Surrender 19: Celebration at El Vaquero

I had a birthday ten days ago, a quiet one spent mostly at home, doing things that I enjoy. The weather was cold and snowy and my family scattered so it was the perfect way to spend the day. Greg and the kids made arrangements for all of us to get together this evening, for a late celebration, at one of my favorite restaurants, El Vaquero. Greg, Elissa, Josh, Dayan, Jonathan, Nathanael, Megan, Adriel and Nate were present.  We missed the three younger grandkids, Joey, Oliver and Aubrey.  


It wasn’t a difficult choice at all to surrender to a family celebration. Nothing brings me greater joy than spending time with my family. What I had to let go of was my concern over the wintry weather that moved into the area late this afternoon. Freezing drizzle was creating slick roads. I gave my adult children the option of rescheduling, especially since two of them live in towns outside of Joplin. But they insisted. The Mother in me cautioned, “Please drive carefully!” The surrendered woman and fun Mom/Yaya in me said “Let’s do it!” 
 Left side of the table: Josh, Nate, Adriel, Elissa

 Right side of the table: Nathanael, Megan, Greg, Dayan, Jonathan

I’m so grateful that the kids remained determined to get together. Apparently other diners stayed home this evening because of the weather. The restaurant was almost empty. Which meant no one minded a large group of chatting, laughing people. Because when we are together, we laugh, a great deal. There are stories to share, pictures on phones to pass around, news to catch up on. I enjoyed sitting back and watching them, my children and their sweethearts, my grandchildren, as they interacted easily with one another with affection and humor. 

I couldn’t be more proud of each of them, or more blessed. And the Mother in me was thankful for each “made it safely home” text. Happy birthday, again, to me! 


Journey 16: Family Friday

family dinner quote

If I described today’s journey in one word, it would be FAMILY. A week ago today, I had a birthday. I got to see a few family members throughout that day and Greg and I enjoyed Keltic Knot at the Woodshed in Carthage, a real treat for me. With the varied schedules among my adult children and their kids, it was a whole week before we could gather for a meal. Today was a Family Friday.

I spent a portion of the day with two family members who are very dear to me. Harry and I accomplished so much today and enjoyed chatting in between our many errands. Those interesting talks in the car as we drove to various appointments were priceless. Such an amazing young man. I got to love on Jeff too, giving him a hug and sharing lunch together. Jeff is a sweetheart. A grown man with a boy’s heart and enthusiasm, his way of looking at life and enjoying the moment teaches me to do the same. When Harry and I returned late this afternoon from our last appointment, Jeff greeted us and wanted to know where we had been. I loved how he studied us, determining whether we had been off having fun without him, even after Harry assured him we had NOT been having fun. Harry is so compassionate and so very good with his uncle. Watching them together warms my heart.

family dinner Jeff, Mindy and Harry

Because I failed to snap a pic this afternoon, “borrowing” one of Mindy’s fb pics.           
Harry, Jeff, Mindy

This evening I joined all of my children and all of my grandchildren for dinner at El Vaquero on Main Street in Joplin. This is a rare enough occurrence, having everyone present, that it qualifies as a high celebration! Greg, my mom and stepdad, and my sister Linda made us a lively party of 16. That created a bit of a dilemma for the staff at my favorite Mexican food restaurant as they sought to seat us. They found two oversized booths close together and we divided up. Greg joined the adult children and their spouses and significant other, and I gathered the grandchildren to me, along with Linda, Mom and Walter. We declared our table the fun table, and indeed, it was! (Although hearing laughter ringing out from table 2, I did peek over and they appeared to be having a grand time as well!)

family dinner side one

family dinner side two

Table One: Jonathan, Joey, Cindy, Aubrey, Linda

Walter, Mom, Dayan, Oliver

I have five grandchildren, ages 15, 9, 8, 7, and 6. Dayan, Jonathan, Joey, Oliver and Aubrey, who is the youngest, and the only girl. They are each unique and gifted and precious in their own ways and I enjoyed talking to all of them and listening to their stories. Dayan could easily have joined the adult table, but I’m so glad he sat with us. The conversation was animated, and not just because of the kids. Linda and Mom joined right in. Poor Walter rarely got a word in, but he smiled and he won the cool hat award.  And I learned a new tech tip. Dayan taught me how to use the pano button in my iPhone for taking wide angle pictures.

