Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Where have the words gone?

Lately I've been treading waters in algebra and recently barely keeping my head above water in geometry. I have two notebooks filled with my scribblings to solve equation after equation from my GRE manual. The last time I was in school, I had notebooks of page after page filled with words, glorious words. And now? Numbers and variables. Who am I and what happened to the life I knew before?

Along with the expanse of math filling my head, I've been weighed down with some hefty decisions and deadlines by which I had to make them. Decisions that don't only involve me but involve my parents' wishes and the children's futures and a lot of emotions and memories. That has been about as much fun for me as not only having to remember the Pythagorean theorem again but actually having to apply it to find the sum of the diagonals in the meaningless diagrams on pages 326 through 331 of my GRE manual.

Really? All squares are rectangles? And they contain distinct right angles?

Sometimes, I look in the mirror and wonder who it is staring back at me, wonder who this adult is that is making big decisions and has immersed herself in an eight-week course that involves an enormous amount of math so that she can take a big serious test so that she can spend the next two years in school. Voluntarily.

If it weren't for the consistency of my ever-present camera, I'm not sure that I'd be able to recognize myself these days.

This photo of a storm moving in from the west was taken just moments before I walked into my tutoring session Monday night.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On the horizon

For those of you who recognize that it's no longer here, yes, there was a different post here. I had to take it down, and we'll leave it at that.

In its stead, this stunning sunset from last Friday.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pushing my trigger

I've been thinking about language as of late and that's because I've been studying for the verbal portion of the GRE. The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains over 170,000 words currently in use in the English language. Also included are 47,000 obsolete words. It is my belief that the good folks who create the GRE tests take their words from that obsolete part of the language. I introduce 60 of those words into my mind each week, writing them on flashcards, flashing through those cards, writing them in sentences and comparing them to each other, and did you know that noisome has nothing to do with sound but is an adjective meaning offensive to one's sense of smell? So, yeah, don't be fooled when you see LOUD as one of the answer choices when looking for synonyms of noisome.

Tricky bastards.

As exhausting as it is, I'm learning to recognize and love some of the knowledge that is seeping into my brain during my weekly class and daily, almost hourly, studies. Some of that knowledge is very basic but left my brain years ago. For instance, paying attention to trigger words in reading comprehension, those words that shift direction: nonetheless, although, notwithstanding, except, yet, despite, etc. While that's obvious, who really thinks about that consciously? It wasn't up front in my mind and now, well now they jump out at me as if I'd already highlighted them with my nifty yellow highlighter. And in reading comprehension when you have to read five boring paragraphs and answer five questions with four possible answers that are each paraphrased, those trigger words are extremely important because they alert you to an argument that will be in one of the questions.

While I admit to enjoying what I'm learning and I believe that having a killer vocabulary is a worthy goal, the gist of the GRE is that it does not test your knowledge, it tests how well you take the GRE. So in addition to resurrecting math I've not used since high school, and dusting off reading techniques that I haven't considered since college, and learning new words daily, I am also having to study the tricks of this test. For instance, beyond Process of Elimination, my study guide tells me this: Do not believe your eyes. Beneath that warning is the explanation that the test contains figures that are not drawn to scale. BUT THE TEST WILL NOT TELL YOU THAT.

Learning this does not placate my nerves.

So, as I plod through my studies, I'm also trying to assuage my desire to wring these test-writers necks for all their games designed to trick me into false answers. Testing knowledge is one thing. Creating a test that doesn't test your knowledge but your ability to walk through a mine field unscathed? That's completely over the top and if I ever meet someone who says they work for the company who creates the GRE tests, I'm afraid that my initial reaction will be to throw a drink in their face, and to do so in honor of all of those who've walked this very slippery path known as the GRE.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Up and Autumn!

Today, September 22, 2009 at 4:18 pm CST, something is going to happen, something you may or may not notice. But at that time, the long-awaited (for me anyway) Autumnal equinox occurs, meaning 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night time, but really meaning, hello Fall! On the southern hemisphere, some kindred soul is beginning to thaw and surely saying hello Spring! But over here, this summer and its heat and its absent rain took it all out of me and I am so hapy to wake up to the first day of Fall.

Fall brings remembrance of times gone by. The season is prayerful and peaceful. Fall is a joy, a setting sun spreading rouge like an open heart across the horizon. Fall is a feast of time, a feast of friends and family, of football and cool weather. Fall brings wonderful Orvis and LL Bean catalogs, comfortable jeans and long-sleeve tee shirts, and boots. Yea for boots!

