Day 16: Minnie, not the mouse, but my mother in law #SOL2021 #SOLSC

Today is my mother’s in-law birthday. She would have turned 84 but last year in late August she decided to leave this world. I don’t blame her. After her 83rd birthday and in coincidence with the pandemic, her health started to deteriorate, to the point that she couldn’t live alone anymore. From that month until she died, she was always with one member of the family or friend in her house. She dreaded the idea of going to a nursing home, and Covid was not making things easier. She valued her independency, as much as she valued her children’s privacy. She never even toyed with the idea of living with one of her offspring. She enjoyed visiting them, but live with them was not her way of living.

I met my mother in law in the summer of 1991, when I visited my, at that point, boyfriend or date friend, now husband’s ranch in Montana. I remember that one of the things that struck me from the beginning was the complicity she has with her children. Very often they all gathered together and start talking ranch talk that I barely understood. One morning, four of her sons where talking to her in a very amicable circle. They were laughing, cracking jokes, while deciding what were the top chores of the day. As she did very often, she was wearing curl rollers on her hair, covered with a nice headscarf. She looked beautiful in her casual ways, and when she was ready to get out, always looked very elegant with matching earrings and necklaces that always had a story behind if you complimented them. You would think that she was the Queen of England.

If you payed close attention to her hands, though, you knew that she didn’t have a pampered life. Ranch life is non-stop. From early on as a married young woman, Minnie fed her family and the hired men, starting her days making a full big breakfast, then a main meal at noon and finally supper, including all the clean up that goes with it. As one of her nieces wrote for the funeral “having to launch into making roasts, pies, cakes and all the trimmings of a big noon meal almost as soon as breakfast was over came as quite a shock to me.”

I didn’t witness the early ranch life of graciously raising seven children with no TV or disposable diapers, but I saw her cooking and cleaning before going to work as a nurse at the local Hospital, job that she had ever since her husband died of cancer when she was 46. I witnessed in amazement her sons entering the house with muddy boots through the back entrance, and walking carelessly on top of the clean and recently placed floor rugs. And my mother in law not even flinching. I would have yelled at them, start crying, and complain like crazy. She just patiently put the rugs again in the washer, and return them clean to the floor, as the wheel of life.

Minnie visited us everywhere we were. In Chile, Maryland, Virginia, Oregon, Spain. She was an easy keeper and quiet guest. Always admiring the novelties on her trips, and saying “very interesting” when she didn’t know exactly if she really like something or not. She was polite, generous, and a wonderful mom. I can say that because I know all her children. She raised them to be kind, positive, generous, hard workers with a great laugh and awesome sense of humor.

My husband called her religiously every week, even when we were in Spain. If he managed to loosen up Minnie’s tongue, eventually he would know all the whereabouts of all the family members. He really enjoyed those phone calls and I know my mother in law really appreciate them.

She was one of the few person who still was writing handwriting letters, and had a blind faith on the postal service. One time she sent me to Chile by mail a camera I forgot in a trip to the US. This was during the 1990s. I was amazed that the camera arrived. She always sent packages for the children for Valentine’s, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween, Christmas. She made the best cookies in the world and until today people are asking for her recipes.

I had the fortune of being with her for 20 days, a month before she died. Even in her worst moments and pain, she was gracious and grateful. She is always in our thoughts and hearts, and we certainly miss her. Now, our mailbox is full of junk mail or packages with books I have ordered. With Minnie gone, the handwriting letter custom has stopped.

Minnie and us during our wedding in Chile in 1993

Day 31. My quarantine buddy #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 31st, 2020 is the last day I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge. I am sad.

As I sit in front of my white screen, I think of the past 31 days, and all the things I didn’t do, or I should have done right in terms of getting my writing done earlier or write better slices, instead of been teetering on the edge of producing whatever came to my mind at the last moment. I wish I had been more hopeful, funnier , or less mono-thematic. I caught myself censoring lots of my writing because I was gloomy or dark. I wish I had been more consistent with my comments in other slices. I wish I had followed the journey of at least one person the entire month. Instead, I just clicked randomly on the hyperlinks that were in front of me. To be fair with myself though, I really wanted to expand my horizons, and read more people, and not just get caught with the one that I already follow and like. Despite all my wishes not getting fulfilled, it’s still one challenge for the book that we will never forget, and will remain in our blogs as a testimony of a very important and literally, life changing period in the history of humanity.

I don’t want to finish the challenge without posting a slice I wanted to write since the COVID-19 crisis started, and the stay home saves lives campaign was imminent in my state.

February 14, 2020, my daughter sent to our family group chat a screenshot of my husband’s Facebook prediction about the coronavirus. We all laugh and made fun of him, to the point that he felt bad and took the post down. Still, he was really concerned that nobody was taking it seriously. A month later in the same group chat we were telling him that he was a visionary, just on the footsteps of Bill Gates.

Steve Corona virus prediction 1

Fortunately, the virus hasn’t taken any lives in our community yet. But it has in many others, so we are following the governor’s mandates of stay home saves lives very serious. The last month has been a roller coaster month and without my quarantine buddy, Steve, I wouldn’t have been able to survive.

First of all, he is the first and sometimes only one to like my slices, and even though he seldom writes me a comment on the blog, he always makes sure to tell me something in person. He is always reassuring and positive which has been crucial.

Being positive. That’s one of the thing that made me fall in love with him. His laugh, his way of seeing the positive side on things and people (despite his apocalyptic prediction a month and a half ago). Latinamericans like me (or maybe it’s just my family) have a tendency to see the dark side of things, so having him around has been a pivotal part of my growth as a person, and to certain degree his positivism has been contagious.

