Friday, June 6, 2014

All Our Chips to the Middle in 2005

Let's take it back to January 4, 2000.  That's when our first Pope Panther was born.  On October 20, 2001, our second Pope Panther was born.  And tonight, at 6th grade graduation, the course we set with full vigor on August of 2005, will be complete.

Kindergarten Sneak-A-Peak, August 2005

Then, in January of 2000, we lived in a different area of Arlington.  In fact, in our girls' first 5 years we relocated across the state -- twice.  We lived in Fort Worth a while, and a most crucial part of the girls rearing was imminent: education.

We heard of Pope Elementary.

We visited the school, and there was an immediate confirmation we wanted our girls to enter those hallways we know so well (now), and begin their formal education.

Problem, though, we lived in Fort Worth...

To use a sports euphemism lightly, Idaly and I put ALL our chips in the middle, and even many chips we didn't have.  As I was explaining to my brother the other day, we were looking for a zip code, not a walk-in-closet.  And, with the Lord's help and our unrelenting pursuit to be the best parents we can be, many things fell in place.

There was a home on Ravinia Circle, which we got for $5,000 less than a cash offer from a man in California.  The catch? We appealed to its one and only owner, saying we had two ballerinas, who needed to go to Pope.

There was a realtor, who showed up in a motorcycle, cut-off shirt and looked and smelled like he'd been digging ditches all day.  Well, he had, as it were.  He remodels homes, too.  We did a quick walk-through and said, "we want it."

There was a loan officer who pulled all strings available to give us a second mortgage.  Remember, we still had our home in Fort Worth.

There were our parents, who supported us financially, emotionally and every which way.

All this happened in June of 2005.  All at once, all for Pope.

Thinking back on it, I cringe at the thought of all that was risked.  I remember sleepless nights, when we weren't sure how we would handle it all.

Today, as Aytana walks across that stage to finish sixth grade, none of the above matters, and yet it all matters incredibly.  It's done.  Our girls have thrived as students, musicians, athletes, citizens of Pope, and if there is ever a more perfect opportunity to risk it all, I can't imagine what it will be.

Pope Elementary change our lives.  It has given our girls one of the most solid foundations as they move on to junior high and high school.  Idaly and I have given a lot of our time and resources to Pope, and we'd do it again and again and again.

Pope family, thank you.  Thank you faculty.  Thank you staff.

Simply, than you.

I'm not a fan of long good-byes, and, well, Idaly is a Pope staff member now.  We, she and I, "ain't" going no where.  But, I cannot forget to take a moment to thank our Pope family for what you have done for us, for our girls.

"What is once well done is done forever."
 ~ Henry David Thoreau

All of our love,

Javier and Idaly Najera
May 2014


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Winner, Winner, Winner, Loser, Chicken Dinner. Wait, What?

It's not unusual for local sports fans to jump on the proverbial bandwagon when teams are winning, and especially when they make playoff tournaments.  Nobody likes to mull through the grind of losing teams, unless, of course, you are a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Jerry Jones has mastered the art of making the Dallas Cowboys an exception to all conventional sports wisdom.  It's been said by me that winning, certainly winning another Super Bowl, is really not a priority for Mr. Jones.  Why would it be?  The Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in the NFL.  The house they play in includes a $14 million mirror, Victoria Secret retail shop, endless private suites, a gigantic HD TV, and, oh yeah, a football field.  Most of the above is why I miss this place so much.  Old, smelly and way out of date, it was nothing else but a football field.  So, I thought I'd make the case -- again.

Last night I was enjoying the birthday celebration of Laura Parades at a local establishment.  The band, which played anthems of decades past (the decades that included long hair), introduced a song this way (and I'm taking paraphrase-ical liberties with it):

"You all know last Wednesday the Dallas Stars won, tying the Series at 2.  The Dallas Mavericks won, tying the Series at 1.  And, the Texas Rangers completed a sweep of the Oakland A's."

     (that should have been enough of an intro, but...)

"Aren't you glad it's not football season?  Here's this song for Mr. Jones' Dallas Cowboys.!!"

I can't begin to tell you what song they played.  I didn't recognize it.  My mind had long ventured in to this thought I'm writing about today.  But, I am positive there was no need to mention the Cowboys.

The Dallas Stars, our local NHL team, is in the hunt for Lord Stanley's Cup.  I'm not a hockey fan, but will keep up with the Stars during their run.  That makes me a bandwagon-rider of sorts, but I have never been able to learn to appreciate hockey.  However, they won Game Three, 3-0, and Game Four, 4-2, last Wednesday.  Both very convincing wins, on their run to greatness.  Most importantly, though, they tied the Series, 2-all.

