Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in Parral

At some point over the years we had fallen into a Christmas routine that blended both of our family's traditions. We would stay up late on Christmas Eve and drink and eat tamales and listen to music and then have a movie marathon on Christmas Day followed my idea of a traditional ham dinner with all the fixings.

We would always call his family shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve and the phone would be passed around from person to person as they wished each other a Feliz Navidad. And inevitably the phone call would end with Ray feeling homesick and nostalgic. He isn't a man of many words though so we never talked too much about it and I never really understood why he would get so sad. I don't come from a small family really but we are pretty spread out geographically and I've lived far enough away for long enough that I don't have many holiday memories of everyone together.

Last year, after being with my husband for nearly 10 years, I finally got to visit his hometown of Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua. I met his entire family for the first time and got to see what all the fuss was about with this town he lovingly refers to as Parralito. I still don't know why they call it "el capital del mundo," but it turned out to be a trip of bucket list proportions. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you did get to see some pictures and commentary of the trip as it happened and you might remember that we had a bit of a rough time getting there to begin with. As it turns out, holiday bus schedules in Mexico aren't as reliable as the flight schedules in the US are. We were told we couldn't even buy tickets for December 24th until the day-of because a lot of times the drivers don't show up for work on Christmas Eve so they have to cancel trips entirely.

Needless to say there was quite a bit of uncertainty as we got our tickets but once we had them in hand the rest was gravy. We traveled via Chihuahuenses Select and I absolutely loved it. When you got on the bus they gave you a little bag with a pillow, headphones, a sandwich, chips and a pop. Each reclining seat had leg rests and it's own touch screen TV where you could choose from a variety of movie and music channels to occupy yourself during the trip. I was exhausted because packing, planning and a last minute midnight trip to the ATM in El Paso meant I hadn't slept the night before but between the beautiful scenery and my little touch screen I didn't get a wink of sleep on the 9 hour bus ride.

We arrived in Parral in the late afternoon and his family was more welcoming and accepting than I could have ever hoped for. Aside from one of his brothers that had lived in Mesa when we met, I had only met my mother in law and his youngest brother when they came to Juárez days after our move to Mexico. That visit was overshadowed by the stress of my initial adjustment to life South of the border though. I didn't have time to really appreciate our time together because I was so caught up with trying to find a job and a home that I could barely see straight. This time together was completely different. Special.

Ray (center) with his parents and siblings

We freshened up from our trip and then one by one family members started to arrive. Everyone seemed to have a hand in helping my mother in law to prepare the food, which was tamales and a rice with rajas de chile, corn and crema. They talked and laughed and listened to music while they cooked and it was all so overwhelmingly comforting to me. I instantly felt like I had known them my entire life and oddly enough, I felt at home. I went into the trip assuming I'd feel uncomfortable because I'm kind of a set-in-my-ways type of gal, but that couldn't have been further from the truth.

As the night progressed I saw more and more new faces, each one just as welcoming as the last. I met sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and friends and friends of friends. I was amazed at how many people you could fit in the humble one bedroom home that my husband grew up in but as he had always told me, space was never an issue. We all danced and sang karaoke and played card games and No Te Enchiles and laughed and laughed and laughed. I honestly don't think I have ever had so much fun in my entire life. 

Ray playing 100 Mexicanos Dijeron (Family Feud) with his nieces and nephews

When midnight rolled around, everyone began to hug and kiss each other, one by one. I had never seen or even heard of such a holiday tradition and as I sat back and watched it all before me, the tears began to flow. There was so much love in that room. I really don't know what to say to describe it but it was just the most amazing, heart-warming thing I think I have ever experienced. 

My suegros

We saw a lot of things that week in Parral. La Mina Prieta, the site where Pancho Villa was killed, La Puerta del Tiempo, El Palacio Alvarado... Those things were all cool, but nothing could top that moment of los abrazos de La Noche Buena for me. It made my entire trip.

