Category Archives: Familia

Signs of my Father in an Oreo Commercial

Me ( on the right) with my sister Helena, and my dad having a great laugh one night! This photo was taken in Puerto Rico when I was about 7 years old.

In October each year, I always see signs of my father.  He was born on October 25th and would have been 95 years old this year.  He’s been gone for 16 years now.

A few days ago, I was doing laundry and somewhat paying attention to the Property Brothers on HGTV in the background.  I walked back into the bathroom to return the laundry basket when I caught an Oreo commercial playing.  In it, a father asks his young daughter if she sees any stars “out there.”  They live in the city so stars would be a little hard to see – she says, “not yet.”  The dad suddenly tells her to grab her jacket and they take off to find the perfect place to view the stars.  They end up in the back of their truck in the middle of a field gazing up at the stars with a package of Oreos.

As I was watching the commercial, I had a tremendously strong flashback.  My family was living in Puerto Rico at the time and I was getting interested in astronomy.  I had a booklet, probably from school, that showed all the constellations and I would mull over it to get familiar with them.  I would walk outside sometimes and look up at the stars and was eventually able to identify the big and little dipper.  The others were a little harder…

One night, my dad surprised me and out of the blue told me we were going to look at the constellations together.  I was so excited!  He grabbed a flashlight and I grabbed my constellation book.  But instead of going outside into our front yard, he said we were going to our roof!  We climbed up the wrought iron gate next to our car port and onto the flat roof of our concrete house!  Now as an 8 or 9-year-old, I had climbed on the roof before – without permission from my parents, of course – so this was exciting to me!  We were on the roof!!! I felt so grown up!!!

This photo is of my dad after we got our new Pug puppy, Tai Tai…you can see the wrought iron gate in the background. This was the same one on the other side of the house next to our car port. This is how dad and I climbed onto the roof of the house.

Our bathrooms had skylights so we were even more elevated as we laid down on the cool concrete to look at the night sky and dad  turned the flashlight to the constellation book.  Then we slowly started identifying the constellations together… (minus the Oreos!)  Dad would point to one in the book and I would start searching.  Dad would give me clues to finding a certain constellation and I remember him using both the big and little dipper as the home base to do our searches.  I don’t know how long we stayed on the roof that night but I do remember loving the fact that it was just me and my dad and this was something that we were doing together.  It was something very special.

I hadn’t thought about this particular memory for a long time.   But there was a split second in that Oreo commercial that focused on a constellation book showing Ursa Major/The Big Dipper that had all these memories flooding back to me.  It’s funny how you can have memories for so many years and yet the actual feelings remain dormant until something triggers them.  Cue the Oreo commercial…and I’m convinced my dad had something to do with this.  He always does at this time of year.

 

 

Iron Bowl Saturday at the Odom House

Easy peasy taco soup ready for the Iron Bowl today!

Easy peasy taco soup ready for the Iron Bowl today!

Today was Iron Bowl Saturday and this is the first time in a long time that we’ve had a watch party!  All the kids were home today and I honestly can’t remember this happening.  Typically a few are AT the game or not in town.  I know my husband was really excited about watching the Alabama/Auburn game with his children.

This called for Taco Soup and of course, he was up bright and early to put a crock pop of this delicious soup on to slow cook.  Kickoff was at 2:30 so the soup would be nice and hot by then!  Along with that, he made cheese dip with rotel – one with ground beef and the other plain (for me)!  My daughter, Anna Marie made her now famous swiss and bacon dip and also a cookie dough dip.  Oh the dips!!!  So much for the diet!!!

At any rate, our family room was full of family – human and the furry kind – and the game was watched to the conclusion we all had hoped for – Alabama won!  YAY ALABAMA!

Game day jerseys on!

Game day jerseys on!

Here are a few photos of our Iron Bowl Saturday – Roll Tide!

If you want to see the recipe for this delish Taco Soup, check my post from last November!

Remembering A Veteran

My dad...in flight training

My dad…in flight training

Today is Veterans Day.  From the time I woke up this morning to just a few minutes ago, every other social media post today has been about Veterans and remembering their contributions to our country.  It has been a welcome diversion from the recent election and with the divisiveness of what has transpired, it really got me thinking about my dad and his brothers and their sacrifice as Mexican-Americans to our great country.

