Tag: Mexican Food

My Year In Review – Numbers

The Bridge

Happy New Year! This is my first post of the year and sadly, my first post in about three and half months. I probably should have written a post saying I was going to take a break for a few months. To do whatever people do when they take breaks. My apologies for not doing that. But, I’m here now.

Like many people, I enjoy taking a moment to reflect on the previous year. A year in review if you will. Not so much a way of dwelling on the past, but as a way of learning and reminding myself that the positive events in my life greatly outnumber the negative events. Always. And for that I am grateful.

So, 2016 by a few numbers that were important to me…

1 – That would be for one year. On January 4th, I celebrated one year of not having a cigarette. I quit for many reasons. My wife. My kids. And selfishly, for me which is what my last year spare time efforts have been geared around: improving my health. So not really a full year in 2016 and more like 362 days but I’ll round it up and say a year.

2 – I had two meals on business trips that were not paid for by the company. The first meal I had was dinner with a wonderful friend and her family. What’s special is that she is a fellow writer and we were meeting in person for the first time after having “met” on the internet. The second meal was with a childhood friend I hadn’t seen since I was 13 years old. It was great to re-connect with him and meet his wonderful wife.

3 – I ran a 5K for Veteran’s Day in November. It was my first organized 5K in many years and my first one running as a non-smoker. I took 3rd place in my age group and my 13-year-old son took 3rd in his age group despite walking his. My wife walked it too.

3.85 – This was my eldest son’s GPA last semester in college. He’s in his second year of college studying to be a physician assistant. There are several classes that tend to weed kids in the program starting their freshman year. I believe this is one way a school maintains their national ranking along with their high percentage of students who pass their respective licensing tests after graduation.  He had gross anatomy last semester. Lecture and lab. Yes, I’m proud of him.

10 – How many Jack Reacher novels I read last year which brings me up to 19 of them. I did much more reading in 2016 than I did writing. I think I needed it.

13 – How many years it took my youngest son to become the tallest person in our family. I’m not sure what happened here but he had an amazing growth spurt this last year. He’s the tall one in the back.

16 – How old my 13-year-old acts. Scary.

21 – I had a surgery on December 21st. It was my first surgery and a huge part of why I focused so much on health in 2016. The surgery had been planned since the day I quit smoking and I was determined to go into it being in the best shape I could possibly be in. I was. I’m so thankful it all went as planned, I’m recovering nicely, and I get to return to work tomorrow.

24 – How many times I have said “Happy New Year” to my wife.

24 – How many tamales I ordered last year for Christmas. Something important to me considering that I live about 2200 miles away from where I grew up. A little bit of the Southwest celebrated here in NY.

40 – How many years in a row I have been working steady. I’ve worked for 43 but the first three years were mostly summer jobs. So, 40 is the number and therefore, how many years I have been paying taxes. I’ve worked steady since I was 16. Why is this relevant? During the heated political climate we’ve experienced here in the states as of late, there has been a level of both arrogance AND stupidity that I have not witnessed in my lifetime. On both sides. I made the mistake of reading one of the “trending” topics in social media one day that led me down a serious of tweets by people, mainly younger college age kids along with a few I would guess to be in their later twenties or early thirties, trying to make an argument that people over a certain age shouldn’t be allowed to vote. This is their world now and older people shouldn’t have a say or voice. That “older” age group included me so I wanted to respond to some of these comments but I didn’t. That would only feed the trolls. But it pissed me off.

I’d like to think that normally I am a “peace, love and light” kind of guy despite my internal ranting and un-politically correct type thought process at times. I’d like to think that age has granted me some sort of calmness and wisdom earned from years of life experiences. That knowledge reminding me to keep my mouth shut. In my mind though, I tweeted a response on the subject that said “I’ve paid taxes for 40 years. I’ve earned that vote. So STFU.” Yes…, no substance and somewhat of an attack and why I kept it to myself. See, even older people can be idiots for a moment and I had only just learned that new acronym. OK… my only words on politics. I promise.

63 – How many pounds I lost last year. That’s three bags of dog food worth. It sure makes running easier. And life.

