Share Your World 2016 #35

Welcome to another segment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you would like to play along, click on this link.

List 2 things you have to be happy about? 

  1. Coffee, which gets me up in the morning.
  2. Good books, which unfortunately sometimes lull me to sleep at night. (Current read is Breakfast with Buddha. Have you read it?)

If you could take a photograph, paint a picture or write a story of any place in the world, what and where would it be?

If it was a picture or a painting, I would choose any of our beautiful national parks. The Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point is beautiful. I might try to capture the Grand Tetons reflected in  Jackson Lake. I would love to successfully capture the grandeur and immensity of the Grand Canyon, especially with a lightning strike.

If I were to write a story, I’d pick the bustling, varied city of San Francisco.

Should children be seen and not heard?

We’ve all heard the phrase, out of the mouths of babes. Children have a certain unfiltered wisdom. They’ve not yet learned to cover up, to hide their vulnerabilities.

I mean, who doesn’t love this?

Children, like everyone else, should be seen and heard.

List at least five of your favorite first names.

Other than the names of my loved ones…

  1. Lily
  2. Alex
  3. Olivia
  4. Sarah
  5. Audrey

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I’m grateful for trees full of apples. Last week was spent canning applesauce and drying the bounty from our rather small Granny Smith apple tree. There are a couple more small trees that need to be harvested. They are recent additions to the property. It will be interesting to see what happens in a few years. I think we might need to invest in a cider press.

I look forward to school/work starting up again. All my best laid plans didn’t pan out over the summer. Too much free time is not a good thing.

Again, thanks to Cee for hosting this fun challenge!



Reminiscent of so many other times, we parked the car down the road and started walking toward my brother-in-law’s house at the end of a cul de sac in a quiet residential neighborhood. Only this time as we walked toward the crowded driveway we heard a loud oomph-a-oomph-a.

“Is that a tuba?” I asked my husband. “Did they get a band, or is somebody just practicing?”

He shrugged and seemed to indicate the latter was of greater possibility.

As we walked in the front door we realized it was a band, a family of four, with the father as lead singer, his daughter somberly plucking a bass, an older son holding rhythm on a sousaphone, and the youngest, a boy of around 12, stretching and compressing an accordion while wailing along with his dad. They were joyful and loud. We later found out that the police had already been called by a number of close-set neighbors, and my brother-in-law had been warned to wrap it up by ten.

We congratulated the pair on their anniversary and made our rounds shaking hands and saying hello before sitting down at one of the many tables set up under undulating blue plastic tarps. I looked around. The San Antonio riverwalk had nothing on this festive backyard arrangement. Fluttering under the tarps were paper picado banners, not the plastic kind, but actual tissue paper, cut and strung crisscross across the yard. They spoke of love and attention to detail. The tables were festooned with colorful plastic tablecloths, and each table held a Corona bottle vase graced with a single bright flower.

We weren’t allowed to sit long before being ushered to the lean-to shed, where a man was expertly assembling street tacos. The smells of carne asada and pork al pastor made me remember why I could never become a vegetarian. I demurely ordered one of each of these, and my husband eagerly grabbed a plateful of strange looking tripe tacos. We piled the tacos with fixings of fragrant cilantro, homemade salsa, onions, lime, and then topped the whole plate off with a pile of cactus salad and went back to our seats. I would later go back with gusto for more. I’m a sucker for street tacos.

I set about taking Snapchat pictures to send to my eldest two who now live far from home as if to say, remember this? Remember your heritage? I snapped a picture of my mother-in-law, now in her mid-eighties. We lost my father-in-law a couple of years ago; we try not to take this time for granted. There was a slew of back and forth salutations with lots of love and hugs and well-wishes, but all over the distance that technology provides, a sanitized version of connection, life through a lens. I sent snaps of food and videos of dancing, a framework that made up much of their extended family experiences.

A few people asked where our other kids were. They got our standard answer, “Oh, they don’t want to hang out with us anymore.” In reality, one was off at a wedding at his girlfriend’s house. He had promised her mom he would help set up. The other had run off with his friends for the day. My husband hadn’t given me much of a heads-up about this party, otherwise I would have made sure they were there. Still, our answer stands. The older teens don’t want to have much to do with us anymore. Maybe it’s normal. Maybe.

My husband went off to talk to someone. I watched him gesticulating animatedly from across the yard. I saw that the man he was talking to was leaning in, so it must not have been about work this time. I sat with my mother-in-law in the silence that loud music brings. Conversation in my native language would have been hard; lip-reading in Spanish was nearly impossible. So I observed.