I am so grateful for my family. Grateful for Harry and Jeff. Grateful for Elissa, Josh, Dayan and Jonathan….Nathanael, Megan, Joey, Oliver and Aubrey…Adriel and Nate. Grateful for Greg, Mom, Walter and Linda. Each juggled their schedule around or made some effort to be present with me today and this evening. I couldn’t ask for a better family. I couldn’t feel more loved!

family dinner table two side one e

family dinner table two side two

Table Two: Greg, Elissa, Adriel, Nate

Josh, Megan, Nathanael

Day 202: Mexican Flag at El Vaquero

El Vaquero exterior e

Tonight I had to be adaptable. Work continued unexpectedly late and when I finished just as the sun was setting, I knew I couldn’t do my planned first, which was to take place outside. No worries! Greg took me to El Vaquero for a late dinner. For my first today, I tried a new dish at this favorite Mexican restaurant.

I have been so happy to have El Vaquero back after the tornado. It is located conveniently close at 2412 S. Main Street. They reopened bigger and better than before, just down the street from the previous location. I either don’t correctly remember their prior menu, or they greatly expanded their offerings. There is a wide variety of delicious dishes to choose from. And if I don’t feel like Mexican food, El Vaquero has salmon, steak, chicken and shrimp dishes to choose from. I am never disappointed with my meal here.

El Vaquero Mexican flag dinner e

Tonight, I perused the menu, looking for something I have never eaten before here. I tend to go with one of three different entrées. I considered the vegetarian quesadilla but decided to save that for another time. Then I saw the Mexican Flag dish. The entrée included a beef enchilada with chili con carne, a cheese enchilada with queso and a chicken enchilada with green chile sauce. Served side by side, the three enchiladas create the colors of the Mexican Flag. That sounded fun.

The dish was attractive to look and it was, as I expected, extremely tasty. I also enjoyed the thin crispy tortilla chips and slightly spice salsa. Being so late, the restaurant was not crowded and it felt so good to have a leisurely meal. Our waiter was attentive. He is one of my favorites at El Vaquero. I don’t know his name, but I will remedy that next time I am in. He is very sincere and friendly and he has the sweetest smile.

Not a bad switch at all, for my first today. Sometimes the challenge isn’t finding a first, but being prepared to shift, happily, to plan B or even plan C. It’s all good. It’s all part of being in the flow. Olé!

El Vaquero interior e


Day 20: Lunch at the New El Vaquero


When the May 22, 2011 tornado churned through Joplin, thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. El Vaquero, then located at 21st and S. Main Street, was one of the restaurants obliterated. It has taken time for my community to recover and we are not finished yet. Slowly, steadily, homes and businesses have been rebuilt. New companies and restaurants have appeared in the tornado zone along with the return of old favorites.

This past week, 32 months after that horrific storm closed its doors, El Vaquero opened in a new building, a few blocks south of the original location. I looked forward to having lunch there today, as my first. Not just because the food was always great, prices low, and service friendly.  I wanted to welcome El Vaquero back to the neighborhood, back to Joplin. Every comeback by a fallen business or restaurant is a triumph over the destruction that threatened to define what Joplin would become. Every “Now Open” sign is an opportunity to celebrate rising from the ashes and overcoming obstacles and LIFE itself.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who was glad to see this popular Mexican food establishment open again. The parking lot was so full the first time I swung by that I ran a few errands and came back a little later. The interior was bright, spacious and beautifully done. The food was excellent and the servers friendly. It was a delightful lunch.

Driving away, I noticed a sign on a nearby business that read, “Welcome back El Vaquero. Smells great.” What a happy sentiment! Welcome back, indeed.