Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘family’

There is a place for everything. Toothbrush in vanity cabinet, laundry down the chute, clothes in the closet, dishes in the cupboard – and books in piles everywhere!

“Esperanza Rising” sat patiently on a pile next to my side of the bed. “Christmas Jars” was in a basket of Christmas books, which I always intend to read during December but never get to until January. It is all for the better. I seem to enjoy them more in the quiet, post holiday calm. A few select books sit on a stool, waiting for future book discussions, while a staggering stack of histories precariously balance on a wobbly, wooden chair, estate and garage sale “finds” that  begged to be brought home on various excursions.

My reading habits tend to be a bit eclectic, wandering from poetry to cookbooks, short stories to expansive tomes, and there is always time for children and young adult books, which is where one of my most recent “reads” took me.

“Esperanza Rising” is a middle grade book by Pam Muñoz Ryan. The book was a gift my son-in-law thought I might enjoy. He knows me well. I did, even if  it took me a year to finally open it up and read it.

Esperanza in the daughter of a wealthy Mexican landowner in the 1930s. She lives being catered to by servants, adored by her father, coddled by her loving grandmother, and loved by her Mama. She is an only child whose privileged life quickly changes when her father is murdered. His stepbrothers, powerful men in the region, leverage their influence and power to take over the estate. When Esperanza’s mother refuses to marry one of the uncles, they awaken to find the house on fire in the middle of the night.

With the help of Esperanza’s grandmother’s sisters in a nearby convent, Esperanza and her mother, Ramona, flee the estate. They are hidden in a wagon by servants, whose lives are also threatened by the uncles. They embark upon the long, treacherous migration to California. Along the way, Esperanza learns to find the goodness in those less fortunate in life than she has been. She learns kindness and humility as well as acceptance of others.

When these migrants finally arrive, they are taken in by relatives of their previous servants – the very servants that save them on the journey to California. Life is hard for Esperanza, sleeping in crowded quarters, their shelter not much more than a horse stall. Her privileged life is replaced by hard work, taking care of the babies and younger children while the men and women work in the fields. Miguel, her friend from Mexico, is the son of the man who transports them to California. He teaches her how to do one of the jobs she is assigned to – sweeping with a broom! She learns how to change a diaper and how to clean it, how to cook beans and how to survive.

When a dust storm whips through the work camp, Esperanza’s mother takes ill with valley fever (dust fever) and is hospitalized for a very long time. Esperanza takes over work her mother did and works hard to earn money to bring her grandmother to California.

“Esperanza Rising” is a story, based on the author’s own grandmother’s migration in the ’30s, from Mexico to California. It is the story of the unrest in Mexico and the migrant experience during the Great Depression, as well as the story of crop production, following the seasons in southern California.

The back pages of my copy provided insight into the author’s own grandmother’s migration. It also gave some recipes of food mentioned in the book (don’t you love the inclusion of recipes in a novel?) Also provided were the steps in making a yarn doll. Yarn dolls and afghan making play an important role in this book. Esperanza’s grandmother, Abuelita, teaches her how to crochet, instructing her to go up and down valleys in her stitches, incorporating strands of her hair that have fallen into the blanket. When they leave under the cloak of darkness, Ambieta gives the unfinished blanket to Esperanza. Mama works on the blanket at times in the story, soothing Esperanza, teaching her, and then Esperanza picks up the blanket when Mama is in the hospital near death.

While on the train (part of the journey to California), Mama takes pieces of yarn and makes a yarn doll for an impoverished little girl they meet.

Here is one of my first attempts at making a yarn doll. Rather pitiful, I admit.  I’ll attempt a few more as I reflect on this exceptional children’s book and attack one of my biblio-piles.

(PS – I’ll do a  post soon on some of the other books I’ve been engaged in.)

Advertisement

Read Full Post »

Guidepost

We were at the hospital; Ma on her day off, my sister, a high school student, on spring break. I was home from college on my own break. None of us had a driver’s license. My aunt was the appointed driver, putting miles on her car gathering us each day, taking us to the hospital, then bringing us home, before going to her own evening job.

My dear mother had rheumatoid arthritis. Her feet, in particular, were effected by it, as were her hands. She worked as a cashier, standing on her feet for hours at a time. Bayer aspirin was the drug of choice in the years before steroids and biologics.

There was a small slate and chalk on the table near Daddy’s bedside. His vocal chords had collapsed from the cancer that would soon take his life, yet, he looked right at me and spoke. His voice was raspy, but his words succinct. They were directed to me. He met my eyes and spoke. They were among the last words he ever said to me.

“See what your mother is doing? She can barely stand on her own feet, yet, she is rubbing mine”

Bedridden, he had been fidgeting. My mother quietly pulled the bedcovers from his feet and gently rubbed them, not saying a word nor making a fuss.

