I have been living carefree, as if summer would last forever. Casual breakfasts at 9:00, lingering discussions over the kitchen table with my cup of coffee…late lunches at 1:00…cat naps on the sofa….easy, cool dinners created with garden produce. I have awakened in the morning thinking: maybe we will go to the beach today? Or the farmer’s market? Or perhaps we will grab our books and art supplies and blankets and fall asleep in the sun?
Not anymore. It is time to pay for the slothful sins of summer. I should have been hunting down appropriate textbooks and gathering resources. Week after week, I saw the universe of school supplies, shining from a distance in the aisles of Walmart. But did I walk toward the light? No. I lived in avoidance, by walking the long way round, through automotive or pet supplies.
Now, I humbly and hurriedly dig through a tangle of spiral wires, only to uncover the wide ruled notebooks that nobody wanted. I have ordered books on Amazon, but they won’t arrive until next week. My younger son asked yesterday, “I wonder what the spelling words will be?” I muse internally, “Hmmm, I wonder, too…” I start scratching down a possible word list.
How could I have lived in such denial? Even now, just hours before the bell rings, am I planning? No, I am sitting here at my computer, looking for suitable photos to post here with my ramblings.
The air is chilly. The coffee is brewing. I don’t know what I will serve for breakfast. The First Day of School has arrived.
I wrote once before about my mother-in-law, Zenaida, on this blog, but last week I had the privilege of writing about her again, because we said our final goodbyes to Mama Z last week.
Here are some words I shared at the funeral of this tenacious Cuban lady, and the full story of her courageous exit from Cuba follows…
“We have a big family and each time after we had a baby, Zenaida would come for a visit, bearing LOADS of food. She didn’t just bring a meal and a bag of salad. It was more like:
A huge watermelon
2 XL bags of tortilla chips
A large, heavy homemade loaf of banana bread, baked in a bundt pan
A 10-pound package of ground beef
And an institutional sized box of cereal
When she arrived, our refrigerator and freezer would be stuffed full and there was so much food on the table that there often wasn’t room for anyone to sit down and eat there.
That was just how she gave.
She gave BIG. and
She gave generously.
On these visits after a new baby, Zenaida would find things to clean. She was thorough, and there was always something to clean at our house. She would scour the grimy highchair, she would pull out the washer and dryer and sweep behind, and once she used a toothpick to completely detail our toaster — removing every last crumb.
Zenaida loved to work with her hands, and she would add beauty and sparkle to her creations and sometimes add her own creative touch to something she had purchased. She made her own clothes and was not afraid to tackle complicated styles. She usually chose fancy fabrics with a little sparkle, and she always wore her outfits with her favorite jewelry.
Zenaida and I shared a love of sewing, however, the fabric I usually chose was much more plain and simple and I seldom wear much jewelry.
One time she took me aside and said:
“Lisa. You shouldn’t dress so much like a nun.”
She sewed many dresses for me and for our daughters. Once she made me a jumper that had an opening cut out at the bottom.
“I made it like this, so when you are walking up the stairs, the dress will kind of open up at the bottom and show your legs a little bit.”
Actually, the dress I am wearing today is one that Zenaida made for herself and wore 30 years ago at our wedding. I think she would be happy to see me wearing something she made — and with a touch of sparkle in the fabric!
Tomorrow’s funeral service will include a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 about an inspiring, God-fearing woman. This is a fitting passage for Zenaida, because it includes phrases such as:
She works with her hands in delight!
She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (I never knew Zenaida’s husband; he passed away many years before I became part of the family. But whenever she spoke about him, her words were loving and honoring.)
She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her.
And that last phrase is our desire: to share words that explain what a priceless part of the family that she will always be, and to express gratefulness for her investment of love in all of our lives.”
In 1963, Zenaida Martinez Araujo Luciano left Cuba with her beloved husband, two young sons, and nothing else but her faith and courage.
On August 15, 2020 Zenaida left this earth with a full life, along with the admiration of her large and loving family.
Zenaida was born in the town of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1932. She was the only child of Francisca Martinez Araujo. Zenaida and her mother lived with Josefa Fernandez, a dear family friend, who became like a second mother to her.
Zenaida attended Escuela de Comercio where she joined the marching band as a drummer and played on the volleyball team. After high school, she studied at Escuela Profesional de Comercio and earned her degree in international trade and customs in 1955.
After finishing college, she fell in love with and married Antonio Luciano. The couple welcomed their first child, Antonio Jr., while living in New York. After Cuban dictator Batista was removed from office, they returned to Cuba, where their second son, José was born. When the new leader, Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a communist state, Zenaida and Antonio applied for permission to immigrate to the United States.
Zenaida and Antonio finally received authorization to leave Cuba in 1963, and when they departed their homeland, they were forced to leave behind their family and friends, their wedding rings, and all earthly possessions. After a brief stay in Miami, the family obtained sponsorship generously offered by the Richfield Jaycees in Minnesota. When Zenaida’s friends warned her that she would have to milk cows up in Minnesota, she laughed and said she gladly would.
