{ Vamos a la Casa del Señor }

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
  • 3 pineapples
  • 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.

She said:

“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.”


More family members have written about Zenaida; read Theo’s tribute and Sophia’s story.

———————–

Zenaida’s Obituary

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.

———————————————————————————————————————

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

{ Covid-19 Clothing Style }

Part One: Style Problems?

Sheltering at home may be having an effect on me.

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:

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But maybe this is how she sees me?

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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.)

 

{ Cardboard Creations }

When you can’t locate the kitchen scissors…

When the toilet paper roll disappears prematurely…

When there’s a trail of cardboard clippings that lead downstairs…

You know creativity is happening here.

 

Creating with Cardboard

Out of the Box 25 Cardboard Engineering Projects for Makers
Out of the Box: 25 Cardboard Projects…

 

Here’s the book, given by Tia, that started the 3-day rummaging through the recyclables…

The usurping of Mama’s tape…

the glue frenzy…

The lamenting of the ring toss that is too flimsy to stand…

…and the rejoicing over castle towers that stand strong.

 

 

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{ This Week In Pictures }

  1. Korean stop sign, photo taken by my son because he knows I like stop signs in various foreign languages.
  2. New local bakery where my daughter and I shared a pecan caramel roll and cherry turnover, good coffee and sweet conversation.
  3. Blueberry muffins galore, made by my daughter and gratefully consumed on ski day morning.
  4. Time alone on a chairlift– beautiful and peaceful silent time. Short and sweet and high off the ground, but I’ll take it. 
  5. Trying to walk regularly outside because I should, not because I really want to, so I grit my teeth and lean into the wind.
  6. God frosted the trees for us, beautifying our homeschool ski day with His creative handiwork plus cheerful sunshine and no injuries.
  7. My husband drove this cute little Mazda Miata down to Florida for a friend recently.  It looks like a toy car, but he sure got lots of applause / envy from strangers along the way.  The admiration sat well with my husband 🙂IMG_20200212_071404_026_2
  8. I am sad to say goodbye to a wonderful audiobook trilogy about Crispin by author Avi. We finished the last of the three books this week.
  9. From beginning to end, these stories about a young orphan growing up in the Middle Ages are adventurous, suspenseful, and touching.

  1. Avi is a talented and prolific author and his first Crispin book is a Newbery Award Winner. 
  2. We also liked The Traitor’s Gate by Avi, and his newest book, Gold Rush Girl, is coming out in March. (Avi is 82 years old and still going strong!)

~~~

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{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ Finally Learning or I Get to Go to School 11 Times }

We are finally in the 1970’s in homeschool history, and this will shine a spotlight on why — for us —  homeschooling has been the best way to go: 

this may be the first time in my life I will truly understand what was happening in my childhood when I was too young to comprehend or care. 

Questions like the following will be answered for all of us: 

  • What is Watergate and why did they call it that?
  • Where and what was Camp David?
  • Who was the Shah of Iran? 
  • Why did they put yellow ribbons all over fences and buildings?

As I assigned a few reports to my oldest homeschoolers yesterday, they didn’t get why I danced around the kitchen, singing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree” and got busy reserving “All the President’s Men” from the library website. They didn’t understand why I told them to: “Write the first paragraph of the report like a newspaper article — like a summary; like “Watergate for Dummies.” Explain the start of the Islamic Republic of Iran like you were explaining it to a child. 

Hooray! I might finally understand all this stuff. More soon.

 ~~~~

Images:

Richard Nixon: Image by gfk DSGN from Pixabay

Foshay Tower, Minneapolis, MN.  January 25, 1981

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{ Frumpy in France }

My son is traveling overseas for the first time, and I prayed that it would be a glorious, life-changing trip for him.

Surrounded by church friends and armed with a confident, likable personality, I doubt he will be homesick and I hope he will have a grand experience. 

This morning’s happy bon voyage caused me to remember my first overseas experience, only 36 years ago….

June 1983

When I left my Midwest suburb, I thought I looked totally acceptable — even cool — in my preppy boat shoes, wide-striped rainbow polo and Kelly green chinos. My hair was freshly home-permed into a bushy, easy-care halo around my pudgy face. 

topsidersOur French teacher, Madame Fansler-Wald, headed up the trip to France, starting in Paris with a one week family stay. A series of pre-trip planning sessions told us what to pack and what to leave home: “Don’t pack too much! Leave lots of room for souvenirs.”

At that season of my life, I thought so little of makeup that I decided I would lighten my luggage by leaving makeup at home — all 3 ounces of it. 

When it was time to leave, my whole family could stand at the gate and wave goodbye, because this was the innocent, trusting 1980’s.  

Au revoir! See you in 3 weeks!

My hollow carry-on and I landed in Paris and each student was shuffled off for one week with their Parisian host family. 

Pascale DuClosel was my teen counterpart in the host family — she was short, dark and aloof. She sported a fashionable, cropped hairdo and wore mini skirts and high-heeled pumps. She lived in a stylish flat with her mother and father, who were also aloof but pleasant, and spoke less English than Pascale. 

That first night — and every night —  I sat alone in the sparse European guest bedroom and drew out my Bible.  Trying to ward off homesickness, I read big chunks of the comforting Psalms; they have been my best friend ever since.

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For breakfast we bought fresh, long loaves of French bread and ate them slathered with real butter and exquisitely lumpy marmalade. 

