Monday, November 29, 2010

BIG Writing News

So, just when I have been posting whiny rants about how my writing is going nowhere....

Today was our first day back at school after the holiday - one of those mornings that feels way too early.  This morning, while I was getting dressed, I got on the computer to check on the progress of my BoxTops submissions in my role as the BoxTops Goddess at the Lone Star Baby's school (The Boxtops are doing great, by the way).  There I found waiting for me an e-mail from the (beloved) editor of Vox Poetica saying that she nominated my poem for a Pushcart Prize!!!!!!

(You may now insert the sound of high-pitched, mega-excited squealing.  Louder.)


So.  That sort of changes the way I feel about how my writing is going, you know?  Not everyone gets Pushcart-nominated before forty, right?   I guess I'm doing something right.  (More squealing.)

I am so, very, incredibly excited.  While I know I won't win, I am determined that this is the start of a bright new future for my writing, fueled by the positive vibes of feeling so thrilled.  Yeah - actually I can write better than this, but not while I am still squealing.  

You may read the poem that Ms. Lockhart of Vox Poetica nominated here: Hearts.

(More squealing.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas House

The "tree" is up (we still use the artificial tree from my husband's childhood classroom) and the house is mostly decorated.  I might have preferred to leave the dregs of November to fall, but I know that if we don't get the tree done this weekend, we won't get it done in time for early December.  It's very nice and cozy, but please remind me to rearrange the living room this summer so that we can fit things differently next Advent Season.  My old man is playing his very eclectic mix of holiday tunes (think Ringo) and the girls are happy.  A nice Christmas House.

Wishing you and yours a cozy start to the holiday season.

Another Post About Writing

Even though I have the heebie-jeebies about how much I need to get done before Monday, I took time out today to send off two essays and five poems to potential publishers.  These were mainly things I had already written, but it still seemed like a lot of effort and time stolen.  I make so many resolutions, but you know what?  

I still haven't finished the introduction to my manuscript.  

I did work on it a little this week - a very little.  I feel so much better when I write, but it is so hard to find the time.  I'll be forty on my next birthday in September and my credits thus far are a smattering of small presses and sites.  I want to do better, but see little way to change my output in the near future.  I will try to keep plugging away slowly.  Please send encouragement often.

Time And Other Numbers

I have been teaching the Lone Star Baby to tell time this week.  Granted, one does not wish for children to learn this skill too soon, as it is good to be able to pull "bedtime" out of the ether whenever it is needed.  All the same, the Lone Star Baby is in first grade and she has been showing a marked interested in the hands of the clock lately ("what shade of eight is it?"), so now seems to be the appropriate time to learn.

She has a clock puzzle sort of thing with movable hands so we started with that.  Today we moved on to worksheets of blank clock faces.  I give her times and she draws the hands.  She is picking it up very quickly.  I need to try it the other way, where I give her the hands and she writes the time, but once she has that down, she will have the skill mastered.  

The Lone Star Baby's school hasn't mentioned telling time yet, but the Lone Star Girl was in first grade when they took it on in her math class and it wasn't pretty with her.  Tears and resistance were her usual response to homework of any kind, especially math.  The Lone Star Baby finds this sort of thing much more appealing and enjoys practicing it, though.  Yay - it's much nicer this way.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dona Park Contaminated, Press Release From CFEJ

For Immediate Release, November 17, 2010

Contact: Tammy Foster, CFEJ Dona Park
Chair: 688-3666
Suzie Canales, CFEJ: Executive Director: 334-6764

First set of soil results for Dona Park show that several properties are highly contaminated

(Corpus Christi, Texas)  Several years after abandoning the Dona Park soil contamination crisis the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) agreed to re-open the Dona Park case late last summer after meeting with members of Citizens for Environmental Justice (CFEJ). 

The Citizens for Environmental Justice (CFEJ), have raised concerns repeatedly through the years about the botched remediation efforts from the 1990s; the methodology used by the state to conduct the soil sampling and the fact that both ASARCO and the state abandoned the issue before it was ever completed.

