El Paso

The Fates have finally eased up!

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It’s been two weeks with an ER visit, broken window woes, and a winter storm from Mother Nature.  But now we are finally getting back on track and back on the road.

New Year’s day was to be our ‘send off’ day, but Austin had a bad cold that got so severe that we ended up spending the day at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center Emergency Room.  He still has a cough, but I finally let him break out of our tiny camper for some errands today with me after a week of being couped up.

In November we had a broken dinette window.  That was a fun one!  I went to open the window the day before Thanksgiving and just as I slid it about three inches out it shattered.  The glass company came about a week later, and now, after two previous misfits, they finally installed a properly fitted working window today.  (Yes, that’s right, over a month later!)

The first El Paso snow in 2013
The first El Paso snow in 2013

In the meantime, between the ER visit and the window being installed, Mother Nature picked the perfect timing to send us our first winter snow here in El Paso.  Of course, so rare is the snow and ice here that the roads are never cleared and the drivers are without enough practice.  The main juncture here, affectionately called the “Spaghetti Bowl” has steep and twisting angles not meant for days without sunshine.

But today we find ourselves ready to roll.  We’ve gotten things organized and stored and squirreled away, ready for travel.  Austin keeps talking about tomorrow like it’s Christmas all over again and even the dog is looking at me like he truly understands our imminent departure.

One last dinner at Chico’s Tacos, one last glimpse of our beautiful snow covered mountains, and one last drive west out of our city for 2013.  Our journey has begun!

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Hey you, over there, even you are welcome here!

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“Whatever the faiths you have known or the flags of your heritage, you are welcome here.  Whoever you are and whomever you love, you are welcome here.  Whether you ran in here today on little feet, or walked briskly, or ambled in, or rolled in, you are welcome here.” 

(UUCEP Worship Associate Script)

Above are some of the first words you will hear when attending a Sunday Service at the UU Community of El Paso.  They are truly heartfelt by those among us.

Ours is a faith of acceptance and each one of these words can be taken in the most literal sense.  Whomever you are, no matter your background,  you are welcome without regard to race, class, national origin, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression.

UUCEP
Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso

Unfortunately, many are in search of our faith without realizing it even exists!  If you would like a more liberal, educational, and accepting faith environment, visit a UU community this Sunday.  If you’re unsure where your beliefs lie, a great way to get help is to take the “Belief-O-Matic” quiz at Belief Net: http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx  It is a truly fun and enlightening quiz that can both affirm your chosen faith, or show you a new path to spiritual exploration.

As a creedless faith, UU’s rely on the support and acceptance by our members of our 7 Principles:

Our 7 Principles

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person

2. Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations

4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning

5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large

6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part of

As I go on my 2013 pilgrimage, I hope to bring the meanings of these words to heart and to share.  It’s simple to list words as they come–simple to list the principles.  But what I hope to convey is the emotion behind the words and more importantly, the belonging to the words that come with our faith.

To learn more about Unitarian Universalism, or to find a community near you, please visit: www.uua.org or click on the chalice in the right-hand column of my blog.  If you are unable or unwilling to attend a physical location, you can explore UU’ism through the Church of the Larger Fellowship: http://www.questformeaning.org/

For more information on the UU Community of El Paso, visit: www.uuelpaso.org

Homeland cuisine

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Although Texas is known for its steaks and chili, here in the borderland we have the ultimate in border Mexican cuisine.  Anything from the simple to the gourmet, the chiles and the tortillas never tasted better than those from the heart of El Paso.

Chicos TacosWhile some El Pasoans will argue the worth of some of the foods I love, it’s like a calling when coming back home.  Australians have their vegemite, Scots have their haggis, and El Pasoans have our own Chico’s Tacos made infamous by “Fluffy” (comedian Gabriel Iglesias), and all of us who grew up with late night visits after Friday high school football and crashing quinceaneras.  Chico’s Tacos are the tacos that are really flautas drowned in tomato water, drenched in a hot green chile salsa, and covered in an un-meltable shredded cheese.  And did I say nearly impossible to eat?  While some use the fork-tong method to temporarily hold them above the paper tray and attempt neatness while eating, many of us just grab the thing and damn with the mess.  Honestly, aren’t some of the best tasting foods the messiest to eat?  (Ever had a Whopper that didn’t drip?  What a disappointment!)

My other favorite El Paso landmark restaurant is Kiki’s, made famous by locals and multiple Kikisawards and appearances on the Food Network channel.  Every Sunday afternoon following church you will find my son Austin and me enjoying a perfect specimen of borderland food there.  Known for it’s machacas, which are amazing, this restaurant doesn’t fail on any of it’s menu.  When not splurging, I enjoy just a simple green cheese enchilada, my favorite of all foods.  Enchiladas are also my test food anytime I try a new restaurant.  Hell, if they can’t get the basics in tortillas with chiles, sauces, and cheeses, then you won’t find me returning for a second go.

I love my border Mexican so much that I took it with me on my last trip.  Loaded up on frozen tacos and enchiladas, I pulled them out and shared them with friends and family unfortunate enough to live back East, far away from our desert paradise.

