Category Archives: Zuniga Family

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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Zuniga-Odom Family Altars

img_2148I started working on my Day of the Dead altars this weekend.  It’s always a special time deciding on the perfect way to display the memories of loved ones who have left us.  Then I head to the basement to pull out my DOD boxes which takes a bit more time these days with all the new items I’ve added to my collection over the years!  But I do love going through the boxes and seeing what will work to enhance the beauty of the altars and memories.

This year, I made just a few tweaks to my altars.  I picked up some very colorful papel picado tin buckets at Target in  the “One Spot” section of the store last year and thought they would be the perfect addition to my altars.  The turquoise, yellow and orange colors go perfectly with the other décor and in particular, the marigolds that I use to adorn all the altars.  I’ve added tea light candles to each bucket and I know the light reflecting through the bucket will be beautiful tomorrow night…

Papel picado tins from Target will hold tealight candles for Day of the Dead

Papel picado tins from Target will hold tealight candles for Day of the Dead. The blue bottle was hand painted by my daughter Emily – the other side sports a sugar skull. The photo on the bottom is of my dad and his niece Christie.

Mariachi hats were another addition this year.  I found to child mariachi hats at the Alabama Thrift store earlier this year.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  These hats are not cheap and they are in excellent condition.  I knew I would use them for something and when I started pulling my altars together, they just worked.  In addition, my mother gave me three miniature mariachi hats for my birthday in February, so those were also added.   One day I hope to add a full size mariachi hat to my altar.  I can already envision what it will look like!

One of the mariachi hats I found this year during one of my thirfting adventures.  Made a perfect backdrop for family photos on my DOD altar...

One of the mariachi hats I found this year during one of my thirfting adventures. Made a perfect backdrop for family photos on my DOD altar…

Finally, while I was in At Home a few weeks ago, I spotted a terra-cotta sugar skull as I was about to leave the store.  So many of the DOD items you see these days are a little too mass-produced looking.  I guess that’s why you can find them everywhere.  But this one was different…and so if there was one, there had to be another!  So I set out to search the store for one and I spotted it – out of sight in the Halloween section.  Perfect!  They look great on my dining room table!

Terra cotta sugar skull found at At Home a few weeks ago...

Terra cotta sugar skull found at At Home a few weeks ago…

As for photographs of loved ones who have passed…I remember a scene from the movie “Book of Life” about remembering all your ancestors to keep their memory alive.  As I’ve been getting photos organized this year, I came across several from my mother’s side – the Weavers and the Vansants.  My great-great-grandfather Levi Weaver is pictured in one photo with his young wife Bessie Vansant Weaver along with his grown children and a few of their own.  With the photo of Mary and Rufus Vansant I’m trying to recall the relationship.  I think they were my great-great-grandmother’s parents and I know I have this written down somewhere but I have several boxes of photos and family tree information that I need to go through and sort and identify.  My Aunt Gail gave me this photo many years ago and it has always spoken to me because of their clothing and where they are sitting.  They look like sharecroppers to me but that’s just my impression so I’m not sure.  And I imagine that life wasn’t very easy for them either.  These are additions to my altar this year…

Photos on the Stone and Weaver family altar...these old photos are additions this year of my great-great-grandfather and his family!

Photos on the Stone and Weaver family altar…these old photos are additions this year of my great-great-grandfather and his family!

Tomorrow night, I will light the candles and photograph the glow of the altars.  Then I will sit in my living room and reflect on the lives represented on these altars and give thanks for each and every life.

Viva la vida!

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The Official State Cookie of New Mexico!

Biscochitos - fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos – fresh out of the oven and on my dining room table!

Biscochitos!!!  Say this word to any Mexican and they will immediately begin to drool!  I kid you not!

These cookies are some of the best you will ever taste.  They are SO good that the New Mexico legislature named them the official state cookie in 1989!  Of course, the cookies go further back when the Spanish brought the recipe over from Spain to Mexico many moons ago…

My New Mexico Zuniga family makes the best biscochitos ever.  No lie…I always look forward to having a few at our family reunions…that is, if I can get to them in time!  They are in high demand and you really have to grab one when you can or they are gone in a flash!  Both my cousins Nelinda (aka Danda) and Hortencia (aka Wiro) each have their own unique recipes of this delicious cookie.

I’ve been doing a little research into the ingredients and decided to give this one a try for my annual cookie swap party.  I always make Mexican Wedding Cake cookies and one other in case a friend comes to the party and doesn’t have time to make cookies.  This year I decided on biscochitos as my “one other.”

Ingredients for my biscochitos...except for the cloves...I decided not to use those...

