Mary’s Song

My youngest sister celebrated her birthday while I was in Guatemala. I could not be with her on her special day. So I wrote this for her.


This is from sister # 1. By sister # 1, it merely implies I was 1st born in chronological order, the eldest. Because I think we can all admit # 1 was always Dudies. To our Mama, you were her baby and favorite. And you were so gosh darn “special & cute” it was fine. I am sorry Augie and I cannot be here with you today. I know you understand.
Awhile back, I heard this song and saw the video associated with the song, it not only spoke to me, it spoke in capital letters! And, I just knew I had to use it for you! I researched it and, I learned the name; Perfect Love/Mary’s Song. I knew this was God’s doing, not mine.
I remember how adamant Mama was about naming you Mary. She didn’t want anyone to call you Maria, she said, “it had to be Mary.” Hmmm, that didn’t work so well, huh Dudies?

At this time I need to pay tribute to our Mama for raising 7 hard-working, respectful and productive children. It is so hard to convey the beauty of anyone’s spirit, but our Mama was the real thing. Thank you Mama, you worked so hard to instill good values in your children; to be disciplined, to take pride in what we did, to be hard-working and yet almost contradictory, you wanted us to be free-thinking with wild little spirits, to be hungry for knowledge, to never give up, and if you fell, get up again! She was our biggest supporter. Most importantly, you introduced us to our Lord.
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.
Dudies, you were very young when I left home. But, I knew you were special and had leadership qualities at a very young age. Mama had thrown out an old mattress that no longer had support, by the dumpster. The neighborhood kids started jumping on it and doing tricks. You immediately “took charge” by lining them up in an orderly fashion. And your little entrepreneur mind kicked in and you started charging the kids! I was impressed. I could go on with your antics, but everyone here knows the jokester you are and the heart you possess.
I prefer to elaborate on the latter. At a very young age you tried to introduce our family to our Lord. I recall you playing Christian music. What you and Manuela have done for our family must be recognized and acknowledged. I want to Thank you both. How do you thank or re-pay someone for introducing them to our Lord.
I also hope you know how proud your family is of you and all your accomplishments. You are pretty amazing, and we all know that and are Blessed because of You. I recall many years ago, Augie saying, “your sister doesn’t only study the bible, she lives it!”
Love you,
Augie & Ray

Abrazos y Besos

Gracias Te Doy Señor

Food and shelter are two of our basic human needs.
Children should not have to worry about a roof over their heads
Will I be warm tonight
Will my father or mama come home tonight.
Or, If I will have food to eat today.
These were some of the stories I heard in Guatemala. These problems of basic needs, are not exclusive to Guatemala, but exist all over the world. I have heard them in Mexico and Jamaica also.
I had no expectations. I wanted my Lord to lead me. I wanted to walk with Him. I had prayed on it.
I wanted to share my love for the Lord and Hope, that overflows for these children. I hope they felt it.
Let me share a little of me with you. I Love our Lord, and I know what it means to have a personal relationship with Him.
Although, I was baptized a Catholic as a baby. And attended church, catechism, made my First Communion and Confirmation, I never recall studying the bible as a child, we read from it occasionally. I am embarrassed to admit I do not know my bible. I am a pre-schooler in the bible.
Since arriving here in Texas, I have taken two bible study courses and met some amazing women in my class. My husband and I were recently baptized in a river near our church. All of my three biological sisters are Christians. My sister who follows me became a Christian woman at a very young age. My baby sister became a Christian as a teenager, she graduated from Bethany Bible School in Scott’s Valley, California. My Mama was a woman of God, also. All gently and sometimes not so gently invited and prayed for all our family to know Jesus since the early 1980’s. My husband is a Godly man. I feel so Blessed to be surrounded by some amazing people, who were/are constantly sharing and talking to me about our Lord and never gave up on me.
As one of the scriptures we were sharing states we all have our gifts;
1 Corinthians 12-New International Version-Concerning Spiritual Gifts. I realize my gifts and am the first to admit my weaknesses. I do not do well in public speaking to large groups. When I taught, I had no problem in the comfort of my classroom. One of my gifts is my ability to connect with [most] people one on one or in small groups.

