My Trip to Atlanta – Part Two

September 13, 2016 at 4:23 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Centennial Olympic Park

Maybe it’s because this was an Olympic year and I just introduced my daughter to the joys of binge watching the best gymnasts in the world blow everyone’s minds.  Maybe it’s because it was the twenty year anniversary of the night Keri Strug wowed us all with her stellar commitment to herself and her team.  Maybe it’s just because I like parks…

IMG_1242.JPGMy favorite part of Atlanta – the city, not the trip – was Centennial Olympic Park.  I had to walk through it every day to get to the Vendor’s Hall for Dragon Con; and I am so glad I did.

Atlanta as a whole had a wild, unkempt feel to me, sporadically blasted with moments of finely controlled beauty.  I’d walk from Joseph E. Boone, where the grass I think, had never been cut, to stepping into the symbol of perfection itself: Centennial Olympic Park.

img_1238Honestly, I enjoyed the contrast.  As an environmentally friendly foraging hippie, I loved that the lawns were more like meadows.  I found joy in poking along overgrown sidewalks with the opportunity to inspect local wildflowers.  I even found a luna moth one morning, something I had never seen in person before.

But as a lover of community parks, I also found myself drawn to the twenty-eight million dollar completed project. City cleaners sweep, scrub, and constantly pick up trash, keeping the park immaculate. The statues seem to gleam, both from their artistic beauty and the city’s over all effort to maintain “curb appeal.”  I found myself wondering what was there before 1996 and learned that it was a city block of old industrial buildings, some abandoned.  The difference to Atlanta citizens when the park was first erected must have been startling.

img_1245I stopped to take pictures of some of the statues when I was there. I got some curious looks before people started stopping and taking pictures too. “Sheep” my friend called them, but I think it just takes someone noticing something beautiful before others stop and look up. And the monuments there are very beautiful.

Each morning I would cut across a paved walkway made of engraved stones to get to John Portman Blvd. During the park’s construction a donation of $35 got you a stone and a message. When I return to Atlanta, because I plan to, I’d like to pay more attention to those engravings. There are stories there, I think.

img_1263The weather was gorgeous. People (Yankees! Haha) kept talking about how hot it was. I was wearing a sweater most days, not the afternoons, but definitely in the mornings.  My morning walks were the most refreshing parts of my day.  I meant to stop and eat breakfast at the Waffle House right outside the park, but never managed to wake up early enough – or if I did, I found myself dawdling in the park instead. So, I spoiled myself and got coffee at the Starbucks in the AmericasMart. I kept looking for a local Non-Starbucks coffeehouse, but didn’t find one; again, next trip.

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My Trip to Atlanta – Part One

September 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

IMG_1269.JPGMy trip to Atlanta was exhilarating. I navigated two airports, a train system, and bus routes – all things I have not done in a long, long time.  I learned about five square miles of a city I’d never been to by walking.  Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because I was hopelessly lost.  Traveling with a flip phone in a smart phone society is a whole different ball game than traveling an unknown city in the days of payphones and paper maps. People saw me holding a real map and not utilizing GPS and there was much commentary, and confusion by others on how to read it as it doesn’t flip itself around and identify your location for you.  Even now, the word processor is telling me that the word payphone can not be pluralized.  (When did that become a thing?)  But I’m fairly certain there’s no other way to describe more than one.

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My Pet Rock. I patted it every day on my walk to the AmericasMart.

I was pretty excited about the MARTA rail system.  I’ve missed riding the rail since I moved from Dallas. Public transportation, once the stop points are identified and times committed to memory, are so much more relaxing than driving.  I like being able to read on daily commutes, I like the safety of not risking car crashes.  I like knowing that if I begin my journey at such-n-such time I am guaranteed to arrive at my destination at another specific time – down to the minute.  Atlanta excels at this. The bus route, however, is a whole other ballgame that got me pretty flustered.  The buses sort of arrive when they feel like it, the stops are relative, and the entire route based on the driver’s mood.

Everyone is very polite, though, even when they are offering you drugs.  I thought, as a Texan, that I understood southern hospitality.  When it comes to Good Mornings, sweet smiles, and a general attitude of helpfulness – we’ve got nothing on Georgia.  Any half puzzled look on your face will immediately result in someone stopping to help.  Stand at a stop too long and someone will inevitably ask you which bus you’re trying to catch and inform you, “Oh sometimes that driver likes to stop on that side of the street, be sure you check over there too or you might miss it.”  Smiles abound, even in the early morning pre-coffee grog.