I don’t actually know a lot about what my dad and his brothers went through when they each joined the service but I do know about the time period when they enlisted and served.  I also know what my dad experienced when he was growing up in Carlsbad, New Mexico through letters I received from several of his classmates/football teammates after he passed away in 2001.  I’ll share those remembrances in another post.  But suffice it to say, it wasn’t all fun and acceptance back then.  My dad didn’t talk much about it, choosing to just tell certain stories without any reference to discrimination or unfairness.  I think that was his way of just working hard and getting ahead.  I admire that in him because later in life, it served me well as I grew up overseas and in Puerto Rico during my formative years.

Dad's Air Force pins an his pilot log books.

Dad’s Air Force pins an his pilot log books.

I wish I knew more about dad’s time in service to our country.  I regret that I didn’t talk to him about this but then again, there is no guarantee that he would have shared anything about this time either.  I’ve heard that sentiment from a number of people who I know.  These are memories that have remained locked away to some of those who served.

I love looking in my dad's pilot log books and seeing his handwriting as he documented his training...

I love looking in my dad’s pilot log books and seeing his handwriting as he documented his training…

What I do have are photos, dad’s pilot logs and a few other artifacts from those years.  I also have two yearbooks from his pilot training in Texas.  One in particular is very touching because dad had placed check marks beside the photos of his friends who didn’t make it back during the war.  I didn’t know what these check marks were until my mother shared that with me several years ago.

One of dad's training yearbooks....

One of dad’s training yearbooks….

So as today closes out, I am grateful for the sacrifices of my dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, his brothers – Felix and Lorenzo Zuniga – and all the faces in the two yearbooks made for our country.  Some paid the ultimate sacrifice and that is humbling to see in my dad’s yearbook, the faces of those brave young men who did this for our freedom.

On this Veterans Day, God Bless the brave men and women who have served this great nation of ours…

 

 

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My Thanksgiving Table

My Thanksgiving Table this year...

My Thanksgiving Table this year…

Tonight I’m looking at my Thanksgiving table and anticipating tomorrow when we will gather together and enjoy a wonderful meal and each other’s company.  This year will be a little different.

We’ve already had our “big” Thanksgiving family gathering in Jasper – this past Saturday.  Tomorrow, it will be me, Eddie and two of our children.  We’ll add my brother and sister-in-law too.  Hopefully a few of the nephews will be able to join us at some point.  It will be a small gathering, but it will be family and I’m so thankful we have one another.

My “married” daughter – Anna Marie – and her new hubby, Ryan, will join us for a Thanksgiving breakfast tomorrow morning, which is something new to us.  We’ll be having French toast!  So maybe this will be a new tradition?  I don’t know but whatever the case, I’m just thankful they are able to spend a little time with us tomorrow.

So tonight, I’m going over my menu for tomorrow and getting as much done ahead of time as I can.  I’ll be making a turkey without my mother this year.  My mother is enjoying the holiday with my sister Laurie in Chicago this year.  The eggs are boiling as I write this – so we’ll make some deviled eggs tonight.  We’ll also make the stuffing tonight too – sorry, but when you put it in the bird, it’s stuffing to me!  (I know…I know…in the south it’s called dressing…)

A portion of my Thanksgiving table centerpiece...I found a new wine to try tomorrow too - Cherry Tart Pinot Noir!

A portion of my Thanksgiving table centerpiece…I found a new wine to try tomorrow too – Cherry Tart Pinot Noir!

In the end, we will be together as a family – whoever can be here – and we’ll enjoy the time together.  We’ll add people to the table along with the food and it will be wonderful.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving tomorrow!  Enjoy your time together…and blessing to all.

Found these old timey cards at World Market a few years ago and have been using them as napkin rings...they add a certain something to the table, don't you think?

Found these old timey cards at World Market a few years ago and have been using them as napkin rings…they add a certain something to the table, don’t you think?

Family “Swing” Picture…Modified…

Odom Thanksgiving gathering 2015 in Jasper, AL...

