Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Laundry Mat

Whenever times are tough, I try to remember when they were tougher. I try to remember everything we've been through and remind myself that I should be grateful for what we have now. I really am trying.

When I first met my husband we were really poor. I was in the midst of my addiction and he was a fresh immigrant. Again. He had two roommates and I didn't have electricity. Money was tight and rent was more important. Food was more important, drugs were much more important, than lights. I always did have priorities.

And so I would get my quarters ready.

We certainly didn't have a washer and dryer and would go down to the laundry mat on the corner to wash our clothes once a week. It was never like that episode of Friends where Rachel feels as though she's dominated life on her own when she takes back her laundry basket from that vindictive troll. It never gave me that sense of independence. No, when we trudged down to the laundry mat on Mesa Drive and Southern each Sunday, I always felt lethargic.

It was even worse when we couldn't afford to go to the laundry mat at all. There were times that we didn't have gas or bus money and would need to use the washers inside of our apartment complex. I would get our quarters together and go downstairs and wash everything. Most weeks it was a luxury to pay for the dryer and so instead I would wash our clothes in the washing machine and then take them upstairs and hang them all out to dry on the balcony. When times were really tough, we didn't have any spare quarters. So I would wash by hand in the bath tub before I hung everything out to dry.

My now-husband was just fresh off the line in those times and had grandeur American dreams. The thought of his significant-other hanging out her intimates for all to see was not a part of his vision. It was practically the ultimate embarrassment for him. Our apartment complex was split into two sections, the front was the shape of a horseshoe. We lived in that front section and there was an unused pool and grassy knoll in the middle of it all.

And so when I hung our unmentionables to dry on the front balcony of our third story apartment, everyone could see. To me it was the logical solution given our financial situation. To my husband, it was the stamp of failure. The complex on Mesa Drive and Broadway in Arizona was comprised almost entirely of immigrants. Everyone was struggling. Yet no one hung their clothes outside to dry.

Except that crazy gringa.

This was the first of our cultural clashes in the US and quite possibly what made Ray fall for me and hate me at the same time. I was everything he had attempted to leave behind in Mexico. And at the same time, I was everything he strived to be. I was a survivor. Although I always say I'll be the first to die in the apocalypse (with which I am semi-obsessed) the truth is that I will most likely last quite a while. I don't know why, but I have an uncanny way of surviving through the most fucked up situations. Sometimes it's as simple as figuring out how to clean our clothes without any money. Sometimes it's so much more than that.

Life has thrown us curve balls, that's for sure. And let me tell you, Mexico has been the least of my worries when I look at the grand scheme of things. And yet I am still here, still standing, still swearing, still loving.

Still keeping his clothes clean.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The ABCs of Me

I am often so enamored with the delicious recipes my friend Leslie Limon is concocting over at La Cocina de Leslie that I forget about her personal blog, La Casa de Leslie, which is equally interesting. But you know... food speaks to me. You can keep up with both of her blogs on my blog roll on the right hand column. As an American woman who moved to Mexico willingly, I really appreciate her perspective and am inspired by the life she has made for her family here.

She posted this survey on her personal blog and I was quick to jack it because I am a sucker for surveys. They're so light and fun and always transport me back in time. There is a small part of me that refuses to let go of AOL and MySpace and surveys remind me so much of those good old days.

The Letter A

Are you available? I'm happily married but always available for new friends. I love to meet new people.

What is your age? 29.

What annoys you? Negativity and people who resign to the fact that life just "is" a certain way and that they don't have the power to change their circumstances.

The Letter B

Do you live in a big house? That depends on your perspective. I think it's big and feel beyond blessed. It's bigger than many houses I've seen in Mexico, but to a lot of people I suppose it's just a modest 2 bedroom.

When is your birthday? August 31st.

Who is your best friend? My husband. I have fantastic friends but he is definitely the best friend I've ever had.

