Monday, November 10, 2014

My Life in Pictures - Hurricane Odile

I'm not sure if my blog is still on anyone's reading list, it's been so long since I've posted anything. Blame it on Hurricane Odile, which roared (truly!) through our town on September 15th and knocked out all the services, including internet. Everything else was back up and running within a week EXCEPT for the internet connection to parts of the town (including our house), which was finally restored two days ago - a mere month and a half later!

So here are some photos of Todos Santos in the aftermath of Hurricane Odile.

The only real damage to our house was the loss of the palapa over the patio upstairs:

We also had some flooding, particularly to the upstairs bedroom (!). Part of our fence was blown over and most of our gates took it on the chin and had to be replaced. However, that was nothing compared to the damage to many of our neighbors' houses.

This is the house across the road from us, one of many that lost their roofs.

Some of the family's clothes and bedding are draped over the wall to dry.

These were typical scenes around town. The amount of biomass to be cleaned up was overwhelming!

The Mexican government sent in their version of the National Guards to clean up and it was a HUGE help - our town would still look like a mess if they hadn't come.

Here's what the fire department looked like.

Some of the firemen (all volunteers) stayed at the firehouse during the hurricane to be available to help with injuries (they also are trained in basic medical care). I heard of one man who had to be taken down to the firehouse in the middle of the hurricane (which happened at night) due to injuries.

Here's the electric company building. We had been waiting for them to come out and set up a new electric service for our vacation rental house, and they were scheduled to do that...on September 15th, the day that the hurricane came to town. Of course all their records were lost (computers & everything, gone) so we're still without the new electrical service at the rental house.

They are now operating out of a trailer set up at a small plaza in town.

The roof of the largest grocery store in town blew off and the entire front collapsed. There was no looting, however. People guarded the store and workers were brought in quickly to repair it.

This is the school at the end of our street. All the walls surrounding it fell down (as did many in town).

A "soup kitchen" was set up in the school after the hurricane for residents who were without food and it operated until the school was reopened 2 weeks later. There is still a lot of damage to the school campus that has yet to be dealt with.

There are still many homes without roofs and much damage to be cleaned up. A couple of the local charitable organizations have stepped up and are providing a means for Americans to donate money for materials etc. There are teams of volunteers working on getting homes liveable again. Here are a couple of links if you want to donate:

bendiciones a todos!

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm baaack...I think

Well, I must say that I have enjoyed my hiatus from regular blogging. Life has been so full that when I have some time to chill out my first thought is NOT, "hey, I want to put my mind back into gear and write a blog post!"

Since my last post I did a 10-day retreat using the Ignatian Exercises, which required me to meet with our priest (my spiritual director) every day. I've known about the Ignatian Exercises for about 15 years (since I went through the training to become a spiritual director myself) but I haven't had the opportunity to make an Ignatian retreat since a spiritual director is required AND you should be completely disconnected from your regular life for the entire period. That means NOT with your family, NOT while you've got a job you must attend to, NOT when there are other requirements to distract you from giving all your focus to God.

I realized that since the Pirate was away in Mendo for a month this would probably be my best opportunity but I didn't expect that I would be able to fulfill the part of meeting with a spiritual director every day. However, Padre graciously made time for me and I am SO thankful! This was the most intense 10 days I can remember having, and it's essential to have a guide to help you lay hold of what God is working in you during the retreat. It truly is a transformational experience. At the end of the time I told Padre (only half jokingly) that I think my new calling is crying! I am perceiving everything on a much deeper level after the Exercises, and all that sharp sweetness leads to a lot of tears.

So after being separated for a month and a half - longer than we have ever been apart since we first met 47 years ago - the Pirate returned at the end of July. It took us both awhile to resettle into being together again. I don't know how married folks do it when one or both of them has to be gone for long periods of time. Military personnel, oil rig crews, mariners, families of astronauts on the ISS - it's a whole different rhythm to life when you and your spouse are separated for large blocks of time.

About a week after he got home we had a hurricane, but it was a soft, well-mannered hurricane. One day we had a nice drizzle all day long without any wind. The next morning the wind came without any rain, but it wasn't too strong. We kept our front door open all day (as folks usually do down here) just to feel the lovely wind coming through the screen. The following day it was still windy and cool, but the wind was even softer. A wonderful few days!

