Sunday, November 27, 2011

Life Changing Event

Where to start?  I guess the beginning is the best place.  Everyone who has read my blog a long time knows that my sister Lynn died in a car accident in February 2010.  She was separated from her husband Alfonso at the time and was planning on a divorce after she finished nursing school the following December.  After her death, he took on the responsibility of raising their 2 sons alone.  On Thanksgiving Day, the unimaginable happened.  Alfonso went out drinking Wednesday night and when he returned after the bar closed he managed to park the car inside the garage, close the garage door, and then passed out inside the car. What he didn't manage to do is shut the car off.

Around 8 o'clock in the morning, my 13-year-old nephew Andrew was awakened by the carbon monoxide detector inside the home.  Recently a new detector was bought at my nephew's insistence. Andrew is the most responsible and wise 13-year-old I have ever known. The first thing he did was open the windows of the house.  Then he went down to the garage and found his father. When he couldn't arouse his dad, he called 911.  The police and ambulance arrived but it was too late. The police called my other sister who lives in the same town.  Within 2 years, my nephews have lost both parents.

My nephews are orphans and decisions must be made.  Here are the choices and non-choices:

1. Live with family in the Dominican Republic.  All of his family live there except one brother in New York who is not in this country legally. The children have never met the brother and they are not going to live in the Dominican Republic, a place where they've only been to once to meet their father's family. Living with Alfonso's family is not a choice.

2. Foster care.  Nope. Not even going to rationalize why this isn't a choice.

3. Maternal grandparents that live in Texas.  There are several reasons why this is not a good idea. My nephews have already changed schools after the death of their mother. Uprooting them to Texas is too much for them to handle.  I believe Iowa is a better place to raise children than South Texas. Alex is only 7 years old and by the time he graduates from high school my father will be 90 years old.  Choice #3 is better than #1 and #2, but we all agree, grandparents included, that it would be too difficult for them to raise young children.

4. My sister Deana who lives in the same city as my nephews.  They could remain in the same schools. My sister has a big enough house.  But my sister is a nurse in a hospital and she works rotating days and nights plus weekends. My brother-in-law also works rotating shifts of days, nights, and weekends. Their own 2 children are in high school and very active. Plus my sister was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness and has not yet gotten it under control.

5. Me.

After much discussion, my sister and I have decided to ask the court to grant us joint custody of our nephews. I will move from Texas to care for my nephews full time. We are unsure of a lot of things right now. Tomorrow my sister and I will be visiting the schools and meeting teachers. We need to find out how to petition the court for custody. We need to find a family lawyer.  We have no idea if my nephews will be able to remain in their home with me living there to care for them. We need to find out how to become an executor of Alfonso's estate. We need to contact Social Security (Alfonso was already receiving monthly checks after my sister's death).  So much to do.  Too overwhelming.

We will take it one day at a time.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Rio?

"In the United States cockfighting is against the law in all 50 states, but is not illegal to possess, raise, train, advertise, or trade cocks or accoutrements that could be used for cockfighting. However, actively participating in a cockfight in any manner is illegal: advertising, transporting participants or spectators, placing wagers, hosting an event, etc."

If one can legally possess, raise, train, advertise, trade, or have all the paraphernalia needed for cockfighting but not actually hold a cockfight (or even be a spectator at a cockfight in 40 states), what's the point? So why do I see these chickens tethered to their A-framed houses all over southern Texas if the actual act of cockfighting is banned?

Because it is not prohibited to bring these chickens into Mexico where cockfighting is legal. In fact, I lived close to a palenque (cockfighting arena) in Reynosa, or at least that is what I was told. Never went there. I've never been to a bullfight either. I'm not exactly a PETA poster girl or animal rights activist although I did recently donate money to the Humane Society. Sorry PETA, I love chicken fajitas.

But, wait! Here is a list of items that are prohibited to bring to Mexico which does not include live chickens.

Prohibited Imports
  • Soil
  • Bales of hay, natural straw or any straw decoration
  • Homemade food items
  • Meal of bone or meat 

This means I can bring chickens raised in Texas for the purpose of vicious and cruel cockfighting to the death into Mexico, but I better leave the homemade cookies behind.

Say What?

Do you know what they call a self-help group for people who can't speak English?  It's called school.  More people in the United States should take advantage of it. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Hey Grandpa, What's For Supper?

A couple years ago when I went to Ciudad Valles, the family I stayed with cooked an entire pig in a big metal pot on an open fire outside. Just like on the farm in Iowa.  "Everything but the squeal," my mom used to say.  Even the head was cooked up in the pot. I may be from Iowa but I weren't no farm gal, thank God.  I don't think I would last 2 minutes on a farm.  Head cheese is a Czech delicacy made from part of the pig's head that I just never could get into eating.  Same goes for pig's feet that was sold at our local store in Iowa. Blchhh!  And chicharrones AKA pork cracklings in Iowa.  Double blchhh!

Here is a list of some vittles straight out of a Beverly Hillbilly's menu that I have tried and my reactions:

1. Snapping turtle out of the Mississippi River. My step-grandfather Butch was a butcher. His real name was Emmett, but you can guess how he got his nickname.  I was with him when he found this turtle. It took hours to prepare in a slow cooker, but, gosh darn, it was good.
Butch butchering the turtle

2. Crawdad.  They're OK, but a lot of effort for very little meat. And sucking juice out of the head is kind of gross.

3. Pheasant that my dad shot for Thanksgiving. Tastes like chicken.  We had more fun making head bands with the feathers.

4. Rabbit that my dad also hunted. I guess it tastes like rabbit.

5. Mushrooms from the forest across the road from our house next to Coralville Lake.  Morels in the spring and the goat's beard in the fall.  The true Czechs love mushrooms so much that we even have a festival called Houby Days.

6. Venison.  Duh, I'm from Iowa. Everyone from Iowa has eaten deer at least once. We got too many deer even in the middle of the city. They thought my tulips were their personal smorgasbord planted just for their eating pleasure.

7. Alligator.  It was fried up like chicken nuggets.  It was pretty good but a little tougher than chicken.

8.  Rattlesnake meat... just a couple weeks ago. I went to a party and this guy pulls a frozen skinned serpent out of the freezer and commenced to chopping it up for grilling.  He caught it on his ranch in South Texas.  It had a bit of a game flavor.  I couldn't choke down any more than one eensy, teensy,  itty-bitty bite because my brain rejected it based on the fact that it was RATTLESNAKE meat.
Rattlesnake meat
Freddy eating rattlesnake meat

Me, choking down a sliver of rattlesnake meat

You can imagine what I thought when this same guy pulls another bag out of the freezer containing a skinned and gutted ARMADILLO.   Do people really eat them things?  Seriously?  I gotta draw the line somewhere. Armadillo is that line.
skinned and frozen armadillo

What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?