Monday, December 17, 2012

Why I Do Not Own A Gun

I do not own a gun. I have never owned a gun. I will never own a gun.  Why? Well, for starters, I don't hunt. I have a problem with hunting being a sport.  Sports are for pleasure and killing animals for fun is just wrong. If you want to hunt to put food on the table for your family, then go right ahead. Humans have been hunters since the beginning of, well, humans.  I had a friend ask me to go deer hunting with her.  I told her, "Linda, I will go shopping with you, play cards with you, scrapbook with you, but the idea of sitting in a tree waiting for a deer to come along so I can shoot it and gut it does not appeal to me. I would rather have a root canal."

The other argument about owning a gun is for protection.  I have an 8-year-old in the house with curiosity as big as the Mississippi River. No matter how many times I tell the nephew something, he will still do things that drive me crazy. For instance, the other day at Walmart he poked holes in the plastic wrapping of a steak at the meat counter.  I smacked him upside the head because, well, would you buy a steak that had holes poked in the protective wrapping?  I thought he learned his lesson until last Saturday. Yup. The boy genius did it again. If I can't get the kid to keep his cotton-picking hands from poking meat wrappers, how on earth will I keep him away from a gun?  Especially this child that is testosterone-infused by things like the Army, jets, football, baseball, basketball, guns, etc. I could lock up the gun in a safe. Bullets too. I am sure by the time I dial the combination of the safe, find the gun and bullets, load it, and fumble to take the safety off, I will be dead. What good is a gun if I have to keep it locked up?

My last reason for not owning a gun is probably the most important. It is simply too easy to pull the trigger and shoot someone dead. I've been pissed off enough at certain people that I am not so sure if I had a loaded gun nearby, they would still be living.  Beating, stabbing, or strangulation is too up close and personal and requires physical strength. If I were to murder anyone, it would be done with a gun. I'd like to believe I would never actually do it, but I am not taking any chances.  And chances are you are safe at my house.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Couple of Coronas and a Book Recommendation

When I first moved to Reynosa, I lived alone in an apartment near the school.  One night I was taking out the trash with my ever faithful dog at my side when she gave the intruder alert. And by intruder alert I mean she barked at anything that moved within a block's radius of what she considered her territory.  Sitting on the corner curb were two disheveled men.  I eyed them suspiciously wondering if I should proceed past my gate.  One of the men noticed me and spoke up.  I was a little weaker in the Spanish back then so I replied something like "Esta bien".  In those two little words, I must have given myself away as a gringa (along with my shorts and tank top showing my Iowa white skin). Immediately the taller of the two responded back in fairly decent English.  He told me they didn't mean to scare me and they were just a little tired and hungry and wanted to rest.  I didn't have enough pesos so they could buy something to eat.  I told them to wait and I would bring them some food. I went upstairs and made them both ham sandwiches, a bag of chips, a couple apples, and a bunch of cookies.  I didn't have any soda or anything else to give them to drink except beer so I cut a lime in half and put 4 Coronas in the bag.  I went back outside and the men were waiting by the gate. When they opened the bag, you should have seen the surprised look on both men's faces. It was like they won the lottery.  The English speaking man said, "Wow, two Coronas for me and my friend!"

I suspected at the time that these two men were from somewhere far away and only in Reynosa to cross the river into Texas.  I never saw them again.

Americans have many notions about people who cross our borders without documentation.  One of those notions is they think it is so easy to travel from Mexico to the United States when actually it is a journey that is extremely dangerous. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, nearly 2000 people have died crossing the border between 2007-2011. This figure does not include the thousands more that have died within the borders of Mexico. The poorest of the poor are beaten for any money they may be carrying because their attackers know these immigrants have no recourse.  They're lucky if they are only beaten. For those who have refused to be drug mules, they could end up in mass graves just like the one found near Reynosa a couple years ago. If you are interested in hearing stories about the dangers of immigrants traveling across Mexico into the United States, I recommend a book written by Sonia Nazario called Enrique's Journey.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dollar General

**UPDATE TO THE UPDATE**  I did get a response and denial of my request which consists mainly of BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, GET LOST YOURSELF:

Dear Ms. Gervais,Thank you for your e-mail. We appreciate the opportunity to review your request and we do hope if Suki has not yet returned that she will soon.  While we do understand the importance of your efforts, regretfully, we must decline Dollar General’s participation. We receive an overwhelming number of requests to place flyers in our stores and since space is limited and we are unable to accommodate every request, it is our policy to only allow Dollar General sponsored flyers and signs in our stores. We appreciate you taking the time to write.  You are a valued customer here at Dollar General.

Kind regards,

Marsha Murrow
Customer Relations Supervisor
Dollar General Corporation

**UPDATE**   Neighbor called in cat sighting and pointed Andrew in the general direction. Andrew was able to pull Suki from the drain by reaching in and grabbing her collar. She's home now and eating like a pig. From this day forward she will be know as SFB (sh!t for brains).  Still no response from Dollar General but I'll give them until tomorrow to see if they have something nice to say.