The Letter C

What's your favorite candy? Almond Joy.

Who's your crush? Jaime Camil.

When was the last time you cried? Tuesday, while watching The Butler. It was the best movie I've seen in a long time.

The Letter D

Do you daydream? All the time. Lately most of my daydreams happen in line, imagining what it will be like when/if my husband can cross legally into the US for the first time.

What's your favorite kind of dog? The kind that loves me eternally! My min pin and pom do a pretty damn good job.

What day of the week is it? Saturday, is there any other day?!

The Letter E

How do you like your eggs? Scrambled in bacon drippings. #FatGirlProblems

Have you ever been in the emergency room? Yes. Once when I cracked my chin open running around at an AA meeting as a little girl, once when I had a miscarriage, once after a domestic violence attack and once for the toothache from hell.

What's the easiest thing ever to do? Give up.

The Letter F

Have you ever flown in a plane? Yes, but guess who hasn't? Raymundo! That's definitely on his Bucket List.

Do you use fly swatters? Yes. But a little 565 Plus XLO works much better.

Have you ever used a foghorn? No, but if I ever start a door-to-door business in Juárez that sounds like a great way to announce my presence.

The Letter G

Do you chew gum? Rarely.

Are you a giver or a taker? I hate to admit it but I'd consider myself a taker. I'm quite selfish.

Do you like gummy candies? No, after years of smoking meth, my teeth are way too fucked up for those kind of treats.

The Letter H

How are you? Fantastic.

What color is your hair? Light brown.

The Letter I

What's your favorite ice cream? Sweet cream. And I don't mind a little caramel. Or nuts. And fudge ripple never hurt a girl.

Have you ever ice skated? Yes although I always preferred roller skating. When I was in the 2nd grade I was determined to make roller-figure-skating a professional sport. I used to practice everyday in the parking lot next to the convent across from my house in Rockford, Illinois. My favorite song to request at Skateland was Good Vibrations.

Do you play an instrument? Does the recorder count? Three Blind Mice? I can play Chopsticks on the piano. Okay so maybe just part of Chopsticks. Stop judging me.

The Letter J

What's your favorite jelly bean brand? Whichever brand is 75% off at Walgreens 2 days after Easter.

Do you wear jewelry? Yes. I always, always wore a silver, motivational necklace but my chain recently broke. It read "Never give up, have no fear, leap." Several things I needed to be reminded of regularly when we first came to Juárez. Until I get my chain repaired I'm just sticking to my wedding ring and some small hoop earrings.

The Letter K

Who do you want to kill? No one, but I wouldn't mind getting in a fist-fight with Jody Claman ever since she banned me on Twitter for asking her to admit that she used a gag-gift vibrator. Come on Jody. No one is too cool to masturbate.

Do you want kids? My husband and I each have one from a previous relationship and ideally we would like to have one more child.

Where did you go for kindergarten? Christ the King in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Letter L

Are you laid back? Hell no. I am the most uptight person I know.

Do you lie? Probably every day. What? Did you expect me to lie?

The Letter M

Whats your favorite movie? The Breakfast Club.

Do you still watch Disney movies? Yes. My favorite is Beauty and the Beast. I can recite it word for word from beginning to end. Thank you Ariel.

Do you like mangoes? Nope. Sorry Mexico.

The Letter N

Do you have a nickname? I prefer Em to most. Simple enough. And when I was little my dad always called me Emi, which was picked up by many of my friends from I2US because it's my user name there, taken from my old AOL screen name from the late-90's.

What is your real name? Emily. Do people normally use fake names on their blogs? If so, you can call me Tits McGee.

Whats your favorite number? 428

Do you prefer night over day? Night. Facil.

The Letter O

What's your one wish? To make people laugh.

Are you an only child? No. I have 5 sisters. Although we aren't what most people would consider a tight-knit family, I cannot imagine being an only child.

