Thursday, January 19, 2017

When the Mom’s Away, The Kids Will Play

When the Mom’s Away, The Kids Will Play
First, I want to let you know this is Dee Dee, Sondra Ashton’s daughter.  Mom had cataract surgery on Friday, the 13th, the lucky woman.  Mom decided to do both eyes at once.  Her life of fun and games interrupted, she found out she’s not allowed to read, or write, or garden, or go outside because of the dust in the air from the corn and sugar cane harvest, or really do anything for several weeks.  I’m glad I’m not there.  She’d be a beast to live with.  Not really, but maybe. 

Mom seems to have trouble with the “not do anything” part of her doctor’s orders.  Now, I am a baby.  If I had just had my eyes peeled layer by layer and repaired and the doctor said not to do anything, that rocking chair, a cup of tea, and watching the day pass away would be on my to-do list.
Mom argued that her martial arts group isn’t exerting energy.  Uh, I believe it’s listed under energy movement.  No.  Going shopping surely can’t be bad.  Let’s see, you’re not supposed to bend over and pick anything up because of the pressure this creates on the eyes.  I can’t see her accidentally dropping something and letting it lie there, or asking someone to pick it up for her like royalty.  No. But what about going to a friend’s for dinner?  I lost this one.  She snuck out anyway.  I’ve half a mind to call her doctor and tattle.

Mom loves to garden.  What normal people consider a chore, such as weeding, replanting, trimming, etc., she considers a delight.  She has a most beautiful, cared for garden and yard so all her work and love surely does show.  To mom, this is pure bliss.  To me, this would be torture. 

If I were with mom, she would ask me to “just trim this a little there”, “that needs to be re-potted and placed here”, or “don’t you think those plants all want to be dug up and placed on the other side for more light in the afternoon?”  I’m not sure all the people who help her really know what they are going to be doing.  Wish I could be a fly on that wall.

Mom is a voracious reader.  She and I find an author we like and read every book we can.  I told her that Kindle has audio books and she can get them delivered to her that way.  To do that however, mom would have to read.  Yikes!  Have you ever tried to find books for someone on the phone?  I read the descriptions and she says that sounds terrible, too gruesome, not gruesome enough, and on and on.  I think she just was trying to keep me on the phone to kill time.

The last time I wrote for mom, I was teaching K-8 in a 2-room school house.  I’ve since left and opened my own mental health practice.  I sure miss all my kids. 

I am so happy to be back into the field of counseling.  It is a career I know I am good at.  I like to help people to feel better and to get back into control of their lives. 

If you have a friend who lives in or near Glendive who needs a therapist, feel free to send them my way.   Right now, my mom is my most frequent contact.  She won’t be a good referral though, as she is not a great patient and directly disobeys just about everything.

An example just occurred while we were talking on the phone.  I heard a knock on her door, and a male voice, Josue, said he had seen her outside walking yesterday.  Busted!  She’s not supposed to be outside in the sun.

I could hear mom trying to back-pedal, justify, rationalize, reframe, whatever you want to call it. She was out against medical advice and walking where she’s not supposed to. 

Wouldn’t you know, Mom called again.  Busted again.  Mom reports she’ll stay home because she was trying to sneak to a neighbor’s to gossip and Josue caught her and sent her home.  There is a huge grass fire.  Pretty sure the smoke is on the no-no list.

That rocking chair sure isn’t getting much use right now.  It is nice knowing that all her neighbors are watching out for her.  I also heard her give Josue a chore for tomorrow.  Remember when I said she would want something dug up?  Well, she wants a whole area dug up and paved with bricks.  I knew I was happy to be in this beautiful, balmy Montana and not trying to control mom down in Mexico.
Dee Dee Robart, for Sondra Ashton
HDN: Havre Daily News; Looking Out My Backdoor

January 19, 2017

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sleepless Nights and Rocky Days

Sleepless Nights and Rocky Days
            Three nights ago I couldn’t sleep. Rather than crawl out of bed, slump into a comfy chair and grab a good book, or even a boring book, something conducive to sleepiness, I chose to review every dumb, ignorant and bad decision I’ve made throughout my entire seventy-one years.

            Unlike in the past, now that I’m hopefully wiser, I rarely waste my time in such ways. But that night I simply couldn’t close the door. So I hosted the entire troop, which had been under lock and key for so long that they were delighted to be out of the closet entertaining me.

            I was explaining this to Carol, one of my neighbors, and she responded, “You were able to do all that in only one night!”

            We were cramped in Jim’s cup-o’-truck, a hardy four-wheel drive vehicle, on our way up the mountain to Las Piedras Bolas. My knees were indenting the dash in front of me (I exaggerate slightly) while John’s knees were indenting my back. ‘s truth.

            Comfort wasn’t the goal. We were in search of the experience. Our unspoken agreement amounted to, “whatever it takes”.

            It took bouncing up a terrifying excuse of a road, water washed, stone littered, peering over immense drop-offs, holding our collective breaths when the wheels slewed around. We stopped several times to stretch, to peer out over the track of unmanned zip lines, to walk several meters along a bridge, made of a plank supported by cables. They walked. They swayed. I sat on a stone at “home base”. I justified my squeamishness, “There’s gotta be a witness.”

            Las Piedras Bolas is a geologic mystery, as far as is known, in all the world, found only at the top of this particular volcanic mountain near Ahualulco. Theories vary as to how these gigantic lava balls were formed.