Hello Fall, it's good to see you. Welcome back into my life.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of this lovely Saturday

Walking downstairs this morning and seeing my niece sleeping soundly on the couch - warm and wonderful, blooming love

Driving to El Rey with my niece, both of us in our pajamas, for breakfast tacos and fresh squeezed orange juice - silly and comforting

Running errands with her, buying her some new jeans - happy and parental

Walking through Whole Foods, wandering the aisles because we love to look and smell and marvel at all of it - discovery and wonder

Lunch of sushi and completely unnecessary key lime tart for me, and for her, cheesecake tart - lavish and delectable

Watching her drive away towards her brother's house and then later back to Austin - a smile, a thump thump thump in my heart, a tickle in my throat

Getting ready for a dear friend's birthday party at her house this evening - excitement, happy, life is good

Friday, September 18, 2009

There's a star in the house

My niece is here, and she's here for the weekend. And that little fact? It puts a big smile on my face.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You knew there'd come a day

Dear Pottery Barn,

Perhaps you don't know this, and really why would you, but I lost my job in February of this year. I'll do the math for you: that's seven months ago. And those past seven months? They've been, what's another word for challenging? Trying? Taxing? Yes and yes. Mostly so in the financial department. Because completely without my consent, I went from a healthy salary to dipping into savings and adding to that an anemic pittance from the government in attempt to live my life as if nothing had changed. Guess what? That attitude will catch up with you and when it does, it will tackle your behind to the ground and hold you there until you say out loud, not mercy, but OKAY, I ADMIT IT. I ONLY HAVE A HUNDRED DOLLARS IN THE BANK.

This week, I've been putting pencil to paper and eraser to paper and wadding up paper in frustration and throwing it in the trashcan, except for my aim stinks so the wad never lands in the basket but nearby on the floor and I have to get up out of my chair and place the wad there from the no miss advantage point of about one foot above the target receptacle. All that pencil to paper business is in earnest effort to create a reasonable budget for myself for the next two years while I attend graduate school. That budget consists of starting with a number that is just under the salary I was making back in the day when I was employed and trying to stretch that number to cover me for two years. I know, I know, just divide by 24, but oh man the resistance on my part when I see the number I have available to me each month and realize that some things have to be adjusted.

Budgets? I can't stand budgets, I rail against budgets, stretch against the choking yoke of the their hold on me. I don't mind the number so much as the portion of my scratch paper where I have to cut things in order to actually make the allotment work, where I have to draw a line through things that I enjoy, things like manicures and pedicures and XM radio in my car and did you know that Dos XX beer tastes nothing like Veuve Clicquot champagne?

I'm determined to make this work though and if I have to cut back on things that I enjoy but in reality are completely unnecessary in order to reach my goal of survival the next two years, then so be it. But that doesn't mean I'm happy about it, understand.

Pottery Barn, are you still with me? I have a point, really I do. Part of what has been eliminated from my budget is that part of income known as discretionary. Why? Are you dense, Pottery Barn? Have you not been paying attention? Because there's nothing left over to be discretionary about, that's why. And that is why, five paragraphs later, I'm going to get to the point. With head bowed, I humbly request that you stop sending me your catalogs, your luscious, soothing catalogs. I cannot daydream through your pages any more. I cannot be tempted by your paisleys and velvets, your gilt and silver-plate frames, your perfectly appointed rooms with hand tufted wool rugs, or you embroidered towels with thread colors of sandalwood and ocean blue.

It not you, it's me. You are lovely, understand, but I simply cannot have you in my life anymore. I've tried but there's no room on this piece of paper I have with the columns and numbers beneath the heading 2010/2011 Budget. It's not your fault, you've done nothing wrong. It's just that there's no longer room for you in my life and I'm not strong enough to resist you, so we have to separate.

Wipe that tear from your eye, it won't be forever. Promise.


A former frequent customer

p.s. I guess you'll find out soon enough, but because I am weak when it comes to your seductive ways, I've also had to block your emails.

Restoration Hardware
Banana Republic
Ann Taylor Loft

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey Internet! I got back into my Flickr account!


Taken this afternoon, after her morning at the Spa.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

You might be asking yourself, Where is the new website featuring Donald's photographs? Up until yesterday, it was in the works. Yesterday I received an email from the site designer I was working with and for unfortunate personal reasons, she regretfully had to quit the project. I wish her the best and her family is in my prayers. Square one, back to.

Adding to my challenges with Donald's photographs is that I'm having some trouble with Flickr, trouble as in I forgot my log-in and my password. Deleting the cookies on my laptop might not have been the best idea. I uploaded the photo to the left straight from my laptop, using Blogger's upload feature, the only thing about which I like is the ability to upload to the left, center or right of text.

