Monday, October 30, 2006

Good News for Migrants and Texas Migrant Council

Today, I received a press release from Congressman Ruben Hinojosa's office regarding a $9,123,464 grant to provide expansion of the Migrant Head Start services. This is good news for migrants and for the organizations involved in providing the service.

If you are new to this blog, I spent this last summer up in Wisconsin working for a Migrant Head Start program run through United Migrant Opportunity Services. For a while, greed got the best of me and I worked in a canning factory with the migrants. I eventually got out and went back to work with the UMOS Head Start in Rice Lake, WI.

UMOS has been providing services to migrants since the 1960s, I believe. Recently, they have had to deal with real budget cuts and expanding need. You may wonder, what does UMOS have to do with the Texas Migrant Council? Well, TMC is also a well known and long time service provider for migrants. Where they can, TMC provides services directly to migrants. Given the same challenges, TMC will occasionally delegate centers to UMOS. Both agencies are non-profit; but by delegating the operation of their centers, TMC is able to quickly expand into areas where they don't have a presence, but other agencies do.

The Migrant Head Start services make a big difference in the lives of children and their parents. For the children, the benefit is that they get exposed to some of the things that they would lack being watched by a babysitter. Such things are art, science, language development, service referrals for developmentally delayed children, and even simple things like a safe environment. For parents, these programs make a difference because, for many of them, it's free daycare. However, some migrant parents do care about raising well-adjusted children who can break out of the migrant lifestyle.

We certainly did our best to teach the preschoolers that they could be anything they wanted to be. Those parents who wanted more for their children also wanted us to instill that dream. With the funding granted to TMC by Congress, the Migrant Head Start program can expand to unserved areas where migrants live and give migrant children a head start on the only thing that will help them succeed, education.

New Look for RGV Life

I grew weary of the old template, so I went in and changed it. The new template started off simpler, but I put all the widgets back in and cluttered it up again. I really need to rethink what stuff is necessary on the site. In any case, you did not take a wrong turn at Albuquerque. You're at the right place.

Applying for unemployment insurance


Applying for unemployment insurance
Originally uploaded by rgvlife.

Alma Mata is applying for unemployment insurance benefits. She has already applied with her former employer, Hidalgo County Head Start for a job.Typically, it takes a couple of weeks to be called for an interview and another to start working, even when short-staffed. Having worked there in the past, she has a reasonable expectation of being rehired.

Alma is trying to figure out where to apply. If you go to the Texas Workforce Commission office, they can't help. They can only help you find work. Currently, the lines are jammed with calls to apply over the phone. Since she worked out of state, she cannot apply over the Internet. Alma will attempt to apply for benefits in Wisconsin if her efforts in Texas don't pay off.

I have wagered her that she'll get hired before they give her a dime in UI. I think that the whole process is intentionally inefficient to discourage applicants.

UPDATE

I married a determined woman. She got through to somebody and will receive benefits through the State of Texas. On top of that, the state will attempt to collect additional benefits from Wisconsin. And, I've got to pay up.

Back in touch with a friend



Back when I was a Freshman at Mission High School, I signed up for a pen pal through International Youth Services. Through my high school years and some of my college years, I maintained a correspondence with Jennifer from West Yorkshire. You can imagine reading Wuthering Heights and being in touch with somebody who actually lived out by the moors on the English countryside. In some ways, we grew up together, even being so far apart. After graduation from high school, a friend of mine invited me to go on a tour of Europe with him. One of the first stops we made was to visit my friend in England. We had some other misadventures in Paris, Madrid, Roma, Berlin, and London. That's a whole other story. In any case, through a dream on Sunday morning, I was inspired to reinitiate contact with my friend in England. I was able to find her father and, from there, get in touch with her. I received an email from Jennifer tonight after she found my blog posts via Google. If you Google my name, you'll see that I'm all over the damned place. It's nice to hear from an old friend and find out what she is doing. The best way to describe it is like finding a long-lost family member.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Let's see this succeed.

I just saw this video about an air powered car. It's a simple and awesome idea. I would love to putt around town in one. It would never succeed, I think. Think of all the environmentalists who would be jobless. What would become of Al Gore if we all drove air-powered cars? I would be concerned about the mileage possible in one of these air cars. How many miles to the tank would they get? What if you are out in the country and there aren't any politicians for miles to fill it with hot air again?

Barbacoa. Life is good.