Iglesia San Jose in downtown Parral

Artwork on the walls of the Centro de Documentación

El Palacio Alvarado

My cuñado Javier and I on a tour of La Mina Prieta

La Puerta del Tiempo

Statue of Sr San Jose at the top of La Mina Prieta

Obviously I wanted to blog about this a year ago but I guess life got in the way. That happens sometimes. We reluctantly decided not to go to Parral this year because I'm saving our money and vacation days for maternity leave. I'm really too far along to be traveling at this point anyway so we were back to our old tradition yesterday with the late-night family phone call. We had so much fun at dinner last night with our friends here in Juárez but for some reason as the phone was passed around at midnight, I found myself feeling that same sadness that Ray has always felt each year. That feeling I had never understood before... I finally get it. I found myself wishing we were in Parral dando los abrazos and celebrating with his whole family. It's a bummer that we missed out on the fun this year pero ni modo.

Next year it's on. And with our newest family member in tow!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Baby Talk

I always had a plan in mind for how I wanted things to go if we were ever blessed with another child and each day God looks down at me and chuckles as he finds a way to humbly remind me that I don't get to plan anything in life.

I was going to have my dream VBAC no matter what doctors tried to pressure me into. But guess what? Baby Cruz will be gracing the world with his presence at the end of January via repeat c-section.

I was going to set up a strict savings plan to prepare for maternity leave by putting 100% of my husband's earnings in a savings account and eliminating eating out completely. But guess what? Ray broke his finger on the job in July and has been out of work ever since and I have an insatiable craving for Taco Bell at least twice week.

I was going to be a bad ass and give birth in Mexico to save my husband the experience of seeing his son for the first time via Facetime. But guess what? The birth would cost about the same in Juárez without insurance as it will in El Paso after insurance but in Mexico payment is expected in full before you leave the hospital with your new bundle of joy. Oh, and let's be honest; I am scared shitless to have a major surgery South of the border.

So life doesn't always work out like I plan it. What's new, right? Despite my seemingly constant complaints, this pregnancy has gone relatively well. I haven't gained any weight yet, which is perfectly normal for a plus size pregnant person and baby's growth has been right on track. I do have some issues with hypertension which have been controlled by medication so far. Oh and a little nighttime carpal tunnel and acid reflux but who's keeping track, right? Little Ben moves constantly, maybe 10 times as much as my first born, so I already have a feeling he's going to be a little spitfire. The nurses have referred to him as un vago on multiple occasions as he wiggles around while they try to chase down his heartbeat at my regular OB visits.

His room is finally ready to go, and I think he is one lucky boy. We have been blessed beyond belief by my girlfriends who have not only been insanely generous with their baby's hand-me-downs but they also threw me an awesome baby shower a couple of weeks ago at Las Malas Companias. Thanks to them Ben is all set up with a crib, stroller, play yard and car seat and his dresser is stuffed full of clothes! Between their generosity and the few trips I've made to Goodwill and Once Upon A Child, this boy is set.

To be honest, I'm actually pretty proud of his nursery set up. I'm not much of a decorator but I think I did pretty well. We found a dresser at one of the tianguis by our house for only $20 and were able to paint it to match the crib my friend Annalisa gave us. Then I got a little inspiration from a nursery I saw on Pinterest and went from there. I had Ray paint an old bookcase and table lime green and then I made some curtains to tie everything together and voilà!


Aside from a few last minute items, I think we are pretty much ready for little Benjamín's arrival. There are still some logistics that need to be worked out when it comes to his health insurance but that won't be able to be arranged until he is born. We can't afford to add him to my policy at work (which would cost nearly $400 USD a month) and do not qualify for Medicaid or CHIP because we live outside of the US, so we are opting to purchase his insurance from a provider in Mexico once his Mexican birth certificate is issued. I'm pretty nervous about that whole process but am trying to have faith that it will all work out the way it's supposed to.

Sort of the same faith I'm trying to have about Ray becoming a stay at home dad. That's been the hypothetical plan since we first moved to Mexico as it just makes sense financially. My earnings potential in the US is so much greater than his is in Mexico so the decision seems like a no-brainer. But that's easier said than done, I suppose. He has had a rough time all these months he's been out on disability but we both imagine that staying home with baby will feel so much more rewarding than staying home twiddling his thumbs while waiting for medical clearance to return to work. It can be a tough pill to swallow for any man to have his wife be the provider so it certainly won't come without it's challenges. That's where that faith comes in again...

I suppose that's a big part of parenting though, right? Good intentions and a whole lot of faith?

Wish us luck.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


I remember watching Twister when I was about 12 years old and secretly fantasizing about becoming a storm chaser when I was older. It sounded so adventurous and intriguing. Fast forward about 20 years and it turns out I'm not very adventurous or intriguing. In fact I'd much rather live a safe, dry, boring life than live through some sort of epic, Blockbuster-worthy storm.

