Thursday, April 30, 2009


El Tepeyac was at the end of the block, a small and crowded place, with business people, grandmothers with small children, a front patio with outdoor seating and potted plants.
An enormous outdoor grill was sending smoke signals to the neighborhood, because soon a mariachi group walked in and started playing. Ron ordered for us at the counter as I waited for him at a table.

He returned with open bottles of beer with lime wedges poking from the lips. I laughed. Not at the sight of the lime, I had seen those before, but at his audacity to consume beer at lunchtime, on a work day. He winked and laughed back.

We sat outdoors, boungavilla and roses climbing the walls; Mariachi making everyone happy, loud and happy children dancing; friends greeting each other. Ron waved at a few people, and exchanged greetings in Spanish.

“I told you about the art cooperative down the street? No. Well, I spent a couple of years there with a friend of mine from Cal Arts. It was supposed to be an internship for me.”

“And? What happened ?”

“I still paint and I still volunteer there. I do this and that. I get tired of one project and jump to the next. Before my divorce, I was on the road all year with a couple of bands.”

“Oh? How long were you married? Do you have children?”

“Not long. No children. She was fine with the money. She just didn’t want to travel after a while. I’m still playing and traveling.”

The grilled meat, salsa, beans and rice made up the biggest burrito I ever had. It was the only time I had a proper lunch since I started working there.

Back at school, the police was everywhere.

Part four/six

all rights reserved

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Detours: Part Three

The morning went fast. I could hear sounds from next door, giggling, chairs being moved, scraping, shouting. My classes had exams on Mondays. I gave homework on weekends.
By noon, I had worked through two stacks of papers. These were simple essays, really. With dictionaries in hand, to check spelling, to check definitions, to identify proper plurals, my students could take the entire hour to write an essay.

Ron walked in after the noon bell, before I had erased my board.

“Gotta try the burritos at El Tapayac. No? You can’t tell me you’ve never ventured out of here?” “I have papers to correct.”
"They'll wait. Come.”

I did want to stretch my legs, drop in shops. But this was no ordinary neighborhood. This was East L. A., home of dozens of gang members and drug dealers. Nobody walked those streets.

“I know what’s on your mind. I used to work a few blocks from here at the arts cooperative. Have you been there?”
“When I started three years ago, I was told to leave right after school, and drive to the first freeway entrance.”
“You’ve fallen for that crappy shit about gangs, ah?”
“Now. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the graffiti and the trash, and those cholos standing at the corner stores?”
“They are picking up jobs.”
“You and I live among the professional classes of Tarzana. O.K. Your neighborhood in Topanga is a bit more bohemian, but you and I can walk down Ventura at all times of the day.”

We started walking out of the place, discussing the neighborhood, getting hungry.
“Best burrito you’ll ever have.” Ron was strong and confident.

We shouldered our way out through the crowded yard, Spanish hurled around with burger and taco wraps. There were always fights and altercations over little things at lunch time. And there were often students who left campus after those incidents. Afternoon classes were always pruned down.

Detours-Part Three by Rosaria
All rights reserved
Characters and situations are all fictional- Any similarity to real people or events is purely accidental.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Detours: Part Two

“Wow! They are beautiful! Are these from your garden?”
“Some. Some from the fields behind our house. Last night, I couldn't’t resist them. Before I knew, I took pictures out there until I had no more light. Then, I thought. No. I need to take them to class.”

Ron had an armful of flowers when I picked him up at seven-o-five; I had to drop Carlie and Ryan at the YMCA since my husband was out of town. The Y opened and closed at seven. I left my children with another mom waiting in her car for the door to open.

I was late; and could do nothing to change that situation. In Los Angeles, you have to allow plenty of time to get places. Especially if your job did not have flexible hours. Most teachers begged their administrator for first-period preparation. It allowed some people to get in a bit late, and get away with it; and it allowed the rest of the teachers to cover the classes of the late-arrivals and make some extra money. Administrators made all kinds of check marks on our time sheets, indicating our lateness, absences, coverage required, coverage not required.

The flowers erased the doubts I had about Ron. His bringing armful of flowers to school didn’t feel unusual at all. Wildflowers, roses, lavender, daisies, statice, all spilled in the back seat as he deposited two bags and himself in the front.

