Saturday, March 2, 2013

market day with gram

I treated myself to a trip to our local Farmer's Market this morning. It's been ages since I've gone and I felt like it might be a nice start to the day. I stepped up to one vendor's stall and saw some gorgeous heads of cabbage. I immediately decided I needed to make my grandmother's cabbage slaw today. I was quite happy to hand over my two dollars. As I strolled from stall to stall, I could almost hear my grandmother offering advice about which produce to buy from each vendor. I even picked up some fresh dill to snip into a salad.

I bought a bottle of Guadalupe County Wildflower honey because of her connections with Seguin and treated myself to a beeswax candle which is currently burning on my desk. There's a very delicate scent of honey around my desk, which is absolutely delightful as I'm sitting here working on my writing projects. I picked up a bottle of Mustang Grape white wine because I know she would have found it interesting and wanted to sample it. Ive been remembering how she made Mustang grape jelly each summer.

Those who are from central and south Texas know about Mustang grapes. For those not from the region, Mustang grapes are wild grapes which grow profusely in this area. They are small, so you have to harvest large (think five gallon) buckets of them for use. They are too sour to eat straight. After they are picked, you have to separate them, clean the stems and leaves out and wash them. Then you can use them for jellies, jams, and wines.

I could imagine my grandmother admiring all of the different dogs at the market and chatting with people along the way. I bought a cup of coffee, which she would have enjoyed, and sat at a small table, watching the people flow around me. I shared my table with an Indian gentleman and his little girl, as she would have. Then, when I'd finished my coffee, I collected my bags of produce, stopped in at an independent bookstore to buy a book on container gardening, and then strolled to my car, which used to belong to my grandmother.

When I came home, I put my produce away and decided to clear some stuff off my desk so I could work on some of my poetry and fiction work. As I cleared my desk, I moved an empty recipe binder and some blank recipe cards. A single card slipped out from the wrapped stacks. It was a rainbow note card (purchased from me by my grandmother when I was a Rainbow Girl). Written in my grandmother's handwriting was my Aunt Grace's Oatmeal Cookie recipe. I could almost smell the cinnamon and nutmeg.

So here I am, snuggled into sweats and wool socks (my favorite writing gear this time of year). I have all my windows open, just as my grandmother would have had hers open on a day like this one, crisp and sunny. I'm getting a lot of writing done. I'm so glad I took the time to go to the Farmer's Market with gram this morning.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

long time, no write

Okay, in fairness, I have been writing. I just haven't been doing it here. There have been some pretty huge changes going on for me. The question is, where to start.

Since Marte and Felix feel they are the stars of our little show, I suppose I should start with them. Here goes. Marte is adjusting to the thought of having a kitten in the house. There are (many) times when he drives her crazy, but so far she hasn't slapped him silly. She has, however, made her displeasure quite clear to me.

Felix, at just over 5 1/2 months old, enjoys pouncing on darn near anything that moves. He also enjoys pouncing on anything that doesn't move. My toes (moving or not) are favorite targets. Marte (moving or not) is a favorite target. Hence, her frequent howls of outrage and peeling out on my arm at 3 a.m. I wish I had the Neosporin and band-aid concession on my apartment these days. Felix is also fascinated by tails, much to the chagrin of Marte (big, fluffy tail) and my mother's dog Taffy (small, curlicue tail). One day he pounced on his own tail (laying on the floor behind him), grabbed it, and flipped himself backward in the air. Yes, it's been kind of crazy of late.

Felix was neutered yesterday. This is a good thing for many reasons. Besides the obvious, it is good because Felix has actually been somewhat sedate for the last few hours. This has enabled me to snap a couple of new photos:




He wasn't exactly what I was looking for after we lost Ebbs, but somehow, I can't imagine our world without him. He enjoys strolling into his carrier for a trip to Petsmart or the bookstore at Our Lady of the Lake. He looks forward to going out to my parents' house where he rules the roost with no opposition whatsoever from their dogs. Yes, he wasn't what I expected, but he's pretty incredible nonetheless.

On to school issues. Our current president will be leaving March 1st. This is a good thing, I think. I feel much better about the future of my program, which I think will make life easier overall. With any luck, we will soon have an MA/MFA program established. It would have a social justice focus. As you might have guessed from some of my posts, I would be quite at home with that idea. I'm genuinely looking forward to the future.