Dear Dollar General,

I have been a customer at the Marion store at 1135 East Post Road, Marion, Iowa for almost a year.  I moved here last January to care for my nephews, ages 14 and 8, after they became orphaned. Both parents died tragically in two separate car accidents. We're all still adjusting and trying to heal from our situation.  After the death of my sister, my nephews were given a cat which they named Suki.  She is strictly an indoor cat.  We don't know how it happened, but Suki went missing either late October 23 or early on the 24th. We have posted flyers on our community mailbox and the US Post Office has no problem with that.  I went to our nearby Dollar General store to ask the if we could post a flyer.  I've seen flyers there before for missing pets. The clerk said she would call the manager and the manager told her we could not post a flyer.  That seems heartless to me especially since it would not cost Dollar General a dime.  I did not get a chance to speak with the manager or I would have asked what policy does Dollar General have against posting a flyer for a missing pet? It's not as if we are making money like proceeds from a garage sale or advertising for anything. We just want our Suki back.  Many people from the neighborhood shop at this store. We thought it would be a good way to get the word out especially since many of the customers live in nearby apartments and walk to the store. Perhaps they may see our cat while they are walking.  I would also like to add the clerk at the store was very kind and asked for a flyer even though she was not allowed to display it. 

I am writing to you hoping that we will be allowed to put up our flyer. I am sure that under the circumstances I listed above, the manager can be persuaded to reverse his/her decision. I will post updates about Dollar General's response on my blog at and my Facebook.

I appreciate your prompt attention. Thank you.

Rita Gervais 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Difference Between a Kid Birthday Party In Iowa and Mexico

As the title hints, I took the younger nephew to a birthday party yesterday.  It was one of his classmate's 8th birthday.  And for some reason they decided to host it at a gymnasium in Timbuktu, the other side of the city, so I waited at the party rather than make another 60 minute round trip.  While twiddling my toes and becoming numb while the nerves vibrated up my spine up to the base of my skull from all the screaming, I remembered a few birthday parties in Mexico.

In Iowa, if the printed invitation says the party starts at 3:00, the party really starts at 3:00. And don't be late.  In Mexico, if the word-of-mouth party invitation starts at 3:00, show up at 4:00.  Or 5:00.  Or midnight.

In Iowa, do not even consider bringing along an uninvited guest. In Mexico, bring along your sister, your best friend, her mother-in-law, and the 15 cousins from the next town over.  The more the merrier.

In Iowa, alcohol is strictly verboten at a children's birthday party.  In Mexico, alcohol consumption is encouraged.

In Iowa, food is centered around the children's tastes.  Pizza, pop, hot dogs and cake.  In Mexico, fajitas, tortillas, salchichas, with a load of peel the paint hot salsa is common. Even the kids eat the stuff.  And a piñata.  Does anyone else besides me think it is sadistic to beat the hell out of a papier-mâché princess or Sponge Bob?

In Iowa when the party invitation says the party is over at 5:00, you better be there on time to pick up the child.  If you're 15 minutes late, Child Protective Services may be called to report an abandoned child. In Mexico, the party has just barely started.

Maybe I wouldn't be so cranky about yesterday's birthday party if the host would have offered me a piece of birthday cake.  Or better yet, a beer.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I've Got Tomatoes Coming Outta My Ears

What do you do when all 6 tomato plants start to ripen at once and you are sick of making pico de gallo, salsa, and adding sliced tomatoes to every dish, but you don't want to waste one delicious Iowa tomato?

I made gazpacho with the cucumbers, peppers, and onions from the garden.

I didn't follow any recipe because my name is not Leslie Limon and I can't cook like her even if she had one hand tied behind her back.  You should check out her page because she is a marvel in the kitchen. Anyway, I juiced about 6 large tomatoes and boiled the juice with un poquito de salt until it turned red. After it cooled I added red wine vinegar to taste.  Next I chopped up a couple cucumbers, along with onions,  one jalapeno and red peppers, all from the garden.  With about a 1/4 cup of olive oil, I mixed it all together and let it chill.  Pretty good, even if I say so myself, and I did say so myself.  The nephews cried "EEEEWWWWWW!"

Friday, August 10, 2012

How American Are You?

Many ancestors on my father's side landed here when the Colonies were under British control. My mother's side are recent immigrants.  Who is more American? My father or my mother?  How about my now deceased brother-in-law?  He was born in the Dominican Republic but after 10 years in this country he became a citizen. Was he less American than my sister?  Are there degrees of citizenship?  Are those that hold dual citizenship only 50% American?  Using this type of reasoning some people would argue that Indians are the most American of all.  OK, sorry, I meant to say Native Americans. Most immigrants come here voluntarily unless they were black and born before 1808 when importing slaves was outlawed. Oops, sorry again, I meant Afro-American. How about the children who came here with their parents undocumented?  And they have spent their entire lives in the United States and don't even know their birth country?

Support the Dream Act.

P.S. From now on I will be calling myself a Czech-American and a Pre-United Statesian in honor of my mother and father.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ode To Iowa Corn

Oh, how I long for,

your honey and cream.

