Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Mustache You to Go Try Don Bigotes

My family enjoyed a fantastic lunch today at what has become our favorite restaurant in town, Don Bigotes.  This place offers an amazing lunch buffet that is not only delicious, but easy on the bank account. The cuisine is authentic Mexican and it is truly some of the tastiest food in the area.

Don Bigotes, or "Mr. Mustache" as it's translated, opened in February of 2015 in what was formerly the Jack's building in Cherokee Plaza in Centre, Alabama.  Owner Alex Bravo (I love his name, he sounds like a secret agent!) gave the place a complete overhaul inside and out. It's colorful, fun and inviting. 
It's easily spotted from the road!

The menu is great, offering the traditional favorites like fajitas, tacos, and burritos. There are also a number of excellent not-so typical items like fried tilapia, Pina del Mare and even vegetarian fajitas. There are daily specials which are always excellent and a great value. My husband and I like to split the Los Mariachi Fajitas for Two featuring short ribs, chicken, shrimp, beef and chorizo. Bueno!

Today we all hit the wonderful buffet. There is such an assortment of delicious things to try on the buffet and at only $6.25 a person, it's a remarkable value (especially considering the amount of food my boys can put away!)  The buffet offers taco shells and tortillas to make your own tacos, spicy chicken nachos, beef and chicken enchiladas, some really tasty seasoned chicken with cheese, and my personal favorite, Mexican lasagna. The items on the buffet change day-to-day, but there is always something excellent to try.

              Mexican lasagna is soooo yummy!
                                                    I like the enchiladas a whole lada!

There is also a nice little dessert buffet offering fruit, pudding, sopapillas and little cake bites.

So pretty... I must eat them!

The regular menu has other desserts like yummy sopapillas topped with ice cream, banana chimichangas, and churros!

The staff at Don Bigotes is super friendly and personable. The waitstaff is always helpful and ready to refill your glass or get you anything you need or want. Alex Bravo, the owner, seems to be always smiling and on hand to see that your visit is a good one.

Don Bigotes is a great place to come with the family. The tables and booths are spacious and there is a small kids menu with child-friendly dishes. The dining area is nice and perfect for events like birthday parties (complete with embarrassing sombrero!)  There are 3 large screen televisions in the main dining area and another near the bar which are great for watching the game. Speaking of the bar, I'm told Don Bigotes will soon be officially licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for those of you longing for a margarita. 
It's a fiesta for the senses! 

Don Bigotes is my family's go-to place for a meal out.  It's fun, delicious and very affordable!  If you haven't checked them out yet, you should. For more info you can visit their Facebook page here.  

What are you waiting for? Vamos!

Monday, June 29, 2015

My Facebook Newsfeed is Making Me Crazy

Not that I had far to go, but still...

Auburn's ginormous new scoreboard?  Y'all, a bigger scoreboard only makes the scores look bigger. Do you really want your embarrassment at this year's Iron Bowl magnified 435%?

All those rainbows are going to make me have a seizure.

All those Confederate flags are making me want to watch "Gone With the Wind" and I don't have 3+ hours to spare. Besides, it's RAAAAAAACIST!  

#darkfordinner- Seriously?  This is a thing?  Why is this a thing? Why does this have to be a thing? Don't families talk to each other anymore?  Why does anyone (especially a child) need a computer or iPad or whatever at the dinner table?

Why aren't we talking about what's going on in Greece?

When did Mental Floss become the new Buzzfeed?

Stop tagging me in Poe memes. I've seen them all. A bajillion times. Seriously, quit.

I like dessert too, but sometimes it's good to pin a recipe for roasted carrots or broccoli.

Oh, you posted a selfie? That's different.

No, you don't look fat in your pic, but if you keep asking I'm going to say yes and offer to let you be my guest at the gym.

I don't know who half of you people are.  I think Facebook is friending people of my behalf.

You are selling your truck, not saleing it. Your truck is for sale, not for sell.

Everyone's offended. Everyone's offended that everyone's offended. Everyone's offended that everyone's offended that everyone's offended.

Why are people swimming in Weiss Lake?  Ewww!