On to writing projects. I presented one of my papers at a conference last fall. It is currently under consideration for publication. I would be delighted if it was published because it would be the first scholarly paper I've had published. Typically, it's my creative work which gets published, so I'm pretty excited about the possibility of getting some scholarly stuff out there. I will be presenting another of my scholarly papers at the end of this month. I'm also very excited about that. Both of the papers deal with World War I poetry, which seems to have become a serious interest of mine.

I can honestly say I have now written two research papers which are at least 20 pages long. For me, that's a record. I think the ADHD has something to do with that. It can be very difficult to remain focused on a subject. I'm already thinking about what I want to write about for my final paper due in May.

Meanwhile, I'm also taking a fiction writing workshop. This is incredibly challenging for me since I've never written fiction before. It's also somewhat along the lines of meta-fiction, which is a totally new world for me. Surprisingly enough, I'm enjoying it a great deal. I think I'm probably a poet first and foremost (yeah, still dealing with the weirdness of that), but it is nice to know I can work in other genres as well.

So, that's life here brought up to date. Sorry for the long hiatus. Hopefully, there won't be one again in the near future.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

big happenings, small package

Marte and I adopted a new kitten. Please meet young Felix:


I stopped by our vet's office to ask them to keep their eyes open for either an all black or all grey male kitten. They asked me to meet a kitten who needed a home. I was almost hooked, but thought I could avoid it by asking them to hold him until the following Monday since I was going to be out of town for four days. "No problem," they said. And so it was that Felix joined our merry band.

Marte has had some adjustment issues, but seems to be warming to him. They sleep together now and she plays with him until he gets too rambunctious or pounces on her tail. Young Felix is also known as "Felix the Fearless" because when Marte hisses at him, he just sits and blinks at her.

Marte stayed home for Thanksgiving because she hates riding in a carrier. Felix, on the other hand, settled into his carrier nicely. He even went into Petsmart with me to pick up his favorite soft food, "chunks in gravy." He's not even picky about what the chunks are as long as they are chunks (no minced or pate style foods need apply). We almost couldn't get out of the store for people oohing and aahing over him. His biggest admirers? Two cowboys loaded up with stuff for their dogs who loved the "splash of paint on his nose" and "that little crumb of punkin on his whiskers." We are hanging out with my parents, their dogs and their cat right now. He's made himself quite at home with their dogs. One of them keeps washing his ears for him. The other dog, who is much larger than Felix (think 40 lbs. vs. 3.5 pounds), is actually afraid of him and treats him very gently. The cat keeps growling at him, which has no more effect than when Marte growls at him. Yes, I'd say he's settled in quite nicely.

Monday, October 22, 2012

rough stretch

It's been a rough stretch here on our end. My grandmother passed away on October 6th. She was 92 1/2 years old and in failing health, so it was not entirely unexpected, but it was still something of a jolt. I gave her eulogy, which talked about sixteen words that would be found in a crossword puzzle based on her life. Since she was an avid puzzle solver who worked her crosswords in ink, it seemed fitting to go that route.

On October 15th, I had to have Ebbs put to sleep, hence the change in our header. He went down hill very quickly and seemed to be suffering that Sunday. As much as it hurt me to lose him, I didn't want him to stay and suffer any longer. I'm afraid Marte and I are both somewhat lost without him. Who knew such a little creature could have such a huge presence in our lives?

In some ways, I'm not surprised we lost him so soon after we lost Gram. They adored each other. She would twizzle his tail. He would cuddle her and help her work her crosswords. I think they felt they needed to stick together. I can picture them, settled in together, working the latest crossword puzzle.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

missing thirty years...suspected dead

Word comes today that Marie Jost, who has been missing 30 years, is suspected to be dead. This should come as no great shock given that if she were alive, she would be 100 years old. What is surprising is that it took the Social Security Administration 30 years to realize that "an unknown person" has been cashing her checks. Apparently, $175,000.00 paid to unknown persons just isn't that big of a deal.

In reality, her checks were being cashed by three unknown persons:


Yes, I'm sure the two guys (her son and son-in-law) must possess ID indicating that they are in fact Marie Jost. In fairness, her daughter is showing a bit of age, so I guess she could have passed as her mother.