Now the results from Phase 1 are in and the preliminary data show that several properties are contaminated with heavy metals, including lead and cadmium above the clean up levels. "These results show what we already knew, that TCEQ abandoned the remediation efforts in the 1990s, leaving us on contaminated land," said Tammy Foster, a long time Dona Park resident and Citizens for Environmental Justice Dona Park Chair. 

"We'll never know how many people have been adversely impacted through the decades from living on property highly contaminated by heavy metals," said Suzie Canales, Executive Director of CFEJ. "It's rewarding to see though that our activism resulted in the re-opening of this case and possibly helping numerous residents. So far, TCEQ has been working well with us and including us in every step. This is important in the success of this renewed effort."

February, 1994 - TCEQ (formerly Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, TNRCC) conducted soil sampling at Dona Park, Oak Park and Hillcrest. The highest levels of heavy metals (i.e. Lead, Cadmium and Zinc) were detected in the Dona Park Area. This was attributed to operations of the former zinc smelter owned by American Smelter and Refining Co. (ASARCO).
March 1, 1994 - TCEQ issues a Press Release announcing a meeting to be held at St. Theresa's Church for March 7, 1994 to discuss additional soil sampling, this time focused on the Dona Park area. TCEQ went on to say that a clean-up of properties would be conducted that had lead levels above 500 parts per million (ppm); cadmium levels above 50 ppm.
April 1994 - soil sampling was conducted of the Dona Park area by combining soil from two residential lots.
May 1994 - TCEQ issues the results of the soil results and announces that they will conduct more testing for the "hot spots."
June, 1994 - TCEQ conducts another round of soil sampling
February 6, 1995 - Eight (8) months after the June re-sampling event, the TCEQ issues a letter to residents containing the results
Subsequently, clean up was done of some of the residential properties then ASARCO filed for bankruptcy.
October and November 2003 -  ASARCO sends TCEQ letters regarding their "intentions" to clean up yards with elevated heavy metals. However, neither ASARCO nor TCEQ thoroughly followed through.

To see the data from Phase 1:


Happy Thanksgiving

I hope that you and yours have plenty to be thankful for this season.  I admit that I have felt a little bit besieged of late, but even with it getting harder every day to provide for my family's needs, we still are very blessed and have so much.

I am thankful for my children and my ability to care for them.  So thankful. 

What are you thankful for in this season of waning harvest and winter's door?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Game-Making Girlet

The Lone Star Baby got into her Bare Books box (I lurve Bare Books materials) this week and found a blank game board template.  She spent much of this morning designing a board game, complete with paper die and game pieces, with a little help from her sister.  This afternoon, we played it.  It was great fun.  I love my creative girls.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roll Beyond Coal

Join us tomorrow to roll beyond coal!  Bring bikes, tricycles, skateboards or just your feet and signs and let's roll!  Coal is not a clean energy source for our future:  we can do much better! 
Where: McCaughan Park
When: Saturday, November 20, 1:30 PM Meet at the park
2:00 PM Press Conference
2:15 PM Ride

Living La Vida Epi

Made two pharmacy trips after the Daisy meeting - one to buy new Epi-pens for the Lone Star Girl and one (after switching expiring Epi-pens for new ones in her school medicine tote and her purse) to take the old ones back to the pharmacy to be safely destroyed.  They look at me kind of funny when I do the second part, but it's the only way I can live with myself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Worst Swim Parent In World

That's me.  

I thought the Lone Star Girl had made it clear to her coach that our long-planned double-troop GS meeting Friday night would mean that she could not be in this meet unless the bus was taking them and bringing them back, but it seems this was not adequately made understood and now...

She is supposed to be there when we cannot take her on Friday and leave when we cannot get her and she got entered anyway so I told her to call the coach and say she couldn't go.  

The extremely sweet and tolerant coach was not happy and my daughter cried to be bailing on her.  I feel terrible about it, too. 

I am frankly getting pretty tired of running myself into the ground with all the things I am trying to be to all the people I am trying to be them to and still disappointing everyone. 


All right.  Enough venting.  Onward ho.

