My great-grandfather was a very wise man. He was my step great-grandfather, but I didn’t know it until I was an adult, nor did it ever matter. My great grandmother was a widow raising three children when she met him in Los Angeles. He worked as a secretary in a large steel company until his retirement, when he went to work for General Electric as a security guard.
He bought a modest two- bedroom house in South Central Los Angeles. That house was a gathering place, and often my home when I was growing up. I called him Nino, but his name was Joseph. He had a huge backyard where he grew fruit trees and vegetables. He always said that you should grow things you can eat. He always made sure there was plenty to eat. For lunch he would holler in Spanish, “Ninos, venga!” Lunch was an array of fruit from the yard and tortillas that my great grandmother made.
Nino came from Cuba and was diligent about reading. He told me that Reader’s Digest helped him learn English. School and church were important to him. He told me that reading books is the key to life. When there was a Father-Daughter fashion show at my school I asked him to take me. He also took me to Dodger games and explained the game to me. He said that a fan is always faithful.
When I got married, I asked him to walk me down the aisle. He was the one constant in my life. Nino would tell me little bits of advice, like, “Brush your hair 100 strokes every day to have it grow long and shiny.” I think that’s why I still have long hair.
I never heard him raise his voice. When he was displeased, he’d shake his head and walk away.
When I got diagnosed with a very serious illness he gave me a piece of paper with the words, “Take up thy bed and walk.” I think of his words when it gets hard to get out of bed.
I named my son after Nino in hopes that my son would be as kind and loving as my Nino. He is.
I thought this needed to be said loud and clear. If you can put one foot in front of the other, and smile while doing it, you are a champion in my opinion. These last two-plus years have been horrendous. It is not only the pandemic, but the atrocities occurring daily in Ukraine. There have been heavy blows to the economy, unemployment, suicides, the list goes on. At times it seems like there is no hope. I try hard to seek out the light, whatever glimmer of good there is in the world.
There are still good people in this world. It is those people I celebrate. The people who generously open their home to refugees, the school teachers who scramble to put their lessons online so their students get instruction, the nurses and health care providers who work covid units and still manage to smile and provide care to those in need, the grocery workers who stock the shelves, as well as the people who deliver food to those who can’t get to the store. There are so many good people who have empathy for others less fortunate. I hope they are all blessed immeasurably for their goodness. A shout out to you all.
The day I became a grandmother I began evaluating my life, or I should say reevaluating it. I realized that this beautiful child is not mine and I am a part of a much bigger picture, yet only a part. What part do I play? As a retired elementary teacher I know the joy of teaching young children. I have learned things I never knew about when raising my own three. Will I have any credibility when I suggest ideas for my grandchild to learn to read or learn to navigate technology when I left it up to teachers to provide literacy instruction for my own children? Is it my place to offer any suggestions? I know best practices and I have learned to lean on researched methods with proven results, yet this little one is not mine and I have to realize that I am an eager grandmother, one with hopes and dreams, but this child is the child of my child. “Take a deep breath and slow down,” I tell myself, “Enjoy the moment, and let the parents have their shot at raising their own child.” I am going to listen to that not so quiet voice. I will read aloud when I get opportunities and rejoice in my child’s journey with his child. Now if I am asked for advice, well, that’s another story.
My son called to ask if we could celebrate my husband’s birthday by hiking near the coast. He has two small children; a two year old daughter and a 3 1/2 month old son. The hike is 4 miles total, and seemed at first to be a bad idea. We met at our favorite cafe for breakfast and then drove to the headlands to begin our hike. I marveled at how much gear my son had for the children. My daughter-in-law wrapped the 3 month old around her stomach as my son put the largest kid seat I’d ever seen on his back. This contraption even had stirrups and a cup holder. My granddaughter had other ideas. She insisted on walking. Her parents went ahead as my husband, the birthday boy, and I walked with Kaia. She walked along dodging dog poop and refused to hold my hand. Other hikers smiled as they passed my independent granddaughter so determined to make the hike on her own. All I wanted was to hold her hand until I realized that this tiny human is giving us all a glimpse of the future. She will make her own way someday. She walked a mile before getting tired and reluctantly got into her 21st century backpack seat to let her daddy carry her. It was so much more than a beautiful long hike.