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Pascale showed me her neighborhood and some days we sat at the sidewalk cafe with her friends. It didn’t take long to soak in the fashionable, French atmosphere, and I recall the moment I saw my frumpy reflection in a shop window and looked down at my sensible shoes. 

Suddenly, I felt like a farm hand that had parachuted into an elegant, sophisticated party.

And, I must have missed the unit where Madame talked about French greeting customs.  Pascale’s friend Stephen said goodbye to me one afternoon with a typical double side-cheek air kiss; I cringe when I remember how I innocently turned my face at the wrong time, getting an unintended smack on the lips from Stephen and a scornful look from Pascale.

I was relieved when the host week was over, and we gathered as a group again. The rest of the trip was like a magical dream, visiting giant castles along the Loire River, touring Monet’s charming pink cottage and day-tripping into Switzerland to eat ice cream at sunset.

Before leaving France, I bought those souvenirs that were supposed to fill up my empty luggage. They included:  makeup, a light blue denim mini skirt, and one pair of pink and white leather pumps.

 

{ My Birthday Wrap-Up }

 

The girls and I got up early and snuck out to Ruby’s Roost,  a sweet little bakery with all the charm of a European sidewalk cafe. It’s run by an energetic family; I wonder how the mom / baker can be so model-skinny, even though she gets up before dawn and makes the most decadent pecan sweet rolls ever.

pecan stickies

We captured a quick photo; it was drizzling before the downpour:

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My husband and I ran out to a new local co-op for a smoothie…then I grabbed my free birthday drink at Caribou Coffee. 

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Flowers from my dear husband, who has joined me now for 30 birthdays ❤️

The best thing about my birthday this year was that it fell on a Saturday, and all of our working young adults were home…a rare day to cherish!

In the afternoon, we held Family Debates #1.

This new game was inspired by a raucously loud discussion 

 last week in the back of the van.

Everyone had a chance to debate a topic with a partner, and my husband and I picked a winner.

The one-minute debate topics included:

Which is more fun, snowboarding or longboarding? 

Which store is better, Aldi or Trader Joe’s?

Which is better, camping or watching sports? 

Which one is more fun, downhill skiing or swimming?

Which is better, almond milk or cow’s milk? 

(These topics are hotly debated at various times and with varying intensity throughout the year…)

Edible prizes were doled out to the winners.

And, everyone got a bonus prize at the end, just for participating, even though my husband thought that was a wimpy move…

…but, it was MY birthday.

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Thank you, God, for another year to live and love and serve my family!

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. — Psalm 90:12

 

 

{ About August }

In the life of an aging year, August is the cheerful-going-gray-stage. Decay is in the air and birds are empty-nesters. August’s garden is full of hearty thorns that cannot be rooted out easily — and she is too tired to try.

June works hard to stay attractive, but August knows better. She’s seen the storms and wind and hail and hungry insects. She shrugs and makes do. She’s got beauty: the below-skin-deep and low-maintenance kind. It’s easy-care and comfortably hospitable; visitors pop on by for a nibble, then fly to new homes.

August weeds are reckless vines, unruly thistledown and flyaway milkweed. Her ready-to-drop flowers are barely holding on to dried, patchy blooms.

August grooms herself casually — if at all — and without a mirror.

She lays back, tanned and wrinkled, as she watches summer’s finale with a satisfied, tired smile.

 

{ The Wizard of Oz Made Me Cry }

I asked my husband out on a date.

I told him, “We’re going somewhere special. I’m treating.”

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So, I brought him where he could eat his kind of food (keto)

at my kind of price (Chik Fil A).

Next, we drove to a high school production of The Wizard of Oz. 

Tickets were free (also within my budget)…

…but the performance was priceless.

~~~

Theater For All was started at a local high school by a theater arts teacher and a special education teacher.

They teamed up to offer theater classes and performance experience to

students with special needs.

Each actor or actress in The Wizard of Oz was paired up with a non-disabled counterpart. They did their parts together, with the assistant dressed in black “shadowing” the actor who was disabled.

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The Wicked Witch of the West in her wheelchair, paired with her counterpart.

Dorothy, carrying Toto in a basket, was dressed in a blue gingham dress.

The counterpart Dorothy was dressed in black, shadowing the other Dorothy with a face full of encouragement and a posture that gave her partner center stage.

What made me cry?

  • Hearing Dorothy belt out “Over the Rainbow” from her heart, gripping her partner’s hand, and glowing when the audience whooped and cheered. (The audience clapped and cheered throughout the play — for each song, group number and solo.)

 

  • Watching the earnest Tin Man in his wheelchair beg for a heart. He was clear, sincere and charming.

 

  • Seeing Glinda (the good witch) ad-lib with her counterpart. While Glinda only mouthed her lines, she watched her partner speak them loudly. Suddenly Glinda, with her braids and pink chiffon dress spilling over the wheelchair, leaned over and gently touched her partner with her star wand, insisting:

I love you!

I love you!

I love you!

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The standing ovation was well deserved. We applauded the courage and enthusiasm of each actor with special needs.

We were deeply moved by the servant-like support of each non-disabled actor.  It was clear they were up on stage simply to make the other actor successful.

The event was an visual of loving others without seeking personal glory.

~~~

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves…Philippians 2:3

Thank you, Theater For All & Edina High School Thespians

 

 

Wicked Witch photo by S. Magnuson

Glinda image from Pinterest