I went to Atlanta to work the Wordfire Press booth at DragonCon. Convention people are exactly what I expected, after doing Comicpalooza and OwlCon in Houston, it’s pretty much the same routine, just bigger and takes up the whole downtown area instead of one convention center.  But outside the realm of the Con, everything was incredibly foreign.  I felt like I had stepped into how I imagine the 1950’s in a lot of ways, and once three blocks away from the convention hotels and gathering areas, I’ve never been reminded so often of how white I am. Politely, but with bafflement.

Houston is a melting pot. Our segregation occurs on the socioeconomic level, rather than a race level.  Latinos, Blacks, and Rednecks all live next to each other as long as they belong in the same tax bracket.  I didn’t see a lot of Atlanta, but I got the sense that things aren’t that way there.  So many times I was asked, “What’s a white girl doing on this street? You lost?” Or, the most bizarre, “Why you so comfortable talking to a black man? Is your husband black?”  At that question I retorted, “Should I be scared of you?”  “No, but these other niggers around here are cut-throat. You need to watch yourself.”  I felt like a child being reprimanded for not knowing the rules, especially when literally everyone I talked to was so very kind.  Yet, there I was a block the other side of Five Points, getting questioning glances from people who thought I was too pale to tread on their turf.  “You lost, baby? You don’t belong here.”  Or when I went to The Underground below the wrong CVS: “No, honey, you shouldn’t be down here, go up and get back to Peachtree as quick as you can, that’s where your people are,” before I even mentioned I was trying to meet anyone.

The whole experience was eye-opening and disheartening.  I enjoyed every conversation I had, even the fellow who offered me crack was very polite and concerned, keeping his distance when addressing me.  Is all of Atlanta that way, or just those neighborhoods?  Why was everyone so separate?

In my perfect world, I want to notice how much darker your skin is than mine. I want to acknowledge that freckles on you look entirely different than freckles on me. Deep, dark skin catches my eye, as a prisma color artist I am enthralled by skin tones that involve so many undertones of purple.  I want to listen to deep, milky voices bellow soul music, and that be ok. I don’t mind you calling me “white girl” but if I describe you as a black man or woman, I would like for you to not be offended.  We are different in so many beautiful ways.  To say we don’t see color is a disservice to the amazing people God created, like not noticing the difference between a sapphire and an emerald.  But we are also both human, we have troubles and trials, we have cultures we sometimes share and sometimes don’t.  I’ve never been so grateful to have grown up in Houston, where we all live side by side, work together, grow together, and learn together.  Houston has its own problems for sure, but I think we all have a cohesive love for our city and for Texas that keeps us pretty united.

I hope to visit Atlanta again.  I hope to branch out farther and see what the city as a whole is truly like, as opposed to the downtown areas I was restricted to for the duration of my stay. It has so many lovely parts and many beautiful people.

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The Snail and the Whale

January 19, 2015 at 12:51 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I used to do a Weekly Low Down on Kids Books.  Well, I used to pretend to do them, and really they were haphazard and sporadic at best, but sort of happened a few times a month at least.

I’m back.  I’m back with a mission to share all the marvelous books we’ve been reading.  Because, well, we have been reading more than we’ve let on.  I know, our silence is stifling.

P1000708Title: The Snail and the Whale

Author:Julia Donaldson

Illustrator: Axel Scheffler

I bought The Snail and the Whale on impulse.  I’ve been trying to do less of that lately, but it was too darn cute and the kiddo had been working on a snail painting.  Plus, I was feeling a little bit guilty over keeping Christmas as sparse as I was.

A few new picture books seemed a good addition to a Jake and the Neverland Pirate lego set (the third set to polish off the Jake collection); but we purposely are trying to keep Christmas gifting simple… “What you want, what you need, what you’ll wear, and what you’ll read.”  Accumulatively, we’d like for her to get no more than 4 presents from each category once all the grandparents have pitched in.  Ideally I’d keep it to four items total, but I’m practical and I know the family members won’t let that fly.

P1000654So she got the rest of her desired lego collection, a Frozen tiara and tambourine, socks, new boots, and a handful of new picture books.  There were some stocking stuffers and some other odds and ends – a geode science project for her school work, new paints, a painting apron, some canvases – and they were given to her in waves, not all at once on Christmas day.  It gave her time to enjoy each gift before getting overwhelmed with another.  We enjoyed it.  She was spoiled without being spoiled.  It felt like a nice simple holiday, yet kiddo managed to get everything she’d asked for.

Although The Snail and the Whale feels like a summer book – crossing oceans, travelling the world, visiting islands – we were excited to read it while cozied up in blankets and pjs.  I can’t wait to read it to her at the beach once it warms up, though.

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Working on her Snail painting, which has an actual shell glued to the canvas.

After reading this book for the second or third time, I finally asked kiddo, “So what are your thoughts?”

