Day 31. My quarantine buddy #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individual

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.

0-0-Knitting
When Steve saw this meme, he told me that he was going to hide my knitting needles and yarn, just in case.

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 8. Women’s voices #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 8th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge. Also, today I am marching in the cyberspace to keep the good fight for women’s rights and gender equality, to get my words out, and never, ever give up.

I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”.

I am so disappointed that in the US people don’t march for International Women’s Day like the rest of the world. The month of March is women’s history month, but today is not an important day like in the rest of the planet. History is relevant if we can bring it to the present.

Same thing happen with Labor Day. It’s a day to remember here but in September, and not May 1st. It seems like here we don’t want to remember anything that’s negative (or attached to anything that is associated with a socialist past as Kristen R. Ghodsee points out in an interview with Penn Today, University of Pennsylvania). Or women’s day will be celebrated from now on the day prior Inauguration Day?

Interesting enough, both, International Women’s Day and Labor Day started due to events that happen in the US (New York 1909, and Chicago, 1886, respectively). It’s like we have to sugar coat everything. It has to have a happy ending, like a Hollywood movie. But there are things that haven’t ended yet. If we don’t make them visual we don’t see them. It’s like stories. If we don’t write them, they don’t exist.

Through my Sunday email of the Conversation Canada, I found a really interesting gender gap tracker in the media. It’s only based in Canada, but I found it very relevant today. It measures the ratio of female to male sources quoted in online news coverage across some of Canada’s most influential national news media. It was developed with the premises of helping the public and journalists to amplify women’s voices. If you check the tracker there are still overwhelmingly more male than women voices on 7 Canadian media outlets (roughly 2/3 to 1/3). The tracker’s website also provides journalists with a database of informed, qualified women willing to give their opinion on certain issues.

Last year, I was marching with my fellow Spaniards on the street of Sevilla. Today I am alone, afraid of the coronavirus, and bummed that wipes are sold out in Amazon. Not!!!

 

Day 3. Prompt 2. #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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I touched the rifle with care, feeling every part of it with the tip of my fingers. It felt cold and enticing. All of a sudden, boom! The sound shook my bones. I had pulled the trigger .

Why was I there? Why was I dragged from my bed and put on a pickup for two hours? My dad thought it was going to be a good experience for me. We could have a bonding father/son moment despite the fact he knew I was born blind.


These are just the two paragraphs I managed to write in a Writers Write Workshop with Kim Fu at the Deschutes Public Library in October of last year. In this particular event, the author focused on character building and tips on how to create good, strong, full characters. She gave us several prompts. The one used in my pitiful two paragraphs was to think of a situation, and a person who was the least suited for it. The writing of the scene should explain why the person ended up in that situation. The workshop was only an hour and a half, and only ten minutes were given for this particular prompt. I felt pretty proud that I did come up with something anyway. Hearing the other wanna be writer’s stories left me thinking about small potatoes and massive oceans.

Day 1 #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individualSince my dog Buck is still writing the draft of the second part of his tall tale (the fairy tale part), and I haven’t written anything anywhere since almost the SOL19 challenge, I think I need to be brave and do my best this year. Everything is different. I am not in Spain, I am working 40 hours in an elementary school with no time to breath, and when I am free and have some sunlight on my hands, I like to bike.

I will take the challenge because it will force me to be courageous and start again to do something that I love to do. I have wanted to write since I arrive in the US at the end of July last year but haven’t have the guts of shaking my fears. This challenge gives me hope and a sense of belonging.  A community of educators writing no matter what, makes me feel safe. I won’t have time to revise, review, rewrite and rethink my writing like last year. My post will be brief and the quality will be awful, I know. But still, I want to see if I have the stamina, especially being in PST. I feel they are stealing me 3 hours.

Without further ado, here we go!

PS: I warned you about the quality and brevity.

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

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.

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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.