Category Archives: Photo Vault

Black and White Photo Challenge

You’ve probably seen the black and white photo challenge on Facebook these past few weeks.  You get tagged, you post one black and white photo a day for seven days, they can’t be of people and you can’t describe the photo (“no words”) – and you tag someone else to challenge.

I got tagged a week ago and decided it would be a good time to go through some of my photographs.  To say I take a lot of photos would be an understatement!  I used to think my dad was nuts when he would use up an entire roll of film on a single flower.  Now I get it!  And with digital photography now…gosh…just keep snapping away until you get the image you are looking for!

The challenge made me remember what it was like to take photos with film.  I remember buying black and white film at times to experiment.  I always loved the effect and the detail of the photos when I would have them developed.  And speaking of getting photos “developed,” it was always interesting to see what the final result would turn out to be when you picked them up from Walmart or Walgreens.  For the most part, you just never knew!  My dad took so many photos from the time he moved to Bangkok, Thailand for his work and bought his Leica camera.  This was around the time he met my mom.  Going through his photos and slides is always such a treasure to me.  It’s like seeing the world through his eyes at that point in time.

These days photo editing lets us take color photos and turn them into black and white, or sepia or other artsy variations.  The photos I used in the black and white challenge all started out in color but I used my Camera+ app to convert them and get them just right.  I am still amazed at the detail that comes through with the conversion.

Here are the photos I used in the challenge, only this time I’m breaking the rules and telling a little more about them!

Day One – Taken at a winery in January 2010.  This was our 25th anniversary trip to Napa and the wineries were pretty empty as the holiday and new year’s rush was over.  We received tons of extra attention from the wineries since they weren’t getting a lot of traffic.  I loved the way the wine barrels were lined up at this particular winery and the lighting was just perfect in this cave where they were all stashed.

Day One – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Two – My husband and I visited Ft. Worth, Texas earlier this year and visited the Stockyards.  We heard about the daily walk of The Herd and positioned ourselves directly in front of where the herd made their turn.  We couldn’t believe the horns of these magnificent creatures!  It felt like this one was looking right at me and saying “take the picture already!”

Day Two – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Three – This is a portion of the Four Little Girls monument called “Four Spirits” on the corner and across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church.  It was unveiled in September 2013 and received a lot of traffic.  Everyday leaving work, I would pass it and see all the people taking pictures and paying respects to the four little girls who were killed when the church was bombed in 1963.  One evening I left work early and spotted the monument virtually empty.  Fortunately, I had my camera with me and pulled right up and was able to take a number of photos including this one.

Day 3 – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Four – In 2011, I was attending a conference in Washington, DC.  My colleagues and I were able to take some time to tour a little and it was unanimous that we wanted to go to Arlington Cemetery.  Seeing all the white tombstones stretching across all the hillsides was a sobering sight.  Everyone in our group was silent but emotion was visible on all of our faces.  Converting this photo to black and white, I believe, shows this emotion.

Day Four – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Five – This was taken on a very cold day after a little snow in Alabama.  The birds were going nuts in our backyard and flying all over the trees most likely in search for food.  Our bird feeder was empty so I’m sure this was their way of telling us to get it filled again!  This little guy decided to pose for my camera despite all the flying and chirping going on!

Day Five – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Six – For our 24th anniversary trip in 2010, Eddie and I went to Callaway Gardens for the weekend.  We toured the beautiful grounds one day and found this beautiful chapel – the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel.  What I love most about this photo is the reflection of the chapel in the water.  Such a beautiful place!

Day Six – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Seven – My last photo is of my favorite subject…my puppy, Lucy!  Lucy loves the snow and this was photo was taken on our back deck where she was frolicking and trying to eat the snow.  I think the coldness of the snow makes her frisky!  This is one of my favorite photos of her too with the snow falling on her black ears and one caught in flight right in front of her left eye.

Day Seven – Black and White Photo Challenge

If you like photography, I would encourage you to take a few photos and convert them to black and white.  Then, compare the color and B&W photos side by side and notice the difference in detail and dimension.  This black and white photo challenge was just what I needed to take a critical look at my photography.