A while back, I audioblogged about going for barbacoa. I also touched on barbacoa in other instances (1, 2, 3). Well, today, I went out for another pound of the delicious meat. Just to recap, barbacoa is not the same thing as barbecue. Barbacoa is cooked meat from the head of the cow. The best meat comes from the tongue. Some people can manage to pick the meat off the skull. That creeps me out, so I buy barbacoa already picked off the head.

As usual, I went to De Alba Tortilla Factory & Bakery in Mission. I like that they have two options for buying barbacoa. They have regular and especial. Regular barbaco is very greasy. When you make yourself a taco, the grease just drips out the back end. Don't get me wrong, it tastes great. However, I'm committed to my people for the long haul, so I want to avoid clogging my arteries as much as possible. Therefore, my family pays the extra dollar for barbacoa especial. The meat is leaner. The only thing dripping out the back end of your taco after barbacoa especial is the water from your pico de gallo or salsa.

There are plenty of places that sell barbacoa around here on Sundays. For some reason, everybody heads to De Alba. When you arrive, you'll see that the parking lot is full and the drive through has a line at least 5 cars long. If you insist on drive-thru, expect to kill 30 minutes before placing your order. I usually park across the street on the grass and go inside to order. If you wait in line inside, it's 15 minutes to wait.

At other places, you could probably be in and out in 5 minutes. The drawback is that you only get the choice of the greasy barbacoa.

That was breakfast this morning, barbacoa tacos and coffee.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Oh, the insult!

 I upgraded to Internet Explorer 7. Today, I made a visit to my own blog to see if there are any changes I need to make. I got a yellow pop-up bar on the browser that says "This Web page could be a scam. Proceed with caution."  I think that was uncalled-for. I suspect that the code is looking at the donation buttons on the page. I'm going to remove them and see if that eliminates the scam alert.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Getting it together

I haven't been posting lately. I'm going to be full of myself and presume that you are wondering why. I've been busy working to prepare for the upcoming flurry of activity in my life. For years, since I took a study course at UT-Austin, I have used an Uncalendar to keep myself on track. I admit that I've fallen off the wagon on occasion during jobs that don't merit planning like pizza delivery, retail, or working in a cannery. Now that I've got something looming that will require a great deal of attention, I've been working on getting everything together. I like Uncalendar because of the way it's laid out and because it's undated. My wife is also a big fan of the system since I introduced her to it.

In addition to the Uncalendar, I've been working with Llamagraphics's program, LifeBalance. I've used the software in the past and thought I'd give it another go. Apparently, I was using it wrong. It's not a system like Microsoft Outlook. It's more along the lines of a Stephen Covey system. I find that it meshes very well with my Uncalendar. LifeBalance helps you figure out what your priorities are and Uncalendar lets you write them down and get them done.

It really isn't a deadline-driven system. It's more of a get-your-shit-together plan. A good example of what I mean is the recent movie by Nicholas Cage, The Weatherman. Here is a successful weatherman whose life is falling apart. He can't seem to get his personal life in order, yet manages to land a cushy job with a national network. The poor guy had no clue what he needed to do to make things better. I think that many people do the same thing. We focus on just one thing and let the other things go to hell. This often results in strained relationships and other problems. What I'm doing is setting the groundwork to help me deal with being away from the RGV and my family. I'd rather be a broke-ass Mexican than a divorced-ass Mexican.

There are some breaks that have come through for us. T-Mobile has put in the My Faves option in their rate plans. This allows subscribers unlimited calling to 5 people on any network. This is similar to AllTel's Friends Circle. This will be handy for reducing our communication charges.

Another thing that we figured out is that we can grant guardianship of our children to my mom and my wife's mom so that they can attend different schools within our district. Our daughter started the school season with one grandma because she came back to the RGV from Wisconsin before we did. It's a better school in the district, so she's better off finishing the school year. The boy, on the other hand, will be starting Pre-K after his stint in Head Start. The problem is that with my wife and me working, we cannot be there for his half-day, morning or afternoon, schedule. Grandma, however, can deal with both contingencies. By doing this, we eliminate the need for a two-parent system whilst I'm away in Austin. Furthermore, it's cost-effective and we can rely on the caretakers.

We have the inklings of a budget in place with guesstimates. Until I am commuting to Austin weekly and shelling out money for food and lodging, we won't know actual figures. Still, we don't want to be caught off-guard. We're even looking at changing electric providers. Money problems are the usual cause of marital strife. We'd rather have the stife without the money problems (that's a joke).