Too many pictures of Donald Trump and not enough pictures of Cristiano Ronaldo.

If you love reading so much, why are you always on Facebook?

I think that about covers it. I'm sure my newsfeed will be on the lighter side tomorrow after all the *unfriendings.  My work here is done.

*Get a sense of humor. Or buy one. They probably got one fer sell on the Facebook Yard Sale No Rules Page.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Thrill of Hope

Turn on the television, go online, open up a newspaper and you're instantly bombarded with bad news. Terrorism, violence, disaster, disease and despair fill the headlines. This is supposed to be a season of Joy and Peace, yet it seems with each passing day the world spirals further into the chaos of immorality. How can we sing songs of love and cheer when there is so much evil and unhappiness in the world?

My favorite Christmas song is "O Holy Night." It speaks of a weary world much like the one we see now, a world of corruption, hostility, and great unrest. But a thrill of Hope echoed across the world that night so long ago when a Savior entered the world, not as a conquering king, but as a helpless baby.

Hope. It's a small word with a tremendous promise. Hope is not wishful thinking, but grasping and claiming the promises made to us by God and trusting without doubt that He will bring them to pass. Jesus' entry into the world marked the fulfillment of an age-old promise. (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7)
It also marked the beginning of a new Hope for mankind.

The Law of God declared that the punishment for sin was death. For centuries, animal sacrifices had been made to atone for the sins of humanity. God loved his creation and I believe that when Satan came around to remind God that mankind deserved eternal separation from Him, He knew what must be done. There must be an Ultimate Sacrifice made. A Final Atonement. God offered His Son as that sacrifice so that we could continue to fellowship with Him and be His children.

Our Hope of Salvation was born as a baby in a stable. He was born to die for us. He was born as a Gift from a loving Father who wished to redeem His wandering children. It is because of this Gift that we can have Hope, despite the state of the world. God sees what's going on. He saw it 2000 years ago. He saw it from the very fall of Man. He has given us Hope in the form of His Son Jesus. We can look to Jesus for comfort, peace and unfailing love.

The world may be weary, but it can thrill in the Hope that Jesus has come to save us from our sins and to restore us to the Father.

Do you need Hope? What greater Christmas gift can you ever get than the assurance that you belong to God and have everlasting life in Him through Jesus?!  The best part?  It's FREE!  You don't have to buy anything or do any certain number of good works. You just have to accept and believe. All it takes is a simple, heartfelt prayer like this one:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.

If you prayed this prayer I rejoice with you! Christmas will have a deeper, fuller meaning for you from now on.

Whether or not you prayed this prayer, know that God loves you and I do as well. I wish you all a very merry and blessed Christmas!

*No, I will not always be this "preachy" in my blogging, but I felt called to share today. God is good, folks. Don't doubt for a moment!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A New Chapter

The first event that I ever attended at Malone Baptist Church, my home church of the last 20+ years, was a Christmas event. I suppose it's only fitting that my last event as a member of Malone was a Christmas event.

This week a rather long chapter of my life came to a close with a mixture of sadness, excitement and nervous anticipation. I have left my father's church behind (with the best of feelings) and have taken a ministry position at a church closer to where my family and I live. This has actually been coming for quite some time. I have felt the pull, heard the whisper of "get ready, change is coming" and although I am a bit nervous about this move away from everything familiar, I am confident I have done the right thing.

Malone will always be home. I came there as a sullen fourteen-year-old, unhappy to be uprooted from a former church, home and school. I was determined not to like it and to remain miserable. The good people of the church however, made that difficult. Their warmth and kindness was overwhelming and I could not help but love them back.

Christmas 1992. I wore ugly Christmas sweaters before they were cool.

The people of Malone prayed me through my teenage years, saw me off to college, supported me through single motherhood and rejoiced with me when God sent me the man of my dreams. I was married at Malone, my husband and children were baptized there. I found my purpose and calling through the prayers of the wonderful folks between the pews.