100 – The company I work at celebrated their 100-year anniversary last year. Specifically, the factory and business itself which has operated under many names over those 100 years. We had a huge celebration event enjoyed by current employees, retirees, and a few local and state politicians. I was amazed at the historical aspect of this and felt blessed to be a part of it with my short ten years of working there.

219 – That’s how many calories are in my favorite beer. That’s not a good thing. This is what happens when one discovers craft beer IPAs.

311 – That’s how many days in a row I logged into My Fitness Pal and tracked my food and exercise during 2016. My last post was about what was going on around 200 Days. I’m at 319 today! Accountability.

472.5 – That’s how many miles I intentionally walked, hiked, or ran last year. These were miles tracked on Map My Run starting in April of 2016. Which communicates with Map My Fitness which also communicates with my Fitbit.  This stuff all confuses the hell out of me but it seems to all work. Tools.

1000 – That’s how many miles I intend to walk, hike, or run in 2017. Intentional miles or planned exercise as opposed to Fitbit miles. I think it’s doable based on the number of miles I was averaging toward the last part of 2016 before my surgery.

There are several of these challenges one can find on the internet. I signed up for this specific one because half the money the organizer raises from the registration goes to charity and there is a team effort on raising money for charities for each mile walked.

2017 – May your 2017 be filled with light, love, and laughter!

B.

I Wish I Knew Then …

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I wish I knew then what I think I know now…but would I have lived life any differently?

By this time next week, my wife, twelve-year-old, and I will be waking up to a different dynamic in our home. My oldest will be gone. He’ll be waking up in a dorm room, probably both excited and nervous about the journey he is about to start. This upcoming experience, from my parent point of view, led me to thinking about my own journey that literally started the evening I returned home from my High School graduation. I left home that night, which is a story in itself.

A Letter To My Eighteen-Year-Old Self

I’ve read a few similar posts like this over the last year and they’ve always made me wonder what I might tell myself, assuming that was even possible, and, would it have made a difference? It did for John Conner in the second Terminator movie but that’s Hollywood. This is real life, and my thoughts and influences at that time were what guided me… Then.

Let’s just pretend for a few minutes that it’s possible. A letter from the future, to be opened and read that very first day on my own.

Dear Bill,

If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to leave home. You’re probably a little confused by now and wondering just what you’ve done. Last night was a turning point in your life. It wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. Standing on that football field after graduation only to find nobody was there is something that will eat at you for some time. I’d like to tell you why it happened like that but I don’t have a clue. My biggest advice is to get over it or you’ll spend too much time and energy wondering why. And while you’re at it, you should find forgiveness sooner than later. Trust me on this one.

So where do you go from here? What path should you choose? Regardless of what I tell you, you’re a stubborn kid and are going to do what you want. “No regrets” is what you’ll tell yourself later in life but you will have a few. And you’ll get over them. What words of wisdom do I have to share with you? Patience is something you won’t learn until later in life so I’m going to be brief or you will probably quit reading this. There are a few things however that you should know.

* Let’s establish one ground rule first. You’re eighteen. Although you think you know everything, you don’t. The reality of it is – you never will, and that’s okay. Lifelong learning should be your mantra.

* Adults. The first thing to know is that being an adult doesn’t automatically make one wiser, kinder, or more mature. Far from it. Some of the same BS you experienced in high school will continue throughout your life. I would love to tell you something different here but it’s just a fact and the sooner you realize that the better.

* Despite your wishes to pursue a career in the arts, you’re going to fall into a technical career. Embrace it. I know you fought this idea but you’ll learn to love it and it will provide you with a great living and you’ll be very good at it. You will travel, see many places within the U.S. and get to see a few places abroad. It can be as fulfilling as you want it to be. The best part is you’ll never lose the arts. Read. Write. Play the guitar. Who knows what can happen

* You convinced yourself that college is just high school with ashtrays. It’s so much more. So you f’d up and passed on scholarships. It would have been much easier on you had you just attended college immediately after high school. You’ll take the long route and still attend college albeit part-time. You’ll graduate. And with honors.