During this month, I was giving him hugs and words of reassurance when he saw his online business in Amazon going downhill since what he sells is considered non-essential. Like many people that have been laid off, it’s hard when they tell you that what you do for living and on top, you love to do, it’s not essential. Despite everything, he still is working alone in his warehouse, preparing his beloved Spanish hand painted ceramics and extra virgin olive oil in boxes to be ready to be shipped as soon as Amazon let him do it. He is also helping once a week in a Food Bank picking up the food that it’s distributed to people every Wednesday, and with some construction work they needed in the Food Bank facility. He donated a bunch of Olive Oil to the Food Bank, and people are really enjoying that treat.

He tried to lure me to go and help him with the packaging at his warehouse. I have done it three or four times, but the weather hasn’t contributed too much. It’s still very cold, and the last time I had such a migraine.that I am more incline to be a couch potato. Some days though at home, I feel I haven’t done anything since I just talked to people over the phone and wrote emails. I need to keep reminding my self that that’s been productive also, and my quarantine buddy knows that.

When we worked together in his warehouse we didn’t talk too much. He just gave me some instructions about what I needed to pack and he went to his computer to fulfill two or three orders and off to build some shelves for his packing materials. He put classical music and we worked for six hours shoulder to shoulder. Those days I felt such a synchronicity with him and my heart full of gratitude for having him to my side.

Now, at the end of the month of March, even though sometimes I feel like Gertrude, and want to start knitting a scarf for my husband, I can’t be luckier. My quarantine buddy has the healthy doses of listening capabilities, the strength that I need when I feel weak, and the tenderness and kindness when I am in need of a real hug. On top of that, he is a fabulous cook and we have Spanish extra virgin olive oil for life.

A couple of days before my wedding, I told my mom that marriage was like a lottery ticket. She told me: Yes, but you know if your are getting the winning ticket.

She was absolutely right.

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When Steve saw this meme, he told me that he was going to hide my knitting needles and yarn, just in case.

Day 29. Slices of music #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 29th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

Thank you to all my fellow writers for your best wishes and desires that my migraine disappears soon. Health and science are crucial to our well being, and the current events are a brutal testimony of that.

Music can’t cure Covid-19 but definitely can help us cope with quarantine. Today I saw in Instagram a 20 songs challenge, and I decided to take it. Basically, it asked you to answer 20 questions related to music . I was impressed of how each question put me in a path of remembering or making efforts to decide what to say. At the end, each question encapsulated a little story that I couldn’t convey in my Instagram’s stories.

Music itself has a story, and each piece hides behind a slice of our lives.

1. My favorite song. Heartbeats by Jose Gonzalez. Two years ago I discovered this artist, and I don’t know why I became obsess with his songs to the point that it was the artist I listened the most in Spotify in 2018.

2. A song I hate. I couldn’t find any song I really dislike to the point that I hate. The closest is #11 in this list but I actually like the song, I just dislike in what it became. Hate is a strong word and I can’t hate music.

3. A song that makes me sad. The Well-Tempered Clavier: Book 1, 1.Prelude in C Major, BWV 846 by J.S. Bach. Every time I hear this piece, I remember my mom and when she was fighting cancer. I wrote a slice about it last year.

4. A song that reminds me of someone. Buckin Up Song and Bed Intruder . These two songs are part of my kids’ childhood. When they came up, we were amazed at the creativity that people have. It was one of the first stages of something becoming viral. When I listen to them I can see my children laughing and enjoying the twist. Now these two songs are part of our family repertoire.

5. A song that makes me happy. Bicycle race by Queen. Anybody that knows me, knows that this song combines my love for biking and Queen.

6. A song that reminds me of a specific moment. Bachata rosa by Juan Luis Guerra. When I met my husband in New York, this song was en vogue. We went to the Madison Square Garden together to listen to Juan Luis Guerra. It was really fun. Everybody started to dance everywhere. We even thought of playing the song in our wedding but we couldn’t find anybody who knew or wanted to sing it. I gave Steve a cassette with all the songs and left it in his apartment. The story of what happen with that tape is another story.

7. A song that I know by heart. Alle Vogel sind shon da. I attended a school run by German nuns in Chile. We learned this song at an early age and we have to sing it every year. All my classmates, even the one that didn’t learn too much German know the song by heart.

8. A song that makes you dance. Madre tierra (Oye) by Chayanne. I didn’t know this song until I went to Spain, and I got introduced to a fun way of dancing it when the swimming pool on my town organized an Aquadance. It was hilarious. From that day on, every time I listen to the song, I stop everything and start dancing. Last September, I introduced the song, lyrics and dance movements to all my classes from 3rd to 5th grade as part of celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. It was the third or four weeks of school and the kids barely knew me. Probably they thought I was crazy.

9. A song that helps me sleep. Arroró mi niño by  Maria Lopez. I put this a little bit as a joke since I can’t sleep with music. I prefer to sleep with no sounds that distract my brain from resting. This song though is a song that my mom sang to me and I sang to my kids. While searching for it in YouTube. I learned it was featured in the soundtrack of a horror movie called The curse of La Llorona. It was not very successful as you can see in Rotten Tomatoes.

10. A song that I secretly love. Wake me up by Avicii. When Avicci took his life in 2018, I didn’t have the foggiest idea who he was, let alone knew his songs. I started to read about him, and watched a documentary about his rapid success and all the pressure he received. I usually don’t like the trendy music, but Wake me up touched me, and since then I secretly love it, especially knowing the tragedy behind his creator.

11. A song that I used to love and now I hate. Libre by Nino Bravo. This song was beautiful until the Pinochet regime in Chile took it as its unofficial anthem.