So imagine my despair a couple of weeks ago when I heard reports of a tornado in Juárez and couldn't get a hold of my husband. Friends were having to pull off the road because of the golf ball size hail falling and Raymundo was nowhere to be found. Some of his friends were in town from Parral for a funeral but I wasn't sure what part of town they were staying in so I just assumed that maybe he didn't have signal wherever he was. This happened to be the case. I felt comforted by the fact that the worst of the storm was reported to be in the Las Torres area and I was pretty sure he wasn't anywhere near there.

I was wrong.

He was actually right smack-dab in the middle of Las Torres at the time and ended up getting stuck near the area this video was shot in:

(Video recorded by Mauricio Vargas Miranda)

When he finally had signal he called to tell me that his truck had quite a bit of damage from the hail and the windshield and back hatch were both cracked. The storm left the whole truck looking somewhat pock-marked but not nearly as bad as some of the videos I had been watching all afternoon online. We are both bummed at the thought of having to deal with the repairs of course, but definitely grateful that it wasn't worse and it's still driveable.


As if we hadn't had enough excitement with that storm, hail began to fall again while I was working in El Paso this past Wednesday. Here we go again, I thought. I stood at the door of the office, staring at my car, willing it to be strong and withstand the storm as I briefly contemplated throwing my body over the hood to prevent a second vehicle from being marred by hail.

Dramatic much?

I ended up having nothing to fear because the hail never got much bigger than the size of a pea. No, the problem with this second storm turned out to be the flooding, not the hail. I got a phone call from Ray at about 5:30 pm that evening telling me to park my car behind the Oxxo because it would never make it to our house. The water was too deep. You see, Juárez doesn't exactly have a reliable drainage system for the most part so when it rains, it tends to flood large portions of the city.

I envisioned myself, now 6 months pregnant, wading through waist deep water for the 2 blocks from Oxxo to my house, with my purse and grocery bags over my head, like some sort of destitute tsunami victim clutching her prized possessions. Only all I had was a Walmart bag with some bread and a Styrofoam box of Chinese take-out and of course, this was no tsunami.

In the moment, I recognized that I was being dramatic, I really did. I just couldn't stop myself and see the light. Is that a pregnant lady thing? It had been a rough day in the hormone department already. The baby had been in a weird position all day and nothing felt right. I couldn't stand right or sit quite right or really breathe without being overwhelmed by pressure in my mid-section. I just didn't feel good and I wanted to go home. And it was movie night. And I was hungry. And I didn't want to deal with inclement weather.

We stood on the corner behind the Oxxo for a few minutes as we watched other cars maneuver their way through the flooded streets with the ease that marks a true Juárense. They're bad asses. They've done this a million times before. Just another Wednesday in Juárez it seems. Even being here for 5 years now doesn't allow us to match their skill as they chose just the right route to get home safely. It was only after we saw a Mini Cooper avoiding the deepest of the water by driving into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road that we felt slightly more confident that our little Yaris could make it too.

Gordo and I switched cars, him in the Yaris and myself in the Trailblazer now and began to head towards the house. He instructed me to stay to the right of the road, as close as I could to the curb and to not let my foot off the gas. He would follow behind me in the wake of the SUV. We were in good shape until the truck in front of me came to a complete stop and I was forced to put my foot on the brake. The water was so deep I imagined it had to be pouring into our little car at that point but looking back at Ray, I couldn't tell. I was convinced that it was all over and that both cars would be out of commission. We would have nothing to move around in and would both lose our jobs and become homeless due to lack of transportation.

I'm laughing as I type this now, because I realize how ridiculous this all sounds, but I swear to you, in that moment, this all felt very serious. We all know I'm a bit of a drama-queen anyway, but throw in some pregnancy hormones and you really do have the perfect storm. No pun intended.

So this is how I found myself crying in the street, yelling to my husband that I hate this fucking city and I hate the fucking weather here and I wish I lived anywhere else in the world and has Juárez ever heard of a fucking sewer system and I'm tired and hungry and oh my God my boobs are so fucking huge right now, I'm about to fucking tip over.

