Friday, November 30, 2012

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

November 1st  Today I am thankful for my caring and hilarious and hard-working husband. I don't just love the guy, I like him.

November 2nd  Today I am thankful for brandy.

November 3rd  Today I am thankful for asprin, my amazing friends, and the hair of the dog.

November 4th  Today I am thankful for Old Navy pajama pants, Sunday movie marathons in my beautiful home, and garlic cheddar biscuits!

November 5th  Today I am thankful for my job and thankful that my parents taught me that things don't just get handed to you in life, you have to WORK for them!

November 6th  Today I am thankful to be the citizen of a country where I have freedom of speech and the power to vote. These may be rights for Americans but they are a mere fantasy for so many! Please do not take these privileges for granted. VOTE.

November 7th  Today I'm thankful for Sonoron hot dogs and wine.

November 8th  Today I am thankful for people who believe in me. Whether it be my mom, or a co-worker, or a blog reader, or my husband, or a journalist. I appreciate it. It makes me believe in myself.

November 9th  Today I am thankful for technology. It allows me to have meaningful relationships with sooooo many people, keep up with my blog, talk to my Dad, see current pictures of family members, and so much more. I don't know what I would do without the internet!

November 10th  (Posted on 11/11/2012) Today I am thankful that I had so much fun yesterday that I forgot to post day 10 of Thirty Days of Thanksgiving.

November 11th  Today I'm also thankful for my three favorite B's. Beer, burritos and B-12 drops.

November 12th  Today I am thankful that the heater in my car is working!

November 13th  Today I am thankful that Casa Collision came out to my office today and finally finished the last of the repairs from my accident. It only took them 2 months... Now I'm just praying that the engine troubles that started last night will be a cheap and quick fix!

November 14th  Today I am thankful for my disgustingly AMAZING husband, who should quit his day job at the maquila and become a radio journalist. I love you. I adore you. You hasta intimidate me. Mwah, mwah, mwahhhh!

November 15th  Today I am thankful for my sweet little doggies. They love me unconditionally and truly are man's best friend. A good friend's Doberman passed away yesterday and my heart goes out to his whole family. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard that is and it definitely made me realize how much I love my four-legged nuggets.

November 16th  Today I am thankful for good friends, who are still there for me even when we are worlds apart. Even when I haven't spoken to them in ages, it's like we just chatted the day before. Love you ladies.

November 17th  Today I'm thankful for an email I got from my little man. It lit up my life in ways I cannot even begin to explain.

November 18th  Today I am thankful for laughter and all of the fabulous people in my life who make me laugh each and every day! It is medicine for the soul!

November 19th  Today I am thankful for electricity and running water.

November 20th  Today I'm thankful for my health and dental insurance. It's not cheap and may not be the best coverage, but it's there. Now to decide if I should fix a "possibly salvageable" cracked molar for $300 or get it extracted for $40.

November 21st  Today I am thankful, not just for having a job, but for having a job that I love. And of course my fantastical coworkers are an added bonus.

November 22nd  Today I am thankful that God forgives me, each and every day. I am extremely blessed in every facet of my life, even when I am beyond undeserving. I am thankful that my God doesn't care if I swear or make mistakes or drink too much or have bitchy moments; at the end of the day, He knows my intentions and is always there for me!

November 23rd  Today I am thankful that the line was merciful and I was able to get to work, and home, in record time.

November 24th  Today I am thankful for... drumroll mothafuckas... YOUTUBE!

November 25th  Today I'm thankful for country music and American cable. I've been thoroughly enjoying Bravo for several hours!

November 26th  Today I am thankful that my CEUs are finished!

November 27th  Today I am thankful for the head mouse. This status brings tears to my eyes for so many reasons. We lost a co-worker in Utah last week in a boating accident. He was in his mid-twenties and leaves behind his wife and two children. He was a newer employee and only 7 days away from qualifying from our company's life insurance policy. What did the main man do? Cut his family a personal check for $10,000. I work for the best!!

November 28th  Today I am thankful for Christina Orta-Moncada. I can tell her anything and she never judges or thinks less of me. She has been there for me in the good times and bad and is the best listener I've ever known. She can out-eat me at Peter Piper and taught me all about wine but still tries to motivate me to work out. She isn't afraid to disagree with me and always makes me laugh.

November 29th  Today I am thankful for my sight and hearing, my arms and legs and my fingers and toes.