Before I knew, I had been on the road for a good forty minutes. The time had just whizzed by. When I parked, the car smelled of roses and lavender, as he gathered his things.
“This will look great on your desk. “ He said as he handed me a small bouquet."
I put the flowers to my nose and breathed the fragrance deeply.

"What are you doing for lunch?" He asked.
"I eat my yogurt and correct papers in the classroom. The only time I have to myself."
Then I added, " I rush home, unless we have meetings.”
“I’ll be ready. If you change your mind about lunch, I found this wonderful..." I was at my door. Students were milling all over the place, and I didn't even hear his last comment.

Detours-- A short story in six parts. Written by Rosaria.
All characters and situations are fictional.
All rights reserved.

Things you don't learn in school: Bill Gates' speech.

Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things students did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

"Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2 : The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger! flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one. If you agree, pass it on. If you can read this - Thank a teacher!

Most of all Thank A Veteran for keeping our country free so this can be passed on to someone else. "

Thank you Bill Gates for your words of wisdom. As graduation approaches, these rules should be shared with all seniors.

Monday, April 27, 2009


He was looking up and down the street, moving back and forth on his heels, as though a tune was beating in his limbs. I offered him a ride. His trousers and bag were wet, and he smelled of sea-foam and wet sand. He substituted for the teacher next door to me. I knew him well enough to drive him home.

I dropped him off at the corner of Ventura, a short walk to his place. Two days later, my daughter shouted for me to hurry to the phone just as I was getting in the tub.
“Mom, phone for you.” Carlie had hung up the phone before I got to her.
“Was it Dad? Carlie? Who was that?”
“ I don’t know.” My eight year old said calmly, already sitting in front of her television show. I waited for the phone to ring again.
“Hi. I’m Ron, the substitute for Mrs. Pierce? You gave me a ride last week?
“What can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if I could impose on you again.”
“Your car isn't ready?”
“Yes. No. I’m trying to get enough money to buy a new one, actually. The other one isn’t working out. I thought you wouldn’t mind. I’ll pay for the gas.”
“O.k. Be prompt. I'll pick you up at Ventura and Topanga at six-thirty.”
“Great. Thanks again. I usually don’t get assignments so far from home; it’s a favor for Helen, actually.”
“Oh? Mrs. Pierce requested you?”
“She asked me even before she had surgery. We are good friends.”

I said yes, before I thought about the commitment I was making. I didn’t need another irritant in my life. But, I couldn’t very well refuse.

Our school in East Los Angeles was poor, angry, and full of children whose families did not speak English. The substitute had noticed something I hadn’t. These children, he had said, all love to draw and paint. They can’t get enough of it. If I included drawings and paintings with my lessons, they would love it, he said. What did he know? A week, and now he's an expert with these children. He'd change his mind in a couple of weeks.

(To be continued: Part one of six.)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Planting Time

There is a storm on the way. Clouds and winds from the North are delaying my gardening activities, extending my blogging time.

Yesterday's run to Coos was very productive. We bought bags of mushroom compost at Wallmart; blackberries and raspberries starts, zucchini, beans, onions and artichoke starts. For more exotic plants we went to our berry lady, who is known for unusual starts, up in the hills of Charleston. She had a hundred plus varieties of blueberry plants. Imagine! She had sold us a few in the past, and I wanted to expand my varieties. She had one that produces gigantic fruit, as big as cherries. We got a few of those, and cherries, both Bing and Rainier.

After we plant all these things, weeks from now, we need to worry about fertilizing, weeding, and later in the summer months, irrigating. This part of Oregon has two seasons, approximately six months each, wet and dry. Once a tree is established it can survive the drought. But not sooner. In addition, we have a marine layer, cool winds that dry up in one sweep, and wet in another. We provide wind barriers to most plantings. And we provide weed barriers, mulching or cloth covering to prevent unwanted vegetation strangling the young upstarts we paid a dear penny for. I haven't even mentioned the animals.

Nothing is deer-proof. They need to roam and taste and be satiated somehow. We must outsmart them with herbs, tall fences, or delicious tender shoots planted just in their reach to stop further decimation. Sometimes this last act is totally unplanned. I left a pot of ranunculus by the front door whose blooms remained happy for weeks before they became a tasty appetizer for a doe.