Odom Thanksgiving gathering 2015 in Jasper, AL…

Our Odom Family Thanksgiving celebration is always the Sunday (or in this case, Saturday) before Thanksgiving.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the highlight for the cousins is taking the annual “swing” picture.  This is a swing that was in my  late mother-in-law’s backyard for so many years.  It’s now in my brother-in-law’s yard and the cousins look forward to it without fail every year.

This year, I decided on something a little different.  With all the loss we have experienced as a family over the past few years, I wanted to capture everyone who attended our gathering in a group photo.  I told one of the cousins that we talk about doing this every year and yet we don’t…   I remember telling my mother-in-law that I was going to bring my camera to the Odom Christmas gathering to take family photos the year she passed away, right before Christmas.  I was so saddened because she was so looking forward to this and then she wasn’t there to be a part of it.  But the best way to honor something like this is to just do it.

I made sure to have my tripod on hand this year.  After everyone had indulged in all the food we had for our annual celebration, we gathered everyone outside at the swing.  We did this before anyone could leave…

It didn’t take long either.  Usually when you try to gather this many people, it’s like herding cats!  But in this case, everyone got together quickly and waited patiently for me to set the timer on my camera and get the photo taken.  We took a few photos and I think the one in this post is the best one.  I love that everyone that attended, whether they were family or not, was in this picture.  Because in reality, everyone who was there was family.

Odom Cousin Swing Picture 2015. (Missing Anna Marie and Ryan)

Odom Cousin Swing Picture 2015.

 

 

We Ate Some Turkey and then a Football Game Broke Out!

Odom Family football game - Thanksgiving 2007 - Jasper, AL.

Odom Family football game – Thanksgiving 2007 – Jasper, AL.

My in-laws used to live in Jasper, AL and had a rather large piece of property behind their house. I remember there was always a sign inside the back porch that said “Odom’s Farm.” It always felt like the perfect place for kids to run around and play and make up games and just get outside instead of sitting in front of the television set.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2007 was a cool crisp afternoon. We had just finished eating turkey and all the extras when one of the kids (the cousins) pulled out a football. Before you knew it, all the cousins – young and old – were outside in the huge backyard and tossing the ball around. First it was just the guys tossing and running after each other. But the Odom girls are pretty darn competitive and quickly joined in! It was one of those spontaneous times in families…we couldn’t have planned it if we had tried and it was the perfect Thanksgiving afternoon. Even Bentley, the dog, got into the act!

Bentley decides football is fun!

Bentley decides football is fun!

Here are a few of the photos I took that day in a slideshow…when I see these, I feel like it’s happening all over again!  Oh, and another thing you’ll notice…there is only one cell phone in the picture….those were the days!

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Family Traditions

Odom cousins - Thanksgiving 2014 - on Mimi's swing in Jasper, AL.

Odom cousins – Thanksgiving 2014 – on Mimi’s swing in Jasper, AL.

Family…like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.  I love this quote…

This time of year, I start thinking a lot about family traditions.  I’ve often thought that some day I would write them all down from what I remember doing as a child and add all things we did when my own children were little.  The one constant though all this is family.  Whether the tradition remains today or has morphed into something different…we do these things because we want to connect as a family and make it a part of our story.

Family traditions can bring you comfort and strengthen the bond you have with your family.  They teach you the value of immediate and extended family and how to take the time to be together.  Creating and maintaining traditions is easier when your children are young.  It becomes a little more challenging when they get older and get married or move away.  It definitely becomes a juggling act at that point!  Some traditions run their course…like breakfast with Santa and going to the annual lighting ceremony at the local mall.  These traditions are driven by age.  Others change because the dynamics of your family change.

For my Zuniga family, Thanksgiving has always been the major holiday to celebrate.  Before my parents moved to Alabama, I would make the  trip to Chicago every Thanksgiving to spend the week with my sisters and parents and do so many of the things we always did together over the 10 years that I lived there.  Traditional activities ranged from shopping at Oak Brook Mall and hoping there would be a little snow, getting up to watch the Macy’s Day Parade while the turkey was still cooking, then fighting to get the first taste of stuffing from the turkey.  This was always a battle with my youngest sister.  I would sneak into the oven with a spoon and sample the dressing when no one was looking – beating my sister to the punch – although I’m sure my mother knew!  At some point during the visit, we would watch WGN’s family classic movies.  Those movies were the staple of every Sunday afternoon in the Zuniga household when I was in high school.  Certain sounds and smells bring it all back.  Certain music does too as we would gather around the piano and play and sing along.  All the Zuniga sisters were in choir and we all knew the same music.  My grandmother used to say we could have been the Lennon Sisters – she and my grandfather loved Lawrence Welk!

