New Enterprises

Hello, readers (if I have any left),

I do realize that my readership has dwindled to almost nobody due: 1) in part to the fact that my own energy / creativity / ideas for posts here had, by late 2012, sputtered out, and 2) in part to my having abandoned the blog for a year or more.

I still want to keep this blog open, but really only as my own outlet, which is why I started it in the first place. It’s my journal and I may still use it in that way from time to time. But at this point in my life there is little hope that I will have the time or energy to post regularly. This is because my energies are currently being channelled in so many other directions, the main one being my new-ish career.

I started teaching settlement English in 2010. Now that I have a few years experience under my belt, I’m beginning to give workshops to other teachers. I’m starting my own professional website. I’m thinking of learning to give webinars. I have presented at our annual provincial conference and now need to submit an article to our professional journal in collaboration with my conference co-facilitator. All of that involves a great deal of study, concentration, and TIME.

I steal these pockets of time before and after the loads of lesson planning I do for my two daily classes.

Whew!

So if this blog languishes for a few months or years, that’s why.

I’m blossoming as a teacher.

And that’s a good thing.

The Joy of It

Perhaps the good mojo from the morning class spilled over to my afternoon class. These guys are learning the alphabet, how to read and write in English, and numeracy. For some, it is their first time to be literate in any language.

We’ve begun a requested unit on shopping by learning the Canadian monetary units along with words like loonie, toonie, total, change, and tax. The former instructor for this group used to spend forever trying to teach them to add, subtract, multiply and divide columns of numbers. It was excruciating. Some already knew how to figure in their heads or on fingers, so why put them through learning another way of doing it, I thought. Other students never did catch on, so the exercise seemed to me only to serve to make them feel stupid.

Me? I went to the dollar store and bought six calculators.

We only learned 3 operations on the calculators: adding (for multiple items in the shopping cart); multiplication (subtotal X 1.13 for the grand total including HST); and subtraction to anticipate how much change we should receive.

It was amazing watching them touch calculators for the first time, seeing their eyes light up at the miracle of it. The one student who has an advanced education started teaching them all how to do it using their common language. Seeing how smitten they were with the little machines, I threw one of the calculators into the prize bag for Friday’s BINGO game.

The whole week seemed to go like that, with one after another activity proving to be a hit with them. We practiced simple dialogues like:

A: Excuse me, how much is this?

B: $X

A: Okay. I’ll take it. Here you are.

B: Your change and your receipt.

A: Thank you.

B: Bye.

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Getting it Right

In the morning class, I have responded to the students’ request to revisit health language. We have already spent a few months mastering parts of the body–external and internal. We learned major illnesses, names of specialists, how to describe pain and symptoms, and how to read pharmaceutical labels. Now, however, they want to go deeper. Specifically, they want to be able to understand and express themselves with medical specialists, understand why tests are ordered, etc.

Mind you, this is the healthiest group of older people I’ve ever met. In their 70s and 80s, they walk and bike to school, teach Tai Chi, take walks outside at break time, and are forever sipping tisanes from repurposed jam jars containing pirella, honeysuckle, goji berries, or whatever home remedy is called upon for the current issue. They have herbal answers to everything from insomnia to stiff muscles. Some simply sip for antioxidants and longevity.

So we are embarking on part two of health and medical language by tackling the body systems. Somehow I bumbled into the genius idea of having them get into teams of three to create posters of the body systems. It took them two days to sketch out, colour and label their creations. We then did “each one teach one,” whereby one member of each team stays with their poster to teach it while other students take a tour from poster to poster, listening to their classmates’ spiels. Then I ring the bell and another team member stays with the poster to teach while the previous teaching teammate gets to travel around the room learning about each of the other teams’ posters.

When all was said and done, they requested that I teach this way much more often. They say that after investing all that time sketching and labelling then peer teaching, they cannot possibly ever forget these words and concepts.

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On a related note, this weekend my students and I will bond even further when many of us attend WIFF together to see Coming Home, a film about the experience of the Cultural Revolution of which they are all survivors.

Grace in Small Things 255

Porter serves passengers Martin’s Family Fruit Farms’s apple chips! On Lobsinger Line near Waterloo, that’s not far from the area where I was team captain for an Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas square. I’ve probably peered at Eastern Kingbirds perched in those apple trees. I thanked the airline for supporting local farmers.

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A good breakfast that kept me fuelled for hours.

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As if I needed another sign,…as if I were not already walking on clouds from other signals that the Universe was supporting me, I descended the escalator of the convention centre to see my personal totem welcoming me to the floor on which I would be presenting later that day.

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I felt the Universe whispering, “This is where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing.”

A Sign

Pink.

My living room was awash in pink at 7:53 this morning as I gathered up umbrella and book bag to leave for work.