Honoring One Who Served

My dad, Praxedis S. Zuniga – posing on his plane. (1945-46)

Tomorrow is Veterans Day…a day set aside to honor the service of all US military veterans.  Today I was watching a DIY program and the man in the segment was talking about his father’s service and how when he died recently, he was buried at Arlington Cemetery.  He said just driving through the cemetery and seeing tombstone after tombstone that it really hit him…this is the price of freedom.  All these men and women who have served, and in many cases gave their lives in the field of combat.

I thought about the time I visited Arlington several years ago and remember having a similar feeling as I walked through and watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier.  Reading some of the headstones was somber as well…so many young lives.  Their young ages made me think about my father.

My dad was 20 years old when he enlisted in the Army in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  His occupation at the time was listed as fountain clerk in his hometown of Carlsbad.  He had already been taking flying lessons and wanted to be a pilot prior to enlisting.  Eventually he became a pilot instructor for the Army.  My mother always had a picture of dad visibly stationed in our home.  It’s a picture of dad in his uniform…you know the old saying – “I love a man in uniform.”  Well, I always loved this photo of my father in his uniform.

Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga – 1945-46

As I got into researching our family tree and history, I was fortunate enough to accumulate some more great photos of dad in uniform and by his plane.  For his memorial service in 2001, I created a scrapbook of these photos along with newspaper clippings that my grandmother had saved all these years from dad when he was star quarterback for the Carlsbad Cavemen football team.  He was so young…and so handsome!  Most of our family had never seen these photos either so it was a great memory to watch everyone’s reaction to them at the service.

I can’t think of a better way to honor my dad on Veterans Day then to share these photos today.  Our family is so proud of his service and how it shaped his life.  Happy Veterans Day.

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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Feliz Cumpleaños Dad…(Part Three)

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The Zuniga cousins – right before heading to the airport – at the end of our New Mexico journey.

This is Part Three of my pilgrimage to New Mexico after losing my dad in 2001.

Sunday morning, Oct 28, had us at the 8:30 Spanish Mass at San Jose Catholic Church.  It had been awhile since I had heard mass said in Spanish and it’s so beautiful.  We grabbed breakfast at Pete’s – again great green chile to top our eggs and tortillas!  On to Wal-Mart to pick up a birthday cake for Uncle Mando, flowers, and film for my camera.  (This was before I got into digital!)

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Running into Rachel Fernandez at the cemetery – here with Lisa.

We made another trip by the cemetery for more photos and a little more exploration.  And who do we run into?  Rachel Fernandez!  She invited us over for drinks that evening along with her two brothers, Jerry and Dan.

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Aunt Yoya singing Las Mañanitas to Uncle Mando as their son Orlando looks on…

We enjoyed spending more time visiting with Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando and listening to more family stories.  She looked really good that day.  We brought out the cake for Uncle Mando, lit the candles, and Yoya held Uncle Mando’s hand and sang “Las Mañanitas” to him – a traditional Mexican birthday song – and as she sang to him, she began to cry….which made us all cry.  So touching and so beautiful.  Later, Yoya showed us the “Our Town” newspaper with a picture of my dad and his brother Lorenzo (“Lencho”) as altar boys.  Such a treasure!  We left after sharing cake and promised to come by again before returning to Albuquerque.  Then it was on to  Vone and Raymond’s house for a feast of carne asado, tortillas de maiz (corn tortillas), beans, rice, potatoes and a great salsa.  And always the conversation turned to food and family!  Then it was on to Olivia’s for a short visit with her and her girls.

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A quick visit and good-bye to Olivia and her girls…

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Lisa posing with Rachel in her chili pepper kitchen!

The last stop on our whirlwind day was to Rachel’s apartment for drinks where we met her brothers Jerry and Dan.  More cousins!  We talked a LOT about food, especially tamales and Rachel remarked about how she was late in getting the tamale making started for the holidays.  Her entire apartment was decorated in red and black, thanks to her brother Bobby.  He definitely had an eye for décor and celebrating and would always help her with her Christmas decorating every year.  Upon leaving, Dan and Jerry invited us to their house for breakfast.  An offer we couldn’t refuse!