This year, I'm expanding my vegetable patch and my fruit production. What we don't eat I can freeze. I have half a freezer full of sliced apples from last year's crop. If I crave apples, or I have nothing to put on my yogurt, I grab a few frozen slices, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon, plop in the microwave, and voila.

Those of you who like gardening know how satisfying planting season can be.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Run to Coos.

Oregon celebrates 150 years this year. It is a relative new state, and there are still many towns that sit 20+ miles from each other, under 2,000 people. On the south coast of the state, before it becomes California, these towns are a bit more pristine and unspoiled. Those people who reside here enjoy the pastoral and ocean views, appreciate the unspoiled vistas, and don't mind running to the bigger towns for supplies and entertainment.

We run to Coos Bay, the big city in our region, about 16,000 people, a day long event. "Run" is the incorrect word here, but it is the phrase we use to indicate a day when we have to stock up on stuff. Coos Bay is the place where there is a mini-mall, a casino, multiple shops, and a twelve screens movie theater. When we plan a trip to Coos, we try to do everything we can on that trip. It was mainly a fishing and lumber town, now a tourist destination, since both fishing and timber harvesting have slowed down to nothing.

When we first moved here we purchased an SUV for just these occasions. Furniture, plants, tools, and multiple loads of wood and appliances were transported home the same day we bought them. We felt like pioneers, going to town for provisions. For us old city folks it was revisiting the conveniences of a freshly baked pizza, or a hot and juicy quarter pounder with cheese, and we looked forward to these trips.

Today, we'll go up to Coos to buy soil amendments and new berry canes. We'll stop at the hardware store for irrigation tubing; then ,we'll go to Sizzler for our salad and salmon. Quarter pounders have done us wrong; and pizzas are only allowed to float in our dreams. We'll stop at the marina, and check the catch of the day. We have standing coolers with ice that travel with us on these runs.

We'll return home before sunset, ready to work in our gardens tomorrow, and thank God for such a beautiful place.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meme of the Moment

Tessa from An Aerial Armadillo has tagged me for this Meme of the Moment.

1. What is your current obsession?

Staying healthy, getting back the use of my arm which became waylaid during a bout of bursitis.

2.Which item of clothing do you wear often?

Rain gear, followed by sturdy shoes and wind/chill repellents. I do "dress up" when I chair the local Board of Education. That's when I bring out my business suits, and my dressy shoes. You wouldn't recognize me.

3.What's for dinner?

We are on our third week of re portioning and recalibrating our food, since hubby has been declared diabetic and our diet must change or else. I cook by impulse, making something with whatever is available, but I do stock a big freezer and a walk-in pantry. For tonight's dinner we'll be having roasted citrus halibut with wilted greens from the garden and a fruit/ricotta compote for dessert. The halibut will have been just a few hours off the Pacific. Our fishing fleet sometimes has extra fish they sell locally. The rest is sold live, yes LIVE, to restaurants.

4.What are you listening to?

I'm a blues/jazz lover. I just put Ella Fitzgerald on. My daughter and her husband are in the music business. For Christmas, I used to ask for collections, and they would make it happen for me, selecting and mixing in their studio. Of course, I listen to their own group, The Comforters, in live concert situations as often as I can. ( check them out at

5.Say something to the one that tagged you.

Tessa, I'm honored for this activity, and I'm pleased to know you and the blog mates you and I have encountered. I met you through Angela, I think. I admire your spirit, your taste, and the enchanting power of your storytelling. Thank you for your interest in my life.

6.Favorite vacation spot?

Venice. It has mystique, history, intrigue, art, architecture, music and fashion to dazzle the eyes and the soul. It is truly a one of a kind spot on earth.

7. What I'm reading right now?

Anne Michaels, Fugitive Pieces; and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. A Life in The 20th Century. I tend to have a fiction, and a non fiction by my bedside.

8. Four words to describe myself.

Curious, adventurous, caring, stubborn.

9.Guilty pleasure.

I'm dreaming of owning a sport car. In the meantime, I scour adv. pages, looking for such a deal. My ideal: a 450 SL Mercedes convertible, red, hardtop and soft top.

10. First Spring thing?

Working in the garden that is not soaked. This week we got the tiller out and work done to prepare our vegetable garden.

