Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering My Birth On Memorial Day

Memorial Day. Family get togethers, celebrating school end and the beginning of summer, pools, picnics, wafting smells off the grill, American Flags lining the streets of towns across the USA...these are a few signs that Memorial Day is in full progress.

Our family never lost a soldier on foreign soil. They all returned safely to their families. Grandpa died last year, he served as a medic in WWII. My Uncle died years ago, he had been in the Navy. My great granddaddy died when I was very young, he served in WWI, although a German he served on the Allied side. These are just a few from my family tree.

Daddy was drafted right after he married mommy. And right after he married mommy, they were pregnant with me. They left the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and moved to El Paso, Texas out to Fort Bliss. Mommy was very sick with me. Her blood is AB negative, mine is A positive...there's something deadly about that combination. Remember, I am old...we're talking about the early seventies before all these wonderful advances in medicine.

There's a handy dandy shot today of course that fixes this problem, but before now...negative blood mommies with positive blood babies was a huge dilemma. The Fort Blissian Doctors informed mommy and daddy that their child would be born with no hands, no feet and possibly be born with mental retardation. They encouraged mommy and daddy to abort and never give birth to this child.

Did I ever mention how stubborn I am? I fought that decision tooth and nail. I kicked and screamed, gave my mommy the worse morning sickness I possibly could. I jumped at the sound of my daddy's voice as he sang GI Blues to me. I sucked my thumb and nestled in. I planted my feet sternly against my mommie's back. I dug in and planned to stay.

I was born, despite what the Fort Blissian doctors suggested. And as mommy and daddy held me my very first day, they looked into the deepest bluest eyes of a most perfectly formed little girl and gave her a most fitting name. Joely Ann. Formed from my daddy, Joe, and my mommy Paula Ann.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And Then There Were None

My last day of school? Had some really tender heartbreaking moments. The boys and I watched one more movie together...Michael. You know, the one with Travolta playing an angel. Then ten minutes before ten o'clock, they were informed transport had arrived and would be taking them to their new facility. They all lined up and hugged us, their teachers for the very last time.

I walked them over to their dorms so they could collect their belongings. Little plastic bags with toiletries and a few other personal items. One of the boys hugged me tightly and whispered that he loved me, that I was like a mother to that he'd never known.

This kid always worked so hard in my class. He has a wonderful creative knack for writing and draws the most beautiful illustrations. I always try to give each kid an opportunity to use his talents in the classroom.

Then something occurred that I'd never witnessed before. The boys were handcuffed and shackled for transport. As the chains were donned, they went from being my little high school boys to hardened criminals. Some of them dropped their heads in shame as their eyes met mine. My heart broke, I'd never seen them this way before...and I couldn't help but tear up and wonder if this experience had been positive enough that it would be a catalyst for change.

I really won't ever know the answer to that question. All I can hope for is that maybe, when these fellas are grown, and have jobs and families, that maybe they'll look up their former English teacher and send me a message. Hopefully that message will inform me that they achieved the one thing I wanted for them. A life full of promise, of success, of always being in the free.

School's Out for Summer Flying To Denver

This most anticipated and longed for day has finally arrived! It's the last day of school before graduations and summer vacations. The last day to hand in assignments, find missing books, clean out your locker, check the lost and found for that jacket your mom is still pissed about you losing...the last day...ahhh.

Bittersweet feelings trickle through my mind and course throughout my being as a creek meandering along the hilly grassy slope of some quiet place. TYC will close the doors forever on the state school. Teaching at the state school for the past two years proved challenging mixed with hidden delightful surprises.

There's always a diamond in the ruff, and with these boys there were several. I taught English and Writing. They tested for me back in March. I received their results yesterday. The exit level testers...100%. The sophomores...83%. The freshmen...80%. I celebrated the victory with them, serving pizza and sodas...bidding them goodbye and continued success.

It's bittersweet also because of the bonds and friendships I formed with my fellow teachers. And am I ever so proud of Mrs. Cummings! She took and passed her EC-4 certification test! You've come a long way baby!

As soon as school is out the princess and I will be flying to Denver via Albuquerque. We'll be riding with Jesse to keep him company on his way to a relative's graduation. Annie has made it known that she is no longer speaking to Jesse because he rolled down the window when we rode through the cemetery to allow the ghosts to get her. To her chagrin, she was not gotten by ghosts. We'll see how long that no speaking to Jesse lasts when we get to the first convenience store and she's wanting beef jerky!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Thank You Note

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Subra Is Coming To Town

Who is Wilma Subra? A Louisiana chemist who doesn't mind dodging bullets to protect us and our children from the negligence of the toxic industry. Okay, I can already hear you sighing and rolling your eyes! I know we need industry, but we also need industry to use safety equipment and non toxic materials in their production and manufacturing.