 

 

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Tia Maria’s house – now the home of her grandsons – Dan and Jerry Fernandez.

Monday morning, Oct 29, Kanista and I went to Argus to pick up some Carlsbad historic papers – one of the papers included the altar boy photo of my dad and his brother.  Then we headed to Dan and Jerry’s house.  We later learned it had been their grandmother Maria’s house.  Maria was my grandfather, Tata Polo’s sister.  Rachel came by too and we got to hear about their family reunions.  Maria had 10 children so you can imagine the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren she had!  I love hearing family stories and all the connections.  We were able to really fill in the gaps of our Zuniga family tree during this trip!  Before heading back to Albuquerque, we went by to say good-bye to Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando.  More crying…

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One last visit with Aunt Yoya and Cousin Rosie in Carlsbad.

IMG_7076Back in Albuquerque, we had to go by Old Town for a little shopping before heading back to Danda’s house for yet another fabulous meal – tortilla soup and stir fry vegetables!  More stories and we especially loved hearing about how Danda learned to cook from our grandfather, Tata Polo!  She learned by watching him and so many of her incredible recipes are from our grandfather.  At the end of the evening, Danda gave us each a recipe book from Albuquerque with a sweet inscription.  We finished out the evening looking through a box of old photos with Danda promising to make copies and send to us.IMG_7095IMG_7096

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Danda in her kitchen.

Tuesday, Oct 30, was our last day.  Danda prepared a breakfast of scrambled eggs mixed with tortilla chips.  I haven’t tried this at home but my sister has and cannot get the same result!  She also prepared caldio – a mixture of ground beef, onion and chiles.  What a treat!We were also thrilled to have a little more time to visit with Bobby Fernandez…he stopped by to say good-bye and we took the opportunity to get a few photos with him.  On our way to the airport, we stopped by Danda’s school to visit and see her in action.

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So glad we got to see Bobby one last time before we left…

We ended our trip together – cousins – at the airport – chatting and enjoying food – a cup of posole…and then heading to our separate planes and back to our lives.  This trip gave us the opportunity to walk where our father’s had actually walked, visit the places they had known as children growing up and reconnect with family we hadn’t seen in years or didn’t know at all.  I know we all felt closer to our dads as we boarded our planes.

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Danda’s front porch – I loved this bench when I saw it and a few years later my husband found one in Birmingham and bought it for me!

And I know our dads were walking alongside us throughout this incredible week…IMG_6908IMG_6907IMG_6906IMG_6903IMG_6902phonto (6)

 

Feliz Cumpleaños Dad…Part Two

Part Two of Feliz Cumpleaños Dad…my pilgrimage trip to New Mexico in honor of my dad.

IMG_6983We awoke on Friday, Oct 26, to the heavenly smell of coffee!!!  Thank you Danda!  Much needed after the wonderful and late night of reconnecting, food and drink.  After Danda headed to work, we got ourselves ready, packed up the car and headed to El Patio Restaurant for a breakfast of huevos rancheros and green chiles!  I think it goes without saying that the food on this trip was fabulous!

IMG_6982After dropping Cecilia off at her house, we were on the road to Carlsbad!  It’s about a four and a half hour drive and we enjoyed every minute of it, catching up and sharing even more stories.  We made a brief stop in Roswell to check out the extraterrestrials and arrived in Carlsbad late in the afternoon, checked into the Holiday Inn and headed directly over to Aunt Gloria’s house (also called Aunt Yoya).  We didn’t stay too long because she needed rest but we were able to sit with her in her bedroom for a while.  We then spent a little time with Uncle Mando and two of their children, Orlando and Rosie.

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Sweet photo of Aunt Yoya and Uncle Mando on our second day in Carlsbad.

On Saturday (Oct 27), we went back to Aunt Yoya’s house for a longer visit and she was able to stay up a lot longer!  Maybe it was the excitement of having us there and all the stories she wanted to share that helped.  It was certainly a thrill for us as we looked through her wedding album.  We also got to meet Alfonso and Mary Noriega.  Mary, Aunt Yoya and Lisa’s mom, Mela were all friends…Mary remarked how much she saw of Mela in Lisa’s face.