So, that's what I've been doing since the barbecue on Sunday. Some plans are being put into action. Other plans are pending cashflow from my first paycheck on December 1st. I feel comfortable with the systems in place now. We have a couple more months to fine-tune things.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Firing up the grill

Firing up the grill
Firing up the grill,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
There are some families that fire up the grill every weekend here in the Rio Grande Valley. Mine is not one of those. Once a month is about the norm. Those families that cook out more often usually live out on a ranch somewhere or on the outskirts of town. The guys will park their car or truck nearby and leave the stereo blaring with Tejano or conjunto music.

My barbecues are more sedate. I'm in it for the food more than an excuse to be outside drinking beer. One thing I do share in common with tradional RGV barbecues is an insistance on using mesquite. Lighting it can be a bitch; the flavor it imparts on meat is worth it. As I type this up, my eyes are watery from all the smoke. Despite all that, I missed the familiar scent of burning mesquite. Lucky for us my father-in-law had some logs lying around. I'll be in Madero for the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mmm, Fajitas

One thing that Alma and I missed about being in the Rio Grande Valley is that we could not get fajitas up in Wisconsin. A friend of ours would go to Wautoma on occasion and take some to Rice Lake, but they weren't as fresh. Fajitas down here don't last as long on the shelf. The biggest reason is that they aren't prime cuts of beef, so they are affordable. If there is one thing the RGV has, it's poverty. Fajitas are the affordable choice for everybody to barbecue. If you want to go cheaper, then chicken will fit the bill.
 
We are going to buy some fajitas this weekend and head over to my in-laws to cook them on the grill. One of the things that makes the Rio Grande Valley home for us is the availability of the foods we eat. Oddly, tortillas were readily available in all the grocery stores.
 
Next food, barbacoa.

Finally a Whataburger


We finally went to a Whataburger on Monday afternoon. I was reminded of this tonight as my wife brought home some burgers from there again. She had been dying to have their grilled chicken sandwich and I was yearning for a plain Whataburger with jalapeños.

I ruined the experience by waiting until I was extremely hungry. I missed breakfast and wound up having a really late lunch. As a result, I ate it too fast and did not savor the meal. Still, I would have other opportunities like tonight.

The photo seen here is the Whataburger on 495 in Mission where we ate.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Meeting with Mack

On the way home from Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to meet with Mack Harrison of Valley in Exile. I've been so preoccupied with getting resettled and getting acquainted with my new job that I haven't written about it. The meeting took place in San Antonio while my family and I were passing through. I am lousy at getting around that city. If I get off the highway, I'll get lost. Mack looked for an easy place to get together and have coffee near I-35. I wound up getting more than coffee.
 
We discussed some things about blogging, a bit about his studies, and about my family's experience this summer. My mind was racing as I wanted to trade as much info as possible before resuming our journey home. After all, we were in San Antonio, the gateway of South Texas. As a result of the time crunch and exhaustion from driving for two days, I probably didn't have coherent conversations. We hope to see Mack back in the RGV when he is finished with his studies.
 
Overall, I'm glad to have had the opportunity to meet a fellow blogger. It's interesting to see people from different walks of life participating in a common endeavor. Thanks for making time Mack. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance.

Going Back to My Root

AOL (http://www.aol.com) has come up with a new program called OpenRide.
It's basically a browser similar to Opera (http://www.opera.com) and
FireFox. The touted features are that you have tabbed browsing, integrated
email client, media center, and other stuff. Of course, I want to try it
out. The only drawback is that I have a slow internet connection until
our DSL gets connected. So, I have dusted off my old shell account at
http://www.silenceisdefeat.org to browse the web while the huge file
downloads.

OK, so it's not a root account. But it does bring bring back memories of
when I first started on the Internet. It was my first year at UT
(http://www.utexas.edu). When you signed up for a computer account, your
options were few. I started off with a VAX account. Talk about an obscure
OS! Then, when the Internet gained popularity, I moved to a UNIX account.
The web consisted of a few pages accessible by Lynx and NCSA Mosaic. More
often, I would use Gopher. IRC was popular. Newsgroups were still cool.

Here I am now using my Linux shell account to work on the internet. If you
have never used a shell account, it's all text based. There are no
pictures or the ability to use a mouse. The programs you use run on
another computer. Just black and white text (sometimes colors, depending
on your terminal). The benefit of using a shell account is that you don't
need a lot of bandwidth. You can do a lot of things with a lousy dial-up
connection. The drawback is that not all sites are Lynx-friendly.

