Toy stories 1 to 6 #SOL Tuesday

I am moving back to the US after spending ten years of my life in Spain. Moving is good and painful, and the process of packing is exhausting but very healing.

Getting rid of things is a powerful tool. I kept reminding myself that I should let things go. We are ending up with almost 90 boxes of books, clothes and memorabilia I collect for the sake of collecting. I am a trained historian and the fact that information we will need in the future will be intangible makes me hard to let go easily maps, stubs of museums, movies,  plays, drama, metro, buses, or a pamphlet handed out on the street. Everything reminded me of something.

While packing, and putting things for a garage sale, I started a series of stories about the toys I found of my already in college children. These toys were the survivors. I posted the stories in Instagram but now that I am almost done packing, and the truck is coming on Thursday, I decided to gather them all in one long blog post, taking advantage of the quietness before the storm, and that today is SOL Tuesday.

#toystory1

Before starting our yard sale, I made sure to send photos to my kids with all the stuff that we were selling that were theirs. My daughter basically told us she was a hoarder and we could get rid of everything since she didn’t remember most of the stuff.

In any case, when I discovered Slinky and the marionette, I couldn’t put them in the pile of 1, 2 or 3 euros. They remind me so much of her. I can’t get rid of them. I will put them in a room in our home in Oregon to show every person who visit us who Matilde Is: the juggler, the globetrotter the doglovermati. Cómo te quiero, guati ❤️🐕🌎🤹‍♀️ #dollstory1

#toystory2

Demon Doll (Small)

This is another item that didn’t make it to the yard sale.  This is a REAL survivor.
Matilde received this doll as a present from her aunt Alejandra and uncle Matias when she was around two. It was hate at the first sight. Never care , never played with her. I remember my mom trying to teach her how to pretend that the doll was her baby and Matilde looking at her terrified waving her little right hand saying firmly, no,no,no,. and walking away. I remember my dad saying: “Toda la razón. ¡Esto es mucha responsabilidad!”. (She is completely right. Having a baby it’s too much responsibility!).

Nevertheless, for some mysterious reasons the baby made all the cuts of our moves: from Chile to Montana, to Maryland, to Virginia, to Oregon, to Spain. When Matilde was around 11, the baby starts having appearance in her life again by making it as primer figure in her videos (” Me the model” being the launching of her career as the mistreated baby of a model by all the rough housing of Vincent). Soon she became the star of every single performance created by Matilde. The doll has been into Sevilla’s street inside a suitcase dragged on a bike, throw through stairs, and who knows what else.

In this photo, the demon baby— as Mati and Vincent call her affectionately— is posing happily with Matilde’s recently washed original baptism outfit, tights and jumper. She is ready to cross again the Atlantic ocean, through the Panama Canal to her place in Oregon until Matilde rescues her.
Sorry Vincent, I can’t follow your WhatsApp’s commands: “Throw that evil baby away, ive always hated that possessed doll“. Matilde thinks that after all she might be her child. #dollstory2

PS: This story was so popular with my selected group of followers that my friend and leader of my Spanish Writing Workshop got inspired and wrote a short story in Spanish called “La muñeca” (The doll) using my daughter´s dislike for dolls  and my dad´s observation as starting and ending points respectively.

Mati y doll.jpeg

#toystory3 

Bolones (Small)

These marbles went into the garage sale. Nobody got them. I thought that if I were a kid I would love to have them. In any case, not too many kids came. I decided to rescue them and pack them away. Last week while packing and cleaning Vincent’s room, I found two piles of marbles inside a pair of soccer socks. In one sock were bolitas and in the other bolones. A little boy got the little marbles probably because they were more. But the one that were really “valuable” were the big bolones. They reflect a little bit of my son.

Vincent didn’t keep too many things in his room. His childhood’s toys were marked by waves of obsessions. At one, he only cared about one movie, the soporific “The Incredible Journey “, water in all places and forms, and all sort of balls. At two he was obsessed with little cars. I used to buy a set of four of them in Toys R Us, and bribed him every time he went to the bathroom. Soon enough I realized I would have tons of little cars spread all over the house, so I decided to recycle them. Since he lived in his own world, he never noticed that I was using the same cars over and over again.

At three he discovered trucks and tractors in Montana. He looked with big eyes the huge trucks toys that his cousins Ben and Simon had, but actually his biggest obsession was jumping on a real truck with his uncle Curt. Whenever he couldn’t take him, he run to me crying in a desolation that I couldn’t appease until Curt was back, and the hope of getting on the truck flourished again.

Then came rocks, knives and swords, the Rubik cube, the card tricks, rotten bones of animals kept in his pockets, rock music, and the marbles. The fact that he didn’t give them away made me think that probably he cared for them. He never answered my whatsapps asking what to do with them. By heart, he is a hoarder, like all of us. Maybe he didn’t have the guts to tell me to pack something so mundane.To me the bolones are part of my son, valuable to the core, with a brain full of thoughts and a heart full of feelings. The marbles need to be kept in socks, otherwise they get disperse. You treasure them. You can’t play meaningless with them.