12. A song from my favorite album. Piano man by Billy Joel. I have many favorite albums but Billy Joel has a special place in my heart. I first heard Piano man in a party when I was in 8th grade and a boy invited me to dance when it was playing. Later,in 1979, when I went to Germany as an exchange student, I went to my fist pop concert in Hamburg, and it was of Billy Joel. It was an eye opener. I thought I was going to see just a guy with his piano and his harmonica. When I saw all the equipment and display, and performance that he put on, I started to understand what a real concert meant.

13. A song that I know how to play with an instrument. Los pollitos dicen. I can’t play any instrument. This is a very popular and simple Latinamerican children song that I can play barely with a flute.

14. A song that I sing in public. La Bamba by Rickie Valens. Curiously this song is universal and can be danced and sung by anybody. I sang it in an intercultural camp I attended in Thailand in 2015, where only I and a boy from Cataluña spoke Spanish. Everybody loved it. More recently I sang it in my first Karaoke appearance at the last Holiday party of my new school.

15. A song I like to listen to while driving Aria (Cantilena) of Bachianas brasileiras No.5f or Soprano and Cellos, W.389 by Heitor Villa-lobos sang by Kiri Te Kanawa. I find this Aria very inspiring. When I was in my thirties, I participated in Chile in a group that we called Cucópolis which was the fantasy city that appeared in the play The Birds by ancient Greek play writer. Aristophanes. We met to discuss things that we were passionate about. By turn we gave a lecture or explanation to the rest of the group of something that was prowling on our minds. My cousin Paula, the same of song #18 sang in a choir and was very gifted. She gave us a presentation of music and how the same piece could be interpreted very different depending of the singer or the director. One of the examples she gave was with this Aria and Kiri Te Kanawa. Since then, I love to listen to this piece, and if it’s in the car at its maximum volume, while driving in the countryside on a summer day with the windows open, the better.

16. A song from my childhood. Salta, salta pequeña langosta by Los Cinco Musicales and danced by Chilean Música libre show from the early seventies. When I was 11 or 12 this song became very famous by a TV show where a group of young people danced and dubbed the top hits. One of the girls in the group was Mera. She had very long hair and wore long socks just above the knees. It was the maximum. I just loved the show and waited anxiously every day to 6 pm to dance barefoot along with Mera.

17. A song that nobody expect I would like. Bailar by Deorro. My daughter introduced me to Deorro in January of 2018 when I needed to direct one of the act of a play by Spanish dramatist, Ramón María del Valle-Inclán. I wanted to give a modern twist to this beginning of the 20th century play. I wanted to set my scene in a Spanish discoteque, so I messaged my daughter and asked her what music could I play, and she sent me Deorro. I enjoyed so much directing the scene, and coming up with an original idea, that started to listen to Deorro more than I thought I would, until I found the perfect song for my scene, and I actually like it.

18. A song that I would like to be played in my wedding. It was already played in my weeding and it was Amazing Grace interpreted by my lovely cousin Paula Siles (in the link is a version by Ella Jenkins). She told me she wanted to sing in our wedding but she told us that she wanted to surprise us what she was going to sing. After our vows she start singing with her beautiful voice. It was magical. She also sang the Ave Maria by Schubert.

19. A song that I would like to be played in my funeral. El derecho de vicir en paz (The right to live in peace) by an ensemble of several Chilean musicians. It was inspired by Victor Jara’s original song that he composed in 1971 to protest against the Vietnam War and the US intervention. The song was widely sung during the 2019  Chilean protests that started in Oct 25, 2019. The lyrics are very powerful, and somehow are resonating all over the world. They should be sound loud and clear.

20. A song that I am currently listening. The Night we met by Lord Huron. This was the first song that Spotify started to play when I clicked on the playlist I follow, Bike Ride Tunes by Christina Waddle. I like to play this list when I work in my computer not when I bike ride. When I bike ride I like to listen to the wind, the birds, and my wheels crunching on the gravel.

MySpotifyWrapped2018 EN
My 2018 Spotify

 

Day 25. Parallel worlds #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 25th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

Today I braved the world and opened the 1,818 messages I have in my Whatsapp from my Spanish Writing group. They did for the first time the workshop online. Since some don’t feel comfortable with videos or zoom, they decided to record their stories while reading them out loud and everybody commented each other via whatsapp.

I was in a social media overload crisis when this happened last Thursday, so I ignored the messages until today. I will try not to do it again, since I was reading for 2 hours straight their messages. It’s a fun group though. They share just their own writing and challenges, and tell funny jokes. Groups like this are really appreciated when you are in a very strict lockdown with very limited physical activities. One of the writing challenges that I read they shared was to write something alternating what they like with what they don’t. I decided to give it a try to it today. Very rough. Very difficult.


Parallel worlds

Open the door of my home after a long day at work
get my running shoes on
watch my dog get berserk
Smell the humid dirt that my body spews with its weight.

The lid of the toilet upright
my underwear lying on the floor chewed by Buck
Leaders and celebrities testing their nose
while doctors and nurses are dying because of a lack of those

My dad’s never ending stories
your laugh filling the room
my books spread on the floor
touching the mountains from my window

The permanent stone in my chest
My contained anger that can cut our silence
a dirty car, fleas in a bed,
greediness in somebody I should respect

Your hands preparing food, a coffee or cutting wood
your eyes that can see beyond my anxiety
when you tell me te quiero in Spanish
I love you in English, and Spanish and English

Undone dishes pilled up in the kitchen
running out of milk
stepping on pee with bare feet
or poop in my hiking shoes

My daughter’s care, good humor and sense
my son’s calm voice; his quick responses to a mother’s cry
their projects, their dreams, their good disposition
when they answer my messages, my phones calls, or read my nonsenses in this blog

When the internet is gone
When I lose my work due to a storm
When we can’t hug or kiss at night
When we are confined and can’t meet

The metric system allows me to embrace the world with logic
use fractions,percentages, and measures with sense
the water in all its forms falling in my skin and my tongue
pedaling on gravel, a single track trail, being lost in time

Feet, gallons, pints, pounds, inches, Fahrenheit degrees
how can you assess, visualize with such undependable variables
my feet is 41 or 42,  10 or 11, and I can’t find shoes or pants that fit me
the only thing I can handle are miles especially when lead to the ocean

Love, compassion, justice, fairness,
biking, writing, reading, swimming
peace, health, resilience, kindness
your hand with my hand, together.