There are many people that I recall with great fondness. People that made such an impression on me that I have never forgotten. People like my first Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Lucy. One of my first memories of Malone Baptist was of that first Christmas party. Mrs. Lucy's dear husband, J.N. was sitting in a chair with clothespins all over his shirt and even in his beard from some game we played. Mrs. Sue was another wonderful teacher and a Christmas party at her house included an hour-long game of hide-n-seek and a fashion show involving the wearing of an angel tree-topper as a hat. 

There were many others who talked, cried and prayed me through the angsty high school years and into the stress-filled college years. It was church members who encouraged me to study music, even suggesting schools and programs with available scholarships. My first piece of mail to my first home-away-from-home was from one of Malone's dear Prayer Warriors, Mrs. Jan. I still have that little encouraging postcard in my treasure box.

I wish I could list all of the church people who have blessed my life, but it's such an extensive list I would never finish. I will just say that having been a part of Malone Baptist Church and its amazing members has been enriching, uplifting and life-changing. I would not be who I am today without those influences. They have given advice, counsel and prayers and so much more to me and my family. I know I will be dropping by as often as my new position allows, but even if that's only once in a while, my dear "home church" will never be forgotten. 

Thank you, good people of Malone Baptist Church, for welcoming a brooding teenage girl with open arms and helping guide her into spiritual and physical maturity. I hope I've made you proud.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


There is a saying that cousins are the first friends you ever have. I am inclined to agree. Cousins, unlike siblings, are the relative-playmates who you don't see everyday. They're a bit more novel. For a lot of people, cousins are seen only at weddings, funerals and the occasional family reunion. They pop in and out of our lives, but we're usually very happy to see them.

I spent much of my childhood six hundred miles away from my cousins, so the times we got to spend together were uniquely special. My list of cousins is quite large. My mom is one of seven children and my father is one of four. I have cousins galore. I love them all dearly, but I've always had a special bond with the two closest to my age on my mom's side of the family, Tiffany and Stephanie. They are the daughters of my mom's younger sister, but they are both slightly older than me. From a very young age the three of us were big time buddies and partners in crime.

Even as babies, Stephanie and I knew how to rock

We had a laundry list of games and activities to take part in when we finally got together. As I've mentioned, I lived several states away from my cousins and only got to visit during the summer. However, as soon as my family pulled into my grandparents' driveway for our annual visit, my aunt was right behind us in her station wagon, ready to spirit me away for some quality time with "the girls." This usually involved Barbie dolls, water, and plenty of mischief.

Stephanie was almost always the one who came up with the really fun ideas that would inevitably get us into trouble. We played in the mud, painted the playhouse with peanut butter and brought plenty of wildlife into my aunt's kitchen.

When we weren't catching snapping turtles at my aunt's house, Tiffany, Stephanie and I were at my maternal grandparents' house jumping on the trampoline, exploring the off-limits bomb-shelter or running around the neighboring fields and woods playing The Wizard of Oz. We made ourselves sick on crab apples. We tortured the younger cousins with stories of how the train behind my grandparents' house would jump off the tracks and come down into the field to "get them." We created elaborate imaginary worlds on my grandmother's front stoop. We occasionally fought, but our quarrels were always short lived.

This was a land of untold wonders

Unfortunately, as the years passed, and despite my family moving closer, the three of us drifted apart. We got married, had babies and jobs and hectic lives. We're friends on social media, but we don't get many chances to see one another. This past weekend however, we reconnected at my aunt's house for the first time in years. The conditions were less than ideal, the result of tragedy, but there was still a feeling of joyful reunion. So much was still the same about my aunt's house: the doormat on the porch, the pictures on the wall, the feeling of warmth and welcome. I could have been ten years old, plopping down on the waterbed and rummaging through my aunt's movie library in search of The Wizard of Oz. 

Nostalgia is bittersweet. I have so many cherished memories of time spent with my beloved cousins, but those memories are usually accompanied by a little sadness over the loss of those days of innocence and wild abandon. Still, as I watched my children run around the yard with my cousins' children, I couldn't help but be happy at the completion of the circle. Cousins are not just your first friends. They are your forever friends. No amount of time or distance can change the fact that you are joined, not only by the bonds of blood and genes, but by camaraderie and love.

