Friday, February 28, 2014

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

This morning I saw a news item of a young boy who died after being around his pet rat. He contracted Rat's Bite Fever, a disease carried by rats that can be transferred to humans. In fact, the disease can be carried by any rodent.  When I think about my children and grandchildren and their gerbils, guinea pigs, and rats as pets, I cringe. If I had known then what I learned this morning watching the program, I would never had allowed them to have "rodent" like pets!

Easy to take care of first pets for my daughter were two male gerbils. We got them a wheel and the proper food. It just so happened that they were not two males and had a bunch of reddish-purple babies.  When the gerbil parents began eating their young, I got rid of them by taking them to an animal shelter.

My son had black-faced rats and they would crawl all over him, sit on his head, and he would feed them by hand. I would not allow the animals in the upstairs part of the house and they "lived" in their cages on the landing between the basement and the upstairs. A door to the patio near where the rats lived, had curtains hanging down about six inches from the rats. Somehow, the rats managed to reach the curtains and before long, the bottom part of the curtains were completely shredded by the rats. I hated the animals. Not only were they destructive but they smelled.

One day, I glanced at the cage. A pair of beady eyes followed every move I made. They were silent and just stared at me. The claws, which look very much like human hands, clung to the wires of the cage. I had a feeling that the rats knew what I was thinking. They frightened me.

Not too long after that spooky morning, I convinced my son to get rid of the rats. I don't recall how we got rid of those evil looking rats but it was a relief to have them gone.

If I had known about Rat Bite Fever, I never would have purchased rodent like pets for my children. So I guess the saying What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You is not true.  Because it can!

"A squirrel is just a rat
with a cuter outfit."
Sarah Jessica Parker

Squeezing of the Sponge

With every squeeze
out pours memories
to fill page after page
of what is happening
in my life, what has
happened and dreams
of what may be in the future.

I picked the title for my blog
of Sponge Full of Thoughts
because I pictured my
brain as a sponge and
if I were able to squeeze
my brain, out would flow
different thoughts.

Sometimes, the sponge
begins to dry and it
will only take one word,
one picture, one thought
or one dream to get
the sponge full of water
so that I can squeeze
my ideas out of it.

Daily I extract pieces of
my life from the sponge
and cover page after
page to remind me of
what has been,
to see what is current
or to imagine how
I wish it might have been.

Someday, the sponge
will wither and dry
and no matter how much
I squeeze, nothing will
come out. Yet, I will have
stored many thoughts, ideas
and memories in my special
blog book called
Sponge Full of Thoughts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Friend, David

As I sat behind my desk at the Hispanic Office of the Archdiocese, in walked a handsome young man. He had a scarf tied around his neck even though it was summer. He came to ask about something going on in his parish, but before long our conversation turned more personal.  He had cancer of the throat and was in the middle of Chemo therapy.  I felt bad that such a young man would have to be suffering with such a horrible disease. He told me he played the guitar and used to sing, but because of the cancer, he no longer sang.

During our conversation he told me how Our Lady of Guadalupe was going to see him through the ordeal. His faith impressed me and I mentioned that a group from the Archdiocese would be traveling to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. He began making plans to join us on the pilgrimage.

Our trip would be a six day trip beginning in Puebla, Mexico where we visited different churches and to Mexico City to see the pyramids and the shrine. During the trip, David and I talked about his family, his wife and children, his faith, and his cancer. I got to know him and joined in prayers that the cancer would go into remission.

Our first stop was in Puebla where we visited the church of St. Francis of Assisi. Beautiful tile covered the front of the church and I learned that Puebla is known for its Talavera pottery and tiles.  We saw the church of Our Lady of Ocotlan in Tlaxcala, a town about 75 miles from Mexico City. Supposedly there is  miraculous water that heals many persons. We traveled to the pyramid of the moon where Bishop Gomez was stopped by a stranger so that he could bless a religious object. The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the many devoted followers included a soccer team with each player carrying a bouquet of flowers for Our Lady.  What looked like piles of clothes were people sleeping after having traveled many miles to come see The Shrine. We took a group picture at the basilica and some of the highlights of the trip are posted below.

I remember David did not join us on some of the outings because he wanted to rest. He did go to the Ballet Folklorico and enjoyed the great dancing from the different parts of Mexico. He did not go with us when we went to hear a Mariachi group in Plaza Garabaldi. Mariachi music can be heard in the Plaza and surrounding bars day and night!