The Letter P

What one fear are you most paranoid about? Car problems. It's a ridiculous fear, but it's the one that brings me the most paranoia. Leave me alone.

What are your pet peeves? Negativity, people who don't know the value of hard work, and writing with markers or pencils.

What's a personality trait you look for in people? A sense of humor, positivity and an interesting perspective that can make me question what I think about the world.

The Letter Q

What's your favorite quote? "Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear." - George Addair

Are you quick to judge people? No. I am a person who people are quick to judge and I would never want to do that to someone else. And I am always excited when someone shows me that they are more than what others perceive them to be.

The Letter R

Do you think you're always right? No. Unfortunately, I am almost always wrong...

Are you one to cry? Only at awards shows, America's Next Top Model, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and on days that end in Y.

The Letter S

Do you prefer sun or rain? I used to love the rain until I got in a car accident during a storm. So I reluctantly have to answer "sun." But I definitely prefer the cold to the heat.

Do you like snow? As long as the roads are properly plowed and salted, yes.

What's your favorite season? Fall.

The Letter T

What time is it? 12:36 pm

What time did you wake up? 5:20 am

When was the last time you slept in a tent? In 2010 when I went camping in Payson with one of my besties, Vanessa. It was my husband's first and only experience with camping and we had so much fun. I can't wait to go again. There aren't any camp grounds in our area but I still have high hopes.

The Letter U

Are you wearing underwear? Yes, although I rarely wore underwear in 2005 and it was quite possibly the most liberating time of me life.

Underwear or boxers? Boxer briefs.

The Letter V

What's the worst veggie? Mushrooms. For dinner or for fun. No thanks. I never did like hallucinogens anyway.

Where do you want to go on vacation? San Salvador.

The Letter W

What's your worst habit? Fixating on situations where I worry about how I've made others feel when generally, they would never do the same for me.

Where do you live? Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México.

What's your worst fear? Losing my husband or son.

The Letter X

Have you ever had an x-ray? Yes.

Have you seen the x-games? Briefly on TV.

Do you own a xylophone? Negative. Who would have guessed that "X" would be such an easy section? Me.

The Letter Y

Do you like the color yellow? I love it. And it's my step-dad's favorite color!

What's one thing you yearn for? Touching the lives of others and leaving a valuable mark in this world.

The Letter Z

Whats your zodiac sign? Virgo. I just barely made the cut-off on that one. Phew! Here's to over-achieving and over-analyzing?

Do you believe in the zodiac? I believe in believing. In something, anything.

Favorite zoo animal? Elephants!

Saturday, January 11, 2014


My car has been in and out of the shop for the last few weeks with one repair after another. Although there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, we picked it up from the mechanic on Thursday night. It's at least drivable for now and I need it to get to and from El Paso so we are going to hold off a bit for the rest of the repairs.

I was on my way to work on Friday morning, my first day back in my car, when I noticed that the semi-truck in front of me had a little message etched into the dirt built up on the back door.

Labame culó

Clearly, grammar is not the writer's strong suit. Or subtlety.

I smiled quietly to myself. Then I glanced in my rear view mirror and my smile quickly disappeared. Something had been drawn on my dirty back window as well. It was a bullseye. Clear as day. Un blanco.

A target.

What. the. fuck. I instantly started to freak out. I wish I could say that I just have a little leftover paranoia from my tweaker days, but there is something that happens in border towns that is always in the back of my mind. My fears are real and valid in every way.

Ever hear of Ana Isela Martinez Amaya? In 2011, the 35 year old Juárez resident, mother of two and teacher of the year, was accused of attempting to smuggle over 100 pounds of marijuana into the US. While crossing the border one morning, going about her regular routine, she had no idea that there were 2 suitcases full of drugs in the trunk of her car. You can read more about her story here.

This isn't anything new. When we first arrived in Juárez, we were aware that we needed to check the car frequently. Every morning. And we did for quite some time. Opening the back hatch each day. Giving the back seat a once over. Popping the hood. Peeking underneath for anything suspicious.