We're still working on getting the vacation rental house fully furnished. The Pirate has several large pieces of furniture to make. I've finished the quilt for one bed and will start on the next one later this week. Our friend the forjador (ironsmith) will be making various items to go into the house as well. We're planning to make it a showcase of locally made crafts, and also have crafts avaiable for visitors to buy, since there's nowhere in town where you can buy traditional crafts. Sorry I don't have any photos - I must take some time this week to go over there with the camera so I can show you our great project in my next post.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

An Unexciting Life with Money

This is one in a series of posts of meditations on the book An Unexciting Life by Michael Casey, a Trappist monk. For others in the series, click on "an unexciting life" in the list of topics on the right-hand side of this page.

The passage I want to comment on today is from the chapter, "John Cassian's Road Map". John Cassian was a 4th century monk (for a detailed description of his life, click here). The passage is a quote from his writings:

"Even one who has no money can be a victim to the disease of avarice so that his impoverishment yields no benefit to him." Michael Casey expands on that a bit by noting that external renunciation, which is expected of monks, will not bring freedom unless a person also purifies his interior affections.

Being a former financial planner and counselor, I was immediately drawn to this comment of Cassian's. In my years of helping people with issues relating to money (and most life issues do have a money component in there somewhere), the love of money (avarice) usually appeared cloaked in the guise of an inordinate concern about the financial factors of a given decision, even if the decision should not have been primarily about money.

As a simple example, many people subconsciously equate the optimal college education for their children with the university's tuition cost: the higher the tuition, the better the education provided, right? Wrong! Or how about the widely held belief that in order to have a happy retirement you have to have enough money to fund your existing lifestyle?

Because of such beliefs people often make poor financial decisions, like the client I had who, because he had not been able to put aside money for retirement, got into trading commodities futures (not for amateurs!) and ended up losing his house and ultimately his family. He succumbed to avarice - he wanted (even if his intentions seemed good) to amass more money than he could expect to do under normal circumstances, and rather than allowing his "impoverishment to benefit him", he fought against it and lost.

In general, my experience has been that people in the US are terrified of not having enough money. But as I continually said to clients, "It's not about the money!" Having a full, satisfying and meaninful life does NOT depend on money, as many studies attest. Poor people tend to be more generous than wealthier people, have stronger familial relationships, and describe themselves as being happy more often than rich people do.

That's something that always struck me about the stories people told of living through the Depression: the focus was on relationships, on community, and it produced many wonderful memories, even in the midst of great privation. Money, or the stuff that money can buy, is not the stuff of good memories.

Money, or what we tend to buy with it, is not what makes good memories. Think about the gifts you received for Christmas when you were a child - was it the most expensive gifts that bring back warm memories, or the ones that had special meaning for you?

Money enables you to "go it alone", and if you don't have much, you need the support of a strong family and community. That is very evident here in small-town Mexico, and it's one reason I love living here: people are more important than money, on a daily, practical, real-time basis.

This is a photo of a good friend of ours, his wife and one of his nine grandchildren, some of whom live with him (along with their parents) because the parents don't have jobs and don't have enough money to have separate homes (it's hard to find a job in our town). Tolin is the sole support for all of them and has multiple jobs to bring in enough money. On top of that, he is the leader of the worship team for our church and devotes a significant portion of his free time to that. And he's always upbeat, interested in things, learning something new. This is a man whose impoverishment has yielded many benefits in his life.

I have seen many happy outcomes when clients have let go of the importance of money in a situation and let their hearts and common sense guide them instead. When a person stops believing that having "enough" money is the only way to achieve something she greatly desires, her creative juices are freed up to find other non-monetary means of reaching the goal. That's enlivening!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Unexciting Life: Friendship

Today's post is the latest in a series of meditations on the book An Unexciting Life by Michael Casey. For prior posts in the series, click on "an unexciting life" in the themes section on the right side of this page.

In the chapter "The Value of Stability" there is a section on friendship that this quote is from:
"Humility, service and amiability lay the foundations on which good relationships build. Good relationships prepare the soil from which friendship flowers...

To love another exposes one's own care for a brother means bearing his burdens: his limitations, his hurts, his mistakes, and ultimately, if the relationship becomes truly redemptive, the crushing weight of his sins."

What struck me in reading this passage is that there is a distinction between having a good relationship (which one should strive to have with every person) and friendship. There is a distinction between loving a person (we are called to love everyone, even our enemies) and having a friend. True friendship (deeper than the pleasant acquaintances we tend to think of as our "friends") is precious because it is relatively uncommon. But if we cultivate good relationships with all, we are more likely to find that some turn into deep friendships.

