Las Uvas de Furia (The Grapes of Wrath) Mexican Style

I wrote this on January 29, 2014.
Las Uvas de Furia (The Grapes of Wrath) Mexican Style
If you ever plan to motor West
Travel my way, the highway that’s the best.
Get your kicks on Route 66
My family left Chicago on January 29, 1947, a Wednesday. It took them 8 long arduous days on Route 66 in a 1940’s De Soto, three adults and 6 children. My Mama was 12 years old then. They arrived in Visalia, California on February 6, 1947. Where my grandmother had a cousin, named Eloisa Baiza. They came here, in search of a better life. Shortly after, they moved on to the Greenfield/King City area, “to work the land, by picking crops and living in (carpas) tents. My Abuelita used an old kerosene stove to cook all the family meals.
I have been recording my family’s history for many many years, mainly through oral traditions. My Mama, had a phenomenal memory and in addition was a captivating storyteller, she had you at the edge of your seat, laughing and wanting her to continue with more. No one told a story like Helen. She wanted all of her children to know and preserve our family’s history. She asked me to document dates, so they would be preserved. My Aunt Lupe, my Mama & I are the “keeper of the archives, ” my sister, Nellie, appointed me this title. Both my Aunt Lupe & Mama are now gone. This record-keeping was very important to my Mama, When she & I spent time together, she would tell me, “get your writing tablet and pen out.” And I diligently complied.
I am honored to hold the distinct title in lineage of first-born to first borns.
On the maternal (Mireles side) and first-born on the paternal (Castorena side) I am first- born grandchild on both-sides.
It has been difficult to determine what year my Abuelita came from Chihuahua, Mexico. Because according to my 97 year old Aunt Josefa, who still lives in Chicago. My grandmother was born in Abilene, Texas on July 22, 1904. I know my grandmother was in second-grade in Texas. This would change whether I am 2nd or 3rd generation.
Mi Abuelito was born on January 12, 1900, in Guanajuato. And I know he was in Chicago in 1918 or 1919. So, according to my calculations, my family has been in the United States approximately 96 years. So, I would say a 100 Year Family Celebration is in order very soon. We have just enough time to plan it.
Thank you Abuelitos. I am Proud to call you Mis Abuelitos, for striving, for plowing through, for being such hard workers and wanting better for us! My family did not come here demanding nor did they have the attitude they were owed anything!
This date remains imprinted in me for another reason also; my Mama’s birthday was just a few days after their arrival, February 9.
Later on, I will write about there work experiences around the Napa area picking plums (there were no grapes then) in the late 40’s and 50’s.

Las Hermanas Traviesas

Today is your birthday Hermanita, Manuela.
As little girls we slept together in the same bed, we scratched each other’s backs.
We tickled each other, beyond fun.
We played jacks, tether ball, hide & seek and volleyball.
We ran wild in the projects of Huron y Polvadero.
We fought against each other as sisters do.
We kept secrets.
We cleaned house together.
We sang and danced together.
We got in trouble alone and together. We were told, we were “traviesas,” but I think we were overly inquisitive and so hungry for life.
We’ve shared pain alone and together. One of your best gifts is your sense of humor, you always crack me up.
As the eldest I tried to care for you all; the best I could when Mama left me in charge.
I went away to college; and you all followed me.
We’ve gone in different directions, but as I grow older, I see more and more of the similarities in our dreams, desires, hopes, thinking, and direction.
Thank you for being Mi Hermana.
Thank you for introducing me to the Lord. Thank you for being an Hija de Dios.
May you have a Blessed Birthday, surrounded by all your loved ones.


I wrote this for my sister on May 18, 2016, for her birthday on May 20.

My Need To Write

A constellation of words; I cannot live without you.

