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 8: International Women’s Day #SOL2021 #SOLSC

My International Women’s Day hasn’t been very exciting if I compared it with my posts of 2020 and 2019. Actually, it was very dull until I listened (while processing books) to a webinar about amplifying the voices of Native Americans. The speaker, Savannah Romero, member of the Eastern Shoshone Nation, walked us through the false narratives, the invisibility and the erasure of native peoples. She is the manager of partnership and programs at an organization called IllumiNatives that has the mission of increasing the visibility of, and challenge the negative narrative about Native Nations and peoples in American society.

While doing my weeding, I was impressed about the lack of literature that portraits Native Nations and peoples in a positive and real way, and how hard is to find own voices in the mainstream. Usually the literature are either romanticized non-native visions of indigenous people, with inaccurate information, and somewhat naive or racist, or portrayals of Indigenous people as part of historical fiction but not contemporary figures and influencers. These include two Newbery Awards, The island of the blue dolphins by Scott O’Dell, that my son had to endure in 5th grade, and Julie of the wolves by Jean Craighead George, both not recommended by Dr. Debbie Reese of Nambé Pueblo in her American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) website. Another book that she doesn’t recommend and we have several copies of is Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. I remember it was very well received when it was published in 2001. It was a 2007-2008 Oregon Battle of the Boks title.

The part that struck me the most of Romero’s presentation was that a significant percentage of Americans thinks that Native Americans are part of the past and don’t exist anymore. They don’t know about their Nations, their laws or history, and the only thing that they relate to “Indians” is mascots of football teams or costumes for Halloween.

The other thing that got my attention, was the fact that the percentage of indigenous women that are battered and sexually assaulted is higher than in any other race/ethnic group and nobody knows about it.

I always thought that invisibility was the worst punishment that somebody can give me. Ignoring my existence is saying that I don’t matter at all, my existence is not good or bad, is nothing. As Romero pointed out “invisibility, [the nothingness of the other] is the modern form of bias against Native Americans.”

I was so happy to come across this webinar and IllumiNatives. They have a Guide for Allies and a Guide for Native Peoples. I encourage you to explore their website. They provide a wealth of resources, lesson plans, reports and other wonderful information.

After all, my International Women’s Day was a day of discovery and learning.

Day 30. Spring break is over #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 30th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

Technically, today I would have returned to school from Spring Break. Since I didn’t, I cataloged 32 books that I managed to sneak out of the library before all schools closed March 16th. My heart was telling me that we were going to be away for a long run. I am happy to have them ready. It gives me a sense of hope, and excitement to think of a future when my students can touch them, open them, and read them. In the meantime, I am toying the idea of making a series of videos to connect with students, and read them some of the books. I don’t know exactly what my principal is expecting from me, but surely enough, I do have plenty of ideas.

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Day 29. Slices of music #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individual

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 28. Moving Slowly #SOLSC20 #SOL

Today, March 28th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

Moving slowly today

I can’t write too much

Gigantic circles spin next to my left eye

Retreat, retreat, stay in bed today

Amazed I have to obey

Indulge yourself, no need to ask for a sick day.

Numb yourself, sleep. As everything, it will pass

Elation will come when I regain strength and can write, and read again.

Day 27. Stages of grief #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individual

Today, March 27th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

Since my Coronavirus quarantine started 14 days ago, I have thought a lot about the five stages of grief by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. A friend of mine recommended me her memoir The Wheel of Life when my mom was dying of cancer in 2011. Since then, I always recommend it to people that are going through something similar. During the current crisis I feel that I am participating in a global grief: people are dying, and my own behavior can affect other people’s lives.

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think I have been through the five of them already.

 

 

 

 

Day 26. Between the lines #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

slice-of-life_individual

Today, March 26th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge. Today is also my daughter’s birthday. I remember with so much longing last year when I was with her, on her 23rd birthday. Love you so much hija!!!

 

Today I participated as a surprise guest in the 2nd Online Thursday of my Spanish friends’ Thursday’s Foam writing workshop meeting (via Whatsapp). Maria, the fantastic person who runs the workshops, receives all the stories ahead of time, and also an audio of each participants reading their story. By 6:30 pm Spanish time, the workshop starts via Whatsapp. Maria sends all the stories in an email and in alphabetical order we read and hear every story. At every time, we comment and Maria makes the most important points and analyses of the story just read/heard through an audio recorded in real time. I am so impressed of her quick grasps of each story, and how she can see (or not) immediately the elements of the homework she had given the group the last week. This time they needed to include 4 elements that drove the actions of the character: Lies-Motivation – Needs – Ghosts.

