Letters to the Past

Day 31
Nawal wrote a wonderful post earlier this month: Dear Baba. It includes letters to some people who have died. On this 31st day of #SOL21, I chose to write this post. Thank you for the long list of ideas I still have–gifts from the writing mentors in this Slice of Life Story Challenge community.

Letters to My People

Dear Aunt Thelma,
Thank you for teaching me how to crochet and sew. Thank you for teaching me to laugh at life and myself–that was my favorite lesson from you. You were so patient with all of us. Remember when I stayed with you for a week during the summer after my freshman year of high school. You made me some new clothes to start school. The See’s Candy you always had in your house wasn’t good for you or us, but it sure was fun coming to your house and eating it! I still crochet a little, but I miss you and Lynne, who I could ask any question and get firsthand help. Now, my oldest, Maria, is the ultimate knitter, quilter, sewist (I think she may call herself that instead of a seamstress–it is the 21st century, you know). You would be proud of her. I can go to her for help now.

Dear Grandpa H.,
Thank you for taking me fishing. Remember when I caught that two-pound carp in Lake Mead? You made me feel like a fishing star. You stopped the boat and let us swim whenever we asked. I think of your gentle ways as I grow older.

Dear Grandma H.,
You were the sweet Mama, Grandma, Nana for so many. Thank you for always making your home so accessible to all of us and our friends and whoever needed a place to visit. Your quiet confidence in God inspired me to give of my money, time, and talents to others as an offering to God. Though I would say, you inspired me to become a more discerning critic of organizations who claim to be doing God’s work. Your support for Jim and Tammy Faye, with their questionable values, was an example for me. (After you died, he spent time in prison for fraud of his gullible supporters.) I am glad you didn’t get to see our 46-1 president. I’m afraid you might have been a supporter because he quickly snatched up the dispensationalists to add to his nebulous base. I am glad your legacy of gentleness, love, quiet confidence, and joy live on more than your political and religious beliefs. For her middle name, we gave Katie your name. She never got to meet you, but she carries memories of our time in the desert with her. The next generation grew up going to your house with a new grandma, my mom. Katie and Thomas  became engaged in Joshua Tree and we had their wedding there, in the place you called home. They are even talking about naming a daughter with a variation on your name.

Dear Grandma R.,
I know now that you had a lot of heartbreak and it made you broken, too. I can’t begin to imagine giving birth to seven children and only having three grow up to become adults, and you even outlived one of the adults, my dad. Polio and other diseases ran rampant through your family. Even those who did make it to adulthood came with mismatched limbs and other issues that showed they survived polio. If you were living today, I don’t know if you would believe that some people consider themselves anti-vaxers. I wonder if they would think the same if they walked in your shoes, and can see what disease takes away. Two things I remember about you–your index finger that was half cut off in a factory accident and the Reed’s butterscotch candies you always had on the coffee table. Some things I still try to forget.

Dear Scotty,
You were my first nephew. You were born in August, but should have waited until September. You were born to my oldest sister, who contracted German measles from the little boy she babysat. We didn’t know much about Rubella then, but it is another good thing to be vaccinated against. I’m sure you would agree. You were perfect/not perfect. Partially deaf, partially blind, bad heart and more organ damage than the doctors thought you would ever survive. You never did have that open heart surgery they talked about giving you when you got strong enough. Did you never get strong enough? But you were a fighter and spunky! Remember how we celebrated our August birthdays together with the family. Homemade German Chocolate Cake–We would sit next to each other, and I would eat the cake and you would eat the frosting, which I didn’t like back then, but I do now. I think of you every time I have a chance to eat it. You died the month before we celebrated your 21st birthday together.

Dear Dad,
You left when I was seven. Lots of children were still filling the bursting-at-the-seams home. Your smoking, alcoholism and family history of heart disease were a fatal combination for the young 43-year-old. In spite of your sickness, though, I want to say thank you for working hard to take care of us. You were always worried we would look poor, so you tried to make us eat a lot. (I didn’t like that and often went to bed early because I wouldn’t clean my plate.) I was too young to know about all the issues you and our family faced, but it seems to me like you drove that Department of Water and Power truck to work every day–foreman of a work crew. When you came home the neighborhood kids got to drain the ice water cooler you had in that little door on the truck, filling up the paper cone cups like we were royalty. In those moments, I was proud you were my dad.