Kiddo, age four, says, “Other kids should read it, that’s my thought!  But how about we put it where people can’t find it. So no one can tear it up.”

I think she was missing the point of the conversation.  We started talking about the illustrations and what she thought.  She likes the pictures, but thinks they got the font “mixed up.”  I think the font is appropriately cute, but she’s learning to read and I think some of the swirly snail words were hard for her to recognize.

The book, however, is wonderful.  The rhymes are fun, the pictures are fun.  It’s all about adventure, having courage, and taking care of your friends.  It’s definitely a great gift book for any little one, no matter what season.

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La Taza

July 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm (Travel) (, , , , )

mi tazaIf there’s one thing every traveler needs, it’s a good coffeehouse.  Mostly because traveling requires a kind of energy I can only get from the best coffee; but even for the non-coffee drinker, a coffeehouse is a one stop greeting center.

Your barista will usually be able to tell you how to get places, what activities there are in the neighborhood, where to find the best music and food.  Your barista, equivalent to a bartender in useful information and emotional well-being, will point you in the direction of the best bookstores, the coolest non-touristy tourist sites, and can usually tell you which ones are free and which ones are overpriced.

Find the right neighborhood joint, wherever you are staying, and you will find flyers for things happening while you’re in town that you might otherwise not discover.  You’ll have numerous business cards and bookmarks for local indie authors you can check out while you’re in their hometown, and you’ll be able to gather your thoughts and plan your day over delicious less-commercialized foods and drinks.

P1020603If that place is La Taza, in San Antonio, you’ll also get to check out the local art scene while your barista warms a heart shaped Danish roll to serve you with your Hazelnut latte.  No, I did not take pictures of my Danish roll, I was too busy eating it while it was hot.

I did take some pictures of the walls while he was busy making my latte though, this painting of the horses in the water above the chess table struck my fancy.

There’s also a puzzle table and a slew of board games and books to access.  Other decor included a not-so-Christmasy Christmas tree, dressed in flowers for summer.

The shop was about a mile from where I was staying, easily accessible by sidewalk from that neighborhood.  If I had had the time to enjoy the walk, rather than flit off to book signings, I would have – walked and meandered to my coffee, that is.

I can’t wait to visit again.  Maybe next time I’ll have my book signing there – it looks like they frequently have authors and musicians in the cafe.  In the meantime, you might be able to still pick up my bookmark from the table near the entrance.

 

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Dazzled by Market Square

July 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm (Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

When I was in San Antonio Saturday, my best friend dragged me to the old Farmer’s Market – dragged is too harsh, that makes it sound like I was kicking and screaming and I wasn’t.  I was happy to go and see something new, was excited about it really, except I looked past the archways from the street and my stomach sank… people.  Lots and lots of people.  Crowds didn’t bother me much when I was younger, they couldn’t, I went to a 5A highschool and if you were nervous in a crowd you’d drown in a sea of elbows.  (I realize now that maybe they did, I just often had a hand to cling to – my now husband – when walking through those crowds, not sure my bestie would be down with me grabbing her hands to hold in public… doesn’t stop me from wanting to.) Doesn’t change the fact that I see one ahead these days and I have to summon a purpose or desire for something in that crowd in order to enter it.

In this case, food, art, and music.  My trifecta that gets me through the festival experience.  I love those things.  And even though the Market was crowded – the worst of it at Mi Tierra – there was a little bit of space and I found myself able to breathe.  Especially once I got myself to the art booths.

Right outside Mi Tierra I stumbled across two separate booths. One for Joseph Hernandez Jr. (www.josephhernandezartist.com) and one for Robert Wilkens (robertwilkensco@sbcglobal.net).

It was the impressionistic style of Joseph Hernandez that caught my attention to the art in the first place. I was already tired from shopping, tired of the crowds, and on the verge of becoming very hungry. But then I saw this:

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This is Joseph Hernandez Jr. He paints vibrantly, is self-taught, and stands about as tall as me. I could have stood in his booth and looked at every single painting for hours. If I were wealthy, I would have bought one of everything. My house would become a gallery to his work. I loved all the color. His use of it reminded me of Bryan Collins work even if their styles are nothing alike.

P1020682Much of his work is perfect for the tourist or native San Antonio lovers.  He chooses places around town to capture on the canvas.  Far more valuable than any photograph you could take of the same location.

He has just as many paintings of a random assortment, random things that inspired him… trees and branches are a running theme for him.  He had a lot for musicians – a sax, a violin, muP1020683sic notes, etc.  I can’t imagine walking into his booth and not seeing something you want to take home with you.  The hard part is deciding which something.