Most of you know, I enjoy writing, it is who I am, it is my creative outlet; for all that stuff circling my head. I write everyday (practice makes perfect). I like you, have opinions or thoughts on different topics. But, I try to stay away from politics.
There is so much beauty to enjoy. I enjoy art, music, color, Frida, clothes, design, home decorating, old barns, old wood, flower, herb and vegetable gardens, birds, creeks, food, books, old jewelry, old leather, old cars, the ocean, my Lord, and so much more.
I find those artistic juices flowing come over me to the point I have to see a project come to fruition. Or…..write about it, so I can make it come alive at a later time. Even if I lived to be 200. I would never be able to complete all the creations in my head! The way my brain works; I get an idea, I see it finished in my brain. I don’t spend too much time planning and designing. I just get to it. And, see where the feeling takes me. If I make a mistake, I incorporate into my project. My belief is that it was meant to be there. Mistakes and errors are part of learning; they are part of life.
My husband and I just recently moved to Texas Hill Country and I am excited to start writing about this special area.
I need to add that I have always been a believer. But, never really knew what it meant to have a personal relationship with my Lord. I do now! And, I am so happy and grateful. Thank you Father. And as I always end……


Mother’s Day 2016

May 11, 2016

We have been graced with the company of a few guests here at Casa Hug; Jay and Toni, Mi Corazon’s brother and family, Frank and MaryAnne, Bob and our most recent guest, Augie’s Mama arrived on May 4th for a week. The next day we took a ride to Fredericksburg and had lunch at Auslander, a German restaurant. We also made a stop at one of my favorite shops, the Herb Farm. Friday we had a pedi/mani and hair day. Saturday was a nice day spent in Boerne at the outdoor quilt show and the Handmade Fair. Although it was difficult for Lynn to walk, she just kept going.

Sunday was Mother’s Day, and as we typically do we went to church service at 1910 Church and then celebrated a lovely brunch at Valeris’s with Chef Keith.

Mother’s Day is difficult for me since I am flooded with memories of my Mama.

On Monday our tentative plans were to have lunch in San Antonio, preferably at a Mexican restaurant with easy access, and be flexible. Augie and I had researched the Riverwalk, since Lynn had never visited it, we thought that would be a great place to take her. Our immediate reaction was it would be too difficult for her to get around, since she requires a cane for walking. But, we had also made every effort to research the best paths available for the handicapped to maneuver. We learned that the Hyatt had the best handicap access. So we pulled into the Hyatt. Took the elevator up to the Riverwalk, and walked a bit. She insisted on taking the boat tour of the river. I wasn’t sure. It was difficult for her, but she made it. It was a lovely boat ride, we were also blessed with great weather. After we had lunch on the Riverwalk, and then headed home. Tuesday was a relaxing day at home, with the exception of Lynn wanting to run a few last minute errands in town. And, today is Wednesday, this morning was pretty fast and furious. I made a quick breakfast. I also worked on getting everything packed and organized for Lynn to assure she didn’t forget anything. At the same time, helping Mi Corazon to leave for two weeks. I was running around getting ready myself to get to a tea in town. Mi Corazon dropped off his Mom at the airport in San Antonio and kept on driving to Midland, Tx., to return to work. He arrived late; about 8:30, I know he was tired, just in time to go to sleep.

As I finish writing this, Lynn should be arriving in Sacramento.

Thank you, Father.


“La Bebita”

