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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Harvest Moon Festival

I've been pretty cooped up lately, but this last Saturday I had the opportunity to go to Granbury's Harvest Moon Festival with my new gal pal Robin. Before she told me, I didn't even know Granbury did this, though they have been for decades. So we headed out there around mid-day (it's about a half an hour drive) and spent the whole day.

The weather was gorgeous mid-80s, so it was warm but not hot. The town square in Granbury is adorable, lots of little boutiques and shops. I expected parking to be difficult, but we found a space easily. It was a really lovely day, the best I've had in a long time, in fact.


We hit the town square boutiques first thing. Some of them are adorable and affordable, others are pretty expensive--VERY pretty expensive. I browsed around and came away with only two things the whole day. A pair of earrings, and this cute little bell skeleton that I got at the shop in a historic B&B on the square...


The variety of things available was massive, everything between trinkets and jewelry, to clothing and expensive handbags, to paintings and artwork.

After that, we hit the festival and browsed around the booths. Lots of artists and local artisans. Food, woodcraft, photographers and painters, a street musician playing flutes, that sort of thing. Once we'd done that, we had lunch at Babe's Chicken Dinner House. A really neat restaurant where you pick the meat and they bring you all the sides of the day (mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, and biscuits were what they were serving that afternoon). The food was awesome, the atmosphere was awesome...


Lunch was so good that I plan to take Matt there soon (as soon as I can convince him to make the short drive). After that, completely stuffed, we went over to the small theater on the square that does live music shows, Granbury Live. Our luck, they were having a show and the groups that had booked the seats had two no-shows. So for $25 each, we saw a live classic country show. Well worth the money for two hours of entertainment and especially good after having eaten so much.

When the show was over, we hit the booths again. Had some terrible $5 per cup lemonade and got some homemade fudge for Matt--he loves it. Then headed out to see Lake Granbury's beach--the water is 18 feet low, so the pier out there is hovering well above the ground. The lake was gorgeous, though, even low.


We had plans to go to the balloon festival, we even went out to the Granbury airport, but when we got there it was really windy and the balloons weren't even out yet. So, rather than waiting, we headed home. It was getting late anyway and I don't see well in the dark.

On Sunday, I felt like I'd walked miles, and maybe I did. I also felt pretty happy for the first time in a while. I really needed it, especially after the week I had prior. They're doing a walk around the square for Halloween (though we'll skip that since Matt hurt his foot, a story for another time). They also do a Christmas festival in December, which I'm hoping to get to. I only wish I'd learned about these events years ago!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

On Pick-Up Trucks & Personal Growth

I was on my way to get my haircut today, sitting beside a duly pick-up truck and behind another at a red light. They were so loud, one taking up his share of both lanes, that I could hear them inside the car with the radio on and windows up. My usual angry ire at the irresponsibility of people who drive trucks crept up, my inner dialogue grumbling about the environment and how these people think the road belongs solely to them.

This isn't a new problem, mind you. I have a serious problem with people who buy large pick-up trucks when they don't need them. Meaning, they're not using them as farm vehicles, not towing anything, clearly not a work truck. People who buy the biggest most irresponsible vehicles they can afford--or in the case of this tiny college town, their daddy's can afford--to inflate their egos. They make me mad.

I care about the environment, but more than that I care about the use of resources. These monsters use more resources than do small trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and coupes. But, honestly, my biggest problem comes down to courtesy. If your vehicle is so big you don't fit on the road or in parking spaces, that doesn't give you the right to take up more than your share of public space. But, the people who drive these vehicles (at least here in Texas) do. Driving a larger vehicle doesn't give you the right to bully you way into the other lane, or cut people off, or pull out into traffic where you don't belong or shouldn't be.

I have a big ol' problem with trucks. So much so that I feel like people who want one should have to show need (yes, I'm aware that will never ever happen).

Then something struck me and I literally laughed out loud like a maniac--thank God I was alone. The guy in the pickup beside me grinned at me and winked (he actually winked at me like a creeper) and I was dragged back to a time when I was less socially and environmentally conscious, when I was much more selfish. I actually used to find men who drove these irresponsible monsters attractive. As a matter of fact, I was more likely to find a man attractive if he drove a pick-up.

At 18, when I was young and lacked any reasonable common sense, I worked with a man who drove a big blue Chevy pick-up. One of the things I found attractive about him was that he drove this blue truck and that he was so protective of it--in the several years we were acquainted, he actually let me drive it once. It was absolutely absurd and when I think back now I laugh, but not because it's funny. Because I feel like I was as much a jerk about these stupid trucks as the guys around town who take up two spaces at Wal-Mart and ding your car doors with theirs because they're careless.