I ugly-cried like a spoiled child, listing my pathetic problems in the middle of the street as my husband listened intently. He knows I love Juárez and didn't mean anything I was saying but he let me have my moment. I could tell he was trying his best not to laugh at me which made me cry even harder because I knew I was being a complete idiot. He left both cars running for a while to dry out the motors and began trying to calm me down.

It's okay vieja, the car is fine. It's just a little water. Un poco de aqua, no mas. No te preocupas, todo esta bien. Don't worry, it's fine.

And of course, he was right. Everything is completely fine. Both cars are running fine. As always, I need to calm down and look at the bigger picture and as always, God quickly finds a way to show me how blessed I actually am. This time that lesson came with the news of Hurricane Patricia which was said to be the strongest hurricane ever recorded at sea. 

Early Friday morning the tropical storm was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane and had the potential of being catastrophic. I have a few friends in Southwestern Mexico that were caught in it's path but by this morning they had all checked in to let everyone know they were okay. Luckily it looks like less damage was done than had been anticipated and early reports show the Western coast of Mexico coming out of it all relatively unscathed, or at least with no deaths or damage to major infrastructure. I know flooding and mudslides will continue to be an issue though so we will keep the Pacific coast of Mexico in our prayers.

At the end of the day, despite the unfortunate circumstances, I'm grateful for the life lesson and grateful that my friends are all okay. Patricia ended up being a kick in the ass for me to realize how blessed we are and how much worse things could be. Here's to drier days.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gender Reveal

From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I knew Baby Cruz was a girl. I also knew Ray secretly wanted a boy, but he didn't dare say a word. We had wanted a baby together for so many years, I think he thought being choosy about the gender would just be selfish. 

I didn't necessarily want a girl, I just wanted a healthy baby and knew it was a girl. If I'm being completely honest, having a daughter absolutely terrifies me. I mean sure, it would be fun to buy dresses and dolls and braid her hair and what not, but eventually this daughter would have the possibility of turning into her mother! Osea me! I shudder at the thought of having to deal with a 13 year old version of myself. But I figured God doesn't give us more than we can handle, so as terrifying as it was, I knew we would figure it out.

I already knew her name. We had picked it out nearly 10 years ago. Eva Marie. Marie is my mom's middle name. Done. The first gift we were given after announcing the pregnancy was a pink, Minnie Mouse walker. Perfect. Eva will love this, I thought.

My creative, thoughtful, crafty, should-seriously-be-a-chef friend, Veronica, offered to make us a gender reveal cake and I gladly accepted. It was really the perfect thing to do so that Ray and I could find out the gender together, since my OB is in El Paso and he obviously cannot go to my appointments.

Veronica was ready for anything!

Knowing I have no patience, on the day of my ultrasound she made not one, but two cakes. How amazing is that? I had my appointment in the afternoon and asked the doctor to determine the sex, but not to tell me. After the ultrasound she scribbled the gender on a piece of paper which was wrapped several times and then sealed in an envelope.

You would have thought I had presidential election results in that damned envelope with the way I sped back across the border. A few short hours later, it was time for the big reveal!

The gorgeous cake.

Here we go...

Blue?! What the...

Ray was completely shocked.
I had him convinced it was a girl.

I was in such disbelief I made Veronica
show me the letter from the ultrasound tech.

So it wasn't a little Eva inside of me after all! After some deliberation (you know, a quick glance at the list we'd been working on for a decade,) we settled on a name. Benjamín Joseph. Benjamín being the only name on our list that was loved by both our English and Spanish speaking family and Joseph being my dad's middle name. He will be Ben-HA-mín to Spanish speakers and Ben-JA-min to English speakers and that's quite alright with us.

We are absolutely elated to add this little boy to our family and cannot wait for his arrival!

Mom, Dad y El Benny

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tales From the Bridge III

So I have to start this off with some really exciting news. And I wish I could have some great, creative way to do so, but it's not happening for me today so I am just going to come right out and say it.

Ray and I are expecting a baby! I'm due early next year and we are both over the moon with joy. BUT, I sort of despise pregnancy. Shocker. I'm already pretty sensitive and emotional naturally, and my emotions while pregnant are a whole new level of (as my stepdad would put it,) P-S-Y-C-H-O. Today took the cake though because it was just a really emotional day from the get-go and it all started out on the bridge.