Ingredients for my biscochitos…except for the cloves…I decided not to use those…

One of the main ingredients in the recipe is lard.  Yep, LARD!  As my cousin Danda always says…when people see that the recipe takes one pound of lard, they get a little scared of these cookies!  I’ve seen a number of variations to this cookie but substituting lard for anything else is a no-no.  One of my cousins uses cloves in her recipe but I opted not to use this in mine.  One uses brandy in hers while my other cousin does not.  It’s interesting how a recipe can vary.  I decided on using the brandy and I can tell you…wow!!!  What a great flavor!

So let’s get started…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sift the 6 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together 2 cups of lard and 1 1/2 cups sugar until smooth. Mix in 1 teaspoon of anise extract (I over poured a bit), and beat until fluffy. Stir in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add the sifted ingredients and 1/4 cup of brandy, and stir until well blended.
  3. Roll dough into balls.
  4. Mix together the 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon; roll the balls in the mixture.
  5. Place cookies onto baking sheets and gently press down on the mixture so they aren’t perfectly round.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

Que bueno!!!  Here are a few photos of the prep work in a slideshow!

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Finishing Touches Day

Ornaments from my mother in their original boxes - I like to decorate with these each year by simply placing them in crystal/glass bowls.

Ornaments from my mother in their original boxes – I like to decorate with these each year by simply placing them in crystal/glass bowls.

Yesterday I spent the entire day getting our house decorated for Christmas.  At times it can be a little overwhelming with all the boxes and decorations all over the place.  But I remind myself that this is my day to get it all together and the day is long!  Plus, I have those sappy Hallmark movies to keep me going!

O the Saturday after all this decorating takes place, I work on the finishing touches.  Things like bows on lamps, centerpieces on the tables and hand towels in the kitchen and powder room.  Another favorite things to do is to pull out all the ornaments from my mom that she collected from before I was born and simply put them on display in crystal bowls.

This is one of my favorite of the old ornamets...beautiful detail!

This is one of my favorite of the old ornamets…beautiful detail!

Decorating doesn’t have to be complicated and this is one of the things that makes me the happiest each year when I add the finishing touches.  First of all, I love that the ornaments are still in the original boxes.  You can still see the prices on the boxes.  I have three boxes of “Shiny Brite” ornaments…mind you, not all the ornaments are original to these boxes but they are definitely old ornaments that we used to use when I was little.  (Did I just say “old” in reference to myself?!  Yikes!)  These boxes have a 49 cent price tag on them.  And who remembers Woolworth’s store?  The box I have for a few more ornaments has a $1.49 price tag on it.  These are called “imported tree ornaments” – but I don’t see “where” they were imported.  Regardless, it’s still nice to have this box.  I love to put them all in a large crystal bowl and set them on my coffee table in my living room each year.  I always tell my kids about the ornaments and of course, when they were little they used to roll their eyes a bit…  Now, I think they are paying more attention to these things and why they are important to me and our family history.

Shiny Brite ornament box with the 49 cent price tag stamped on the box.

Shiny Brite ornament box with the 49 cent price tag stamped on the box.

To preserve these memories a little bit more, I’ve put some of the smaller ornaments – chipped paint and all – in shadow boxes.  One box has small ornaments that my mother used to use to decorate her hutch every year.  She would put these small ornaments into glasses all over the hutch and I always loved how creative she got with the decorating.  She was (and is) so good at “merchandising” as they say in the retail world.  I also have a shadow box with small ornaments from my grandmother (Louise Stone) and my aunt Gail (Gail Stone Thomas).  I love putting these boxes out each year.  It’s a great way to display a part of your family holiday history.  Finally, I have a small egg shaped vase in my corner curio with ornaments from my great-grandmother – Maude Weaver – on display.  The paint on these ornaments is almost all chipped off but it adds quite a bit of antique character to the them…

Small ornaments that my mother (first shadow box) used on her hutch each year and ornaments that my aunt and grandmother (second box) used in their Christmas decorating.

Small ornaments that my mother (first shadow box) used on her hutch each year and ornaments that my aunt and grandmother (second box) used in their Christmas decorating.

Finally, the one shadow box that makes me a bit nostalgic is the one I created with ornaments that were about to be thrown out after my mother-in-law (Johnnie Odom) passed away.  All her sons were cleaning out her house and there was a box of ornaments that she had put aside with a handwritten note saying – “some ornaments the 5 girls might want to keep.”  By this time, all the girls had gone through everything and picked out what they wanted.  When my brother-in-law Allen showed me the box, I told him I would take them.  I mean, there were several things I remembered vividly from her annual Christmas tree – the star she used at the top of the tree, the plastic snowman and Santa Claus, the felt reindeer…these aren’t expensive ornaments by any means.  But they are priceless to me and now my children.  It’s amazing how different things look when you preserve them in a special way…like in a shadow box.  The Christmas after Johnnie passed, I displayed the shadow box and all the grandkids loved it.  Plus, I added her handwritten note to the box.  Their reaction made me feel like I had done something good for them and I love displaying it each year.