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* The eighties. I could write a book on this subject. Suffice it to say it will be called a decade of decadence for a reason. You’ll live to tell about it and it will make great writing fodder someday. Just be careful.

* The nineties. This is when you are going to find yourself, not that you were lost. You’ll find true friendship and a long lasting love. How will you know? For this first time in your life, you won’t be looking for any of it.

* You will be a father and it will be the greatest high you’ve ever experienced. You’re going to be scared, and for good reason. Understand why you are scared and the rest will take care of itself. Embrace both the responsibility and challenge that parenthood will bestow upon you.

Tata, Nana, & Me

Tata, Nana, & Me

* As time passes, and it will at an alarmingly faster rate, never forget where you came from. It’s easy to get caught up in a life that most of society deems successful. Much of that is overrated. You’ll figure out what truly is a measurement of success.  

* Understand a few guiding words and make them a part of your being. Love, live, learn, listen, light, character, forgiveness, compassion, loyalty, friendship, respect, ethics, and passion are but a few.

* Simplicity. I saw a Hispanic comedian once who described the mystery of Mexican Food. He was asked what a taco was and he said: meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese in a tortilla. A burrito? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans in a tortilla. A tostada? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans on a tortilla. Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all going to work out kid,

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If We Were Having Coffee #9 – Four More Weeks

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If we were having coffee, I would have the usual flavors on hand to offer and a few choices for creamer.  We tend to always have French vanilla but we also have raspberry chocolate flavored creamer that is quite tasty with a donut shop blend. I’m going with a breakfast blend and French vanilla. Let’s head to my back porch and enjoy the morning shade.

It’s been about four weeks since I have posted anything which I believe is a new record. I’ve tried  to be consistent for the last year and post every week or at worst, every other week. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. Quite the opposite actually considering how much has happened over the last four weeks.

Immediately after my son’s college orientation, I had to work in Texas for a week. I got back home on July 4th at about one in the morning and thankfully had the next week off of work.  On Wednesday morning of my week off, my son left on a trip to Ireland, Wales, and England.  I didn’t write about it then for obvious safety concerns but he had a blast.  He texted us daily and sent loads of pictures each day of his travels, including a few letting us know he was of legal drinking age while there. He returned on Thursday of the following week and then we were in a mad dash preparing for his graduation party on the 18th.  He wanted Mexican food so we made enough food for about a hundred people to each have three tacos, beans, and rice.  We only had about sixty show up so needless to say we put some in the fridge and froze much of the rest.  We’ll be eating burritos and tacos for the next month, which really isn’t a bad thing. I think when it comes time for my youngest son’s graduation we just might have it catered.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that in spite of all the craziness of the last four weeks, I have been reading books each evening to wind down.  We bought a bag full of used books at a local SPCA fundraiser and I’ve read James Rollins, Dan Brown, Lee Childs, Brad Meltzer, and an author I had never heard of: Jeffrey Archer.   I haven’t been writing so reading was a welcome break.  I needed that.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it is the next four weeks that have me concerned. Four weeks from yesterday, we will be dropping off our son at college.  We only have a few minor things to take care of now prior to his move in and hopefully will be able to enjoy his last four weeks with us somewhat stress free. I keep thinking there is more I need to talk to him about but all I can do is pray that his mother and I have done our job correctly and we are sending off a very grounded, respectful, and capable young man.  Well I suppose there’s one last thing… we need to teach him how to do his laundry.  Beyond that, I know he will be fine.

Four more weeks and life around here will return to some normalcy.  I think.

Bill

Stranger In A Strange Land

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As I woke up to snow this morning, our first for the year, I was reminded of where I live now and of something I never thought about while growing up: seasons. This isn’t a bad thing and although I’ve experienced a total of twelve years of my life in areas with snow, I still find myself enjoying the novelty of its beauty. There is a part of me however that finds it all surreal along with every other aspect of my day to day life. Through a few responses to recent posts of mine, I’ve stopped to think about what a vast country we live here in the United States and along with that, the cultural differences that are prevalent. It also reminded me of a time a few years back where I felt I had made a mistake in my decision to live where I live now.