November 30th  Today I am thankful that my husband and I have been able to find a place, outside of the US, that we are both happy and proud to call our home. Sometimes I wonder what we would have done if he were from El Salvador or Ghana or Haiti or another 3rd world nation where I wouldn't be able to work earning US dollars and I realize how blessed we are that border living is even an option. I am eternally grateful that this crazy decision has worked out so well for us. Now I'll drink to that! It's Friday motherfuckers!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Living In a Cloud of Brandy, Rules, Lollipops and Denial

Lately a lot of  random people from the media have been contacting me to discuss the drug war, interview me on my thoughts on the drug war or ask me to blog about the drug war. Everyone seems to want me to get more involved and talk about it. I guess that may seem natural and I do understand that I have a voice and opinions that can contribute to the topic. I've mentioned it here and there throughout this blog to discuss how it's affected me personally. But I've just got to say... I don't want to say much more than what I've already said. I'm not trying to be another body hanging off of a bridge on the border with a fucking warning note pinned to my eyeball. Social networking can kill; don't get it twisted. The cartels can do what they do, y yo no me meto. I'm just here, riding it all out.

It's no secret that drugs have been a huge part of my life. I'm an addict. Everything I do. I'm excessive and obsessive and addicted to everything. Even though I haven't done drugs in almost 7 years, it remains a huge part of my life. That addiction is always hanging over my head, reminding me of what could be or what could have been. I've just somehow managed to limit my current addictions to things that are legal. That's it. The rest of my past and my thoughts and my chemical makeup don't go away. Even though I have this crazy past and experience to draw from, I just can't say anything more. My husband and I set some ground rules before we moved to the border and I guess I'm just writing this so that I can refer people to it in the future when they ask to interview me on stories about the drug war. I get pushed and pushed to be involved in projects that I simply can't be a part of. My family's safety and well being is more important than any story.

I want to be a voice for Juarez but I also want to represent a different part of Juarez and provide a different perspective of life on the border, and life in Mexico for that matter. I try to keep it light because that's what I want my life to be like. I want to be happy. I don't want this blog to be some sad, depressing place that people come to for murder statistics. That's not my goal. I know that people think that my attitude towards border life is skewed and misrepresents life here, but I'm no fool, nor is my stance a rarity here in Juarez. Of course there are murders here. Of course there is a lot of crime and violence here. It rages throughout Juarez every day. I don't deny it. I just can't talk about it.

When I hear about another homicide on Canal 44, I am very quick to assume it was the result of cartel violence, or criminal involvement or someone who didn't pay the quota. People are quick to be offended by my assumptions, noting that many people are mere victims of the current situation. I do not doubt that. Let me say it again. I do not doubt that there are innocent victims in this drug war. I'm not an idiot, and I know that there are countless individuals who are just random bystanders in a shoot out, or mistaken for another person, or are victims of car jackings or robberies or kidnappings. I get that. I'm not saying those things don't happen. What I'm saying is that in a large percentage of occasions, we aren't reading about innocent victims being decapitated. We aren't reading about innocent victims who have driven for 20+ hours across the Mexican desert just to be burned to death. We aren't talking about innocent victims who were shot to death by almost 100 bullets to one body. Most of the time, there is a method to the madness.

Disagree with me if you will, I don't care. Call me ignorant if you will, I don't care. For me, at the end of the day, it benefits my emotional well being to think of this drug war in a black and white manner. My standpoint has allowed me to create and live by a set of rules that give me a sense of control in this crazy world that is the Borderland. I can tell myself that if I don't do drugs or involve myself in criminal activity or associate with people who do, I'm going to be okay. If I don't pass judgement or make flippant remarks about the cartels, I'm going to be okay. I'm so quick to make the assumptions that I make because it is my method of coping with the violence. Thinking in this way makes me feel like it's all going to be okay. It's my Teddy. It's my security blanket. It's my comfort food. It's my mother's soothing words after I wake up from a nightmare in a pool of sweat.

Could I be murdered in a car jacking tonight? Sure. Could I be caught in the crossfire at a random shoot out in el mercado tomorrow? Sure. Could I be confused with some other overweight guerita that likes to blast Bob Dylan albums from her car but just so happens to traffic cocaine? Maybe. Probably not. But if that's the way I'm supposed to go and I die here in Juarez because of some random coincidence or chance run-in with the cartel, so be it. I refuse to live my life in fear of the possibilities. What kind of life is that? Regardless, I will follow my rules to my grave.