11. (This is question I've reworked) What do you look forward to?

I have been writing memoir pieces. My wish is to get something ready for publication, and see something in print before I die. I know people in their eighties busy with their writing, too. I hope not to get discouraged by the lovely competition.

Now it's my turn to tag 8 others to do the same; respond to the questions,rework those you need to rework, replace, add, and tag 8 others.

Lola-from Aglioolioepeperoncino








Thanks again, Tessa, for this opportunity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Saving Adolescent Girls

I read about the shock and awe we all feel when we listen to the lyrics of songs our children and grandchildren listen to. The concepts and the raw language we are subjected to are common fare everywhere on television, on MTV, on comedy shows, in movies.

We live in a world that has blurred all lines between adult fiction, and smut. Even very alert parents will not be alert enough to catch all that is going on. I remember when we screened what our children were exposed to. All of us did. Once, when my baby was very little, and I was still nursing her, we took her to see a rated R cartoon. I forgot the name of it; but we were refused entrance because of the child; and we sheepishly left, went home, and swore to ourselves we'd be better parents.

We are losing that battle. My concern is how our girls view their roles, or are coerced to take up roles to be popular, to remain in the group, to appear 'with it'.

I like Dr. Mary Pipher's thesis in Reviving Ophelia, a New York Times Bestsellers for years. She studied the problems girls are having with depression, anorexia, suicide attempts, and connects them to the way girls see their roles represented in the culture. Girls continue to struggle to find their true selves, playing different roles for different people and feeling as though their lives do no matter any more unless they please others, unless they look a certain way, unless they have certain things.

We all need to become advocates for healthy life styles, and healthy relationships. We must speak out whenever and where-ever we see sick practices.

The poisoning starts in adolescence and doesn't end there.
I read blogs of adult women still trying to be 'good', 'non-complaining', 'cheerful'. We are not fictional characters, people. We are made of flesh, blood, bones that break, muscles that ache, and are surrounded by families who, without skipping a beat, have enjoyed Mother in the role of the Martyr. Mothers have accepted such roles and feel guilty for not having achieved Sainthood, or lost enough weight to look as they did when they were in high school, or control every single drama life throws at the family. We are socialized to be everything to everybody.

Feminists, where have you gone? Why aren't educators doing more? Why are we not promoting mental health?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gains and Losses.

The advertising that pops up with my Weather Bug widget caught my eye this morning. It showed a bare stomach belonging to a young lady with the catch phrase: "Gain a flat stomach in two weeks."

Well, I'm not sure they meant "gain". Gain is growth, in volume, in cents, in knowledge. Bu those are the words used in that commercial, at a time when people have become a bit sensitive about losses. With all the people losing jobs, homes, retirement funds, all we want is to gain. Tell us that's possible and will jump in the pool.

The old adage, "buyers beware" is still in play. But there is something else. We have become so accustomed to the hype, the spin, wordplay that confuse, reduce and infuse, that we are now in a catatonic mood. We can't buy any more because we have experienced a crisis of delusion, of our own making. We can't trust our senses to communicate clearly to us. Were we not having a good time spending? Wasn't it fun ?

If Wall Street missed the signs, if boards that oversee corporations continued to approve lascivious bonuses for CEO's that were deciding such strange ventures, if our own Treasury Department and National Leaders kept saying things were fine, how were we to know? Now we are skittish and worried, and for very good reasons.

We lost our innocence, in this economic downturn. We lost our bubbly personalities and effervescent buying esprit. We are turning down our heat, freezing our credit cards, and digging in our backyard. We are going to grow our own wealth the old fashioned way, by growing our food, sewing our clothes, repairing our cars. Well, not this last part.

When our grandchild visits, we'll fish, clean and cook our own food, shell peas, make jams with our berries, and build muscles as we canoe to the Ocean. If she still has lots of energy, she'll pack food for the local pantry with the rest of us. She'll gain respect for those folks who grow her food and harvest the oceans.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Anew, A new, A new You....

Every seven years, or so, we grow enough new cells to have a new body. Really. I don't know all the scientific facts related to this phenomenon, but you can check the facts.