Day 24. The unsent letter #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 24th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

I just found a letter I meant to send to my sister-in-law for her daughter, Kathryn, who was attending a retreat in November 2017. I don´t know why I never sent it to her. I think I felt embarrassed. I was living in Spain, and I was not pivotal in her life. I am still not.

Nonetheless, today I want to make it public. I find the letter somehow more relevant now than three years ago. I am searching for answers myself, and to certain degree, I want to connect to her through the world of writing.

Dear Kathryn,

I was uploading a bunch of old photos this week, and came across of several of you, when we spent time together in either Oregon or Seattle. It was almost 10 years ago! Now, when I think about the young adult woman I met last summer, I am totally amazed and impressed. Or maybe I shouldn’t. You come from two amazing parents who have helped you to be funny, caring, strong, witty, resilient, and best of all, a good person. I am very happy for you, and your confirmation goals. Feeding the soul is as important as feeding your body. I really admire people that have strong faith and are consistent with their projects and values. Sometimes it’s not easy. You receive a lot of pressure from everybody, and the most difficult ones are from the people you love or care. Stay strong, keep up with your dreams (I like to call them projects, otherwise they stay in that unreachable realm of dreams), and always feed your spirit. You are a young and busy person, but it’s always important to find the time to get out of the roller coaster, and recollect, think, meditate, pray. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, that’s something as important as your studies, your future professional career, your job.

Dear Kathryn, I will be thinking of you when you open this humble letter that your momma will put among other more important things.

Kathryn and J.J.
Kathryn with our late dog J.J.

Kathryn and Mati
Kathryn with my daughter Matilde in 2006

Day 22. Random thoughts of a new Sunday #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 22nd, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

My day was good but long, and despite the fact I was outside, there were very few minutes in which I was not aware we are in a new reality. The highway was empty, the trails were empty, and passing through towns that were filled with tourists two weeks ago, hit me hard.

Reading guru Donalyn Miller wrote a post to launch the social distancing #bookaday challenge. In the following paragraph she eloquently expresses what’s going on with me.

I have never had so much free time to read. Too bad I don’t have the requisite attention span or emotional energy to read much right now {…} Right now, sitting still long enough to read more than a few pages makes me jumpy. I can tell that I haven’t been reading enough lately because I feel splintered a bit—a sure sign that I am too much in my head.
I’m struggling to allow myself the joy of reading.

After a long drive and a hike, I arrived home at 8:30 pm. I had supper and learned through the local news on T.V. that all state parks are closing tomorrow. My boundaries are shrinking, still, they are wide.

My daughter is on a quest of cheering up people via Instagram. She told her friends that if they answer to her story with fire she would choose “the most beautiful photo” in their feed, and publish it in her story. She ended up putting around 40 photos of people that replied, among them me.  When I replied, I wondered which photo she was going to pick from my feed since I have 954 posts. She surprised me. And made me laugh not just with the one she put of me, but with the photos she chose and the witty and funny things she wrote about her friends’ photos. Too bad you can’t see them. She surely fulfilled her quest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 21. Miss Pigeon, the doctor #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 21st, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

My dad, who had a great  imagination and a gift for storytelling created for each of his 5 children some imaginary character that he put in a magical world with our real traits and flaws. He could make up stories in a blink. When we were sick, when we were bored, when we were in the car, when we got hurt. When we were all together, like in the car, the stories were always about all of us. But if we were alone, he crafted a personalized story with our own character.

When I was a kid, I got tonsillitis frequently, and to get the penicillin fast in my system I needed to get a shot in my buttock. My mom was the one that gave us the shots, but she hated doing it, She always started to whine and complain of how horrible was to give a shot, while  holding the syringe and its needle up in front of our faces. And those needle were something.

I remember the first time I needed to get one of those shots, I freaked out. I  was crying, terrified; the more terrified, the tenser I  became; and the tenser I got, the harder my buttock became. Probably my mom and dad were very frustrated with the whole situation. I was lying sick in the bottom of a bunk bed. After several minutes of not getting anywhere and zero compromising from my part, my dad,  following a sign of desperation from my mom, climbed into the bunk bed, wiggled around to adjust his tall body on the side of the wall. He started to caress my hand, and ask me to breath like a little dog, and while I was breathing, he started to tell me a story about the little pigeon who loves to cuddle. His soft voice, his enticing story filled the room. Then, little by little, the heavy liquid entered in my system through a somehow calmed mother’s hand.

I don’t know if it was from that moment or it was already developed in my mind, but I wanted to be a doctor. Who doesn’t when you are six year old! My parents took my dream very serious, and eventually the little Pigeon character, had a profession. She was a doctor. The stories developed rapidly. Miss Pigeon committed lots of mishaps and funny mistakes as a doctor and we listen to her misadventures with delight. My character became to be la Doctora Pichona, -Miss Pigeon, the doctor.

