Tag Archives: personal essay

The Dorothy Syndrome: Disinfecting Our Lives

I grew up in a house that was CLEAN. It was often messy, but always clean. Dorothy, our mom, used Lysol liberally. She would spray my suitcase whenever I came to visit and ordered me to remove my shoes before entering. The shoes were then summarily sprayed, too. I thought she was nuts.

Food received the same clean treatment. Put all the canned goods in the sink. Milk, too. Wash with soap and water before putting away. Soak all the fruit and vegetables in vinegar water. You never know who touched them, she would say. I thought she was nuts.

Amazon selling 2 bottles for $29.95 USD — thievery!

I loved our mom. We all did. We forgave her these idiosyncracies. We played along and did what we were told. As adult visitors entering into the sacrosanct household of CLEAN, we learned to be compliant. We did the treatment outlined above for all food and beverage that we brought in. And, I thought she was nuts.

This morning, Jacob went out to greet the day and be at Sprouts at 7 a.m. when this local SoCal organic market opened. He brought back the remnants and what no one else wanted: cereal, blue corn chips, strawberry jam, organic tomatoes and carrots, the last piece of fresh salmon, one red onion, a bunch of very ripe bananas, roast turkey lunch meat. He reported that the shelves were bare.

I sanitized it all.

There are six bottles of Microdyne in the luggage and one behind the kitchen sink. I brought these from Oaxaca, where we gueros use this religiously to disinfect all fresh fruit and vegetables. Each Microdyne bottle costs about $1 USD. I poured isopropyl alcohol into a small spray bottle.

All sprayed with isopropyl alcohol. Am I nuts?

The vegetables are soaking in 16 drops of Microdyne for 30 minutes. I sprayed all the boxes and containers with alcohol. Who knows who touched them?

Hi, Mom.

Our mom passed at age 99-3/4 on November 15, 2015. This essay is a loving tribute to her. Was she nuts?

PLEASE READ this Facebook post from math nerd/HR expert Jason Warner. It’s important!

More comic relief …. ?

Love in the Time of Corona Virus

These are strange and perilous times. There lurks a deadly disease for some of us who are older than age 60, that is compounded by any underlying health issues that suppress immune systems.

I am in almost self-imposed isolation, sequestered with my 46-year old son Jacob in his Huntington Beach, California, one-bedroom apartment. He is generous. I get his bed. He’s on the blow-up in the LR. I am practicing how to be a good guest (this is like yoga, the more you do it, the better you get) and he is a loving off-spring.

Yikes. Do I have it? Here is a helpful guide from Hollie T. in NC

How do we pass the time together? Respecting quiet. Working from home. Watching Netflix. Talking (a novel idea) about life and feelings. Just being.

Elbow bumps — love in the time of corona virus

We were invited to dinner at Holly’s house in Long Beach last night. Holly is Shelley’s mom. Shelley is Jacob’s girlfriend. The date was set several weeks ago. (Sidebar: After a 30-minute discussion about whether to go out to dinner at a restaurant on Saturday night, we decided to hunker down and cook at home. Social distancing is driving our lives.)

So, the opportunity to go to Long Beach is a welcome one and we go. I think I’m the only one who is the potential hot-potato, since I flew on an airplane last Thursday! But Holly went shopping at Ralph’s, so who knows.

We greet each other as if all was almost normal. No hugs. Elbow bumps and big smiles. (I absented to wash my hands in the bathroom several times taking extra precautions and counting to 20 twice.) Gin and tonics around the coffee table, nibbles of steamed shrimp and dipping sauce (except we are learning to take a spoon and put the sauce on a plate instead of dipping and re-dipping — but what about that pesky common spoon handle?).

A pretend fight over the toilet paper

Settling in with a good drink and leaning back on the cozy sofa, Holly presents each of us with a gift in honor of St. Patrick’s Day: a roll of toilet paper tied with a green bow. Now, this is love!

We eat corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes. We drink wine. We talk about future travel. I bring my favorite gluten-free dessert made earlier in the day: nicuatole. All seems almost normal.

I am scheduled to fly to North Carolina on March 24, but as we know all things are fluid and changing minute-by-minute. Perhaps I’ll stay here a while longer. Who knows?

Stay healthy. Stay safe.

P.S. Yesterday, the California governor officially declared all bars closed. So happy I brought three bottles of mezcal with me from Oaxaca. Jacob is doing a beer run later and will work from home. We are cozy.

Whoever thought a roll of TP would be so valuable — best expression of love

P.P.S. This is allergy season. I’m monitoring every sniffle and cough. I touch my forehead. Do I have a fever? Do I have it or is this a normal reaction to spring? I imagine you may be out there doing the same thing.

Oaxaca Return: Voy a Regresar and Packing

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, is my travel day back to Oaxaca where I’ll stay put for a while. Yet, I tell myself it’s good to be where you are now. No looking back, no regrets, no living out into the future but to appreciate each gift of the moment. Today, I will connect with friends. Sip a G&T.