*Tiff and Steph, "There's no place like home."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Football vs Football

As many of my readers know, I am a die-hard football fan. In fact, if you ask the people who know me best to describe my passion for football, the word "rabid" will most likely be used. I love the game. I love screaming at my television until the neighbors complain (they don't of course; this is the South and everyone is yelling at the tv on Saturday.) I've had a passion for football since I was a young girl watching with my dad. Unfortunately, my dad and I are no longer allowed to watch together at my parents' house because we "get too carried away." Go figure.

Football, American football, has long been my go-to sport. I look forward to football season the way kids look forward to Christmas. Recently, however, I have discovered the other football. The "true" football. The game that we Yanks refer to as soccer.

I got interested during this year's World Cup. I watched a number of matches and was intrigued at the pace of the game and the skill of the players. Lately, due in large part to my Italian friend Maurizio, I've begun following Associazione Sportiva Roma (A.S. Roma or just Roma for short.)

Football players have to be in incredible shape and... wait, what was I talking about?

This type of football moves at a much more constant pace, which I really like. There are not numerous stops and starts. In American football a minute may last ten minutes with all the lining up, time-outs, moving of chains, etc. Of course, there are pros and cons to this too. Constant action means no commercial breaks, but it also means no bathroom breaks.  If you step away from the television to empty your bladder or refill your chip bowl, you're liable to miss something.

Of course the rules of the two games are vastly different. In fact, the only thing they really share in common is the name. I am still learning the rules of football (soccer.)  I've been reading and trying to give names to the plays I've seen and heard described in the matches I've watched. That's one problem I've had with following Roma. The televised matches I've watched online have mostly been in Italian, and I only speak Italian in my sleep (so my husband tells me.)  I've managed to find a few matches on British channels, but frankly sometimes I can't understand what they are saying either.

I understand the penalties and fouls in soccer, though it amuses me somewhat when the players make a dramatic spectacle of falling down. In American football, it's all about throwing down and hitting hard. Not to say that soccer players aren't tough. They play without padding after all. And if anything, they demonstrate "football" much better than American football players ever could. The things soccer players do with their feet are simply amazing: scissor kicks and all kinds of fancy offensive and defensive footwork. American football is mainly about throwing, catching, running and tackling, with a few kicks thrown in here and there to score extra points or to boot the ball to the other end of the field.
I may or may not have thought Juventus was a team of referees. 

While I don't think soccer can dethrone some good ol' SEC football in my heart, I am keenly interested in the game. I keep an eye on the scores and stats and watch matches when I can get access to them. They're exciting and dramatic to say the least. Saturdays, of course, are all about Alabama football. After all, we have games like this:

Just a warm-up, really.

Football/Soccer isn't the hard-hitting high-scoring event that American football is, but it's still a thrill to watch. It also has its own rabid fans who go nuts in the stands and scream at their televisions. It can get wild with brawls, cheap shots, and adrenaline-fueled ugliness. I think the most striking thing to me is the loyalty to and pride in one's team.  That seems to be universal. Whether it's the wearing of the team colors to support the Giallorossi, or the greetings of "Roll Tide" on game day, fan pride seems to be a driving force in both sports. Wins and losses are deeply felt by players and fans alike. They may be "just games," but they are also serious business. 

Perhaps that is the draw. A tough loss is excruciating but is later brushed off as not important. A hard-fought victory however, is memorialized in "Best-Of" reels, posters, and conversations in later years about where you were when it happened. It's gritty, it's glorious, it's football.

And Maurizio, this:

Is Alabama's version of this:

Roll Roma.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Handmaiden of Creativity

I do not believe in mere luck or coincidence. I think everything happens for a reason and has a design. It's for this reason that I felt compelled to write this post today. I had already been considering a blog post about my emotional issues and my creative therapy, when just a few moments ago an article popped up on my Facebook timeline about one man's study of the relationship between anxiety and creativity.