Why post a photo of my kitchen sink? Because the plumber is here right this minute installing a new one. The sink in the picture is white porcelain, which means that I'm forever dealing with stains. On top of that, porcelain is not very strong, and the sink has several chips, though not visible here. I've had it with that sink and when the garbage disposal went kaput last week, I decided to rid both from my life. So on Saturday my friend and I wandered the sink and faucet aisles at Lowe's. Not ever having given sinks much thought, I really had no idea the decisions that lay before me. Material, size, double sink, single sink, depth, faucet style. Before yesterday I had no idea that faucets were sold separately, or that strainers /drains were sold separately. But I can tell you this: I am the proud owner of an eight-inch deep stainless steel double sink. It's the bold look of Kohler, baby, and it came with a free cutting board, where by free, Kohler actually means costs very much.

Here's another picture uploaded straight from my laptop. It's also uploaded straight from the here and now of my life. I've been holding off on sharing this but now that I've embarked on the first step of the journey, I can talk about it. Assuming I make a good score on this beast of an exam, I plan to return to school in January for my Masters degree in Communication. For now, I'm in school to study for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The test is three parts, including writing two essays and vocabulary. But it's the third part that makes me view this as an enormous hurdle to clear, that's splitting my head open and sending it spinning off my shoulders: Math. I've never been good at math; it is a completely foreign language to me. I always get frustrated and either rush through it, over-think it or shut down on it completely, more often than not resulting in getting it all wrong. Math sent me to summer school for two summers in high school and when I hit college I took no risks by taking my required math courses Pass/Fail. But now I'm eyeing math as the one thing standing between me and my goal of getting into grad school. So in addition to spending the next eight weeks attending prep school for the test, I can also be found in weekly math boot camp sessions. Math and I meet again. This time, I'm going to win.

Oh look! The plumber is finished! Before I sign off and miserably reacquaint myself with studying fractions and their numerator, denominator and reciprocal madness, check out my shiny new sink with free cutting board.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tuesday's Child

In 2001, September 11th fell on a Tuesday. Early that morning, I clicked the leash to Cheyenne's collar and we set out for the park, relishing in the pinks and golds of the rising sun. I had been travelling the past week, arriving home Monday afternoon, and was happy to be back in my familiar morning routine.

The previous Saturday, I walked the long and zig zagging path of Boston's Freedom Trail. I read about and walked the early history of our country. The feeling of patriotism was still with me that Tuesday morning and in my head the song, City of New Orleans, Good morning, America, how are ya? There was a bounce in my step; I just knew the day was going to be a good one.

As was the morning norm, the Today Show was on the living room television when Cheyenne and I returned. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to watch. Suddenly there was a switch to breaking live news. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It seemed it was a tragic commuter plane accident.

A glance at the clock told me I needed to get in the shower or I'd be late for work.

My friend called out to me from the hall. Are you watching this? You should watch this. Her voice was different, higher than normal, desperate, an urgent timber I'd not heard from her before.

Oh my God! A second plane hit the World Train Center!

Confused, I stepped out of my room to the hallway, dripping wet in my towel. She stood there in her robe. We hugged in fear and shock. We stood before the television in my bedroom waiting for someone to pull the plug, announce the mistake.

The text on the screen said, Plane Crashes into World Trade Center Tower.

NBC News took over. Tom Brokaw spoke to us. It cannot be confirmed at this time, but it appears that we are under a terrorist attack.

With those words, and the incomprehensible live images before us, we began to believe the unbelievable. We watched the unreal become factual. We watched in frozen horror and disbelief. So little could be confirmed. I remember the scramble for information. And more came. The Pentagon was hit, images and live feeds were all over the television. The more we understood, the more we cried out. Instinctively, we called our fathers; she called her girlfriend. Both of us terrified but reassured by the voices on the other end of the line.

We were being attacked. We paced. We made the dogs nervous. Our hands were shaking. We lifted our coffee cups to our mouths and held them there unable to take a sip. The tears came. They would stop as we digested more news, and they'd return again. And again. I don't know how many times I held my hand to my mouth and said Oh God. I think I will forever remember the sounds, the sirens and sirens and sirens of responding vehicles.

We weren't at all sure what to do, but we needed to be with our families, that much we knew, that much drove us out of the house. I remember saying goodbye to her that morning. The two of us about to set out into a suddenly unfamiliar and dangerous world. The two of us marked, changed within a few moments. Along with everyone else in the country. We hugged before leaving. I held on. I honestly was not sure I would see her again.