My youngest brother-in-law was twirling his girlfriend around the patio. They would come back sweaty only to hop up again immediately as the band started up with another favorite dance tune. I had picked the only brother out of nine who didn’t like to dance.

An older brother-in-law was holding his grandchildren as his wife talked animatedly across the table with her son’s young girlfriend. The son was busy. His seven-year-old niece was looking up at him with starry-eyed devotion as he led her around the dance floor.

I sat and watched the new generation repeating what we once did, tios dancing with their nieces, people laughing and holding babies, the older generation dancing, dancing, dancing. I thought back to a Christmas party long ago, of my brother-in-law twirling my daughter, then five, around and around the small kitchen. I felt time telescoping in with a crushing sensation and all of a sudden I was squinting back tears as I felt the all-encompassing lonliness of endings, of time past, of the things I held so dear slipping through my fingers. I bit my cheek. Hard. And again. It wouldn’t do to cry right now.

All of a sudden I felt my husband at my side again. He was cracking a lame joke, looking into my face, drawing me out of the abyss. I smiled and went willingly.

We chatted with his mom and brothers and ate cake during the band’s break. My mother-in-law tried to separate her youngest from his beloved beer. My teetotaler husband once again proclaimed his status as the perfect child, while his brother looked at me and said, “He has his vices.”

I nodded.

“Work. Work is his vice.”

I know.

The band started up again. It was 9:45.

“Are you ready to go?” my husband asked. “I don’t want to be here if and when the police show up again.”

I laughed. “I’m ready,” I said.

We rode home in silence, my ears ringing with the residual oomph-a of sousaphone and my heart pinging with the loneliness of solitude.


Photo credit: rebeccagulotta via / CC BY-NC-SA

Last night I shared great food and company with a group of people, many of whom might fall under the “undocumented” and “illegal” title or have in the past. I don’t know who, and I’d prefer not to know.

As I looked around, I recognized many people. Some work in the farming industry, some in construction, some as hotel maids and groundskeepers. Many started by laboring long hours in the hot sun to provide fresh produce for our tables and a living for both their parents and their children. They save money and pay taxes. They play soccer on the weekends and have family get-togethers where all are welcome, including their American friends and neighbors. They shop at Wal-Mart and The Apple Store and infuse the economy with loads of money. These people are now homeowners with children graduating high school, something many of them were unable to do. Many of these kids are going on to college. Their parents had a dream of a better life – the American dream.

Yet they are the latest scourge in a long line of immigrants.

I thought about Gary Johnson’s approach to immigration. He wants to round everyone up, not to deport them, not to separate families, but to get them work permits and legalize the very valuable contribution to our economy. I looked around and realized that this would make the unacceptable people among them suddenly acceptable to regular Americans. Nothing else would change about them except a legal document. They would continue to do the same jobs, pay the same taxes, eat family dinners, and enjoy their time off. Yet if Donald Trump had his way, some of them would live in fear of being yanked away from all they have known for years, families uprooted, resulting in family and societal instability as well as resentment among this younger generation of Americans.

I once spoke with an undocumented woman whose mother was ill. She had tears in her eyes as she told me how she longed to see her, but to do so risked losing everything she’d worked so hard for. I thought about people I know who have lost parents and have not been able to even return to attend their funeral because to do so would mean being unable to come back to their home, where their children attend school, where they have friends and family, where they are merging into this great melting-pot we call America.

Do these families fly Mexican flags? Sure. Do they do things Mexican style? Absolutely, just like Italian-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and any other hyphenated Americans who came before them. Cultural heritage flows through all of us. I have Swedish and Norwegian roots. They were very strong in my great-grandparents, who spoke the mother tongue. They were strong in my grandparents, but with each successive generation, they meld with the greater American experience. The second generation of these Mexican families speak English and watch a mixture of Spanish and English TV. They eat Lays and Sabritones. They have traded the pulga (Mexican swap meet) for traditional brick and mortar stores. They dance and smile and laugh and love just like anyone else.

Send them all back, you say? How about cultivating a little compassion and respect. Thank the person who cleans your hotel room. She’s putting food on her family’s table. Thank the guy who brought your refrigerator. His son just signed up for the military to fight for his country, our country. Smile at the lady speaking Spanish at Wal-Mart. She’s probably trying her hardest to learn English as she prepares her own children for a better future.