With every bite,

I want to scream.

Please just boil it,

in very hot water.

Followed by a slathering

of rich, creamy butter.

With a little bit of salt,

the taste is like no other.

No mayonnaise or chile,

will touch one kernel.

Or all miscreants shall face the wrath,

of the damned infernal.

And to the south of the border,

should you ever go.

Don't drink the water,

or eat the corn of Mexico.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Don't Mess With Fred

Recently I wrote about a boy named Jamie that I beat up when I was about 6 years old.  I wouldn't try messing with his old man.  My aunt, who still lives in Swisher, told me that someone tried to rob the grocery store that Fred, about 80 years of age, has owned and operated since before my memory begins. This is the same grocery store where my grandma would send me with a dollar to buy a pack of cigarettes.  Oh, boy, am I dating myself now. A pack of cigarettes under a $1 bought by a kid?  Well, back then if I tried to smoke one, the neighborhood alarm system would have gone off (aka a telephone call to grandma by anyone who might have seen me) and I would have been busted. Anyway, my aunt said the would-be robber drove up in a truck, filled a bag of groceries, and then held up a sign that basically said "Give me all your money". That's when the ballsy Fred told him no because he worked too hard for his money. The robber then said he would kill Fred.

What would you do?  Me, the chicken-shit, would probably hand over the entire cash register and my purse too and tell the robber to have a nice day. But not Fred. Fred went after the robber who, by all guesstimates, is about 60 years younger, and pushed him out the door with his fist. It didn't do Fred's fist much good because it is all swollen up, but the guy ran and took off in his truck. And Fred got his plates too.

Here's a look at the Facebook page of the robber Austin Lee Strub
(He is not from Belfast and most of his friends are from Cedar Rapids)

So what did we learn from this?  #1 - If you are going to rob a small town grocery store, don't use your own truck. #2 - If you are going to rob a small town grocery store, drive on by Swisher. The owner of the store is  too tough to mess with.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And Jesus Wept

Then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain and gathering them around him he taught:

   "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    Blessed are the meek.
    Blessed are they that mourn.
    Blessed are the merciful.
    Blessed are they who thirst for justice.
    Blessed are you when persecuted.
    Blessed are you when you suffer.
    Be glad and rejoice for your reward is great in heaven."

Then Simon Peter said...
   "Do we have to write this down?"

And Andrew said...
   "Are we supposed to know this?"

And James said...
   "Will we have this on a test?"

And Phillip said...
   "I don't have any paper."

And Bartholomew said...
   "Do we have to turn this in?"

And John said...
   "The other disciples didn't have to learn this."

And Matthew said...
   "Can I go to the bathroom?"

And Judas said...
   "What does this have to do with real life?"

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus's lesson plans and proceeded to inquire of Jesus...
   "Where is your anticipatory set and your behavioral objectives in the cognitive domain and what allowances have you made for intervention?"

And Jesus wept.

Rita's disclaimer: I did not write this. I found it today in my files of teaching stuff.  Anyone who has ever taught will appreciate this.  

OPD Is A Very Serious Disorder

OPD.  Never heard of it?  I assure you it is very real, very serious, and there isn't a medicine or therapy known to man to counteract its effects.  Some of the symptoms include twisting the truth, downright lying, sniping at waitresses, clerks in stores, any and all family members, name calling, manic cleaning sprees while berating everyone within and not within ear reach, invasion of privacy, opening doors without knocking, unlocking doors  and entering private bedrooms or bathrooms whether you are or not are doing your 3 S's (sleeping, showering, shitting), being the ultimate control freak, center of attention, having total disregard of opinions or feelings of others because theirs is the only one that matters.

What can you do if you know someone like this?  I wish I could tell you that ignoring it will make them go away.  It only makes the person with Obnoxious Personality Disorder determined to be more of a PIB (Pain In The Butt, another psychological disorder).  Sorry.  I wish I had better news for you.  And for me.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How To Conjugate BONER, Er, I Mean PONER

Class, I am your substitute teacher, Sister Mary Elephant. Your assignment today is to conjugate PONER, the verb that means to put, on the whiteboard.

Young man, I realize that it is such a small difference between a 'p' and a 'b', but I don't know what BONER means. What's that?  You want to explain to me what is a BONER?  Now, wait a sec, class, this is a Catholic school.

Class. Class. Class. SHUT UP!  Thank you.