The Christmas when I was six, I received as a present an entire doctor set. But it was not the cheap cookie cutter set that every kid probably was receiving that Christmas. It was the most complete doctor set I could imagine of. It was in a huge and personalized flowery box. Inside was a real doctor’s uniform that my mom adjusted from a white school apron that little kids wore in public schools. There were all sort of pills made of candies, placed in perfect little glass containers. It was real gauze, band aids, thermometer, tape, even a stethoscope, and a doctor mask.

Everybody was admiring my set. Aunts were congratulating my mom for her ingenuity and all the time and dedication she put into it, and she was explaining that my dad walked for hours downtown trying to find every single item. While chatting, little by little they helped me put on all my attire. The only thing missing was the mask and I would look almost like a real surgeon. I was starting to believe it, until I grabbed the mask and my aunts and uncles gathered around me cheering and saying. Yes, yes, the mask, she has to wear the mask!  I felt my mom’s hands tying the laces in the back of my head, and then dragging me to a mirror so I can see Miss Pigeon, the doctor for real.  As soon as I saw the white mask perfectly made by my mother, wrapped on my mouth, my body tensed, I gasped. An uncontrollable cry started to come out of my throat. The vision of me as a real doctor was frightening. I couldn’t breath, I didn’t like anything of it. And I could see the disappointment in my parents’s eyes. Miss Pigeon, the doctor didn’t want to be a doctor, didn’t like her best and only Christmas present.

Until now, I remember that terrifying feeling of my look. However,  I don’t know if I was crying more for the look, or for letting my parents down by not enjoying my present.


The last time I saw my father was two months before he died. I knew in all likelihood I was not going to see him alive again. I grabbed his hand, and told him for umpteenth time. Dad, I want you to know that I love you. I love you with all my heart. He looked at me with his big fragile eyes, and said with a sweet smile before falling asleep again. Lo sé mi pichona, lo sé. Yo también te quiero mucho. I know my Miss Pigeon, I know. I love you so much too.

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Pigeon by Cifruktus from Pixabay

 

Day 19. Festival of Fire #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 19th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

Spaniards love festivals and celebrations. Due to the coronavirus crisis many of these very important events have to be postponed or cancel. One of them is Las Fallas festival (or the Festival of Fire) in Valencia. The event is celebrated during the first three weeks of  March with public events all over this autonomous community. In 2016, the festival was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

We never went to Valencia much less to watch las Fallas (it´s in my bucket list) but we always were impressed to see on TV those big pieces of art on a float. People devote more than 6 months to build them and spend thousand of dollars with the hope to win one of the prizes of the best Ninots (the name of these big caricatures), and finally burn them on the day of La Cremà, March 19th.

According to the official tourism website of Valencia, the origin of las Fallas comes from the old carpenter’s tradition who, when celebrating the arrival of spring on 19th March, used to burn pieces of wood (parota) that were used to prop up their lights during the winter.
To this initial fire, people started to add old clothes and belongings to the point that the wooden structure took the shape and aspect of a human. Eventually those structures evolved to become the ninots that we know today. Soon enough the Spanish humor and irony was shown in the ninots. Many of the floats are a satire of real life, politics, religions, pop culture and many other aspects of Spanish life.

Today was the day of la Crema, that many Valencians were preparing with so much hope and care. A rite that didn’t happen. My brother sent me on Instagram a post from Alejandro Martìnez Notte (@martineznotte) telling the story of a five year old girl who was dreaming of this day the entire year. Her parents managed to celebrate la Cremá in confinement. They made a Ninot with what they found at home. They called it Coronavirus, and they burnt it today through the symbolic ritual of finishing with the obsolete, the injustice, of what is worthless, to reborn year after year from ashes. March 19th, 2020 Valencia doesn’t have Fallas. Silence. No Cremà. No music. No laughter. Just hope.

You can see the entire post with some photos and a video here.

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Here are some photos of previous Fallas by David MarkAlejandro Vidal and  chusa8 from Pixabay

 

Day 18. My brain is a white screen #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 18th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

I remember when I was a girl I taught myself to think of a white screen when I have trouble to fall asleep. For me counting sheep was very distracting. They were always rebellious sheep that didn’t jump in an orderly manner. The white screen worked for me many times if I concentrated really hard and stick with the concept of a white screen. But often, a bubble gum appeared in one corner or in the middle of the screen; sometimes was a spot of ink, or a red dot, that started to grow and grow and change shapes and become something else. I stayed awake for hours wrestling in my sleep.

Today my brain is something else, filled with images that I can’t shake it out. They have frozen my creativity,  making me feel mono-thematic, or guilty or superfluous or both if I write light fiction or about the wonderful bike ride I did today. I feel that my brain is filled with dark images and ideas, that as soon as I open the computer, turn into a white screen.

Day 17. Following the protocol #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individual

Today, March 17th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

After three days of not going into town, Pia offered her husband to do the groceries. She spent the entire afternoon hiking with their dog at the Smith Rock State Park while he was working in his warehouse. The list was not outrageous but somehow ordinary articles with one or two odd things. She opened her phone and reviewed the list that they have put together:
bran muffins
boneless chunk roast, round steak or stew meat to cut squares (this is Steve)
sour cream
egg noodles
tomatoes
onions
flour
yeast
bread
fruit
sodium hydroxide or lye, caustic soda, or pure or food-grade sodium hydroxide
coconut oil
some sort of cookies maybe waffle or Belvita Breakfast Biscuits Cranberry Orange (this is Pia).

After four stops, she managed to bring home everything but lye. It seems the entire country decided to make soap, Pia thought.

When she open the door, a soft voice came from the speakers: Welcome home, Pia. We have noticed that you were out of the premises. Please, remove your clothing and be ready for the routine screening to comply with the protocol. 