Eventually, this got old. I started to feel exactly how I felt before we left Arizona. Back then we would have to check all of the lights before we would go anywhere. Brake lights, head lights, turn signals. Anything to prevent us from being pulled over in Maricopa County because a random stop would have surely led to a deportation for Ray.

And so, as time passed, we checked the car less and less. We became lazy. We became overly confident. I thought to myself, that will never happen to me. Why would someone choose a gringa as their drug mule? I stick out too much. It just didn't make sense.

But on Friday morning, at the site of that target, I began to question myself and my assumptions. Why in the hell would someone draw a bullseye on my back window? I asked Ray if he checked the car since it came back from the mechanic. He said he hadn't had the chance.


We pulled to the side of the road and Ray quickly jumped out and dusted off the back window to erase the target. He told me not to worry, that someone was just playing a practical joke. And with that, he bent down to look under the car quickly, peeked into the back seat, gave me the thumbs up and ran into the maquila.

As I made my way to the bridge, my mind was spinning. I imagined the worst. I thought about Miss Martinez, Teacher of the Year. I thought about all the stories I've heard about mechanics who plant drugs in the cars of regular border crossers. I wondered how I would explain myself to the judge. I wondered if anyone would believe me. I wondered what prison is like in Juárez.

Of course I was afraid when I crossed that morning. Beyond paranoid. Shaking nervously. But I didn't have any problems at the bridge after all. Luckily, I didn't have to explain anything to anyone because there was nothing to explain. This time. I'm hoping that little drawing was nothing more than the work of a bored chalán at the shop, or maybe some neighborhood kids with a little too much time on their hands.

All I know is that from now on, we won't be forgetting to do a once-over of the car every morning. We won't get lazy again.

Saturday, January 4, 2014


¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Not to be confused with Ano Nuevo. That's an entirely different blog.

My New Year's resolutions are pretty much the same as everyone else's. You know, eat healthier, drink less, beat level 246 of Candy Crush, have Blake Lively's legs, etc. I'll spare you the details.

For a variety of reasons, we decided to stay home on New Year's Eve for the first time since we've been in Mexico. So of course I was surprised when I got home from work that evening to see that Ray was dressed to the nines. Fancy shoes, hair gel and all. I assumed he had changed his mind about going out with our friends but he hadn't. He went on to explain that on New Year's Eve, you need to dress nice for good luck, even if you aren't going out. You're even supposed to wear new clothes, he told me. Which made sense considering he was wearing a shirt I had bought him for his birthday... in November. Hell, I just thought he didn't like it. No, he was saving it for Año Nuevo... Ayyy, mi pinche Gordito.

Another tradition I didn't know about. There are already so many in Mexico and it still seems like I learn about a new one every year. My two favorite New Year's traditions in Mexico involve underwear and fruit and they are really the only 2 I take part in.

The first being that you wear a certain color underwear to reflect what you want in the year to come. I think the two popular choices are red underwear to have more love in your life and green underwear to have a better year financially. I'll let you guess which color we each chose.

The second tradition that I love involves eating 12 grapes. It's quite common here, so much so that you can find grapes at stores that don't normally carry them, such as the gas station on the corner. It's also a personal tradition of mine to forget to buy the grapes at the grocery store that week and end up paying twice the price at the corner store on NYE at the last minute. As you eat each grape, you make a wish or a resolution of what you want to have or do or be in the year to come. I've become rather fond of carefully deciding what 12 things to wish for.

Here I am with my lucky grapes...
I'll spare you the picture of my underwear.

And so we spent the end of the year quietly at home, watching Netflix and listening to our neighbor's fireworks and celebratory gunshots. Eating grapes and wearing our lucky underwear, of course. It was actually quite nice. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday as well.

Happy New Year to you and yours. May 2014 bring you peace, love and laughter.