And for those of you who are too young to know or had your head under a rock during the 70's, here's a link to the original Sister Mary Elephant audio skit by the duo Cheech & Chong.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hey Kids, Don't Try This At Home

Although I never tried riding a rocket, I did poke Joe Melsha in the eyes Three Stooges style. Joe was my best friend. We met when we were this many years old (this is where we held up 3 fingers).  As Joe grew up everyone knew that if you wanted to get anywhere fast, let Joe drive. Unfortunately Joe would never grow old. He died about 10 years ago from what was a complication from a surgery that was necessitated from going too fast. When we were kids we ran with a pack of other kids all over the mean streets of Swisher, Iowa.  Parents and grandparents let us out the door in the morning and we ran freely all over this huge metropolis of about 500. The noon whistle meant time to go home and check in to make sure we were still alive and eat lunch.  Not that we could really get away with anything. Everyone knew everybody and everything they did. And if a kid got in trouble, parents (or in my case it was grandparents) knew about it before the kid did.  Like the time I beat up a boy named Jaime. His mom called my grandma and ratted me out. Grandma straight out asked me if I had been in a fight and I answered without hesitation "Yeah, I was."  Of course, that prompted the question as to why I felt the need to beat the crap out of Jamie. "Cuz he asked me to pull down my pants, Grandma."  Her response?  "Oh, my."  And that was all and the end of this story.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Male, Female, Dog, and Cat Brain Explained

I found this in my old files from back in the day when I was a computer guru at a large Fortune 500 company.   I'd say nothing has changed in the last 15 years. Especially the cat brain.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fonetic Spelling **Update**

I've discussed what is irony and the karma of my life. The ultimate irony and karma?  Having taught in English all day in Mexico and I am now teaching in Spanish all day in Iowa.  Don't get me wrong. I am not 100% fluent in Spanish.  I never will be. How many high school English teachers are there in the USA who were born and raised in Mexico?  If I tried to teach Spanish in Mexico or even in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas along the border, I would be laughed out of the classroom.  But this is Iowa.  I've got second year students that are still saying, "Yo poo-edo ir al bann-yo?"

I used to be an excellent speller.  I am a past winner of the Grant Elementary Spelling Bee Competition. I was the kid every one wanted to sit next to during spelling exam day. I could throw together a paper in college without looking in the dictionary. I went to college in the B.C. years - before computers. And now?  I am constantly using the internet to look up words. Why now?  Is my brain becoming atrophied jelly?  I blame Spanish.  Here's some recent goof-ups.

Responsable - suppose to be responsible, folks, with an I but in Spanish it is spelled with an A.  And now apparently I think it should be the same way in English.

Pijamas - suppose to be pajamas, or pyjamas if you're bloody English, Australian, or a New Zealander kiwi like my buddy Tim who also can't spell words like color, theater, or organize either.  (hee, hee, just yanking your chain, Mr. R)

Camara - suppose to be camera.

Ocasion - should be occasion but in Spanish the word ocasion has an accent over the last o.

I shouldn't feel too bad. On a recent test, about 15% of my students misspelled their vocabulary word "farmacia" as "pharmacia".   The beauty of Spanish is that every letter and vowel is pronounced the same way.  No silent g's as in NIGHT or GNOME. No two ways to pronounce a word like READ.  And definitely there are no words with a PH that make an F sound in Spanish.  Why can't English be this simple?  I am doing the best I can changing the spelling of English words into a simpler form, one at a time, but I need your help in my new cause. I propose we all start spelling words as they sound.

Oh, wait. We're already doing that in our text messages.  Talk 2 U L8R.

**Update** Today's English word misspelled - Profesional. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Garage Sale Customer Appreciation

We had a garage sale on Good Friday.  My sister had a fully equipped kitchen and a house full of furniture and so do I. We don't need two crock pots, 2 sets of measuring cups, and we definitely do not need two hand mixers. I priced things to sell, not keep.

I sold an old Dell computer with a monitor and speakers. I had it plugged into a power strip with a heavy duty and expensive extension cord to prove it works. They guy who bought it wanted to know if extension cord and power strip come with the computer.  Um, no. Here is what I really wanted to say. Yeah, right, and shall I supply the electricity for you too?  

An older lady wanted to know if the television worked so I plugged it in and turned it on.  "There's no picture, only snow," she complained. "That's because it isn't hooked up to an antenna or cable," I explained.  She looked at me like I was explaining the theory of relativity.

Then there was the guy who told me that $50 was too much for a corner curio cabinet.  So would you like me to pay you for hauling it away?

And my favorite?  The woman who asked me if I could deliver the refrigerator that I was selling for practically nothing. It works. It is old. I just want to get it out of the garage and we don't need it.  No, problem. I'll just hoist it up to the roof of my minivan or put it on wheels and drag it behind my car. 

I seriously doubt these people could understand sarcasm so I kept my mouth shut.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Practicum: A Guided Course In Giving Back Change

I want to be a waitress in a restaurant if I could be the server for my oldest nephew Andrew.  A recent math assignment he completed was how much a 15% tip would be on at $26.00 bill.  He calculated the tip would be $39.00 and didn't recognize that his answer was more than the bill. Today we had a garage sale and he couldn't give change when given two twenties for a $29.50 purchase.

Many people today can not make change. I blame today's cash registers which do just about everything for the cashier including, in some cases, dispensing the change.  I remember my grandmother working at the Benner Tea grocery store ringing up purchases on the old cash register where the numbers popped up at the top. The machine didn't tell her how much change to give back the customer. I remember Grandma counting back the coins and bills to each customer.  Today most cashiers just throw the money back to you in a wad uncounted. Today I tried to teach Andrew how to count back change.