I spent almost 4 hours listening and reading ten amazing stories, and reading to witty and funny comments that were scrolling fast on my feed.

This morning, at 9 am, I was in the chopping block since I haven’t written in so long in Spanish. The workshop was about to start and my screen page was in blank.  Since my brain can’t write two pieces in one day, let along in different languages, I am going to put here what I wrote in Spanish, and give my best in translating it into English.

Entre líneas

9 am. ¡Mierda! ¡Solo tengo media hora para sacar algo de mi cabeza, escribirlo, grabarlo con mi sexi voz y enviársela a María por whatsapp! Ayer abrí los 1818 mensajes que tenía guardados del chat de la Espuma de los Jueves. Me he pasado siete meses buscando palabras en español. Mentiría si dijera que lo he intentado. La única vez que lo hice fue el  sábado 11 de enero cuando organicé el drive de los jueves. Mientras creaba la carpeta de cada uno de los participantes, y en ella sus relatos, me los fui imaginando en cuerpo presente, cada una de las voces que conocía y la de los nuevos, inventándomelas como si ya las conociera. Me daba tanta envidia que los jueves tuvieran nuevos amores. Ceci, Carmen, Pedro, Maite y que mi propia espuma ya no desbordara del tazón.  No ser parte de esas risas, y esos juegos. Que mi piel no sintiera el sol sevillano, ni que pudiera subir la cuesta de Guzmán con 40 grados de calor, o llegar a saludar a Chema y entrar a un aula blanca, austera, fría que solo los días jueves a las seis y media de la tarde se llenaba de ilusiones, donde éramos capaces de matar la soledad y enfrentar a nuestros propios fantasmas. Esa sola vez, miré con envidia los relatos que iba insertando en cada carpeta. Tan buenos, tan prolíficos, tan agobiantes. Cuando creé mi carpeta, me armé de valor y abrí un nuevo documento. Lo titulé Retomando la pluma. Permanecí diez minutos mirando la blancura de la pantalla. No tenía nada que transmitir. Me había convertido en un café expreso amargo.

Al mes siguiente, lo volví a abrir. Esta vez lo titulé Tinta invisible, y de mi teclado solo salió una frase. Si no vez nada, es porque se te han acabado los poderes de leerme entrelíneas.

9:24 am hora de Oregon del jueves 26 de marzo 2020. Cumpleaños de mi hija Matilde. 18:24 en la provincia de Sevilla.

Fe de erratas: Calculé mal la diferencia horaria entre España y Oregon. Me había adelantado una hora. Sin embargo, la presión me ha hecho romper el hielo y escribir. La espuma de los jueves es mi motivación y necesidad.


Between the lines

9 am. Shit! I only have half an hour to get something out of my head, write it down, record it with my sexy voice and send it to Maria via WhatsApp! Yesterday, I opened the 1818 messages I had saved from the Thursday’s Foam chat. I have spent seven months looking for words in Spanish. I would be lying if I said I tried. The only time I did it was on Saturday, January 11, when I organized the drive of the Thursdays’ Writing Workshop. While creating the folder of each of the participants, and placing in it their stories, I imagined them face to face, listening to each one of the voices I knew, and creating the one of the new participants as if I already knew them. I was so envious that on Thursdays they had new lovers. Ceci, Carmen, Pedro, Maite and that my own foam no longer overflowed from the bowl. Not being part of those laughs, and those playful days. That my skin did not feel the Sevillian sun, or that I could bike up the Guzmán slope with 40 degrees C of heat, or get to greet Chema and enter to the white, austere, cold classroom that only on Thursdays at six-thirty pm was filled with illusions, where we were able to kill loneliness and face our own ghosts.

That one time, I looked enviously at the stories I was inserting into each folder. So good, so prolific, so overwhelming. When I created my folder, I plucked up my courage and opened a new document. I titled it Taking Up the Pen again. I spent ten minutes looking at the whiteness of the screen. I had nothing to convey. It had turned me into a bitter espresso.

The following month, I reopened it. This time I titled it Invisible Ink, and only one sentence came out of my keyboard. If you don’t see anything, it’s because you have run out of powers to read me between the lines.

9:24 am Oregon time, on Thursday, March 26, 2020. My daughter Matilde’s birthday. 18:24 in the province of Seville.

Errata: I miscalculated the time difference between Spain and Oregon. I was an hour ahead of time. However, the pressure made me break the ice and write. The Foam on Thursdays is my motivation and need.

