Posts Tagged ‘writing 101’

I sat in the waiting room and looked at the clock on the wall.  I had now been there for over two hours and I was the only person in the room.  There had been no one ahead of me and no one behind me in line.  Me.  Just me.  And this quick walk-in task had turned into a two plus hour task.  Had I known that, I would have stopped for a bite to eat.  It was now after 2 PM and I had nothing in my stomach.  No food.  No coffee.  No juice.  No nothing.  How much longer would this be?  By the time I finished, it would be time to go get my grandson from pre-school and I would have no time to get anything to eat and I was already feeling shaking from not eating.  How much longer.

Or maybe a better question would be: Why?  Yup.  That’s the better one.  Why?  That was a tough one to answer, yet very easy at the same time.  I have been doing this for as long as I can remember.  I have missed it in the past six or so years but now I wanted it again.  Volunteering.  It is a way of life for me.  I remember going for a walk when I was first married.  I had decided to get out of the apartment and go for a walk on a sunny October afternoon and I had ended up walking by an elementary school during recess.  I had watched the kids playing on the playground and for the rest of my walk, I had thought about calling the school district to see if they needed volunteers.  I could watch the kids on the playground during recess.  I could watch them cross the street after school.  I could do a lot of things to help those kids.  So I had called the school district and instead of ending up volunteering, I had ended up with a paying job as a classroom assistant, after a long two month screening and testing period.  But I had loved working with the kids.  I only did it for about seven months then the end of the school year came along and over the summer we moved way far away, on the other end of the county so that job was gone and I missed working with the kids.  Then my own kids came along and I was bitten by the volunteer bug.  PTA.  Girls Scouts.  Cub Scouts.  School Foundation.  You name it, I did it.  I was the Room Mother.  I was the Den Leader.  I was the Troop Leader.  When we couldn’t find a Scout Master for our Cub Scout Troop, guess who did it?  Yup.  Moi.  When we lost our dad that played Santa Claus for our elementary kids each year, guess who dressed as Santa?  Yup.  You guess it.  Me.  When they needed a PTA president and no one would do it and I was a single mom with no help with my three kids in two different schools, I did it.  When they needed a president for the fund raising foundation at the elementary school, I did it.  When they needed one of the parents of a child in the Gifted program to represent parents at the School District Meetings, I did it.  I could go on forever.  I did it all.

In fact, at one point, I was listed on the program for a theater production at my kids’ elementary school under the heading of They Can’t Say No.

And here I was again.  Waiting to get my TB test for clearance to work in my grandson’s pre-school classroom.  And waiting.  And hungry.  And thirsty.  And 58 years old.  And wondering why I was even doing it.  Then I remembered.  For Anderson.  For my grandson.  I would sit here and wait as long as needed so I could help his pre-school class or help in the office if that is where they need me.  Yup.  It’s for him.  It’s for me.  It’s so that I can see his smiling face and his proud face when he saw me helping.  I remember that face and that smile from my own kids.  I was always the mom that could be counted on and, even when they did not say it out right, they liked it.  To this day, my kids talk about how I was the mom that went on every single field trip during elementary, middle, and even high school.  When I was needed, there I was and they felt some comfort knowing that.  They liked it.  They liked seeing me in the middle of the day helping out at school, wherever I was needed.

Yup.  I would sit and wait.  And be patient.  And I would know that it would all be worth it.

So I did just that.

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Many people have memories of a favorite meal. I have memories of a favorite food; a food that I had every day so, while not “special” it was special to me and holds very fond memories for me.

Tortillas de harina. Flour tortillas. My mom made them every day, fresh for every meal. For breakfast we might have huevos con chorizo or plain old eggs or menudo, but we always had fresh tortillas. On the rare occasion that we had pancakes (only my Uncle Joe fixed pancakes for us) or French toast, we didn’t have tortillas and I found that I missed them and sitting with my mom at the table while she rolled them out and cooked them on the griddle.

I guess maybe that’s what was so special about them. My mom made them and I got to sit at the table to watch her make the masa and form the testales and then roll out the tortillas (she only made masa once a day, usually, saving enough for the later meals). As she rolled more out, some would be on the comal, cooking. The smell in the kitchen was of warmth and freshness and love as those tortillas de harina cooked. When the first was finished cooking, I would get to eat it as soon as it cooled enough but was still warm and fresh. While she rolled them out and cooked them, we got to talk. I would ask her what she was doing and why, not only about the tortillas but about whatever she happened to be cooking for our meal. I watched her closely, even when I was just a toddler, probably hoping that by watching I would learn. (And I did!)