We returned to Denver and David would come to visit me and each visit he told me he was better. He had even begun to sing at some of the masses. I believed the pilgrimage to Mexico must have helped him and we all relaxed.

I don't remember how much longer it was, maybe a year or two, when I heard he had passed away. I attended his funeral and it was beautiful with many people sharing stories about what a wonderful person he turned out to be during his short life.

His devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe makes me believe that he is always near her, possibly singing to her,
and watching over his family and friends.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Terrific Tasty Tacos

While I was recuperating from a broken ankle, friends helped me by bringing prepared dishes, by going grocery shopping, by picking up my mail and by helping me with anything I needed. One day, a friend brought me some delicious tacos and once I tasted them, I have had a craving for them. She showed me where she picks them up and today I stopped at the small hut and purchased Tacos Al Pastor.

The meat is marinated in chile, spices and cooked on a vertical rotisserie similar to how Greeks prepare meat for gyros. As I stood waiting for my order, the smell coming from the meat cooking made my mouth water.
There are four tacos to the order and each taco has two corn tortillas wrapped part way around the meat. The tacos are served with onion and cilantro along with lime slices, green and red salsa. The order is $5.00
but I would pay more for the delicious tacos!

"Don't judge your taco
by its price!"
Hunter S. Thompson

Expensive Pottery

While visiting Puebla, Mexico, I was taken to the Uriarte pottery factory.  I knew nothing about the pottery but I was told that it was Talavera and it could only be purchased in Puebla. When I asked why, I was told that the natural fine clay can only be found around Puebla and in order to make the pottery, the factory has to be registered. There are copy-cats throughout Mexico but a Talavera is signed and numbered.

 The factory employs artisans for each segment of the process. The pieces are all hand made. The pottery is thrown on a potter's wheel which begins the process by forming a pot, bowl, dish, or platter. Eventually, the item gets to the design person who makes elaborate designs into the clay. I noticed that it is tedious work and the workers need to have a lot of patience. Slowly and with care, painters then hand paint the design. Colors can only come from natural pigments and be in blue, yellow, black, green, orange and mauve.

Pieces are fired and sometimes it may take six months for one piece to be completed. I can understand why Talavera is expensive and I purchased a tissue holder for $40 because it was one of the least expensive items.

I have a friend from Puebla who now lives in Colorado and I took photos of some of the beautiful Talavera she has in her home. A napkin holder, butter dish, cups, platters, tea set, planter and a large container, possibly for storage all have original designs. I can picture the artists working on painting pieces like these with backs bent and a steady hand!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Boss

There comes a time in your life when suddenly, your boss is younger than you are! I began working at the Hispanic Office of the Archdiocese of Denver under an older boss and within six months a new director was hired.  The director was in her early twenties and I was in my late fifties! I wondered how someone so young could handle the older employees she would supervise.

It didn't take long to find out that she had more on the ball than a lot of older persons.  She knew what she wanted and jumped in with both feet.  I wondered if she would be able to accomplish her dream of beginning a center for Hispanics that would be educational, social and spiritual.

She amazed me at her ability to think and speak so eloquently. Her accent, since she had been born and attended school in Spain, did not stop her from getting her point across. Her degree was in journalism and she was the founder of the Pueblo Catolico, a Spanish newspaper for the Archdiocese of Denver, before she tackled the beginnings of starting the Hispanic Center.

Slowly, the Center took shape with help from the Archdiocese, prominent business men, and those who saw the Center as a benefit for the Hispanic community. Centro San Juan Diego opened in 2003 after much work to refurbish the Old Sacred Heart School on 28th and Lawrence. I remember working through hammering, saw dust and paint.

The Center continues with its many programs, but the original crew who was there at the beginning of Centro are all gone. I do know that the Executive Director had many obstacles at the beginning and yet, she did it with a diplomatic, honest and kind way.  I learned many things working with her, especially improving my Spanish. Instead of being  "a boss" she became my friend.

Nine years have passed and I had not seen her or her family but last week we were reunited at a friend's home. What a shock to see how big her children have grown, to see her husband, Rafael, and to see that she has not changed. I would have thought that at the very least, she would look older! They currently live in Maryland and she enjoys her position of Secretariat of Cultural Diversity at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

I am very proud of having worked with this young woman who knows her mind, who goes after what she wants, and is successful in what she decides to do.