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Day School: Service, The Ten Best Ways and The Books of The Bible

On Sunday at First Day School, the Lone Star Girl was learning about the religions in our unit on faiths with an an ethic of service - Friends, Humanists and Unitarian Universalists, specifically.  We are about finished (we never finish learning about Friends, of course, but finished with the unit) except for the field trip.  We haven't, in our busy-ness, been very good about keeping up with field trips but the Girl is very interested in Unitarians so we will be sure to be better about visiting this time.

The Lone Star Baby had her lesson on the Ten Commandments and a brief lesson on the Bible and the different kinds of books in the Bible and where the stories we had been studying in the Old Testament and the New Testament were found.  It was nice - she got to use her mad reference skillz.

This pretty much finishes our use of the Godly Play materials for awhile, except for repeats, in our lessons.  We've done the parables from the New Testament, as well as the Christmas and Easter-related lessons that interest me.  We've done the Old Testament stories that I found appropriate.  There are a couple of  good parable synthesis and otherwise New Testament related lessons that the Lone Star Baby is not old enough for yet  and that I will probably introduce when she is eight or nine, if the means are still available, but that's it for now. 

I intend to repeat a lesson using the Advent materials and a lesson using the Christmas materials over the Christmas season probably,  but then we will be moving on.  We are going to spend most of 2011 on Quaker Testimonies and practices, utilizing some Faith-n-Play materials I will make as well as some other materials I am drawing in. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Gathered Meeting

Meeting is a continuing revelation to me when I go - not the sort of deep and complicated message that I read online from Friends who often seem to me to have a whole heck of a lot of time on their hands, but just a surprisingly cooling and soothing engulfment of the parched fields of my exhausting life.   

I confess to being so busy and so tired most of the time that, before the fact, I don't usually want to go to Meeting.  I welcome excuses for not having Meeting and since we are a tiny Meeting and I - due to the need to educate my children in our faith - tend to be the person these days with the most desire to continue meeting, my fellow Friends are often willing to give me excuses.    They have complications that exhaust them too - sick partners and parents and travel.  Often just my own family even shows up.

When we most of us make it there, though, I remember why it is so important that we meet together, and not just carry on our spiritual lives individually.  The whole Meeting feels it.  It matters.  Even in the short periods before and after the children and I leave to and return from First Day School, the Gathered Meeting takes its so central place in our souls and lifts us all up.

Today was especially nice, as the Lone Star Baby, for really the first time, felt very much a part of the Gathered Meeting, still and serene and silent beside me.  If the fifteen-year-old hadn't been so much more fidgety than the six-year-old, I might have forgotten all about First Day school and stayed.


Some days ago, Lone Star Pa and I found four pecans in the backyard, which troubled us owing to the Lone Star Girl's allergies.  One was on one side of the back of the yard and the other three on the other side of the back of the yard, all near the back fence.  We have no pecan trees in the backyard that we know of - we have lived here eleven years and no tree has ever dropped pecans, anyway ... but we started to worry.  There are three trees, all of the same type growing not exactly in our yard, but right up against the other side of our back fence in three places, trees that mainly hang over into our yard.  They are pretty big and a neighbor said they might be pecans which made me feel very panicky.  Still, they had these little dark maroon berries all over them and that did not feel very nut-tree to me. 

I posted a worried post on FB and a friend (thank you, Joe) suggested both that they might be soapberry trees and that I should take a piece of tree to a nearby nursery and they would tell me what it was.  I did a little more research on the ever-so-useful interwebs and it looked very much to me like soapberries were a lot bigger than the berries on these trees, but I thought they might be hackberries.  Probably the pecans were squirrel deposits.

Today I took a sprig of leaves and berries to the nursery and they said they are hackberries.  Relief!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Friday Hot Lunch

The Lone Star Baby's new school lets parents buy Friday lunches, too.  The middle schoolers have them catered in for the school as part of their curriculum - running a business.  And there are choices the  Lone Star Baby likes every Friday.  So I didn't have to pack her a lunch for tomorrow.  Joy!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Action Alert: Tell The EPA To Intervene And Stop Las Brisas

One really horrible Election Day does not mean that the work stops, people.  It means that we work harder.  