Tortillas de harina are not only delicious with a meal, they can be a meal when you wrap them around the just right ingredients. Everything goes in flour tortillas. Everything. My favorites, besides actual food, include pieces of chocolate wrapped inside of a right off of the griddle tortillas…nice and gooey as it melts. And you’ll probably think it’s strange but my absolute favorite is arroz con leche wrapped in a tortilla de harina…arroz con leche is rice pudding…delicious!

That’s my favorite food…flour tortillas…especially as my mother made them all those years ago. There is nothing as delicious as those memories.

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One minute I had been filled with love going through her things, touching them, remembering, incredulous that I would never see her again. Then I found that note. Who had she written it to? When? The paper, yellowed and brittle held that familiar handwriting. There was no doubt. She had written it. She had known what he was. She knew yet did nothing. He took my innocence. She could have prevented it. She could have kept him away from me. She didn’t.

She had failed me.

She had filled me with rage. That’s all that was left in me.


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The other night, I streamed a couple of movies. It had been one of those days when I had needed a nap in the afternoon and had ended up sleeping more than I wanted to so then I couldn’t sleep that night. So I went to my watch list and picked one. Redwood Highway while being a 2013 movie is also the name of one of my favorite highways in California. In that stretch of Redwood Highway that goes from the Golden Gate Bridge to the northern coastal tip of the state (this stretch is not only U.S. Route 199 but also U.S. Route 199), one can get a condensed view of what California has to offer…the big city, wide open fields, vineyards, the rocky yet serene shores of the Pacific Ocean, and the California redwoods, to name just a few of the gems found along this stretch of the Redwood Highway in California.

So when I picked this movie to add to my watch list, I picked it expecting to see some of the familiar sights along the Redwood Highway, as well as because of the synopsis which tells us that Marie, a resident of a retirement home, feeling neglected by her family, decides to embark on an 80 mile journey to her granddaughter’s wedding, on foot. Doesn’t that sound interesting? That’s all I read of the synopsis. That was enough.

I was not disappointed. Shirley Knight plays Marie who is in her 70’s and lives in a retirement home (we’re not told where but from photos, it appears to be somewhere in the area of Rogue River, Oregon) where her son placed and sort of forgot about her. She doesn’t have much family, only her son and a granddaughter who doesn’t visit her. Marie feels that she has been forced to live in the retirement home where she has been abandoned. She had lived in her own home until her son sold it and moved her out. She feels like she has lost control of her life and others are making the decisions for her. Her journey is inspiring and surprising. What struck me was that over and over Marie had been made to feel like she had no control over her life. Because she had reached an elderly age, those around her made all of her decisions, not always based on what was best for her but what was easiest for them. Marie’s life had been hijacked; stolen without her permission. This solo 80 mile trip, by herself, on foot, was the only way she could take back control of her life. And so she did it.

It’s an enjoyable movie. It also features Tom Skerritt (one of my favorite actors) as one of the many people she meets on her journey and one of the only ones that truly understands her.

After that movie, I streamed Renoir, a movie about the last few years of artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s life (French language with English subtitles). At least that’s the setting. The story is more about the relationship between Jean Renoir, the artist’s son and Andree, one of the artist’s models. But what struck me about this movie was the way that Pierre-Auguste Renoir maintained control of his of life, even in his last years. He didn’t slow down. He didn’t stop painting, even though his health was quite poor. He suffered from, among other things, arthritis which left his hands painfully deformed. He had to have an assistant strap and position his hands, placing the brush in his fingers before he could paint. This assistant also had to mix his fill his palette with the colors he chose. He could no longer position his models or dress them with any props. He had to have others do that for him. Yet he continued because to him, to stop painting, which had been his life’s work, would be to stop living and to give in to death.
Both of these films had aging as a topic. Aging and its consequences and how those around us treat us when we age. They both dealt with the loss of, not only our youth, but also of control over our lives. They gave me a lot to think about as I age. I think we would all benefit from thinking about these issues. Do we let go of control and allow others to take that control from us? Do we allow ourselves to lose our independence and our dreams because someone thinks we are too old? Lots to think about in these movies. In fact, I’ll probably watch again.
Note: Both of these titles are available on Netflix as well as on Amazon Instant View.