The numbers on my bathroom scale made me dizzy. How can it be that I weigh that much? When and where did I lose control of my weight? How can I get back to my old self? How soon? Being at home during a pandemic is a recipe for weight gain.
One of the side effects of the medication I take is weight gain, but geez, this much? Being the clothes horse that I am this is unacceptable.
I decided to enlist the help of a trainer at a local fitness center. My trainer came highly recommended and her smile put me at ease immediately. She asked the standard questions and I shared about my personal illness and my goals to gain strength and lose weight. We went to work setting up a routine. My end of the deal is work out on my own 2-3 days a week and meet with her on Friday afternoons. She showed me how to set up and properly use the machines.
I was self-conscious at first, but kept telling myself that there isn’t a soul in the gym that cares if I am a newbie. They are there for their own health and well being. There were lots of smiles and people around me were more focused on their own goals.
I am either committed or not. My trainer could sense that I have a lazy streak, so she told me to think of it as my job to show up for work. Tomorrow I will travel 4 hours to Stanford Hospital for a medical procedure and allow myself a day or two to rest, then I plan to show up and get to work.
Update1 : The pandemic has put a halt to any gym activity. I purchased an eliptical and some stretch bands. I live at the beach where taking a walk is not a chore. I also bought a membership to Body Groove and dance myself silly in the living room. I am going to stick with my commitment.
Update 2: Down 6 pounds in one week. Woohoo!
Update 3: I joined an online group that gathers on Zoom to discuss healthy lifestyle choices. They are a great group of local women and I am happy to be on the same journey.
Update 4: Down 10 pounds. Woohoo!!
Update 5: I make my own granola and morning muffins– healthy and delicious
Update 6: Going back to my gym! Yahoo! What a nightmare these last two plus years have been. Like Maya Angelou said, “Still I rise.”
Update 7: I spent 8 days in the hospital with Covid and pneumonia. It was a nightmare. I was fully vaccinated, but still got it (pre-existing condition). The nurse said the vaccinations saved my life. Anyway, after a long period of recuperation, I am back to the gym to regain strength from reconditioning. I am a determined, strong lady who wants to enjoy life. Here I go……wish me luck.
I spent eight days in the hospital with covid and pneumonia. Despite being fully vaccinated, my age and being vulnerable with a pre-existing condition contributed to covid finding me. I found myself unable to breathe and completely exhausted. A trip to the emergency room resulted in my admission to an isolation room for covid patients. I was joined by two women, one who moaned, “Help me, help me” continuously. The woman next to her tried to soothe her without success. Nurses came and went, but once they left, she would call out the names of what I assumed were family members. She was transferred to “another level of care.” That left me and the woman across from me who got to go home. You don’t know loneliness until you are by yourself in an isolation room. The staff that entered looked like beekeepers or those sci-fi people who are examining an extraterrestrial creature.
I was told that I needed to be flat on my stomach at least three times a day to help my lungs. I did as I was told. When the nurse left, I fell asleep. My arms were pinned down and the canula that supplied oxygen had somehow moved while I slept. I was breathless and began to panic. I reached for the nurse call button that I was told would be right near my hand, but I could not reach it. I struggled to breathe as my fear grew. I tried to locate the call button, unable to turn over or pull my arms up. I was the most helpless I have ever been and cried out just like the woman who moaned so much. Frantically I felt around near my hands and found the call button at last. I pushed and pushed to no avail. I cried and asked God to please let me live. I kept pushing areas of the nurse call button and realized as I fumbled with it that it was upside down. I flipped it over and pushed the whole thing until I heard a nurse respond. I cried out, “I can’t breathe. Help me.” The nurse arrived and helped turn me over. She put the canula in and the life-sustaining oxygen flowed. I cried, this time tears of gratitude.
I am grateful to the nurses who cared for me. One nurse noticed that my hair was a tangled mess that looked like birds were nesting in various spots. She brought a can of shaving cream and told me that after many years she discovered that it helps remove tangles. She sat and brushed the knots out of my hair. She then braided my long hair. The last person who did that was my great-grandmother.
Another nurse brought me chocolate ice cream and I don’t think ice cream ever tasted that good. A stocky nurse on night shift helped get me upright on a chair so he could change my sheets. These nurses are heroes. They are angels.