On a lighter note. A zappai about today’s breakfast.

I removed the hearts
Like birds nibbling from each peach
Choice watermelon

Feeling Overwhelmed

Day 30

It is not often that I feel overwhelmed, but today I did. It’s now almost midnight in Bahrain, and I have been working at three computers all day long trying to edit songs for a virtual choir for the Good Friday online service.

Here are the three computers–note that they are all waiting for something! (That’s been most of my day!)

When all three computers were rendering, transferring, or uploading gigantic files, I would go to the kitchen and make applesauce or a pot of soup. When I got really frustrated, I walked away and read. I’m still reading Suleika Jaouad’s memoir:

So, as you can see I did not only sit and edit songs in baby steps all day long. The little editing I was able to do came with dozens of hourglasses (on the Windows machines) and spinning rainbows from hell (on the Macbook). Sometimes the hourglass would finish it’s buffering, and sometimes it would close the editing program. Sometimes the rainbow from hell would finish and let me work on the video for a few edits before it got gunked up with the big files, and sometimes it would just shut down.

When it got overwhelming, I walked away to do something for me or something productive. It was either that or throw one of these darn laptops through the wall.

Today, I made a decision though, one I should have made months ago. I will say no to any future editing requests that include big video files. These laptops and Wondershare are not cut out for what I’ve been asking of them. Surely someone else can do this work more reasonably than I! Any successful videos from me come only with hours of patience, ridiculous rendering, TLC, and prayer.

Another Successful Zoom Event

Day 29

Last week we had a successful Spelling Bee at school, and then the next day a successful talent show at church.

On a typical Friday morning, we have about 100 children in grades PreK-12 who come on Zoom for our church’s “church” school. It’s Sunday school on Fridays. We meet together for 30 minutes and then everyone goes to their own Zoom links for a 40-minute class. This past Friday was different though. We planned a 1.5 hour whole group celebration of talents for our church school community. We called it a Talent Showcase. We just wanted it to be a way to praise God with all the talents God has given us.

We had 40 children and teens sign up. We asked them to limit their talent sharing to two minutes. I did the math Friday morning and realized we would go from 9:30 to 10:50–with no breaks or transition times. Yikes! Oh, well. We knew if everyone showed up, we were definitely going to go over our time limit. (I should have done the math earlier! Maybe we would have scheduled 9:30-10:30 for the younger ones and 10:30-11:30 for the older youth. Next time.)

We also discussed how to give warnings as they approached or passed the two-minute mark. We decided not to hold up the yellow 15-second-warning sign since the one who would need to see it would be focused on their violin, making balloon animals, piano, singing, drawing, cooking, or what have you. We decided, if someone went too long, we could just mute them and then start clapping and thanking them. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do that even once! There were just two students who went closer to three minutes, but we let them finish. Many children were actually under the two-minute limit.

The viewers rocked the chat and reaction icons. It was a highlight for me. The audience was giving applause, hearts, confetti, and thumbs up reactions for each participant. I loved how the gallery view lit up like a Christmas tree at the end of each act. Even better they filled up the chat box with messages to “Everyone” (Everyone and hosts were the only ones they were able to chat with). They were so encouraging to each other.

  • “Wow!”
  • “What a song!”
  • “Great job!”
  • “I’ve been in church school with you for years, and I never knew you could play the piano.”
  • Etc., etc., etc.

At the end of the two-hour event, when we were thanking everyone, someone chimed in with an interesting statistic, “We had 1039 chats today!”

I was reminded of our event when I read something in Fran’s post yesterday (and the second day in a row that her post has inspired my SOLSC):

…in regard to the Google Classroom chat feature: “So many more kids share their thoughts this way, more than I’ve ever seen in person. I’m in awe of how much they have to say and how they encourage each other. We use the chat all the time now.” From Fran’s post “Digging for Awe”

Afterwards, the planners laughed about how this event would have looked a year ago when we were literally all new to Zoom. It’s hard to remember some of our foibles…

  • Aunty, I can’t find the chat.”
  • “Dear, you’ll need to unmute. We can see you singing, but we can’t hear you.”
  • “Maybe you’ll have to do a sound check. Do you know how to do that?”
  • “Sorry for those we left in the waiting room for thirty minutes.”
  • “Why don’t you leave and come in again, maybe that will work.”
  • “What’s the password? My cousin can’t get in.”
  • “No, I don’t know how to use Zoom on a phone.”
  • “Maybe we’ll have to finish next week.”

