Family

CoVID19 and War Stories

grandp
This is not meant to minimize any pain or isolation anxiety you may be experiencing

 

This is day eleven of my self imposed “Stay at Home,” routine and day five of the California Governor’s decree.

How are you all doing?

Amid the humorous and not so funny memes and photos, I came across the above message, which gave me pause to reflect.

My mother is in her 90’s. Practicing self-isolation, I don’t visit, but I phone and ask her how she’s doing.

“Oh, fine.” She then goes on to talk about her “normal for her” ailments of age.

I talk to my sister, who lives with Mom, and ask, “How’s Mom doing?”

“She’s like nothing’s different, no big deal.”

I realize Mom is in a different situation than most elderly. She has a family member living with her who takes care of cooking, cleaning, and her medication. The other family members live within the county and take care of appointments, excursions, and visiting.

Many other elderly are not as fortunate.

Mom and I got to talking about her experiences with difficult times. She was born during the depression and was a pre-teen during World War II, which she remembers clearly.

Orphaned a year before war broke out, Mom was one of five children, second to the last. The youngest nine and the oldest seventeen.

This is one of the stories Mom related:

In the post office, there were giant posters of an Army woman, with a finger to her lips, with the caption “Shhh, be careful what you say because it may cost a life,” and “Loose lips sink ships.” 

Newspaper headlines reported that a Japanese submarine fired on a boat off the coast of Santa Barbara.  Another paper headline said “LA Area Raided!” There were rumors that Los Angeles had come under Japanese attack with airplane fire and bombs.

Your Uncle Cata enlisted in the Army. He had quit school when he was in the 9th grade, so he could work to support us when our parents died.

Lute was fifteen, but he worked at two jobs, which kept him out at night. He tried to enlist, but he wasn’t accepted.  He had injuries from playing football and was called a 4-F.  He was so disappointed; he moped around the house for days, but I was glad he wasn’t going, because then who would take care of us?

Sometimes I was frightened, mostly in the evenings when Lute was gone to work. I had nightmares about the Japanese bombing Pomona, especially when the practice air-raid siren would blast its earsplitting alarm. 

Walking up and down the street, the neighborhood air raid warden moved his flashlight around our dark yard, the light darting across our rickety wood fence and up and down our fruit trees, like ghosts running back and forth.

Della and I would turn off the radio, the lights and cover the windows with blankets. We’d run through the darkness and hide under our bedcovers, hugging each other,  sweating in the summer heat, when the warning siren blasted into the night.

How I wanted to have my mother and father, to wrap their arms around us and tell us that everything would be okay; that we weren’t going to be bombed and that they would protect us and we would be safe, like before the war. 

But I knew that wouldn’t happen. They were dead. My dad for four years, my mom for one. 

So I held my tears in and tried to be brave for my little sister.  I told her everything was going to be okay, even though I didn’t feel like it was the truth. It was a very lonely and scary time.

This saddened me, because I know life can be so much worse. I thought about the kids in the same situation, those in detention centers, those without caring parents or siblings to protect them, and sad for any person who is isolated without anyone to help.

I think about what others are doing, the medical staff, first responders, educators, my son who stocks groceries and prepares food at a Brooklyn natural foods store, my daughter who works in a doctor’s office, and my other son whose factory is now making hand sanitizer.

I worry that they could catch the COVID19 virus by taking the subway to work, although it’s desolate now, or coming into contact with others at their worksites.

But Mom’s story also reminded me to continue to record all of her recollections. If you haven’t put your parent’s experiences onto the page, or computer, now’s a good time. Organize those old photos, tell their stories to your children, tell your stories to your kids. Now’s the time.

Thanks for reading. Now, I’ll return to the routine I’ve set up for myself. My “Artist in Residence” schedule.

Writer’s and Creatives

Prayer, meditation, writing, reading, exercise, gardening, meal preparation, phoning others, thirty minutes of news and social media, a couple of hours of T.V (you know I’m lying, it’s sometimes more) and back to prayer.

Be safe. Stay at home. Be Kind. Wash Your Hands.

 

 

 

 

Self Care

December Self-Care for your Sanity

 

Of all the months, December is the least likely for us to relax. There are a hundred things to buy, make, bake, send, or attend but remember, we don’t have to make room for everything.

Instead, make enough space for yourself, your loved ones, and those who could use a little lift.

There are 24 days ahead of us until Christmas–time enough to set a few priorities and boundaries, so we’re not cranky or stressed out.

Pay attention to your body. If you’re too tired, too anxious, too hungry, take care of yourself before you do anything else.

This year I’ve chosen to focus on six areas:

1-Christmas decorations

Decorating the house and tree are NOT my forté. I’ll carry the boxes, put together the tree, and help unpack the items, but the interior design award in our house belongs to my daughter. And I don’t feel guilty.

ornament memories

We have fun reminiscing about the ornaments (Baby’s 1st Christmas ’89), the ones from our travels, the homemade ones, and the decorations that need to retire. Our cat, Heidi, is always in the mix, chasing glitter boxes or sneaking under the tree.