When my oxygen level was stable I was allowed to go home with portable oxygen. My bed never felt so good. After about two weeks I was able to walk to the kitchen. Another week and I could sit on my little deck for a few minutes without getting tired and out of breath. My heart filled with gratitude for the fact that there was enough oxygen in my lungs to sit on my deck. I have a new found love for oxygen, for life.
Some holidays are difficult. Especially now that my kids are grown and off living their lives. The house is quiet, too quiet, and there doesn’t seem to be any point in cooking a big feast, or even a little one. It’s those times when thoughts of the past seem to hold me in a vacuum. Thoughts of my grandmother’s kitchen remind me of the smells of freshly made tortillas and lentil soup bubbling on the stove. With my eyes closed I can see her wiping her hands on her apron while she makes sure everyone has a full plate. Then I think of people in line to receive food from a food bank, hopeful there will be enough to last a few days. I have a stocked kitchen. I can hear my grandmother saying it’s time to take that turkey breast out and make a meal. Gratitude covers me like an old quilt. As my grandmother would say, “Cuega ahi, mijita.” Hang in there.
For six years I have taught an online course for a university. I enjoy staying connected to education by instructing teachers who are earning a Master’s Degree. So far I have only taught one course on Literacy and Reading and enjoy it very much. Today I was asked to teach an additional course on The Art and Craft of teaching. The university’s confidence in my abilities mean a great deal to me.
I am grateful for the additional course and the opportunity to instruct undergraduates. I genuinely hope I can continue to be a part of guiding future teachers.
I spent part of the day with my grandson. It was just the two of us. When it was time to take a nap I asked him to select two books that I would read to him. He ran into his room and brought back two of his favorites. I always say, “Be sure you are comfortable so you can enjoy the story.” He got a pillow and put it right near me. We looked at the pictures first and found things we liked. We talked about what the story might be about. He snuggled next to me as I read to him. When I finished, I told him that I was very tired and needed to rest my body. He looked at me and said, ” You’re a good grandma and I love you.” He put his arm around me and fell asleep that way. I think I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I thought about how good it is to be alive to witness those kind of moments. In spite of all the bad times, events that make me want to disappear, there are moments that are precious beyond words. I am grateful that I lived to have moments like this; to see that there are sparkling moments in life that are just around the corner.
Ok This photo of my granddaughter serves to remind me to savor the images and times when I was captivated by someone or something. The sense of wonder is a cause for celebration. She was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and stood inside a tunnel that allowed her to see a wave breaking above her. That sense of awe is something that children encounter often as they have new experiences, ones I have taken for granted. They unabashedly show their feelings, and it is beautiful to watch.
I think it is my grandchildren that opened my eyes to a renewed appreciation for nature. They most definitely savor new experiences. They are expressive and inquisitive. The newness of everything and their sense of wonder is contagious. I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of being a part of their lives. I hope they keep their sense of wonder and embrace new experiences with the same curiosity and enthusiasm.
One of the pleasures of summer is that I usually travel to visit my darling granddaughters in the UK. I established a tradition of buying new shoes for the girls at my favorite shoe store, Clarks. Once they were able to walk, we would go into a city center to get their feet sized properly. The clerk would take a photo and present it to the parents. I extended the shoe buying to include their parents. There is comfort in knowing that I left them with something useful that plants their feet firmly on the land we all love so much. I love the idea of establishing traditions. It’s my hope that the memories will be a source of joy and that they will continue this tradition or make their own. I can’t wait for our next trip to Clarks.
More important than me loving you, is you loving yourself. I’ve been thinking a lot about self-love and how it is not selfish to love and care for yourself. Sadness, loneliness and despair can keep you trapped in a downward spiral. Self-pity can wrap around you like a poisonous vine. I love a quote from Susan David’s book, Emotional Agility: ” Don’t believe everything you think.” Begin each day by saying three things you are grateful for. I can start you off with number one, you woke up to see another day. Be patient with yourself. Get outside even for a few minutes. Take deep breaths and let them out slowly while thinking of who you could help this day, even if it is yourself, and even if you share a smile with someone. Take care, my friend.