Pia puts gently on the floor the grocery bags, and undress herself nonchalantly. Please, hold your arms up and be ready to follow disinfection.

A soft mist sprays from the ceiling covering her entire figure. For two minutes she stays still while the voice count. Finally, it says. You are cleared and may get dress. She grabs her clothes and place them in the laundry basket, and walk to her room to look for her pajama. She kisses her husband, and together they start unloading the bags while telling each other their day.


New selfie
Three monkey faces: Pia & Buck at Smith Rock State Park with the rock monkey face

 

Day 16. Dead but with my hair done #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individual

Today, March 16th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

Today, I talked in the morning with two of my friends in Spain via video Whatsapp. Maria, my former writing workshop leader was confined in her house with her children 14 and 18. She lives in a town of 7,500 inhabitants located 15 miles northwest of Sevilla. We brainstormed of having one of her Thursday writing workshops via Zoom or Google Hangout. We tried both, but we were worried that some members were not going to be able to quickly figure out how to connect with these tools. Whatsapp is one app that everybody masters in Spain. Probably, we will be end up sending audios with our stories read by ourselves in our group chat. People will listen to them at their leisure. They also have a drive folder where we can upload the stories.

We talked about the situation of the covid19 here and Spain and what we were up to. We even gave each other a tour of our houses. We laughed since we sounded like real estate agents trying to convince the other to buy their home. We even showed each other our bathrooms! That was the maximum expression of confinement boredom. On the other hand it was so nice to be have the time to do that. No rush, no sorry I can´t answer, I have to go, I have to work.   

I was impressed about how strict was the confinement in Spain. Police could fine people if they didn´t have a real excuse to be on the street. Andaluces are gregarious people. I can imagine that´s very difficult for them to be isolated, and unable to go to their favorite family restaurant for breakfast.

She told me that to go outside they have to do it alone. Forget the buddy system. The only exception is if they were helping a disable person. They can only go outside if they need to go to the supermarket, the tobacco store (Spaniards are heavy smokers, and not having cigarettes might be very unnerving during confinement), the pharmacy, taking somebody to the health center or going to the hairdresser. Yes, you read correctly, the hairdresser!

After María, I talked for two hours to my  Chilean friend, José. We videochat via Whatsapp also. I caught him at my noon, his 9 pm. He was having supper all alone in a house with ten rooms and six bathrooms in the middle of downtown Sevilla. It´s an old house whose owners rent to scholars and college students. Since all the other tenants were Americans who flee home, the house was empty. José is a PhD student at the Scuola Normale Superiore, one of the most prestigious universities in Pisa, Italy. He is in Sevilla doing some research at the General Archives of the Indies. His chances of going home are very slim, so he is hanging there tight. We talked for 2.5 hours! Both were very surprised of how time flew. When I asked him what´s up with the Spaniards that can´t go to walk to a park but go to the hair dresser, he laugh and told me: it`s very Spanish: Dead but with my hair done. 

Later, I read Spaniards themselves laughed about this exemption profusely. Social media was inundated with memes and jokes about it. Today the government decided that probably hair salons and barbershops needed to close also.

Spain confinement

Semana Santa in Sevilla was cancelled. Processions are VERY important for sevillanos. This is a cartoon joking about that.

Police 1: Could you all explain me where are you going?
Nazareno 1: I am going to the supermarket
Nazareno 2: I am going to the pharmacy
Nazareno 3: I am going to the tobacco store
Police 2: And the Virgin Mary?
Nazareno 4: It´s not the Virgin Mary, it´s my mother. I am taking her to the Health Center.

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Here are a couple of memes that shows signs of barbershops and hair dressers with a menu of sandwiches and beer, a man holding a sign saying he has a hairdresser appointment and another with a complain that the government is closing every store but not hairdressers.

Feria meme

This is a tweet saying that they found a way of not cancelling April´s Fair in Seville, by putting signs of Tobacco Store, Hairdresser and Dry Cleaner on the “casetas” where people gathered tight during this Fair.

Day 15. My fairy tale nightmare (Part 2. The fairy tale) ·SOL2020 #SOLC

Again, four legged guest blogger, Buck, is with you today with the second part of  the narration of his fairy-tale.

serious Buck

Dear readers, it has been seven month since my last entry. My apologies. I guess when you are in fairyland you don´t have time for thinking or writing. Also, it´s taking me a while to sink in my thoughts, which are small and brief, contrary to winter in Central Oregon.

Now that Pia and I are in confinement, besides my regular naps, I have more time to write. Also it snowed today and it´s below 0ºC. An andaluz like me shall never go out in this weather (unless Pia forces me. I am getting into the bad habit of peeing too often inside the house when it´s too cold; she is getting into the habit of watching me fiercely until I pee outside).

I left my tale when I was crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a humongous vacuum cleaner, and was on the verge of dying of thirst and anxiety. After 10  hours of incessant noise, somebody grabbed my 20 by 20 inches cage, and dropped me in front of Pia’s feet, my savior. At this point though,  I didn’t know whether she was on my side or not. At least, she cut the plastic zip cable ties that were locking my kennel. In less that a minute I was peeing outside of what I learned later, it was Portland International Airport. I thought I was free for good, when Pia put me back in the kennel. It was the Groundhog day movie all over. This time everybody knew of my existence, and the vacuum cleaner sound lasted only for an hour. It stopped suddenly. I heard a man telling Pia that they were not waiting since they were having a fire drill. They dropped me like an ordinary suitcase and asked us to leave the airport as soon as possible. I was happy to be on a leash. It was around 5 am Spain time, and 8 pm the day before in Redmond, Oregon. The air was warm and breezy. It felt good. I was whining and shaking beyond my comprehension. I didn’t know what we were doing, so didn’t Pia. I heard her whining also because she couldn’t find a taxi and didn’t have a phone to get an Uber. When we entered again in the airport building for help, the fire alarm started to sound. It was insane. I never heard of such a thing. I was missing Clyde, Steve, the donkey next door. Everybody spoke in English. Good thing I was raised bilingual.