After our visit we took a tour of Carlsbad with our fearless guide, Lisa!  She drove us by the Main Street house where our grandparents used to live, drove by an area they called the beach, and Lisa pointed out other interesting sights to us as she recalled Carlsbad as a little girl.  She even took us on the “weee” – a small hill in the road that always made them want to say “weee.!  That was such a sweet memory and now Kanista and I were in on it too!

We lunched at a little place called Lucy’s and where a woman walked by and recognized Lisa.  It was Rachel, cousin Bobby Fernandez’s sister!  Bobby had called to tell her we would be in Carlsbad so she must have been on the lookout for us.  From there we went by to see Olivia, Lisa’s late brother Ruby’s wife.  Her daughter Sylvia – “Syba” –  was getting ready for her birthday Halloween party and invited us to come back that evening.

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Our grandparent’s headstone in the older Carlsbad cemetery…Apolonio Guerrero and Norberta Sotelo aka Tata Polo and Nana Beta.

Meanwhile, we decided to head over to the cemetery to find our grandparents headstone.  After much searching, we realized we were in the wrong cemetery!  Turns out, our family is in the older cemetery and as we drove by we saw the Zuniga headstone.  Now let me explain something…we had been walking around the newer cemetery – all green grass and open – and could not find our grandparents.  But when we got to the older cemetery – brown dirt and no grass – it was chain-locked!  Really???  We couldn’t believe it.  But, I would not be deterred!  I told Kanista and Lisa I had come too far not to get in…so…I broke in!  Actually…I just pushed the gates and they opened.  So, we took a little time and walked around, explored and found some of our family headstones.

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Cutting a rug with Lisa at Syba’s Halloween/Birthday party! Not sure if this was before or AFTER the jello shooters!

After freshening up at the hotel, we headed over to Syba’s birthday/Halloween party and met a few more cousins – Danny and Johnny, grandson’s of Maria Fernandez – Maria was my grandfather’s sister.  We had a ball at the party – trying jello shooters, dancing, and laughing about being called “guera” by some of the guests.  Guera is slang for a white girl or light-haired girl, which didn’t really seem to fit me or Kanista at ALL!  At any rate, we ended day three of our trip exhausted but exhilarated by the people who seemed to be put in our path on our journey.  Kanista, Lisa and I all agreed our fathers seemed to have a hand in what was happening to us in Carlsbad.

Part Three concludes our Carlsbad Adventure/Pilgrimage to Carlsbad…stay tuned…

 

 

 

Feliz Cumpleaños, Dad… (Part 1)

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Every year I take a new Virgen de Guadalupe candle to the memorial garden where my dad rests…

This will be a three-part story about my 2001 visit to New Mexico.

My dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, died on June 1, 2001.  He was 79 years old.  An accomplished man, he was a husband, father, friend, army pilot, civil engineer, and spoke several languages, with Spanish being his first.

After his death, I had this urge to travel to Carlsbad, New Mexico – where he was born and raised – to visit and explore.  I talked to my youngest sister Kanista about this and she told me she had been having the same urge.  So, we decided to make the trip to Carlsbad together.    We were so excited!  We made our flight plans and were set to fly out September 14, 2001 – the week of 9/11.  Of course, our plans changed with the events of that week and aftermath.  I still have my sister’s email to me that morning that said simply…”what is happening???”

We regrouped and decided to fly out on October 25th – our dad’s birthday.  Meanwhile, our youngest first cousin on the Zuniga side, Lisa Ramirez – who lives in Colorado, contacted me and asked if she could come along.  Kanista and I were ecstatic!  Lisa grew up in Carlsbad and it was the icing on our dad’s birthday cake to have her join us in this journey.  She is the youngest daughter of my dad’s younger brother – Felix and his wife Manuela (Aunt Mela).  Another plus is that we flew into Albuquerque where Lisa’s oldest sister, Nelinda (nicknamed Danda) lives and we were invited to stay with her before our road trip to Carlsbad!