So here's where I get real honest.  Hi, my name is Amy and I suffer from depression and anxiety. When I say depression, I don't mean that I occasionally feel a little blue. I'm talking about the soul-sucking black hole that opens up without warning and makes me feel like everything is wrong, nothing will ever be right, and I should just save myself some heartache and drink some rat poison. That kind of depression.  As for the anxiety, that seems to be an off-shoot of the depression.  I've dealt with both since I was a teenager. From what I understand from my doctors, the parts of me that produce certain hormones are over-achievers which leads to an unfortunate chemical imbalance. My emotional problems stem from a physical condition. They are not in my head, nor beyond control.

Control though, is the issue.  I've had surgeries, had some over-achieving hormone-making bits removed, tried chemical regulators, etc. Such treatments help, for a while.  I have also tried self-medicating with mixed results. Mood-altering substances, prescribed or otherwise, can make you feel floaty and invincible, but eventually you have to come back down and the crash can be catastrophic.

The best and longest-lasting treatment that I have found is simply losing myself in a creative pursuit. My first bout with depression came when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I had no idea what was going on and my parents chalked up my moodiness to teenage angst. I wanted to die. I was miserable, listless, un-engaged. My grades suffered and I had very few friends. Then, one day during the free-writing portion of my 10th grade English class, I heard some music that inspired me. The music led to a story idea and the story idea led to months of afternoons on my front porch scribbling furiously in a spiral-bound notebook. I wrote madly, sometimes sobbing as I did. The story was terrible, but after weeks upon weeks of writing, I found I didn't feel quite so hopeless anymore. A lot of the dark feelings that I had kept bottled up inside had worked themselves out onto my tear-stained pages. It didn't matter so much that the story sucked; the process had been cathartic and I emerged on the other side of it whole.

I owe a lot to Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman

My next major struggle with depression hit many years later after the birth of my first child. Childbirth does terrible things to your hormonal balance and I suffered major postpartum depression.  I was still bogged under its effects when my son turned two. I was a single mom, living with my parents, with no job and no means of supporting myself. I was largely isolated and at the time I didn't drive at all. I began to see a therapist, who wisely suggested I get involved in a local community theatre group as a means to meet people and refocus my emotions. I auditioned for a summer musical, landed a lead role, and proceeded to once again pour out all the negative emotions I had been dealing with. It was exhausting, but I dragged out all the dark thoughts and ugly feelings and tossed them onto the stage and left them there.

In 2002 I played Maria in a summer production of The Sound of Music.

Fast-forward twelve years and another physical change has resulted in more chemical imbalance. I have moments of intense anxiety and days when I spiral down into the darkness of depression. Through it all my husband has been supportive and comforting, talking me through panic attacks and bringing me gelato on the black days. I know though, that I have to work through the emotional roller-coaster. It's hard, but beneficial for me to keep writing, singing, sketching, photographing, etc. in order to be well. Creative pursuits have always been healing for me. They aren't just distractions. When I'm creatively engaged, I can take the sadness, fear, pain and use them as tools. They become my paints, my pen, my words. That's a large part of the reason I am writing this post. Today has been a difficult day emotionally. I know it all originates in the chemicals in my body, but there are external triggers that are often difficult to recognize and avoid. 

I hope that in sharing this I can help someone dealing with these issues. Emotional problems seem to go hand-in-hand with Art. If you are a creative, you likely suffer from depression, anxiety or some other emotional disorder, though no one knows why. Perhaps it is that people who suffer from emotional problems are given Art as a means of coping and as a way to balance the effects of such disorders. I think of Vincent Van Gogh madly slapping paint on his canvases day after day and I'm reminded of myself, hurriedly scribbling words on a page until my hands cramped. Perhaps I've been given Art as a Medicine to my Madness. I may be another fou roux, but hopefully something beautiful will come out of it.  

Even if Art isn't your forte, you can take advantage of its benefits. Coloring, yes coloring with crayons or colored pencils, has been shown to aid in stress relief. I recently printed out some coloring pages, put on some relaxing music and added some color to this:

Yes, it's Vincent's bedroom...with my own touches.

It was incredibly therapeutic and it brought me through a rough spell of near-crippling anxiety. I don't wish for my emotional issues to become my identity. I am not just a depressed and anxious person. I am a writer who is working through her demons, and I'm doing it with the most powerful drug I know: ART.