"Start with $29.50, the amount of the purchase," I told him.  "Then give change up to the next whole dollar amount. How much money to get to $30?"

With a puzzled look, Andrew replies, "I don't get it."

"How much money do you need to add to $29.50 to get $30?" I asked again.

"I don't know. A dollar?" guess Andrew.

Slightly exasperated I spit back, "That would be $30.50."

"That doesn't make sense. I am suppose to give $30.00 in change back?" Andrew asked.

"NO! You are suppose to count up to the $40 she gave you starting with $29.50 purchase. Two quarters make it $30.00.  Then another $10 will add to $40.  That makes $10.50 the amount you owe the customer."

I get a tentative, "Uhmmm, O.K."  We practiced this a few more times throughout the day.  I would like to say he got the light bulb in the skull moment, but I am sure we'll have to go over it again. I'd like to think he won't be one of those part-time McDonald's kids handing me a wad of cash without counting it back to me. Time will tell.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tapeworm's Lover

The name Miss Daisy Dog sounds refined and proper, but dogs are dogs and they eat disgusting things found on the ground or in the cat litter. So while diligently picking up her poo on a recent walk (this ain't Mexico where crap can be left where it may land), I discovered the tapeworm.  Off to the vet with a sample and was quoted "321" for meds.  Wasn't quite sure how to interpret that. $3.21 or $321?  Having been out of the country for a while, I have no grasp on the reality of vet cost except knowing it is a lot more expensive in the states. The United States of America, not the States United of Mexico. FYI, it was $3.21.

The tapeworm brought back a memory of one of my 5th graders from two years ago in Reynosa. We were reading a story about Jane Goodall, who believes that all animals have a place in the world and should be respected.  I just finished reading a Goodall quote about how she concedes that some animals are hard to love, like the tapeworm, when Omar piped in with, "Yeah, except maybe to the tapeworm's lover."  It went over most of the student's heads or maybe some didn't hear Omar say it. But I did. I stopped in mid sentence and just gave Omar the quizzical teacher's look.  You know the look. One eyebrow raised with piercing eyes. Omar flashed a million dollar smile back and I lost it.  I laughed so hard, I had teary eyes. Thanks, Omar, for the great memory. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I've been seeing a lot of people talk about karma lately.  I've been living in the land of karma myself since last November.  Now I've hit the jackpot of karma-ness.  I am working as a long-term substitute teacher.  I'm teaching Spanish. It's a Catholic high school.  And I love it.

Anyone who knows me from my Mexico days will probably not believe it.  I don't believe it myself.  All I can say is it different here in Iowa, a landlocked state no where near Mexico.  If I tried to be a Spanish teacher anywhere near the border with my gringa accent, I would be laughed out of town.  But here in Iowa, no problema. In fact, good luck finding a qualified Spanish teacher here more than 3/4 of the way through the school year.  Iowa is a little more strict on licensing substitute teachers with most districts requiring a degree and completion of a teacher's education program.  Texas only requires a high school diploma!

I have 120 Spanish II students. I can keep 2 steps ahead of them.  I also have the only Spanish AP class, all seniors and brilliant.  Keeping them challenged is my challenge. Also, a prayer is led at the beginning of each class.  Public schools should try it (nondenominational, of course). It gets the students settled and focused to begin the class.  And it is helping me too. Since my brother-in-law died, I have been too angry.  The anger is slowly deflating like a balloon leftover from a party. Soon I am going to throw the balloon out.

Friday, March 16, 2012

When Did I Become A Fuddy-Duddy?

I've ranted about women who tattoo on their eyebrows so in the interest of fair play I shall ask what's up with the guys that stretch out their ear lobes?  I took the older nephew shopping tonight at Old Navy and was greeted by the sight of the manager with 2 inch holes in his ears. I had an overpowering desire to hook up my dog's leash to one of his ears and take him for a walk.

Then I saw these brand new ripped up jeans on sale for $29.99.  Seriously?  They look ready for the rag pile.

And then I remembered an incident back in the 1970's when jeans were only sold with the crispiness of dark blue. My mother bought me a pair of blue jean overalls which were the rage that year. The first thing I did was pulled the hem out of the bottom so they would drag on the ground. Then I washed them with a gallon of bleach. I went to the local drug store and bought 2 patches in the form of an American flag and a peace sign . I sewed them on the butt area. Finally, I walked up and down the sidewalk to scruff up the bell bottoms. About a week later I came home from school and walked into the kitchen. Mom was eyeballing me and finally asked  where I had gotten the overalls I was wearing. 

"These are the new ones you bought me last week. Aren't they cool?" I replied.

"I spent good money and you ruined them!" she cried.

I used to be hip, cool and with it. At some point I've become a fuddy-duddy turning my nose up at tattooed eyebrows, stretched out ear lobes, and brand new ripped up jeans.  But I would pay good money to get back my cool, bleached out, patched up, hem ripped overalls. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Trish the Skim Artist

The moral of the story is never let your credit card out of your sight especially to a waitress named Trish at the Olive Garden in Mcallen, Texas.