So, every thing, from blooming bulbs to hair follicles, have a life line of sorts. We can see growth in babies and in teens, in people we have not seen in a while, but we don't really see it in ourselves. We do, after a while, when the face in the mirror looking back at us is now our mother's face, not ours. (Or, father's!)

When we are older, we are more concerned about things breaking down than about things that renew. I'm sure my hair is new. But, my liver? How do I know?

I can't eat the same things I used to eat. My liver, stomach, intestines, and all the other parts of digestion tell me I can't eat the way I used to. I must adjust, or I'll be spending my golden days at the doctors' . I've given up on sweets because my organs are rebelling. These are not the same organs, trust me, I used to have banana splits and not only didn't gain an ounce, but I had no trouble sleeping.

I'm writing this blog at 3:30 a.m. my time. NOT BY CHOICE! I had a B.L.T. sandwich for supper last night. My stomach prepared a legal brief that was delivered four hours after I went to bed, reminding me of my legal obligation to maintain this body as it is; not make it worse.

I know that all around me,( in this town with many older folks it is easy to find living lessons), people are shopping in the local supermarket one day, and in for a bypass the next. We are all falling apart when we least expect it. I don't have to remind you that four weeks ago I was on heavy medications to combat the pain of bursitis in one shoulder, a pain that cancelled any other growth except household mold.

We change. We tend to break more easily. We tend to forget more easily. And it will only get worse if we don't take action to halt the decline, and plan the changes we can control. The last few weeks in physical therapy pointed out ways for me to upgrade my workout for my upper body all through the cold and wet months, so that come spring, I can pull weeds and dig plants, push carts and do all those gardening chores without straining, spraining or breaking any body parts.

What about the parts we don't see? How do we keep the brain running effectively? We need to grow new dendrites by exposing ourselves to new tasks, new challenges, work at staying active mentally, and not just doing what we enjoy and comes easily. It's probably a good time to learn a foreign language, new math, new skills, a good time to become activists, promoting causes that need our attention. We help others grow as well.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Award Day from Blogland.

Thank you Lola for this lovely award, which I managed to copy and paste!

Lola, at Aglio,Olio e Peperoncino, truly deserves this award and many many more. Since she started, she's taken off like a meteor! She blogs about travel, food, Italian customs, and about Italy, my homeland.

Palabras Como Rosas

The award is for words that like roses, leave a wonderful perfume, lingering for a while. Now, I know that Lola's words do that to me. I think of her as another daughter, (I really don't know how old Lola is, but, I guessed she is in her thirties, the same age as my musician daughter!)

So, with great gratitude, mille grazie, Lola.

Now, I get to select nine other blogs who have similar qualities, excluding Lola and Tessa who gave her the award. Their blogs are on my top five list. Check these for warmth and lingering scent of roses:

1. The Things We Carried

2. Pics and Poems

3.Fire Byrd
4. Circling my head
5. Lizzy Frizzfrock
6.In through the backdoor
8. The Chemist's kitchen
9. A woman of no importance
I need to say that my list goes to twenty-five today, all deserving blogs that ought to be recognized. Perhaps the above nine folks will do the pleasure. Good luck.

Blogging Phenomenon: Part Two

Today I'm cleaning up my computer, dropping cookies, browsing history, add-ons, etc... The computer geek at the local computer shop told me that I can't keep adding on without adding memory. I asked him what that meant; he said somequarksisupperstuff. I wanted to look intelligent and all that jazz; but I said, just clean it up.

"You may lose....You can get a ...heart pumping, money mentioned, new parts, labor, blah, blah.......
My husband who should have handled this transaction for me was nowhere around. He's busy with his other concerns; and I want to handle my affairs nowadays more than ever.

"I just want it to stop freezing up on me. That is all!"

Well, I still don't understand what he did. He showed me the mess I was creating by not deleting information as I pranced around the web. So, now I know what I have to do. He did fix the illegible keyboard because the manufacture covered it; and he kind of told me what else he did for the sum he charged.

So, some of you may disappear from my long list of friends. Don't worry! I can find you and will stop in often enough for us to remember each other.

Until this machine breaks down, I'll see you all in all the old familiar places. Arrivederci.

Curious phenomenon of Insane Proportion.

How can it be that among the millions of bloggers we run in the same circle? I responded to a new visitor, and discovered that all her other comments were made by people I know.