His paintings are affordable for the art collector.  Good size canvases that I’ve seen sell in the thousands by less talented painters were running between $400 – $500.  You could buy a very small  canvas for $25 and walk away with an original piece. His prints were what would hit your pocket, averaging at half the price of the canvas.  Seeing that I opted to save for an original Hernandez, rather than buying a print.  I took a business card, but came back later to take this picture with him:

P1020680Only a few booths away, closer to the Mi Tierra entrance, was Robert Wilkens – or Roberto as his wife kept calling him, and I can’t get her voice and pronunciation of his name out of my head.  She’s gorgeous and so passionate about his work.

P1020684I asked to take a picture of his work and later found out that most people just take the pictures – they don’t generally ask first.  I’m used to museums and conventions, rather than festivals, and I always ask.  Otherwise you might find yourself being barked at.

Robert and his wife were very gracious and let me take as many pictures as I wanted.  Robert is a chatterer, and I enjoyed talking to him while I watched him paint.  He teased me about my tattoo – told me it said “Soy Sauce in Chinese, didn’t you know?”  I picked on him for assuming I didn’t know what my tattoo said, just because I was a white girl.  Some things are funnier in my head than they are out loud.  Either way, Robert and I had a nice long chat about artistry and professions.  We showed him a picture of my kiddo’s art work.  We talked about books and my career as a writer.

“When did you first know you wanted to write?” he asked me.

“The moment I realized that ink came out of a pen and formed words on a page,” I answered.

P1020675He’s been a painter for decades, but he took the long road it sounds.  He had a lot of people tell him he couldn’t make a living at it.  It’s clear that he can, his work is incredible.  We talked about how we  encourage that artistic spirit in our children.  My daughter – the child of a writer – is quite the little painter.  His daughter – the child of a painter – just might be the next great American novelist.

He was a muralist for a long time, you can see the remnants of that life in some of his work.  I love it, and I want him to come do some walls in Houston that need sprucing.

He’s good enough for the first lady, he should be good enough for everyone:

Artist – Muralist, Robert Wilkens has been in the arts for twenty-five years and has worked commercially for fourteen years. He is well established in all media of the arts. Robert’s talent and dedication to his work has taken him to Mexico and all over the United States of America, even to the White House in the service of the First Lady, Laura Bush. There is no other artist of Roberts caliber when it comes to working with clients. His work ethics are honest and the beauty of his brush strokes while painting murals are eloquent and always precise.

(From Robert Wilkens & Company Blog)

I may not enjoy crowds, but I love discovering.  I love traveling and the search for new experiences and people.  I love seeing something I’ve never encountered before and picking it apart in my brain, learning to describe it.  New sights and smells and sounds may overwhelm me, but I welcome it as a learning experience.  I am so glad we went to Market Square that day.  I am glad we met Joseph Hernandez Jr and Robert Wilkens.  I am glad we waited for seats at Mi Tierra, even after we were told it would be an hour and half before we could be seated (it was actually only 35 minutes).  I’m ecstatic that I got to eat cheese enchiladas and suck down a Mojito before devouring more art with my eyes.  (I’m mildly amused that I got carded for my Mojito.)

When I went back out to take more pictures of Robert’s work and buy a print of his with my bestie, I was pleasantly buzzed (light weight, cheap date, whatever, I’ll take the name calling)… and found this:

P1020687I couldn’t stop looking at it and I wanted it for my wall.  He didn’t have any prints available for it, but said he would ship to Houston if only I let him know.

I want the original.  It’s magnificent.  The detail in the water and his pant leg is stellar.  I wanted to be swept away with him, from the dirty street and into that clear, blue water, up to the moon.  It helps that I find suitcases and umbrellas terribly romantic.

It helps that I find travel romantic.  It helps that adventure fascinates me, even if it makes me a little nervous, I still want to experience it all.  I want to absorb art through my eyes and bathe in it.  I want to taste new foods and close my eyes and live the flavor.  I want to meet new people and really discover who they are before I leave their presence, even if it takes a little bit of work to stay focused on what they are telling me.  I want to be dazzled.

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Miraflores

July 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm (Education, Travel) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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We saw it from the road when we were on our way to a bookstore.  It was on the right (off Hildebrand, on our way to Broadway, I think) and I would have missed it behind the construction cones along the road and the gritty chain link National Rent-a-Fence.  But the gates loomed, demanding to be seen.  The statues looking like mysterious cemetery pieces, but alas, there were no tombstones.

We passed it several times and weren’t actually able to go investigate until our last day there.

P1020606First we stopped at an old Spanish mission (turned greeting center, perhaps?) with a San Antonio Zoo sign perched near the steps.  I suppose we were on the backside of the zoo, or maybe it wasn’t even open, but we found ourselves in a beautiful park.