The line wasn't really any longer than any other Thursday but it sure did drag. They recently changed which side of the bridge that the Ready Lanes are on and ever since then it's been pretty chaotic. I used to wait about 15 minutes in line on the Bridge of the Americas and now I am waiting closer to an hour in the mornings. It's a little frustrating but it was definitely worse when we first moved to Juárez so it's almost not worth mentioning. Anyway so this morning I ended up in a line that didn't really move for long spurts of time and then all of the sudden the cars would advance quickly.

I finally got to the point where I was next in line at the inspection booth and ended up waiting there for a good 15 minutes. The person that was in front of me being inspected had been there for a really long time. There seemed to be a lot of back and forth, but I just assumed that maybe the passengers were asking the officer a lot of immigration or importation questions because I know that happens from time to time. But one car sitting there for that long isn't very common, especially in a Ready Lane. Typically a car will pass through the booth in under a minute, if even close to that. They ask the necessary questions, do their inspection and move on to the next vehicle. If there are any suspicions they transfer the car over to secondary inspection to look into it further.

So after a while I did start to think that it was weird that I was sitting there for so long. People behind me were honking their horns and whatever but I was not about to follow suit. I understand that there's no way we can know what an officer is doing and if/when they are just slacking and taking their sweet time. For all we know that car could have been chock-full of cocaine. So I just sat there but did notice that as the officer was inspecting the vehicle at the booth, he kept glancing at me and giving me the weirdest looks. I ignored it and went back to scrolling through my Twitter feed.

Finally it's my turn to be inspected. I give the officer my passport, I say good morning and proceed to answer his questions. What was the purpose of your trip to Juárez? How long have you lived there? Where do you work? Simple stuff. He was a little short with me, but that's to be expected, I suppose. Then he takes my passport into the booth and looks up whatever it is they look up on their computer. He spent a good amount of time studying the computer screen before coming out of the booth and asking me why I cross multiple times a day. I explained that I work Monday through Friday in El Paso and only cross once a day. He instantly became argumentative and went on to basically accuse me of lying and insisted that I cross into the US multiple times a day. Not true. I don't know what he was trying to get at but his demeanor was extremely offensive. His facial expressions alone just threw me off.

Then he went on to ask me for my vehicle registration which I have never had anyone ask me for on the bridge with the exception of one occasion several years ago when the El Paso Police was checking for insurance of all vehicles entering the US. Is it normal for them to ask for registration? Maybe. I don't know. But there was just something about the way this guy asked me. Like he was going out of his way to make things difficult. I handed it over to him and he took a nice, long, slow look at it before handing it back to me with my passport stuck in the fold of the paper. He looks me right in the eye as he hands it to me and gives me this long creepy look and says, very sarcastically, "Have a nice day."

I responded with somewhat of a blank stare because how the fuck do you respond when someone says something to you that they clearly don't mean? You don't have to tell me to have a nice day, Border Patrol. I get it. You're not here to be my BF. I don't need you to wish me well or tell me you feel bad that I live in Mexico or ask me how my weekend was or tell me I look nice. I don't need your fake, condescending, "have a nice day!" There are plenty of people working for CBP who are actually pleasant at the bridge and may wish me a good day and actually mean it, but if you aren't one of those people, I'm cool with that. I literally have never had major problems at the bridge and maybe I've been spoiled by all of the people who have been so nice to me over the years?

In response to his obvious sarcasm, I stared at him blankly, mostly because I had no clue how to respond. He quickly went on to loudly say, "Or not," with an irritated tone in his voice, "Or don't have a nice day, whatever!" Oh hell no. Who is this guy? I really don't know what it was but that last comment just caused something to click in my head and I became so angry. I don't know... I just felt like he was talking to me like I was a dog or less-than or not worthy of his respect or something.

I asked him if there was some sort of problem to which he announced that there was, indeed, a problem. "You have an attitude problem," he said. Whoa. Where did I go wrong with this guy? I was polite, I said good morning, I answered his questions, I wasn't argumentative, I gave him the documents he wanted. I don't know what more he wanted from me and it was more than a little frustrating. So that's when I requested to speak with his supervisor. And as soon as the request came out of my mouth, I regretted it. I try to be a person that doesn't allow people like this to affect my whole day but for some reason (pregnantbrain,) I just couldn't let it slide this morning.

My request got him all riled up. He almost seemed excited. Oh yeah, let me get him for you, right away! Right now. You just just pull over here to secondary since you're in such a hurry but you have time to talk to my supervisor.