And now I face their dilemma, a full-year without my favorites.  Dry ice and FedEx anyone?

If you ever have the fortune of visiting El Paso, use the links below to find my favorites:

Kiki’s Restaurant http://www.kikisrestaurant.com/

Chico’s Tacos locations http://www.yellowpages.com/el-paso-tx/chicos-tacos (Bring cash, Chico’s does not accept credit cards)

Border Poet has me Tongue-tied

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Yesterday while at the UUCEP Holiday Bazaar, I picked up a copy of an acquaintance’s newest book, Tongue-tied to the Border.  The author, Gene Keller, is a wonderful, likeable and fluffy bearded man with an ever present twinkle in his eye.  Yes, it’s getting very close to Christmas and, no, I’m sorry to say he is not Santa!  Though reading his work made me feel as though my Christmas had come early.

Tongue Tied to the Border
Tongue-tied to the Border

Gene’s book reminds me of how I love the smell of the desert with a summer’s rain freshly upon it, the splash of the dust and the crack of the electric permeating the sky with a monsoon just arrived.  This is what Tongue-tied brings to thoughts and senses.

If you have never lived in the desert, this book is a must.  And if you have, this book is an ethereal fantasy of childhood memories as well as a social commentary on the shared lives of our sister cities, Juarez and El Paso.

Now I must begin from page one again.  I have to relish in the poems, reading them slowly and examining the contextual meanings as I feel, contemplate and digest the words of this borderlander.

Gene Keller is a full-spectrum poet: a maker of word artifacts, a singer, a storyteller.”  (From back book jacket.)

A performance by Gene at our sanctuary in April 2012:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHXHheDHdok

Copies of Tongue-tied to the Border are available for purchase on Amazon.com, or at the Hal Marcus Gallery in El Paso.

http://www.amazon.com/

http://www.halmarcus.com/

Tongue-tied to the Border, by Gene Keller, Copyright 2012 by Gene Keller, Street of Trees Projects (SOTP 1112), 225 Arboles, El Paso TX 79932.

My desert home

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It’s been wonderful being back in El Paso for the last year and more.  I’ve been so used to traveling and moving that our little six-week trip in September and October back East just wasn’t enough to cure my bug, but at the same time, I’m home.

I graduated from Socorro High School here in El Paso back in the 80’s and then went straight el-paso-tx desertinto the Marine Corps as a 17-year-old.  My friends and I were so hurried to get out on our own.  Of my two best friends, one graduated mid-term and married the day after our last class.  I graduated mid-term also and left for boot camp in January.   While my friends were enjoying the prom I was on bivouac in Parris Island and by the time they were graduating, I was at my first duty station in North Carolina.  At age 21, when many young adults are moving out of their parents’ homes, I was completing a four-year tour of duty.

Although I have a lot of pride associated with my service (even my youngest daughter became a Marine) I recently have had reminders of the unique experiences that I lost in all my ambition.  I followed the military for 25 years and it was only my position with the American Red Cross that brought me back home to Texas, serving as the Station Manager  at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Within a year of leaving El Paso so long ago I lost touch with my first love.  The last I heard from my best friends was about ten years ago.  We’re now in our 40s, married, divorced, children.  Although we’ve all gone in different directions, we will never lose our common denominator.  And maybe I’m a sentimental fool now, but I’d love to see them all, hear their voices, cry with them, laugh with them, and heal their wounds.

In January I leave El Paso, but in December I’ll be back, back to my favorite place, my desert home.

Why did he want two?

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Last year at UUCEP we had a big box in the back for people to bring in gifts to donate and we had a good response but the varieties of gifts were pretty wide-ranged.  This year we decided on a Giving Tree for foster children through CASA El Paso.  As many know, this is when you set up a Christmas tree in a hall, or in our case in the sanctuary, with tags hung on it describing various children and their gift wishes for Christmas.

Before the tree was even set up Austin and I spied the envelope with tags in it in the office while we were putting together our travel poster.  We looked through the many cards and Austin clued in on some boys close to his age and wanting gifts that he would love himself.  I told him that we had to choose just one and put the others back for the giving tree but Austin didn’t like this.  He asked why he couldn’t choose two and I explained that there were other people in the church that would want to donate also.

I decided to ask him why, why did he want two?  It’s not like he’s getting the gifts himself (as many young children would feel) and he wouldn’t even get to meet the children.  But Austin said decisively, “Because I feel so bad for them.  They don’t have as much as I have.”  And there it was, the growth, the maturity, and my parental pride all balled up inside of him and me.

So I promised him that we would check the tree in a couple weeks and see if any tags were missed.  If so, we would take them and go straight to the store for more gifts for the children.

You see, my son Austin is adopted.  A beautiful soul that was a gift to me and is now a gift to the world.

CASA of El Paso trains and supports volunteers from the community to advocate for abused and neglected children who need representation in the family court system, striving to provide them a safe and permanent home.

For more information, visit www.casaofelpaso.com.