“Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive, nourishing, and uplifting people. People who believe in you, encourage you to go after your dreams and applaud your victories.”        Jack Canfield

Thursday, I got the dreaded text.

“I am ill.   Here is what I know.  We went to M. Anderson in Houston for a second opinion and came back with a treatment plan.  My chemo class is tomorrow….followed by the surgeon who will put in the port.  M. Anderson is sending my biopsy of metastatic carcinoma of the pancreas to testing.  Norman, the kids and I are bearing down on my situation as best as we can.  I’m not talking right now but will keep you updated.  

I love you all, and that’s the truth”. 


Chica Maime

The family prefered to keep the health matter private but she wanted to let the Chica’s know because “There is a friend that is closer than a brother or sister” Proverbs 18:24.

The Chica’s shifted into turbo gear.  We sent cards, texts, and flowers to let our sister know we loved her and were praying for healing and strength. 

Tuesday we get a text from Chica Maime:

GM Chicas!

“Yesterday when I dragged myself home from chemo, I was greeted by your fabulous bouquet and cards.  I wept like a baby 🙂

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and beautiful words, I will hold them and you close”.  

And my last email from Chica Maime,

Chica Julie,

“Thank you for this amazing prayer.  I felt your spirit as I prayed with you.  One day at a time is all anyone has, me included.  You made yesterday and today better”. 

Love you.

Then the unexpected text:

Dear Chicas:
I am so very sorry to share the sad news that we lost Maime Thursday night….just 1 week after the start of her chemotherapy.

Chica Letty

 I fell to my knees and cried, “God, please welcome her into heaven.  Surround here with your angels and take away her pain”

Our group texts:

  • Yikes  OMG …..so quick
  • I still don’t believe it…..it all happened so fast
  • Will pray for family at mass today
  • Difficult to believe
  • She was certainly loved
  • And she loved the Chicas!
  • Sending prayers…..for her family
  • She was one class act
  • Always so humble and accepting of everyone
  • She was such a great lady and a truly wonderful friend
  • She really loved us and loved being with us.  I will never forget her beautiful smile and her engaging eyes.
  • She would want us to be happy to have been together and be a part of each other’s lives.
  • I miss her so much.  Each time I think of her I tear up because I was praying for a miracle.  She deserved it but the Lord had other plans for her.  Hard to believe she left us so suddenly….she will be a Chica Forever
  • This just reinforces the importance of our friendships and making time for each other.  We need to get together to celebrate Maimie when the first opportunity presents itself.
  • But we can’t just wait for an opportunity – we need to make it happen.
  • Let’s go Chica’s! 

We are an extraordinary group of six women who met in El Paso,Texas.  Four of us were new to the area and 2 were long time community members.  Our group began as a way to welcome the newbies to the city of El Paso.

  • Chica Letty was the leader of the group and chief instigator.  A politically savvy administrator in the College of Health Sciences as well a well connected member of the El Paso community.
  • Chica Angela – worked for the City in Cultural Affairs and now Director of Public Health in El Paso
  • Chica Joyce – was the City Manager of the City of El Paso and a veteran in city government
  • Chica Leslie – the Dean of Health Sciences at UTEP
  • Chica Maime – a former school Principal before moving to El Paso with her husband who served as the Director of Parks and Recreation.
  • And finally me, Chica Julie – the Dean of Students at UTEP 

We all lived on the WestSide of El Paso and serendipitously lived within a mile of each other.  We had regular wine tastings and potlucks at each other’s “big” houses in Texas. We went to special events, fundraisers, and even hired a limousine to take us to the Rolling Stones Concert.

Our love for El Paso, civic engagement, and UTEP brought us together.  But it was the Wine that made it all happen with magic and love.   Ironically, I grew up in California but never drank a lot of wine until I went to El Paso.  One of the Chica’s wanted to learn about Wine and began wine tasting with a distributor who eventually became our personal Sommelier.  Some of the Chica’s even went on a wine tour of Italy with him.  The Chica’s liked to eat, drink, talk politics and shop.   I remember a trip to Oaxaca to buy pottery from artists in their homes. 

We would often go to public events and swarms of people would push their way through us to rub elbows with the City Manager – we all laughed because we became nobody’s when we were with Chica Joyce

One of my favorite memories was just before the end of the year.  We gathered at Chica Letty’s home and lit candles.  We knew we were a special group and we prayed and lifted up our vision and hopes for our beloved City of El Paso.  

People envied our group and we were known throughout the City as the infamous Chica’s.  A diverse group:  Latina, Asian American, African American, and White.  Several people wanted to join our group – but we were cautiously exclusive.  There was something special about our bond and we knew it.  No jealousy, No competition and No emotional baggage!  We were relaxed in each other’s company and we could be our authentic selves without the titles.  

Our last trip before the pandemic was to Arizona because it was in close proximity to those of us who moved away.   Have you ever been on a trip with six people and when they get together – everyone gets along and doesn’t worry about the agenda.

We are strong, independent, leaders in our families, churches, communities, and careers.  Yet when we come together – there is a symmetry and an ease and flow in our group and defies logic.  Each one takes the lead and the others follow at different times.   As they say, great leaders make great followers and the weekend flowed like milk and honey.  We went swimming by the pool, sat in lounge chairs at the movies with Sangria, got pedicures, ate to our hearts content, and watched an election on the news.  

After three and a half years together in El Paso, Chica Maime moved to Virginia.  Chica Leslie moved to Arizona, and I moved around the country before ending up at home in California.  We got together on Zoom several times during the pandemic and realized that each of us have never found another group of women like the Chica’s.  We wondered why we did not come together more often.  As Chica Letty said, “It’s not like we can’t afford to fly and see each other.”   We all laughed and then created a schedule to meet twice a year.

We never got a chance to begin our annual get togethers due to COVID.   The bottom line is we didn’t make our friendship a high priority over the years and now Chica Maime is no longer with us.  But Chica Maime is sweetly telling us – It’s alright Chica’s – you can still meet each year and I will be Chica Forever with you.