I am blessed to see both my sons and their wives having thriving friendships with numerous people, people of different backgrounds and generations. This is a testament to the effort that they all make to invest in relationships, to be humble, amiable, and serve others. Of course, this is a perfect description of my husband as well (my kids got it from him).

It is tragic to see families in which the parents are don't place much value in having good relationships with those around them. When their children grow up without a sense of the importance of relationships, they end up making life choices that leave little room for relationships to grow, and their lives become more and more distant from a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Because mankind was created to need relationships, people are not, in a sense, complete as humans if that essential element has not been well-developed in their lives.

I am thankful that in Mexican culture, as in many other parts of the world, relationships are valued more highly than they are in the US. It is quite rare for a person to move so far from his or her family that they can't get together often. It is common for neighbors and even non-neighbors to offer help where they see a need. Amiability is one of the most noticeable characteristics of Mexican people, who are invariably friendly to strangers. And the humility that shines through so often is quite marvelous to us gringos who have difficulty in letting go of our unintented arrogance.

"If you want a friend, be a friend"

Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Unexciting Life: The Value of Consistency

This is one in a series of meditations on passages from the book An Unexciting Life, by Michael Casey, a Trappist monk. For the rest of the series, click on "an unexciting life" in the Topics section on the right side of this page.

Today's passage from the chapter "The Value of Stability" is about the ongoing challenge of maturing in the faith, or as we Catholics describe it, ongoing conversion.

"This mature and ongoing formation comes about chiefly by our wholehearted embrace of conversatio [continuing fidelity]: liturgy, prayer, lectio divina, work, community involvement. These are the unexciting buttresses that support our commitment. To keep practicing them, in turn, involves a fair degree of fidelity to the elements of traditional discipline that safeguard and protect the way of life: regularity, silence, self-denial, and obedience."

This was written for monks, so might seem a bit severe for those who don't live in such an ordered environment. But it does point us to the things that can help us to grow in holiness. To the degree that we take note of the level of regularity, silence, self-denial and obedience in our lives, we can strive to improve our experience of them. How often do we allow ourselves a time of conscious silence? How often do we consciously practice self-denial or obedience? When we do these things consciously we reap the reward of deeper faith, of greater stability. That should be a positive motivator to practice these things more often!

Anyone can create a Rule of Life to help them reach a greater level of internal stability. By attempting to be obedient to my Rule of Life (I'm by no means perfect at it!) I have found a much deeper level of peace, and a greater discernment as to what is important in a given moment and what is not.

To the degree that we seek to include liturgy, prayer meditating on the Word, work and community involvement in our lives we will grow in righteouness, or as we say in spanish, rectitud. This is, of course, a lifelong process. Perhaps my own example might be helpful to one of you readers. An old friend recently asked me how I have managed to be consistent in prayer and after some thought I told her that my prayer life improved tremendously when I learned the habit of praying the same prayers every day before I even get out of bed.

I start by orienting myself to God through the Church - that is, thanking him for creating the church to be our teacher and guide - and then focus my attention on thanking him for creating me, adopting me into his family, and surrounding me with his love. Then I offer my life to Jesus to do whatever he wants with it. I thank Mary for being a role model for me, and Joseph for being a human father for me (I never had a relationship with a human father, so now I'm learning how to have one through my relationship with Joseph). I pray for my husband, for the specific things he asked me to pray for, and end with asking God to grant me what I dare not ask for myself. Then I get out of bed.

Because I don't need to come up with new words every day I am freed to enter into the spirit of these prayers, and I often start praying before I am fully awake. Amazingly, even if I fall asleep again, I remember exactly where I was in my prayers before I drifted off, so it's a perfect start to the day. Once I've gotten up and done some "first thing in the morning" tasks, I sit down and spend time meditating on the Word, using the morning readings from the Magnificat. Then my husband and I read the day's scriptures for the mass together.

Even if I don't follow my Rule of Life for the rest of the day, that has gotten me off to a great start, orienting me toward God every day. And it doesn't even take any extra time - just the time you'd otherwise spend reading something while having your morning coffee.

I'm sure that you readers can think of many instances in your own lives of the rewards of faithfully practicing one or more of the things mentioned in this passage. What treasures they offer! May these treasures be embedded deeply in our lives.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

An Unexciting Life: Monasticism for a non-monastic

The Pirate has gone to the States for more than a month to help our son remodel his house (the one the Pirate built in 1969 when we were hippies). That leaves me alone with the garden and the dogs, and an opportunity to practice more fully the monastic life that has always lurked in the back of my heart.