Ornaments that my mother-in-law - Johnnie Odom - used on her tree.  These were about to be discarded but I couldn't let that happen.  Included in the box is a handwritten note about these ornaments to her 5 granddaughters...

Ornaments that my mother-in-law – Johnnie Odom – used on her tree. These were about to be discarded but I couldn’t let that happen. Included in the box is a handwritten note about these ornaments to her 5 granddaughters…

Meanwhile…finished touches day is just about over…and tomorrow we decorate our family tree to round everything out.

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Turkey Day 2015

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing - all by myself!

My first Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing – all by myself!

I have a confession to make…this is the first year that I’ve prepared an entire Thanksgiving meal by myself.  Yep…that’s right!  I’ve never in all my life done this…but this year I decided it was time.

We had already celebrated Thanksgiving with the extended Odom family last Saturday.  My brother-in-law, Terry, did the honors where the cooking was concerned.  We brought the “big” cookie and some great wine.  Before my sister-in-law passed away, she and my other sister-in-law typically did all the cooking.  We had quite a banter going back and forth about the food.  They would tease me because I didn’t cook and so I was always given the task of bringing the drinks and desserts.  This usually consisted of pies from Costco.  (FYI – This was before the big cookie made it’s appearance in recent years.)  I joked that my culinary expertise was so great that I had sold my pie recipe to Costco so why should I make them when I could buy them!  In reality, I told them one year not too long ago, that it didn’t make sense for me to cook since they were both so good at it!  It was the truth too, not just a line to get out of doing the work.  Their Thanksgiving menu was always fabulous!

Over the past few years, I’ve wanted to learn more about how to make our Zuniga traditional Thanksgiving meal – in particular the turkey and stuffing – so I asked my mother to teach me and my daughters what to do.  I took pictures of the process and also wrote the directions down – which I can’t seem to find now.  She loved doing this with us and we a blast learning her method of cooking.  Anyway, my mother went to Chicago this year to be with my sister and her family and since Eddie and I were going to be home with two of our three kids this Thanksgiving, we decided to get a turkey and make a traditional meal.  Rather, he bought the turkey and “I” made the traditional meal!

Deviled eggs...a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish.  Delish!

Deviled eggs…a little mayo, mustard and sweet pickle relish. Delish!

I made the stuffing (or dressing) and stuffed the bird close to midnight last night.  I had enough for a casserole dish of dressing on the side.  I also made deviled eggs because these are a staple at every Thanksgiving meal!  The heavenly aroma of turkey woke me up early and my husband nudged me out of bed so I could check on the bird and turn the oven off.  We got up to make breakfast for the family – my daughter Anna Marie and her new hubby Ryan came by for French toast before heading out-of-town this afternoon.  While they were here, I made the other preparations… peeled potatoes, got the mac and cheese ready, green beans and almonds in a pan and finally, took a shot at making giblet gravy.  It was a little thick (I think I used too much flour), but it did the trick and everyone seemed to enjoy it on their food.

Enough food for an army!

Enough food for an army!

My brother-in-law and sister-law, Allen and Rhonda came over to join us for our Thanksgiving meal.  It was a small group but it was really nice and relaxing once we got our plates fixed and sat at the dining room table to eat, talk, laugh and share stories.

Pumpkin pie and apple/cranberry pie were the dessert choices.  I’ll have one of each please with a little whipped cream!  It was a great day and I’m tired now but it’s a good tired.  I feel great about being able to make this wonderful meal for my family and we have plenty of leftovers for tomorrow and the weekend!

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!  I hope you and your family had a wonderful day together too!

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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 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!

The Fabulous Zuniga Men

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers - Lorenzo and Felix - from my Day of the Dead altar.

Photos of my dad (center) and his two brothers – Lorenzo and Felix – from my Day of the Dead altar.

Today is Veterans Day.

It’s a work holiday for my office.  I decided to stay at home today and take down my Day of the Dead altars.   While I was dismantling and gathering all the photos, I put aside the ones of my dad and his brothers in their military uniforms.

The Zuniga Brothers…Praxedis, Lorenzo and Felix….

All the Zuniga men were Veterans.  All so handsome.  All so ready to serve in some capacity.  Today I reflected on these photos and those that my extended Zuniga family posted on social media.  Today I took some time to reflect upon their sacrifice for our freedom.

Thank you dad, Uncle Lencho and Uncle Felix…so proud of you all.