Finally, a taxi showed up and Pia rushed in to it. We drove for about 40 minutes. The driver was Mexican. Never heard from that country before. When we got out and the car left, it was dark. I heard some growling, and nothing else. Pia looked for a set of keys and open the door of an empty house.No couch, no cushions, no beds. Just an inflatable mattress of dubious quality. I was so hungry, and so, so thirsty. Pia turned the flashlight of her Spanish phone and started walking outside. The ground was soft, but there were many rocks, bushes, and trees that smell really, really interesting. I paddle along Pia, very close to her heels. We finally arrived to a shed. I heard Pia cursed in English and Spanish. We entered in the empty house again. Pia called Steve. They argued. Pia told him: No Steve, I am not going to go with an ax and destroyed the lock of the water house. Somebody locked it, and I don’t have water. But it is dark like a wolf’s  mouth. I am with Buck following me like a little lamb, and there are actually wolves bawling, and it’s 10 pm. I am really tired. I think I will go to bed and deal with the water issue tomorrow. 

Sure enough. In five minutes, Pia inflated the bed and snuggle with me.  It was cold. I shivered and cry the entire night. We woke up really early, or late, depending of the time we followed. I looked at Pia, asking her when we were coming back home. She replied: this is home now, Buck. You better get use to it.

Turned out that the owner of the lot next to us put a lock on the water house. The problem was solved at 9 am in the morning. I drunk nonstop two full bowls of water and Pia took a long and warm shower. For two days and two nights I whined and shivered like crazy. I couldn’t fall asleep. Pia rubbed my chest with lavender essential oil. It felt good, I have to confess, My mind was foggy, perturbed, I was a mess.

Pia started to get the house a little bit cozier but no signs of a couch or bed. She started to take me out for walks, and hikes. The first time we walked down to the Steelhead Falls Trail at 2 pm on a sunny August day. No big deal, Pia thought. We were sevillanos! Turned out to be very dry and hot! We almost die. Pia had to wet her hat in the Deschutes river and place it on my head. She also put me in the river. I was scared at the beginning, but felt so good that I let her do it a couple of times. I was so out of shape that on the way up River Road, I stopped, and refused to move. My tongue was almost touching the ground. Pia had to carry me all the way home.

Little by little I knew my life was going to turn good. Even Vincent, Pia’s son, visited me for ten days. Yes, he stayed with me, not Pia. I don’t know where Pia went. But he took me to a couple of hikes, and places with a friend, and we snuggle together at night. When Pia came back, she took me every day for a walk or a run to a fascinating loop with all sort of smells. Rabbits, and birds roamed in front of my snout. Yummy carcasses lay in the most surprising places. This was heaven.

I was getting already accustom to the fact that maybe Steve and Clyde died in a natural disaster, when all of the sudden they showed up in the middle of September, and pretty soon my beloved couch and beds and everything also! It took me a while to get accustom that Steve and Clyde were getting Pia distracted from my walks. I was even kicked out of the bed. However things started to settle in, and I am having both worlds now: best naps and food with Steve, and thrilling hikes and runs with Pia. No offense, Steve, but I prefer Pia as a runner. Her rhythm is gentle and slow. You just wear me out!

Winter though, that’s another story.

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Day 7. Q.F.R. – Commercials and kids #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individualA year ago… (you are right I am recycling another abandoned slice), I read an article about how to teach children to watch commercials more closely, and reflect on how ads can influence them on what they think or do. Author Sarah Gretter suggests three sets of approaches to questioning:  source, feelings and reflection.

1.- Question: The first one is to ask children questions about the ad they are watching. What’s the purpose, why they are using certain images, colors, genders, who do they think is their target audience, who is placing the ad, etc. Basically, all the questions we ask students to ask themselves when evaluating a source of information.

2.- Feelings. ask children how does the commercial makes them feel. What colors,sounds, wording, people the ad is using to persuade them to do or think something a certain way.  This one caught my attention and made me remember when I was a child in a still analog world and when TV was starting to be in color. I was watching an ad of chocolates on TV with my little brother. The ad appealed very much to the senses. It was just a close up of somebody unwrapping a chocolate bar. The sound of the aluminium foil and the sight of seen somebody putting that chocolate on her mouth made my little brother to drop everything, get his allowance from his piggy bank and run to the convenience store that was in the corner of our street, to buy the exact chocolate he saw on TV. I still remember the whole thing. It really struck me the persuasiveness of a simple commercial on my little brother’s mind.

3.- Reflection.  reflect on the motives and values behind the commercial. What are the techniques and motives surrounding commercials, what is the themes, the message, the point of view, what values are reinforced.

I still remember going to the movies in my twenties with friends, and watching Marlboro commercials of tough cowboys, or sexy blond couples on a yacht in the Caribbean drinking and smoking cigarettes without knowing that instead of living happily ever after they were buying probably an early death. Every time we watched those commercials, we laughed and said out loud in the movie theater: Tomorrow I ‘ll start smoking Marlboros and drinking gin and tonic.