#toysory4

Do not disturb (Small)

Packing a home of ten years to move back overseas (yes, we are going over seas) is not an ordinary matter. When I learned how much a moving company charged to pack all our stuff, I cried. I just have broken my pinky toe and was particularly sensitive. I looked at the amount of things that overflowed our home, and the two dogs and two cats that were watching me unsettled. A considerable amount of advise from family and friends begun to arrive via whatsapp, emails and social media. “Be simple,” “be happy”, “don´t take anything”, “follow Marie Kondo´s advise”. “With the money of the container buy everything new when you come back.”

With Steve we tried to assess the situation. We were going to pack the stuff ourselves and try to reduce what we bring back to the “simple life.” And then, then is when a new Pia, willing to deal with the mountains accumulated over the years, diligent like a faithful soldier and empowered by all the Kondo´s style advise, touched the knob of the door to open Vincent´s room, and saw the “Do not Disturb Sign”. We were in some store in the US, and I have told firmly to the children that they can choose ONE item. Vincent picked out this stuffed lion cub. I was surprise by his choice, and even told Steve about it. Vincent was probably 10 or 11. He was a strong boy. At two he could pack 2 kilos of avocados while helping at the parcela my parents had near Santiago. At ten he could knocked down kids, if he wanted but he never did. He has to be very mad, to use his strength. And he wanted this stuffed animal. I can see his eyes shining when he showed me his item, caressing it with his chubby cheeks and smiling. “He is so cute”. The sign was always with the “Come in” side on. Only when Matilde got him on his nerves he turned it to the do not disturb side.

How can I throw that little creature away? How can I think that leaving him in a garbage can will make me happier? I didn´t want to buy new stuff. I didn´t want to leave my mattress on a dump. I put the little cub in the washer, and now is inside a cardboard box anxiously waiting to be put on a door knob with the “Come in” side again. I’m removing dust and memories. It makes me happy.

Come in (Small)

#toystory5

Raggedy Ann (Small)

This doll was rescued from a box left by Matilde filled with stuffed animals and moths. Raggedy Ann didn’t get eaten, thankfully. She was made with love by Gramma Minnie and will make it back to the West coast of the US. When I took her clothes off to wash them, in her body was an embroidered heart that says “I love you”.
In honor of all grandmas and children inspired by Johnny Gruelle‘ s character.

#toystory6

Chilean Doll (Small)

This is another survivor of my daughter´s indifference, even though it made it to the box where the moths where happy. This doll was also given by my brother Matías and sister-in-law, Alejandra (Probably more by the latter than my brother 😜).
She is a genuine Chilean doll, dressed as a school girl with the uniform I wore 10 years of my life. When I undressed her to wash her clothes, I was amazed by the details. She has a perfect white blouse, and a dark blue sleeveless dress called “jumper”. To keep the uniform clean we wore a blue and white checkered apron. And in winter, a blue cardigan.
In the late 1960s during the presidency of Eduardo Frei Montalva, the mandatory universal uniform was established for private & public schools in Chile. It meant to save money to families and lessen the distinction between the have and have-not. I know it was a great help to my mom’s budget. She bought us very long jumpers and aprons, that while we were growing they got shorter and shorter. During my senior year, my apron only covered me up to my bellybutton. 🤣 (I did it a little bit to annoy the school administration but also because I thought it was pointless my parents bought me a new apron during my senior year.)
Even though I didn’t like the uniform, I enjoyed the fact that I could get it messy and I didn’t have to think what to wear during the school days. The mandatory rule ended in 1995, but many schools still use the uniform with some variations. Probably now they are more expensive than regular clothes but during my childhood, “street clothes” as we called the regular clothes, were expensive.
I will use this doll in my new school, to tell stories to children about Chile ❤️ (until Matilde reclaims her).

 

—To be continued. I have a couple of stories left before the container goes—

#SOL Tuesday

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Good news Tuesday…Yes! part 2 #sol Tuesday

On March 5th, I wrote a slice of life story about my son’s writing homework when he was in 1st grade. I don’t want to repeat myself but just add facts I didn’t  have when I wrote the story by memory in Spain. Also I want to bring justice to Vincent’s teacher. It’s so true that to raise a child it takes a village.

———————————————

I am in Oregon right now. Sitting on a terrace chair in front of my computer writing in the only house we can called ours. The view from the dining room is amazing and brings me back so many and intense stories. I grew up surrounded by mountains. I miss them when they are not close to me. I love this house, I love this area. We left it almost ten years ago and now we want to conquer it back. If only I can get a job…

When we left to Spain, we had two containers full of boxes and books. One contained boxes labeled To storage in the USA, the other To Spain. The former with all the things  we couldn’t bring across the ocean in the other container.