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My dad…Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga

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Uncle Lorenzo Zuniga

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Uncle Felix Zuniga

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Uncle Lencho and my dad – Praxedis Zuniga

 

Gathering of the Clans

Zuniga family reunion 2003 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Zuniga family reunion 2003 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The 2003 Zuniga Family Reunion in Albuquerque, New Mexico was so wonderful!  We had a huge turnout that year and I loved spending time with everyone and hearing their stories.  Looking back at the photos of that reunion makes me both happy and sad…we’ve lost a few family members since them.  That’s why these reunions are so important and we make every effort to attend every two years.  We alternate these gatherings between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Denver, Colorado.  Next year we will be in Albuquerque and we’ll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Zuniga Reunions.  It’s sure to be special…

When we left the 2003 reunion, we had a little time to spend in the Albuquerque airport before our flight.  My kids wanted to pick up souvenirs so we wandered into a few stores and they found a few little trinkets to bring back home.  There was a gift shop that had a lot of Hispanic art and Day of the Dead items for sale that got “my” attention though.  As I made my way through the store something else drew my attention too.  There were these pins on the counter near the cashier.  Petroglyphs.  Ancient folkart…they were beautiful.  Each one was on a card and had a saying.  I stared at them for the longest time and then selected the one that kept drawing my eye.

It was called “Gathering of the Clans.”  I turned it over and began reading…

My people came this way.  They welcomed those who joined their journey.  We tell their stories:  The stories of the gathering of the clans. 

 

Petroglyph Pin - Gathering of the Clans by Alice Seeley, New Mexico Artist

Petroglyph Pin – Gathering of the Clans by Alice Seeley, New Mexico Artist

I remember thinking…wow!  Here we were at a family reunion and this was the pin that I picked up.  It was almost as if it had selected me!  I bought this pin…and a few others that day.  Each of their sayings hit close to home .  Each spoke of family, ancestors and stories.   I wore this cluster of pins for quite a while on a favorite jean jacket.  They were always a topic of conversation and it always took me back to that particular family reunion.

NOTE:  These pins were created by New Mexican artist, Alice Seeley.  She is a painter turned jeweler and she creates these designs in lead-free pewter.  All jewelry is marked with her name and the year.

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Preparing for Day of the Dead – 2015

Some of the items on my Day of the Dead living room altar include a Day of the Dead book, carnations, butterflies and photos...

Some of the items on my Day of the Dead living room altar include a Day of the Dead book, carnations, butterflies and photos…

Day of the Dead is tomorrow and I just finished up my altars at home this afternoon.  I feel like the celebration snuck up on me this year with all the traveling I’ve been doing lately.  Last year I decided I would use real marigolds on my altars in the dining room rather than the silk ones from the craft store.  Well, that didn’t happen…  I also wanted to go through all my photos and bring some new ones out of some of my family that’s gone.  Again, that didn’t happen…I am in the process of moving my ginormous stash of photos and slides to my daughter’s old room so things are a little disorganized at the moment.

A copy of a photo of the some of the Wilson children...front and center is my mother-in-law, Johnnie.  Behind her are her brothers Jim and Bob and to her right is her sister Joyce.  Uncle Jim was the last remaining Wilson sibling and he passed away this October.

A copy of a photo of the some of the Wilson children…front and center is my mother-in-law, Johnnie. Behind her are her brothers Jim and Bob and to her right is her sister Joyce. Uncle Jim was the last remaining Wilson sibling and he passed away this October.

All this feeling of disorganization went away last night as I added the last photos to my altars and a few new touches.  Funny how things just come together when you need them to and this evening I am so pleased with the result.  I just want these altars to be a special tribute to the family that is now gone, especially the recent losses we have experienced.  Earlier this year we lost my cousin Chila – Orcilia Zuniga Forbes quite suddenly.  Just a few weeks ago, we lost my husband’s Uncle, James Edward Wilson who was 93.  So sad to be adding more people but at the same time, it’s good to remember them, their accomplishments and the love we had and continue to have for them.

My cousin, Chila - Orcilia Zuniga Forbes - who passed away suddenly a few months ago.  I love this photo of her that is on the Meyers Trust website in tribute to her service on this foundation.

My cousin, Chila – Orcilia Zuniga Forbes – who passed away suddenly a few months ago. I love this photo of her that is on the Meyers Trust website in tribute to her service on this foundation.

I set tea-light candles out on the altars this afternoon and took photos of everything.  Tomorrow, I will light the candles and spend some time with my altars remembering the good times and wonderful lives of our family members who are no longer with us physically.

This photo of Uncle Jim kept getting reposted on Facebook shortly after his death.  I love this picture...a gentle and good man in the presence of animals.

This photo of Uncle Jim kept getting reposted on Facebook shortly after his death. I love this picture…a gentle and good man in the presence of animals.