Before the Pirate left I revised my Rule of Life (email me if you want to know what a Rule of Life is or how to make one, and I'll send you a PDf from the CS Lewis Institute on it). I wanted to make sure that I had set times for doing all kinds of different tasks each day, including maintaining the vegetable garden (which is the Pirate's domain) and focusing on all the things to be made for the vacation rental house before we can start renting it. Things like bedspreads, curtains, dish towels, etc. Without having fully scheduled days I knew I was likely to space out, since the Pirate is the core around which I do everything (imagine a May pole - the Pirate - with me weaving whatever I do each day around that core).

One thing that I committed myself to doing during this period is to write a post every Sunday on the book An Unexciting Life, because I have MANY more highlighted segments to go before I allow myself to finish reading this book...and I just bought another of Michael Casey's books, Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living which I won't allow myself to read until I've completed the current book.

So, from the chapter "The Benedictine Promises", in the section "The Promise to be a Good Monk", is a single sentence that is elegant and simple in its description of the life devoted to God:
"Each day one allows oneself to be converted a little more, by attending to the Word and allowing it to shape one's options".

I spent my professional career helping people to identify their options and learn how to be wise (or at least prudent) in deciding which ones to pay attention to. Some of my clients were christians; many were not. But God had put me in a position to impart good sense and recognition of virtue to people who live in a society that has lost its ability to recognize or practice either one. For that I am deeply grateful. But how do I put this concept into practice? What do I do to allow God's light into the dark recesses of my soul, that they might be converted?

In general, it's best to approach a significant issue by figuratively walking all the way around it. There is the first, most obvious, perception to keep in mind, but wisdom requires that the more difficult or uncomfortable possibilities be considered as well. For instance, the other day the Pirate made a remark about how much time I've been spending playing solitaire. I seem to go through seasons of doing this - over the years I've had periods where I waste a huge amount of my days playing solitaire, and then I'll completely ignore it for long periods. This time, in response to that remark, my first thought was "So what? I spend more time praying every day than most people, so this is my acceptable mindless relaxation".

On further thought it seemed to me that what I'm doing when I play solitaire is in a certain way "girding up my loins" to do something that is daunting, but that I know that God is wanting me to do. I thought, "I'm basically doing what Peter describes in his first letter: 'Therefore gird up the loins of your mind; be sober...' I'm psyching myself to face the daunting task". That's okay, I guess, and true enough, but then I read the second half of that passage: "and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'".

Now the issue is clearly not one of sin, but of increasing holiness. How much do I want to increase in holiness? Enough to change the little, non-sinful things in my life when God's light shows them for what they really are? What my solitaire playing really is, as I have come to realize, is a substitute for coming before God and admitting my inability, my weakness, my lack of confidence to do whatever it is that He is calling me to do at that moment. I am girding up my loins, NOT by resting my hope fully upon His grace, but by zoning out until my conscience can't stand the dithering any more and forces me to act.

I thank God that He is faithful to answer my prayer that I could see myself as I really am - not as I hope or fear that I am - and that He has the power to change me, if I offer myself to Him to do so. As St. Therese of Lisieux described it, God has an "elevator" that will lift us up to holiness quickly, and that is offering ourselves to Him in love and confidence, as little children. As they say here in Mexico, asi sea, let it be so.

If you want to read my past posts on An Unexciting Life, click on "an unexciting life" in the list of topics on the right side of this page.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our happily unexciting life

Since my last post I have spent most of my computer time on Ravelry, getting all my projects up to date, listing everything in my stash (with photos), learning which groups are good sources of information and community. Check out my stuff here.

I also discovered, after reading through some conversations about crocheting, that although I have been crocheting for most of my life, there are very few people who use the same technique as I do (I hold the yarn and the hook in my right hand and my left hand guides the fabric toward the hook). Same thing with knitting - I've been knitting longer than I've been crocheting, but I never gave the technique I use much thought until I read through a conversation on it in Ravelry, and again, I use a method of "flicking" which is different from most. I know I have always been a bit surprised to see other people knitting slowly, but couldn't figure out why. Now I know...

The time I have not been on Ravelry, I have been knitting and crocheting hand towels as well as making the first of two quilts, all for for Casa Vieja, the house that we are fixing up as a vacation rental.