Major Changes

I’ve done it twice. I grew up in the Southwest. I was born and raised in a small town along the Mexican border and moved to Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, when I was sixteen. Although many might see this as a major change, I really didn’t We had been to Tucson and Phoenix enough times as kids that the change was more about adapting to a much larger school and a never-ending supply of things to do. Arizona has both its own culture and has absorbed so much of the culture of the many transplants that call Arizona home today. It’s a growth state with many of its inhabitants bringing a little bit of their own culture with them. So you moved from Ohio to Arizona? No problem, there are Midwest style restaurants, Cleveland Browns bars, and plenty of other venues to keep you in touch with your roots. Are you from the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Texas, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, England, India, or (insert where you call home here)? Again, no problem. Everyone brings a bit of themselves and will equally be able to find a bit of themselves in the greater Phoenix or Tucson area.

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I went the opposite route. My wife is from New York and our annual trips there were becoming increasingly expensive after we had our first child. She wanted to be closer to her family, a day’s drive, and I agreed provided it would be in an area that would offer reasonable airfare to visit my family back in Arizona. We made the decision to move and that move would be to Wisconsin. We could visit her family multiple times a year and had four nearby airports in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago that all offered reasonable flights back to Arizona.

The Green Bay Packers

Wisconsin: major culture shock to me but in a good way. We had visited there twice as a family and then I spent a few days there interviewing for jobs. During my solo trip, I stopped into a little dive restaurant to get a few tacos. The menu offerings assured me I would not have to give up Mexican Food. The owner assured me I would not have to give up my Hispanic background either. There was an entire Mexican community in this city, complete with dances, festivals, and numerous restaurants and stores. This surprised the hell out of me to be honest. I thought we had the patent on Mexican communities in the Southwest. There were also Greek, German, Irish, and Italian communities to name a few.

I could write a very long blog post about nothing but Wisconsin but I will sum it up with a number of words: the Packers, brats, cheese curds, beer, the Badgers, the Brewers, S.C. Johnson, Case tractors, Lake Michigan, the Dells, fishing, hunting, the Packers, polka, flatlanders, Happy Days, Lavern & Shirley, Summefest, snow, summer, Friday Fish Fry, cabins up North, any festival you can imagine (chocolate, Greek, Armenian, Italian, German, Irish, strawberry, every church imaginable & with beer, Mexican, Kraut, and so on), oh, and did I mention the Packers? I didn’t bring much of my culture to Wisconsin. It had so much of its own. Well, I did wear an Arizona Cardinals coat into a bar once during a Packers game and lived to tell about it.

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We lived in Wisconsin for five years. My second son was born there. It was his birth that prompted my wife and I to recognize one thing we were missing: family. My oldest at the time had just finished first grade and our youngest was just over a year old. My wife and I discussed moving again and knew there were only two choices. We would either be moving to New York or back to Arizona. I had a chance to purchase a small company in Arizona so we opted to return to my home.

My business went well, providing a nice living for us and allowed my wife to stay home with our youngest, something she had been able to do with my oldest until he was three. I was home and life was great. The greater Phoenix area had changed some over the five years we were gone, mostly growth but also in areas we hadn’t given much thought to the first time we left: crime. We lived in a very nice Tempe neighborhood that was within a few blocks of Arizona State University. Our oldest son was now playing with kids in the area but allowed only to stay on our street. There was no venturing past one of his friend’s house who only lived about ten or so houses away from us.

My wife was from a small town and I’ve already mentioned that I grew up in a small town. We both grew up being able to run around town without the worries that so many children in a large city deal with on a daily basis, yet here our now ten year old son is only allowed to play on one street. It just didn’t seem fair.

In the summer of 2007, my wife and two sons went on vacation to New York to visit her family for four weeks. Having a business, and working ungodly hours, I of course stayed home. One week into their vacation, my oldest son calls me up to tell me he wants us to move to New York. He was excited about fishing with his grandfather, hanging out at the local Little League field, and mostly about being able to just play all over the neighborhood. My wife asked if I would fly up for a few days toward the end of their vacation and then we’d all fly back home together. I agreed and when I arrived, my son and wife now pushed the idea of a move.