“La Bebita”
You left us four years ago Mama, everyone affectionately knew you as “La Bebita.”
Today and every day I shout out recognition and thanks to you Mama for being a woman extraordinaire, a woman way ahead of your times. For raising 6 strong children on her own. I know our grandparents helped you, also. Thank you Mama, you worked so hard to instill in your children to be strong, independent, productive human beings, to be disciplined, to take pride in what we did, be hard-working and yet almost contradictory; to be free-thinking with wild little spirits, to always be hungry for knowledge; to continue learning and growing.
I know you never slept in, had breakfast in bed or had a spa day. I wish you had Mama.
You were the best story teller and kept us enchanted with your stories, your sense of humor was crazy good! Actually, you use to crack me up. And, that smile mixed with that “traviesa” look of yours, that use to melt me with joy.
A child yourself. You always said you grew up with your children. You use to play jacks with us. I know that’s not the way it’s suppose to be, but it was what it was. You were 16, I was your first-born.
We enjoyed our time together, I use to take you on rides. And within ten minutes you were asleep. I would buy you a frosty freeze ice cream cone. And we were content. Your children were the most important thing to you, you were so proud of all of us. And you loved so deeply.
And like many women you did it alone. You were a single Mama. I know it was hard and overwhelming at times. I can’t even imagine how you did it. But you did, Mama. You carried yourself with class; teaching us, we can be poor but, be clean. Cleanliness, order and hygiene were very big with our Mama, to the point of obsession. She washed the whitest whites.
No pulling the wool over your eyes, you were so darn sharp. You were tough on all of us (with the exception of Dudies, Lol) and constantly were pushing us to do better, you expected much from us. And I’m glad you did!
You wanted a better life for all of your children. Different from your very tough life, of working in the fields picking the crops. I recall you telling me, you had given birth to Mike, your fourth child and ten days later you were dragging a 200 lb. sack of cotton with Dad.
When Dad would return to Mexico, I would cry and cry. And, then I just stopped crying, thankful he hadn’t returned. I think we all recognized we did better without him.
No one cooked like you, Helen. Your chile colorado, fresh hand made tortillas, tamales, nopales, chile rellanos, frijoles y chiles were out of this world filled with flavor and love. You took so much pride in your food, as many will attest to.
Your children were the most important and you were so proud of us.
You had always radiated to me, but there was a definite change, once you found our Lord. And what a transformation, Mama. Toward the end it was difficult on all of us and I knew you were afraid, but you clung to our Lord. And, because of Dudies, Manuela and you Mama I can now say I know the Lord now too. And what a joy it is to know him and follow Him.
Your life journey is now over. You are now celebrating your long and well deserved eternal rest in heaven.
Gracias Mama