It's pretty amazing how these sorts of things can creep up on you. How one little thing--a sight, a scent--can drag you back (sometimes mentally kicking and screaming). It's also pretty humbling when it happens, at least to me, to see how far I've come since then. In this case it's the idea that I've grown, or at least changed, as a person. In the 18 years since I met the guy with the blue Chevy, I've become less insensitive, less selfish, and more aware of those who are. Change happens so gradually that sometimes it takes something silly like this to make you see it.

Does that mean I don't like all people who drive trucks? Not necessarily--I know plenty of people who drive pick-ups, but most of them need them for work or towing. I'd say, instead, that I'm less inclined to be friendly with people who're careless enough to need one of these ego-inflating, resource-guzzling hunks of glass and steel. At least I know now why I feel the way I do--the environment, resources, noise, and a lack of regard for publicly shared spaces. Years ago, when I was attracted to these things, there was no quantifiable reason. If nothing else, that's growth.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Something... Maybe?

Pardon the long pause and the somewhat strange reappearance. I thought I'd share something I found on my computer tonight. A start I made a long time ago. This is all there is of it--although there is another, different-ish sort of piece of this story still floating around somewhere, I think. I'm currently trying to decide if I should pursue this for NaNoWriMo this year. I have another idea, but I'm somewhat surprised to find I like this scrap of prose as much as I do. It's rough, no editing.

Here it is, before I change my mind...

The bells tolled.  A cycle had passed.  The inhabitants of Middle Sunroen, Mainland, slid the caramel glass markers down their wooden frames.  Three more cycles would bring the light--seven cycles of bright daylight and then there would be darkness again.  The darkness would bring sixty cycles of night filled with pitch, hungry shadows. 

The bell tower, it's length towering up into the starless black eternity above, rose at intervals with oil lanterns that did nothing to penetrate the darkness. Every house stood aglow from within. Total darkness was heresy.  The church had decreed that to invite darkness was to consort with the spirits of the nether--blasphemy punishable by death. No other punishment was sufficient. It was heresy not to fear what you couldn't see. In Middle Sunroen, it was prudent to fear those things.  The rule of law, the church's rule, was absolute.

Sephoranie slid her fingers under the glass window's frame and pushed up. Shadows spilled inside, palpable, an unliving soup of sickening darkness. The small girl shivered, pulled her heavy woolen wrap around her shaking shoulders, and lowered herself out the window onto the moist street.  The candles on the wooden bedside-table did nothing to light the alleyway where the scuffling of tiny feet pierced the ever-night. Davyn would be waiting, to leave him alone in the night because she was afraid to venture out was nothing short of cowardice. They took an immeasurable risk in defying the precepts.

The window slid back into place with an audible click and she turned to move away down the alley way toward the street. It had only been just two years since she had turned eighteen, just legally old enough to go out alone. Still, her mother would not allow it. There had never been a reason beyond caution. What her mother didn't know wouldn't hurt her. Time was running out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ugh...

Well, what a crap month (or two). I mean, really crap. So, so crap. It feels like so many things went wrong, like I quit so many things I've started. And this post might be vague in places, because some of them I just don't want to talk about. Ironic, considering a blog is a place to, um, talk about things. But, some things I just... can't.

So early in July, my mom was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. Breast cancer. To say I was scared, or that I cried and worried, would be understatements. I was more scared than I had ever been about anything. Her doctors said it was small, so she had a lumpectomy on July 23rd (my birthday). They took the tumor and several lymph nodes. Thankfully, the labs came back clean. It hadn't spread to her lymph nodes. No more cancer. But, she has to have radiation five days a week for four weeks, starting in September.

Then, last week, my dad's brother, Rick, died. He was only 66... five years older than my dad. He had been having chest pains, but the urgent care said it was just his COPD and sent him home. He died of a massive heart attack the next day. There won't be a funeral, he didn't want one. His wife is absolutely devastated, as is his daughter who he only just met a few years ago. My mom says she's going to make my dad have a physical.

So yeah, like I said, crap month. For me personally, it's been a month for false starts and endings... lots of endings. I quit pretty much everything I've started in the last few years, with the exception of writing and blogging. I would elaborate, but I just can't right now. I'm feeling pretty emotional. Thank the good lord I have therapy on Friday. I need it this week.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On (Not) Pursuing a Ph.D...

