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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Source cited

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

Toy stories 7 to the last #SOL Tuesday

While on the plane to Frankfurt I am tweaking my last Instagram toy stories. Hopefully I can publish this slice during SOL Tuesday before I board my plane to Oregon. This is it. Today I am starting a new chapter of my life. Excited to see how it will evolve.

#Toystory7

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Even though technically this is not a toy but a wedding present given to us almost 26 years ago by our dear family friend, Omar , this fish mobile is the winner of the wedding present—toy combo survivor category.

While I was cleaning all the big and little fish, I remembered all the stories behind the hanging, unhanging, packings and unpackings of this mobile. When we got it my husband looked at it and said: “I love these fish. There are so colorful. I can picture them in our future home. This mobile will follow us wherever we go.” Little he knew that literally these fish have crossed two big oceans and a sea a couple of times. Little Omar knew his present was going to be part of the fabric of our family. At each house we had the ceremony of unpacking the mobile, untangle and balance the pieces together. Then it was followed by a brief discussion lead by Steve with his hammer on hand of where we were going to hang it. Finally the place was sealed until the next move.
Our kids as babies enjoyed the movement of the mobile. When they were unsettled we walked next to the mobile and observed it together for a while. When the fish touched each other, the wood made a crisp sound. Almost always it did the trick of distracting the baby in our hands and switched their pain on an awe. Later, the discussion of where to hang the fish were made together as a family. Here in Spain, it took us a while to decide the perfect place, since the house was a little bit darker and with no open spaces like in the other houses. But the mobile found its place in a corner of the living room. It gathered for ten years a bunch of dust and spider webs for being up high and never touched but by the morning wind. Eventually I took it down this week, cleaned it real good, and placed carefully all its pieces wrapped on paper inside box number 78.
I wonder if this mobile made an impact on my children as it did, does on me. I wonder what part of it they remember or if they even know what I’m talking about.

#Toystory8

There are some things that you have to let go but take a photo of them to remind you of some moments of your children’s life. When Matilde was probably 14 or 15 she asked us to get her a mirror for her room. We told her she didn’t need one. She had the mirror of the bathroom next door. She insisted and we fought back. It was out of the question. One day Matilde arrived home with a beaten up mirror she found who knows where. She cleaned it and painted it, and asked her dad to secure it on one wall in her room. And Steve did. There, our daughter got her mirror.

The other day we were showing one of our handlebar bike basket that we used in the Camino de Santiago to one of Vincent’s friend. He said “look, there is something inside” I said “I bet this was Vincent’s basket.” When we saw what was inside I said: “THIS was Vincent’s basket for sure” while holding in my hands the almost fossilized piece of cow’s set of teeth.

#Toystory9

It seems that handarbeiten are not my forte. I started this embroidery when Matilde was born more than 23 years ago. I think I got into dinosaur one and left it probably because I couldn’t stay still. I continued with Vincent, 21 one years ago and got into dinosaur number two. Probably I didn’t finish the design because I was packing.
Anyway, another survivor. I feel very proud of it. It maintains its colors and the white hasn’t turned yellow. Needless to say that it was shipped to Oregon.

#Toystory10

This is it. Today I left behind the biggest toys of all, our home in la Matilla. Yesterday, I spent 12 hours cleaning its walls, doors, closets and floors. I enjoyed it. It was as if I was cleansing all the mistakes I committed here. It was also soothing. I could say goodbye to every single corner of it while I was caressing them with water, detergent and chlorine. While listening to the Beatles and the sound of the cloth splashing, I remember moments of happiness, of sadness, of amazement and sometimes of despair and frustration. We had a great time in this house with its ups and downs as life itself. We owned every moment and that’s what’s I call happiness.
This drawing was made by my dear cousin Maria Isidora who came with her husband Keno a couple of years ago and enjoyed the charm of our home and the great cooking of Steve. I don’t know what has the house but every person that stopped by got trapped by its enchantments. To me, my kids, the doggies, the cats, and Steve were the pillars of this charm. Without them, this house is just a dilapidated place.
Time to start finding the enchantments of another home. I’m getting ready my broom for the long ride.

#Lasttoystory

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I found this little figure of St. James in Vincent’s room. It made sense. Vincent’s middle name is James, in honor and memory of grandpa McCann. I didn’t have the fortune of meeting Jim but I have known him vicariously through the stories of his children, especially Steve and Laura, one of my sisters-in-law. Jim was a great man and I’m glad my son has his name.
Today Buck and I are embarking in our plane to Oregon. Last Thursday we sent all our belongings on a truck. Steve will join me later with Clyde and hopefully the cats, Lola and Ralph. We will definitely need the protection of St. James who protected us in El Camino de Santiago. Now he will be taking care of us in our new Camino. And the spirit of grandpa Jim will prevail in our home.

 

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.