Last weekend, my son visited me from Montana. He was as in awe as I was. He was 11 when we left. Looking at the place and the area with adult eyes got him.  We decided to enter in the To storage in the USA container that sits in one corner of our property. Entering in it was like entering in a time capsule. By the way we stored things it looked like we had left in a hurry and started putting together in the same box whatever we had at hand. One of the things that we found was my son’s school planner of 2004, when he was in 1st grade. It was a really neat idea of having kids practice their handwriting at the same time of a way of communicating with parents. On the left side of the planner Vincent wrote everyday a sentence that summarized or highlighted something that the class did that day. We needed to initial it every time. My husband and I remember starting great conversations with our son thanks to just that sentence. It was such a handy way of knowing what happen in school instead of receiving a dull “good” as an answer when we asked how was school today?

On the right side of the planner, Vincent had to write the words of the week, and it was space for us to write a message to the teacher and communicate with her.

When we started looking at the planner, Vincent was first of all amazed of all the writing and communication that was on it. When he flipped the pages, and read messages that either me or his dad wrote

Vincent will ride the bus today… Vincent will leave early today because he has a doctor’s appointment…, Vincent will stay in the after school program today…Vincent misplaced his reading log and is very worried…

he asked me: Did the teacher has to do this, check and write back in all children’s planners every day?

Yes! I know. It’s a lot of work — I answered. But so worth it. At least in our case.

And here it was. The explanation of the Tuesday News writing assignment and how we solved with Vincent the fact he needed to write every Tuesday and Thursday.  I knew Ms. Coleman’s words were sacred for Vincent. Not so much mine.

Written in pencil:

9/27/04

Dear Ms. Coleman, We received the homework packet. What’s not clear to Vincent or myself is what does he has to do when says as an assignment “Good news writing…(Tue & Thurs). I would really appreciate it if you could clarify that to Vincent (and maybe myself?) 🙂 Thanks, Pia (Vincent’s mom)

And then in green marker

Sure. I told the kids on Monday that we would practice it on Tuesday. It should be clear to him now. It is basically a journal (about anything he wants to write about…soccer, his family, etc.. He could also write a story, or poems, or a play. On Friday he will choose one of his journal entries to share with the class. Hope this helps!

I knew that it was something that I needed to keep. I couldn’t throw away all the stories that Vincent’s first grade planner contained, and all the good and hard work that all of us did.

Ms. Coleman, wherever you are, thank you for your time, sense of humor, patience, and help in raising such an amazing human being as Vincent.

 

Day 23. Brevity is the soul of wit #sol19 #solsc

slice-of-life_individualMarch 23rd

Sometimes I think I am witty, but as my daughter always tells me, it’s the sort of wit that only I can understand.

I want to talk about my friend and author Manuel Valderrama Donaire, that I have mentioned already in another slice of life. He is a fan of our writer’s workshop and once in a while he pops in to see how we are doing and shares his latest work in progress. It’s always fun to hear what he has to say. He is an avid reader and knows a lot about literature and history. A good writer has to be a good reader, he says. He has a radio show called the irreverent reader, but he is also an irreverent writer.

Three years ago, I read one of his three novels, Uno de los vuestros (PeZsapo, 2016), a very witty and sarcastic short novel where he touches on the Spanish 21st century economic crisis and corruption in a humorous way. Through the life of Juan Anselmo, the protagonist, Manuel calls into question the entire society, and the things that people can do to be what is considered ¨successful and  powerful.” I went to the launching of this book at the public library of my town, where I met Manuel for the first time and learned that we live very close by.

Despite living in the same small town, I never saw Manuel again until I joined the writer’s workshop last October. Then I realized he has published a third and more ambitious novel, Egolatría [Egotism]. I kept thinking I should read it since I was seeing him more often. I was being cheap, and decided to check his book out at the public library. I already had so many books to read that never opened it. Then I thought, I should buy the book and support local authors. He is the type of writer that I want to keep publishing.

I pushed away the temptation of grabbing my phone and getting the novel in one click, and probably cheaper, via Amazon. Instead, at the beginning of March, I stopped by at the local bookstore, had a nice chat with the owner, and bought the last copy. It felt good. I saw Manuel two times after my purchase. I knocked my head on the wall for not having the book with me, so he can sign it.

Last Thursday, I had the hunch he was going to join us at our workshop, so I put the book in my already full backpack. And voilá, when I entered in the room, there he was! I got the autograph! The book is now in my suitcase, and will fly with me to the States. When I finish it, I promise I will write about it.