They had a brilliant plan to cover up their theft. When the police arrived to check on Marie, her son said she had gone on a trip with her other son. The only problem with the plan: the son she was supposedly with was last seen sometime in the 1980s. Yeah, I'm thinking that might be a small flaw in the plan. Of course, even if they are on a trip together, it's been a pretty long trip. A neighbor told police he's lived there 20 years and has never seen Marie Jost.

So, let's review: Social Security Fraud, not just one possible murder charge but two, and a neighbor who won't keep his mouth shut. Yes, these three are true criminal masterminds.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

extremisms

Late this afternoon, I finally got online for the first time all day. Imagine my shock, disgust, and sorrow at the photos coming out of Libya. I've been thinking about it all evening. This is what I've realized:

An extremist movie, made by a (yes, I must say it)Jewish extremist, with the support of an extreme idiot who once claimed he would burn a Q'ron on my behalf (please, Sam, just burn your hate speech pamphlets, kiss my hind end, and call us square), upset Muslim extremists. The Muslim extremists murdered four Americans and injured several others (while leading to acts of extreme bravery by other Muslims in an effort to help the Americans) not because the Americans were extremists, but because the Americans were not extremist enough to prevent the making of the movie. American extremists are now demanding that we wreak _______________ (fill in the blank with the word of your choice: havoc, revenge, destruction) on an entire nation.

It all boils down to this simple fact: Extremism leads to extremism, which in turn leads to more extremism. All it does is create a nasty circle of violence and hatred. In fairness, I will admit I had not seen the movie until today, when I searched out clips to see what had started this awful chain of events. I'm not a Muslim but, quite frankly, I was offended. Indeed, I think the film might just qualify as "hate speech."

Eleven years ago yesterday, extremists committed acts of terrorism. Most of the world responded in a somewhat extremist manner. We were told that responding the way we did would make things better. It hasn't. My nieces are three and six. This means they have lived their entire lives in a world that keeps upping the ante of extremism. That's not the kind of world I want them growing up in.

Here's the way I see it: We are running out of space on this planet. We are no longer exploring options of colonizing other planets. That means all we have left is this space called "Earth." Rather than going to such extremes of hate and violence, perhaps we should put an extreme amount of effort into learning to live together and share our space peaceably. I know, I know. That's a pretty extreme concept, but it might just be worth a try.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

define "hero"

First, let me say that I mean no disrespect to those firemen, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and other first responders who did everything they could to help on that awful day eleven years ago. I want to get that out there right from the start. That being said, however, I think we need to look at how we define "hero."

Not everyone who died that day was a hero. Going to work and getting killed does not make you a hero. If that were the case, anyone killed on the expressway on their way to work would be a hero. There were quiet, ordinary, everyday people living quiet, ordinary, everyday lives at the wrong place at the wrong time that day. Dying in a mass murder does not make someone a hero. If that were the case, the people who died with Jim Jones would be heroes.

In this instance, we need to look at how the people involved lived there lives. What if some of the stockbrokers were engaging in insider trading? How quick would we be to call them "heroes" then? How about somebody with a couple of drunk driving convictions under their belts? Would they be heroes? Statistics say a few of the people who died probably did have a criminal record of some sort. What about the folks who beat their spouse or their child(ren)? Are they suddenly heroes because of when and where they died? I'm betting that if you talked to their victims, they probably aren't. Indeed, their victims may have been relieved to see them go, relieved that the terror of life with them was finally over. Oh, and what if somebody shoved five or six of their slower co-workers out of the way as they tried to escape, hoping to get ahead of them on the stairs? Doesn't seem very heroic to me.

For eleven years, we have engaged in a cult of veneration. We have awarded hero status to people who had the misfortune to die in a certain place in a certain time. We didn't take the time to examine their lives and their actions and decide if they were worthy of the title. I think it's time to let go of the hero construct in this situation. Save that title for those who died trying to aid and comfort others. I'm not saying we should forget, I'm just saying we should take a closer look with our eyes open.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

one week down

I made it through my first week of grad school. The good news is, I don't think I embarassed myself (too) much. The really good news is that they have let me come back for the second week of the semester. Hey, with my academic history, I don't like to take such things for granted.