Here is what I think:
We stop at our usual ten, fifteen places a day to leave a comment. We are A. Someone else, B, does the same. They both end up at Z, a customary run for A, but a new one for B. B notices that A has appeared in a few places he frequents. So, he visits A and leaves a comment, not once, but twice. B returns the favor and finds that he and A have common friends, and they are all Catholic. How the...?

Now, that's not an explanation at all. There must be a scientific way to determine this. Someone in blogland must know a statistical method to apply here. Why do I want to know? Because I thought this whole thing was random all the time. I thought, as many still do, that we could just jump in and out of this train as though we were at Disneyland. Have you gone to Disneyland and met someone you worked with? It never happened to me.

I lived most of my life in suburbs of Los Angeles. Nobody knew you. Even if you frequented the same establishments week after week. If anybody did, we became friends for life. Now, finding people with similar backgrounds outside of your town, outside of your geographical area, outside of your country, even outside of your continent, or hemisphere is INSANE, but curious.

When did it become this easy to talk about politics, religion, family and sleeping habits with total strangers? We don't even know their real names, or....

I'd love to hear what you think is happening here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"When I was your Age."

I am alone writing a series of stories and letters titled, "When I was Your Age", a memoir that will be a finished product by December. When I am not reading or blogging, or at the doctor, or volunteering, I'm polishing that book of mine.

There is so much we want to tell our children and grandchildren before we die: stories of how life was back in our days, snippets of historical significance, important events that our grandchildren will read in history books.

Our memories become the legacy we leave to our children. I may not live to see the birth of all my grandchildren. Many people write books of recipes, with stories to go with each dish. These tidbits add so much meaning to those future days when dishes are shared and someone will talk about Nonna and her famous spaghetti sauce.

My book took two years to complete. Unlike other projects, I had a difficult time being objective. I'm too close to the events, too touched by the emotions. I am still trying to do a good editing job before I shop around for an agent.

Should I pass tomorrow, my stories and letters will continue to speak louder than any piece of jewelry or endowmnet I leave behind.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quo Vadis?

I just finished The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, a second reading for me. This time, I'll be discussing it with my Readers' Club.

The Club consists of women and one man all older than I. Imagine, being the youngest among intelligent, curious and highly knowledgeable folks. But, I do have an advantage in this group; I read books like a professor, they tell me. Though I try not to, in this stage of my life. I try to read books as though I were the writer. I ask myself what it took for Amy Tan to come to grips with, to sort through and select situations and characters to illuminate what was foremost on her mind.

The story is set up like a compass: four points of view, four women-mothers and respective daughters. The mothers call themselves the Joy Luck Club-playing mah jong to win and capture some wisdom together, and to share their good fortune. The name of the club is a banner for their forceful attitude toward life: they all believe that they make their own fortune now that they are in America.

We learn the story of each mother and how she came to become the woman she is at the point when the story begins, at the point when one of them, the first narrator's mother has died and the daughter is asked to take the mother's place. She also receives a tall order: to finish her mother's unfinished business, to return to China to find the daughters her mother had lost.

The themes are universal: hardship, misunderstanding, mother/daughter conflicts, regret, disappointment.

The imagery is stunning. Nature and moods and myths all intricately woven in the patterns of the winds, the flight of birds, children becoming lost to their mothers, mothers' desires for daughters to be special.

There is a sophisticated weaving of eastern and western points of view as mothers push daughters to acquire practices to insure happiness; and daughters reject what they consider irrelevant in the new country. The conflicts are raw and painful. Rules of the game are repeated by mothers, and ignored by daughters.

Daughters speak of the dark side of mothers; mothers speak of daughters' inability to be obedient and malleable. Mothers have expectations that seem too hard to achieve. Throughout, there is a long history of each family, with the sins of mothers and fathers following generation after generation. "Fate is shaped half by expectations, and half by inattention."
Mothers have abilities to see in the future, to predict what will happen from present behaviors; daughters are afraid of what mothers can see, what mothers do not tell.

Both mothers and daughters are conflicted, unhappy with the relationship.

"It felt as if I had lost a battle, but one that I didn't know I had been fighting. I was weary."

"I saw what I had been fighting for. It was me, a scared child who had run away a long time ago..."