On the drive to my parents, I listened to the news on the radio. When the first building began to fall, I looked over at the man in a truck beside me in the traffic. His hand was on his mouth. We locked eyes and I put my my hand on my heart. I started to cry again. Never have I felt so devastated but so broadly connected at the same time.

Eight years later, I walk downstairs and light a candle while the coffee brews. In a moment, I'll walk Cheyenne to the park, gaze up at the flag flying atop the building across the street and remember that morning, that morning I was singing Good morning America, how are ya? without a care in the world, innocent to terror. Eight years later, I recall the horror and I recall looking into a stranger's face in traffic and feeling love.

Eight years later, I'll be singing at the park this morning, I will. And that? That singing at the park? That's my love for this country and her people. The song is more doleful now; so very much happened that day and so very much has changed since then. But sing I will, out loud and out strong.

That last line? That should be the ending to this post, but I'm not quite finished. I know that bells will ring today. I know that bagpipes will sound. I know that my memory of that day will float through my heart and haunt my mind. I know that grief pours from shore to shore. With that in my heart, I want to finish with this: A dear friend of mine writes a wonderful blog and just yesterday she wrote a post with the title, Grace Really is Amazing. After I read her words last night, I recalled the childhood poem, Monday's Child.

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

It's that second line, Tuesday's child is full of grace, that resonates with me today.

September 11, 2001, fell on a Tuesday. As my friend pointed out, grace really is amazing. And as I grew up, I helf fast to Tuesday's child being full of grace. I'm Wednesay's child, full of woe. With that, with head bowed but voice high, in honor of those who we lost on September 11, 2001, those who died, those who grieved, those who collapsed, those who crawled into a dark place and never came out, those who connected with strangers, and those who stood up and fought, who rushed in when others ran out, those who prayed, those who caved, those who shook their heads in sorrow, those who reported and those who watched, I say this: Tuesday's child IS full of grace and never more have I known that child than on this day eight years ago, and now.

We are all Tuesday's children, each and every one of us.

I leave you with these words by John Newton (1725-1807).

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail
,And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What's that sound? It's time flying by

Twenty-three years ago this evening, a rising moon quietly grew in the sky, casting shadows across the brick exterior of a county hospital in south Texas. Inside that hospital on that evening, a baby girl was born. That little girl is one of the brightest lights in my life. The first time I held her, she wrapped her tiny fingers around my heart and she hasn't let go since.

Fast forward to now where she is a senior in college and I'm sitting on my couch scratching my head because wasn't that moonlit night just last week?

Happy birthday Peanut! Your Aunt loves you very much and would like to request that you slow down the speed of time. Okay?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Words for today, and every day

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Something, someone and The Winner

In a box wrapped in tissue paper placed in a bag and set on my doorstep Tuesday afternoon was this necklace, with a wonderful note of support and encouragement for The Saint Veronica Project.


It was a wonderful surprise, a thoughtful gift from a generous and thoughtful person. I'm feeling very blessed these days.

Speaking of The Saint Veronica Project, remember the contest? Even though I went a different route for the site name, I still wanted someone to win an 8 x 10 of one of Donald's photographs. So this morning, I incorporated the ever-fair Random Number Generator and the winner was Comment No. 11. That's mccarthy281.

The Saint Veronica Project site will be launched in a couple of weeks. I'm working with an external designer for the site since the standard templates do not appeal to me and I have zero knowledge on creating my own design. I can't wait to go live with all of this!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

With open arms

Good morning September!

When I walked outside to get the morning newspaper, I was struck not by a hot wet blanket of hot heat, but by little to no humidity and a temperature of 70. I had to look in the paper to learn what temperature the low was but do you know what 70 means? It means over 30 degrees cooler than what was the norm in June, July and August. Oy, three months of hot moist heat in the air and on my skin and dripping down my brow whenever I was out for more than, oh, two minutes. But 70? Seventy is a delightful giggle of a temperature. You can take a walk with 70, you can dance with 70, you can sit on the back porch with 70 and 70 will smile at you and tell you that you are beautiful. Seventy is that nice.

Ninety is still lurking though, to be sure, but that 70 in the morning? That 70 is just the beginning of the changes that September has in mind.

September is such a lovely month. School starts, Fall clothes appear in all the catalogs, the leaves on the Cottonwood tree begin to yellow and fall. Summer desperately tried to hold on, but we know it won't last for long. The change in seasons comes softly, slowly. The sunrise becomes gauze curtains of lavender and pinks, and pockets of cool air surprise me in my morning walks. Even before there is credible evidence that Fall is coming, one can sense it in September's air.

Today is the day to start enjoying the changes, the releasing of the old season, the welcoming of the new. Today is the day to listen to the earth speak, and let it renew your spirit.