Backtracking more than 2 years ago, my friend Linda and I spent an lovely November afternoon away from Reynosa shopping in Mcallen and finished up by having a delicious meal at the Olive Garden. I remember that day very well.  As we ate, another teacher called us from Reynosa wondering where we were because he was locked inside the supermarket while a gun battle was raging outside.  We told our server Trish about the gun battle and that's when we found out that she, a blonde gringa, also lived in Reynosa with her Mexican husband. We chatted for a while and Linda and I both thought she was a excellent waitress and a lot of fun. Heck, she even brought us an extra plate of fettuccine Alfredo. We ended up exchanging numbers with a promise to get together.  I paid by credit card. It was easier to shop in McAllen with a credit card and once a month I exchanged pesos for dollars to pay my bill. About a month later, I got a phone call from my credit card company asking me if I had made 4 charges totaling about $880 to a Home Depot in St. Cloud, Florida.  Uh, no, I responded, I had not been to Home Depot, let alone Florida. I had to fill out a form contesting the charges and I was issued a new credit card. 

Linda and I made another shopping trip to Mcallen the following January and topped it off by another lunch at Olive Garden. And guess who was our server?  Yup, it was Trish again. And again we had a wonderful time and we promised we'd get together in Reynosa.  I paid by my newly issued credit card. Guess what? The following month I was called by my credit card company about 4 transactions at Home Depot in Florida for nearly the exact amount as before.  This time the fraud investigator called me and he was downright nasty. He insisted I had given out my card to someone and that I knew who was doing this.  I replied I'd never given my card to anyone EVER and I had no clue how it could have happened to me twice. I was threatened with permanent cancellation of my card.  I requested to speak with his supervisor. He refused my request and hung up on me. Needless to say, I was livid and I called back, spewed a few choice words, and requested a supervisor.  A few days later I got a call from them. Surprisingly I was given an apology and they issued me a new card. 

Fast forward to June 2010 when I got a letter (my mailing address was in Edinburg, Texas) from the U.S. Department of Justice. I stared at the envelope with trepidation fearing what I would find inside. Nervously I opened the envelope not sure as to why they would send me a letter. As I read the letter, it did not make sense. I still did not put 2 and 2 together. It said:

Re: United States vs. Patricia Kaefer
Case number xxxxxxx and court docket number xxxxxxx
Account number xxxxxxxxx 
Dear Ms. Gervais,
Your name has been forwarded to our office by law enforcement as a victim (or potential victim) in the above mentioned criminal case. Charges have been filed against defendant Patricia Kaefer...

The rest of the letter just gave generic information and how I could call the VNS (Victim Notification System) which I did but this still did not really give me a clue. 

I took the letter back to Reynosa where I discussed it with another friend.  This friend, who shall remain anonymous, had a login id with access to look up federal case numbers.  After looking up the case via the internet, finally, the light bulb went on.  Patricia Kaefer, a waitress at the Olive Garden, was taken in for interrogation by a federal agent where she confessed to having a device that could skim all credit card information. She said that she was given the device before her work shift by a man that she only knew his first name and then gave it back to him after work. For each skim, she was paid $5.  She pulled the device out of her purse and gave it to the investigator.  The interview was concluded and she was allowed to leave. 

Now I was curious. Where was Trish?  In jail or did she hightail to Reynosa? I went to Linda's apartment and asked her if she still had Trish's phone number and she did so I called Trish.  And she answered! She was definitely in Reynosa. I told her my name and asked if we could meet. At first she was all excited, but I could tell by the disjointed conversation she thought I was someone else. She kept talking about me bringing her the birth certificate. I'm guessing she was planning to use someone else's birth certificate to cross into Texas. When she finally figured out I was not who she thought I was, she became hedgy and wouldn't commit to meeting me. (FYI - I had no intention of meeting up with her.)  After we hung up, I called the prosecutor of her case and he was very interested because by then she was a fugitive. He called me 3-4 times after that to see if I had any new information. 

Fast forward again to October 2011 when I got another letter from the US Department of Justice stating that Trish would be going to trial on December 6.  I'm not sure if she turned herself in or if her luck ran out. Out of curiosity I googled her name and found an article in The Monitor from May 2010 that I missed before. I also found her on Facebook so, naturally, I sent out friend request to her and her husband.  Unbelievably, both were accepted.  Her FB didn't have any photos, but her husband's did and it was definitely her. So was she in jail or did they let her out on bond?   I was determined to go to the federal courthouse on December 6, but fate intervened when my brother-in-law died on Thanksgiving day and I was in Iowa on that day. I didn't know what happened until I got another letter in February stating that Trish was sentenced to 15 months in prison to be followed by 2 years of probation. 

Meanwhile, we'll still be Facebook friends. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Iowa - The Final Destination

All right!  Iowa has made the big time in this Borderland Beat's re-reporting of WHO's news video.  After watching this video it would seem Iowa is the final destination of all the drugs crossed over from Mexico through Arizona's desert just because I-35 & I-80 meet up in the middle of the state.

