Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thinking about the Past

Thinking about the past.

My mother came from a very conservative religious Catholic family.  In addition her family her family was well-connected and traditional living in the heart of the Puerto Rico countryside.  Naranjito.

Naranjito is snuggled in between some pretty high cerros only an hour from San Juan today, but because of all the hills and curvy roads it was quite secluded then.  Transportation at the time was mainly in a jeep or a school bus called guaguas.  The windows were open and you would always arrive with your hair in disarray, sticky, and sweaty.  Antiperspirants and air conditioning were unheard of.  They didn’t exist.  So people stayed put mostly or had to move to the city if they wanted to find any opportunities.  Many moved away. 

Life was much simpler then as well.  Washing machines were not common so people didn’t have extensive wardrobes and most of your clothes were white and washed at the river by hired hands.  I can still remember as a child seeing some women sitting on some boulders on the edge of the river, slapping some clothes on the rocks to loosen  the dirt then rigorously dunk them in the water to rinse them, as bubbles floated down the river.  

It was also a time when people themselves were the main entertainment. No television, mostly radio, books, and each other.  People learned the words of songs they heard on the radio, Carlos Gardel, Rafael Hernandez, and lots of guitar music.  If you had a voice you used it, and my mothers voice was legend in her house.  It was a treat as well, for a family gathering to hear some one play a guitar and entertain the family with songs they could all sing along too.  Others told intriguing stories, mostly folk tales or memorized poetry and recited it.  In fact, it was encouraged in school.  During my grandmother’s time, the Americans had taken over Puerto Rico, and she had to memorize poems in English, which she really didn’t understand.    Years later I asked her if she knew English, and she instantly produced in broken English a poem about bees.  “The bee flys…If the bee can fly… and that is all I can remember she said it so fast. 

At that time names meant something, too.  In fact, most names were given to you according to the day you were born and the name of the particular saint of the birth date.  Therefore your name was given to you in honor of a relative or was directly related to the day you were born because each day on the calendar honored a particular saint.  Every one was in the same boat.  If you were lucky you got some pretty name, like Maria and Ana but many had more elaborate names, such as Cesarea, Guillermina, Gumersinda, Nicolasa,  Juana Ines, Maria de los Angeles, or Eva de Lourdes.   For the boys: Oscar, Francisco, Arturo, Octavio, Jose, Antonio, Elias, Manuel, Justo, Severo, Samuel, Juan Ciprian, just to name a few. 
These names float on my family tree and can be traced to the calendar, the Catholic calendar.  When you had ten children, five boys and five girls, you got assistance when naming your children.  Once your child was old enough he or she found a good nickname to be their moniker in front of the world.  This happened to an aunt with a particularly severe name, Cesarea became Sarita, Juana-Juanita, Guillermina-Gisela, and Georgina-Georgie,  I rather liked how distinguished the original names were.  I guess I romanticized their names but they didn’t.  They just found a nickname that didn’t seem so heavy. 

Nevertheless, I like the tradition. I love the history and significance.  I loved the time.  Wish I could fly through time and have walked among them and been able to see how they lived, kept their word, respected their neighbors, considered their employees as part of the family, felt the good earth, and were integrated in their community.  I wish I could have been there and heard my mother singing in the kitchen and filling the valley below with her wonderful soprano voice.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Maunabo Sunset Pic

See poem below.

Fixing My Trash Disposal or I Have Been Saving This Story

Time to tell it.
Not the most femenine of tales but I have to tell it.
It is the story of the broken trash disposal.
For a plumber this would be routine,
but for me, no!
I am now in my semi retirement, in the process of
getting settled and moving into my new home.
I am in transition, so money is not in abundance.
I have a smaller income.
My nice salary has been slashed
and I must make do.

So here's the situation.  My last tenents damaged several things in my apartment.
One of the things they broke was my trash disposal. Thinking I was going to replace it, I went online and saw a video on how to replace it.

So I removed it. Big mistake.  You do not remove something without having bought the other and having it right there.  But I did. Then I had a party and during it, I did not have the use of the kitchen sink barely and the dishwasher, forget it.  That is how it happened and then I left for Orlando.

So now two months later I came back and lo and behold the trash disposal is still there with an unworking sink. Oh, no. How do I fix this?

I prayed and prayed.  I can't afford a big plumber's bill.  I prayed some more. Oh, maybe I can put the old trash disposal back and at least that way I can use the sink. So I tried. Ugh.  The disposal is too heavy.  I just couldn't do it. So I prayed and prayed.  Then one morning out of the blue I got a vision of a stack of books.  If I put a stack of books, I could place the disposal on top of the books and I would not have to lift it up. But before I placed the books and the disposal for some reason, it occured to me that I should shake the disposal out because even if it wasn't working, I didn't want it to be clogged.  So I shook it out in the trashcan and to my surprise a small three and a half inch screw driver fell out with two pieces of plastic.  Wow. Okay.  It doesn't work anyway but at least there will not be anything stopping the flow of water, I thought.