There were families, and ducks, and families of ducks.  But ultimately that ‘cemetery’ was calling our names and we had to go see it.  We drove back to the main street and lamented the fence.  We entered the parking lot to elsewhere and lamented the fence.  Then, we saw that the chain link gate was ajar.  Left for someone to go in and out for the day? We determined that it must be open by day and locked up at night to keep out the riffraff.  So, cameras in hand, we entered Miraflores, not knowing its name, and explored.

P1020644We found the Doctor’s name on several of the tiled benches.  To my uninformed eye there was no way for me to know they were designed by Atlee B Ayres, famous San Antonio architect.  I just knew they were beautiful and that they were made in honor of or for a Doctor, as the letters were mostly chipped away.  Later, we would see the name Urrutia on the gates.  There, in the mosaics of those grand gates, his name remained in tact and I took yet another photograph.  I skipped jotting down the information in my journal for the sake of spending that precious time getting more photographs.  Even though I thought it was ok to be there, something about the whole experience felt a bit like we had discovered a magic-hour of sorts and I didn’t want to waste a moment.

P1020616Though, I could spend hours there writing.  What I wanted to do more than anything was stay there all day and document every fragmented tile.  I longed for a library to access and investigate each piece of art and how it came to be gathered in this statuary field.  The gate said the “institute” was founded by Doctor Urrutia in 1921.  What institute?  Who was Doctor Urrutia?  What was the plan for this acreage?

P1020634Dr. Urrutia arrived in the States from Mexico in 1915 – as an exile.  He was born in the town “of floating gardens” just south of Mexico City and was a full-blooded Aztec Indian.  He went to medical school, graduated top of his class, and by the age of 22 was the President’s personal physician.  In 1910 Presidente Diaz was replaced by Madero, who was then killed and replaced by Huerta.  In all this killing and backstabbing, Huerta had got himself stabbed in the eye, and it was Urrutia who operated on him.  Then, according to Walt Lockley, Urrutia functioned a bit like a puppet master for the gangster and helped him run the country.

What happened next is a biography worth reading in itself:

But after dark, Urrutia was also accused of a medical assassination – a federal senator from Chiapas who publicly spoke against Huerta, Belisario Dominguez, was arrested as an enemy of the government, in the Jardin Hotel, on October 7, 1913, then taken to a cemetery, where dark persistent rumor has it that Dr. Urrutia cut out his tongue.

Without anesthetic.

Huerta threw eighty congressmen into prison at one point. Urrutia himself issued an ill-advised ultimatum to the US government, wanting official recognition, and Woodrow Wilson responded with battleships to Veracruz. In the late summer of 1914, as this government fell apart, a lot of the Huertistas and the well-to-do and ex-governors and henchmen drained out through Veracruz. Dr. Urrutia was arrested there by General Frederick Funston and was allowed to exile himself to the US: by ship from Veracruz to New Orleans, train from New Orleans to San Antonio, and two rail cars of treasure smuggled across the border later, to finance his new American life and humanitarian career.

– Walt Lockley

Urrutia died in 1975 at the age of 103, in his sleep, at his grand 15 acre estate in San Antonio.  But before that would happen, he would be the first doctor to separate Siamese twins in Texas and he would build something marvelous: Miraflores.  And I got to traipse around its remains.

P1020629Other artists contributed to this historic monument. According to Capturing Nature, Dionicio Rodriguez is responsible for the ‘rocks’ on the gates, but I’m not sure which aspect ‘rocks’ refers to.

In 2004, the area was added to The National Register of Historic Places, primarily for Rodriguez’s contributions.  It is thought that Miraflores contains his earliest work in the states as well as the “most intact and concentrated groupings” of his work.  One of those pieces is actually an extremely unique foot bridge in Breckenridge Park that caught our eyes several times.

The blog Urban Spotlight San Antonio describes a plan, in a post dated 2009, that would make the park open to the public. We saw the bridge from Breckenridge Park the post describes, but the public pedestrian walkway was blocked off and locked.  I am still unsure if the entrance I used was meant for the public or not.  Either way, I am glad I used it and got a chance to see so many beautiful works of art up close.  (There’s an extensive history included in that post regarding who owned the property during which decades and how they used it.  It’s quite interesting.)

According to SA Cultural Tours:

Much of the statuary originally designed for the park has been lost or damaged over the past several decades.  Remaining features include the tiled entrance gates along Hildebrand, designed by Mexican artist Marcelo Izaguirre, as well as the 1946 statue of Dr. Urrutia that originally stood in the center of a large pool.  […]  The park originally featured a small tower building housing Dr. Urrutia’s library, but it has been demolished.  The small remaining cottage, Quinta Maria, was built in 1923 as a guest house.  Statuary moved to the park in the 1960s following the demolition of Dr. Urrutia’s nearby home include the Winged Victory with crouching lions, and the replica of Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec moon goddess.