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Thursday’s Foam – My Spanish Writing Workshop Chat

 

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

slice-of-life_individual

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

slice-of-life_individual

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 20. “Bird talk” #SOL2020 Challenge #SOLSC

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Today, March 20th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

 

 

2:00 pm (PST). Today I am pulling out the book Writing to senses> 59 exercises to ignite creativity and revitalize your writing by Laura Deutsch and I will use it like the Russian roulette. Instead of a gun I will use one finger. Wherever my finger lands, I will do the writing exercise suggested, no matter how hard I find it or how much I hate it. I am finding very difficult to focus right now, so a little bit of guidance won’t hurt.


2:15 pm (PST) Chapter 14 Bird talk, page 68. I think I can do this! The exercise suggests to find a place outdoors (yes!); listen deeply, and describe what I hear, and what stories arise from there. I will need to apply a lot of my mindfulness skills, otherwise my mind will wonder off. I will take the dogs for a walk and get the mail. I haven’t check it in 2 days. Our mailbox is around a mile and a half away, and I don’t want to take the car. When I return, we will see what I come up with. Til then now.


6:45 pm. (PST) Here we go.

I didn’t want to grab the leashes before I eat something, otherwise the dogs will know what I was up to, and wouldn’t stop barking until I have have swallowed my last bite. As soon as I was ready and put their harnesses on, my house was filled with barks of joy and wagging tails galore. I grabbed Clyde, who is 14 years old and blind, while Buck, our Andalucian teckel, age 8 and full of energy darted through the doggie door. At the porch I felt the air, I love the smell of wet dirt, Juniper trees and Sage brushes. On our gravel driveway I put both dogs in their double leash, the only way Clyde can walk that isn’t in circles.

Our steps were steady, I could hear our paws and feet stepping on the little pebbles of the road. Crunch, crunch, crunch. The dogs next door started barking of jealousy. In one point they were 5 of them. Mad dogs, didn’t let us walk in peace. When finally we passed the dogs, we were able to hear roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing, and horses trotting happy since they canceled the rodeos of the season. Half way through to the mail box, I felt somebody in my back. It was a man. Probably he felt my uneasiness even from the distance and told me: Just going for a walk. He smiled and passed by. I had just finished “Neck, 1990”, the first chapter of I am, I am, I am: Seventeen brushes with death by Maggie O’Farrell, probably not the best book to read during the Covid19 outbreak, but she’s such a good writer. In the first chapter, the author is hiking alone when she encounters a man in the middle of nowhere. I don’t have to tell you that it was a pleasant rendezvous. My mind started to spin 200 miles per hour. I was just feeling his presence on my back, but I couldn’t look back all paranoid, but yes, I was. Mindfulness was not working at all. I had the dogs, I thought. He will be scared of the dogs. Not really. My dogs are pathetic. One can’t see a thing, and the other has a brain smaller than the pebbles we were walking on. I  glanced at him pretending I didn’t care. He looked at me and said what he said, and my freaking out moment passed. Seconds later I was watching the silhouette of one very harmless old man balancing around happily in the horizon. No wonder my daughter told me this morning that I needed to chill out.

10:00 pm. Sorry, I got a little bit distracted. My husband arrived, we had supper and just finished watching “Free solo” thanks to the suggestion of a fellow slicer that now I can’t remember. If you happen to have read her slice or are actually her, please let me know, and I will hypelink her post. Thanks for the recommendation. I really enjoyed the documentary. Very well done and up-nerving, like everything in life.

Continuing with “my outside” observation, I have to say that we saw a father with her daughter riding a very tiny bike being dragged by a police dog on a leash. When they crossed us, the dogt almost throw the dad to the ground.We eventually got the mail, we heard some crows crowing, saw 10 cars passing by, five deer roaming, 9 cows ruminating, and our neighbors stopping to say hi from a brown Chevy suburban that I swear it passed twice, or everybody has the same car around here. My dogs found a hole that dug for 20 minutes, and at mile 2, Clyde refused to move. I have to carry him the last stretch home. After 2 hours, we made it back. I did a 2.8 mile outside observation, and I talked like a bird.

Disclaimer: We live in a very remote area. Our land faces BLM land, and we barely see our neighbors. I don’t want anybody to think that I am walking around spreading the COVID19 to my community. Oddly enough, I felt that today it was the most amount of people I have seen since last July on a Friday at 4 pm. Or maybe, it was the normal back from work rush hour.

the three of us (Small)
The three of us

My neighborhood (Small)
My neighborhood

Clyde is done (Small)
Clyde is done

Writing with the senses

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

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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.