As a family, we went through an exercise weighing the pros and cons of living in Arizona and in New York, an exercise led by my ten year old son. New York won and within two months I had closed my company down, left a city of close to five million people to move to a small town of just over five thousand people in New York.  I was fortunate that one of the two larger companies in the area was hiring and I was able to land a great job.

Taco Bill’s

New York: once again, major culture shock to me and this time on so many levels. We moved to my wife’s hometown, a place we had been to many times before on vacation but it was different now. It was home. I settled nicely into my new job and the kids loved their new school. My wife took a job only to realize her calling was nursing so she went back to school to become a nurse. She loves it.

For me, something was missing and I got into a real funk. Depressed might be a better word. When you live in the city, you love the times when you can get away to the small towns or explore nature. We did it on a regular basis in Arizona and a few times in Wisconsin. Often one wonders what it would be like to move to an area like that. Well, we were living it. Small town, beautiful hills, river, little to no traffic, and our home was six miles out of town in an even hillier wooded area. Despite our postcard living environment, I wanted to move back to Arizona.

I thought at first that it was due to the fact that I was living in a small town and despite my growing up in a small town, I had become a city person and there was no going back. We started taking occasional weekend trips to the city and although this satisfied my yearning for the things a city has to offer, I was still depressed. I kept searching for something to make me feel more at home here and one day it hit me. I guess I didn’t see it because we had adapted so well to Wisconsin. The only thing I really had to give up in Wisconsin was the geographical features of Arizona, and of course the 330 plus days of sunshine. Wisconsin had everything else plus things I hadn’t experienced in Arizona.  The town we moved to in New York however is a predominately white town with a culture of its own and was missing something that I have had every day of my waking life: some aspect of Hispanic culture.

OK, with a name like Cunningham you are probably wondering why that is important to me. I’m predominately Hispanic and was raised in a Hispanic household and environment. I’m Irish and Basque to be exact with a little bit of Mexican in there somewhere.

One day at work, I called my wife and explained to her what I felt the problem was. She understood and what happened next was nothing short of amazing. I came home from work and while getting out of my car, I was welcomed to Mexican music escaping through the open windows. I smiled and walked up the steps opening the door to the kitchen, and was smacked in the face with what only can be described as a heavenly aroma: the smell of Mexican food. Now I know what most of you are thinking. Big deal, everyone can make Mexican food. Yeah, and so can Taco Bell. This wasn’t just any smell; it was the smell of my mother’s tacos, in my home in the woods, some 2.200 plus miles away from my mother in Arizona. No more pre-made taco shells, or store bought taco seasoning. My wife had made taco shells in a frying pan with fresh corn tortillas and had seasoned the meat just the way my mom does. After the phone call from me, my wife had called my mom, gone to the store and bought what she needed, even stopped at the liquor store for Tequila and Margarita mix, hurried home and made a meal my mother would be proud of. A meal I was proud of her for making.

My mother started sending me numerous recipes and we now make and eat all the food I ate growing up with the exception of Menudo and Tamales. Those two will come as soon as I find tripe and masa. I’ve even shared this food with friends at work, making me the local “Mexican Food” expert. I was already a novelty to most of them as they jokingly call me Paco or Mexican Bill at work. It’s in jest and I have never been offended by it. They’ve even encouraged me to open the first Mexican Food restaurant in our town and told me what I should call it: Taco Bill’s of course. I don’t see that happening but I will continue to bring in red chile con carne, green chili burritos, carne asada, barbacoa, and tacos.

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You see, what was missing is what so many people before me have done and that is brought something of themselves to where they moved. I didn’t have to do that in Wisconsin since an entire community of Mexicans from Texas moved there in the sixties many years ago I was told to work for CASE and that culture was thriving in the cheese state. But for this tiny town along the New York/PA border, I am the first (at least at work). And I’m gladly sharing.

As I write this, my wife is slow cooking chile verde venison for burritos we will eat later while we watch the Arizona Cardinals on TV. Not such a strange land anymore.

Bill

 

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