More bullshit sarcasm.

I never said I was in a hurry. After he told me I had an attitude problem, I told him, "Sir, I've been waiting in line for an hour," as I put my hands in the air hopelessly with a quizzical "what do you want my attitude to be like?" look on my face. "Well, that's not my problem," he said, "I just got here," he snapped.

Was I ear-to-ear smiles with a gleam in my eye, jumping up and down with joy this morning? Hell no! It was 7 am and I haven't had caffeine in 3 fucking months. I suppose what bothered me the most is that I feel like I have always gone out of my way to be polite to CBP. And honestly, in return I have had really great experiences crossing. I do think that my attitude has played a part in those good experiences because I believe that a person's attitude is infectious. Unfortunately today just didn't work out like most mornings...

I pulled into Secondary to wait for the supervisor at which point the officer asked me for my passport again, and then felt the need to ask for my car insurance (eye roll) and told me to turn off my vehicle. Again, going out of his way to be difficult. As I'm sitting there waiting for the supervisor I start to feel really fucking stupid. My eyes are welling with tears and I'm realizing that this whole thing is so trivial. There were no civil rights violations at play (which no doubt happen regularly at the border,) or anything that even warranted filing a complaint. If this guy is having a power trip and wants to talk to me like a piece of shit, tough cookies Emily, get over it. People are abused and talked down to and treated inappropriately all the time and here I am about to report this guy because he goes to work in the morning like somebody just pissed in his Cheerios? So not worth it.

The supervisor came over eventually and introduced himself and politely shook my hand. I immediately recognized him. He's seen me cross countless times before and has always gone out of his way to be decent and respectful. (Probably why he's the supervisor even though he's half the age of the guy who just finished giving me such a hard time.) I immediately apologized for taking his time but told him I just felt as though something had to be said. The tears started to flow as I explained what had happened. As I heard the words coming out of my mouth my brain was sending it fierce signals to stop talking but my words continued to flow as fast as my tears. I sounded all kinds of hormonal and I swear that poor man probably thought I was completely insane. I mentioned that I had never felt the need to file a complaint about CBP, not even the time an officer told me that my husband married me for a green card and would divorce me as soon as he got it, but for some reason this time was different.

He asked me if there was anything he could do and I told him that I really just wanted to tell someone that this man made me feel uncomfortable and I felt his demeanor was inappropriate and completely unnecessary. He talked down to me, told me I have a bad attitude and basically called me a liar and I wanted someone to be aware of that. The supervisor was sympathetic and asked me repeatedly if I would like him to do anything about it before making sure I wasn't late for work and wishing me a good day, genuinely.

Even as I'm typing this right now the entire thing seems absolutely absurd and I realize that maybe I am just totally and completely out to lunch. I don't know. I guess I really just wanted to check in here and vent about my silly experience on the bridge this morning that sort of ruined my whole day because I'm an idiot and I let it.

Any crazy, hormonal, pregnancy stories you'd like to share to make me feel less like I belong in a padded room?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Father's Day in Samalayuca

Several years ago when our move to Juárez was still in the planning stages, I had grandeur dreams about what our life would be like here. One of those dreams included using some of our savings to purchase a second car with Mexican plates which we would use to travel all over Mexico in our free time.

Unfortunately, I had grossly underestimated the cost of living on the border and there was no leftover savings just a few short months after our move. We never bought that second car and never did any traveling or exploring too far from home. I had overestimated our free time as well, go figure.

The traveling I had in mind hasn't happened largely because we try to use our vacation time to visit our kids, but that second car could have really helped out in the past few years as our truck broke down time and time again. I recently had the chance to purchase a vehicle through the company I work for and I just knew I couldn't pass it up. I'll be making payments for the next year that will make things really tight for us financially but I know it's worth it and I'm thankful for the opportunity. It's a little Toyota with a high reliability rating that's excellent on gas. Polar opposite of the Chevy we've been struggling with for years.

Knowing that we were getting the new car this week made it easy to accept an invitation from friends for a day trip to Samalayuca for Father's Day. Normally I would have said no, fearing that the Trailblazer would leave us stranded in the middle of the desert with no way to get to work on Monday. But with the promise of a new car on the horizon, we threw caution to the wind, packed up the truck, and headed South.