While we’re struggling to fix the broken system of immigration, let’s not feed into the propaganda. Immigration policies change over the years. We have a vibrant, creative, inquisitive and hopeful generation coming up as Americans, and they are making our country a better place.

Beer Run

She had been very lenient, often joining him on his daily excursions to the pub, but a daily diet of stout had made him quite, well, stout.

She poked his expanding belly.



She handed him a pair of running shoes.

“Time to get up.”


“Today we’re running a 5K.”

Photo credit: CLender via / CC BY

Oblivious to the Obvious

Change the word obvious to oblivious and you have me. It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I live inside my head most of the time. It’s a nice place to be, but really blinds me to the realities of the outside world. This becomes glaringly obvious when company comes calling.

Ordinarily I keep a clean house. It’s not magazine perfect, much to my husband’s disappointment, but the health department is not going to come calling any time soon. It’s picked up and the dishes are mostly clean and put away. The obvious things are done. Well, the things that are obvious to me. Therein lies the problem. What I’m oblivious to can stand out glaringly to others, and when they enter, I seem to all of a sudden see through their eyes what before I had no awareness of.

Once my mother-in-law came to visit. She noticed some cobwebs and I joked that they were there because we needed the spiders around to catch the flies. (I think my humor was lost on her.) Well, another time we were cleaning up the kitchen together and I swiped some cobwebs that I suddenly  noticed in the kitchen window. Her response? “I was going to get those, but you said you needed them to catch the flies.”

Oh, dear.

Another time one of my son’s friends wrote dust me in the thin layer of dust at the top of a bookshelf! Who looks at the top of bookshelves?

Fortunately for others, my obliviousness is all-encompassing. If I go to your house, don’t apologize for your messy kitchen. I would never have noticed otherwise. Don’t spoil the great conversation by pointing out the weeds in your garden. Trust me. I won’t see them. When I go home, I won’t be able to tell anyone the color of your house, let alone whether or not you have cobwebs or dust on top of your bookshelf. All I will remember is how much I enjoyed your company.

As for the rest, I am resigned to being forever oblivious to the obvious.


Share Your World #34

What is your favorite comfort snack food?

Tostadas. I eat them every day. Lightly fried tortilla topped with homemade beans, homemade salsa, some shredded Tillamook pepper jack cheese or queso fresco, loads of sliced avocado and maybe lettuce and sour cream if they are handy. I think I might go make one right now.


Is the paper money in your possession right now organized sequentially according to denomination and with the bills right side up and facing the same way?

Absolutely! (But it’s the only organized thing in my life.)

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

(Well, I can really put myself in this position, having had the unfortunate experience of seeing the mouse seeing me.)

As I scurried from one room to another in a house devoid of activity, I would see the mom and dad of the family curled up on the couch binge-watching Vikings or The Walking Dead or some other gripping series. I would duck into my favorite room, the one currently occupied by a 19-year-old pack rat. There among my many hiding places I might catch a glimpse of him playing games on his computer with his friends before I duck into a wrapper-filled drawer looking for a snack. I might head over to the bedroom of the 18-year-old, though there is a puppy and there aren’t so many hiding spaces, so I wouldn’t linger. I would be guaranteed to catch him lounging on his bed playing games with his friends on the big-screen TV or hunched over his phone texting his girlfriend. I might grab a little dog food to store for later before scurrying back to my home in the wall.

(The mouse/mice have been eradicated, thank you very much.)

Would you rather not be able to read or not be able to speak?

I’m a woman of few words, so the inability to speak might actually come as a relief. No pressure. However, I don’t know what I would do with myself if I couldn’t read!

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I’m grateful for the puppy who livens up my existence a little.

I’m looking forward to looking for a new computer cord to replace the one the puppy chewed up.


If you wish to participate in this challenge, click on this link.


Jeu Parti

Jeopardize. What a strange word. To jeopardize something is to put it in danger. We can jeopardize our relationships through obsession or neglect. Politicians tell us we can jeopardize our country’s standing with one policy proposal or another. We jeopardize our health and sometimes even our lives with certain choices we make. Still, it’s a word that doesn’t roll off the tongue. In my writing, I would even go as far as making a different word choice, maybe risk.