You may wonder, why in the name of the computer gods would you stoop to
AOL? Like it or not, they made good on their goal of being universally
accessible. You can get aol or aim on most phones. They make it easy to
post stuff on their journals. They offer cool features like the AOL
Digits, which is a free phone number attached to your account, which
includes voicemail. They have a lot of stuff that I would not pay
$24.95/month to get; however, now that AOL is free, it's a good thing.

--
Shaine Mata

Silence is Defeat Public Access Unix Systems
http://silenceisdefeat.org

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just for the session

I've created a new blog dedicated to my experience in Austin, and the period leading up to it, for the 80th Legislative Session. The site is Session 80. The whole purpose behind the blog is to document my experiences and thoughts in the same manner that I documented my experiences as a migrant. I concluded that this new experience is really out of joint with this blog about living in the Rio Grande Valley. I could justify writing about migrants because there are many migrants who live in the RGV. Working in Austin, however, is a whole different animal. Therefore, I created a new blog for the occasion.
 
My first post goes over what sorts of things I'll write about and what won't be written. I'm not a political hack. I actually want to get things done for the people of the Rio Grande Valley, in general. However, I will have to be satisfied with doing things for the people of District 40. There are some things, however, that affect more than just the people in the district. For example, UTPA falls under Mr. Pena's district. Anything that affects the University indirectly affects the rest of the RGV. So, I'll do whatever I can to help Mr. Pena represent his district to the best of his ability. I sense that there is a good team in his office; that will make all the difference.
 
I hope you enjoy reading Session 80.

upgrading our universe

Today, the Mrs and I ordered DSL service through AT&T. We should be
back online soon. Our Rioplex wireless modem has always had lousy
reception at home. we kept it because it was better than dial-up. we
will also be getting a new computer. our old laptop was bought for
schoolwork, not audio, video, and photo editing. It struggles. I'll be
needing to do these things.

--
Shaine Mata
http://www.missiontexas.net
http://www.missionhsreunion.com

sorting through mail

I finally got all of our backed up mail sorted out. we did not opt for
mail forwarding because we did not want to carry all those papers
back. most of our accounts can be accessed electronically. paper
statements would have been redundant. in any case, i'm done and ready
for bed.

--
Shaine Mata
http://www.missiontexas.net
http://www.missionhsreunion.com

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm On Board with the District 40 Team

This message is from a Virgin Mobile user. Enjoy.
_____________________________________________________________


This morning, I made a stop at State Rep Aaron Pena's office to meet the staff. As you may have heard, I'll be working for Dist 40. I think everything went well, except I discovered when I got home that I should have gelled my hair; it was sticking out all over. Otherwise, I feel some synergy with the team.

We spent some time going over what to expect during the 80th Legislative Session and what my role will be on the team. Business teaches you much about having the right people on your team. It is apparent that I am joining a good group. They are excited about the upcoming session, as am I. I just need to finish moving back into the RGV so that we can start firing on all cylinders. I have a couple of months to prepare for Austin and get to know my team.

I have an idea how this new experience will affect the blog. Like my trip to Wisconsin as a migrant, I want to document what life as a legislative aide is like. I'm excited to be off-center of the middle of everything.

Taking care of details

This message is from a Virgin Mobile user. Enjoy.
_____________________________________________________________


My family and I are glad to finally be back in the RGV. We arrived very early on Sunday, giving us cause to sleep late. We visited my in-laws and had menudo. We unloaded the U-Haul and then made our way to my mom's to watch a movie. We left the unpacking and "moving in" for today. There are other details to address as well. We left the meter running on our utilities, so we are in luck with the hot weather. It's a big change to go from snow to 90 degree weather. Thank God for air conditioning. Our apartment is our refuge. Our van was fine without A/C up north; not here.

We still have to get our Internet going so that I can catch up with the news. We will go with Rioplex Wireless for now. Perhaps we will get DSL for more reliable connections.