A year later, the 40 participants were 100% successful in sharing their talents live on Zoom with cameras, microphones, occasional screen sharing, and excellent timing. What skills we have learned without even realizing it!

I Was Given a Golden Shovel Today

Day 28
A hopeful Golden Shovel from September 2021 using Biden’s Build Back Better slogan.

Thank you for the challenge and passing on the Golden Shovel to us today, Fran Haley. I saw your post this morning, and I thought it was a great day to write another Golden Shovel poem.  I’ve been thinking about it and doing a little mental digging throughout my day.

Because it’s Palm Sunday, I made that the topic for my poem using William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” poem.

So Much Depends Upon Jesus
Hosanna in the Highest, so
very many Hosannas! It seems there is much
joy filling Jerusalem today, but it depends
ultimately upon
your perspective. It’s not all hosannas…We sense a
burst of red
hot anger–religious leaders reinventing the wheel
of hatred, building a barrow
above the tombs, glazed
sepulchers of envy, with
little hope of Hosannas to rain
peace and justice on the earth. Beside
Jesus’s little donkey, the
fickle crowds also heave their temporary praise, white
hot and later we will all become chickens

A year ago this week, I wrote another Golden Shovel poem using a Williams’ poem, “This is Just to Say

It’s A Good Friday Just to Say
This week started with a parade I
Witnessed. Shouting and waving my palm branches have
Given me hope. Too often I’ve eaten
Of this desire, dreams for the
Future, broken again. Grapes and plums
Crushed into sour wine that
Is poured out and wasted. Were
You informed of this in
Heaven before you agreed to the
Plan? Heaven must have been an icebox
The moment the plan was devised and
Executed. Which
Brings us back to you
Here now getting lead-studded lashes. Were
You tempted to split the earth and let them fall in? Probably.
Crown of thorns, ‘My God” groaning, but saving
Some bit of hope after the forsaking for
A fish-laden breakfast
On the beach. All to forgive
Us, the world, villains, sinners, trespassers, me.
Sour sponge dripping vinegar they
Gave to relieve your pounded nails, pounding head? Were
You aware that your forsaken cries would become delicious
Victory over the grave, so
We would be able to say, ‘It’s Friday, but sweet
Sunday’s coming,’ and
Our scarlet sins could become so
Clean like fire and snowy cold

By Laurie Avocado, CC By 2.0

Handmade Hugs

Day 27

This winter a group of us made 50 crocheted toys for the pediatric cancer patients here in Bahrain.  They will be distributed to children as they come for their treatments.

Then we received a grant from a nonprofit in Bahrain to add a Bahrain coloring book made by local artists and a box of crayons to each handmade toy.

We delivered the packages to Salmaniya Medical Center’s Patient Relations Office this week. There are 13 patients there this week who will each receive a package. As new patients come, they will have one waiting for them.

I wasn’t much of a crocheter, (mostly I had made potholders  before this) but this project was a motivating one to join because of the cause. I made a turtle and baby turtle because it seemed like an easier animal to attempt, as I am not much for following patterns.

Mi Cuchara Favorita

Day 26

Siempre todo
Cuchara favorita
Mejor comida

My Grape Nuts, ready for the milk


I’m trying a #MultiFri again today with a haiku (or make that a zappai). I figured with poetry maybe I can get away with grammatical errors more easily. (But do please let me know, Spanish speakers, if you have any advice on my first Spanish poetry attempt!)

About this poem: Esta chuchara es mi favorita! It is a spoon I reach for every single day! In my entire previous life, I have never been one to have a favorite piece of cutlery. But when I moved here, this found-in-the-drawer spoon became my go-to delight. Though not beautiful, I love the size and feel of the mouth-sized bowl more than the other spoons we bought. Even the thickness of the metal is perfect. Now it’s a habit that both my husband and I pull it out for me. This is my spoon.

I’m always eating
with my favorite spoon, which
makes food taste better

Spelling Bee Wrapped Up

Day 25

So we just wrapped up the third Zoom Spelling Bee of the day! And now we are officially on spring break.