Manuel also fed my own “egotism” by writing a very nice dedication on the title page. I feel flattered and humbled at the same time, and so inspired. Now I need to write a novel since I can´t be brief. I hope I keep my wit, even if I am the only one that understands it.

A mi compañera escritor y amiga, Pía, que lleva el metrónomo de una novelista insertada en su prosa. Mil gracias y un besazo, Manuel VD” [To my fellow writer and friend, Pia, who carries the metronome of a novelist inserted in her prose. A thousand thanks and a big kiss, Manuel VD]

Day 19. In between jails : a free association of words #sol19 #solsc

slice-of-life_individual

March 19th

Yesterday, I went to a meeting in Sevilla. On my way back I decided to check a spot I read it used to be a jail until the XIX century. Miguel de Cervantes was in prison there between September and December of 1597. And of course, Sevilla claims that his stay in there was the beginning of “El Quijote“. The jail was in the intersection of Sierpes (main pedestrian street downtown Sevilla) and a small street called Entre cárceles [In between jails]. I don’t know why that name struck me. I imagined myself walking along the busy street of XVI century Sevilla, and telling people I live between two jails: La Cárcel Real de Sevilla and La Real Audiencia. It was 7:30 pm when I was imagining this. The hustling and bustling of the city helped my day dreaming. Buildings are now just tourist shops selling us the past . There’s even a little monument that commemorate Cervantes’ stay at the Cárcel Real de Sevilla. Like he went to an Airbnb for a couple of nights. Ironically, now the building is a bank, the 21st century people’s jail.

By 1597, Cervantes was a tax collector and he gave us the honor of staying at this prison since one of his helpers committed a mistake, and appeared like Cervantes was keeping some of the money for himself. A little vendetta, perhaps?

Today I went biking to my chiropractor and on the way back I found a graffiti with the word “word“. It made me think of Cervantes again, and writers. It seems that in idle times is when you’re more productive. Or maybe when you’re in between jails?

On that same ride I listened to the short YA novel “Long way down” by Jason Reynolds. It was read by the author which made it more powerful. Listening to his comments at the end of the book made me think about injustice, and how many times the wrong people are in detention centers.

Our son started sending us messages complaining that he needed to pay 1,000 dollars in taxes on 237 dollars of taxable income. Something doesn’t square up. He worked the summer to pay for college. Maybe like Cervantes, his assistant, the who knows what software, is committing a mistake, we hope.

Finally, I was trapped in the car for 5 hours since we went to pick up our niece from Montana who is visiting for Spring break. Just like Jason Reynold’s story, —much more superficial though—, it was a long way down to go to Málaga and back to Sevilla.

img_20190318_1946239612512580083716010804.jpg
Entre Carceles and Sierpes Streets
Cervantes’ monument on Entrecárceles street in front of the jail
Graffiti next to the Guadalquivir river
Now there’s a bar where the police guards stayed at the prison
The former Real Cárcel de Sevilla

Day 15. Thursday’s sins #sol19 #solsc

slice-of-life_individualMarch 15th:

The seven cardinal, or deadly sins are famous among Spaniards’ Catholic tradition. To combat one against temptation from them are the seven virtues of chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.

I remember my dad knew them by heart, and every time we started a conversation about sins and virtues he recited:

Contra soberbia, humildad. [Against pride, humility]
Contra avaricia, generosidad.[Against greed, charity]
Contra lujuria, castidad.[Against lust, chastity]
Contra ira, paciencia.[Against wrath, patience]
Contra gula, templanza.(Against gluttony, temperance]
Contra envidia, caridad.[Against Envy, kindness]
Contra pereza, diligencia. [Against sloth, diligence]

In his late years, he always finished this litany with pride and a grin. As saying, I still remember…and probably being transported to the 1940s when he was sent to a somber Catholic boarding school for boys in a small town in Southern Chile. It was not a happy boarding school. Not like the one for rich and famous for sure. There he learned about the deadly sins and how to battle them. He was ten.

Spaniards have a great sense of humor and love to laugh about themselves. For this reason, they are more attracted to the deadly sins than their counterparts virtues.

Around two years ago, María, the leader of my writing workshop, pushed its members to their limits and invited them to write a book about the seven capital sins. Each of the nine members, including María, who is an amazing writer, wrote seven short stories, one for each sin. Yesterday at the public library of my town, was the launching of the book Los pecados de los jueves (Thursday´s sinsby Triskel ediciones.  It was presented by Manuel Valderrama Donaire, a local writer. I just acquired his last book called Egolatría (Egotism). Now, you have to read it told me my husband when I arrived proudly with the book, hehehe. Anyway, Manuel is a big fan of our workshop and every now and then shows up casually to listen to our stories and share some of his writings. It was captivating to hear him talking about the capital sins, and how they can be related to writers and literature. And of course, to each of the nine authors of Thursday’s Sins.