We arrive about 3:00 a.m. in Tecpan, by the time we arrived at our hotel, unpacked and settled in it was after 4:00 a.m. We woke up at 7:00 have breakfast by 8:00. We then headed to church services at La Vida Nueva st 9:00. Very beautiful service. We met Don Paco and his Pastor son, Francisco. If I understand correctly, it was Don Paco who had the vision of starting this church, La Vida Nueva and Colegio Israel to address a need.

We found out that there was a strike occurring the next day, and we would not be allowed to travel nor leave our hotel. We felt that although we would not be meeting our kids the next day, we should take advantage of the day by studying and reviewing our presentations.
We had a big lunch at a restaurant named Bonanza, they serve big platters of different meat, the likes of chicken, ribs and beef, with sides of black beans, guacamole, picantes, black corn tortillas and several aguas in family style. Rosita, the Director of Colegio Israel joined us. She is also Don Paco’s daughter. After lunch we loaded up the bus and we were informed we would be going to the Zona Roja and disseminating tracks. Upon arriving, I assessed the area and situation, it was quite depressed with mainly men, children and barking dogs hanging out and running all over the streets. The locals are scoping us out as well.
Victoriano mentioned we would be seeing many men who were alcoholics. We proceeded to walk and pass out tracks as the dogs barked. We came upon a group of small children whose Mama had died and father had deserted them to the “bottle.” The young lady taking care of this household was a 14 years old. The siblings she cared for were approximately 10, 8, and 4. They did not attend school. The only adult was grandpa. Rosita, spoke with the little girl and asked her if scholarships were available to her and her siblings would she be interested in attending school, she nodded, yes. Rosita agreed to look into their situation.
I wanted to sob in bucketfuls. I imagined and felt these children’s pain.
I couldn’t help but wonder, how many other children were in a similar situations.
We arrived at a dead end street and decided to divide the group in two and go in different directions. We walked and continued passing out tracks being lead by our Lord. Barking dogs all around us and reluctant souls peering out their doors.
As I walked alongside Rosita, she stated ” I don’t think there are any people on this street, it appeared deserted.”
Just then a small man peers out his curtain, wondering what all the ruckus was about with all the neighborhood dogs barking. Rosita walked up to him. We met Higinio. Who proceeded to paint a story of despair; he had lost his job, his wife had left him, their little girl had been taken away by a relative. He had attempted suicide a few days earlier, because he didn’t feel he mattered or had anything to live for.
Once again, I wanted to sob in bucketfuls. Meeting the children and Higinio on Sunday was a very powerful experience. I prayed for strength to handle all this pain, I was feeling for them.
I wasn’t quite sure why Higinio lost his job, then his family. But, in retrospect none of the reasons really matter.
The only thing that mattered and came in loud and clear were the words of my Pastor, Jason; what our church represents. Luke 19:10
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” I knew it was the Lord interceding.
We drove to some ancient ruins were animal sacrifices are still held today. It was lit with candles and you could feel and smell the darkness. More emotions arose. We prayed over the area and left. As it closes at 4:00. In all its architectural beauty there was no reason to linger.

Monday we stayed at our hotel, San Ricardo, since a manifestation (strike) was taking place. We inquired as to the reason for the strike and we were told it dealt with the people being unhappy about high taxes, therefore the strike. This gave us an opportunity to review our presentation of skits, arts and crafts etc. We had lunch at our hotel and went for a walk after lunch. To explore the picturesque lush, fertile area and walk off some of our lunch. We encountered gardens, children and families walking and animals such as cows, horses and chickens.