I stepped out onto the damp deck, yellow, rust and peachy maple leaves plastered to its slippery surface. The air was too warm. A weird cloud hovered close on the horizon–a luminescent, feather-edged cross between cloud and fog that cast a rosy glow onto everything. Eerie.

I stood there breathing in the damp, oddly mild air for a moment, then turned to walk down the lower flight of wooden steps.

Dominating the other horizon was the maple tree that towers over the property. Each branch, I noticed for the first time, was greenish yellow at the base, turning peach then fiery orange toward the ends, with deep cherry at the very tips of each leaf. I stood and stared, breathless. Fire tree.

I thought to snap a quick pic with my phone but stopped myself. Just be in the moment, Kel. Just be here now. Anyway, you’ll never capture the magic.

And then came the topper: just to my right was a pale sliver of rainbow arcing through the powdery sky.

Are you trying to tell me something? I said, tilting my gaze skyward. I was tempted to seize it as a sign for me to relax and stop worrying about a certain something. I smiled then, and all anxiety I’d been carrying around for the past days slipped away.

Later in the morning, I found a magic marker rendition of a sunrise lying on the keyboard of my classroom computer.

Hmmm. Odd, I thought. There is an after-school program whose participants sometimes leave artwork in the room. I set the picture aside.

At break time, my colleague L asked me if I’d found the picture.

“What? You put that there?”

“Yes,” she said. “My daughter has a new habit of sketching the sunrise every morning when she wakes up. As soon as I looked at this morning’s drawing, I somehow thought: Kelly. I knew it was for you.”

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GiST 254

on another bravery front, I’m presenting in Toronto next week

good home-cooked food

watching someone–over a period of weeks–go from the painstaking process of recognizing A, B, C to reading her first full sentence just rocks my world

the flyswatter game gets my class laughing so hard we cry

because a student from another class got the room numbers confused, my group was invited to a Thanksgiving potluck tomorrow

Spark!

So the morning class, inspired by Doors Open Windsor, voted to spend a week learning about the main architectural styles to be found in the downtown core so that we might go on a little walk to see examples of those styles. Studying the architecture would also give us an appreciation for the heritage homes all around us.

This is only happening because this particular group of students is not like any other in the school or in this city, for that matter. Firstly, all but two of them are from the same country. Of those, they all have more schooling than I do. They know what it is to have the freedom to learn about western culture and the freedom of intellectual pursuit wrested from them, and they very much value having it back again.

As soon as I started working on the materials for the week’s classes, I got a huge jolt of creative energy. This is so blooming fun for me!

Tuesday we were completely bogged down in learning so many new terms and names of styles: American Foursquare, Classical Revival, Dutch Colonial, Romanesque, Italianate, Victorian, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Craftsman, dormer, column, balcony, lacy detail, gable, vernacular, etc. But after that initial investment of serious cramming, we can just enjoy using the new language.

I started this morning with a little matching quiz whereby they had to label eight black and white sketches of houses. They did great! Then they had to fill in the blanks on sentences such as “House #1 is a ______. I can tell by the ____, _____ and _____.” Which would be answered with “House #1 is a Queen Anne. I can tell by the wrap-around porch, dominant front gable and tower.” They really did an awesome job and didn’t miss anything! They now know a Craftsman Bungalow from an American Foursquare, no two ways about it.

Next we got to turn all that vocabulary into chatting via this dialogue:

A: Would you rather live in an older home or a modern one?

B: I’d rather live in a/an ________ one.

A: Which style of older home is your favourite?

B: I like _____ .

A: Which style do you hope to see on our walk tomorrow?

B: I hope we see a ________ style home.

As they milled about asking each other these three questions and filling in their classmates’ answers on the graphic organizer I’d provided, the energy in the room was absolutely electric. I’ve almost never seen them so engaged. Who knew?

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GiST 253

I had a helpful session with my new Jungian analyst today. We are exploring both the Bluebeard folktale and the predator archetype as well as my pattern of bailing out of relationships before the 8-year mark. My friend Suzanne conceded that I have gotten into some very challenging relationships. So it might not be such a wonder that I finally came to my senses and left them. But I have also exited some very good ones. So there’s that.

Work? I have a blast there. My morning class is a special demographic. For one, they all have advanced degrees. There are a couple of engineering profs, two physicians, a chemistry prof, …the list goes on. They all have at least two years more university than I do, some more. Because of their age, it’s not part of the agenda to get them ready for the workforce. We can focus on their goal of social integration, on staying sharp-witted and healthy into their 80s and 90s. I’m hoping for two really fun field trips soon: urban foraging and a walk to check out some of the houses on the heritage registry near the school. I can’t believe they are actually keen to learn about the latter, as it’s a hobby of mine! I am so eager to put together a little lesson on the seven to ten most common architectural styles in the downtown core and how to recognize each. Today I told them what clinker bricks are. FUN!!!