Lust (lujuria), who hasn’t committed it? Valderrama asked, and everybody smiled.

Gluttony (gula), Alexander Dumas and Jules Verne met while they were arguing about how to make a real Nantes Omelette. At least this is what the legend says.

Greed (avaricia) if you write to be rich you chose the wrong path.

Pereza (Sloth). Micro-stories, aphorisms are to certain degree when writers sin of sloth.

Wrath (Ira). According to Wikipedia, Filippo Argenti, a politician from 13th century Florence made it into the fifth circle of  Hell in the Inferno, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy as one of  the wrathful in the river Styx.

Envy (envidia). The rivalry between Cervantes and Lope de Vega is well known. Surprisingly, it seems that Lope de Vega was more envied by Cervantes than the other way around.

Pride (soberbia), all writers to certain degree have sinned of pride. Who doesn’t like to be read or have thought at least once that what they wrote is better than anybody else?


Some of my colleagues read their stories aloud, and shared their experiences in the beloved Thursday Writing Workshop. Thursday´s Sins is their second book. The first one was published in 2016 by Ulzama Digital, and is called La espuma de los jueves (Thursday´s Foam). Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of this rare book by five of the authors that are still members of the Thursday writing workshop, and one former member who was present at the launching.

I joined this workshop last October, so I wasn´t part of the book. I hope I will in the next one, that María is already plotting.

 

 

 

Day 4. Going down the hill…#SOL19 #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individualMarch 4th:

This slice is not about getting older, or maybe it is, but how you do it on a bike.

The first day I went to my writing workshop, Maria, “the beautiful and young instructor” as she likes we call her, asked us to do an automatic writing exercise inspired on Natalie Wolver (sic). This is what I wrote in my notebook. Today I searched the internet to make sure I was referencing it correctly and realized that it was Natalie Goldberg and her famous book Writing down the bones, or perhaps another she wrote about writing.

The exercise consisted on writing without stopping for five minutes in a row. I obediently did it as a good newcomer to the group. And this is what it came to me, literally. I promise, I have not changed anything, not even a period or a comma, well at least in Spanish, because the English version is just a pitiful translation.


Shit! When she was going down the hill giving all in, since she wanted to break a record in Strava, her new application to measure the speed of her bike, it was a single second, yes, only one, in which she literally left her life and immediately  found herself looking at a truck that was coming at her. Now she really had screwed up. She did not remember anymore. She closed her eyes just as she saw the truck go over her head. Or at least that’s what she believed. And now she was lying, paralyzed, numbed by the events, in a bed that was not her, a black roof through which the beat of a fan could be heard, pained by time. In a corner, spider webs wove comfortably and the walls of the room fell apart. A man in his fifties was taking her pulse and a woman who had not waxed her mustache, was holding a mask. The truth is that she did not know if what she saw was true or she imagined it, because without glasses, that most likely were lying broken on the slope of Guzmán, she couldn´t see a thing. But she was sure her body was alive in a sore bed, she just did not know why.

Now that I visualize how much I wrote, I am not that impress. When I did it, I was very proud and I thought I wrote quite a bit in 5 minutes, but on this blog post, it looks meager.

Here is the original Spanish version

Mierda. Cuando iba bajando la cuesta a todo dar, pues quería batir un record en Strava, su nueva aplicación para medir su velocidad en bici, fue un solo segundo, sí, solo uno, en en el que se le fue literalmente la vida y acto seguido se encontró mirando a un camión que se le venía encima. Ahora sí que la había cagado. Ya no recordaba más. Cerró los ojos justo cuando vió al camión pasar por encima de su cabeza. O por lo menos eso es lo que creyó. Y ahora se encontraba recostada, paralizada, entumecida por los acontecimientos, en una cama que no era la suya, un techo negro por el cual se escuchaba el batir de un ventilador adolorido por el tiempo. En una esquina telas de araña tejían su morada cómodamente y las paredes de la habitación se caían a pedazos. Un hombre de unos cincuenta años le tomaba el pulso y una mujer que no se había depilado el bigote, le sostenía una mascarilla. La verdad es que no sabía si lo que veía era cierto o se lo imaginaba, pues sin gafas, que lo más probable es que yacieran echa trizas en la cuesta de Guzmán, no veía lo que se llamaba un carajo. Pero estaba segura que su cuerpo estaba vivo en una cama adolorida, no sabía bien por qué.

Downhill
Going downhill near the slope of Guzmán (photo taken from a car though)
Goingdownhill.jpg
Here is the origin of all

Day 2. Waking up early without dreaming #sol19

slice-of-life_individualMarch 2nd:

7:38 am. Sitting in front of my computer, filled with mixed ideas in Spanish and English.