Let’s keep the cold of negativity and pride out of our relationships by starting the day with this good advice. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”1 Peter 5:5

Tuesday, we were at school bright and early, it was the first time I laid eyes on the students. They were precious, full of life. Although, I could detect some sadness in some also. We followed through with our prepared scripture readings, skits, arts and crafts and games.
We had a large group of approximately 120 middle and high school students.
Sharing our personal relationship with our Lord is a very personal issue. Especially when you just met someone. I truly identified with the middle and high school students.
We returned to our hotel, had dinner and our de-brief meeting. Our dinners were filled with abundance of food, joy and laughter.
Tuesday evening was a very difficult experience for me. I was alone; I prayed. I got on my I-pad to write to my husband, who I knew would be asleep. My husband had sent me a beautiful inspirational scripture reading. I also felt my three biological sister’s prayers. My bible study sisters I have grown to love. And, the many many people who were praying for me; I felt their prayers of strength. It’s just what my heart needed.

Wednesday, we started painting some walls outside of some classrooms. We were informed some parents would be coming in to pick up their children’s report cards, and that our team would be introduced.
I walked outside and saw about 150 parents sitting outside.
A short woman speaker addressed the parents. She talked about how important it was for them to take interest in their children’s education and to introduce them to our Lord. She went on to elaborate how important it was to educate the children and the parents. That God was the most important guide and studying the Bible was the best parenting tool. She went on to say, we must educate people so that we can improve our country. This woman was an eloquent speaker who addressed many issues all dealing with being better parents to their children.
Rosita introduced Anne and Wade (our leaders) they reinforced the same topic of having our Lord as the head of the family. And Wade addressed the role of fathers and helping participate with child rearing and home. Rosita mentioned that the next monthly meeting the parents would be teaching their skills and gifts. I thought this was an excellent idea.

Thursday the students made chiharronnes and corn tortillas for us.
I noticed a little boy sitting on the bleachers, alone outside. I walked up and sat next to him. He was gently wringing his tiny hands. I asked him why he wasn’t playing and he responded, “tengo hambre,” I am hungry.
My heart crumbled! As I had flashes of our own lunches and dinners filled with abundance, joy and laughter. We had been instructed not to feed them. I asked him, “did you have breakfast at home,” he answered, “no.” Many of these children look forward to attending Colegio Israel, since during recess they get a snack. For some students this may be their only meal for the day. A teammate approached us, I shared his story, she had a tiny amount of peanut butter stuffed pretzels in a plastic bag. Which she shared with the hungry little boy. It was a joy to watch him eat, perhaps not the most nutrious, but I know he enjoyed his little snack.
Also on Thursday afternoon, I was able to sit with Don Paco and share. He shared his personal story and vision. I felt honored.
In the afternoon, we divided the group in two and made three home visits. To be invited into these humble homes was almost sacred to me.

Friday, we visited Antigua, the little I saw of Antique appeared very prosperous and vibrant.
The group went zip-lining at El Tenedor del Cerro, a beautiful picturesque location designed by an artist. It is filled with metal and wood sculptures, a tiny chocolate shop, smoothie bar, gorgeous gardens, playground, and a small market with local wares.
I chose to skip this fun filled event, I just prefer being on land! It was also a beautiful time to bond with Carolina and Wall-e, we were able to stroll, shop and sit and talk.
The group all re-gathered upon their arrival for lunch at the restaurant overlooking these beautiful picturesque views of our Lord’s masterpiece.
We returned to our hotel, had a late dinner. After dinner, we shared communion and gifts to our Secret Prayer Partner and prayed. We solemnly walked back to our rooms knowing we were saying good-bye or at least until we meet again Guatemala. I packed till close to midnight to wake-up at 2:00, to be on the bus by 3:00, en route to Antigue to return home.
Saturday we flew out approximately at 7:00 a.m. to Houston. Pretty uneventful zombie walking flight back home. Only other thing of interest to me were the many mission soldiers, many from Texas, which can be identified by their t-shirts. I spoke to a few, we exchanged stories.

“Ven aqui, te ofresco Mi Corazon.” Personally, I am into people, relationships, and nature, I offer you my heart. I was able to connect with several very beautiful people I will never forget like Wall-e, our host, who kept me laughing. Irma Leti who is a teacher at Colegio Israel with a very kind heart, she took the time to bring her baby son so I could meet him. She also introduced me to her husband who is also a teacher there, teaching computers. I also became friends with Sylvia the janitor lady at the school. My connections with Don Paco, Rosita, Andrea, Nestor, Mynor and Carolina were very rewarding. And the countless children I met and fell in love with. May you continue to shine and hold on to our Lord.
The beauty of family gardens, flowers and all the natural fauna and flora of Guatemala was breathtaking. I saw giant cabbages, corn, strawberries and beans being grown; they sell and eat all of their landscape. I saw children and adults taking pride in working their lands, washing their clothes, children playing, of humble, hardworking people, a country full of life. These are a few of the memories implanted in my head forever of Guatemala.