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I think my favorite… the place where I could sit for hours and reflect and write… would be near Cuautemoc.  He is the last ruler of the Aztecs, extremely energetic, and makes me feel mighty and safe.

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Luis L. Sanchez designed him in 1921, and it’s one of the most impressive statues I have seen in person, just for the sheer power it seems to radiate, like Achilles.

I love that Urrutia chose to include him in his garden.  Regardless of the sinister rumors that still surround Urrutia and his political dealings – including this statue in his place of exile says a lot about his passions and his identity.  He respected his heritage, his elders, and the past.  He had a taste for art, I think, I cannot bring myself to believe that he did this for the mere sake of showing off his money.  He had a library that has not survived, and clearly had a thirst for knowledge and legacy.

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After many business deals and exchanging of hands, The University of Incarnate Word now stands where Urrutia wanted a hospital.  The San Antonio Express reported in 1929 that Urrutia’s “grand ambition is to found a hospital here which will perpetuate his work … a hospital composed of pleasant, homelike bungalows surrounded by flowered lawns, clustered around a central House of Administration. For this purpose, he has bought an extensive piece of property on Broadway and Hildebrand.”  It sounds to me as though he sought some gentle peace after his years in Mexican politics.

However, Urrutia’s “institution” remained a private garden for hosting his family and parties, for morning excursions to swim laps in the pools, and to feed his peacocks while wearing his infamous cape.  I’m a little sorry the property never became exactly like he dreamed, but am glad he put forth the effort to get the gardens going.

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Journaling Through 1000 Days in Venice

July 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

1000 days in veniceTitle: A Thousand Days in Venice

Author: Marlena de Blasi

Genre: Travel/ Memoir

Length: 272 pages

“1000 Days in Venice,” I wrote in my journal, “I want Venice without Fernando.  Venice sounds lovely.  Fernando, annoying.”

I suppose I feel this way because I am happily married to a man who is nothing like Fernando.  But my love, or lack thereof, for the man who swept de Blasi off her feet has nothing to do with my enjoyment of the book.  The book is lovely.  And what follows are my journal entries from my reading, quotes that moved me and so on:

To fall in love with a face is ridiculous – at least a face with no personality.  It would be as though I were to declare myself in love with Jamie Campbell Bower off his side profile.  I cannot stand that mentality.  A face can only be so lovely.

“full of tears and crumbs”

“I cry for how life intoxicates.” – pg. 29

In love for the first time?  But she had babies…

She laments that so many people are trying to save her from a man they don’t know.  Then admits repeatedly that she doesn’t know him either.  I want to save her too,  no matter how terribly romantic I find it that she’s sold her house, auctioned belongings off in the airport and arrived to see her fiance whom she has never seen in summer before.

Then again, arranged marriages work – why not a marriage between people who have met a few times and spent a week together?

“Living as a couple never means that each gets half.  You must take turns at giving more than getting.  It’s not the same as bow to the other whether to dine out rather than in, or which one gets massaged that evening with oil of calendula; there are seasons in the life of a couple that function, I think, a little like a night watch.  One stands guard, often for a long time, providing the serenity in which the other can work at something.  Usually that something is sinewy and full of spines.  One goes inside the dark place while the other stays outside, holding up the moon.” – pg. 147

Such a beautiful sentiment.  So much truth to it.  Despite the fact that she married a stranger – even calls him that, stranger – she knows marriage.

Transfer? Why? I don’t want to live another version of this life.  I want to do something totally different, but together.  Perhaps my dislike for Fernando is that he reminds me of myself.  In this moment, I love him, he lives what I want.

I give lots of memoirs away once I’m done reading them.  But this one is a keeper – there are recipes.  Besides the recipes, it is beautiful.  I will probably read it again one day.

 

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Meeting S. Smith – Earth Day Every Day Part Three

April 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I couldn’t have had a more perfect day.  It all started with an amarP1010596yllis bloom opening and an email.  S. Smith had arrived in Houston and was looking to hang out before her first Half Price Books signing tomorrow.

Today I finally had the pleasure of meeting S. Smith, the author of the Seed Savers series.  I never thought this day would actually come, as I am a book reviewer in Texas and she is a young adult fiction writer from Oregon.  But lo and behold! She had a reason to come down south and booked a Texas Earth Day tour starting with Houston.

I was delighted that she wanted to go for a walk in the woods by our house.  It was a joy picking along the trails, chatting, with my daughter and her husband in tow.  We talked about the difference in the woods of Texas from where she lives in the Northwest.

