Archive for August, 2011

When Life Seems Unfair…

Last year I received a phone call from one of my best friends in the bay area.  We have worked at two separate schools together and have had a friendship for over 15 years.  The news she told me shook me to the core.  Just before she was turning 50 she was told she had breast cancer and went through the process of having both breasts removed and then went through chemotherapy.  I wasn’t able to get to the bay area until last March when we had dinner together.  Her hair was just beginning to grow back in, and I was thrilled to know she was finished with her treatments.

I just spoke with her the other day to learn that her cancer is back and it has spread.  I felt like a brick wall hit me.  When I heard her voice I began to cry because honestly I am just so upset!!  I am upset for many reasons, my friend is probably one of the nicest women you would ever hope to meet.  If I ever needed anything, I know I could call on her.  She has gone through so much in her life, but she is constantly up and always trying to help others. 

This brought me to a big discussion in my head about life and when it is not fair.  As a memoir teacher I hear many stories from my students about their life journey.  Many times I have felt the pain inside as they share their own heartaches with me.  Pain hits every one, whether it is abuse suffered as a child, a divorce, the death of a spouse or child, it hits every one.  I have not met anyone who has had a perfect life. 

memoir writingI have been having to deal with the sadness of the news my friend told me about.  She is a fighter so I know she will give it everything she has to fight it.  I plan on supporting her energetically as much as I can. 

So when life seems unfair I have to sit back, take a deep breath and know that the lessons life brings us are not always easy…

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Make it Happen!!

Contemplation…should be my middle name.  I tend to contemplate a lot, probably more than the average person.  Maybe because every new experience I encounter becomes a part of my “story” that I write and live.  I often contemplate about choices and just how darn amazing the universe is.  I taught an amazing class on Saturday at Heritage Palms Country Club and after class I contemplated about how wonderful the life I live is.  It amazes me that the choices I have made have led me to the best part of my life.  School is starting all over and for many years I would be very busy right now greeting my new students and starting the school year.  This is my 3rd year of not being in the traditional classroom, but instead working with adults in the art of writing their memoir.  I contemplate about the path I have chosen.  I am grateful for my students and their joy and enthusiasm of love they give me each with each class I teach. 

If you are working on your memoir you are doing a lot of contemplating.  You look at your memories, you observe them and you think of the thoughtfully.  You may study your pictures of your life and look at the paths  you have chosen.  You may look over those things that you have held onto for many years that have their own story wanting to be shared. 

Contemplate today and see what comes up for you, then go and share it in your journal!

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Mondays with Melitas – August 29, 2011

LEARNING TO DRIVE:  Titán, my dad’s brother, and husband of Aunt Mae, is the one who taught me to drive an automobile. He was also very high on my favorite uncle list — quite possibly, no not possibly—he WAS Number One. Just like Aunt Mae was Number One in the Aunt department. His given name was John, but in Spanish the “cut-short” for Tío Juan became Titán.At the age of 14, I got a Driver’s License. With that one, I could drive all over the hills by myself, but when driving on the highways, I had to have someone with me who was licensed. The local judge, who handed out licenses, was a 4th or 5th cousin of the Forsters. At 16, he gave me a regular license, and then I drove everybody around, and probably drove them all a little crazy while I was at it.
His auto was a 1926 Hupmobile 4-door touring model. In that era, the touring car did not have windows, instead there were sort of flaps that you could see through — maybe the see-through stuff was isinglass — which were attached when the weather was bad. This particular “Hup” had a black soft top, the body was dark,dark brown, and then some black trim on the fenders. There was no hump in the front seating area, just flat flooring where the long stick shift was located, then the driver had the gas pedal, the brake pedal and the clutch pedal. There was also a hand brake. A good “workhorse,” not too sporty, but great for a rancher in those days. Aunt Mae always had a Cadillac, and at this time hers was a 1925 big sedan, probably a Fleetwood Limo.
Titán would always take me with him —- sometimes just to go down town to pick up the mail, or a loaf of bread, or any other errand we might be sent on. Then pretty soon, when we were just going up on the ranch in back of the home, he would tell me to get into the driver’s seat, and I was in seventh heaven. This procedure started when I was around 10 years old. At some earlier time in my life he had taught me to ride a horse, so it was fitting for him to put me behind the wheel of his Hupmobile and proceed to teach me the basics of driving — he did not live long enough to see me pilot an airplane.
We would just take off and ride all over the ranch — up and down hills — but it was not just a joy ride. Once in awhile we would stop and check fences, and check the locks on all the gates — just like the old days when we went out on horseback to secure the fences and gates so the cattle would stay put. The cattle were gone now, however.
Many times, Titán would bring a rifle and a pistol so we could take a little target practice shooting at tin cans that we had brought along from the trash. We would place them on the fence posts. Our targets were never any of the live little animals that might be in the neighborhood. As soon as the shooting began, if there were any little rabbits or squirrels around they would hightail it out of there.
There was this one day that we drove all over, as usual, up and over and down the hills —no roads, just sort of paths, and then Titán mentioned that we should go over to the beach to check those gates. We didn’t always drive there from where we were in the hills. Those gates could be checked from the Coast Highway which runs along the beach below the palisades from Capistrano Beach to San Clemente. We had to drive down through a little valley that leads to the beach. This beach property was a quarter-mile of ocean front, and coming out of the valley, there is the property fencing and gate on the Highway, then you cross overli the Highway and over the Santa Fe Railroad tracks to the gate and fencing of the beach property. I maneuvered across the highway and the tracks, and Titán got out, unlocked and opened the gate and I drove through so we wouldn’t be parked on the railroad right-of-way. We enjoyed the scenery for a little while. Forgot to mention my sis, Vivian, was with us on this trek, and the two of us stuck our feet in the surf for a little while, and then it was time to get back home.
I drove the car through the gate, and while Titán started to pull the gate closed, something was happening in the cockpit!!!!!! I won’t ever really know what happened, I had the foot brake on but the car started sliding backwards down the steep, pebbled right-of-way of the RR tracks, and BANG! there was the left rear fender trying to knock over the 8 x 8 gate post. The fender did not win. Titán was trying to dodge out of the way of the way of the Hup, and Viv was absolutely scared spitless in the back seat. At least the gate post stopped the car from rolling farther back into the sand — and that would have been a terrible scene — stuck in sand and no cell phone in those days to call Aunt Mae for her to come and pick us up in the Cadi. Titán had to pull the back left fender away from the tire, and he stayed out of the car while I got traction somehow to move up onto the tracks. He got into the car without even one word, but sort of glassy-eyed —still leaving me in the driver’s seat —he may have been in some sort of shock too. After we crossed over Coast Highway into the canyon, heading back home, all was quiet on the western front … only the purr of the engine. To be quite truthful, there was no purr, just some loud noises and they were magnified due to the quiet of the passengers. We didn’t even stop for target practice.
I knew I had to report to Aunt Mae the facts of the “Fender vs. the 8×8 Gate Post” Incident at the beach, so I went on and on about how the accident happened, about the loose gravel on the steep RR bed, and me with the brakes practically to the floor board to no avail, and finally the big crunch. I must have put her to sleep with my lengthy explanation — there was no scolding — maybe she was just happy it wasn’t her car.
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The Warden…