In closing I can tell you I have prayed and cried about it. I ask myself, “would I return? It pains me to say, probably not. My Lord and I know why. Thank you Father for giving me this opportunity. Although, I would recommend mission trips for all, if given the opportunity.

One of my bible study friends and I recently visited and she said, I told my husband, “you were really  brave not knowing any of these people you were going with on your mission trip.”  I really didn’t know them, I had seen them at church. And we had had meetings in preparations for our trip. I felt strongly that I only needed my Father to guide me.

The success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving – regardless of any thing else changing. Anne Voscamp

Abrazos y Besos

Thank You, Father

Nutella Chile

Mitu site

Tortillas de harina o maíz? Red salsa or green? I recently saw this post by a Latina Amiga. I was inspired to write on this topic. To me this is not merely a question of choice or that you prefer one over the other. It has to do with the dish you are preparing, the function, flavor profile, the durability and regionality. Most people believe this is a choice. Nowadays, to some degree it is, but ……………hold your horses. Typically, corn tortillas were used in Mexico. In my own home, ( I grew up in California) we were raised on homemade flour tortillas. But, it was a real treat when mi Abuelito, Higinio would make stuffed gorditas with frijoles y queso. Gorditas are always corn. The cuisine of Mexico was mainly based on corn.
One area of Mexico was different – the northern part of the state of Chihuahua. My maternal Abuelita was from Chihuahua, so I grew up on burritos. Here corn grows poorly, but wheat does well, and here some unsung villager of the late 19th century created the flour tortilla. Sometime afterward, someone rolled the tortilla around some meat and named it a burrito, after the burro colts that are born to pack animals of the region.
If you were making tacos dorados, you would use corn tortillas. You would never think of frying a flour tortillas. Then chimichangas came about, so there goes that belief. Which are fried burritos. But, chimichangas are relatively a new food.
If you were making tacos de carne asada you used corn tortillas. I also like to heat my corn tortillas on the grill and allow them to char a bit, it adds another dimension of flavor to my tacos de carne asada.
Personally, I would never use flour tortillas to make enchiladas, but many people do. To me they are way too mushy. I want something that will hold together, and not taste like raw pasty dough!
I also realize that corn tortillas are healthier than white flour tortillas. I try to stay away from both. But, I much prefer the flavor of a corn tortilla. Awhile back my GF, Bonnie Porthouse introduced me to La Tortilla Factory Hand Made Style Tortillas made with a blend of corn and wheat, they are a little thicker than your regular corn tortillas. I like these tortillas for tacos de carne asada. Although, one night I fried them for tacos doradas, and did not like the flavor. I think it was a reminder, to not be eating fried food!
With the inception of carne asada puestos, taco trucks and fast food restaurants you now see salsa/chile self serve bars. They typically have a green chile made with tomatillos and cilantro. A red milder chile. And one, hotter then heck; which is probably chile de arbol or japones. Pico de Gallo, which is a fresh salsa made up of diced chilies (serranos or jalapeños) diced fresh tomatoes, diced onions, cilantro is to taste and a squeeze of lime livens the flavor. It is typically served with chips, a barbecued steak or carne asada tacos.
I once tasted a chile/salsa made with raw jalapeños, onions, garlic, tomatoes and they pulverized the heck out of it in the blender or food processor. I did not like the taste of mushy raw chile. Now, had they roasted all of these ingredients you would have had a different flavor profile of delicious goodness. I feel strange admitting, I disliked Sriracha. I knew people who were eating it on their ice cream. I’m not joking, when I say it was a gosh darn “Sriracha movemen!” Now, you rarely hear of it. There are many movements, phases, fads, trends, etc. I remember when Papa Hug and I went into the wine business in the mid 90’s, winemaker dinners were quite popular. Now you rarely hear of them; the big thing you hear about now is fancy car exhibits and people performing champagne sabering at wineries, hmmmm. Wonder what is next? I have diverted, let me get back on course.
Of course, there are many variations, degrees of hotness and flavor profiles for chilies. My Mama use to pound this into our head; not all salsas or chilies are for everything! But you can……More and more you see this now, all in the name of creativity and free- thinking! It’s a free for all. If you wish to add Nutella to your chile, go for it. Although, I prefer to keep mine in the fruit and vegetable family.
In the end, everyone will continue eating what they like, have fun cooking and enjoying what you make. Just don’t get me started on yellow versus white corn tortillas, lol.