Yesterday I went to bed overwhelmed. How can I keep up with this challenge when my daily life is pretty much the same every day? How do professional writers do to nurture their imagination? I didn’t want to cheat with this challenge either. I didn’t want to write 31 slices ahead of time and set them to be published one per each day of March. I can’t say that I didn’t think about it, though. Each day brings you up with different moods and perspectives and I am looking forward to the outcomes of that. So, I will pass that temptation.

I went to bed with the firm intention of dreaming, waking up and remembering what I dreamed, and write about it. It didn’t happen. At 6:30 am my golfer husband was up and about. I opened my eyes and asked for the time. I realized I was not going to sleep anymore.

Since I woke up early, I had the chance to listening to the Spanish morning. I hear roosters, not one but many, and some random dogs barking. My neighbor took off early in his motorbike. Our wiener dogs, Clyde and Buck, are still sleepy, and don’t bother to get out of their bucket when I entered the kitchen to get a cup of coffee. Ralph, our tabby cat is on top of the couch watching through the window the sun getting up, while Lola is scratching a corner of it. She doesn’t know how much I hate she does that. Maybe I should spray the couch with lemon essential oil. I read that cats have a natural aversion to citrus odors.

I went outside, and noticed that daisies are still asleep. Some birds are chirping in a murmur or maybe already gossiping. I run down the alley to take a photo of the sun rising over Sevilla. My husband took off and now my dogs are whining. 8:22 am Time to feed them and get on with my life away from the computer. 8:50 am.  I am still thinking with dread of clicking the publish button.

About writing: The oak that shook the world

Writing exercise 01Writing exercise 02Writing exercise 03

When I was finishing my MLIS at CUA in April 2006, one of the tasks we have to do was to prepare a portfolio with all the classes we had taken that somehow reflected our expertise in school libraries.

Today I was looking for something else and found that analog portfolio. I started browsing it, and caught my attention this piece I wrote (see above picture). I didn’t remember doing it, until little by little my brain started to put pieces together and recalling the details of it.

In the Fall of 2003, I was working as a resource assistant (interpreter and translator) at Barrett Elementary school, in Arlington, Virginia. My job was OK, have lots of interactions with parents, and worked very closely with the parent liaison leading workshop together for Hispanic parents around the Washington DC area. She became my best and lasting friend. Sometimes, though, I was buried in my office translating 600 reports cards comments. So, I was always looking for ways of learning more, and seeing ways of crossing the limitations of my position as an assistant .

When I learnt the teaching staff was going to take a class called The teaching of Writing, PK-6 with Jane Hansen, author of When writers read, and professor at the Curry School of Education from the University of Virginia, I remember running into the principal’s office (who at that time was now retired Terry Bratt), begging her to let me take the course. She looked and smiled at me, and was kind enough to let me participate. Thank you Terry!!!

All what I remember from now on it’s speculative. When I looked at the piece I wrote (and made), my guess was that we needed to write a book review of Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg, (Bantam, 1990). Probably, one of the exercises that Golberg (or our professor) was suggesting to do for writing was to cut unfinished sentences from magazines and glue them randomly, but in lines with space in between, on a piece of paper, and then…fill in the blanks without too much thinking. Probably that’s what I did (lot’s of grammar mistakes, but that’s just me, a life long ESOL ).

Here is a transcription of my piece. In bold and colored are the unfinished sentences from magazines (I kept the original upper and lower cases of the magazines).

Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life

by Natalie Goldberg,
(Bantam, 1990)

The Last Word of Goldberg’s book is write.
The first word is Life.
That’s what to certain degree reflects the idea of this book.
Writing is Life. Life is Writing.
Golberg is A Writer Who Beat the Odds of redundancy.
In Chile When Times Were difficult, we used to help each other.
There are True tales from her life. She loves to hear her voice. That’s for sure.
Why Even Try to write or dedicate your life to teach writing if you don’t write? DON’T BE so stuffy. Just let it go. Keep your hand moving, and let it run as smoothly as possible. Don’t let the editor to interrupt. How can we make the flow flow?

Tough, We Went ‘Bare’ riding bareback. That doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, while I’m sitting in my office I’m thinking in all the clothes I need to fold. Is your laundry amount as ours?
WHAT’S IN A NAME? 
Creativity, a history of searching.
Mine MAKE PEOPLE’S
 eyes pop out. It’s so difficult to pronounce [my name]. They say: “What a pretty name”, but I know what they really are saying is “What a strange name!”
The original or The Imitation?
I don’t want to divide our lives in your world and my world.
We are are two. We need TO RIDE together.  He looked at me with such a pain in his eyes, I felt a poison arrow in my chest. I hit him hard.
I was talking  about a culture on the verge of collapse. I was thinking that he LIVES BETTER. Calm, wise, firm, tender. All the characteristics of a good human being.
Everybody is accelerated.
We should pay more attention to MAGIC. Otherwise, There’s no relief in sight.
Everyday life has lost its sight. If true, we’re all in trouble. Where did we leave our dreams?
I do is to easy to say when you get married. Then Expect The Incomparable.
It’s like salt and pepper. Shake them well, and maintain them even. Don’t put too much though.
A FREE spirit doesn’t mean you have to destroy your opponent, to say mean words.
Slamming the others won’t take you anywhere.
I have to BURN BAD KARMA. An evil is inside my mind and makes me say mean words and be unhappy.
They were LEFT BEHIND! Why you didn’t wait for them? I JUST GO TO the laundry room. Remember? I have to do my laundry.
Now it’s My Turn of doing the dishes. Really? That’s nice, you know?
What a Long, and dreadful day I have today.