I have some news to share that I've been meaning to write about for a while. I wanted to wait until things were settled and they just about are now. You know how I said, in February, that was going to attend TWU? Well, I've decided that I'm not going to pursue my Ph.D after all. There're a lot of reasons, which I intend to share, but mostly it comes down to my comfort level with the idea and, moreso, with the idea becoming a reality.

So, after being accepted and feeling that initial rush of excitement, my emotions were all over the place. I couldn't think about it without feeling like I was drowning. Mostly, I chalked it up to being overwhelmed with the idea of pursuing a terminal degree and all that came with it. Oral comps? Written? A doctoral dissertation? A mountain of classwork? It all seemed like a lot... too much, in fact. But, I did the master's degree and everyone had said the doctorate is much the same process with the volume turned up. I could deal with that, even enjoy it.

Then Matt got a promotion. Let me say, right now, before this goes any further that I am so proud of him. Proud doesn't even seem like the right word. I'm ecstatic! He deserves this, he's earned it, and it's what I want for him. But, it came with a little caveat. We have to move, at some point, to another state. Since the Ph.D program I was accepted to isn't an online program that was going to be a problem. I tried not to think too much about it and when that failed I worried myself sick, but couldn't come to any solution.

Also, I don't have enough financial aid to finish it. I went to undergrad for so long, and went to graduate school, and I owe a lot of loan money. The government will only give you a certain amount before it stops forking over loans for education. I could go two semesters, maybe three, before I was going to have to figure out how to pay for it. The thing is, I don't want to take any more loans. I don't want to run deeper in debt to financial aid. Part of my trepidation about going seemed to be that I was about to go deeper in debt to pay for it.

And, however ridiculous this is, I realized I was only doing it to satisfy the sense of intense competition that has managed to grow between a friend and me over the last few years. It's unhealthy and I want it to stop, but I felt like if my friends were going, and I didn't, then I wouldn't matter anymore. That they would be better than me. That's what I told myself, somewhere in my subconscious, and no matter how hard my conscious mind tried to deny it, it never could. I knew it was happening, I just couldn't see how to stop it.

So, I talked to a friend about it, I talk about it with my mom, with Matt, and then finally with my therapist (as I was just beginning therapy). It wasn't until I mentioned it to my therapist, putting it all out there about my anxiety and the fact that we were going to have to move, that I realized the solution was so simple. I realized that, with all things being what they are, trying to go for a semester or two until we have to pack up and move was a waste of time, nerves, and financial aid money that I really don't have to spend. It was also my chance to break this cycle of competition that always has a way of making me feel less than. A cycle that always ends up making me feel like I didn't matter anyway.

This is when I decided I couldn't do it. That I wouldn't do it. However embarrassing it might be to tell people that I've changed my mind, that I was doing it for the wrong reasons, it would spare my sanity to finally do the thing I needed to do. I can't pursue a Ph.D to satisfy others, that makes no sense. So, now I'm trying not to worry that I'm letting anyone down. I'm trying not to worry that my professors who wrote me letters of recommendation won't be disappointed--or upset that they've wasted their time with me. I'm trying not to be concerned about how my FIL will react when he hears, because I have a feeling he's going to be unhappy.

But here's the thing. The state of academia is pretty terrible, too. I was going to pursue the Ph.D to increase my opportunities to teach, but that's foolish. A huge majority of adjuncts, which is what I am right now, have Ph.Ds. Maybe they make more money than me, but not much more. And, however much I enjoy it, I don't know that I want to get an education that will seal me up in academia--I don't think I want to teach forever.

What do you do with a Ph.D in Rhetoric other than to teach? Nothing I can think of and the idea that I was about to be even more over-educated contributed to the factors making me feel sick. It was part of that feeling of suffocation I had every time I thought about it. I don't want to be an adjunct forever, it's a thankless job where I don't know, from semester to semester, how many classes I'll have... or if I'll have any at all. It pays in pennies and the perception of fulfillment, neither of which will make my car payment... but that's really a very long discussion for another time. One I could say a lot about, but probably shouldn't right now.

The point is, there're too many factors playing against me here. So, I'm not going to go and, despite the idea that I should be feeling disappointed or disillusioned, all I can manage to feel is relieved. As my friends prepare to attend in August, and prepare to work out there teaching as part of an assistantship, I'm doing something else with myself and feeling pretty good about my ability to stop the cycle of competition and do something for myself. Even if, in this case, doing something actually means not doing it.