I had the pleasure of having my grandson spend the night at my house for the first time. I think my son sensed that I could benefit from a break in my routine. It’s obvious that time with my grandson always makes me smile, so when he asked if I would care for Maverick overnight I eagerly said yes. I don’t have many toys that would capture the interest of an almost two year old. At least I didn’t think so.
As I started dinner, I made sure he wasn’t out of my sight. I also wanted to keep him occupied. Drawing on my memory from when his daddy was his age, I began pulling unbreakable items from cupboards. To my delight he found the random objects fascinating. He may be a musician someday because he kept banging things and shaking a maraca while humming. My small kitchen was filled with joy! When he said, “Sing grandma,” I couldn’t resist, but after one chorus of my version of “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley, Maverick said, “Don’t sing, Grandma.” So I will leave the musical talent to my grandson who made me laugh all day. He showed me how great it is to find joy in simple things.
To me there are indescribable moments in a mother’s life that are forever in her memory. My daughter, Katie, is my youngest. Unlike me, she waited to have children. She was focused on college and a career. She established herself as a lecturer in anthropology and my son-in-law completed his studies as a doctor. After being in secure positions, they were blessed with Winnie. I have watched Katie sing to Winnie from the time she was born. Books and creative play have been a part of family time. My son-in-law, Steven, makes sure the house is filled with laughter. It is a joy to be in their home.
Winnie is 10 years old now, a bright, lovely, avid reader, mathematician with a caring heart and inquisitive mind. I am pleased to say that Winnie has a sister too. Josie is going to be five in August. She is a creative, lovely, inquisitive, adventurous spirit with a love of singing- just like her mum.
It is the greatest joy of my life to watch my children with their children.
I have been reading more in the last 14 months than I ever have. Being the owner of at least fifty books that been collecting dust, I kept promising myself I would use the pandemic as an opportunity to catch up on my reading. I am glad to report that I completed almost every book. Some of the books I read were previously cast aside as not worthy of my time. I hastily concluded that if the first few pages failed to capture my interest, then it would make it to the “to be read” shelf.
Lately I have approached each book on my cast off shelf with a new perspective since I realized how grateful I am to have choices of books to read. There have been a few books that brought me on a journey, several brought me to tears, and most became a blessed escape from current events. I will take that “hug” anytime!
Listed below are powerful books that I read during the height of the pandemic. Some offered hope, others offered escape, they all offered me time with a great book.
A true account of life in unimaginable circumstances as told by a Holocaust survivor. A lesson on what is important.
A guide to finding peace and calm in times of trouble. His book is an easy read and has gems of wisdom throughout.
This book will help you break old habits and build habits that will serve you well.
A beautiful tale of a childless couple in the wilderness of Alaska during the 1920s. The imagery alone makes this a beautiful book. The story is one that will stay with you for awhile.
A tribute to the grit of the women who survived during the Dust Bowl era. As fierce as the winds were during that time, a mother’s love and devotion prevails. A great read from an author who can write an epic with incredible power.
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Today is my birthday and I am happy and grateful to enjoy another year. Getting older would not be my first choice, but I can kick up a fuss or embrace it.
My goal this year is to eat right, show gratitude, give love more often, smile more, learn more, travel. read, sew, have adventures, and look for the good. I plan to spend lots of time with my beautiful grandchildren.
First on my agenda is breakfast at my favorite cafe, then a walk on the pier. I am off to a good start.
I have many reasons to be grateful. It’s been a tough year, but at times I see glimmers of hope that we may all be on the road to living whatever our normal was, only stronger, better, more resilient. A trip to the grocery store, then my favorite cafe took on a new ambiance. I chose to sit outdoors in the sun rather than at my usual booth tucked in the corner. I wanted to see the people walking by, the birds flying past, even the cars on the road. It was affirming to tell the waitress that I appreciate her for serving delicious food. I was happy to shop for my own groceries as I learn to smile with my eyes. Today a lady in the parking lot walked toward me, quickly distanced herself, yet all the while I was happy to be 6 feet from another person. There is no room in my life for taking things for granted. Every day is a gift. I am grateful to wake up, get up, show up, and be ready to give thanks.
This gratitude journal makes it easy and enjoyable to develop a daily practice through insightful prompts that only take a few minutes to complete. You’ll feel inspired to notice things―big and small―that you might otherwise take for granted and pause to feel grateful for them.