Three weeks or so ago I wrote about initial ideas for our final Spelling Bee. Here’s what I thought then:

  • Round 1–they each write the same word in the chat to the host (judge).
  • Round 2–we’ll say the same word and everyone will write it on a whiteboard. On the count of three, they will turn it around and show the judges.
  • Round 3 would be a traditional spelling bee where each child left in the competition gets a different word and spells it orally.

Here are some of the successful changes we made.

We gave the children a list of words to practice and a book to read.  Here are the lists we used: Amber, Ruby, Sapphire. We had three separate events for each leveled group. (The levels were created by an online Google preliminary round; students were placed according to their scores on the preliminary.)

One big change happened that we didn’t discover until the first group did Round 1. One of the students told us when he and his dad were practicing that the auto-correct chat featured fixes words. OK, yes, indeed! Why didn’t we think of that? Auto correct on Zoom is spectacular. The next time you are in a Zoom meeting try misspelling a word in a chat message! So, the first group got 5/5 correct in Round 1. For the next two groups we didn’t do Round 1 like this. Instead, we had the students in the second group write five words on their whiteboard. Then we checked them all at one time. For the youngest ones, we had them write the words one at a time.

Then we did Round 2, which was spelling on the whiteboards with fewer, harder, and higher-point-value words. Last time I wrote about the spelling bee, Melody Parker suggested the students show their whole body, which we kind of did. We’d have students stand behind their chairs with the whiteboards for Round 2. It was a really good view and we could see them writing.

Round 3 was two rounds in a traditional oral spelling bee style. Three points for each word spelled correctly in this round, and no eliminations for spellers who missed their words.  For Rounds 3 through 5, the students also stood behind their chairs and had their hands up. They could just hold them up or pretend to write on one hand with the other hand as the stylus to help them with the spellings.

We also had Round 4, which had words from a book we asked the children to read (from our online library subscription). We gave each child one word from the book. (Round 4 was especially hard for the youngest ones in the Amber group below. You can see only two spelled their word correctly.)

Finally, we had a Finals Round for the top scorers. It was a single elimination round, which determined the winner. The scores were only used to help determine the other places, if needed, as in the example below.

The school classes were cancelled for today, so other students could watch the Spelling Bees, which were live-streamed on YouTube. We played the national anthem, the principal or vice principal took turns thanking and greeting the participants and spectators and each person introduced themselves. Two or three volunteer teachers came to each room to be judges. There were three of us on the Spelling Bee design team, and we each were able to be in all three groups–to host the Zoom, to answer questions, and help during the scorekeepers breakout meeting.

We were thrilled that each of the three bees went off successfully. They were much better than we thought they would have been. The goal of this project in the Learning Inclusion Department was to give an opportunity for enrichment for our talented and gifted students.  It was a joy to see these excellent students be in the limelight for a day. It seemed like they were proud and happy to be there.

Two suggestions for next time: Schedule 90 minutes for each, instead of 60 minutes. The second group was scheduled right after the first one, so it got a late start. Also, Group 1 needs fewer rounds and a shorter list to study. 

Random Conversation on the Way to the Mall

Day 24

Random conversation on the way to the mall…

Keith: (Noticing someone’s brightly colored pants as he walked by) Wow, look at those green jeans.

Denise: Remember Mr. Green Jeans? And Captain Kangaroo.

K: Yes.

D: Was Captain Kangaroo just on local stations? Or maybe that was Sheriff John who was local on L.A. stations.

K: I don’t know. I was lucky; I could get reception for both San Diego and L.A. stations.

D: You were lucky! You had more choices than I did.

K: The local stations in L.A. were odd numbers–like 9, 11, 13.

D: Yes, 5 too.  And the big three networks were on 2, 4, and 7.

K: CBS on 2, NBC on 4, ABC on 7. I remember those.

D: What were the letters on the local stations? Like KTTV?

K: Channel 11. KTLA was 5.

D: It’s weird how we remember station numbers from our childhood.

K. Yes, I don’t remember the numbers from any other place I’ve lived.

D: Do you remember the San Diego stations from when you were a kid too?

K: I think so.  ABC was on 10.

D: Were we supposed to exit there?

K: Yes, but we were busy talking about television stations.

Where do those random conversations come from? I am filled with gratitude that I get to have a partner to live with during this pandemic. No telling what I would be talking to myself about!


Our parents used to let us watch these guys.