Talk about being prepared! How about being over prepared? During the past ten days, two speeches have been written, rehearsed and ready to present. But there is nowhere open for the presentation. Two speeches, but nowhere to speak. It's like ‘All dressed up and nowhere to go.’ But writing is thought provoking so the time in preparing the speeches was valuable as a learning experience.
Good morning to all of you who are still here in the Rio Grande Valley. And many of us are here year-round. Winter Texan season may have ended but many of us have transplanted ourselves into the semi tropical region of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley. We live here year-round and have become rooted in this tropical paradise. Even so, we like a little vacation time, too. So, let' s look at what is available for us during this upcoming summer season.
Dates are available now for the Eagle Pass Casino Tour. Departures are not as frequent during the summer season but at least two departures per month are available each month. You might call these tours a "get away tour" so if your time is limited, these tours might be for you. Just remember the machines are not very often in favor of the player.
It's been a pleasure for me to have visited with so many of you this Winter Texan Season. Your sense of humor, your kindness, your contributions to our communities has made me appreciate so much more all that you do for us.
And so, now the time has come when you are thinking of returning to your summer home up north. You will be with your family, your children and your grandchildren and oh, what a busy summer it will be. We will miss you. We hope you have a blessed summer and that you come back to be with us next year.
And what did you give up for Lent? Perhaps it would be better if instead of giving up something, we added something to our lives. How about deciding to turn negatives into positives? That's a little difficult to do sometimes and we may have to constantly remind ourselves to look for the positive instead of always giving in to a negative. Some of the old sayings might help us to remember to think positive.
The old saying "When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade'' or “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet" might be of help. We can always find a positive side if we look hard enough.
How we express ourselves in different languages has always been of interest to me. The way we say things tells us a lot about a person’s cultural background. Unfortunately, I know only one language other than English and that is Spanish. But what an expressive language Spanish is!
Not long ago, I walked into my office and the bookkeeper said in Spanish..."Ya viene el calzon sin gente". Needless to say, I was a little taken aback for the saying that I had always heard was "gente sin calzones". The second saying has a double meaning. You really need to watch for those double meanings when speaking Spanish. My reaction was, of course - " What did you say?"
There is something for everyone in the Rio Grande Valley so you should never be bored. Do you like to quilt? Then how about a visit to the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum located at 2425 Boxwood St. There is no entry fee, but donations are appreciated. Or better yet, why not visit the museum and be inspired to join in a mosaic art glass that will teach one how to make Turkish lamps. The class will be taught by Marco Antonio Martinez, an artist from Matamoros, Mexico. On display now at the museum is a beautiful mosaic and tile sphere that was created by Mr. Martinez. The sphere and a nearby bench are covered with flowers and plants native to our local area. Call the museum at (956) 216-490l for more information regarding the classes to be offered.
Knowing more about the Children's Haven International located near Reynosa has always been my desire. For years I had heard about the Haven, but I really did not know much about it. Many residents of local RV and Motor Home Parks regularly cross the border to volunteer their time and talent to Haven. Some park residents even sponsor a needy child to help them on their way. Sponsoring a child means you commit to donating $25 per month. I was especially impressed with how the sponsorship dollars are actually put into a pool that doesn't just help the one child you picked but will help all the children. Obviously, some children are more appealing than others; some are cute and lovable and apt to be chosen quickly by a sponsor. Others are not so cute and lovable but are shy and withdrawn. But all of them need our love and support.
Rio Grande Valley citizens rarely make the headlines in the Washington Post - unless, of course, they are locally elected politicians and hold a high office in Washington D.C. Well, that can't be said of Fred Renk who is well known for operating Bloodless Bull Fights for at least twenty years.
At 83 years of age Fred has decided to sell his Bull Ring located in La Gloria, Texas. On Sunday, February 16, Fred will present his last bull fight. Two bull fighters - one a woman - will perform before what will probably be a full house. Each fighter will draw for the two bulls that they will fight. The bull fight will begin at 4 p.m. and will not end until around 6 p.m.
Prior to the beginning of the fight, food and drink will be available for purchase. Fred makes sure that you are well entertained with music and trained horsemanship performances before the actual bullfight begins. So, arrive early to enjoy all the entertainment.
Earlier in January, there were several Travel Expos up and down the Valley from McAllen to Port Isabel. Even though the shows were geared toward attracting Winter Texans, there were many permanent residents that attended. Great entertainment and music were offered at every show. Plus, lots of information and freebies were given out. There were exhibitors from cities and states in the U.S., as well as exhibitors from Mexico.
Those shows did not pertain just to travel but to a wide variety of subjects including how to cook and eat healthy, what bank to use for the best interest rates and best service, who to call in an emergency and on and on. The most popular booth at the Harlingen show was the one giving out a free scoop of soft ice cream. Unfortunately, they ran out of chocolate and then out of vanilla before I got my scoop! And how I do love ice cream. Think I’ll go have some right now!
What is it like to be retired? There is a difference in being retired and in slowing down. Most of the people who come to the Rio Grande Valley for the winter are not really retired, they have just slowed down. They are sometimes even more active here than they are back home. They keep busy helping their neighbor, giving back to the community, doing volunteer work at their church or pitching in as they help to prepare meals at the RV parks where they stay. And they do this until it warms up back home. Their minds are just as eager to learn as they always were.
