Friday, November 30, 2012

News Round Up -- Sentimental Mish Mash

Sometimes you just need a boost to get you to the next level or through a rough spot... I am so glad there was someone to give this woman and her children that lift.

For the love of nerds ... I was tickled by this piece about the up turn in Black nerds that this guy calls "blerds."

I am enamored of the message in a bottle -- it is a well known fact; but I also have taken a fancy to family history as well.  So, I could not pass up on this story about some love letters that Sandy washed up to the surface and with it some pieces of this family's history.

This is a lovely piece on couple at the helm of Salesforce (a company I already admired) and their attempt to help homeless families in San Francisco. I know we don't all have deep pockets like this, but any help we can be to those in need is worthwhile.

I am not sure if this counts as sentimental exactly, but the story of JFK and Jackie giving an impromptu to Viva Kennedy folks in Texas got me thinking about my big brother, sister and cousin riding their bikes through the streets of Oxnard with RFK pamphlets...

Remembering one who would not be at the Thanksgiving table

We made it through our first holiday without my brother with minimal bumps and bruises.  I am trying to focus on the fact that we made it through.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pledge Day 29

Comments on someone else paper, again ... ugh.
15 thank you cards...can't really know how many words that was.
Tomorrow is another day... the last one.

Quote Thursday

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor,
catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore.  Dream.  Discover.
--attributed to Mark Twain

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pledge Day 28

I accomplished a lot of hard work today, but not a lot of writing: 200 words.
Tomorrow is another day!

Powerball Fever

I had a plan ... pick some numbers, get a few quick picks.

Then I got a text from little sister asking for some quick picks.

I realized I better call my dad and see if he wanted some.  Yes. He did.  A lot ... and then, not so much, and quick picks, no pick some numbers for me, here are some numbers, my rifle number (no idea what that means), my phone number, birthdays.  Very unspecific request.  Oh... and some for your mom and some for your friend.

On the one hand, quick picks are usually the winners, but I think it is more romantic to win with one's own numbers.  I tried not to think about it too much, just use combinations of the numbers he gave me.

When I got home, lots of numbers in tow, I got an email from big sister ... could I, would I go get some for brother-in-law? Of course... while I was at it, I asked little brother did he want some, and friends, too.

I went back to the store to get more tickets... scanned the images, sent them along to those who would like to win...

So, now, $116 later there are a lot of tickets... is there any luck?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pledge Day 27

Not my best day ... let's call it 250 words.
Ugh... three more days of counting words, then just up against the finals period deadline.

Homecoming and Thanksgiving

While on my train trip, I found out that my uncle was having surgery that day -- his defibrillator, the one implanted directly near his heart, was not working.  That night, when the train finally pulled into the station, my parents explained that the doctor had not been able to perform the surgery.  The doctor determined that my uncle's heart was too weak to take the surgery ... essentially, my uncle would be sent home to wait for his heart to give out.

My cousins hadn't told my mom (or her siblings) about my uncle being in the hospital last week -- on the one hand, they didn't know how serious it was, and, on the other hand, we have all had just too much grief of late.  When I spoke to my cousin the next day, she expressed a desire for 12/12/12 to be here soon.  At first I didn't catch her meaning.  My uncle's birthday is 12/21... and I know he is looking forward to turning 86 on that day.

Then, it hit me, she was saying she was just so done with a life full of grief.  Last Christmas Eve, her mother-in-law, a great woman, was in a car accident that eventually led to her death.  The crash left her paralyzed and she asked her children several months later to let her go because she didn't want to live that way.  I truly loved that woman and still feel the pain of that loss.  Our world is truly diminished by her not being in it.  And losing Greg on top of that, only months later, another person who lighted the world in an unnatural way, sucker punched us all.

I know how she feels... though, I guess I don't necessarily share that sentiment.
On the day after I arrived home on the train, I woke at 5:30am to the phone ringing. I was sure it was my aunt calling to say that my uncle had left us.  But, it was another uncle, the oldest, calling to share his fear and concern with my mom, his little sister.