Next,  I proceeded to put my big stack of books and adjusted the books until I got them almost just right.  It was a sliver too short.  That is when I thought of using two butter knives.  Modesty aside, that was genius.  With the knives, I was basically able to manuever the disposal up and down, while I tighten it into place.

Just one problem.  It had a piece of plastic pipe jutting out.  I tried turning it.  It wouldn't budge.  But I noticed there was a metal piece holding it into place. I unscrewed it, inserted the plastic tube into the drain, finished positioning the disposal, retighten the screws to the metal plate in place (not that easy, took me a little bit of time), and I was almost done. I reinserted the dishwasher drain tube where it belonged and tested it by opening the faucet.  There was a slight leak where the plastic tubes joined so I tighten the "whatchamadigger,"( it was like a big plastice bolt). When I did,  the leaking stopped. !!!

I was beaming.  I couldn't believe what I was doing.  Now let's test with the dishwasher. I put it to work and it worked. No leaks!  Oh, my gosh! I can now use the dishwasher! I wanted to cry! But I was too happy!

There was just one thing left.  The disposal. What the heck.  I plugged it in.  I turned the switch.  It worked! I was in total disbelief.  This can't be happening.  I had tested the thing.

I couldn't believe it!  I wanted to scream.  It was too early to do that so I started praying out loud and thanked the Lord for his goodness.  He guided my thoughts, my hands, and my eyes.  Thank you, Lord!  I am no plumber! I know you are a great and mighty God, and I love you!!

I still can't believe it. My kitchen is in working order.  Incredible.

Maunabo Sunset

Rich pink and grey clouds
Some high brushing the mountains
Others horizontal filling the sky
In the distance I hear the in and out and bursting of waves
on the terracotta sand
While the rustling palms shuffling remind me
Where I am
Just caught in a moment
Looking beyond
Yes!  Look, there is Vieques!
Oh, sweet there goes a flock of egrets
While the wind plays with my hair
Two ruiz señores race
And the wind sings in my ear
A faraway dog calls
I am here
Caught in this moment
With just one cloud very pink now
The others have run to grey
and I hear the ocean,
the ocean,
and the waves.
And you asked me,
"Que hay en Maunabo?"
What's in Maunabo, anyway?
Ha! Is all I have to say!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Life Might be Cheaper in PR

I love squash---calabaza to be more precise.  I couldn't believe that they had calabaza twenty nine cents in the grocery store.  Here in PR we put it in soups, beans, pies, fritters, and alone with olive oil or butter added as a side with tuna or codfish. Big smile on my face.

By the way, it wasn't only the squash.  Five bags of codfish for five dollars! Of course they are not huge bags, but with two you can make a meal for four people easily and then add the other staples. Tomatoes were on sale as well and much cheaper than I pay in Orlando.  This is encouraging.  I think I can make it after all.  This was at Super Max.  Pueblo had it set of sales as well, including a whole chicken for 89 cents a pound! Think about it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Downsizing 2

Trying this again.  For some reason my whole post did not print completely. It's the wierdest thing.  Let see if now it will work.

As I do my downsizing and decluttering, I am only keeping only what is important.  So thankful for the time to do this.  So today is Shredder Fest Day Two.  Yesterday, I shredded a huge 55 gallon lawn bag of old receipts and papers. Today, perhaps not as much but just as intense in getting rid of the JUNK! Tomorrow is recycle day. A little bit proud of myself.

Well, it is the end of the day, I have gone through container after container of envelopes, ripping some open for the first time and examining the contents.  Some were repeated bills which I knew what was being billed but others were hurriedly read cards with little surprises and special little nothings friends had taken the time to send.  I regret that.  I had lived in such a hurry and stress that I didn't take the time to appreciate my friends and family like I should have. 

 I feel I am coming out of a prison of stress.   Teaching can be a killer career.  It robs people of their personal lives.  I loved the kids but the  continued pressure to be exceptional and "perfect" drains people's lives.  I don't know of any teacher these days who is going home at night light as a feather with no work to do.  In fact, many carry papers back and forth from school to home,  yet are too exhausted to touch them.   Instead they try to give their families some quality time yet all the while feeling guilty that they didn't touch those papers.  It is a vicious cycle and I am glad to be out of it.  Downsizing my stress!!! Yay!

No more storing papers, either.  I am going to record my bills on a calendar and write down a bill's due date, have a pocket for the envelope, transit slip, and a written check dated three days before it is due.  And I am going to start throwing papers away from the get go.  And write people back when they send me a sweet card, not just glow with happiness, but send them love, too.  