The Dallas Mavericks tied the Series at 1-all.  They didn't just tie the Series against the hated San Antonio Spurs, they beat them up, 113-92!  This is a Series in which no one thought the Mavericks would win one, certainly not an away-game.  I'm more of a basketball fan, and this was definitely and exciting result.      

I am a baseball fan, and Martin Perez hurled a gem on Wednesday.  He pitched 9 scoreless innings, on his way to a Texas Rangers sweep of the Oakland A's, to give the Rangers first place in the West and best record in the AL.  This is the beginning of baseball, but this sweep and Martin's performance will be huge at the end of baseball.   

So, if you want to know -- again -- why the Dallas Cowboys continue to dominate the Chicken Fried Nation, i.e., "North Texas" sports scene, all you have to do is notice the little things.  In spite of heroics happening on ice, hardwood floors and baseball diamonds, the punch line to the drummer's pitch last night was about Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys.

Love him or hate him, he is always there, and so is the silver and blue.

That, and Texas sports fans are rabid, madly passionate football fans.

The party was great, with great friends.

Viva la sports!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Phones Blew Up

The initial intention was a simple re-animation of Game Six of the 2011 World Series.  So, I tagged my some of my fellow compadres regarding that day in a group text message.  I included my brother in El Paso.  This was right before first pitch this Friday last, as the Texas Rangers visited Busch Stadium for the first time since the 2011 Fall Classic.

Well, the thread continued for the hours that netted a W for the Rangers -- yes -- at the hands of Nelly Cruz, who drove in the decisive two runs in the 9th.  In short, my brother and I "blew up" this thread with animated (at times too colorful) conversation reminiscing what we felt in Game 6.

October 27, 2011

There was a place called, Woody's.  There was a scheduled meeting at Woody's, but mostly there was a Game 6.  All the superstition and lore regarding baseball was in place by Yours Truly.  When the meeting adjourned, we focused all attention to the flat screen. 

Just a year before, Game Six of the 2010 ALCS was completed by Neftali Feliz.  A-Rod was caught looking at the last strike, which sent the Texas Rangers to their first World Series in franchise history.  I cannot deny I stormed to a nearby corner of the ballpark.  With one of my flags in hand, I was able to be part of the celebration, as fans were slowly making their way out.  Arlington was electric that night.    

Fast forward to our evening at Woody's.  Ear buds broadcasting Nadel's radio call in my ears (I always have the radio on for baseball). 

I won't relive the entire grueling, but fascinating game.  That's plastered all over the Internet.  But, after Beltre and Cruz hit back-to-back HRs, to give Feliz a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the 9th, and with one strike away from winning the 2011 Fall Classic, Freese, like Aaron "Bleeping" Boone did the Red Sox in 2003, put a ball out of Cruz's reach in RF.  The commentary of why and how he missed that ball has been discussed ad nauseum.  Nelly was compared to Buckner.  Yes, Knight turned third and scored in 1986 for the Mets from a routine ground ball missed by Bucker at first.  Yes, Freese turned this ball into a triple and tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Extra innings.  When Josh "This Isn't a Baseball Town" Hamilton put a different ball in the RF bleachers in the very next inning, I left the contingency at Woody's, and went home to my ladies.  We were sure the ghosts of baseball had left the Rangers dugout.  This.  Had.  To.  Be.  The.  Moment.

Feldman replaced Feliz, and also had one strike left for all the marbles.  Freese, however, had other ideas.  The St. Louis area native put that pitch in the center field grassy area over the wall, and Joe Buck in a very timely manner said, "We will see you...tomorrow."  I'm not a fan of Buck, but he nailed that call for baseball fans.

I knew it was over.  I didn't even watch Game 7.  I know, "What kind of fan are you?" 

The emotional toil from Game 6 was enough for me.  I couldn't watch Game 7. 

So, today, on this beautiful Sunday in Arlington, the Rangers find themselves at the cusp of sweeping the top-ranked Cardinals at Busch stadium.  Nelly's RBI on Friday made us feel a lot better about that fly ball. 

What this series means this season, who knows?  There's still a lot of baseball to play. 

Ooooh, but if feels so good! 

Where were you in Game Six?