Abrazos y Besos

Happy Cooking & Eating

Frida y Miguel

May 23, 2016
Frida y Locuras!
By checking out a Local Events post in San Antonio this morning I learned of a local Frida show on July 9. I was not aware of this show and am exuberant to learn of this showing and discussion group. Gracias for allowing me the format to write and share one of my top passions of many. I will definitely try to attend.
It may have been about 1968, when I first learned of Frida. The more I learned of her the more she consumed me. I know many persons enjoy and love her. I truly identify with her in many levels; besides her talent, I especially admire her free-spirit and her ability to laugh at life in a body and heart riddled with pain.
I have had the good fortune of attending several Frida art shows in Berkeley, San Fransisco, Los Angeles and Mexico City. I have also seen, been gifted and purchased a few custom made pieces. My favorite artist is Mi Famigo, Miguel Vazquez of Whittier. I have had a beautiful relationship with him and his wife, Linda for many years.

Mi Corazon and I were having a winemaker dinner at a local Paso Robles restaurant named Paris. Sad to say, Chef Claude is no longer in Paso Robles and is managing a restaurant in Paris, France. He was a phenomenal chef specializing in French cuisine.
i noticed them from across the restaurant. I went up to their table and introduced myself and we have loved each other since. They enjoy our wine and I luv his Frida art. Miguel later drew up several Hug labels and a few other art projects for us. I have many art pieces by him. He is so humble and talented. My utmost respect and love to both Miguel and Linda. Allow me share some of Miguel’s Art displayed in my home studio.
Abrazos y Besos

Re-United with Main Street School

You know there are those special times in one’s life; becoming engaged, getting married or the birth of a child/children. Well one of mine was on July 16, 2012, when I was blessed by reuniting with six of my Guadalupe Jr. High students, from Main Street School: Doreen Rusconi, Cuca Sanchez, Irma Pardo, Diane Tesoro, Elia Barbosa and Elvia Delgado. It had been a long time coming. I now realize, it was not to happen on my time. But, the Lord’s time.
Written March 4, 2014
To My Guadalupe Students,
Several years ago Augie & I were pouring our wines at Pt. Mountain Wine Festival. I was out wandering the festival as I typically do at these events. A young couple approached our Hug Cellars table, as Augie poured our wine. Augie asked them where they were from? The young lady responded, she was from Guadalupe. Augie then responded, “my wife was a teacher there.” to which the young lady then asked, “what was her maiden name?” Augie saw me and signaled me to come over. After a short introduction, the young lady and I exchanged names and years and came to the realization that I had been her jr. high teacher. Her name is Irma Pardo now, then Sanchez. We parted, after many Hugs. We have kept in contact and awhile back several of my girl students, some now grandmothers gathered at Hug Cellars. It was truly a once in a life-time experience.
This journey has been a touching, retrospective and memorable experience to say the least. When I was their teacher, I had just graduated from Sacramento State University in 1976. Fresh out of college filled with idealism and a whole lot of theory.
I remember my first few months of teaching, I was nervous, but filled with nothing but the best desires for my students. It was so important to me to be an effective teacher. I did not merely want to teach or duplicate the past roles of teachers before me. I wanted to ignite their desire to learn. I wanted them to know they were important and counted. I set high expectations for them (being very cognizant of the self- fulfilling prophecy). I knew they would work to my level of expectations. I wanted to be a source of encouragement. I wanted for them to Dream Big & Soar!
As I grew to know them and develop relationships with them I grew to love and care for them. I started to relax a bit and have fun with them and we started enjoying each other. And, as an educator I knew this was when the real learning began!
In retrospect, I made many many mistakes, but I hope and pray that my hopes, desires and dreams far exceeded those mistakes. That hopefully, I was able to touch at least one life and that you saw my heart as I saw yours.
Thank you to my Guadalupe students for giving me the opportunity to be your teacher. Thank you, Irma Pardo for finding me. LOL. And, to all the students I have recently re-connected with Irma Pardo, Diana Tesoro, Doreen Rusconi, Cuca Sanchez, Elvia Ramos, Elia Barbosa, Anthony Santana, Michael Etteddgue and Michael Lizalde. I have also been able to connect with some of my students via FB. I hope I did not forget anyone.
My hope is that in the near future I can re-connect with many more of my students from Main Street School.
Love You,
Miss Rodriguez