The jobless people in the States can survive. In Chile they don’t. Destiny or Disaster? Who knows.
If the shoe fits I will make Donna happy. The best thing to do is to get them as a birthday present.
“ALL OF WHAT I do, I do it for you. Liar! You do it for you. I WORK EVERY DAY to bring food to this table and never receive any kind gesture from your part. Why are we being so negative? Might be these words.Have a good trip AND ENJOY IT.”We will have time TO GROW older together.

WHY’S THE SKY BLUE? Because the elephant was tired of the gray firmament, put blue paint in his trunk and tossed it in the sky. The next morning the whole space was blue, cerulean blue.
The cereal is here. But it is too high. I cannot reach it, Mami! Go AND HELP your brother! Don’t you see I am busy? I have TO DELIVER this package, I have TO FEED the dog, and still you expect me to run immediately and get your cereal?

Oh well, IT’S GOOD anyway.
What?
The book. Kind of redundant. Yet Another source of inspiration. Some paragraphs are very entertaining and other are useful. It’s a Strange Trip to Golberg’s life. (Sometimes I couldn’t stand her examples). She wanted TO ILLUMINATE us, poor beginners.
Yeah! Look how good a writer I am.
You are mad.
No, maybe envious :).
(RE)COLOR MY WORLD. Give me a break.
And Now You Know what to say.
Rest in Peace?
No way. I need TO MEET my voice, my hidden voice. It’s Just the Beginning. Mix feeling of reading. If you like to look at my point as a way TO THRIVE in your writings.

An oak is massive. And firm. THAT SHOOK THE WORLD


 

Fifteen years have passed by. Certainly this was a fun exercise I would like to try again with students or with myself. Probably, I will have a tougher time finding the unfinished sentences from magazines. I might get a dentist appointment and steal some of them from the waiting room.

The book of tears – El libro de lágrimas

Para leer una versión en español ir a La Intervencionista del Guadalquivir

screenshot_20180818-130344-e1534591905389.pngLibro de lágrimas” (Anaya, 2002) beautiful book by Peré Ginard, written like a long poem and illustrated by the author. It has so many possibilities. Improv ideas, working with ESL kids, or students who are learning Spanish, working with anybody on emotions.

There are all sort of tears, but all of them are salty, like if we had a small little ocean inside us.

We all have tears. Some people have them when they say goodbye, or are lost, or scared, or lost something, or sneeze, or have tummy ache, or the sun is too bright or they can’t breathe. Some tears are because we’re happy or laughing, or they’re just crocodile tears…
My eyes are constantly wet because they are extremely dry, and also because I cry a lot. My tears are fat, only visible to my own soul; they mostly show up in silence when I remember; when I think they cannot touch my kids; and they don’t disappear if I can’t reach a napkin or the tip of my sleeve, because I am naked. And it’s then, when they become part of my skin, my rough cheek or my excess sodium intake. I should have high blood pressure but I don’t.

What type of tears do you have?

Conferences: fairy tales, thrillers or crime novels?

I am a slow thinker, and when everybody else is moving to the next page, I am still mulling on the first, and usually when I arrive home, is when I have the best comments of something that already happen. If I go for a run, or a bike ride, then, everything is clear and crisp. Being in Spain is giving me the advantage that I am 9 hours ahead of California, so I can feel that I am posting my second blog entry for the Reflective Writing Club on time #CCCWrite

I haven’t attended too many conferences because my position as a school librarian is difficult to fund by schools. Conferences are expensive, you don’t only have to pay the fees but also room and board during the days that the conference last, and ask for leave days which are a nightmare for administrators.

In the early 1990s,

I remember when I was a graduate history student at SUNY, Stony Brook. I attended a history conference in New York city. Paying the fee was very affordable as a Fulbright student. I was very excited. There were so many lecture options to attend, and they were so many books and papers given away, that at the end of each day, I could barely walk with all the weight I was carrying. I got overwhelm by the amount of information and possibilities. I couldn’t stand the fact that two sessions I was interested in, where given at the same time.  Soon enough I realized that almost all the presentations were very boring. Professor just sat in front of an audience, and read their papers out loud in a monotone voice. I couldn’t stand it. I figured out that the best way spending my time at the conference was by going to the rooms of the lectures I was interested in, and collect a print copy of the papers that they were giving away, and read them at home. I still have great memories of them. I learned that I can be more exciting that an old professor, and thankful that now papers and conferences can be posted and found online.