Monday, June 17, 2013

The Case of the Tooth Fairy

**On advise of counsel, and because part of my sentence did include a probationary period to abstain from speaking of this event, I caution you of this:  If the Tooth Fairy still visits your home, please be weary of who reads this story...

 Aytana Najera, plaintiff


Javier E. Najera, defendant

Ordinarily, a Tooth Fairy visit is mostly a private family matter.  It brings joy in the way of money to the loser of the tooth, and memories for parents who see their children grow and mature, unless of course the Tooth Fairy failed to leave the ransom under the pillow.

I was served with a lawsuit from my youngest, Aytana, when such an oversight occurred.  I was accused of usurping the Tooth Fairy on two different counts, 1. By placing the money under the pillow myself to cover for Tooth Fairy, who seemingly had better things to do, or 2. By actually being the Tooth Fairy myself and flat out lying of its existence.

Exhibit A.  Aytana is questioning her first witness, which actually should be the other way around, 'cause if memory serves, Itzayana  was her attorney.  The Honorable Lizbeth Moreno presided, while the court decorum did not mind Antonio wearing shorts.  The doggy?  Well, it is after all family court, and if one can wear shorts to court, then surely a canine spectator is OK.

Yes, mom and grandma were sworn-in witnesses to the case at hand.  Don't mind the casual dress of the court bailiff.

Preparedness was key to this case. 

Judge Lizbeth on the bench.

Straight out of court reporting school.
Evidence presented was very weak on my behalf, and technology was not cooperating. 

Though the judge found in favor of the plaintiff Aytana, mock family court was a lot of fun!

So, you see, on hot summer afternoon in 2010, on the way to the first Rangers pennant, the case of the Tooth Fairy was resolved in the eyes of justice.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

El Gato, 1930 - 2013

Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico -- Don Pedro "El Gato" Aguirre, 82, died peacefully at his home.  He loved three things: Baseball, his family and baseball.  Don Pedro “El Gato” Aguirre, a most outstanding citizen, a longtime veteran of his city’s police force passed away the 13th day of March, 2013, shortly after the white smoked was seen in Rome.

Mass of Christian Burial  was held at 7 a.m. last Friday at Casa de Jesus de Cuidad Juarez, where he was also in state on Thursday.  Interment followed on Friday at Recinto de la Oracion.  Family and the Sisters offered several rosaries and prayers for him.

What we never know about death is the day or the hour.  The faith of the Christian believer should give us – his survivors – peace that our loved one is now in the presence of God, free of imperfection, free of suffering and free of mortality.

If it could only be that simple.

For some, this fateful day comes only as the result of many, many years of suffering and pain.  For El Gato, it came with Alzhiemer’s and more than 12 years of steady decline, until the illness took with it every ounce of his being.

They are years and years my grandmother, mother and aunts toiled with day after day, giving him the care he needed. 

He is my maternal grandfather, but he made it clear he never wanted to be called, “grandpa” or “abuelo”.  He didn’t like the sound of that word, and in many ways, my childhood is filled with countless memories with him -- more as a friend -- than a grandson. 

Most importantly, he was a prominent member of the city’s baseball lore, inducted into Ciudad Juarez Hall of Fame some years ago.  He played when “peloteros” kept their athletic build with hot dogs and beer.  He played when salaries in baseball were nothing, and being part of the magical game was truly for love of the game.  The likes of Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson covered the airwaves in Major League Baseball in that era, but in his world the name "El Gato" made constant headlines as the city’s best catcher and clean-up hitter.

El Gato suffered a career ending injury during his playing years as a catcher, which led him to a 30-year career as a police officer.  However, during that time, baseball was never far away.  As he was enfrocing the law on the streets, he was also making his name known as an umpire on the weekends.  The blue uniform suited him well.  He was part of the umpire corps, who protected themselves from pitches with a large foam shield behind home plate.  God help those who disputed a call with El Gato!  He would become the president of the umpires association for the city.

He gave us many memories, memories riding in that brown four-door Ford LTD always on the way to a bullfight or a ballgame with the 1911 .45 under the seat.  His influence in the city was such that we never paid at any gate.  We always had choice seats, and it seemed everybody in town knew, El Gato.

He is one of the last from The Greatest Generation in my life.  He exemplified dedication, character, and a no-nonsense way of doing things, which has left a permanent impression to those of us who remain behind. 

The last time he recognized us was in 2001.  I can’t say when he stopped understanding baseball, but I sincerely hope it has come back to life for him in some way, somewhere.