Wilma helps communities fight against the abuses of chemicals used by companies. She considers it her job to inform and empower neighborhoods with the knowledge of fighting chemical threats.

Sadly, many people ignore her work and warnings...that is until someone in their own family ends up sick. That's when she'll receive a call:

"I've never agreed with you and I've been on the other side but my wife or my child is sick and I want to know what are the potential things they could have been exposed to that caused the illness."

During these moments, Wilma starts the dissemination of information. Through a simple exchange of words, she easily shifts attitudes.

There's plenty of work that needs to be done. Plenty of communities that are exposed to chemical threats. Plenty of companies who need to take responsibility and get it cleaned up.

Wilma Subra is coming to town. Oh, not my itty bitty town of Wink, but to Ft Worth on June 3rd. She will be the guest speaker for NCTCA and dialogue about Air Quality and it's health impacts on us and our children. I know as an educator and mother, this topic greatly concerns me. More details will follow concerning time and location. Go Ahead and free up June 3rd you won't want to miss this granny in action!

Leslie Johnson and Her Mississippi RAG

Growing up in the Deep South allowed me the fortuitous opportunity to be surrounded by great local artists. My granddaddy was friends with the likes of Arno Pace and Ray Stevens. Grandma and Grandpa took summer trips to Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry . It was akin to heaven for the two of them as Grandpa listened to songs that we all knew he'd be picking on his own dance floor back home.

I veered away from the blue grass and country of my granddaddy's band and found myself more in the tradition of heavier beats. I always found myself listening to more obscure non mainstream type music such as King Crimson or the Sex Pistols. But...I never deny my heritage or roots and sometimes when the mood hits me just right find my heart wanting a little of the blues and jazz.
The Mississippi Rag was the premiere authority on blues in the Delta. Leslie Johnson took that little upstart of a magazine to national and international success with readers in all 50 states and 26 foreign countries. In 2007 the Rag no longer put out 40 to 50 pages of printed sensational stories, but purely went to being an online publication. This was due to Leslie's personal illness and her eventual death to cancer.

My grandpa and grandma were huge fans of The Mississippi Rag and were faithful subscribers. I loved reading through the well done articles and was truly impressed by Leslie's journalistic writing abilities and her way of infusing the excitement of the music into each and ever article.

From start to finish, Leslie Johnson and her beloved magazine will be forever known as the absolute authority on Jazz and Blues around the country. What I admired most about Leslie was her dedication to black musicians. Other journals ignored these musicians, but Leslie never did.

One of her writers had this to say about The RAG:

"The RAG was an exemplary magazine in many ways — the tabloid format she insisted on allowed her to print many and large-scale illustrations, including rare and sometimes unique photos she got from the best collectors of this material."

Leslie left us as the single driving force that hailed early Jazz and ragtime and brought it the notoriety it most richly deserved. These are her parting words to her longtime staff of writers:

"I can't begin to tell you how much I treasure our history together. I am so proud of the quality of each RAG, and it's all due to your talent, creative spirit and willingness to explore the rich legacy of this music. Many musicians owe you thanks, too, because you have, in many cases, revived and/or enhanced their careers.

"Thank you so much. I love you all and will continue to be in touch for as long as possible."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hearing That New Sound With Outlash

I've encountered quite a bit of live music in my short existence on this revolving planet. My love affair with music all started when my grandpa purchased a piano for my sixth birthday. He played strings...fiddle, guitar, banjo...anything with strings he could play. He and his buddies put together a band and on Friday and Saturday nights they would get together and play. I loved dancing then and I adore dancing now.

That's how I judge the likability of a new band is their ability to get my feet moving. If I can't be convinced with the hard core heavy strumming of the bass or the rhythmic pounding of the percussion to gyrate to the dance floor then it is not a likable band in my opinion.

I remember back in New Orleans, I was friends with the lead singer of a band named Zodiac Jukebox. Normally, I wouldn't go for an all cover band, but these guys title said it all. Basically their repertoire of songs was so extensive that they could play any request. They had hundreds of songs memorized and if they didn't have the song all a person had to do was hum it and they could fake it. They gigged at the Cafe Brazil. I have no idea if Cafe Brazil is still around, but that place had a fantastic dance floor. I met these guys while I was performing in the musical, Hair. That was a lot of fun and maybe one day I'll write about it.