So if this is true I give credit to the University of Iowa, one of my alma maters   The U of I is consistently in the top 5 party schools in the United States year after year.  This year the Princeton Review ranks it at #4, behind University of Mississippi, University of Georgia, and Ohio University.

Come on, University of Iowa, you can do better.  Party hardy!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Scum-Sucking Dominican Leeches

Watch out! Here goes a long-winded rant.

The dead brother-in-law bought 3 weeks a year for 3 years vacation time at International Vacation Club (IVC) in the Dominican Republic (DR) for a grand total of $2000 and the assholes don't issue refunds if not used even if you are dead.  In fact, they wanted me to take over his contract. Fat fucking snowball's chance in the DR that I will ever set foot in that tropical banana republic hell populated by sleazy scum-sucking leeches.

He spent two nights at their compound last June, so I hope he enjoyed his $1000 a night hotel room.  He actually contracted for more than more than $4500, but he financed $2900 and was paying $99 per month by automatic debit. That stopped after we closed his bank account.  In November I called and cancelled his reservation for December 22 - January 9.  He was planning on abandoning his motherless children during Christmas to go visit his piece of ass Ana Luisa Lora.  I've seen her photos on Facebook and I am not kidding when I say she's a piece of ass.  A big fat one and she's still boo-hooing on his Facebook page. I've got a mind to send her a message from him beyond the grave. The bitch has the Lincoln Navigator that Asshole Alfonso shipped to the DR and should rightfully belong to the boys.

OK, back to the IVC rant.  Apparently the day after the brother-in-law died, this shyster operation pulled $983 out of his bank account.  It was for the reservation in December. Why? I don't know and I can't get a straight answer out of the idiots who answer their 1-877-258-8311 toll free number.  He's already paid more than $2000. If I can get through, they usually hang up on me. Since I cancelled his reservation in November, I was told a refund for the $983 would be issued. Yeah, right. I've been told a refund was issued on January 17 and mailed to Asshole's address after I told them to make the check out to his estate and send it to my sister's address. Yeah, right, the check is still in the mail. I've spoken to the customer service manager Rosa Beralca on numerous occasions. Today I was told they screwed up (so what's new?) and they are reissuing another check. I informed them today that all communication from now on would be by email.

My sister is at home now waiting by her mailbox and holding her breath.  Oh, God, please, I can not take another asphyxiation death so soon.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Dog Smells Dead People

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

Weird things have been happening since the day I moved into my nephew's house.  Like one of the first nights my Miss Daisy Dog, who is half blind and deaf but still has a great sniffer, pointed her nose at the corner of the door leading into the garage and growled.  The same garage where my brother-in-law died.  She did it again two more times that night so I knew if I wanted to get any sleep someone was going to check out the garage. And it sure as hell wasn't going to be me.

I've survived gun battles, grenades, narco-blockades, attempted truck stealing, and a pistol at the head of a drummer in Reynosa, but I was too chicken shit to open the door of the garage because my dog growled. I was alone in the house and wondering who to call.  A neighbor? At 10:30 at night? Even if you don't know any of them or even have a phone number?  911?  Does a growling dog constitute an emergency?  In the end, I called the number on the card left by the police officer the day he responded to the 911 call my nephew made when he found his dad.  At least he knew the story about what happened here and, maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't think I was a big flake. He sent over a couple of patrol officers and they banged on garage door announcing, "Marion police."

If his ghost was in the garage, he was gone by the time the police arrived.

The water softener isn't working. The water in Marion is worse than the water in Mexico. The TV in the living room makes everyone look like green men from Mars.  The light on the front of the house quit working for a while. I replaced the light bulb to no avail. It magically started working again.  And the garbage disposal quit working so my other brother-in-law (not Alfonso) replaced it.  He's also replaced a leaky faucet, wax ring on the toilet because of a leak, and a grounded electrical outlet that kept tripping.

Then there was the home phone problem.  I could call out or receive a call for about 10 seconds and then would be cut off on every single phone in the house. I bought a new phone and still the same thing so Mediacom came out and replaced the modem. After that I was able to call out, but sometimes ringing in it would be dead and the caller would get a message saying the number was temporarily unavailable. This is not acceptable when trying to reach a 13-year-old who is home alone.  Mediacom came and replaced the modem again except this time the installer couldn't test it because apparently the whole neighborhood was down due to a cut in the fiber optics.  For 3 days.

Everything was working for almost an entire week when today the phone, internet and cable goes on the fritz. Then the smoke detectors go off.  All of them. At the same time. Which apparently is a frequency the dog can still hear because she went nuts. And then just like that they stopped until 5 minutes later they'd go off again. This continued for about 3 more rounds while I tied to figure out which one is the bad boy.  Andrew had a piano recital so I ended up disconnecting all detectors and tomorrow I will buy new ones.