 Melitas always jokes that her “caretaker” is her warden.  This photo was taken over a year ago at the Girlfriend Factor Golf Tournament.  I met Alba a few months after I started teaching Melitas. 

Alba is probably one of the hardest working women I have ever met.  She is constantly working out in the yard and around the house.  She keeps Melitas going and Melitas even whispered to me last night that she wouldn’t know what she would do without Alba.  (Remember that Alba when she starts getting crabby!)

Taking care of Melitas is a full time job, how do I know you may ask?  Well, while waiting for my place to be ready for me to move in I have had the privilege of staying with the Warden and Melitas for the past two weeks. If you will remember from an earlier post I stated how hard can it be to help take care of Melitas??

HARD!!  Melitas (at age 93) still does all the laundry (you should see her fold a fitted sheet, coming to my youtube channel soon!)  Last night while she was watching golf or fiddling around on the computer I scooted out to the laundry room and put my clothes into the washer.  Then when she was eating her dinner I put the wet clothes into the dryer.  I was almost done with the dryer when Melitas (who never misses a beat) announces don’t you think your clothes are dry enough?  Drats!  I quickly went out to the laundry room to fold my clothes before Melitas came out, but no….too late!  Her first comment was you put those colors together?  Then she went into a monologue about when she owned a fluff and fold and how she learned how to do laundry.   Then she almost let out a shriek when she saw how I folded my golf shorts.  She quickly showed me the “proper” way to fold a pair of shorts. 

When Alba announced that last night was my last night at “Casa Agave” (the name they have named their home…hint…agave makes tequila!).  I think I saw a tear come to her eye as she said NO!!!  Now Melitas wants to build an addition to their house for me and Courtney.   But all good things come to an end and the good news is that I am moving only about 4 miles from the Warden and Melitas.

I thought it would be easy to train to be the “warden”, but after two weeks of being a deputy I realize that it takes a special person to be a warden, especially to a Melitas.  So to the woman who always wears hats, hats off to you.  Melitas would not be the same without you and neither would I.  I have loved every minute I spent with you since I have met you. 

Thanks for taking such good care of our Melitas!

we both love Melitas!

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Make your Words a Gift…

I think it is important to remember the power of our words.  What we speak is so powerful.  We can use our words to make someone feel so special and we can also use our words to tear someone down.  I can remember hearing several people tell me after my father passed away that they can never remember my father saying an unkind word about anybody.  What a beautiful thing to say about another human being.  I want to strive to use my words for good.  I want to make others smile with my smile.  I want every one who enters my world to feel a little better off after meeting me.  I know it is a tall order, but I plan on making my words a gift to those who hear them. 

Today in your journal think about all the wonderful words that have been gifts to you.  What can you do or say to someone to be that special gift?  I am grateful that each day seems to get better and better.  The other day I was driving to my yoga class, the top was down on my car and I became overwhelmed with gratitude.  I realized  that at that moment I couldn’t recall a time when I felt happier.  Life is so good and I am thrilled with all the possibilities that are coming to me.  Express yourself and your love to those who enter your world today.  Be the gift!

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"Because of Tammy I have found confidence in my writing and feel blessed to be honored in such a way. I have found my voice. I have found freedom! I recommend anyone for whatever reason to expand their life and sign up for her writing workshops or classes. You'll be amazed at how good you are and how everyone has a story worth telling. Sign up and set your voice free!"
Wendy Price, Palm Desert, CA

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Tammy L. Coia is an AWA Affiliate, certified to lead workshops in the AWA method as described in Writing Alone & With Others by Pat Schneider, Oxford University Press.

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