"She will fight me,because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and give her my spirit, because this is the way a mother loves her daughter."

In the end, there is a reconciliation, realizing that conflict is in everyone who want to deny one part of who they are. When that part comes from another culture, it becomes doubly hard.

" Which one is better? If you show one, you must always sacrifice the other."

The question, which way, is relevant in everyone's life. (Regardless of how the sign reads!)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Anniversary: Part Two

My story is the story of America. In every one's memory there is a story of immigration and struggle, of learning new ways and a new language, of homesickness and hope. I'm just rereading Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, a tour-de-force story of survival, a struggle to keep things normal, a faith in the future, and the unusual bond between a mother and her daughter. I cried the first time I read it; and I'm crying again.

But, I digress.

My story is quite simple, on the surface. My parents sent me to live with relatives in America as I pursued my studies. The plan was for me to return to Italy after a few years as a teacher. I did study; day and night, weekends and holidays, on buses, in closets, in bathrooms, at lunch counters. After four years I graduated with a B. A. in English. (not ESL)

I had great teachers at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood. In the midst of the 60's revolutions, they sisters and lay faculty molded our dreams and characters. We were exposed to a liberal arts education and challenged to think boldly and ecumenically, beyond our religious parameters. We received world-class education while other campuses were experiencing unrest and revolts.

When I left Italy I had taken two years of English and was proud of my abilities. Maybe too proud. I had so much confidence that I fooled myself too. I thought it would be a matter of weeks before the mumble -jumble I was hearing would become understandable. With my relatives, I was forbidden to speak Italian. The uncle who had sponsored me did not want to translate for his wife. She had made that her first rule. You can imagine the many misapprehensions and misunderstanding the two of us had.

That, is another story, for another time.

I had been admitted to a junior college and attended it for a year before transferring to Immaculate Heart. My salvation? I knew the subject matter already. What I was doing was learning the vocabulary. By the time I transferred to Immaculate Heart I was managing well. It didn't hurt that two neighbor girls still in high school and with whom I shared babysitting duties wanted to be tutored in French and in Mathematics. My French was much better than my English. The arrangement helped.

To end the story, I never returned to Italy because I was hired to teach before I graduated. Catholic schools did not have enough nuns and priests to staff their classrooms, and they were recruiting among the graduates. I substituted for six months, in exchange for tuition during the last semester. By June, they begged me to stay; they prepared the paperwork to change my visa so I could work for pay, and I signed up for another year while I attended graduate school. I taught French, English, History and Philosophy. I postponed my return to Italy. By then, also, I decided to move out of my uncle's house and live at a convent with other lay teachers.

It was during that time that I met my husband, married and lived happily ever after. He wasn't even catholic. Italy and my family had to wait another two years before I could save enough money to pay for new family to visit my homeland.

During holidays though, the tug of homeland is still there, especially at Christmas and Easter.

Now, hubby and I have retired and live away from our own children. This Easter, we'll go up to Bandon Dunes for brunch and watch golfers tee-off at $300 a pop. We'll feel rich and spoiled. Life is good. It isn't perfect. It never was. We always have to give up something in order to reach a new goal. Maybe that's one of the reasons I like Easter so much: it is a story of death and sacrifice, a story of renewal, a story of transformation. However we see the parallels in our own lives, the anniversary reminds us of the arc of our lives, the ups and downs, the constant push to be fully present and in resplendent ascension in our humanity.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Today is my 50th Anniversary. On this day, in 1959, I arrived at LAX with one suitcase containing four sets of clothes, a dictionary and one dollar. At the airport, I was told I'd be met by an uncle and an aunt who had promised my father they would take could care of me while I studied for the next four years. The TWA jet was late at LAX. It had stopped in Canada for fueling and was delayed because of weather. The stewardess, who spoke Italian and English didn't bother with the only two passengers on board. I assumed I had arrived at my destination and was about to get off the plane when she shouted something. Actually, I didn't understand much of what she said; I understood her gestures and her expression. It was the other passenger, an old woman who boarded the plane with me in Rome, who came to sit by me and translated the message.