            Whatever the history, the bolas or balls seem magical. Some were small enough for me to drape my body over, hugging them while I marveled. Jim climbed atop one of the larger bolas and stood, arms akimbo. He looked diminished. The smallest I saw was over three feet in diameter.

            The government has set aside a huge area as a park, in order to preserve and protect the bolas as well as the flora and fauna within the park. The park is only about thirty miles from the rancho colonia in which we all live.

            Jim cajoled his truck, through scrub oak and varieties of pine, all the way up to the amphitheater where the lower bolas are found. From there we picked our way further up the mountain. We didn’t go all the way to the top but we spent several hours among the bolas, picnicking, marveling and speculating.

            Imagine a giant standing atop the mountain with a fist-full of marbles of various sizes. He opens his hand and lets the marbles roll down the ravines, only to stop at trees, in a choked gully, or to land in a pile of ash. I like to imagine the giant grinned, said, “This is good. Let them figure it out!”

            When we came down the mountain, late afternoon, we had too much energy to go home. So we stopped at a favorite local restaurant for a leisurely meal. One cannot chip apart and quantify experience. But in one day, I had my arms around rocks known as a rare phenomenon and got to know Jim from Missouri and John and Carol from Michigan, three neighbors who were, up until that day, practically strangers.

            Last night I couldn’t sleep. This time it was caused by honest terror. Tomorrow I go to Guadalajara for cataract surgery. Of course, I know it is rare for anything to go wrong. But I’m a voracious reader. Of course, I’m scared.

            I’ve been accused of seeing the world through rose-colored glasses by more than one critic. That’s not a bad thing. I’m looking forward to simply seeing the world clearly again. And if there is a rosy tint, I’ve put it there with my own paintbrush.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

January 12, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Just In Case You Think My Life Is Exotic

Just In Case You Think My Life Is Exotic
            Routine. My life is routine. I don’t live on the beach, lounging beneath a palapa, tanning my skin into leather, holding a fruit-filled drink, serenaded by mariachi bands. Ha.

            So, I just returned from two weeks in Mazatlan where I stayed with friends in a high-rise resort hotel on the beach. I never made it to the beach palapa. I had one thoroughly enjoyable beach walk. Mostly, I visited old friends from when I lived in Mazatlan, had medical tests in preparation for cataract surgery later this month, wandered the market in El Centro, shopped for traditional Mexican blouses.

            I live inland, in a farming village where people wear, buy and sell modern clothes. Think Wal-Mart. I like traditional blouses. I wear them into rags.

            I live where men ride horseback into town to pick up a part to fix the John Deere corn picker. I live where one field is harvested with modern machinery, the adjacent fields by men with burros and machetes.

            My home is tiny, rustic. I might have the only casa in Etzatlan, in all Jalisco, without a television or microwave. I live like a rich poor person. While beans are simmering in the olla, I make my own tortillas.

            Nevertheless, a two week holiday in a seaport town is admittedly exotic. In the way one might hold a chunk of coal in one hand and the Hope Diamond in the other, I found myself missing my routine. I wanted my familiar life around me. I wanted to putter in my flower beds, to trim the hibiscus, to pull weeds from the amaryllis.

            I tired of rich meals. I wanted simple beans and tortillas for lunch. I wanted my own sheets, fresh off the line, smelling of sunshine rather than sheets the texture of sandpaper, smelling of disinfectant soap. Metaphorically, you understand, I wanted to relax, to pick my nose (metaphorically!) in peace.

            Saturday morning, boarded the familiar bus, heaved a sigh of relief—I now could reduce my life back to the routine I know. I know the route. I know the hills, the towns, the vistas, the rivers. From Mazatlan to the station in Zapopan is a five hour trip.

            Just out of Tepic in Nayarit, the bus driver pulled off the road, opened the separating door and informed us that up ahead was a tragic multi-vehicle accident, causing a four hour delay. Rather than join the parking lot of frustrated holiday travelers, we would leave the cuota (toll road) and take the libra, the free road. There is a reason it is free.

            In a snap, my routine, which I had settled into like a cat, disappeared.

            The cuota is similar to our interstate roads, except one pays as we goes. The libra follows original cow paths across the mountains. A narrow rat’s nest of a road, it has neither a straightened section through the entire mountain range, nor shoulders nor a turnout.

            But, oh, the vistas! The sheer drops! Villages like nests in trees. Diamond willow-like twig fences. Slab-sided cattle. Goats and chickens running loose. Impossible mountain fields worked by hand. Women in real traditional clothing, not tourista garb, sweeping dirt patios with a straw broom. Boys on bicycles. Men on horseback, oh, the Spanish blooded horses, the silver on the saddles.

            There we were, a thousand-thousand cars, trucks, buses, and one ancient Farmall, all in a row, an articulated snake slithering along the serpentine highway, cut-backs, hairpins, twists and turns across the Sierra Nevadas until, finally, we dropped down onto the plain near Magdalena. We rolled into Zapopan, two hours late.

            I’m glad I had that experience. I never want to travel that dangerous road again.

            At home, I dropped my gear inside my door. There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home. The next hour I toured my garden, talking with my flowers, my trees, my plants. We’re back in Kansas, Toto.

            Know what? We all have an exotic life. We all get to touch and taste bits of the exotic, the mountain passes of Oz. But most of the time we hoe corn in our fields in Kansas, metaphorically. Shovel snow in Montana, realistically. Routine. Routine is not a bad thing.  

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

January 5, 2017