In my afternoon class, I am just blessed and privileged to be part of the process of teaching someone to read print for the first time. Some students are literate in their first language, but not all are. Seeing someone go from learning to hold a pencil to filling out forms with ease is nothing short of a miracle in my eyes. It may take a year or more, but wow…when they do say goodbye to my classroom, that’s such a triumphant day.

Well, a certain someone is scheduled to come through the door soon, so I’ll shut down the machines and be present.

A Spacious Morning

I just feel like checking in this morning; there’s no particular topic.

On the Craftsmen Era woodblock prints wall calendar in the kitchen, a birding field trip is pencilled in for this morning. I didn’t go. The notion of extra sleep called to me more loudly than the idea of being out in the fresh air with my birder tribe, though I would not have regretted that choice, either.

Nevertheless.

A long block of quiet time alone in this house, especially in the early morning, feeds my soul in an inexplicable way. I love the slow rituals of making coffee or tea, drawing a bubble bath (citrus sage), and taking my first peek out the window to see what wildlife is stirring. If I pad out onto the deck in bare feet, mallards will look my way. Some are still in the yard, having supped on cracked corn, wheat and millet last evening and then slept there.

The squirrels want my attention when the supply of peanuts tossed to them is gone. One cheeky fellow figured out today how to cross the roof to the other side of the house, drop onto the air conditioner, and stare at me from the west window where a row of African Violets enjoys filtered sunlight. I call him Starbuck because his coat is caramel-latte with dark chocolate around the muzzle. Beautiful animal.

Squirrel

smart squirrel found the back window

Now I have time to thoughtfully make out a ‘to do’ list and make my way through it as the sun crosses the sky. I notice small things that need doing as I putter about the apartment. I wipe the stove top, take out trash, bring in the hummingbird feeder for the winter. The same timer setting works for the toilet cleaner as for how long I will sit on the meditation cushion to start my day.

Since bringing in most of the container garden from the deck to overwinter in the house, this is my jungly view from where I like to sit.

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Solitute is a sweet commodity.

Thrift Store Haul

All around me now I see the squirrels madly dashing in front of cars, their little brains preoccupied with stashing food for the coming cold. Me? I get this unmistakable yearning to put away sleeveless tops and dig out my flannel and tights. I almost can’t stop myself; I have to play with texture and rich fall colours in my closet, sew that one item I can’t find anywhere–even on Etsy, mix and match what I already have, and hit thrift stores.

The ritual soothes me. I fill a bag for the charity box with things I thought I would wear but haven’t touched in over a year, maybe two. I make room for new-to-me previously loved garments.

Yesterday was my marathon Value Village run. I came home with three dresses/tunics, three tops and two pairs of shoes. It was my first time to overcome a fear of germs in used shoes, and I’m taking steps to eradicate any viruses or fungi in said footwear before I place my socked feet in them.

Here are some shots of my haul.

two dresses and a PURE Alfred Sung linen pullover tunic

two dresses and a PURE Alfred Sung linen pullover tunic

Here is one of the 3 tops I was drawn to. All three are long-sleeved cotton, like this one. Colours: black, warm grey-brown, cool grey.

And here are the shoes:

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Merrell Mary Janes with sport soles

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Naturalizer loafers

Yes, there seems to be a predominance of warm and cool greys, black and other neutrals. (Grey is one of my best colours, just so you know.) And I’m currently in the mood for tunics, jumpers and dresses that will go nicely with brightly coloured tights. What a fun look, especially with a pair of sport Mary Janes, which are cute enough for skirts and dresses while comfy enough to teach in all day. (I am not a teacher who sits during the lesson. I sprint up and down one flight of stairs several times daily.)

Also I have a renewed appetite for flowing BoHo dresses. I LOVE to feel comfortable at work, able to move freely in my clothes whether I’m bending over to help a student or reaching to write something at the top of the board.

I was just amazed to find these shoes at the thrift store since I have spent the past four months searching for a sport Mary Jane that I like, to no avail. I also needed a new pair of loafers since I could not get stains out of my old ones–light taupe suede jungle moccasins. I should have started at the thrift store instead of wasting that hour and a half at the mall!

I so enjoy the slow, methodical process of all the steps that come next with these acquisitions: washing, ironing, taking inventory of my new fall closet. I rub mink oil into the leather shoes then waterproof them.

I love laying the “new” clothes out to see what I have that goes with them. This also tells me if I have the makings of a fab outfit minus one pair of tights or one particular colour of scarf. Another fun hunt is then on!

I imagine the black linen tunic (which has deep pockets, BTW) with a bright tee and matching tights, black clogs OR with a grey long-sleeved, close-fitting cotton top and my grey and black polka dotted tights. Hee hee. I love whimsy.