Priority One on my political action list is keeping Las Brisas away from my kids.  For the other mamas and papas and folks who care about children and want them to be able to breathe, here is this week's assignment:

Contact Gina McCarthy at the Environmental Protection Agency at and let her know your concerns about Las Brisas.  Ask the EPA to step in and protect our children from this terrible plant if the TCEQ does not.  Spread the word and get everyone you know to contact Ms. McCarthy this week.  Getting our requests is how they know what we need.  

You can do it, Texas!   Our kids (and the sick and elderly and pregnant people of Texas) need us to take action.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Autumn Books

I try to set aside a selection of children's books to take out each season with the seasonal decorations, another way for our family to celebrate the seasons together.  I was always pretty good about this for winter/Christmas books, but it took me a long time to get my act together for the other seasons.  Now the Lone Star Girl's too old to be much interested and the Lone Star Baby is getting there.  I'm still trying to read some fall books to the Lone Star Baby this season, though, and she still enjoys it some, if not to the degree that a younger child would.  These are our favorite fall books:

The Pumpkin Blanket by Deborah Turney Zagwyn 
The Apple Pip Princess by Jane Ray
Apple Picking Time by Michele Benoit Slawson
Pumpkin Fiesta by Caryn Yacowitz
Bats At The Beach by Brian Lies
Alice And Greta by Cyd Moore
Twas The Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Reading Saves Me

I have books to read at present - good books.  Enough to keep me reading with interest for a few days in the moments between the endless tasks that are mine to accomplish.  I have also learned (excitement!) that several books have recently been published that I long to read.  They are bound to be at the library soon, keeping me going for more days. 

I know I should soldier on for my kids when things are hard, and I do, really - making sure that I keep up with all of my responsibilities for their sakes.  I don't like to confess, though, that the very great privilege I have in being able to do that - a gift that I know should infuse me with joy - is often not enough to keep up my spirits when I fear a future of Republican-driven climate change, a crumbling educational system for the poor, sorrows for my loved ones, ever harder and more exhausting workdays for me etc., etc., etc. 

I feel that just the beauty and wonder of those precious children who I am so lucky to be able to care for should be enough, but somehow I still get tired and glum.  I'm ashamed of this - it is weak and selfish and ungrateful when there is so much I have for which to be grateful.    I am grateful for my children and the ability to care for them - truly and deeply - but not always joyfully.  And I wish I were.  I try to be.

It is books that keep me walking the line of sanity, though.  That distract me from my worries long enough to keep me from being enveloped by them.  Day by day, books keep me on this side of the edge.  They save me.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Bookstore Scariness

I was at the bookstore with the Lone Star Girl last night rather later than we should have been out on a school night (we had to get her allergy shot first after I picked her up after work and that takes a long time), looking to replace a lost copy of Sadako And The Thousand Paper Cranes for my classes and get birthday presents for my niece, when the Lone Star Girl showed me something very scary in the YA section.  Two whole shelving units in the YA section are now labeled "Teen Paranormal Romance".  I kid you not.  We backed away slowly.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Unhappy Morning

Real bad - that's how it went.  We lost our Congressman, our state representatives (the best state representatives anyone ever had - we'll miss you so) and almost all of our local positions got filled up with big-money-over-people people.  

Perry got re-elected along with a bunch of corporate tools at the state-level - real bad.  

We tried to get people in office who care about our children and our air and water, but all that unrestricted (thank you, Supreme Court) corporate money got us.  We are going to have to come up with some very creative ways to help regular people beat that kind of money.

Things are going to be very hard, as if they haven't been hard enough, over the next few years.  I fear for the safety of our environment and our children.  We must work very hard to protect them from the minions of Republicorp.

Let's take a deep breath and get at it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Happy Election Day!

Today is the day!  To all those who have not yet voted, please get to your precinct's polling place before 7pm and vote today.  Our great state and our great democracy depend on the informed votes of the citizenry.  It's all on us.