Stairway to Casa Hug

In the sequence of time, this is old, but I wanted to take you on a voyage of our arrival once we left California. First and foremost I Love Mi Corazon and am pretty darn crazy about California. As a native Californian, California is all I know and has always been home for 63 years. I had unexpected hip replacement surgery on March 31, 2015. But, then again when is surgery ever expected. I knew I was in a lot of pain, but I was being told I just needed to exercise it more! After the surgery, we had to wait for my rehabilitation to be complete. But, once that was over, vamonoos! It was tough, because at the same time of my rehabilitation, our home was on the market in Paso Robles. But, we had an amazing real estate agent, that made it bearable for me. Jen Lawson was a sweetheart working around my schedule. We left California on June 23, towing our 39 foot 5th wheeler. We were going to take our time and allow it to unfold into a mini-vacation. First night we were Kingman, AZ. Second & third nights were spent in Albuquerque. Fourth night in Ft. Stockton, TX. Fifth night in Junction, TX. Sixth day we arrived in Victoria. Mi Corazon had planned on driving about 8-10 hours each day, till we arrived in Victoria, Texas. Which is where Mi Corazon has been working for the past few years. We wanted to look at homes there with the possibility of buying a home in Victoria. It was not written in stone, since Mi Corazon and I always talk about being flexible as bamboo. Several years ago we had taken a scouting trip to Gruene, New Braunsfels and Fredericksburg. We stayed in some cabins at Barons Creekside in Fredericksburg. Although, all beautiful, none spoke to us, like Boerne. I recall passing through a particular area; Boerne on I-10, and thinking what a nice area. We pulled into Victoria about 1:00 p.m., un-hooked, set-up, unpacked and finally sat down for a glass of wine outside. We Googled the area we both liked. Checked out homes for sale and prices. I started dinner. While having dinner, Mi Corazon asked me, “would you like to take a drive back to Boerne.” Of course I was elated. The next day was Sunday. Off we went on another adventure. We arrived in Boerne and we’re having breakfast at Dodging Duck. Mi Corazon then poses another question, “would you like to contact a real estate agent and check out some properties.” We prayed on it. Mi Corazon Googled, real estate agents and we realized we were only a few blocks away from a Keller Williams office. We called and drove over after breakfast. Hence begins the house searching adventure for the next month. Always knowing and praying that it was our Lord’s will and not ours. And it would be in His perfect timing, not ours. We looked at many old homes and new. But, we both knew when we saw this one, that this was the right home for us. It was not a cookie-cutter home. We had a vision of some of the changes we wanted to incorporate, to make it ours.
Our home closed in August. We purchased a 1983 home on an acre. We first removed old debris left by previous owners, such as an old dilapidated hot tub, trash in attic, etc. We removed 3,340 square feet of acoustic ceiling, painted all of interior, removed old carpet throughout our home, laid porcelain tile, re-did electrical, changed most electrical fixtures, including light switches throughout our Casa Hug. We re-did old wood staircase to a modern cable staircase, changed glass in front door, removed 6 old fans and installed modern fans, renovated guest bathroom, which included removing a round window, re-insulated old attic, cut trees, did minor work on pool, changed 5 doors. All in all, everything works and our home is beautiful, if I can say so myself. I was not pleased with some things like the paint job and the grout used in flooring was a nightmare experience! I know that when you have construction teams in your home and you are not there to supervise every minute of the process, they can slack off or do shoddy work!
I may have forgotten some parts of our renovation, but if you have ever been involved in buying a home and doing any kind of renovation, you know it is a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved with many trips to Lowe’s and/or Home Depot. Every day I would wonder, when will we be able to move in? But, I also know that there is something very therapeutic about renovating your home. It’s a sense of accomplishment and once it is over, you can say I did that or I remember the day…….you are making memories in your home.
We finally moved in in October. Then the fun begins of decorating. Believe me, like many of you, I have watched many HGTV shows and had Googled many sites like Houzz. I have spent countless hours doing research. I had even e-mailed Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper to perhaps consider our home, only to learn they are not taking on new projects because they are so busy.
We had a huge home and 2 camping chairs with two folding tables, it was fun. We were camping in our tree home. Gradually, we started buying furniture. We first purchased a bedroom set, a dining room table and washer and dryer.
In November, Mi Corazon, returned to California to pick-up the majority of our belongings. He had two 26 feet Penske trucks reserved, in addition to a crew of movers awaiting his arrival from California, plus two great Famigos who would be helping him drive the second truck back to Boerne, Tx. Remember we had been living in our 5th wheeler through-out this whole process. And we had arrived with bare minimums of absolute necessities, one pot, one skillet, two plates, 2 forks, two towels, etc.
It is now May 2016, we are soon approaching a year since we arrived. We still need to complete many projects and dreams at Casa Hug like our cocina and master bathroom, but everything is functional. These will be phases down the road. We are a work in progress. I also know how to be patient, and in God’s timing these changes will occur. It is not about renovating now, it’s about “living,” Mi Corazon and I feel very strongly that the Lord has brought us here to this specific community of Boerne. We want to do His work and be of service. All for the Glory of God.


“When Helping Hurts”

I will be going to Guatemala in June, I have always wanted to go on a mission trip. There are 15 members from my church, 1910 who will be going. On a side note, “what does 1910 stand for?” Our name comes from the passage Luke 19:10 that proclaims the truth that Jesus came to find and restore the lost.
Our group meets regularly. The preparations have not only been your traditional talks on what to pack, passport, shots, etc. But, preparing the heart. In essence, i.e. why am I going, what do I wish to accomplish, my goals and purpose. We have been using a book, “When Helping Hurts.” a paradigm forming contemporary classic on the subject of poverty alleviation and ministry to those in need. Emphasizing both the poverty of heart and society. This book expresses the need that every person has and how it can be filled. The reader is brought to understand that poverty is much more than a lack of money or resources and it takes much more than donations and handouts to solve the problem of poverty.
“When Helping Hurts” catalyzes the idea that sustainable change for people living in poverty comes not from the outside-in but from the inside-out.
We really need to check our heart. I am not going there to change anyone, but to walk with them and love on them. I’m excited to see what the Lord has planned for me.
We are also organizing a yard sale to raise funds to fund our projects once there.
It has been a fun, exciting and enriching experience for me to say the least and I haven’t even left. I Thank my Lord for opening doors and giving me this opportunity.