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Music.  It’s important to our lives, isn’t it?  In a previous post, I wrote about how music has the power to create memories and to have us associate strong emotions with certain songs.  I know it’s like that for me.  However, I find that these days I don’t go “out of my way” to listen to music.  I don’t have a stereo.  I have a MP3 player but I don’t have speakers to hook it up to and I really don’t like having earphones/buds in so I don’t use it unless I’m in the car and that’s usually only on long car trips.  I’ve allowed myself to ignore music, for the most part.

What are some of the important songs from my life?  That’s a tough one to answer because there are so many that are important to me for different reasons, not all of which are  in and of themselves important times/moments in my life.  And there are others that are important because I associate them with certain people that have meant a lot to me but I would rather not go into those.  Although I will say that I have created my own ringtones for my phone and associated them with specific people so when I hear California Girls on my phone I know it’s my eldest daughter who is the original California Girl…or at least til we moved to Oregon…but you know the saying “you can take the girl out of California but you can’t take the California out of the girl”!  When my youngest calls, I hear Suzie Q playing on my phone…that’s her name, Susie…and you know I love the way she talks and the way she walks, I love that Suzie Q!  Then there’s my son who works for Amazon and gifted me with my first Kindle.  He leads a hectic life running from work to home to athletic events to friends’ homes, etc.  And when he’s not running from one place to another, he takes it upon himself to be the helper-of-all-who-need-help and the host-to-all-who-have-no-place-else-to-go.  His ringtone is the music from an early Kindle commercial, a fun, energetic, and whimsical tune.

I find that songs pop into my head randomly.  This morning, I kept singing Smoke Gets In Your Eyes as I read reports about a forest fire burning up the road from me.  A couple of weeks ago, as I left my mother’s house to drive the 1000 miles back home, it was Willie’s On the Road Again that I couldn’t get out of my head, and that’s okay because that’s a great song so I didn’t mind.  On Sunday’s, the first thing I think of is Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson singing  Sunday Morning Coming Down.  No, I’m not hung over, the title just sort of fits with Sunday mornings.  You get the picture…random songs…or maybe not so random.

Then there are the songs that I can’t stand to hear anymore because of the memories associated with them.  Samba Pa Ti.  When A Man Loves A Woman.  Is That You?  You’re Still A Young Man.  Yeah, I almost can’t even think of the titles without the negative feelings flooding over me.

Yup.  Music is strong; powerful.  It can lift us up and it can bring us down.  Sometimes it’s just too difficult to think of those songs and so we shield ourselves, going through a music-less world.  But not really.  Just around the corner you’ll see something that will bring it back and that music will be right back in your heart and in your mind–like it or not!

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Today’s blogging and writing exercise prompts didn’t ring a bell for me.  I ended up fixing myself a cup of coffee and sat in my corner of the couch to mull things over and see if I could come up with a room or a view to describe (today’s exercise).  I put the tablet aside and reached for the coffee cup that sat on the magazine table to my right.   Wrapping both hands around the chunky cup, my hands were warmed by the aromatic liquid and, instantly, I felt the soothing feeling flow through the cup to my hands and from my hands through my body.  That’s when the ritual took hold of me.  Slowly, one sip after another, my mind began to work as I relaxed and let it wander where it willed.

This is the important part of the day for me.  With luck, it happens in the morning but it could happen later in the day.  In fact, if it hasn’t happened by the evening, even thought I know I’ll have trouble sleeping, I go ahead and have that cup of coffee anyway.  It’s my “alone cup of coffee”.  It It’s thinking time.  It’s feeling time.  It’s my time.  When that first cup is gone, I can read or talk or get going.  I can begin the day and any of busy activity.  Or I can just sit and have more coffee but it’s that first cup that’s the ritual; the cup I allow myself to share with only myself.  And if it doesn’t happen, the grounding doesn’t happen and things just don’t flow on that day.

I guess you could say that it’s the grounds that ground me…at least the ones in that first cup, the ritual cup.

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