My father was acknowledging my mother and her tender, selfless actions. Neither said “I love you”. Public displays of affection was not something they showed, though I knew love was there. His abiding love and respect was palpable to me that day. As Daddy acknowledged Ma, he validated her actions as he bequeathed a guidepost to me. Knowing his time was running out, he knew he would not see me finish school, get married, have children – yet he seized the moment and offered the lesson of selfless kindness and respect – a lesson I have never forgotten.

I think of my father’s last words to me on this Father’s Day, grateful for the lasting gifts of love, respect and kindness he gave me so many years ago, and thankful for having had the one brief moment in time.

Read Full Post »

img_9576

when the bee stings,

img_8652

when I’m feeling sad

photo-on-11-12-16-at-2-55-pm
I simply remember my favorite things

 

and then I don’t feel so bad.

img_1809

Just a few of my favorite things.

img_2151What things make you happy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

9780670015443I’m Swedish, which makes me sexy, and I’m Irish which makes me want to talk about it.”

So begins Kathleen Flinn’s delectable memoir of her family’s journey and food.

It wasn’t the cover that drew me to this book, it was the title, which recalls Flinn’s grandmother Inez, who refused to use toasters when the oven worked well.  The end result was often burnt toast, which she said “makes you sing good”. Don’t you love it?  My Yia Yia would come up with phrases like that, and so would my dad. “Children are starving in China” comes to mind admonishing a picky eater, though my sister got a tongue lashing once when she replied “then feed this to them“.

I digress.  Actually, I really don’t  digress, for this book brought on memory-upon- memory of my own family, both paternal and maternal, and the role food played in making me who I am. I read this in two bites, er, two days, and found myself wanting for more.

The book starts with Flinn’s mom and dad hastily moving from Michigan to California, via Route 66, with all their belongings, including three toddlers and one more on the way, to help run a pizza parlor owned by her Irish uncle – in the ’50s! This was long before pizza was known in most American homes. The Flinn’s eventually move back to Michigan, where they lived on a farm, ate plenty of chicken and eggs, and make do. It is, in its way, the story of growing up in the midwest in the fifties.

“Burnt Toast . . . ” is the love story of Flinn’s parents, and maternal grandparents, finally her own. It is also about the abject poverty she eventually discovers her father grew up in with her grandmother raising a large family, in the Depression, on her own. It is about how her grandfather, once jailed for bootlegging, becomes a cook in the army during WWII and how she goes about doing sunshine work, dressed as cowgirl delivering her mom’s baked goods, in her new, suburban neighborhood.  This is a well-seasoned ragout of colorful grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins,. It is Flinn’s familial immigrant stories, and more, as she weaves chapter upon chapter of memories, replete with a relevant recipe for each chapter.

“Burnt Toast . . . ” is not just about food. It is also about how the hardships, trials, and tribulations of life often serve to harden our resolve, build character, and furnish life lessons. That burnt toast can make us sing good is also about the grand midwestern spirit – and more. It’s mostly sweet and funny, just a wee bit sad, and waiting for you to open it’s covers.

Off I go now to bake a Jack-o-Lantern Tea loaf to take to a friend’s house for dinner tonight. My own story of how I came to this long-loved recipe can be found here.

 

Read Full Post »

definearth

writing about the environmental issues nobody is writing about.

Poesy plus Polemics

Words of Wonder, Worry and Whimsy

Barnstorming

Barnstorming: Seeking Sanctuary in the Seasons of a Rural Life

Mike McCurry's Daily Blog

Creative information about Real Estate and Life in the Western Suburbs of Chicago

ChicagoNatureNOW!

Chicago's Weekly Wildflower Report, News, Best Nature Hikes & Outdoor Getaways

Interrupting the Silence

An Episcopal Priest's Sermons, Prayers, and Reflections on Life, Becoming Human, and Discovering Our Divinity

The Pioneer Girl Project

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pioneer Girl

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Thoughts about writing and life

Leaf And Twig

Where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry.

Apple Pie and Napalm

music lover, truth teller, homey philosophy

Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

Living Designs

Circles of Life: My professional background in Foods and Nutrition (MS, Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, RDN, LDN) provides the background for my personal interests in nutrition, foods and cooking; health and wellness; environment and sustainability.

Women Making Strides

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

Middlemay Farm

Katahdin Sheep, Chickens, Ducks, Dogs and Novelist Adrienne Morris live here (with humans).

Book Snob

FOR DISCERNING READERS

teacups & buttercups

An old fashioned heart

Andra Watkins

Acclaimed Speaker ~ New York Times Bestselling Author

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Begun in 2010, this blog offers analysis and reflection by Susan Bailey on the life, works and legacy of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Susan is an active member and supporter of the Louisa May Alcott Society, the Fruitlands Museum and Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House.

breathelighter

Reducing stress one exhale at a time

Kate Shrewsday

A thousand thousand stories

Blogging from the Bog

musings from and about our cottage in the West of Ireland