My view isn't skewed. My view is what I want it to be. Life is what you make it. Maybe it takes some denial and lollipops and brandy and rules. So be it. Para mi, ignorance is bliss. And that's all I gotta say 'bout that.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

10 Things You Should Know About Me Before I Jump You Into My Gang

1.) I am insanely psycho about my hair and have to wash it at least twice a day. I'd prefer 3 times. I don't have any cool haircut or style. I don't use styling products or even conditioner. I don't even need fancy shampoos, I'm cool with Suave or V05. I will wash it anywhere too. Friend's bathrooms, airport bathrooms, kitchen sinks, whatevs. I just have to have clean hair. Makes me feel so fresh and so clean clean.

2.) I love to cook and love having friends over (especially during the holidays) but I absolutely hate it when there are other people in my kitchen, unless they are teaching me how to do something. I'm kind of an anxious cook and although I love it, I tend to stress when making meals for large groups of people. Any added bodies just adds to the stress.

3.) I drink like a fish and swear like a sailor.

4.) I cannot stand speaking in the morning. I literally jump out of bed at the first sound of my alarm, regardless of how hungover I am, but talk to me and perish. I have no qualms with waking up at the ass crack of dawn every morning, but unless you are bleeding from the head, whatever you have to say can wait. We can talk after I've been awake for a couple hours. 7:00 am. Talk to me then.

5.) I could survive on nothing more than Coke Zero, brandy, sausage, egg and cheese biscuits, chicken wings, calzones and Tin Roof Sundae ice cream. And love. Everybody needs a little love.

6.) I'm almost always and open book so if I'm in a funk and don't want to talk about my son or my past or my present, it's because I don't want to talk about it. If I do, I do. Don't push me.

7.) My husband and I yell at each other. Practically all the time. That's how we communicate. We swear and say malas razones. We talk to each other like we are compas or homeboys or whatever. Do not confuse our tone with anger. Just because one of us just said, "No mames, callase a la chingada," and the other responded with, "Fuck you guey," doesn't mean we don't follow it up with laughter and a make out session. That's how we roll.

8.) I am honest and I'll always tell you what I think if I know you are capable of hearing it.

9.) I don't like to be around negative people because negativity is infectious. It's like a cancer or herpes or mushrooms and I want nothing to do with it. When people insist on being negative yet do nothing to change their lives or better themselves, I have no choice but to keep them at an arm's length. It's for my own sanity.

10.) I am deathly afraid of birds and escalators.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Blanca Nieves and the Seven Drunks

We got our monthly free Redbox promo code the other night and took the opportunity to rent Snow White and the Huntsman. Even though I am not a hopeless romantic, I'm somewhat of a fairytale fanatic. Right off the bat there was an intense battle scene and I looked at my husband and said, "Wow, this obviously isn't your typical version of Snow White, is it?"

After he stared at me quizzically for entirely too long I said, "You do know the story of Snow White, don't you?"

Oh yeah, of course I know the story. It's the one about the little girl and the wolf that wants to eat her, right?

No baby, that's Little Red Riding Hood! I can't believe you don't know the story of Snow White... Keep watching, you'll like it.

A little bit later he looks at me as if he's just invented the light bulb and exclaims, "Oh I know! This is the one about the girl with the glass slipper who turns into a princess!"

No babe, that's Cinderella...

Pues... Isn't this the one with the Smurfs?!?

You've got to be fucking kidding me.

I ignore his random comments and questions for the rest of the movie because I get way too into this modern version of such a classical story. I was even able to ignore Kristen Stewart's downfalls. I can normally only watch her act if the movie is dubbed in Spanish. Her... ummm... technique... generally makes me want to slit my wrists with a paperclip. She actually did well in this role though. It was all angsty and what-not. There were all sorts of surprises but I think my favorite twist was the fact that the dwarfs were little Irish nuggets who had a penchant for moonshine and hallucinogenics.

After we were done watching, we continued our discussion about fairy tales. I couldn't figure out why these cuentas de adas were such foggy memories for him and it was driving me nuts. As always, I instantly jumped to the conclusion that this is cultural thing, but quickly realized that wasn't the case. Was it because I'm a girl? Is this a gender thing? Do boys not get into fairy tales? Is that why he doesn't remember? I start to dig.