Thanks for all the welcomes. I've got other news to write about, which you no doubt read at Aaron Pena's blog.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

We made it to the RGV last night around 2 am.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

We have entered texas. We are almost home. One more day of driving. It is nice and warm here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Last things before going home to the RGV

Tonight, my wife, son, and I are staying at a Super 8 Motel. We cleared out our apartment and have almost finished cleaning it. We want to get our deposit back, so we rented a carpet cleaner to do the job ourselves. Tomorrow morning, we will go into the apartment early to clean the bathroom and kitchen before going to work. Once that is done, we would essentially be killing time until we are released from our jobs. All our meager possessions are in a U-Haul trailer we rented. All we can do for the moment is haul it around with us everywhere we go, which consists wholly of work. 
 
We would have spent the night at the apartment except we already had our utilities disconnected. In the Rio Grande Valley, this is quite alright. A night in the dark wouldn't hurt. This week, however, a cold front has decided to make its way through the Rice Lake, WI area. We are expecting snow over the next few nights. Obviously, we would prefer to sleep than shiver at night.
 
At work, we have been clearing out the school. UMOS has decided not to lease the building due to a big rent increase. The end result is that we need to move everything out of the building into storage until we have somewhere else to put the school. We are all worn out from carrying furniture, containers, and appliances out of the building. We are trying to finish as quickly as possible on the hope that we will be allowed to leave sooner.
 
Before leaving Wisconsin, we may just stop by Plainfield, WI to visit my relatives. It's not 100% certain as we have a time constraint with the U-Haul. Another issue is the added expense of living at the Super 8. Going to Plainfield would cause delays. As it is, we expect to leave on Friday, worst case. We would then reasonably expect to arrive in the Rio Grande Valley by Saturday night or Sunday morning. The thing is that I have some business to do in Austin and San Antonio, so I need to pass by during the daytime. One thing can be done during the weekend. The other must be done during a weekday. The Mrs. and I will have to discuss our plans.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gus Garcia added to SpinRGV

After reading the latest post by Rep. Aaron Peña, Jr, I logged into the SpinRGV site and added Edinburg City Counsel member Gus Garcia's blog. Hopefully this is the start of a trend and the other cousel members will jump into the mix. It would be interesting to see the different perspectives from all the counsel members over the same issues. It would definitely be a boon to the City of Edinburg to have public discourse with elected officials.

Friday, October 06, 2006

No more dirty diapers

Today was the last day of school at the UMOS Migrant Head Start center in Rice Lake, WI. I got my last look at my class of toddlers. In all likelihood, I won't see any of them again, unless I take the seasonal job again. From here until the middle of next week, the staff will be cleaning up and putting things in storage. That kind of work flies by, so our last day of work will be coming up soon.

I have mixed feelings about today. On the one hand, I am glad that the daily 12 hour grind is over. The job isn't tough; it takes forever for each 12 hour day to pass. When you work hard, in contrast, time flies, somewhat. I'm glad I am done changing diapers every couple hours. No more wiping noses. No more washing your hands constantly like you have OCD. I do wonder what will become my toddlers in the years to come. I wonder through what paths their parents will lead them. I'll miss my class a little bit. My wife and I have so many stories about them to keep us chatting. They graduated out of her class into mine, so we have common experiences.

I'm more sad that the experience is over just as I was getting into the groove of being a teacher. I really only had about one and a half months of teaching experience at this job. A lot of it is administrative, filling out forms for diapers, feeding, sanitizing, attendance, naptimes, and all manner of details. At this age, your lessons are expected to last about 15 minutes, which is as long as you can realistically keep the attention of toddlers. Back to the point, it takes a while to get into the routine that allows you to keep up with all the demands of the job. I was just getting decent at it.

Many of the migrant families that are done for the season and all of the teachers are anxious to go home. We are headed to different homes. The migrants of this area will be going to Coahuila and Eagle Pass. The Migrant Head Start staff are split in half. One half will go home to the Rio Grande Valley; the other half are residents of Rice Lake and will find something else to do until next year.

It will be nice to have a change of routine. I look forward to finding a new one.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Maybe even longer

I finally got my cable reconnected after having it prematurely cut by the cable company.Withouth cable, we have no weather channel and no internet.  I requested to have it shut down on the 10th of October, which is our last expected date here in Rice Lake. Now, I am hearing some talk of extending us for a few more days, which will cause further delays on our return to the Rio Grande Valley. All of this complicates stuff for us. We'll manage somehow, I suppose.
 
I'll get going on the SpinRGV press releases as soon as I get a chance. I'll probably be able to do it Thursday evening.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Still without internet. Using phone to text message or record blog entries. Will depart for RGV on oct 9th.

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