Thankfully the ride was uneventful for the most part and free from any car problems. There is a checkpoint on the way which is normally closed but was up and running last Sunday. The officials saw the Texas plates on our truck and pulled us to the side of the road. I immediately got nervous because although everyone had assured us that we weren't driving far enough into Chihuahua to need a permit for our truck, I was second guessing that as soon as I saw a man in uniform. However, it was no problem at all. After Gordo explained that we were just going to Samalayuca we were waived right along.

Samalayuca is just about an hour outside of Juárez, if that, and famous for it's white sand dunes. It's close enough that the trip doesn't feel like a huge production and far enough to feel like you're still getting out of town. The dunes are quite the tourist attraction and on the weekends they are filled with people four wheeling, sandboarding or just hiking. With the high temperature being in the 100's that day, we didn't go to the dunes, but instead passed them up to hang out by the pool at Centro Recreativo Dunas Campestre.

There were 5 pools, all connected but on 3 levels, a lake for fishing (catfish and tilapia), horses that could be rented for a ride around the campground and a very long water slide (maybe half a mile?) that was not operating when we went. There was a restaurant on site as well as a small store selling ice, matches, pop, snacks and other camping essentials.

The price to get in was 40 pesos ($2.60 US) for adults and 20 pesos ($1.30 US) for children and if you wanted to camp you would just repay that same amount as you leave the next day. There was a water spigot for washing, a grill at each campsite and a men's and women's restroom that each had 2 bathrooms and a shower.

There were a lot of people there so the pools got a bit too crowded and dirty for my liking after a while. I'm hoping that this was just due to Father's Day because I can't wait to go back and camp. I love everything about camping. Setting up your own little temporary home, cooking over an open fire, spending time with your loved ones, unplugged. All the necessary ingredients for a good time.

Up until now I never really knew of anywhere we could camp around here and it's something I really missed. My family went camping regularly as I grew up and while the Chihuahuan Desert is nothing like the wooded KOA campgrounds of the Midwest or Northern Arizona, it definitely has it's own charm and beauty. It's not for everyone, that's for sure. But personally, I can't wait to go back.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sober Sunday Funday

Seven days ago I quit drinking and I'm feeling really, really good. There is obviously a long story behind what finally motivated me to make this decision but maybe I'll get into that more when I'm ready. Today is not the day. Regardless, my decision to put down the bottle has left me with the need to sort of reinvent my life in Juárez. Ever since we moved to Mexico, our lives have revolved around alcohol. That was never the case when we were North of the border.
In Arizona, I wouldn't gulp down an entire bottle of wine on a Tuesday night or start taking shots of tequila before noon on a Saturday, or drink a beer with breakfast on Sundays. I would have a glass of my friend Christina's homemade sangria on Thanksgiving or maybe toast with champagne on New Year's but alcohol was never a problem for me then.

Looking back, I see that I just couldn't cope with everything that this move entailed. I needed something to soften the blow. As an addict, I was naturally drawn to this miracle liquid that seemed to magically remove me from reality. The only problem with that is that reality was still there every morning. Now accompanied by a splitting headache, ganas de vomitar and embarrassment over what I had said or done the night before.

I remember coming home from a job interview 3 days after we moved here to find my husband drinking in the kitchen with his brother and mom. They had hopped on a bus from Parral to Juárez as soon as they had confirmation that we had arrived in Mexico. Of course they were in celebration-mode. It had been years since they'd been face to face.

So how could I resist that shot of tequila when it was offered to me at 2 in the afternoon? We were celebrating! We had made it, we were safe, we were together! Pour me another! ¡Arriba, abajo, por centro, al entro! And then suddenly, there I was and nearly 5 years had passed, and I was still celebrating. 

Nearly 5 years had passed and I was still at the same fucking party.

It's time to wake up. It's time to be responsible. It's time to realize that I am strong. I am so much stronger than I was 5 years ago. I am certainly strong enough to deal with my feelings and my life and whatever God throws my way. No need to numb myself with alcohol all the damned time. 

I got this.

I'm not saying I'll never drink again, but I do think I lost my way and plan to take a nice long break from alcohol. I'm excited to get out and experience life and stop sitting at home in my cave staring at the TV all day. Although I do enjoy Netflix quite a bit, even sober, a Scandal marathon shouldn't be the highlight of my week.