While in Denver I happened across another band. An all orginals band. That's a bit tougher to pull off. Fragile X was unique in the fact that their name was the name of a disease. I bet you're thinking that's strange, but actually the band donated 50% of all sales of merchandise to the Fragile X foundation. I worked with them for a little while booking them in the downtown area of Denver...little swanky outdoor cafes. Their music was mostly instrumental with a few vocals. Quite airy and melodic lots of different sounds from nature and various percussion items. I wonder how Fragile X is doing today.

Coming to West Texas has put me at a disadvantage. Most of the genre of live music in this area is purely country. Country is...well...isn't for me. I don't two step and never will. My feet just don't work that way. I tend to be an all over the dance floor kinda gal. Which leads me to the purpose of this post. I found a new band that I thoroughly enjoy. It's a great mix of heavy rocking covers infused with hard hitting metal grooving original music.

Hearing newly created music is a wonderful experience because you just never know when you're going to catch something spectacular. Think about it, every band on the radio started a small bar putting their music out there and somewhere at some point the creation becomes the new sound. Wouldn't be amazing to be there when it happens?

So, I guess you're pondering if I have come across that new sound. I think maybe I have. The excitement of finding Outlash and attending their shows to experience their awesome precise covers and the driving force of their originals has become something I look forward to. Best of all, the members are extremely cordial and a pleasure to be around. I especially like the drummer's girl friend. That's her in the picture giving me a most beautiful smile. That smile matches her personality. She is one of the sweetest people I know. Rock on Toni!

The Lou Gramm Concert and How I Got to be There

The strangest set of events occurred last week which led to me being in a place I wouldn't have normally found myself. I'll try to explain the best I can and you tell me if this was just a bizarre set of coincidences. Two Wednesdays ago, I was dining with a friend. During this dinner, this friend handed me a copy of a local publication called Good Times Magazine. It's a magazine that features local artists and headline concerts coming to town.
I started flipping through the magazine and briefly scanned an article about Lou Gramm. I didn't recognize the name, but as I continued reading discovered that Lou Gramm had been the vocalist for the band Foreigner. Again, I was familiar with Foreigner, but couldn't quite remember their songs...that is until I continued reading the article. "Juke Box Hero," "Double Vision," "I Want to Know What Love is" and "Cold as Ice" were a few named in the piece and that I could say..."Yeah, I remember those songs."
Then on Sunday, my friend Jesse came by to pick up his puppy. We were sitting at the kitchen table where he informed me that his cousin had acquired tickets to Lou Gramm. I related to him that I had just read an article about that concert and then showed him the magazine. He then informed me that his cousin couldn't go to the concert and wanted to know if I wanted the tickets. Weird, huh? Since I had a kid free weekend, I said sure why not.
Susan and I went to the concert at the Horseshoe Arena in Midland. We listened to the opening band, Seventh Rize. They are a local band from Odessa and performed songs of the classic rock genre. I really stopped listening to classic rock before it came to be known as classic rock. I tend to keep current with music and not stay stuck in the past, but there are quite a few people who still enjoy that genre of music and believe me...all of them were present at this concert.
Finally, after Seventh Rize, Lou Gramm and band took the stage. Hearing the old classics did bring back some memories and it was a feel good moment. Susan and I walked out onto the floor and stood behind a pair of lively ladies. These ladies were hard core Foreigner fans. They played air guitar, sang the songs to one another, head banged (if that's possible) and really enjoyed themselves. I wish I could have video taped these ladies' performance because they were a sight to see!
I would have to say that the highlight of the evening was seeing Don Mancuso, the lead guitarist, play. For an older musician, he still rocked and rocked hard. Perfect playing, with such energy and fluid of motion...he was truly incredible up there on stage and commanded a presence that I truly admired.
Now here comes the really weird part. Saturday night I attended a show in Midland to hear a band called Outlash. Of course, if you read my blog, you'll know that this is the same band that performed the charity benefit for my friend, Erika. While in attendance, I found out that a journalist from Good Times Magazine was also in write an article about Outlash! Isn't that crazy?!? We do live in a small world after all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

BP Needs A Good Ole American Revolution Butt Kicking

I am very familiar with the antics of BP Oil. There's a long list of travesties committed by this severely deficient oil company. The one closest to home for me is the Texas City Refinery explosion. Just five years ago, the BP Oil Refinery explosion claimed fifteen lives. These lives could have been saved if BP had implemented safety improvements and used proper equipment. Even after the explosion...after the investigations...after a court order to make these improvements in equipment, risk management, work culture, maintenance and inspection, and general safety...BP refused to do so. Why do you think that is?