It is significant mostly because my mom and her oldest brother don't get along.  I don't know how many times she has written him off -- or how many times they have come together over loss and pain and fear of loss.  A few hours later, my mom told me that her brother had called to say that he was going to the hospital and wanted her to go with him.

By the time she was telling me this, it had been decided that they should invite their other brother to go along.  This is even more significant because these two, despite living yards away from each other, don't speak to each other.  They have also had their reconciliations and falling out -- though more falling out than reconciling during my lifetime.

When the car pulled up to pick up my parents, neither of my uncles got out of the car -- so I went out to see them.  My uncles acted surprised to see me, I am sure my mom told them I had arrived, but it is still nice to be greeted as the unexpected happy surprise.

We chatted, one uncle so worried and scared he couldn't really put two words together, the other gregariously telling me about finding out about his brother being in the hospital and waking early that morning uneasy.  He told me had gone out to blow leaves at 4am and waited as late as 5:30a before he called my mom.

I pictured him pacing back and forth willing the sun to come up and the time to pass.  All this came tumbling out, I could hear in his pretend easy manner the concern and the need to share this story with someone.  There was his other brother, nervously moving his hands, looking over at us, but not saying anything.  I did my best to be a good, active listener, standing outside the car's rolled down window.

My mom and dad finally emerged from the house and climbed into the back seat -- I gave each of my tios another kiss through the window and watched them pull away.  As I walked back in the house, it hit me again -- it doesn't matter at what age you lose a sibling, it is a dagger to your heart.  And watching the fear and anxiety in my uncles demonstrated that it mattered very little whether or not siblings appear "close" or not.  It showed the power of the grief -- the power to pull people together who fight so much an outsider would not believe there was any love there let alone so deep a connection that it tethers you irrevocably.


Many years ago, before I was born, they were five.  I always thought of them as the five that survived, knowing that there had been two sisters who died in Mexico and another baby brother lost here.  I think all told my grandmother lost five children, but five survived.  In 1967, my mom and her brothers lost their little brother.  He, like my own brother, was a captivating soul.  I have never met anyone with a bad word to say about the uncle I never met.

Then they were four.  Four is all I have ever known... the fifth only mythical for me.  Here were three headed to see the fourth, fearing their time as four was nearing an end.

Four -- it is a number I reject.  I don't know how to be one of four.  I only know how to be one of five.  FIVE, we are five... we will always be five, right? Even if he's not here physically; we are five.  I have said it, over and over, it is the only way I know how to describe my family.  We are FIVE.
On our way out of town on Sunday, my little sister and I paid a visit to my brother's grave.  Unmarked as of yet, my sister searched for the Chinitos who were to keep my brother company. When they were at the cemetery picking the plot, she had said that Greg would be comfortable there between the Chinitos -- just like in Monterey Park.

I sat there, composed, because I didn't want to scare my sister's new boyfriend or destabilize my sister.  I sat there beside him, my hand on his grave ... trying hard to reach him.  I recalled laying my head on his chest in the funeral home when we were allowed to spend some private time with him.  It was the only good cry I had until writing this.

Long and rambling and not really story-like, but I need to begin to debrief this last visit home -- and for some reason the blog felt like the right place to do it.  Thanks for listening...
I got to see my sick uncle Saturday night just before packing up for my trip back to New Mexico.  As always, he was supportive and loving -- if there is one other cheerleader in my family, it is him.  He told me, as if he had to take this chance, not to give up -- to follow through with the PhD.  I have not shared with him the challenges, but he is the only other one in my family, until myself and now my sister, to go beyond the BA.  He hugged me tight and told me how proud he was of me.  I told him about seeing my uncles and my mom off for their visit to him in the hospital.  And we both smiled at the beauty of that sight.  For today, we are not grieving, only celebrating one more day and giving thanks for that precious gift.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pledge Days 25 & 26

Workday in the airport (November 25) produced several drafts, notes for a paper, and a reworking of the southwest section of my bibliography.  I am not sure how to record the words for the bibliography as most of it was cut and past, but there were additions and organizational elements produced.  I will say a total of 1000 words.

