Monday, October 30, 2006
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.
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.
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 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
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
Friday, October 27, 2006
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
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
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
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
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.
Silence is Defeat Public Access Unix Systems
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
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.
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
Monday, October 16, 2006
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.
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
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Friday, October 06, 2006
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.