She sat with me until we landed in Los Angeles. From Canada to Los Angeles she reassured me that in just a few weeks I would be able to understand everything. Believe me, she said, it will come to you, just as it came to me. She told me about herself, her shuttling back and forth from Italy to Los Angeles, spending winter in one place, summer in another. She had children all over the world. "You'll get used to everything, don't worry." Her words were reassuring. I imagined my life would be a bit like hers for the next few years; I could go to school for nine months and then return home in the summers.

When we landed, there was nobody to meet me. The kind lady asked if she could help. I told her not to worry, I was not scared. But I was. She handed me a piece of paper with her name and telephone number before she disappeared with a brood of children and adults who had met her. What a lovely family, I thought.

Two hours later, my uncle and aunt arrived. They had been on time, they explained; but the airline told them the plane was delayed; they left to get a bite to eat. It was late; I was sleepy and exhausted. We stopped at a drive-in and I had my first burger, fries and coke. I liked the coke.

Every time I have a coke I think of that first taste, the bubbles in my nose, the body aching, the fear of having been abandoned surfacing in my veins. That coke calmed me down that night. And it made that first summer bearable, when I realized that I was not going back home. It still does.

Coca Cola ought to pay me for this advertising!

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's a good time to be alive.

Despite the economic downturn and the problems we must address together to prevent harming our environment, living now is so much better than any other time. Most of my readers are people in the prime of their lives; men and women who have full time jobs, family obligations and career plans; women who worry about getting enough sleep after everyone else is taken care of; people photographing their cities, their talent, their hobbies; people sharing some of their writing and their paintings. We all have an interest in sharing what it is like to live in our world at this time. We are all excited about the opportunity to learn about other lives in other continents.

If I stopped and counted, between the official followers, and the blogs I follow, I have come to know about one hundred men and women from the following places: Australia, U.k., Africa, Italy, France, Canada, Germany, Japan. I'm missing South America, though Porto Rico might be counted as such. So, with one hundred sample, I might draw some conclusions, just for fun. I would like to be corrected immediately. So, if you read this and disagree, please set me straight.

1. Australia has the warmest and friendliest folks. During the biggest drought, they were still sweet and polite.

2. U.k has the most outspoken and verbal people; their vocabulary weighty

3. Italy, my homeland, has all the smells and tastes I remember, and more.

4. Africa has thoughtful and deeply sensitive writers.

5.France is a problem to describe, because the writers are expatriates. They are observant and style conscious.

6.Canada, while the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying spring, they remind us not to take anything for granted. They are practical, sensitive and courageous.

6. Germany, just one sample, has warm and supportive people.

7.Japan, one sample, playful, observant, soulful.

8. Porto Rico, one sample, open, creative, a mix of colors and patterns to please the eye and the soul.

9. United States, a few samples, showing a lot of practical, mostly liberal folks, open to the world around them, concerned about governmental policies, interested in the rest of the world.

Fifty years ago this month I emigrated to the United States from Italy. I still regard Italy as my soul-land; and the United States as my adoptive parents, and in-laws. Those of you who moved away from home know what those feelings are. We do things for many reasons.

It's still a good time to be alive. While we can, we can write to each other and share our views, our perspectives, adding to the common thread of our humanity.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Stop and Think. Now Go and watch your Step.

This warning sign, posted at the boat launch ramp of Lake Garrison warns boaters to clean their boats before and after they use the lake to fish or recreate. Not all species are harmful; not all species are benevolent. We just don't want to mix unlikely companions, muddiing the waters, complicating the diet of the native species.

Lake Garrison is in recovery. So are the dunes separating the lake from the Pacific Ocean. People are warned to respect the recovery system and give the process time to recouperate.
This is true in our own lives. When we get sick, it is because of some unusual species/bug/virus attaching itself to our boat/body. We were careful most of the time, good hygiene and good rest. But, something else can occur without our knowledge. Perhaps, we didn't pay attention to the warning signs; perhaps we were too bold and too spirited to even notice those signs.
When things are compromised, then we have to retreat our steps and review the protocols for good health. We may have to install new protocols. We should learn from these experiences and avoid the mistakes in the future.
As I go through my physical therapy exercises, counting each repetition, careful to imitate perfectly each movement, I'm eager to get the use of my arm back to normal. It will take time; it will need patience and support; it will involve time and energy and the cooperation of everybody else in my ecosystem.