He will be able to enjoy Opening Day in 2013 from the best seats in the house.  

He was preceded in death by his daughter, Martha Aguirre Felix in 1983.

He is survived by his wife, Amalia Aguirre Guevara; daughters, Agustina Aguirre Najera and husband Jose, Sister Aurora Aguirre and Dora Aguirre; grandchildren, Javier E. Najera and wife, Idaly, Jorge L. Najera and wife, Minerva and Monica Najera-Tellez and husband, Andy; great-grandchildren, Itzayana and Aytana Najera, Israel and Galilea Najera, and Ilianna Hernandez; and a host of extended family and friends.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fireman Saves Our Vacation

**The following letter was sent to the fire chief of San Antonio.  We don't often acknowledge small acts of kindness, but in our case, a certain fireman in San Antonio made a huge difference at the end of our vacation.  It's a moment the girls and I will never forget.  I scanned the note left to us.  It'll make sense once you read the letter.


8 August 2012

Chief Hood,

We don’t always take the time to thank our heroes.  Often only great tragedies summon the courage and need to thank those who run towards danger to save those who run from it. 

Sometimes little acts of kindness make huge differences in the lives of others.  Our story is about how our vacation was saved.  It didn’t involve grave danger to our lives.  In fact, it was about a pile of plastic, glass and wires.  Amongst that finely tuned pile of replaceable items, however, was a priceless set of photographs. 

We had the opportunity for a vacation on the coast, visiting the beach at Padre Island and capping it off with a great two-day stay in San Antonio.  The vacation ended with a great lunch on the market on, Tuesday, August 7, and a stop was planned in San Marcos for a little back-to-school shopping.

In an instant of carelessness I went to the car for our checkbook, and somehow let our camera kit -- contained in a bag -- slip out and on the parking lot.  The boogie boards we used on the beach, which I kept fighting the entire trip to stay in car, where safe inside.  Somehow, though, I never saw the camera slip out.  I proceeded to the store and check out.  We headed back to the car.

As we loaded our bags with new purchases, I immediately noticed the camera bag was missing.  Panic rang through our bodies, and we literally yanked all our belongings onto the parking lot.  Tears began to flow down my wife and girls, and as much as I retraced our steps back in San Antonio (not even thinking it slipped out when I grabbed the check book), nothing but total defeat overwhelmed us.  We would only remember losing our camera, complete with some 400 pictures, on this great trip.

Cameras are replaceable.  Pictures? Priceless.  Our loss was most assuredly, some one else’s gain.

However, on this hot afternoon in San Marcos, and after my careless fumbling of boogie boards and checkbook, Eli was the man (we candidly call him fireman Eli at home now).  I’m still not sure if he saw it or his son, but divine intervention was meant to be.  The percentage of us ever seeing our camera again was so miniscule, except…

Eli placed it in his vehicle safely, and took the time to write a note on my windshield.

I’ll never forget the moment when all hope was lost, and I started to circle the car so the girls wouldn’t see how upset I was at myself.  I was sure I had left that camera in the last parking lot in San Antonio.  Then, I spotted a piece of paper on the windshield, which asked, “ If you have lost something, call this cell number and describe it.” 

Eli and his son came out.  They gave us the camera, and we gave them the most inadequate “thank you” probably in the history of thanking somebody.  At the moment we met them in that parking lot, we had a combination of emotional defeat and shock, that somebody would, not only return our camera, but also take the time to write a note and make sure we described it correctly, so they had the right owners.

Eli’s decision to rescue our camera saved our vacation.  There’s no doubt about it.  The trip back to Arlington and our home would have been very, very long and sad, had he not taken the time to do the right thing. 

It was a teaching moment of our kids, we have both agreed.  It was a moment in time, which reminded us of the goodness in people, in spite of all the bad we hear about.  Eli could have had no reason to do what he did, except that he did.  He brought his son with him to return our camera, so that he knows doing the right thing is the right thing. 

We will never forget that afternoon.

The City of San Antonio has a man of great character guarding its dangers.  I can’t express to you how much this small act of kindness meant to us.  Firemen were always my heroes as a kid.  They most certainly still are.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Count is 2-0 (Technically, 3-0)

**The thought of publishing pictures of the victims crossed my mind. I do have them, however, I didn't want to "offend" anyone. If anyone actually reads this and offers any comments, I might re-think the crime scene pictures.

So, I thought I'd pen this tale (Do we still say that? Is "penning" kosher, since there is literally no pen involved?)