Baby, where did you hear all these stories?

I watched them on video tapes.

Video tapes?? Didn't your mom read you bedtime stories?

We don't do that sort of thing in Mexico.

What sort of thing? Read books?

The dude couldn't stop laughing. He knew he sounded ridiculous.

Of course people do read books in Mexico, but my husband's family are not those people. Books cost money. A lot of money in Mexico. Libraries aren't easily accessible or even existent in many parts. In the US, we can run to library and check out a copy of whatever and know that our children have the ability to learn if we guide them and if they have that desire. That opportunity just doesn't exist for everyone. Again... something else we consider a right that is such a remarkable privilege.

I sat there for a moment and tried to think of what my life would be like, if I didn't have the memory of my mother reading me The Emperor's New Clothes. Or Noisy Nora. Or Tikki Tikki Tembo. Or The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Or Kristina Katarina and the Box. I could go on for hours. To this day day, I could probably read The Princess and the Pea every evening and never get tired of it. The thought of not having those childhood memories makes me sad.

These children's books shaped me into a person who values the written word. They gave me the freedom of imagination. Now that I think about it, these books, and the fact that my mother took the time to read them to me, plays a huge role in who I am today. It's a simple thing, really. It probably only took up 10 minutes of her time everyday. But look at the reward.

I loved school because I loved to read and because I loved school, I tried hard. Not just in school, but in life. I was determined to do well even in the worst of my days. And now, as an adult, I have a good work ethic. Even though circumstances and bad choices led me to never graduate from college, the fundamentals of learning have stuck with me throughout the years, and have allowed me to be successful in my career, even without a degree. It's the domino affect of my lifetime.

All because my mom read me Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? That's confusing and deep and relevant in ways I may never understand.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Burrito Crawl Success

Gordo and I are forever in search of the perfect burrito. Part of it is because of our insatiable craving for Filiberto's and part of it is due to our boredom and lack of having our children here with us. Some weekends we can be relentless as we go on a treasure hunt for the perfect combination of meat and tortilla.

A couple of weeks ago we stumbled upon a place that topped the charts. This restaurant apparently has no name and is conveniently nestled on Tecnologico in seguidita de Galarias Tec. When I asked their name they informed me that they hadn't decided yet (although they've been there for over a year) and that many refer to them as Burritos Tec. We pulled in with hesitance as there was no obvious parking space. When you veer off Tecnologico you arrive in what appears to be a greenhouse. Plants and flowers galore. You could park approximately 4 cars under their carport adjacent to the "restaurant" and the rest is left to your imagination. Mexicans always seem to just figure it out. The place was packed that morning, as is any place that offers menudo on a Sunday in Juarez.

You gotta kick the cruda somehow, right?

When we entered we were greeted with open arms. The woman at the front counter happened to be the owner (duh) and instantly asked if we had any trouble parking. She gave us an overview of their specialties and it was clear from the straight-away that menudo was the name of the game but I just couldn't hang. I ordered a burrito. Deshebrada a la Mexicana, which is what I order at every burrito stand. My husband teases me for the monotony but it's like my score card. How else could I compare them all?

Their version was insanely superb (i.e. mouthgasm) but I was even more impressed with their customer service. A smile makes the meat taste better. They were so nice and offered us free caldito, explaining that it would make us want to come back, again and again. They were right. I felt less drunk almost immediately. This place was over the top delicious and I couldn't give it a higher recommendation.

They offer all of your typical guisados. Prensado, chile rojo, chile verde, frijole, deshebrada, deshebrada a la Mexicana, winnie and chile relleno. I'm sure there are a few more but I can't remember (beef coma.) The most expensive burritos, like deshebrada of course, were 20 pesos. Other choices were 15-20 pesos. I added queso asadero to my burrito, as always, and they still charged me 20 pesos. Maybe because they saw future gringo dollars or maybe because that's the price or maybe because I look like a fucking movie star. I'm not sure.

They had a poster-board sign advertising their breakfast special with a black Sharpie: Two eggs, a guisado of your choice, beans and tortillas for 35 pesos. Their salsa bar was fantastic and had some of the best salsas I've had here in Mexico. Above all else, I was impressed with their customer service though. As a lot of you know, that is a biggie with me, and is practically non-existent in most of Mexico. They were extremely nice and had lots of menu suggestions for us. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who lives in the area or is passing through Juarez.