While living in Minneapolis, Zenaida and Antonio’s family grew as they were blessed with sons Nicholas and Giovanni. Sadly, in 1974, Zenaida’s beloved husband died of cancer, which left her with four children, limited English, and without a driver’s license, car or income source. Dauntless and determined, Zenaida pushed through these new challenges, and studied to become a U.S. citizen in 1976. She learned to drive and secured a job at the VA in laundry and food service. Later, she transferred to the IRS, where she worked for 20 years. After retiring in 1997, she was free to travel, sew, care for her grandchildren and attend their important events.
Zenaida will always be remembered as a persistent, generous, faith-filled person who never gave up. She was the #1 fan of her grandchildren’s activities and she was always the first person to deliver a happy birthday phone call or a severe weather update. Among many other things, she was an expert seamstress, a sports enthusiast, the best banana-bread-baker, a lavish food-giver, towel-embellisher, soup-maker, salsa-dancer and the rainbow-jello-queen.
This past year, Zenaida faced her cancer with dignity and courage, and she often expressed gratefulness to her family, who cared for her in her home. Zenaida passed away on August 15, 2020 at age 88, surrounded by her devoted family.
My husband is running for a local government office, so he and I have been knocking on random doors, asking strangers in our county if they would be willing to place one of his political signs on their property. For me, this is like a series of cheap and daunting date nights; he and I with our clipboards and phone books, pulling up to farmhouses we have only viewed from a distance. I slowly crunch gravel as I tiptoe out, hoping for a positive connection, while at the same time, hoping no one is home.
Door knocking is full of surprises. Since we started, I have had strange dogs jump into my lap, and felt forced to pet them while listening to passionate stories of local history and watershed issues.
We have been chased down by a protective father whose child was in the house alone when we knocked on the door, and after the child phoned him, he pursued us for two miles to find out our business.
Yesterday, while chatting with one woman at her door, her husband yelled out the screen door: “If you are not wearing a mask, we are not putting up a sign for you.”
So be it.
But door knocking has been unexpectedly rewarding. We have met farmers — smart, sensible, resourceful individuals who push on with their strenuous, smelly, thankless work through hot haying weather and frigid winters. I am grateful to live around such hardy, independent people.
When we approach doors, we are reminded that joy and pain and history live inside these unpretentious homes. One neighbor greeted us warmly, even though we were strangers. After connecting ourselves to a common acquaintance, we watched tears trickle down his weathered face while he apologized, confessing that his wife had just died a few weeks ago. One hour later, we left his kitchen not caring why we had come and glad we had offered ourselves as company.
Door knocking has given us a reason to march onto a neighbor’s acreage and introduce ourselves. We have been living next to these people for more than two decades, and have never met some of them, seen their backyards, or known things like:
Some dairy farms offer spa-like perks for their cows, such as fans, body brushes and pedicures.
One neighbor drove a daily carpool 40+ years to work at a candy factory in the Twin Cities.
Around here, we have some innovative business owners, former federal agents, and 2:00 a.m. risers.
So, I guess we will keep knocking on doors, putting up signs, and handing out pieces of glossy paper, because there are more fascinating neighbors to meet.
God is sovereign and never changes. The pandemic is raging, but the rest of the natural world still proceeds predictably and peacefully at God’s direction. He is in control.
My imperfect marriage. Sometimes, my man and I are a real piece of work. But, because of Jesus, my husband is mine and I am his and there is hope and humor and love that can go the distance.
Prayer. It is only recently that I am really clinging to the power of prayer in the lives of my children, teenagers and young adults. I cannot control their worlds anymore; only God can. Talking to God about them is the only thing that gives me peace about them.
Little outdoor getaways. I cannot get out of the house and sit at a coffee shop and write or read or think right now. That used to be my little treat to myself; my little breakout time. But I am thankful recently for walks on local trails and a beautiful spring so I can enjoy peace and quiet outdoors.
Homecomings. Because of the pandemic, most of my young adult children had to migrate back home and work remotely. This has been such a pleasure.
Food. There is enough.
Home Repairs. Another silver lining within the sad, global pandemic. With an altered work schedule, my husband and sons had time to work with an expert to get a new roof put on. One son painted a needy room and we also got rid of lots of junk.
Health. I am grateful for good health and don’t take it for granted.
Vehicles that work right now.
Fun books: read-alouds, audiobooks and volumes that keep people happy in hammocks all day long.
My oldest daughter and I were in the kitchen yesterday and she looked me up and down with concern.
“Umm..I was just wondering why you dress with such a mix of patterns lately?”
I looked down at my flowered skirt and buffalo checked shirt. “What’s wrong with this?” I asked. “They both have blue.”