Obviously the phone, cable and internet are back up and I was able to post this. For how long, who knows? And, please, Miss Daisy, please don't smell any more dead people.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Remember The Teachers For Valentine's Day

I knew it was coming.  Valentine's Day.  The little one came home with the obligatory class list so he can give a card to everyone.

"No," I tell him, "you can not just give a card the classmates that you like.  Yes, you must include the girls." 

The little one has finished addressing the cards for his 1st grade class and tonight we made little presents for the teachers. We bought everything at Dollar Tree for less than $9 and made 18 of these.  I already had the ribbon and I thought I had a big heart punch but I couldn't find it so I used my apple punch instead. 

1. Using cupcake papers, I stuffed them with mint candies. When I teach I like these for a little breath refresher.  
2. Put a pencil in the center. 
3. Wrap with cellophane using ribbon to tie.  Curl the ribbon.
4. A heart punch would have been better for this Valentine gift, but apparently I only have a little one so I used my apple punch instead. 
5. Force child to write who it is from.
6. Use cellophane tape to attach to pencil

and VOILA!

I am done with the Valentine stuff this year.  I have a whole year to plan for next year. I am that organized. Yeah, right.  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Learning Another Language - Sarcasm

Even though the boys' father was from the Dominican Republic, they have learned very little Spanish. That's because my sister took care of them 99.99999% of the time until she died and she didn't speak Spanish. One night as I was tucking the little one in bed he asked me what is a coño?

"Where on earth did you hear that word?" I asked.   

"My dad called us coños," replied the little one. 

Nice. It means "pussy" but I didn't tell him that. I just said it's not a nice word and we are not going to use it. Hopefully, he'll forget that word soon.  But I am not perfect.  I've been known to let loose a few bombs on occasion. It's not part of my everyday vocabulary, but I remember my older boys running for the hills when mom was mad. And they knew when it was time to scatter by the amount of sh's and f's peppering my tirade. 

I've been known to speak Sarcasm too.  That's why I should never be allowed to teach a kindergarten class. They just won't get it.  Today the boys were fighting over which stool to sit at the kitchen counter. After listening to about 5 minutes of bickering (damn, I have patience!), I finally snapped, "Why don't you two fight about something dumb instead?"

It shut them up for about 5 seconds while giving me the deer in the headlights look. To which the little one said seriously, "We are fighting about something dumb."

Ya think? 

I got a laugh out of the older boy. 

So later I was cleaning out my desk when I ran across some handwritten quotes that I used to have on my desk back in the day I worked in a computer/network department.  Here's a bunch of my favorites:

  • Well, this day was a total waste of makeup. 
  • Does your train of thought have a caboose?
  • Did the aliens forget to remove your anal probe?
  • And your crybaby whiny-ass opinion would be...?
  • A PBS mind in an MTV world.
  • Okay, okay, I take it back. Unfuck you!
  • Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
  • I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
  • How do I set a laser printer to stun?
  • What am I? Flypaper for freaks?
  • Ahh, I see the fuck-up fairy has visited us again. 
  • Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
  • How about never? Is never good for you?
  • I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.
  • I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
  • It might look like I am doing nothing, but at the cellular level I am really quite busy.
  • Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental. 
I probably won't be using most of these on the nephews, but I can't promise on one of those frustrating days that one or two might not slip. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Comparing Apples and Oranges

Where am I living now?  Here's some clues.

1. No dogs or cats roaming freely on the streets.
2. If more than one car pulls up to a 4-way stop nearly the same time, all cars will wait at least a minute or two before pulling ahead.
3. This is considered a racy joke - What did the plow say to the tractor?  Pull me closer, John Deere.
4. People are taller than me and I am 5'8".
5. Most women wear faux fur boots without a heel. 
6. I haven't seen any boob cleavage, male or female.
7. People are talking about how warm the winter has been with highs reaching into the 40's.
8. No vendors selling anything on the side of the highways. 
9. Finding produce such as jalapeños is not always guaranteed.
10. And (oh, the horror), I can't find any fresh corn tortillas.  

I am having serious tortilla withdrawal symptoms.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mother Goose the Racist

I was unpacking my books that I hadn't seen for a while here in the frozen tundra called Iowa when I ran across this colorful, friendly looking book that looks ever so inviting to children.  I don't remember where I got this book or how long I've had it,  It's copyright date is 1931.  Contrary to the popular belief of my nephews I AM NOT THAT OLD.

So I'm flipping through the book reading about Humpty Dumpty and Little Jack Horner when HOLY COW I found this.

We used to recite it back in the 60's. And we really used to say it complete with the N word. Before you all start beating up on me (notice the ya'll has been changed to you all now that I'm back in Iowa), we hardly understood the significance of what we were saying at age 5 or 6 especially since the metropolis of Swisher, Iowa had population of 500, all of them lily white like me.  I do remember that sometime by the late 60's, probably not coincidentally about the same time as the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King's speech, and the Black Panthers' Ten Point Program, we were informed to change the N word to tiger. 

Even so, when my book fell open to this page it shocked me.  And jarred my memory of the days when we used to recite it.  And a good reminder of how far we've come since 1931.