We as a society, have created an environment, where Big Oil & Gas companies feel that they are above the law. Oh, you say..."We would never allow such a thing." Oh, but we have. By not speaking up, by not acting out, by continuing to elect the same old tired faces into congress, whose pockets are being lined by special interests groups and lobbyists...we have allowed this.

Then we have governors of certain states who also feel they are above the law. Why is it that Perry wants to sue the EPA? Have you really wondered and pondered the question? Don't you think that our leader...the one man that's supposed to be looking out for our best interests would welcome tougher regulations against an industry that's been allowed to run amuck? One would think.

What happened to BP after they decided not to implement the court ordered safety improvements? BP was fined 87 million dollars by OSHA. Have they learned their lesson? Apparently not. I briefly watched the CEO of BP spewing out all kinds of double talk. A press release had been issued that stated there was no significant difference in 1000 barrels of oil and 5000 barrels of oil spewing like toxic poo into the ocean. When he was questioned he offered this explanation: "Well, what we meant was that under the physically didn't look different."

I know, incredulous.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Needing A Rescue Beacon For The BP Spill

With her velvet hair and violet eyes she scans the room like a beacon from a lighthouse piercing the blackness. Is the signal for wayward sailors meant for a lost love? She can't place her finger on exactly what she's searching for, but only acknowledges that something, someone is strangely out of place as a missing puzzle piece that would complete the so longed for image.
Do you find yourself sometimes fantasizing about being a character in a story? Where the end is destined and there is always a middle and a beginning. How simple our lives would translate and operate if we had our very own authors prethinking and penning our every word and deed.
There are times I've wished to have never began a story or subplot, choosing to skip a chapter. Of course, you never know you should of omitted that part of the story until after you've read it, well, and's too late.
Because it's there...already engraved onto your memory, never to be forgotten. What then? You can't forget it so you must find a way to live with it. You also can not erase or change the past. There isn't a device which freely allows you to travel to a previous time in history.
I adore people who embrace tragedy with open arms instead of wallowing in the toxic waste of self pity. Strength and courage of mind and heart bottled into a course of action that flows freely like a river, just like the oil that flows freely beneath the life spring of waters in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm not quite sure where my course of action will take me, but be river will flow and you will soon know.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thinking About The HCG Diet

I haven't blogged much lately about the HCG Diet, but just recently a few people inquired about what I did to lose those thirty pounds. I came across the HCG Diet at the Body Focus Clinic in Midland. The crux of HCG is that it mimics the hormone produced during pregnancy. Supposedly, this hormone assists the body in using stored fat reserves...up to 1500 calories a day. The very strict rigid diet while taking the injections or drops, only allows you to consume 500 calories per day. I know...that's not very much. I'll have to say that I stuck with the food list, but not necessarily the amount of calories. See, while I was doing the HCG Diet which only lasts about thirty days, I continued to lift weights and do cardio. I didn't want to not continue with muscle toning and since I was participating in quite a bit of physical activity I ate more.
Of course, I've read plenty of other blogs and articles and opinions about the HCG Diet...most of them negative. There's just one problem with these blogs and articles and opinions...none of the goombahs even tried the diet and yet...bashed and trashed it. I'm not one to jump on a miracle cure, or try the greatest and newest anything. I did my research for several months before even attempting it. I read the original Diet by Dr. Simeons that was released in the 1940s. This isn't a new fad or the latest diet pill. HCG has been around for a LONG time.
The Diet requires a lot of work and watching and careful planning. In previous posts about the Diet, I've referred people to different books, one being the Sugar Busters Diet. This book is fabulous at explaining the glycemic index of foods, which I believe every person should be aware of. If you're diabetic or hypoglycemic (like myself) then this a must read. After altering the type of foods I ingested, I've only experienced five episodes of low blood sugar over the past six years.
Recently, a friend's husband, had his cholesterol tested. It identified him as having the cholesterol levels of a 300 pound man...he is very thin and possibly not even weighing in over 160 pounds...maybe. Thin doesn't necessarily mean healthy. Be careful...listen and know what your body needs.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Mysterious Case Of Free College Tuition For All Texas Kids