After I left Main Street School in Guadalupe, California, I was hired by El Paso de Robles School, in Paso Robles, California. A fancy name for California Youth Authority. I worked for the state of California with incarcerated young men; ages 14 to 21. The majority were gang-bangers from the Los Angeles area. Sure, the pay was much better, but this was a different world for me. I taught and developed innovative curriculum for incarcerated young men transitioning back into their communities.
As beautiful and well intended as this sounds, it’s also idealistic. The reality is that the recidivism rate was/is very high. They become institutionalized and were not able to function in society! And very few escape the prison bars inside their heads! A high percentage of these young men were very “dark” and had serious mental illnesses I was not trained to deal with.
I was there for ten years, I knew it was time to move on……. I wasn’t angry, if anything I was disillusioned, sad and depressed. I simply needed to replenish.

Abrazos y Besos

The House on the Hill

We were young; I must have been 10, so that would have made my brother, Steve about 6. We were kinda migrant workers before we realized what we were. Times were different. I had never heard the term. It was approximately 1962. We were picking plums in Healdsburg before grapes were ever planted! No daisy dukes in the fields or looking cutesy, never heard of sun protection, child labor laws or farm worker’s rights.
My Abuelito’s had been working the crops in that area since the late 1940’s, consequently they met ranchers and families doing the same type of work they were doing. If I understand correctly, they had developed relationships with certain ranchers, who liked their work and would invite them to return to prune and harvest plums for their whole ranch, year after year.
One year I recall, joining my Abuelito’s, we lived in a huge barn with many families, similar to us, the only thing separating us was a bed sheet.
I also recall if we had an especially good day, we were treated to a swim in the Russian River and an ice cream cone.
One afternoon, as we sat outside, after we returned home from picking plums, Mi Abuelita asked my brother and I, see that house over there, as she points. We respond, “yes in unison.” Well Sra. Martinez lives there, she said for you kids to go by and she would give us some vegetables from her garden. “Ok, grandma.” Now, are you sure you see her house, “yes.” We start walking, and walking, then climbing, practically on all fours. We finally looked up and as if a mirage, a pool appeared in front of us (sure could of used a drink of water) with a man and women scantily dressed. My brother and I look at each other, with a sense of surprise and fear. You know that gut-wrenching feeling when your instincts tell you, boy we messed up! I’m thinking Sra. Martinez lives in a mansion. A man approaches us and yells, “what are you kids doing here, get the he….out of here.” I proceeded to explain to him we were looking for Sra. Martinez and the vegetables she promised my grandmother as I pointed to where we lived.
We ran all the way back to our barn converted space. Out of breath, and empty-handed, we explained to our family we had seen this beautiful pool and a beautiful home with a mean man, who had yelled at us and terrified us! So we filled our panzas with plums.

Later on I will write more about my family’s Napa area adventures; about homes my family lived in where a man had been murdered. And, one which my uncles said was haunted.
They also lived in a barn, on the land that is now Frog’s Leap Winery.
Abrazos y Besos