Since it is said that our Rio Grande Valley is a world unto itself, most of the Winter Texans want to learn more about “our world”. But as soon as it warms up, the itchy foot wants to put the petal to the metal and head for home. Some even leave too early and are caught in a snowstorm in route. Just because the farmers are planting in the Rio Grande Valley doesn’t mean it is planting time back home. Stay a little longer, folks, we enjoy having you here!
Sometimes it seems to me that maybe the old ways were the best ways. The way we used to do things maybe took a little longer, but then what were the results in the long run? And what about all those old tried and true reminders of how to behave? They never seem to go out of style. Remember what your mother used to say? “Pretty is as pretty does” or how about “Beauty is only skin deep” or “You will be known by the company you keep.” Or better yet, “If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all.” And I bet you can remember many other tried and true guiding remarks that your mother said over and over and over. Maybe some even stuck.
And how did we live when we were growing up? Much, much more simply than we live today in this fast-paced world. Today the radio and television tell us almost immediately what is happening across the ocean. We stay connected all the time to people we do not even know. Would it not be better if we stayed more connected within our own families? Would it not be better if we recycled instead of throwing away what is sometimes still useful so that we can have the latest model? The latest style? The latest color?
What is the most important natural resource to a farmer? Probably water - a commodity that we just can't do without. Most of our water supply in the Rio Grande Valley comes from the Rio Grande River or as it is called in Mexico - the Rio Bravo del Norte - the brave, wild river of the North.
Winter Texans contribute so much to the economy of the Rio Grande Valley. And that's great! We need those extra dollars. But money can be such a fleeting thing. Winter Texans are giving much more than money. They are giving a commodity that cannot be put in the calculator.
It's the day after the day we have been waiting for. Such anticipation to have the family together for such a grand celebration. And then very quickly, it is all over. Of course, the house is a mess. Stockings are scattered all over the floor and gifts are stacked in the corners ready to be put away. Empty boxes filled with wrappings and ribbons need to be destroyed or carefully stored to be recycled next year.
In the last several issues many traditions - some ten, some fifteen and some twenty years old - have been discussed. The ten-year-old Holiday Village in Brownsville; the fantastic, inflated balloons in the McAllen parade is a three- or four-year-old tradition; the Christmas tree forests in local museums are now traditions.
First of all, what does that word "tradition'· mean? The word comes from Latin meaning the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs or information from one generation to the next. A tradition can be " invented" politically, culturally or strictly for financial reasons - that is to bring more money into your city. Or a tradition can just happen!
Certainly, in my family we have some Christmas traditions. And I bet you have traditions in your family also. In my family, our Christmas traditions start on Christmas Eve with tamales and homemade chili. That meal is probably not a very old tradition in most South Texas border families, but for my family, the tradition probably started forty or fifty years ago.
Regardless of what time the guests leave, and dishes are washed and put away, the next and more important tradition, must be observed. We just must watch The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens before we turn in for the night.
Christmas day has another set of traditions - one that absolutely exasperates newcomers to the family. All Christmas gifts must be opened one by one and passed all around the room to be admired by all before the next gift can be opened. This process can take all morning - with of course, time out for orange juice, coffee, pan dulce and sausage balls.
Afterwards, the cooks take over with the preparation of at least two traditional presentations - homemade sage dressing and ambrosia (fruit salad). There is no recipe for either of these dishes. The cook goes by looks and taste as the ingredients for the dressing are mixed together - after all, that's how mother did it!
Now my father's contribution to the Christmas dinner was a delicious and HUGE bowl of ambrosia. His words were “you women should let a man make a contribution to the feast.” Little did he know when he started that his contribution would never look quite right to him, so he just kept adding one fruit after another until he had a wash tub full of ambrosia - a perfect complement to all the other Christmas delicacies.
I smile to myself every time I prepare a bowl of ambrosia as I, too, just keep adding another fruit until it looks and tastes just right. Traditions are wonderful - they build memories that last forever and can bring joy and nostalgia to us all.
All of these traditions may be forgotten or replaced in the future. But there is one tradition that hopefully will never be forgotten and will last forever. It is a tradition that is not glitzy nor glittery - perhaps that is why it is not observed as much as in years past.
Las Posadas, possibly the greatest and oldest tradition of all, was brought from Spain to Mexico some 500 years ago. In Spanish, the word "posada" means inn. This tradition re-enacts Mary and Joseph searching for a place for the Christ Child to be born.
In times past, the procession would be led by children dressed as angels followed by Mary riding on a donkey that was led by Joseph. Neither rain, nor cold, nor wind would interfere as the group moved from house to house singing a special song that asked for lodging. Over and over they would be denied until finally a predesignated home would open wide their doors and welcome the group in. This celebration would begin on December 16 and would be repeated for nine consecutive nights until Christmas Eve.
This tradition brings to all of us the true meaning of Christmas. Unfortunately, there are not as many celebrations of Las Posadas as there used to be. Organizing, preparing and taking part in a Posada takes time.
Sometimes we don't make time for the most important tradition of all...the celebration of the true meaning of Christmas. If you are ever invited to a posada, be sure to go. The experience will build a special memory.
I wonder - will this tradition disappear? Will we get too busy to observe this tradition? As we celebrate this special season, will we remember the true meaning of Christmas?