I've yet again come across a mysterious case. I'm not real clear about how this all came to be. I received an email telling me how lucky my kids were because they live in Texas. Oh, sure...this state is pretty amazing. I'm forever scratching my head and thinking...they did what? Anyway, I digress. I kept reading the email wondering what in the world was this person referring to? As I read, I discovered that people from around our great nation have come to the conclusion based on one little town in Texas, DISH, Texas, that is...that because of our generous gas and oil buddies...all of our children go to state college for FREE! Uh...not.
I don't know how anyone could think this? Maybe DISH has some sort of deal worked out and honestly I'm thinking that since the residents of DISH have been so used and abused and filled with toxic chemicals that the FREE TUITION is more of a payoff to keep quiet. I do know that our oil and gas buddies have made big settlement payments to keep people quiet. I bet the FREE TUITION deal over in DISH is just that...a big payoff to keep those people quiet. I guess it didn't work.

Friday, May 14, 2010

One Is Enough

This school year is coming to an end in just a couple of weeks. There's a bit of difference about leaving school for summer vacation this year...I won't be returning. Oh, it's not because I haven't loved my job and want to continue teaching here, but it's because TYC of Pyote will be closing it's doors forever.

Some people have asked how I could work in such an environment and all I can say is that a kid is a kid is a kid...and I adore kids. Instilling that little spark for the desire for more learning has been something I've enjoyed for the past six years, and the past two years have been no different.

Will all these boys change their ways and lead a productive and successful life? Probably not. Will just one? Probably so. Then that has been enough...just one. Think that's crazy? Remember the story from the bible about the shepherd who had 100 sheep and all were accounted for except for one? Do you remember what he did? He searched for that one lost sheep. Yes, even one is enough.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Saying Goodbye To Mona

Wow! This has been an exhausting week both physically and emotionally. Some may remember my posts about Jesse. He's my best friend over here in Wink and the best workout partner I've ever had. Jesse remains a positive figure in my life and has time and time again helped me sort through the jumbled mess that's in my head.

Jesse's sister, Mona, passed away last Thursday from Cancer. Cancer is nothing new for Jesse and his family. He's lost his mother, father, a brother and now two sisters to the terrible disease. Mona's Mass was Monday night and in her honor a bunch of us decided to do the drag in Kermit and Wink as a final tribute. Mona was quite the dragster back in the day so it was only fitting that we take that trip in her honor.

The funeral was held Tuesday. At graveside, as the casket was lowered in the ground, we sent almost 200 hundred balloons skyward to escort Mona's soul to the angels. Mona collected angels and believed that they held special healing and protection.

As I take my final flight, I leave the pain and sadness of this physical world. Where I'm going I shall no longer cry tears of hurt, but only tears of joy...longing once again to be reunited with the ones I left behind. You can't go with me, I must take this trip alone. Don't forget to live...remember I lived once, as well.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

You Can't Just Hope It Away

I recently read a book where the main character said this, "hope is a cruel god." It foreshadowed unknown to me at the time that the one person in her life that offered a sense of completely satisfying her desires would soon be gone...lost to her forever. Would he magically appear in the next book? I think not...he was cremated.

What diminishes hope? A lack of action. You can not hope things into existence. Only action brings about the things we are searching for in our lives. You want a closer relationship with your children? You just can't hope for that you have to do something.

A friend recently came to that conclusion, that they can no longer just hope for good things to transpire but that they have to create an environment in which the desired result occurs. I would say that this friend is on the right path.

Recently it's been in the news, this BP oil spill. A lot of my friends on the Gulf Coast haven't had to deal with the sour effects of Big Oil and Gas. They have not felt the effects of what we here in Texas have felt for decades. As that sickening spill creeps slowly to the coastline and they begin to inhale the noxious fumes and witness the devastation the realization of what has happened begins to settle in.

Questions have surfaced asking how can we have the technology to do all these great things and yet we don't have the ability to shut this down? For so long, we've been conned into thinking that Big Oil and Gas can't be touched. That's an incorrect assumption. Seeing as how they continually touch our lives by polluting our ground water, releasing toxins into the air, instilling a cancer that will literally tear our lives apart we have finally come to the awareness that this has to cease.

We can no longer just HOPE that it gets better. We can no longer just HOPE that the industry will take responsibility. We can no longer ACCEPT because it lines our pockets with good paychecks. It's time to hold the industry accountable.