Sunday, February 24, 2013

Celebrating Mom and family

Mom young in coat

Today marks 23 years since my Mom separated from her body here. She was always a big, happy, fun presence, full of laughter, ready with a joke, always ready to move her feet and dance. As you can see in these pics, she was a beauty, too. It was super cold and windy when I went to the cemetery this morning to bring flowers and polish her headstone until it shone. I really love having a quiet,beautiful, special place where I can focus my thoughts and prayers on her without distraction. There are two vases; I always use the 2nd one because Dad used to use the first one and even though he doesn’t go there any longer, I still pull out both vases so the 1st one can still be pulled out. I fill the vase with water at the spigot, wet a rag for cleaning, trim the flower bouquet I brought (roses, ranunculus – really pretty today) and arrange it in the vase. Kneeling on a towel, I go to work on the headstone, clearing leaves, cleaning the stone, spraying it with marble/granite cleaner, wiping it and then buffing with a soft cloth for a high shine. All the while, I’m talking to Mom, feeling her presence, just the two of us, loving one another as always. I put my hands together in prayer and pray. Then I bend forward, kiss her name on the headstone and make the Sign of the Cross on her name.

Mom wedding day Mom Disneyland  rosie me mom carmen

I love the pic of mom on her wedding day. So young and beautiful and all that lace – wow! She visited Disneyland when it opened; we’ve figured she was probably pregnant with my brother Steve in this pic. In the 3rd pic are my cousins Rosie and Carmen (on the ends), with me and Mom.

022313 Tio Lolo 83rd birthday  022313 Shelly Ruben Me Tio Lolo Rosie Gloria 
1st pic: Tio Lolo; 2nd pic: Shelly S. (2nd cousin), Ruben O., me, Rosie A.(little girl in pic above), Gloria O.S.

Yesterday, I visited my Oropeza cousins in Oxnard to celebrate my Tio Lolo’s 83rd birthday.(Oropeza is Mom’s maiden name.) Tio Lolo is Mom’s youngest brother; she was next to the youngest in birth order in the Oropeza family of 10 children. They were all always very close and we grew up visiting at various tios’ homes nearly every weekend, all the cousins playing and growing up together. Family was the most important thing and our bond to one another was tight, almost like brothers and sisters. Being with cousins yesterday (and 2nd cousins and 3rd cousins) made me feel even closer to Mom. Being with them is like being with Mom: teasing, laughing, loving, talking endlessly, wanting more time together and not wanting to leave. Thank you, Mom, for our family, for my wonderful brothers and all of my beautiful, loving, crazy-fun extended family. I miss you but I see you alive still in all of us. I love you, Mom!

Monday, February 11, 2013

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Time


February 8 was National Girl Scout Cookie Day. Do you buy Girl Scout cookies? What’s your favorite? Samoas drizzled with chocolate? Thin Mints?  I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies, tempting as they are. Oh, I’d like to. I don’t like cake, but I do love cookies, especially good cookies.

But I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies. When I was in elementary school, a bunch of us signed up to join. I was so excited! Crafting, meetings, badges, camping – I could hardly wait. Actually, I did wait … and wait and wait. I found out later that the meetings had started … but only for the lighter-skinned girls. Those of us with darker skin (there were only a couple of us) weren’t called. We weren’t allowed to join the local Girl Scouts. I was just a little girl and I didn’t understand why. I didn’t know about prejudice or why some girls got to join but others weren’t. To me, we were all the same, just a bunch of little girls in elementary school.

It’s hard to believe that not so long ago, Girl Scout troops were segregated, with different troops for white girls, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians. At my school, there weren’t enough of us darker-skinned girls to be able to create a troop, so we were simply left out. I watched as the Girl Scouts wore their uniforms to school on meeting days, with their sashes and badges. I listened to them talk about their meetings and the things they’d learned or made. It made me sad. I didn’t know then why I couldn’t join. I felt left out and didn’t know why.

The social unrest of the 60s prompted the Girl Scouts to change their programs and the organization, but not yet in my area. There was prejudice in Orange County at that time. (When we moved into our new house, a neighbor came up to my mom and told her “I didn’t know they were going to let Mexicans move in here!” To which my dear mom replied “I didn’t know they were going to let poor white trash move in here.” You didn’t mess with my mom.) Thankfully, the Girl Scouts are a great organization and those types of prejudices are no longer. They do great work, building up young girls, teaching them a variety of skills, building confidence and inner strength, creating strong young women.