Below, kiddo, Sandy, and her husband stopped for a rest on a fallen log.

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Sandy will be at the Half Price Books in Clear Lake tomorrow from 1-4 pm, Good Books in the Woods on Friday evening, Half Price Books Humble on Saturday from 1-3 pm, and the Montrose HPB store that evening from 6-9 pm.  Her books are works of fiction for young adults about a dystopian society where growing your own fruits and vegetables is illegal, a fitting discussion topic for an Earth Day celebration.

 

 

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Log Off and Smell the Lattes

April 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

DSC03062The phrase used to be ‘stop and smell the roses,’ I don’t know that it’s an entirely accurate turn of phrase anymore.

I am a busy lady with lots of activities, but mostly I’m busy on the internet.  I have my personal accounts, and most things started out as hobbies, but somewhere along the way all my hobbies turned into jobs – and most these jobs include manning facebook, twitter, pinterest, and a whole host of other social media.  Not just for me and my writing career, but for my art company, bookstores, and, well, everyone.

Because I do all this from an actual computer, because I don’t have what I call a ‘fancy’ phone or any kind of ‘spectacular device’ (smartphone, ipads, and whatever other twenty-first century gadgets the world has at their fingertips these days), when I go on vacation, or even a business trip, I get a true break from everything.

I had a book signing in Dallas this past weekend.  Which means from the time I got into my car to drive the four hour trek to the time I pulled back into my driveway 72 hours later, I was on internet silence.  No facebook to log into. I didn’t have a chance to or even a reminder to tweet anything.  My blog became an afterthought; and everything of the cyberspace variety went 100% on the back burner so that I could spend all my time with the real world – or ink and paper when I didn’t want to look beyond my nose.

And guess what?

It was marvelous.

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Click the photo to see all the pictures from the HPB Preston Village book signing.

My afternoon at my signing was completely focused on my customers, my business partner, and the beautiful friends that came to visit and support me.  I’ve seen many authors sit behind author tables and have no clue how to interact.  Instead they spend precious moments when they could be chatting with fans, typing on smartphones or figuring out how to take credit cards.  Being able to accept credit cards sure does make things simple for people – but my tech-free weekend kept all transactions cash only, and I have to say, it was nice.

Afterward, a group of us went off to a new restaurant in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas called Smoke.  I highly recommend eating there for anyone who hasn’t tried it.  The food was excellent, the service was great, and the place had a pretty stellar vibe.  (By the way, the creme brule is to die for – and the best part is the candied ginger. )  Part of that vibe, I must say, was enhanced by the fact that we spent little to no time on our phones!

P1010467 Instead, we discussed future events for Aoristos and myself, as well as books (both published and not yet published).  To the right, my lovely friend Miss Golightly is taking a brief gander at the Follies Past by Melanie Ker while we wait for our dinner.  (I’m still reading, but there will be a review posted soon!  Austen fans, stay tuned!)

Time and time again I have gone to dinner with the far less considerate only to sit at a table and watch people facebook and text all their friends who aren’t present.  It’s something I’ve never appreciated.  So, although having  a smart phone would make many of my events have a more solid online presence, I am not inclined to purchase one until I absolutely have to.  I’m less interested in an online presence and more interested in being present.  The online part can happen before and after, in my opinion.

After being stuffed to the gills with the most amazing barbecue I’ve had in a long time, I finished the day at my aunt and uncle’s house.  It’s practically a bed and breakfast it is so cozy and relaxing.  Homemade lattes were made, there was some time in the garden, and then afterward the kiddo and I slept here…

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Clearly, this is after I mussed up the pillows.  P1010517

FYI, there’s a manlier room down the hall…

It was the best sleep I’ve had in a good long while.  Probably helpful that my eyes hadn’t spent any evening time looking at a computer screen.  (Not to mention, I was physically exhausted.)

Bright and early, and well rested, the next morning… I stepped out of my room to something that is nothing short of heaven to my soul:

P1010502Yes, that’s a coffee bar right outside the guest bedroom.  Complete with bottled water for the Keurig, International Delight creamers (in hazelnut and french vanilla), sugar packets, and real mugs!

After helping myself to coffee, I took my journal and Melanie Kerr’s book and headed to the room one door down…

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It was a beautiful morning.  I did what I do every morning, sans computer screen blinking at me.  That lack of a computer screen makes all the difference.  And although computers are useful, and I adore my jobs and the freedom I have to raise my daughter while working mostly from home; once in awhile I need to remember that just because I’m sitting, doesn’t mean I need to be sitting with technology.

Log off… smell the lattes… breathe, relax, enjoy.