In addition to the graduate assistanceship, I am now working as a co-coach for four sections of intensive writing labs as part of the Freshman Comp program. I am seriously jazzed about that. Too many kids are coming out of high school these days not knowing how to write and writing is such a huge part of the college experience! I think any program that gives students a firmer grounding in the art of writing is a great idea. I also believe these guys have a tremendous amount of potential. It's going to be a fantastic semester.

Monday, August 13, 2012

talk about a shocker

Today I wanted to double check my newest e-mail address to make sure I had it right before I gave it out to someone. I logged in and checked for myself in the address book. There it was, my name and e-mail address...followed by the words "Graduate Assistant." It was a bit of a shock.

Don't get me wrong, I knew I'd been awarded the Graduate Assistanceship. It's just that I'm still not used to this sort of success. I've always been that kid in the class that everybody else laughed at. The one that wasn't as bright as the other students. The one that was never going to amount to anything. Yeah, that kid. The one you prayed your kid didn't turn out to be.

Fortunately, a couple of my professors saw something in me and were kind enough to write letters of recommendation for me. Somehow (largely due to their efforts, I'm sure), I managed to get into the only grad school I applied to. I was absolutely thrilled. I've known since April that Our Lady of the Lake University accepted me, but even now, I still struggle to believe they accepted me. Everytime I walk onto campus, I marvel at the thought that I belong there.

As for the Graduate Assistanceship, I'm absolutely delighted I got it. I know there are a lot of incredible students out there. I can't believe someone else didn't get it. People actually value my opinion. I'm not used to this kind of situation. I thought I made the right choice when I decided to apply. Now I know I made the right choice.

Still, it's kind of scary. Me, in grad school. Can you believe that? I'm still afraid I'm going to wake up and find out I've been dreaming.

Friday, July 27, 2012

dishonorable

The dust has settled a bit from the first court-martial relative to the Lackland AFB sexual assault scandal. No trials are currently ongoing. The investigation is currently ongoing and is widening at a rapid rate.

Last week, Staff Sgt. Luis Walker was convicted of rape and sexual assault. The charges against him the severest charges against any of the accused. Keep that in mind. It's important.

The jury took 7 1/2 hours to convict him of all charges he faced. As a result of his convictions, he faced life in prison without the possibility of parole. The prosecutor asked for 40 years.

The defendant begged the court for mercy. He asked that they grant him a short sentence so he would still be young enough to be a father to his two sons (currently ages 7 yrs. and 4 yrs.) when he got out. His wife said she hadn't told her sons what their father had done an doesn't want to tell them "for a long time." His other family members told the court he was born to a single mother and raised by his grandparents in Brooklyn, as if this somehow excuses his behavior. They also talked about how all he ever dreamed of was joining the Air Force and how proud he was of being in the Air Force. They said it would be wrong to destroy his dream.

I didn't buy the defense arguments. If I had kids and their father was convicted of rape, I wouldn't want him anywhere near them. I would do everything I could to get his parental rights severed. I understand his wife doesn't want to tell the kids now. I just hope that when she does tell them, she makes it clear that their father was guilty. I know a lot of guys who had single moms and were raised by grandparents who don't go out and commit rape and sexual assault. As a matter of fact, many of them have a great deal of respect for women because they know how hard their moms worked to take care of them. As for destroying his dream, Luis Walker did that all on his own. He dishonored the uniform.

The jury took 1 1/2 hours to sentence him to 20 years in prison. Remember I said the charges against him were the most serious? What do you think the sentences will be for anyone found guilty of lesser charges? Personally, I think he should have gotten the life sentence. After all, the women he preyed on will be dealing with what he did the rest of their lives. He is eligible for parole after serving 6 years.

The jury also ordered that he be reduced in rank to the lowest enlisted rating. Additionally, they determined that he should be dishonorably discharged. Unfortunately, since he was sentenced through the military system, he does not have to register as a sexual predator. He was a sexual predator. He preyed on the women who were serving under him.

Meanwhile, one of the women he assaulted has left the military, even though she had previously planned to make it her career. Another has said that she will do everything she can to prevent her niece from following her into the military. This incident will follow them wherever they serve. Frankly, Luis Walker got off easy.