The word itself is a back-formation of the word jeopardy, which again, to me, is a very awkward word. The only time I think of it is when considering law and trials and the idea of double jeopardy, of not prosecuting a person twice for the same offense. Alternatively, the word brings to mind the TV game show Jeopardy, a show I don’t watch often, but if it’s on, I’ll be the first one to shout out the answers.

The word itself comes from a French phrase jeu parti, which also means danger, but in its earlier formations meant “a cunning plan or stratagem.” Personally, I like the word so much more as a French phrase. I mean, French is so chic, so sophistiqué. Adding to the exotic nature of the phrase the whole idea of plans and strategies brings to my mind the political intrigue of the Middle Ages, though the word may never have been associated with politics. It is associated with a form of entertainment, a lovers’ debate in which each side was argued in front of a referee of sorts, a game performed for the amusement of the French nobility. It’s a phrase that is also associated with games like chess, referring to a point in the game where the player has an equal chance of winning or losing, where the game hangs in the balance.

So the next time your job is in jeopardy because you constantly punch in late or you put your health at risk by eating pizza or ice cream for breakfast every day, think of jeu parti and choose wisely, lest you tip the balance in this game we call life.

Share Your World #33

The following is a writing challenge that offers up random questions each week. If you are interested in joining in, there is a link at the bottom. Here are the questions and my answers for this week:

Would you travel into outer space? 

I would not, could not travel into outer space. I once spent nearly a month in the highlands of Mexico, a land of prickly pear cactus and agave. What trees there were were spindly things relying on kind humans to douse them now and again with life-giving water. I felt a bit like my soul was dying until on our return trip we reached Santa Fe, NM and were enveloped in forest again.

I discovered I need to be surrounded by water and plant life. Until you can guarantee me these two things, I’ll keep my feet firmly planted on the ground, thank you.

Which country/city in the world (that you have never been to) would you most like to visit and why?

I would love to visit the fjords of Norway, home of my great grandparents, then cross over into Sweden and visit the lands of my other great grandparents. In a perfect world, I would see the Northern Lights and cross that off my bucket list.

What could you do to breathe more deeply today?

I need to remember the transitory nature of our existence. When those buttons get pushed, as they always do, I could look forward to a day when my life may exist without the button-pusher, or hers/his without me, and be grateful for this time together.

Complete this sentence:  This creamy peanut butter sandwich could really use some …


Oh, come on. Have you never heard of a peanut butter and pickle sandwich? Sound gross? Yet we have peanut satay, which combines peanut butter and soy sauce. The Thai add peanuts to their national dish of pad thai noodles. We cover the tasty nuts with sugar and mix them in with popcorn and chocolate. So why not peanut butter and pickles? Go ahead! Try it!

(By the way, I prefer sweet pickles.)

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I am so grateful that my parents are within driving distance. I was able to go surprise my dad on his birthday. He’s a youthful 76, but he had a heart attack scare some years ago followed by open heart surgery, so I try not to take this time for granted.

In the upcoming last free week of summer, I look forward to breaking out my kayak and slipping it into one of our many refreshing lakes. I just need to decide which one.

SYW #33

Thanks again, Cee, for the great interaction! I look forward to reading the other submissions.

Who Will Carry the Milk?

I’ll admit it. I was a bit of a lazy child. I was a work-averse, energy-conserving creature when it came to helping out. I would be overcome with a shift of molecular weight changing the gravitational pull of every cell of my body. Suddenly overcoming inertia required extrinsic prodding and much internal groaning.

I remember distinctly hating to carry the milk.

Did I have some strange muscular problem that prohibited me from lifting a cold gallon jug? Not unless all of the hours lounging on my yellow quilt listening to John Denver had turned my biceps to jiggly mush. Oh, how I hated that job!

Mom would pull up in the old Ford station wagon and call us to help. I can feel the urge to roll my eyes at the though of it, at the sheer lead-weight feeling of prying myself from whatever pleasurable experience I was immersed in at the time – drawing, listening to music, reading, dancing. I had to stop and help with the groceries.

As I’ve raised my own brood, I’ve often thought of this. My kids have their moments, but overall they are much more helpful than I was. If I honk when I pull in the driveway, the boys stop what they’re doing and run to help disgorge the Costco bounty from the back of the Subaru. They show their physical prowess by loading up with as many bags and boxes as they can carry. It’s not just the boys. My daughter was the same. I would head back for another load only to find the car empty, and when I headed back to the house, I would find the kids had returned to whatever pleasurable experience I had pulled them away from.

And to my surprise, they’ve never minded carrying the milk.