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Kim, World Traveler

September 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , )

KimMeet today’s Guest Blogger: Kim Ogonosky.  She’s a reader, a writer, has the most *amazing* singing voice, and loves to travel…

I firmly believe that people who love to read are natural born travelers.

There is no scientific data to back this up; it is my [completely biased] personal opinion based on firsthand experience. Simply put, I love to read, and I love to travel.

Of course the word “travel” does not necessarily need to be understood strictly as the physical act of traveling. For avid readers who get metaphorically lost in literature, are they not, in a sense, traveling as well?

pemberleyYou bet they are, and I can attest to this. I traveled to Pemberley with Elizabeth Bennet where I fell hopelessly in love with Mr. Darcy. I partied with the wild, over-indulgent upper crust of society at Jay Gatsby’s mansion on Long Island’s West Egg. I’ve been to post-apocalyptic worlds and dystopian societies. I’ve traveled halfway around the world and broken the barrier of time. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve thrown things across the room in outrage.

And if anyone dares tell me this is not a form of travel, I assure you they have never gotten lost in a book!

Aside from traveling through books, I also love to physically travel. Never one to sit still, I am always looking for the next adventure. I once said my life’s goal is to visit every single country before I die. I have 13 under my belt, which means I have approximately 183 to go. Hey, a girl can dream!

florenceMy favorite place in the world is Florence. My favorite family vacation has been to Disney World. And I definitely recommend taking your significant other to the Caribbean for a vacation that looks like it came straight from your computer’s screensaver. But the most influential trip I have ever taken was to Tanzania.

In graduate school I was given the opportunity to travel to Dodoma, Tanzania to help film a documentary about a nongovernmental organization called BRAC. Another student and I were sent there to highlight their Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescent girls program. I had never picked up a video camera before in my life, and I only knew a few choice phrases in Swahili, but off I went with just one other person, malaria pills in tow!

Side note: I have never taken any sort of illegal substance, but I’m pretty positAfrica - BRAC ELA Girls Club 2ive if I did, the effects would be similar to that of taking malaria pills. That stuff is no joke.

When I got back from Africa, I remember people asking me if I had “fun.” Yes, it was the most influential experience of my life thus far, but I would choose other adjectives to describe it: Eye-opening, humbling, transformative, educational, challenging, and emotional all come to mind.

The pinnacle moment of the trip came when the Internet at our hotel went out, and I almost had a nervous breakdown.

My Family

My Family

Now, in my defense, the reason I had the nervous breakdown was because I wanted to contact my loved ones, not because I wanted to update my Facebook profile, so it was coming from a well-intentioned place.

However, we had just spent the day in the nearby villages interviewing these incredible young girls who had faced more hardships in their lives than the majority of us could ever imagine. Many didn’t have shoes. Most didn’t have clean water. And a startling number were in danger of not finishing their educations. Yet they came together to sing, dance, play, learn about how to start their own businesses, and support one another through strong female friendships.

And here I was at my hotel, with a pool, a nice restaurant, and plenty of clean water, crying about the Internet going out.

Needless to say, I was dealt with a healthy dose of perspective in that moment.

So yes, my trip to Africa was the most eye-opening, humbling, transformative, educational, challenging, and emotional experience of my life. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I learned so much from these brave young women, and I was inspired to immerse myself in similar travel situations again. Not because it was “fun,” but because I learned so much about the world, about humanity, and about myself.

Sounds a little like reading a really good book, doesn’t it? And here we are, coming full circle!

I recently stumbled upon what I consider to be the opportunity of a lifetime. An up-and-coming travel website called Jauntaroo is hiring a “Chief World Explorer” who will travel the world for a year, while blogging and filming webisodes about their experiences. Moreover, this person is encouraged to participate in “Voluntourism” activities while traveling. Sign me up!

Yes, the competition is stiff, but if I’ve learned anything from my books it’s that you must go after your dreams. Or simply put, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score!

I went for it and submitted a video application for this position, which can be found at www.bestjobaroundtheworld.com/submissions/view/12992. It is only a minute long, so should you decide to watch, it will not take up a lot of time. After having read this and watched the video you feel I would be well suited for the job, I would be incredibly grateful if you “liked” my video. You don’t have to fill out any forms, and you can do it once every 24 hours if it tickles your fancy! This would be an incredible experience, and I would love to be given the chance to travel the world and take others with me on the journey- through the fun, the relaxing, the challenging, the emotional, and the meaningful times.

Africa - BRAC ELA Chicken Farm

Thank you for taking the time to hear my story. I wish all of you safe, exciting, and meaningful travels, be it in the metaphorical or the physical sense. Life would be so less interesting without them.

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