We are filling it with handmade things - furniture made by the Pirate; sewn, crocheted and knit things by me, and various things also made locally. There's really very little that visitors can buy here that is made locally and typical of our region, and we want to change that. We have some very talented friends and would like to showcase their things in our vacation rental.

Our days are relatively unexciting in a very satisfying way. My friend Gretchen posted a lovely poem on her blog Gladsome Lights which does a great job of capturing it (click on the link to read it).

The weather is lovely - warm with a nice breeze every day. I can't understand why so many of the gringos who have houses here "escape the heat" by going back to the States every June and then they don't return until November. The only hot months here are the second half of August through the first half of October, and even then the heat isn't's cooler than much of Alta California at the same time of year, and definitely cooler than much or most of the U.S. However, with fewer gringos the locals and year-rounders get the town to themselves for half the year, which is another reason why our lives right now are "unexciting".

Here are a couple of teaser photos of our vacation rental house, which is right across the road from our house.

There's still lots to be done - furnishing it, planting grapes along the arbor (where the bench is in the 2nd photo), finishing the fence, etc. etc. But it will be ready for our family to do a test run over Thanksgiving, and then be available for rental through VRBO in 2015. Here's what it looked like before we bought it. We wanted to fix it up without changing the feeling. What do you think?

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Our oldest granddaughter Jordan graduated from high school yesterday. Since she had been homeschooled, her graduation was held at the church that my son's family is involved in. Jordan made a speech, the event was videotaped, a great feast was had by all, and she is now preparing for the next step in her life: going to YWAM's Discipleship Training School in Hawaii, and then (we think) college at University of the Nations, also connected with YWAM (Youth With a Mission - a worldwide parachurch evangelistic organization).

That's Jordan in a dress that I sewed by hand close to 40 years ago when I was reading the Little House books to her dad and uncle (they were about 6 and 4 years old at the time).

Jordan's cousin Brenna, the oldest daughter of our older son, will be graduating from (public) junior high school next week, and her younger brother Ethan will be graduating from 6th grade at the Christian elementary school where their mom teaches art and all 3 of her children have attended. How quickly it all goes! How soon they'll be adults!

This is lovely Brenna with her equally lovely mother Rhonda.

And here's the Big E, our star basketball/softball/soccer player.

And in the same vein, Padre Sergio, the priest who received us into the Catholic church, came to Todos Santos today to say good-bye to the people of this parish where he labored for many years. He is finally getting his long-held wish and transferring to the diocesis of Los Angeles (California, USA). Although he and his siblings grew up in Guadalajara, most of them now live in and around LA, and he has been trying for years to transfer up there. It's not easy to change from one diocese to another, and even more so when it means a change of country as well.

We never know how long we have to enjoy the people who are part of our lives today, or the details of our lives that make our hearts full. Circumstances change and people move on, and who knows when we'll be together again? It has been too many years since I've been at the great gathering of my family members that happens every July 4th on a lake in Wisconsin. It has been too many years since all of my husband's family have gotten together, although from the time we were married until the time our boys were in junior high we had a huge family Christmas party every year. Then the parents and aunts and uncles either died or moved away and our generation didn't pick up the ball. I guess "you don't know what you have 'til it's gone", as Joni Mitchell sang.

So "while it is called today", let us rejoice in the amazing gifts of God that surround us - the people, the plants, the birdsongs, the ocean and mountains, the dogs/cats/horses/goats/chickens, and all the small moments that fill our days. How precious every moment of life is!

Friday, May 16, 2014

An Unexciting Life: corporal works of mercy

From An Unexciting Life

This post is one of a series on passages from the book. You can read the others by clicking on "an unexciting life" in the list of topics on the right side of this page. I've read a LOT of books over the years that are meditations on the holy life - both Catholic and Protestant - and this is my favorite.

FROM THE CHAPTER "Strangers to Worldly Ways":
"Attention to the things of God leads us to tend the needs of our brothers and sisters. Hence [we are reminded] of our obligations to the poor, the needy and the unwell. By offering ourselves in service, by putting ourselves out for others, we are freed from the domination of our own immature need for comfort. This has always been one of the puzzles of the Christian way: why is it that a person makes greater progress on the way to God through self-forgetfulness and service than through teeth-gritting determination?"

The man on the right is a neighbor who has a profound mental disability and is unable to speak intelligibly. Everyone calls him "Jefe" (boss), and he is a fixture at the neighborhood gringo cafe, where he sits on the steps and waves at everyone. He is watched over by the Mexicans in the neighborhood, who treat him like a family member. He attends mass at our neighborhood chapel and shakes everyone's hand as he goes up to receive communion.