Thinking about changing my ways.  Let's see what happens.

Update... at the end of the day, I had practically filled another 55 gallon trash bag.  I hauled both bags to the curb for recyclying tomorrow.  This is a huge triumph for me and I know it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Little Bit of Wind

Had the funniest thing happen to me this morning.  I went out to let the dog out in the back yard.  Nothing too strange about that since I do this several times a day with Ginger who is quite regular.  Today it was different since the north cold wind was moving in with a cold front.  As I waited for Ginger, I noticed a broken branch on the ground about four feet long and thought, "Oh, wow it must have been gusty this morning for this to fall." I let Ginger in the porch, shutting the screen door behind her, then went stayed outside and picked up a couple of planters to stack them for the garage sale I'm having tomorrow.  It would only take me a minute.  When all of a sudden a big gust of wind rushed through the trees, rustling all the leaves, and shaking the branches.  It must have been at least 35 to 40 miles per hour and I felt its strength wash over and around me.  Then I felt something fall on my head.  It was a small branch, not too big, but it popped me on the head.  Umm that was strange.   I took that as a sign that it was time to go inside. So I did.

Later in the day, I went to the new Publix on East Colonial directly off Waterbury Road, and road that has taken me to so many places.  The store is brand new, clean, and sparkling, so I was checking it out.  I located the potatoes and was comparing the prices of the potatoes when I noticed across the way, a sign that said,  "Plantains, five for a dollar."

Having company coming over next week, who like plantains, I strolled over.  There was a young man arranging kiwi on the other side of the same table.   He must have noticed my windbreaker and because he asked me if the wind had died down since this morning and I told him,

"Yes, it has died down some. "

Then I told him my anecdote and we laughed.

Then he said, "thank goodness it was only a little branch and not a coconut!"

"You know what?  You are so right!" I told him with a chuckle.

That was priceless.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Picking up Beads

This morning, I finally got around to picking up some beads that had fallen out of a bead case.  It wasn't  a task to which I was looking forward.  Why, you might ask? Well, for starters they had fallen on the carpet and some were under a shelf with only enough space for my hand to get under.  That meant I had to get down on the floor to do this.  In addition, these beads were multicolored, white, blue, turquoise, and some were transparent being made out of glass.  Some were bulky, one centimeter in width while others were a fraction of that.  Adding to the mix was the fact that other things were on the carpet as well.  I wanted to actually vacuum the carpet but I didn't want to lose the beads in the process.  So I was in a dilemma.  Should I simply vacuum and dispose of these lovely beads which I could use to
make a lovely necklace or embroider on a dress or blouse, or should I bend down and pick them up?

I chose to bend down. As I did, I swept up the first twenty, using a thin cardstock flyer from JoAnne Fabrics I had gotten in the mail bending it in the middle and sending the first set of beads into a Ball mason jar.  Then I took to picking up the beads with my fingers especially the more colorful or glassy ones that were easily visible.  I knew there were more.

A thought went through my head. "Let none be wasted." Then I realized this was a metaphor.  I passed my hand over the carpet closing my eyes, relying only on my sense of touch.  Yes, I knew the thick carpet was going to roughen my hands or perhaps exfoliate them.  Take your pick. It didn't matter.  I was on a mission.  Then I looked in places further from where the majority were located.  I found some.  Then I lifted up items that could be hiding more beads, such as a book on the floor or a pedestal next to my night stand.  I was right, there were two or three there nestled underneath it.  I looked at the foot of my bookshelf and I found some deep turquoise and emerald green beads there too, glistening as I picked them up.  I went to the edge of the carpet close to the floor board and there, too,  I found a couple.  Another sweep of the hand helped me to detect some few remaining beads tucked between the strands of carpet.  A miniscule white one that will look pretty on my necklace or on the hem of his garment.

In all, I collected at least 75 to a hundred beads.  I am going to take a final look before I come with the vacuum cleaner.

"Let none be wasted."

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Thank God for Sundays

Thank God for Sundays
Blue Skys
Gentle Breezes
True Friends
Dogs with wagging tails
and frisky runs thinking they are horses

Thank God for cluttered cards
discovered in a dusty box
full of love
Thank you for the Bible verses
that lift people up and shakes them off
and puts us in a better place

Thank God for hope
and all of your promises
that we know that are sure
a place in heaven
a name in the book of life
no more tears
no more wars
no more suffering

But now what about today?
Yes, thank you for coming
thank you for showing us that
you are the way, the truth, and the life
and that you set us free
to live with more kindness,
gentleness, and faith

Thank you that you are
the living
not the stagnant water
that we can drink daily
and face each day with new strength so
we can be ready for the
wonderful things around the corner
those amazing surprises
that only you can put together.

Thank God for Sabbath, for Sunday,
for everyday.
Lord open our eyes.