Packing challenges the assumptions of being here now. It makes me concentrate on what I will need and how much to take. It’s like cleaning up and getting ready. There’s no avoiding the planning that is required. I have one day to do it.

Perhaps, I should retitle this post, “Taming the Wilderness.” There is metaphor in this.

Truck with tattoo at the funeral

Yesterday, I went to a funeral at the farm where I lived for ten years with the wasband. The matriarch founder, age 93, passed early this week and my going was a tribute to her life — and mine, then and now. As I walked along the gravel road to the on-site graveyard, I passed the familiar and the unknown. It was strangely similar yet dramatically different. The cottage in which I lived is now inhabited by the next wife (there have been a series of them) and the gardens I once tended were overgrown, unrecognizable.

I passed people I knew and didn’t. They were known and unknown. We have aged. Some of us more gracefully. The wasband’s hair was wilder and he had built some girth. I wish I could say we exchanged pleasantries. It reminded me of where I am now and my gratitude for being here at home in Durham, North Carolina, and Oaxaca, Mexico.

The dirt to cover the cardboard casket was red clay Carolina. Each shovel-full was heavy and thoughtful. Life is where it takes us and there is reverence in each single act we do.

Poppies at the side of the farm road

Being there reminded me, too, about what I do to try to tame the wilderness. I attempted this, too, in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, by planting fruit trees — orange, lemon, avocado, guava. Ants consumed them. I gave up and planted cactus. These are sturdy and well-designed for the climate, to survive and repel the critters. There is a reason that the high desert is filled with native plants.

Here in North Carolina I have no living plants. My flowers are woven into the textiles around the apartment. When I leave early in the morning, I walk out and lock the door. It is easy. I am coming to learn my limitations.

Next Episode: On my return home. The other home.

A walk with friends on the Eno River, Hillsborough, NC

Out and About Oaxaca Family Newsletter

My son was here for a week and returned to Southern California yesterday morning. He arrive three days after my return from Michoacan. What did we do? By choice, not much. We took walks in the campo with the dogs. He came to my Artful Aprons of San Miguel del Valle talk, another sold-out event at the Oaxaca Lending Library.

Crushing roasted agave piña at Gracias a Dios, Santiago Matatlan

We hung out. Talked. Shared memories and regrets, philosophy and politics, hopes. We checked in with each other. We read and took naps on the terrace hammocks. One night, I lit a fire in the chiminea and a log jumped out onto the grass. He was the firefighter. I was contrite.

Espadin agave roasting pit, ready to load, ready in 4 days.

It’s been unseasonably hot here. Almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit. We moved slowly. We went mezcal tasting with Emmy Hernandez at Gracias a Dios in Santiago Matatlan, with a stop first to visit Arturo Hernandez in Mitla to buy a scarf for his girlfriend. A fact that gives me joy.

Mezcal tasting in Santiago Matatlan. Gee, he’s tall and/or I’m shrinking!

I grilled BBQ ribs. We ate out. We cooked in. We shared meals with our host family and friends. We are blessed to have each other. He gives me advice, which I appreciate. I am tender with mine. He doesn’t need much advice, either. Mostly, we call it feedback. Time together went quickly.

Tomorrow I leave for a full textile study tour in Chiapas, gone for 11 days. I’m not quite ready to leave the quiet of my casita in Teotitlan del Valle. And, my regret is there has been so little time this winter to have time with my friends here, many of whom are seasonal. They are getting ready to go back north and after Chiapas, I return to North Carolina for a while.

Shy Tia stuck by his side all week, nuzzling for pets.

I promise myself that next year will be different. That I will slow down and do less, have time to take classes, learn to embroider or crochet or make something I haven’t before. But, most importantly, to have more time to be with friends — here in Oaxaca and in Mexico, and various part of the USA. And, to be with my California family.

So, I’m rethinking the number of study tours I will offer in 2020, where they will be, when they will be, how long they will be. I’ll keep you posted.

Campo thoughts: Will the Chicago Cubs win the World Series?

Meanwhile, Susie and Bruce arrive this afternoon to move into the casita to care for the dogs while I’m in Chiapas. My suitcase is almost packed.

Women’s Writing Retreat in Oaxaca, Mexico: Take a Discount and Express Yourself

This is our 8th year to offer the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Gentle Yoga Retreat from June 22-29, 2018. We want a full-house and are offering a 10% discount off the already high-value, low price of $895 for a shared room and $1195 for a single room. It’s not too late to get on board and join us.

Who is this for? Beginning and experienced writers, those who believe they can do it and need inspiration and coaching, note-jotters and margin-scribblers. Do you have an idea for a novel, a memoir, a prose poem, a travel piece or family history? This is the place for you.

See the complete course description HERE.

Send me an email with your interest HERE.

Please share with family and friends who would like this retreat.