My husband (Eddie) has always been adamant about attending the traditional Odom family Christmas lunch each year.  It was the one time of the year we got to see his father’s extended family all at once.  The lunch was originally pulled together for his grandmother (Mama Odom), and when she passed away, the Aunts decided to continue the tradition.  Eddie made sure we were represented each year.  If one of the kids had a conflict due to sports or scouting activities, he would take the kids available and make the trip to the lunch and see everyone.  Now so many of the children are married with children of their own – a whole new generation of Odoms are enjoying the gathering.  I do hope it continues…

My sister Kanista with my girls, Emily and Anna Marie – Thanksgiving 2004 in Birmingham, AL – having a girls lunch at Cantina at Pepper Place.

On the Zuniga side, when all my sisters used to travel to Alabama for Thanksgiving with their young children, we would spend Wednesday before Thanksgiving having lunch and shopping and then come home to get things ready for our big dinner.  The husbands would take the kids to a movie and spend the day with them and give he moms a break.  As the nieces and nephews got older my sisters began staying home – they all live out-of-state.  Soon it was just me, my mother and my aunt (mom’s sis) and my girls having lunch and doing a little shopping.  When my Aunt passed away, we just stopped going.  It just didn’t feel the same.  In recent years, my mother has mentioned missing the “old days” when we all used to spend that day together.  I understand her longing for something that held such great memories.  It’s hard to move on sometimes, especially when something was so enjoyable.  We resurrected the tradition a bit these past few years with mom and my girls and added something new.  We’d come back to my house and get turkey preparing lessons from mom.  It’s been fun for my girls and I know my mother has been thrilled to pass along her turkey making expertise to all of us!

Making Thanksgiving turkey with Nana! My girls learn how to make stuffing!

Making Thanksgiving turkey with Nana! My girls learn how to make stuffing!

One of the first Mimi Swing Photos I took of the Odom cousins...

One of the first Mimi Swing Photos I took of the Odom cousins…

When my youngest child Emily was just a year old,  a major tradition emerged with the Odom children.  I began taking pictures of my three children (Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily) and my twin nieces (Kate and TJ) on their grandmother’s outside swing.  We would take “the Mimi’s swing” picture at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas – any holiday when we’d all get together.  But for some reason, Thanksgiving was the one holiday that really stuck.  Over the years, we’ve added the older Odom grandchildren, great-grandchildren and significant others to the photos.  This year at Easter, we even added my niece TJ via iPad when she couldn’t make it home.  It was that important for the kids to have everyone present and accounted for on the swing no matter what the holiday.  I love this swing tradition so much and especially at Thanksgiving!  Seeing the way the family has changed and grown over the past 21 years is priceless to me and I know it is to my brothers-in-law too, as we all get older and look back.

The Odom cousins in Mimi's swing - Thanksgiving 2014 - TJ, Kate, Anna Marie and Emily - Charlie always standing in the back!

The Odom cousins in Mimi’s swing – Thanksgiving 2014 – TJ, Kate, Anna Marie and Emily – Charlie always standing in the back!

One thing is for sure, family traditions evolve and change, that is a given.  But I have a feeling we will always be taking a swing picture of the Odom kids at Thanksgiving.  And for that, I will always be thankful…

Ten years of swing photos - I had this framed for my mother-in-law (Mimi) and it hung into her house until she passed away in 2011.

Ten years of swing photos – I had this framed for my mother-in-law (Mimi) and it hung into her house until she passed away in 2011.

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Leaning how to make mom’s Thanksgiving turkey with my girls in 2013. Mom and I had just finished stuffing the turkey!

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Thanksgiving turkey making shenanigans with Nana…although I don’t think my mom knew what they were doing in the background!