The strangest thing about the dead squirrel saga is how many people -- I learned -- admitted sort of letting the smell "take its course". It'll go away in a week or so, some told me.

Maybe. Maybe if I was a single dude, I could stay with a good friend and let the decomposition take its course. Remember folks, my world revolves women. And, my women, dog and I just could not bear the putrid stench.

(As a side note, I did go squirrel hunting circa 1994ish. A certain reader in my facebook list might remember that. It was at his house, and the decomposition on that squirrel was far more advanced than what happened at my house.)

The first hunt (though technically it was not a hunt at all. The squirrels were already dead. It was more like a search) was really inconsequential. I woke up early one Sunday morning, Father's Day, and went squirrel hunting. I started in the attic, which is not much of an attic. We have a ranch and there's only crawl space up there and 50-year-old insulation. And, not much of that, I found out!

Everyone agreed the stench was coming from somewhere near the dishwasher. So, I pulled the machine the women in my life NEVER use, hoping the poor little squirrel was belly up right behind it.

It was not. I mean, I don't know why I thought that would be the case, since there is no way for a squirrel to get behind the dishwasher, to be perfectly honest.

I guess I just hoped for an early Pop Day's gift.

I did, however, unscrew the outlet cover to the power source for the dishwasher, and the smell intensified. Bingo! I thought. The poor squirrel fell from the attic, down the interior wall (which I've learned -- the interior walls -- are never insulated), all the way down the bottom. And, that's where it lived its last hours.

One perfectly square hole in the drywall allowed me to stick a mirror in and see the fur about 5 inches away. I had a moment of silence and put on some latex gloves. With a long pair of pliers I grabbed the tail and pulled it out.

With my finest I-read-every-Patricia Cornwell-novel intuition, I tagged this rather large squirrel at about 3 days in necropolis.

I took a picture, showered and was at the office before 11 a.m. Happy Father's Day to me. And though some of the ladies still complained the smell lingered that evening, I knew it was fixed. I thought about a celebratory toast, but I don't drink that early and had to work anyway.


The smell came back about a week later. Squirrel hunt #2, or really, #3.

This time, the unequivocal scent came from the general are of the pantry/oven. Same intensity. Same displeased looks from the women.

(Insert selfish plug here) >> It was very convenient Idaly joined this at this juncture!

The fact that the furnace blast of summer came rather early this year didn't help at all.

The first hunt went so well, I didn't start the second hunt until about 2 p.m. on a Tuesday, "my day off." That's about the time the heat starts to make you hallucinate. Perfect time to go in an attic, right?

I'm not even going to lie. The first thing I did for this hunt was pop an ice-cold bottle of liquid bread, the light version.

Because sometimes pictures are much more powerful than words, the next picture will say (without saying) where I was 6 hours and a few cold liquid breads into the hunt...

It doesn't look like a huge mess, but that is my garage wall, the one on the other side of the kitchen. I guess the good news is the ten holes are in the garage, and not the kitchen.

Squirrel, though? No where to be found.

Cussed -- yes. But, only in my mind, since the girls were within an earshot. I did throw and punch some things. Absolutely.

The eleventh hour was rolling around for me (9ish p.m). I had to be at the office early and was about to give up when I had a thought.

The squirrel could have fallen in the interior wall, which divides the oven from the pantry. So, I went fishing. In the attic, which must have been about 190° by then.

I applied some duct tape backwards (sticky side up) to a fishing rod, and my neighbor let me have a few fish hooks. In a very weird angle in the attic (wish I had a picture of that yoga pose) I managed to get that fishing rod in that wall deep enough to feel the varmint. When I was certain that what I was poking was in fact animal tissue, I pulled up the rod (hoping the hooks would catch it). What I got was a glob of squirrel hair attached the duct tape. There was the confirmation I needed.

I didn't want to make a hole inside the house, but I was exhausted and didn't care. So, the picture here is the opening to the location where the second squirrel met its maker. Lodged in about mid-wall was a smaller squirrel, dead about the same amount of time. This hole is inside our pantry, on the other side is our oven.

The second hunt took exactly 9 hours, not counting clean-up. I was totally spent, but not dehydrated, thanks to a good supply of ice-cold refreshments.

I can't say with any degree of authority I am an expert now, but after three successful squirrel hunts/searches, why not?

Will I come help you find a dead animal within the annals of your home if you find yourself in my predicament?

I hope we never have to find out.

Plus, I want my undefeated record to stand.