other forced expats about how terrible their lives were and how living in Mexico was some sort of punishment and that bothers me. I want to be that voice that represents the positive aspects of being forced out of your comfort zone. I want people to realize that a deportation does not equal the end of your marriage and/or your happiness. When I have these moments, it upsets me.

I naturally feel the urge to write and express myself, but at the same time, I don't want these petty moments to define me as a person. I came back from Missouri fully aware of my natural tendencies and emotions. This time was no different from others. I have been going through this for a few years now. Watching someone else raise my son. I can't even BEGIN to describe that feeling. I don't even know what to say, or do, or feel. This return was coupled with some serious issues in our home.

For starters my husband is giving his EVERYTHING to contribute to our household. While I was gone he worked 6am-6pm instead of 3pm-12am in attempts to contribute an additonal $17 US to our weekly income. He decided to keep going with that schedule upon my return. We are in somewhat of a self-inflicted, living-beyond-our-means financial crisis and he is determined to repair that. And so I have not seen my husband since Sunday. It's sad and admirable all at the same time.

In addition to all of this emotional and financial stress while trying to make up for my 3 missed work days, we have been having all sorts of problems with our house. The roof is leaking terribly, enough to fill a 20 gallon bucket in a matter of a couple hours and our A/C recently went out. To top it all off our landlord's phone numbers are disconnected so we have no means to rectify the situation.

The only remaining option is to move, which we fully intend on doing. There is a house, 2 doors down from ours, for rent. We love our street and want nothing more than to continue living here. It is unfortunate that our house is literally falling apart at the seams, because we fully intended on staying here until we could purchase a home of our own.

This entire situation is hellish, but at the same time it is refreshingly humbling. There is no reason that I cannot live with a leaky roof or without A/C in 100F+ weather. This is not the worst thing I have ever encountered in my life nor will it define me. So why should I let it over-take my emotions?

The answer is that I shouldn't. The answer is that these situations, when I am not PERFECTLY comfortable, are a blessing. I am learning. I am learning how to do without air, or cable TV, or a dry home. I am learning that I should be beyond grateful to have a home at all. I am learning that nobody gives a crap if I don't have A/C because there are children out there dying from starvation as I type. These are the moments I have waited for my entire life. These are the moments my mother prepared me for. These are the moments that do define me even when I don't want them to. Silly, stupid, inconvenient moments. This is what turns boys into men. This is what humbles an entitled American. This is my savior.