I arrived first.  While waiting for Kanista, I started writing in my travel journal.  It was good to have a little bit of time before she got there to reflect and collect my thoughts.  Dad has suffered a series of stokes in his later years and shortly before he passed, he was unable to speak.  There were so many things I wanted to ask him too and I missed my chance to hear them in his own words, with his own voice.  This trip was pulling me and I know Dad was behind it, setting the stage for me and Kanista.

Kanista arrived and we headed to the rental car place and got the last car!  We drove through Albuquerque and decided to find our cousin Cecilia and visit with her before heading to Danda’s house where Cecilia joined us later.  Cecilia is the daughter of my dad’s baby sister, Gloria, who was still living in Carlsbad at the time with her husband, Armando (Uncle Mando).

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The outside of my cousin Danda’s house. I love her style!

Arriving at Danda’s we were excited to meet Bobby Fernandez, a cousin on our grandfather’s side (Tata Polo)!  He and Danda seemed more like brother and sister as we watched their exchanges throughout that night.  We both loved Bobby from the start  He was in charge of making our drinks that night – micheladas!  And tequila, of course!  When Lisa arrived,  we settled into a fabulous meal that Danda has prepared for us…carne asado, tortillas, enchiladas…goodness!  The food from my cousin is always incredible and you find yourself going back for seconds and thirds!  No shame here!  I remember the night as being full of laughter…we laughed so hard at Danda’s stories and listening to her explain all the family nicknames like Googs, Boogie, Lala, etc.   (I’ll have to share all that in a later post.)  When we finally went to bed we realized it was morning – 2:30 a.m.

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Cousin Lisa arrived from Denver with her video camera. She captured so much of our trip this way…

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Kanista and cousin Cecilia fill their plates at my cousin Danda’s house…we couldn’t get enough!

This first day of our trip was incredible.  It was the best way I can think of to celebrate my dad’s birthday – with family – in New Mexico and sharing stories about our fathers – Felix and Praxedis .  So many similarities.  So much connection.  Our bellies were full that night and so were our hearts.

Stay tuned for Part Two…our road trip continues…

Meanwhile…Happy birthday, Dad…miss you…

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Southern Fried Mexican-Am​erican by way of Southeast Asia!

Fe * Familia * Amigos

I love this sign! It hangs in my kitchen…

Hola Y’all!

Today marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage month (September 15) and in celebration…

I am launching my blog – Southern Señora!

Latinos have been in the south for a long time – personally, I’ve been in Alabama since 1981, and I’ve seen the landscape change pretty dramatically in that time.  There was a time when I could chit-chat in Spanish with my youngest sister at the local mall and no one would understand what we were saying.  That’s definitely not the case anymore!

As the Hispanic community began expanding in the Birmingham region in the late 1990s, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Spanish being spoken more and more.  And Latinos began exploring small business ownership and other entrepreneurial ventures.  Translation businesses, Hispanic marketing firms, and Spanish-language newspapers and radio stations began popping up, just to name a few.  More Mexican restaurants sprouted too and some restaurants had one standard menu for the general public, but would post a more traditional menu on the door for their Mexican clientele.  I remember how excited my dad was about seeing “menudo” – a spicy traditional Mexican soup made from tripe – posted on the door of our favorite local restaurant bringing back memories of when grew up in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Latinos are making tremendous contributions in Alabama, be it through business, art, culture, or non-profit work.  Sharing their great work and stories is part of what I want this blog to be about.  I’ve made some great friends over the past 15 years as a Hispanic community volunteer.  I love being able to connect people and then watch what happens next!

I will also be sharing stories about my Mexican-American family – hence the title of this post!  More details on this later but just to tease a little – my dad was born in Carlsbad, New Mexico of Mexican-American parents – my blonde-haired-green-eyed mom was born in Oneonta, Alabama – they met and married in Cambodia, and I was born in Bangkok, Thailand.  Whew!!!  See what I mean?

As other Hispanic or Multicultural related subjects and “odds and ends” pop up, I’ll share those too.  And finally, I’ll be sharing a LOT of photographs!  It’s been a hobby of mine for many years and I like to think I’ve been influenced by my father’s amateur photography.  He was such a perfectionist and had quite an eye for composing a photograph.  You’ll see some of his photos here too.

So let’s get this blog started…VAMONOS!