Monday -- back to life, back to reality -- in the coffee shop, comments on a colleague's paper (200 words at least), a paper due in a few hours (with notes, drafts and deletions 900), and comments on another colleague's three papers (another 100 words), and some of the debriefing notes (1200 words) and some blogpost (about 400).  Total for Monday:  2800.

Grand total:  15032

Revised goal:  30000

Traveling Musing

On the train, the pace of travel is slower -- there are drawbacks and advantages.  For instance, as you near the end of the nine or ten hour train ride, as the end of the line approaches, it is best not to use the bathrooms.  In all likelihood, those bathrooms have not been serviced for several hours -- and no one is likely to be worried about it.  But, on the train, one key advantage is that there is time to settle in -- and, if necessary or appropriate, to make friends.

At the airport, everyone is in a hurry, rushing here and there.  Settling in happens if your flight is delayed, or, like me, you got a ride to the airport several hours before your flight.

During the holiday season, in this case Thanksgiving, whichever kind of transportation you choose, you are also mingling with many, many people.  Full train -- I mean to capacity.  Full airport with all kinds of travelers, mostly unseasoned, and many with large contingents.  In the airport this equals plenty of grouchy and/or disgruntled and otherwise hassled.

Last Monday, I rode most of the ten hours in the "parlor car" with a woman with pink hair and her laptop inside one of those darling book covers.  At first (and by at first, I mean for the first four hours), we were just sharing a table in the crowded car.  She had been on since Portland and I joined the fun in Oakland.

I tried at first to engage her in some conversation, but she didn't seem to want to share. So, I dug into my work.  I was trying to break the ice because I wanted to be able to leave my stuff with her and go in search of hot water and snacks.  Quickly we became work buddies who spotted each other if one needed the bathroom, to stretch her legs or get provisions.

When I switched sides to be able to sit on the coast side, she asked if she could come along -- I said, of course, and then the serious friend making was on ... let's just say no more work was done.  She went to a dinner reservation and I returned to my assigned seat -- where I was later joined by another long term traveller -- poor thing had been sitting up since Salem and she was exhausted.  We chatted and I cried and she complimented my hair.

Sometimes -- you get just the traveling companions you need to help you prepare for that hard holiday.  She was lovely, though I didn't get her name, I know that she is off to Mackinaw Island for her next adventure, that she likes to write real letters (like me), and she's a quilter.  She lost her husband to a vicious cancer two years ago, and she gave me some sage advice on grief and mourning.

Yesterday in my marathon airport day ... I parked myself with my coffee in an overly open area that was close to an outlet.  There was a woman charging her phone -- she was draped over the table seemingly sleeping.  I sat at the table right next to her and hoped she wasn't meaning to use both tables.  People cycled through over the hours -- a woman who sat with her soda but then walked back and forth with her luggage to the Burger King counter ... I think she left her coat, I didn't notice it until I was getting ready to leave.  A family sat with me, or the dad did and the mom and daughter walked around until they were able to get there own set of two tables.  Another young woman -- it could also have been her coat -- who ate her burger king while listening to her ipod.

There was a lot of bustling around me as I worked on my bibliography.  But there was no friend making.  The best I did was find someone to watch my stuff while I went to the bathroom - before I talked to Mychael (with a y) at the Chilistogo.  Yes, that's how they spelled it.  Mychal has only been there for a month, but he knows all the ins and outs and helped Ale whenever she got stymied by my requests.

Even though the train is interminably long -- I think it makes for more interesting times...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pledge days 19-24

Umm... it will not be a good report -- I am guessing you can already tell.

Making playdough and pudding paint does not require (or really allow for) writing.  So, maybe another 100 words between blog posts and notes.

I will spend all day in the airport today ... so there might be a good report tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Quote Thursday

Sometimes we find what we need from the tea bag wisdom gifted to us by the universe and good earth tea.

A friend is, at it were, a second self.
-Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pledge Day 19

Nine hours in the train can do wonders for your numbers:  2296 [grand total:  11032].
Doesn't really make a dent in the backlog unless I get this much done every day for the rest of the days ... on the other hand, I did this in only 2 of the 9 hours.  So, making the goal, with all the work I have left to do, is completely doable.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pledge Days 13-18

So ... I got some work done right before the conference started -- and I had to write an abstract sort of in the middle of it.  I took some running commentary notes during the conference as well.

So... grand total for the mostly conference time:  2648 -- not quite enough for two days
Running total as of November 18th -- 8736 -- what was the goal?


So, I am behind... considerably.

Monday, November 19, 2012

tribute my time in Oakland for the past week and a half: I am a very lucky person... and I know it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

News Round Up, Another Unthemed Edition

A piece about what deferred action means to young immigrants.

Ugh... remember when I was worrying about those waivers the US Dept of Ed was giving out? Well this kind of thing is exactly why I was worried.   The notion that you would change the goals by race rather than trying to figure out how to get all to the same place is on its face ridiculous.  It is EXACTLY why there was an NCLB.  But there is more evil lurking here -- what if you are an Asian student who doesn't do well and needs help?  Where will you end up in this shuffle?  Will they just change your "race/ethnic" code in order to keep with the structure you've decided is the norm in your community?  Yeah, all kinds of issues here.  But mainly the idea that the waiver was so that you could feel like you, as an educational community, did not have to deal with the gap was not supposed to be the goal.

I am unsure where to go with this story.  On the one hand, being deceived is unpleasant, to say the very least.  But it is the sense of humiliation that is the worst -- in this case, that is all there is.  On the other hand, to take ourselves so seriously that being deceived could make us want to get out the pitchforks and torches seems extreme.  The young woman obviously needed attention -- had to have known that someday it would all come crashing down around her.  She is henceforth exposed -- her name in newspapers (at least online) around the world because this story will be too much for many to refuse.  Thoughts?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Worth Reminding Yourself -- Quote Thursday

Finish each day and be done with it. 
You have done what you could. 
Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; 
forget them as soon as you can. tomorrow is a new day. 
You shall begin it serenely and with too high 
a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

pledge days 11 & 12

Yeah... another busted couple of days ... intention is not enough.  I need some action.

I just posted on this blog and wrote and other part of a blog post, so day 13 is shaping up to be at least on the boards. 

I will report on that later...

And maybe I will include where I am by day 15....

News Round Up - Veteran's Edition

I am behind ... being away and having too much fun with friends, I am neglecting the blog... sigh.

Here are some stories I heard and enjoyed... and some that I am just linking because I am not sure if I heard them ... but they look good.

And one from the newspaper... love this active duty honoring veterans.

NPR and StoryCorps have launched a new initiative to get the stories of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan -- I am very happy about that and looking forward to more installments.

Happy belated Veterans' Day... thank you for your service.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pledge Days 9 & 10

Fell off the wagon completely...
I wrote a half a page of note on the reading I did on the plane on Friday (day 9).
I didn't even finish the reading I started yesterday (day 10)...
Getting back on the horse immediately.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Pledge Day 8

I spent more time cutting and rewriting -- so I don't have a word count unless it is going to be a negative...

However, I finished the poster and got it printed before 2pm.  Also graded papers and wrote comments for each student... again, who knows how many words.

Let's call it 300 words total -- I will be more generous to myself on the next round.

It was a very productive day.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Poetry Thursday


El 4 es 4 para todos?
Son todos los sietes iguales?

Cuando el preso piensa en la luz
es la misma que te ilumina?

Has pensado de que color
es el abril de los enfermos?

Que monarquia occidental 
se embandera con amapolas?

Pablo Neruda
El libro de las preguntas

Is 4 the same 4 for everybody?
Are all sevens equal?

When the convict ponders the light
is it the same light that shines on you?

For the diseased, what color 
do you think April is?

Which occidental monarchy
will fly flags of poppies?

Pablo Neruda
The Book of Questions

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Pledge -- days 5, 6, 7

I can't remember day 5 -- that is just how I am living right now.  I am pretty sure I wrote something, but I couldn't say what it was or how many words.

Day 6 -- light but on the map.  I wrote about 600 words between some blog posts and an abstract draft which is still incomplete, but it's drafted.

Day 7 -- I mostly cut down, but I wrote and cut and wrote and cut until I had around 900 words... so I am calling it a full day as I am sure I cut more than another 900 words.

I will get there ... someday.

Seriously, one of these days I am going to write 3000 words to make up for all the words I haven't written in my 50,000 word quest.

Shouldn't I have a running tally somewhere? If I wasn't exhausted, I could probably figure out how to have a button that did that.

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President:
I have been meaning to write you this letter for four years ... I thought, I'll write after the first 100 days, and then, in time for the first State of the Union... and then four years went by before I had the chance to write that letter.  Before the four years are up -- and to celebrate the beginning of your second term, I am writing you now.

I couldn't be happier that you will have the chance to make sure that your policies will be able to mature.

I won't lie, there have been many times that I have been disappointed in the last four years. 

There were many opportunities that you were not able to move forward -- in part because of the way our country has suffered economically and in part because of the polarized partisan system.  But, it was also because you and your team were also thinking about this second term -- and winning.

You won -- so, I hope you will take the next four years and put it all on the line.

You have nothing to lose. 

And we have everything to gain.

Take to task those who would stand in the way of all citizens.  Hold them responsible.  Out them ... do whatever you have to do.  Cajole them, arm twist them, shame them.  Make front room deals, back room deals, Chicago style movidas... like I said, whatever it takes. 

You are already one for the history books, so don't worry about what others will say -- those who judge you harshly will do so regardless of what you do. 

I am not telling you anything you do not already know.  But I ask, as a supporter whose face lights up whenever MY president takes the stage, please do what you know you have to do. 

Please don't back down or worry about the political ramifications. 

Just do it.

I believe in you and your ability to make the change, bring the hope, and be the citizen we can look up to, we can follow...and challenge us to do more than gripe and follow -- but to take part in "the perfecting of our union."

President Obama, you have my support... go make me proud.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Looking and Feeling Like a Citizen...

My "I voted" sticker and the voter's guide
 ... I hope you voted, too... I finally did make it in for early voting (on the second to the last day of early voting).

As you see in the photos, the voter's guide was a small newspaper and took quite a bit of time to get through.  I hate to vote uninformed... I did my best with all of the measures, and judges and constitutional amendments.
 Ultimately, the important thing is that I voted -- now I have the right to bitch as much as I like about the government.  See how that works?

Yes, I asked for two stickers.  I was just sad that they had run out of "I voted early" stickers!

The morning before I finally got to early voting, I heard this story about a poll worker ... open it up and listen to it -- I hadn't seen the picture til I looked it up for this blog piece.  I am loving it all.

I was happy to hear that evening, after I voted, that the projection is that more people will vote in this election (as a percentage of our population) than any other election -- and that a full third (or more) will have voted early.  Take that, Sandy... you can't stop us.

Still sending all my very best to those who are recovering in Sandy's wake.  Wish there was more I could do than just send my best thoughts.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Pledge Days 3 & 4

I am sure you figured out from the silence that I didn't get to writing for the past few days. Instead, in the last four days, I worked 28 hours for the evil empire, graded papers for my "other" job, gave a free presentation, and edited other people's work.

I am still holding out hope for DAY 5 -- so I won't report failure, yet.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Unthemed News Round Up

I have been trying to be better about not just posting news ... but some news articles are piling up in my email box.  The blurbs are from NPR not me editorializing.

Research Highlights Strengths Of Adolescent Brain -- by Jon Hamilton heard on NPR - 10/22/2012
Adolescent brains have gotten a bad rap, according to neuroscientists. It's true that teenage brains can be impulsive, scientists reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans. But adolescent brains are also vulnerable, dynamic and highly responsive to positive feedback.

Vigilantes Spray-Paint Sexual Harassers In Cairo by Leila Fadel heard on NPR - November 1, 2012
Over the recent four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, more than 1,000 sexual harassment complaints were filed in Egypt ...

WWII Veteran Fought To Cast His Last Vote by Scott Simon heard on NPR - October 27, 2012
This is the time of a long election season when voters can begin to feel weary. You can't watch the World Series without seeing ads so scolding and snarling you may want to shoo away your children. The ads can make voting seem like a nasty chore....

I was at the SOHA board meeting and read this article about Vietnamese Americans trying to document their histories through interviews!  We were planning for our next conference in case you have anything to share.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

making lemonade for others...

and sharing a lesson on gratitude.
This was titled: Seen in Hoboken Today (guessing 11/2/12)
In case you can't see the picture, or read it:  there is a large extension cord with two electrical plug strips -- almost every one of them full -- and the sign reads "We have power.  Please feel free to charge your phone!"

Sometimes our better selves reach out -- amidst stories about people fighting at the gas pumps and whole communities feeling abandoned comes this picture that does speak more loudly than any words.

We can choose to be good neighbors, to feel part of a community and to participate as such.

I am heartened by this... and hoping more of these stories will emerge.

Here's another one I heard Friday morning -- it's slow to get started, but hold on until you get to the spaghetti and meatballs before you give up.  There is a lot of lemonade making going on -- and we need to do more of it.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Pledge, Day 2

Today was blogging 500 words ... and revising down from a 25 page paper to closer to 15 -- still has to get down to about 9.

Not the best day -- but some writing is better than no writing.

Dias de los muertos

I read a post last night that felt like it was talking directly to me.

And then I responded, like this:
I woke this morning (mourning) to the thought that I had not had time to build an altar for my brother, Greg -- who I lost six weeks ago.  In some way, it is so fresh that I fill my hours and days with other thoughts so as not to fall in the pit of mourning.  Yesterday, I was driving and not thinking about him -- or not actively thinking about him -- and a song came on the radio.  It was a song that I loved as a 13 year old -- and that my brother once teased me for loving and at the same time called into the radio station to request for me.  For the first time in five weeks, I felt him near. 

So this morning, when I woke with that thought, I felt guilty.  Had I really not had time? Or had I just not had courage?

A friend asked me not too long ago did I feel guilty about something -- I haven't been sleeping well since we lost my brother -- and I bristled at his suggestion.

But, yes, I do feel guilty... I would trade places with him in a heartbeat -- his life seems so much more meaningful than mine -- and I cannot hope to reach a shadow of his self in the lives of my sister-in-law or my niece or my nephew.  Even though I cannot replace him, still I need to love and support them as much as I can -- in his honor -- if not as he would have.

But, I am miles and miles and states away from them in my PhD program which seems increasingly irrelevant in my life.  So, yes, again, I feel guilty.

But mostly I feel a terrible emptiness where his life, his love and his support have lived in my life.  I am outrageously angry, sad, abandoned and and and...

Thank you for the space to feel this ... I so desperately needed to share.

Where he would be if he could.

Five in 1999

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Pledge, day 1

I wrote and rewrote a grant app today -- easily 1500 words... very close to the daily 1666.67 that would make up 50,000 words after 30 days.

There is more to come, but I am too tired to project they will actually get written.

Instead I will turn to rewriting, cutting and creating the poster.

Quote more time

I still need to make time for the post about butterflies and moths...

Thinking of the butterflies and souls traveling on this All Saints Day.