Normally on Sundays we are both complete zombies. We waste the entire day nursing our hangovers from whatever inevitable celebration took place the night before. Today was different. We woke up feeling rested and ready to take on the day.

After cleaning house we went to see San Andreas at Cinepolis. Forgive me but I have to talk prices here people. 2 adult tickets for the matinee cost 110 pesos. 1 large drink at the concession stand, 47 pesos. Afterwards we strolled around the mall, stopping to smell some cologne at Liverpool and checking out the teacup piglet and Shih Tzus at Bichos.

We ended up at the food court and did a couple of laps before deciding on Taco Inn for an early dinner. I got tacos de pollo asado and a non-alcoholic sangria and Ray settled on tacos de bistec with a Coke. 134 pesos. I know, talking prices again, but I'm going somewhere with this.

After dinner we did a little more window shopping before getting a couple of ice cream cones on our way out. 40 pesos. I got extra caramel. 5 pesos. I know, I know, there's that price again. Here's why I keep mentioning it... 

I've been quick to bitch all these years about how tight money is for us. And don't get me wrong, it is tight. But guess what? The grand total for everything we did today was 336 pesos. That's about $22 US and ironically about the amount of money we would normally spend on alcohol on the average weekend. So it's time to stop bitching and time to find some new hobbies.

Yes, it's time for a little wake up call for the Cruz family. And it's a welcomed and long overdue awakening. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Plot Twist

It's been 142 days since my last confession and years since I've taken such a long a break from this blog. Actually, I've never taken this long of a break. A lot has happened in the last few months.

I celebrated my 9th anniversary of being clean from drugs, visited my husband's hometown for the first time, achieved a milestone in my career that I have been fantasizing about for many years. Can you say million dollar branch? I wrote a blog about that but didn't feel like publishing it at the time. I was sick all winter. Like 3 months straight. Bronchitis after Thanksgiving, then strep, then bronchitis again, then the flu. I was going to write a blog about that but didn't. I hit a road-block with my writing that brought out some serious insecurities. I wrote a blog about that one too but... You know.

I can make a million excuses, but at the end of the day, I haven't posted because I just haven't felt like I had anything worth saying. I felt so pressured to publish something of meaning that I forgot why I began this blog in the first place. First and foremost, this was to be a place where I could journal my experiences as an American adjusting to life in Juarez. To communicate with my family and close friends. To let them know that I was okay. Hakuna Matada.

It was never supposed to be anything more than that. It was never supposed to mean so much or to be so stressful. I've missed the connection that this blog gave me and have been humbled by everyone who reached out to me with concerns about the fact that I haven't blogged. I'm sorry I haven't posted or if I've worried anyone. I've posted here and there on Facebook and Instagram but I'm quick to forget that some of you aren't into social media.

What have I been up to in the past couple of months? Well, I drank too much, I ate too much, I binged on Netflix too much and I loved every minute of it while simultaneously feeling the guilt that has come from my laziness and absence from the world. Being sick for a couple of months left me with poor habits. Staying in the house under the covers, eating a bunch of crap, having no desire to socialize or partake in any real-world activities. Simply put, I'm all fucked up.

I don't know a better way to say it. I haven't blogged because I've been embarrassed about my current state. Although there isn't really anything I feel I can't share here, there are certain things I felt were better left unsaid. There have been some developments in my life that have left me questioning what I'm doing. They left me questioning where this blog is going, and where I'm going. I feel a bit lost and a bit self-conscious and a bit desperate for change. That desperation should motivate me, but instead I'm just left throwing my hands in the air. I feel defeated, perhaps. Life is good. My marriage is great. Work is excellent. But this? This blog? All of this? I'm not sure where it's going.

Which is ridiculous because from the get-go, I had no direction. This was just my way of communicating with you. With anyone who felt like listening. Anyone feeling desperate and in search of a solution. With anyone who could relate. With anyone who was curious. With anyone who just felt like reading a story and didn't mind a shit-ton of profanity. In time it grew to be more in some way. And suddenly, it wasn't. It wasn't more, it wasn't special, it wasn't a solution.

I don't really understand what I'm going through but after reading the emails so many of you have sent me, I feel like you deserve to see me write myself through it. I feel emotional and irrational and pessimistic. Maybe this is some sort of pre-mid-life-mid-life crisis. Maybe it's too early to tell. I don't know. But I feel... Off? Not really sad, but definitely not where I was, and not where I feel I should be.