I so wanted to be part of that. I don’t buy Girl Scout cookies. I don’t buy them because of the little girls that they hurt so deeply years ago. I don’t buy them because of the little girl that I was, wondering why I was left out, not knowing why. It’s not that I hold a grudge; as I said, they’re a great organization and I encourage your support. It’s just that I want to honor and serve as witness for what once was, for the little-girl-me who just wanted to be part of a troop.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A little painting for my grand's 16th birthday

It's amazing that my baby grand, Jas, is now 16 years old. Oh, what a precious baby she was for me at a tough time in my life! She, her mom and her dad lived with me during Jasmine's first year. It was one of my great, quiet joys to wake up to her softly crying in the middle of the night, going into her room and taking her into the living room where I'd rock her, sing to her, maybe give her a bottle if she was hungry.

Holding my precious first granddaughter in my arms swelled my heart and began the difficult work of healing it in so many ways after it had been so badly injured. She still does that for me; my soul still connects, recognizes and knows her power in my life.

I saw a print on Pinterest recently and thought it would make a great painting for Jas. She's on her high school junior varsity water polo team and loves being in the pool or at the beach. I printed a copy (on the left) and then painted it on an 8x10 canvas. Just a bit of fun for my water baby girl (an Aquarian, like me) who loves the water!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

English is a beautiful language

you keep using that word
"Happy belated birthday!"
With a nod to Princess Bride and Inigo Montoya: You keep saying that phrase; I do not think it means what you think it means. There is no “belated birthday.” A birthday is a specific day, so no one can have a late birthday. If I miss someone’s birthday, the phrase is: “Belated happy birthday (wishes)!” because the wishes are belated, not the birthday.
English is a beautiful language and applying what we learned in elementary school helps us to communicate more clearly and promotes better understanding. (It also prevents expensive lawsuits, as people have gone to court when language is found to be misleading or incorrect.) The way a phrase is ordered (syntax) can alter the intended meaning. For example, this news headline:
Former Deputy Sentenced For Missing Wife's Murder
Maybe he was just busy that day and couldn’t be there for the murder?
Sometimes a typo is just a typo. I don’t think I want to be contacted by this associate:
I’ve been fortunate to be employed as a copywriter/editor/proofreader for many years and am pretty passionate about getting things right (in accordance with AP Stylebook and Merriam-Webster) before my work is published. I feel strongly that professional work should be correct. In various studies, polls and surveys, people have said that errors on business ads, websites, flyers, signs, etc., affect customer perceptions and impact the brand. Comments generally fall along the line of “If they can’t even get the spelling correct, what does that say about the quality of their other work?” Errors diminish perception about the quality of the business, they devalue the impact of the message. People have been known to lose confidence and to even quit doing business with companies because of the lack of quality in their published work.
That said, though, I’m not a “grammar Nazi” and, frankly, I find the term abhorrently insulting. If you make errors in your personal writing, it doesn’t matter to me one bit. (I do it all the time; I don’t check my personal writing with the same level of scrutiny that I do my professional work.) Sure, it helps to clarify meaning when the work is correct, but I’m usually able to figure out what you mean. I’m not a writing judge. And, by the way, why are mathematicians not called “math Nazis” or scientists not called “science Nazis?” If someone points out a math error, you thank them. But people are blasted for pointing out personal writing errors, so I just don’t do it unless someone asks for help. Even at work, if someone else makes an error on their published work, I don’t point it out unless someone specifically asks me to review their work for errors.
Some folks on Facebook have asked me to help them by posting examples of common errors so they can improve their communication. They’ve been very appreciative and find it helpful. I think people generally want to grow and evolve, to learn how to do things better, to improve themselves along life’s journey. I’m always learning new things about language usage. I’m passionate about information design—how we design information to be consumed by the user with understanding and clarity—and I feel that language is part of the discipline of information design.
I’ll end with a little nugget that, like the late birthday greeting, doesn’t mean what most people think it means:
In “ZIP code,” ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Program and should always be capitalized per the United States Postal Service, which created the program. “Zip code” is incorrect. And now you’ve just learned something new!