In the  mid 2000s,

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As a  certified teacher-librarian in Oregon, I had a very supportive principal and attended three very exciting and engaging conferences in which I met authors such as Susan Patron (The higher power of lucky) (Making Waves, OASL 2007 Conference Seaside, OR),  or Frank McCourt (Angela’s ashes), John Green, Pete Hautman, and Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye, at the joint OASL/WLMA 2008 Conference in Portland, Oregon, exactly 5 days after I ran the full Portland marathon with my sister-in-law;

MarcoTorresatworkor at the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference (ITSC) sponsored by OETC in February 2009, in Portland, Oregon where I heard keynote speaker Ken Robinson, and attended a workshop with high school history-film teacher, storyteller, and guru Marco Torres . Funny thing was that when this last conference was over, I was laid off by my school district due to the economic crisis, where school librarians and newbies like me were the first one in letting go.

All these experiences, I tried to transmit them in my daily routine, by joining committees in my school district, collaborating with other organizations in the community, helping teachers integrating technology in their classrooms, and exposing my students with new readings, authors and ideas.

In the 2010s,

Here in Spain I have to rely on my own capacity for attending conferences. The last two I attended where in October and November of last year. In both cases, I was able to attend just because I am taking a year of leave, so I have the time to go without fighting with the system for going, and also because they were affordable for my pocket. Actually, one was free and in the same area I live in (II Jornadas de formación para la promoción de la lectura y escritura, Sevilla), and the other one, only two hours away (XIX Jornadas Bibliotecarias de Andalucia in Huelva).

In the latter, I found the cheapest room in Airbnb that I could find, and talked to the public librarian from my town (who I knew was going), to catch a ride with her. Fortunately, I am not very picky with food, and my stomach gets full very rapidly. I just need to get a coffee in the morning, and then I  can survive anything.  I can mostly fill myself with the snacks they give you at conferences and keep going.

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In both conferences I got really enthusiastic, and fired up. I have to confess though, that I am not very picky.  I appreciate any opportunity outside of the work routine, even if they are boring. I think they are a chance to get out, to think, to meet people, to establish contacts, and relationships. To hear other perspectives and ideas, and to learn to be more flexible.

The only thing I have found in every event I have attended as a long ranger is that I am an outsider. I would love to contribute and collaborate with people, but I am not sponsored by anybody or come with any group. The social part is also tough. It seems that everybody knows each other, and it’s difficult to break through. I try to find my own way by exploring other aspects of the whole experience.

I love to see other cities by discovering the daily life and atmosphere of the place. The best way for my budget (and also because I enjoy doing it that way)  is by walking, entering in little stores or local markets, buying food in supermarkets, talking to locals, trying to get out of the touristic section) or going to the touristic section undercover), and by taking public transportation (taxis are not allowed if it’s possible). I also enjoy taking photos, so any opportunity I have to travel due to a workshop or a conference, I take photos and post them in Instagram and Facebook, and also keep them in my files to help me illustrate later my own presentations. I also love to go for a run either early morning or in the evenings. It’s a great way to see a city when you don’t have too much free time outside of the conference, and also helps to get rid of all the stiffness caused by the amount of sitting time spent during them.

I remember one time I went for a three day IB training in Geneva, Switzerland. The hotel and site for the training was very far from downtown (at least 5 miles), with not very good transportation. The training was so intense, that we didn’t have time in the evenings. The only way I had to see the city was by running at 5:30 in the morning. It was dark, but still I got to see a little bit of a somber and quiet downtown. At least, I saw it. Part of going to conferences away from your home is learning from people and places.

I have thought that maybe I can attend a conference by giving a paper or a workshop but never have very clear what should I talk about, since I see so many wonderful professionals so knowledgeable and prepared. Last week,  I saw one call for papers at an international school librarian conference, and I decided to apply. I started thinking what are my skills and strengths as school librarian, and came up with a very fun workshop (I won’t give details, because it’s on review). Probably I won’t get picked, since I am not sponsored by any institution but by myself, and who will believe that I am good? Nobody but me. But I am not giving up. If I get to present, I will be so excited! It will be like being called to be cast as an extra for a Netflix series.

Conferences are mostly like a fairy tale, dreaming on attending one, sometimes being successful, sometimes not. If you are in, there are like a thriller, you get so pumped up! When your district sent you to this nice or expensive conference, and then doesn’t have time for you to share your experience, or doesn’t care less, is just like being in a dark crime novel.  I am hoping for more thrillers in the late 2010s and early 2020s.