I think we would all be mucher richer for it if we all had a "Jefe" in our neighborhoods, someone whom we can't ignore because he hangs out at our local cafe or grocery store. Someone who needs the whole neighborhood to make sure he's okay, getting enough to eat, not getting run over because he doesn't know not to walk in the middle of the street. In the US the strategy has been to keep the sad, broken, desperate people as far from our view as possible. But WE NEED THEM! We need them in order to be fully human ourselves.

"[Let us consider] the monk's reactions to the fact that the ideal life is rarely achieved and the consequent existence of conflict, disharmony and even violence. His response is a generous, unflinching patience - quite at odds with the anticipated secular response to being victimized. He does not return evil or initiate it. He bears it patiently and loves his enemies."

Our culture, among other distortions, has elevated victimhood to an exalted position. This, of course, keeps many lawyers busy but it does nothing to strengthen society, which depends on people taking responsibility, not only for their own actions, but also for their own responses to the actions of others. Think of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, or Blessed Titus Brandsma, or Corrie Ten Boom - all put in German concentration camps, two of whom died there. But their lives testify to non-victimhood. They all were exemplars of love conquering evil. And of course there are many such stories (if you have a favorite, please leave me a comment with the name or names of people who showed the same refusal to be victims).

I take comfort from these paragraphs because there are so many examples of people who have lived in service to others with self-forgetful love. It is possible to be a saint! And it's clear that even in the face of extremely stressful circumstances, people who put the well-being of others before their own are given the strength and joy that we all long for. As our former priest used to say to everyone about everything, "animo!" Take courage! Be encouraged! And give encouragement to others...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Children's Day

In the US we have Mother's Day and Father's Day. In Mexico we also have Children's Day: El Dia de los Ninos, which was last Wednesday, April 30th.

Our priest wanted to do something special for the children in Meliton Albanez, the small agrgicultural community served by our parish, so we had a Children's Day party for them on Friday. My friend Teresita coordinated the making of 250 chicken salad sandwiches, and other people in our parish brought jello and several large sheet cakes.

Padre conducted the mass with songs that included lots of clapping, and his homily was focused on how much God loves us. He led the children in a time of naming all the things we're thankful to God for (we're healthy! we can read! we have enough food! we have mothers and fathers!).

The party was held right after mass, in the area surrounding the church (a dirt lot).

There were enough pinatas that all the kids could participate:

and get plenty of candy:

and balloons:

All the food was eaten - there was none left!

Then we showed a movie in the church (Rango - in spanish, of course).

While the movie was being shown I picked up the remaining garbage. A lot had already been done by several adults, but there was a lot more! Several of the girls left the movie and asked if they could help, which of course I gratefully accepted:

As a grand finale, Padre brought HUGE boxes full of new shoes so everyone (maybe 150-200 kids) could have a pair. I don't know where he got them, but it was definitely a highlight for the kids to each get a new pair of shoes.

Here's the way we made the chicken salad sandwiches:
1 very large bowl of cooked boneless chicken breasts, put through a Cuisinart
1 very large bowl of chopped celery, ribs removed
1 very large bowl of skinned & chopped potatoes
1 very large bowl of skinned & chopped chayotes
1 very large bowl of chopped carrots
1 large bowl of roasted and skinned poblanos, chopped fine

After taking the chicken out of the HUGE pot it was cooked in, put the celery (in batches) in a strainer and submerge in the chicken broth for a couple of minutes to soften it. Do the same with the potatoes, chayotes and carrots. Then re-chop all of them very fine. Mix thoroughly along with the poblanos in the most humongous pot that you can find.

In another giant bowl, mix a huge amount of crema (or mayonnaise if you have no crema) and prepared mustard to make about 2 gallons. Mix this into the chicken/vegetable mixture.

Cut 250 bolillos (mexican rolls, soft and sweet) in half. Spread the chicken salad on half of each bolillo, top with the other half & wrap in a paper napkin. Repeat 250 times.

The proportions are unimportant. The result is REALLY tasty because the poblanos put some zing into it (and of course the bolillos are heavenly!). It took us 4 hours to cook and chop everything and 1 1/2 hours to assemble the tortitas (little sandwiches). I didn't take any pictures of the process because I was too busy chopping and assembling!

Here's a photo of Teresita (on the right) and another friend, Blanca, who I helped in putting together the food: