Night Hike @ Lady Bird Lake

1 Stevie Ray Vaughn statueWe met at the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue along Lady Bird Lake to take a night hike around 8:30. This was late enough for the heat to subside, but there was still sunlight. 2 batsAs we walked eastward along the trail, I heard the sound of a crowd of people, smelled a familiar stench then came upon the famous South Congress bridge where somewhere upwards of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats were heading out for their nightly feeding.3 bats Of course my camera phone wasn’t fast enough to capture the bats. We dwelled at this spot for about 15 minutes before continuing on.4 nightlineHere was another beautiful sight: Austin at night behind Lady Bird Lake. A view so gorgeous even my camera phone captured a lot of it.
5 star & planet app Once again, showing the limitations of aforementioned camera phone, I snapped a picture of a guy pointing his phone to the heavens to identify stars and planets, thanks to an app.

6 Joe's Crab ShackFrom this view, Joe’s Crab Shack actually looks inviting–not some place that’ll give you five different fried things on a plate with no vegetables!

We concluded our hike around 10:30. Three of us went to Whataburger, which turned out to be Whatabadidea! The service was exceptionally slow for a FAST food joint and the average customer at that time of night was 20-something and inebriated. I swore digesting that poor-quality food made me feverish around 3 AM.  Some older yogi friends assured me it was a hot flash.  (Yeah, a hot flash triggered by barely edible poison! But at my age, hot flashes are on the not-so-distant horizon.)

Nonetheless, that little excursion satisfied both my needs for a hike for a while and for fast food for the rest of my life!

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Free Positivity

If someone ever gave out free samples of positivity, I’d surely try it since “free” is my price. Not only that, but I want more positivity in my life. More doors of opportunity to be opened, more creative flow, restfulness, energy and laugh-out-loud moments.

When I was younger, I thought once I figured life out, I’d be perpetually happy. I’d know exactly how to avoid pitfalls by learning from my mistakes. Only challenge is, I’m still making my mistakes.

It’s similar to the time I had the brilliant idea to make a list of the things I needed to get done before I sat down to read. My leisure reading time would start after I’d cross out everything that needed to be done for the day. The more I wrote down, the more there was to do. As a matter of fact, I began to have a list of lists. I started grouping certain activities to cut down on driving around so much on any one particular day.

After a few weeks, I concluded the only way to guarantee at least an hour’s reading time nearly every day was to schedule it since the list was virtually endless. I’d wind down for bed at a certain time, regardless of how far I’d made it on the list, and read for an hour.

Scheduling happiness is a far more challenging task. It involves more than avoiding pitfalls, boring people, junk food, traffic jams, high bills, car repairs, rising rent, illness, lack of money, insomnia, heartbreak and stress. A daily dose of happiness cannot be swallowed like a multivitamin, taken like a medicinal shot of tequila nor added to a morning smoothie to start the day.

Happiness, as I best understand it, is the result of an uncompromised immune system of positivity. Having an uncompromised immune system of positivity doesn’t mean that opportunistic assholes and bullshit don’t cross your path. It means despite the fact that they have, you’re STILL a happy person. A positive immune response allows you to recover from exposure to negativity.

A positive response may occur automatically and naturally for some people, but not if that person is me. I’ve had plenty of negative exposure that flared my temper, where, much after the fact, I thought of many different responses that could have diffused the situation had my mind not been flooded with negative thoughts.

The instant gratification of acting out, usually in the form of very sharp words, have set me back in the long run. At one point, I had a boss who actually strategized to tick me off. He’d counted on my temper worsening the situation during his last attempt. Unfortunately for him, I’d read a wonderful book called Working with You Is Killing Me. Armed with something more productive to do, I reacted empowered to the negative situation in a positive manner. I handled the situation so well that HIS boss complimented my reaction. A few minutes later, she realized that he had lied to her about my performance.

I’ve not faced such a situation again, but I can never vanquish all negatives once and for all. Blissfulness comes and goes. When it’s gone, all I can do about it is breathe and flow. Sit in stunned silence until the initial shock propagates through my nervous system. I breathe and I think. If I’m lucky, I haven’t had my daily exercise yet. Exercising is one of the healthiest ways I boost my positivity along with my breathing. I visualize the extra blood pumping through my vessels driving out the stress.

Whereas others need caffeine to wake up, pills to sleep and whatever else in between to dull the pain, I rely on the breath. Sometimes, it needs to slow down. Other times it needs to speed up. On rare occasions, like when I’m swimming, I need to rhythmically hold it.

Full disclosure: I practice yoga four times a week. Out of all forms of exercise I’ve ever tried from various styles of dancing, martial arts, lifting weights and swimming, the profound, directed breaths I take in yoga are the most useful to combating negativity. They are the free positivity samples.

Next time someone or something stresses you out, don’t hold your breath or huff and puff in anger or count to ten. Breathe. Give your brain the oxygen it needs to think of a positive response.

 

 

 

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Life of Magic

0 me standing

There is no abracadabra

Hocus pocus

Open sesame

No unsaying things said

Nor undoing things done

 

Kissing him good-bye

As if it were hello

But it’s really good-bye

It’s really

He’ll never know

Since he’ll be long gone

Before the truth escapes

From her sensuous

Secretive mouth

 

He’ll never understand

She wasn’t batshit crazy

She was just infused

With HIS crazy sauce

 

Do all aspects of life

Boil down to

What Mom always said?

Her timeless wisdom

Withstanding technological innovation

 

Educated fools

Still as predictable

As the day they

Finally stood upright

Getting into as much trouble

As their opposable thumbs

Could grasp

 

Lackluster people

Wearing down nerves

With their dull words

Coma-inducing

Conversation

Dangerous conservative ideas

Slipping past lethally

While eyes glazed over

Mind on autopilot

What did you say?

My mind wandered off

In self-defense

Sorry

 

So

You found

THE SOLUTION

The silver bullet

To a complex problem

All that needs to happen

Is for everyone to act

And think narrowly

As you do?

 

Just say the word

Any word

Work roots

Cast a spell

It’s all fairy tales and lies

Smoke and mirrors

Optical illusions

It only becomes

THE TRUTH

If someone believes it

 

 

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100% Fundraiser 2016

1 my painting

For a third year in a row, I participated in the Carver Museum’s 100% Fundraiser. We local artists pick up art supplies from the museum, decorate the canvas however we please, then return them for a silent auction. Every time I see my submission, all I remember is how I had the flu while doing it.  I marvel it looks this good!2 me w painting For some reason, my painting, which I titled, “She Sees Her Target,” was given the lackluster title of “untitled.”3 me w paintingYet, the real point of this whole endeavor isn’t to placate my ego, but to raise money for the museum’s educational program.
4 me w paintingI’m happy to report that at least one person, my supervisor, bid on my painting; so at least my feverish efforts weren’t in vain.

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Creating Developing-Country Women’s Healthcare in Texas

Nearing college graduation, I knew two things: I didn’t want to enter graduate school nor did I want to get a “real” job; so I joined the Peace Corps as an education volunteer. That amazing experience started my teaching adventures in Tanzania, South Korea, Egypt, Mexico and Honduras. It also opened my eyes to the reality of other women’s lives.

Until I’d taught in developing countries, I’d taken my formal education, reproductive rights and means to make money all for granted. Yet, time and again, those were the three common challenges I saw host country women toil under. An obstruction or lack in any one of those areas was enough to drastically lessen  women’s autonomy, but usually those challenges existed bundled, especially for poor women.

Off and on, I spent eleven years teaching math, science and ESL outside the US prior to moving to Austin, TX in 2009. Although an American citizen from birth, I felt I’d emigrated from another planet. Austin persevered as a liberal island, surrounded by a sea of conservatism where the “separation of church and state” was not as clear as those words implied.

I marveled at how conservatives viewed big government and oversight regulation as plagues on the American way of life, except for in the case of women’s reproductive rights. In this instance, Texas state government bent over backwards, not only to shame and harass women for seeking abortions, but interfere with doctor-patient communication, demand unnecessary facility upgrades for places that provided abortions, and promote false information regarding abortions.

While Texan women’s health care centers were actively being defunded, regardless of the myriad of life-saving services they provided such as mammograms, so-called crisis pregnancy centers received increasingly more funding to continue their mission of dissuading women from seeking abortion care and disseminating medically inaccurate information.

Yet, women have agency, regardless of politics or religion. Freedom of expression guarantees we women have a right to voice not only our experience, but also the solutions we seek as we navigate through life’s challenges. We should not be regarded as perpetual dependents who need patriarchal policies, dictating morals nor blocking access to safe, legal, medical procedures.

The label “feminism” rolls in and out of favor over time. However, its ideology has had staying power. It’s generally accepted that girls should be educated, and women should have the right to vote, drive, and own property. In the US, these phenomena are no more acknowledged as “feminist” than fish acknowledge water. When one visits a country were these rights do not exist, then like a fish out of water, the gasping begins.

Unfortunately, one doesn’t need to go out of the US to discover developing-country quality women’s healthcare. Those conditions are being created in Texas, a state that has one of the largest economies nationally and some suggest would have the 12th largest GDP if it became a sovereign nation.

We must be vigilant and active to safeguard our reproductive rights as citizens of a prosperous, developed nation.

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Pagode Birthday Party

1 Devon w BD present One of my cousin’s roommates had the ultimate birthday party, mixing a crowd of capoeiristas, samba dancers and musicians, and pagode musicians and singers. I had the perfect gag gift: a partially-filled canister of pillow packs of lubricant. Every February, I get a donation of adult goodies from La Rouge for the Austin Writers Roulette. I’d given away all the vibrating cock rings and genitalia-shaped chocolates; so this was the perfect opportunity to off load the rest. Besides, since three bachelors live together, I figure, if nothing else, they could upgrade their self-serve.2 3 dreaded heads My cousin, in the middle, suggested we take this dreadlock-centric picture. How often do a group of people purposely turn their backs to the camera to show the beauty of their natural hair rather than smiling faces?3 Prince fan We were all still reeling from the untimely death of Prince. I’m glad this woman paid tribute to His Royal Badness. 4 posers Another charismatic friend, who’d just gotten off from work and had no chance to change, took the time to pose!5 Blackzilian TshirtI’d hoped the Blackzilians (Black Brazilians) group were based in Austin, but they’re located somewhere in Florida. At least this capoeira teacher lives here!
6 the band

As expected, toward the end of the night, the birthday boy gathered his pagode group for a live performance.

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Mom’s Potato Salad

1 freshly madeI signed up to bring potato salad for a cooking meetup group. I was weary about this particular dish since it was based on my mother’s recipe. My mother is a wonderful cook, which is somewhat of a disadvantage for me. In the past, I’d tried to get recipes out of her. The most successful had been for her cheesecake.
2 w art Yet, for this potato salad recipe, she kept hemming and hawing about the details. Mom was ever so flattered to be asked for her culinary expertise, but boasted, by way of apology, that she didn’t measure anything. With much prodding, she’d dribble out a few of the ingredients and their portions. Finally, my sister texted me the “recipe,” as dictated by Mom. The day before I put it together, I hard pressed Mom for some measurements.
3 at the potluckEven to my eye, the texture was off although it tasted delicious. Par for the course, any dish I labor and fret over does not get a good reception. Few people bothered to try it. Not even a shy little “taste.” Fortunately for me, I’m used to eating my culinary “near misses,” which is an upgrade to what my cooking disasters used to be: edible poison!

Next time I’m home, I’ll help Mom make potato salad and jot down notes as we go.

Mom’s Potato Salad

8 Potatoes

6 eggs

10 2/3 oz cubed sweet pickles, drained

Miracle whip, to taste

1 small jar chopped pimentos, drained

1 medium chopped white onion

2 stalks of celery

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Sugar, to taste

Wash the eggs and boil them with the potatoes for 15 minutes. Drain and cool. (If in a hurry, put potatoes in the refrigerator to chill.) Crack the eggs and place into cool water. Peel eggs and mash with a fork. Stir in the potatoes, pickles, miracle whip, pimentos, onions, celery, salt, pepper and sugar.

 

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Dr. Seuss: Unorthodox Taxidermy

1 welcome sign Although I’d attended many opening receptions at Art on 5th, I’d always appreciated their Dr. Seuss collection. Now, I had the opportunity to celebrate the man himself.2 unorthodox taxidermy This event highlighted the “taxidermy” collection, most of which has been a part of the gallery since I’d been visiting years ago.3 the grinch Even The Grinch looked pleased with how well things turned out.4 The Knotty Problem with Capitol Hill The Knotty Problem of Capitol Hill.  I liked this piece since the bureaucrats have mad math going on.5 Booby Trap Booby Trap. The simplicity of this message is genius. 6 Cuddle Fish Cuddle Fish. Even anthropomorphic animals easily conveyed universal emotion.7 racist depictionControversy was another aspect of Dr. Seuss’ work.  I’m not sure if this illustration was meant to depict the “Great White Hunter” since I was far more captivated by the this character:8 racist deptionWas this supposed to be a black man or just another anthropomorphic animal?9 taxidermy wall As many people who filed past and lingered at this “taxidermy” collection, I felt like a patient hunter, waiting to shoot–my camera, that is. I vied through the crowd, smiled and gently persuaded other people out of my shot.10 taxidermy wall Unlike real preserved animals, these fictitious animals had both charm and smiles.11 taxidermy closeup At one point, I was so taken in by them, I had to remind myself that no animals had actually been harmed.12 taxidermy closeup Yet, luring in the observer with features that seem so lifelike was definitely part of the artist’s intention.13 taxidermy closeup These animals looked as if they could have existed.14 taxidermy closeup Or they could have been some extinct predecessor that gave rise to a more biologically successful species.15 taxidermy closeup Yet, there was a distinct lack of fantastical plants and insects, two of the most biologically successful organisms.

16 taxidermy closeupPerhaps I’m reading too much into the Dr. Seuss-inspired taxidermic collection of mammals, birds and fish.

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Designer Bulletin Boards

1 materials Thanks to another niece’s birthday, I gathered supplies to make a gift. Since she’s a freshman in college, I researched some DIY ideas and chose to make designer bulletin boards. For the first time ever, I used a spray adhesive and bought four 12″ x 18″ pieces of colorful fabric for less than $2 each. To make this little project even more convenient, I bought a four-pack of 6″ x 6″ cork boards.

2 finished productsUsing my trusty piece of chalk, I outlined a simple pattern to cover the boards. Fortunately the day was warm since I wouldn’t dare use spray adhesive inside. I covered the surface of my portable metal drawer, which I keep outside, with newspaper and sprayed each board and its fabric, flipped the board and pressed down the edges of fabric as smoothly and quickly as possible. I set each one on the edge of a flower pot; so they dried in the sunlight.

They turned out beautifully. Now that she has two part-time jobs, my niece will have four stylish spots to post her schedules and all other important notes…providing she cares to be ol’ school!

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Violet Crown Hike

1 violet crown map I’d driven past this spot many times without once realizing there was a beautiful hike to be had. This part of the trail had been open since last August.2 trailhead sign How symbolic we all parked near a liquor store and walked over to the entrance since, after this hike, I was properly motivated for a drink!3 me at the river Unlike my last hike with this group, we had a bigger turn out. Plus, this hike was far more inviting.
4 graffittiThe sounds of traffic faded away after a few minutes, but we still came across signs of human activity.
5 graffitti At least the trail itself was nearly litter-free.6 graffitti What I thought was a cigarette butt, turned out to be an orange and white bike reflector that had fallen off. As challenging as that terrain was, some crazies upped the ante by biking it!

7 Mx restaurantAfterwards, a group of us went to a nearby Tex-Mex place. The service was bad, the food was pricey and mediocre, but the blueberry and pomegranate margarita hit the spot.  All in all, this place proved to me, once again, that Polvo’s is the best Tex-Mex place in Austin–STILL. Nonetheless, it served as a fueling station. I drove home, showered and took part one of my nighttime sleep.

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