Cedar balsam, cinnamon apple, and cranberry candles are my favorite scents to have around the house. Live decor like Trader Joe’s pine wreaths and Poinsettias bring a little bit of nature into the home.

2. Create a relaxing music playlist or watch a couple of classic holiday movies:

We listen to the oldie Christmas songs: Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Judy Garland when we’re home. Make yourself a list of whatever mellows you out or watch a movie that makes you laugh. My favorite: A Christmas Story (I never tire of Ralphie).

3. Give Christmas to someone else. Participate in a service project in your community or church:

Toys for Tots Campaign

Our church organizes a toy/clothing drive for infants to 16 yrs. old. The Fire Department has the Spark Of Love drive, the Marines Toys for Tots, and many places have the Angel Tree which gives gifts to kids through Prison Ministry. Here’s a list of a few more charities.

A service project doesn’t have to cost money, but time. Volunteer a couple of hours at a hospital, rescue mission, convalescent home, or homeless shelter.

4. Find joy in a peaceful morning at least once per workweek. Okay, you might need to wake up ten minutes earlier, but it’ll be worth it. Make a cup of coffee or tea, sit in your favorite place, warm your hands, and enjoy your drink in quiet solitude (no social media). A ten-minute break can occur at lunchtime or in the evening.

5. Mail a real Christmas card, or two, to an old friend, your parent(s), or someone special. Write a greeting and send the card off before Christmas Eve.

6. Keep a tradition or make a new memory.

Masa harina and chile colorado for Tamales

For our family, Christmas wouldn’t be merry without making tamales. I’ve written a few posts about making tamales of meat, sweet ones, and vegan ones. This is a group effort and gives us time together. You could do the same by baking cookies or buying refrigerated sugar cookies and decorating them with sprinkles.

These are a few tips that I hope will give you something to think about. Put your focus where you want to and start off the month in stride. Only do what you can reasonably do, and don’t guilt yourself or should all over yourself.

Take good care of yourself this month and remember to breathe.

 

 

 

Family, Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: U is for Uvas

A canopy of grape vines, photo by Igor Ovsyannykov, unsplash.com

The Spanish word uvas means grapes.

When I think of grapes many memories come to mind.

My mother’s family were migrant workers; her father a foreman. They followed the crops from Pomona, California to Fresno and all the little towns in between in the great California Central Valley.

Picking fruit, nuts, and citrus in 90-degree weather was the norm for Mom, her brothers, and sisters. They spent a childhood in migrant camps, traveling from town to town in a loaded down jalopy like the Joad family in the book, Grapes of Wrath.

One of her first memories is playing under a sunshade of green grape vines where the earth felt cool. At four years old, she cared for her baby sister as their mother worked up and down the vineyard rows clipping clusters of grapes.

When I think of uvas, I remember Cesar Chavez’ boycott which began in 1965. Although Mom no longer worked in the vineyards she honored the boycott and made sure everyone in the family did so too.

In 1970 the United Farm Workers union won their first contract and we could eat grapes again, but that was shortlived. Growers broke the union contracts three years later and signed sweetheart deals with the Teamsters Union.

In 1973, the family boycotted grapes again. I remember the bumper stickers, NO UVAS, and the boycott against Gallo Vineyards.

That boycott of grapes lasted until 1977. I was in college by then; carrying No Uvas, No Grapes signs in front of Safeway stores in Santa Barbara and my hometown of Oxnard.

College students and workers in Philadelphia boycotting grapes, 1976. Getty images

This tiny fruit, the uva, carries a huge weight of memories.

Thanks for reading.

Family, Latino culture

A to Z Challenge: S and T are for Sábanas y Toallas

photo by Igor Ovsyannykov for unsplash.com

This is the last week of the A to Z challenge, which presented me with (you know the answer)-

challenges.

I’ve never blogged every day; at the most twice a week and lately twice a month. This endeavor tested my commitment and discipline which were good things.

Every once and a while test yourself, commit to something new, dare yourself to try what you haven’t tried before.

Now on to the letter S and T.

The words that begin with the letters S and T which I’m most familiar with are sábanas and toallas.

These words mean bedsheets and towels.

During my childhood we were poor. Living in the housing projects poor, state government food poor, no dryer poor. We hung clothes on the rope clothesline in our asphalt backyard.

My job was to hang the sábanas and the toallas. They were the large items and with a little struggle, I could throw them on the clothesline.

The smell of bleach and detergent hovered in the air around me as I made my way down the lines.

Mom came behind me, taking wood clothespins out of her blue gingham apron pocket, and pinned the sheets and towels.

Old fashioned wood clothespins. Photo by Nong Vang for unsplash.com

I’d sit on the porch watching the white sábanas and colorful toallas sway in the breeze, feeling important because I helped my mom. I wondered when I’d grow tall enough to hang and pin the clothes myself.

By the time I turned nine, I could reach the clothesline. Hanging wet blouses, heavy jeans, and the families underwear (except Mom’s, who hung them in the shower during the night) was no longer a desire but a chore.

At that point, my daydreams switched to Mom buying a clothes dryer.