This daughter has been professionally trained to assess cognitive loss in the elderly population.
So, I second-guessed myself.
Am I losing it?
Is the fact that I seldom leave the house starting to affect me?
Am I just getting old?
But I’m of Scandinavian descent — I like bright colors.
I’m an artistic type — I don’t mind a little mixing of patterns here and there.
Perhaps this is how I see myself:
But maybe this is how she sees me?
Part 2: My Morning Trip to Walmart
One day later, I got to Walmart as the doors opened; as the masked shoppers rolled past the greeters who now double as patron counters.
I was wearing a flowered skirt (again), athletic shirt (matching color), baseball cap (hair needs coloring), barn jacket and black boots.
Halfway through the dairy section, I noticed an elderly, well-dressed woman. She was a petite, classy grandma type, with snowy white hair, wearing a flashy red dress, fitted black wool coat, nylons and dress shoes, gold earrings, and red lipstick.
Remember, this is Walmart. The sight of her really stood out.
We finally crossed paths near the empty toilet paper aisle, eye to eye and cart to cart, though still six feet apart.
“I like your skirt,” she said to me.
“Thanks. I was noticing you, too — all dressed up here at Walmart.”
She leaned in and quipped, “We need to class this place up a bit, don’t we?”
I laughed and rolled away, smiling. (Also rare at Walmart these days.)
Being sheltered at home does not hinder learning. On the contrary — we have more time than ever to carry on with our studies. This is a fact that parents like, but may cause students to glare and grimace.
Since being homebound, we have picked up and played our dusty musical instruments, rediscovered board games and watched endless episodes of Perry Mason.
My daughter and I have sewn 50+ face masks, like the one worn below by the 15-year-old author of this homeschool-assigned report:
What to Know About the Coronavirus
At this point in time, it’s common to hear the words “Coronavirus” or “Covid-19” dropped into everyday chatter. It seems as though it is the foremost issue on most Americans’ minds. It would also appear as though everyone on TV has some new statistic or symptom that is now “breaking news”. What I’d like to do is break it down into the simplest of terms for the average person. Everyone should know the basics of the virus and what they should be doing about it. So, let’s just jump right into it.
Firstly, the question of origin must be asked and answered. Depending on the news channel you’re watching, they might call it “The Chinese Virus”, some say that it is racist to call it just that. Either way, the virus has strong ties to China. According to several trustworthy news outlets, the Coronavirus has been traced back to the city of Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China.
Now, this next part might disgust you, but in China, it is fairly common to have markets where animals such as bats, snakes and rabbits are sold as food. This goes on despite the selling of these animals being illegal. Nevertheless, it is believed that the coronavirus was originally carried by one of those animals and then passed along to humans. That’s not where the gross part ends though. No, sadly when a concerned Chinese doctor first came across the virus in December and reported it, the government shut him up. They accused him of: “spreading rumors and disturbing the social order.” It took three costly weeks for the government to finally acknowledge the disease as a real threat. By then, it had spread exponentially. By the way, that doctor, Li Wenliang, age 34, died in February 2020 of the virus.
So now that you know some of the history of the virus itself, I feel the need to explain some of the terms frequently used in relation to it. You may hear doctors saying things like “the novel coronavirus.” Well, that simply means it is the new coronavirus. There have been other strains, or versions of the disease. You may have heard of the names “SARS” or “MERS” both of which are strains of coronavirus which are all respiratory diseases. The one that we hear of now is known as COVID-19. The COVID part stands for COronaVIrus Disease. And 19 is simply the year it popped up on the proverbial radar, which would be 2019.
We’ve already covered how the disease started. Now the logical question would be, how will it end?
The truth is that it will end when it ends.
Some think that we are right around the corner from a vaccine. Some say the warmer temperatures of summer will kill off the virus, as is the case with most respiratory diseases. Others hold to the idea that if everyone stays away from each other, everything will calm down. And to be honest, they could all be true, but they could equally be totally wrong. At the moment, all we know is that we should all be washing our hands an insane amount, keeping our distance from large gatherings and just use common sense. Someone put it quite simply when they stated that we should all act as though we have it.
If you knew you were infected, you wouldn’t go out in public, would you? And we know that the infected can spread infection even though they don’t exhibit any symptoms. So there is a chance you could be carrying it. The bottom line is: Be responsible, wash your hands well, try to stay away from large groups of people, and treat others as you would want to be treated.
Who said Love is pretty? Love is not a fragile flower Or a delicate blossom Love is a stubborn weed that refuses to be uprooted. Love is not a silky, elegant fabric It’s a stained and sturdy tarp A rough and lowly burlap Love is a rusty anchor A moss-covered boulder A weatherbeaten barn. Love has been through Waves Trials and Storms And love will be there forever.
Love gets Wrinkled Burned and Scarred But love is too busy Doing Working and Praying To look into the mirror