Story aside, I smoked on and off between ages 19 and 27. All started on a Christmas eve when I opened a present from a dear aunt: lots of skinny long cigarettes of different colors. They looked like a box of markers. I don’t know what my aunt was thinking. Probably it was a present that somebody gave it to her. Sure enough, I decided to give them a try. I was not a child anymore, still, I wish my parents have talked to me, questioned my aunt’s present, and asked me how did I feel about the whole ordeal. To be fair, by that time my parents were smokers, and my mom even smoked when she was in bed! I remember though, I felt strange when I opened the package, surprised to receive such a present. They looked so sophisticated, even expensive. I felt curious of those skinny colorful cylinders that could make me look very provocative when in reality I was a nerd.

The 4 Cs. Chocolates, Cigarrettes, Comercials and Children.

 

Source cited

Gretter, Sarah (Feb.22, 2019). 3 tips: How to teach children to watch commercials more closely The Conversation, United States.

Day 6. Since last March…#SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individualI “borrowed” this form from Rita DiCarne, who”borrowed” it from Elisabeth Ellington who “borrowed” it from Fran McVeigh who based hers on Erin Baker‘s post. Whew. I thought I was not going to find the end of the thread. As a librarian, I am very pleased that people were giving credits to who they borrowed the form from.

Here I am now, joining the thread

Since last March

Since last March I have biked more than 1,500 miles. Thank you Strava for the approximate data.

Since last March I have biked around the cities of Richmond, Portland, Amsterdam, Sevilla, and Santiago, and many odds towns in Spain, Oregon and Florida.

Since last March I have biked in the Andes mountains, the Smith Rock State Park and the Apopka Park in Florida.

Since last March I have biked to work, to drama practice, to my writing club, to my chiropractor, and to one of my book clubs.

SInce last March I have biked in 107ºF and 19ºF.

Since last March I got my first and probably last tattoo (unless my son wants one also) to celebrate my daughter’s graduation.

Since last March I have seen my children more often than in the last five years.

Since last March I packed my entire house of ten years in cardboard boxes, and hosted the fifth moving sale of my life.

Since last March I attended a wedding in Chile and no funerals.

Since last March I was with my children in the most beautiful snow storm ever.

Since last March I participated in a play, two library conferences, three writing workshops, and four different book clubs.

Since last March I sent my resume in Central Oregon like Harry Potter letters in the sky. I declined an offer and accepted another.

Since last March I said goodbyes to too many friends from Spain, and said hello to many more that I haven’t seen in ten years.

Since last March I was in airplanes for 24 hours and crossed the Atlantic ocean with my running buddy.

Since last March my heart has been divided in three countries forever.

snowstorm
Snow storm at the Steelhead Falls of the Deschutes river  in Central Oregon

 

 

 

Day 2. Dear mamá…#SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

Dear mamá,

mother&IToday I received a book I requested from the public library that reminded me of you. It’s called What my mother and I don’t talk about: Fifteen writers break the silence . Because you died before I realized the things we never talked. The things I know now did hurt you but then I didn’t realize why.

I remember your obsession that I needed to do some sort of catharsis and reconcile myself with you. I didn’t quite understand why I had to restored our broken relationship since ours was not broken. I always found you a very good mom with a balance to give me freedom without leaving me unprotected. Why did I  have to make peace with you if we haven’t fought? You always feared you would die and I would not have have the chance to reconcile our differences or maybe forgive your mistakes.

When I had children and went to live overseas, I acquire a distance that allowed me to see you with a different lens. I began to see some of the mistakes that children see in their parents. Those flaws that started to exasperate me. When you visited us you always wanted to help me and I always said no. Even one time you recriminated me and asked Why do you never accept my help, why? I don’t remember what my answer was. In the end when you stayed at our house, you managed to find a way to help me by cleaning our closets, and putting away the children’s toys, but above all by playing endlessly with your grandchildren.

The first week of last February, I had the great opportunity to compete along with your granddaughter in a bicycle endurance race in Florida. I can’t tell you how much  I enjoyed it, both for the physical effort (350 miles in 4 days) and the beauty of the landscapes, as for what I learned about me, my daughter and you, and most importantly, our relationship. Mati was the same as me, and me as you. Every time I offered her help during the trip, she would answer me with a sharp no, and she would tell me, you worry about changing your clothes and eating. I didn’t really care that she told me that. She was absolutely right. I was unable to do much more after 80 miles biking through sandy roads, swamps and wooded trails and up and down endless paved slopes with the midday sun on our backs. But I did find the reason for my sharp refusal to your offers of help.

When we are young we move with agility, with haste and thousand things to do and ideas in our heads. We are on the run with the minutes counted to begin our next project. And if a mother interferes with them, the steps or multiple stages become endless. You have to have the patience that you acquire over the years to put up with someone else doing what we can do in two minutes. Matilde could set up the tent, boil water, change clothes, lay out our sleeping bags, prepare food in her gas stove and change clothes at the same time that I just took my socks off and hopefully I had put on dried sweatpants to sleep on. If she would have accepted my help we would have died of cold and probably she would have abandoned me in the middle of nowhere. It was in those moments that I realized why I didn’t accept your help. Because I could do things faster than you, and I didn’t have the patience to slow down.

Now that I understand you, I am sorry that I could never talk to you about it. I am glad though that thanks to you, I realize that my daughter doesn’t want to hurt me, that it is only part of life, growing up, being young and old. I was lucky enough to spend with her four intense days in which we talked about it and I told her about my discoveries.
Thanks to you mom, I can understand my daughter. You and me did a good job after all, so will do Matilde. That´s why I am writing it to you. If I didn´t, it wouldn’t exist.

Un beso y abrazo apretao, gallo pelao (as you told my children).

La quiero viejita. No se enoje que haya escrito esto en inglés, pero como todo en mi vida, estoy haciendo un reto, esta vez de escritura.

Su hija que la quiere mucho,

Pia

Bobe and nietos reading
My mom reading to my children when she visited us in Maryland.

 

slice-of-life_individual