Does the change of seasons cause any similar instincts to awaken in you?

Clean

Last night the couple who own this duplex were frantically cleaning, painting and repairing the lower unit because they found a tenant much quicker than they’d anticipated, and he wanted to move right in. After listening to them toil for hours on end down there, I invited them up for a snack. She accepted while he mowed the lawn, his last chore of the night.

My last neighbour was not a bad neighbour by any stretch of the imagination, but she wasn’t as into keeping the property looking nice as I am. We shared two areas: a storage shed and the laundry room. It took a lot of reminding and finally going through the landlord before she finally cleared out enough junk for me to use my 50% of the shed. Even after taking those steps, I never did get half of the laundry room and settled for a foot of shelf space for my detergent. The rest of the room was cluttered up with the overflow of stuff that wouldn’t fit in her living space.

As soon as I learned that she was leaving, I took down the ratty pieces of frayed burgundy fabric stretched across the laundry room windows to serve as curtains. I replaced them with little cafe curtains in a cheery yellow and white gingham. They took me about an hour to make.

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sewing the tabs on the cafe curtains

I had hoped for a window of time before the new tenant arrived during which I could throw out some of the junk Tammy (not her real name) left in the laundry room and around the property. But when the U-Haul pulled up this morning, I realized I hadn’t moved quickly enough. Fortunately, the new neighbour, whom I’ll call Bill, has a much greater spirit of cooperation than “Tammy” did. (I had given her my email address three times, but she never reciprocated.) My new neighbour suggested right away that we all exchange contact info since we have shared areas.

I interrupted his moving-in process long enough to tell him what I wanted to do and he had no problem with it at all. In fact his movers even suggested that I didn’t need to cart large metal items to the dump; if I just put them at the curb, they would disappear quickly. I’m happy to report that the rusty bed frame, patio umbrella and stand, straightened out coat hangers, length of industrial-sized chain and a number of other odd items that had been left to rust under her part of the deck did indeed all disappear within hours of being piled up by the street.

I then either appropriated or trashed the non-metal junk she left to clutter up the laundry room and shed. I wiped down the shelves and applied contact paper. I rearranged things so that all the half-used cans of paint that the landlord might need for touchups now fit together on two shelves, freeing up all sorts of space for laundry items. It looks SO MUCH BETTER NOW!

Not only that, but during discussion of where to put our bikes in order to give him his half of the shed, Bill said, “I don’t need outdoor storage.” I take that to mean he’s NOT a clutterbug. Yay!

I feel better now.

Cover the Clutter

I don’t like living with clutter.

I like the way an uncluttered environment helps me feel calmer.

So this week I decided to cover the cheap wire stand that the screen sits on. We watch DVDs on this thing. I think it also can function as a TV if you have satellite or cable or one of those services that I have never had hooked up.

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I went to Fabricland and finally decided on black as the colour that would be most neutral and unnoticeable. Found some black denim / twill that wasn’t too pricey. I wanted the stand to be a non-entity, not getting any attention. I sort of messed this up, but you can’t see the mistake from here so I’m not going to tell you what it is. It was my first time to try to make something without a pattern.

The flap in front opens so you can have access to the shelves. Now I need to paint those two pieces of wood black so that they blend in.

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Turquoise and Orange

I was surfing around Pinterest boards of those I follow the other night and was struck by Patti Digh’s love of the colours turquoise and orange paired (on her OFFICE board, if you’re interested). “Hmmm,” I thought. “I never would have thought to put those two colours together.”

Then when I got up to get something from the kitchen, I realized that I already have those colours together in MANY items around my place, especially if you include: the many cousins of turquoise, such as teal, seafoam green, robin’s egg blue and aquamarine; and the variations on the orange theme, such as tangerine, melon, peach and apricot.

Here they are together. I plan to add a third even smaller dragonfly below these two pieces, this time combining turquoise and orange in order to tie the first two pieces together. I could also take out the top painting and add some turquoise to it using coloured pencils. It’s my own work, so I’m allowed to do that.

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The bedroom is aquamarine, mostly. And there are punches of orange in the kitchen.

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I noticed shades of the two colours in this print I got off Etsy.

IMG_4780I spied the combo again in this shopping bag and a few more items around the house.

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There’s a lot more than two colours here, I realize.

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Look around where you live. Which colours pop up again and again in the things you collect around you?

 

Women Who Run

with the Wolves.

That’s the book my new Jungian analyst recommended I get hold of in order to re-read the Bluebeard story. Soon. Of course I’ve read that book.

“At least once,” I told him.

But that was a looooong time ago.

I am currently under the influence of alcohol.  

I want my old blog back. I need this. I am not a private person. I think I need a place where I can process what I’m going through. A place where I can get feedback from other humans. I don’t know how to negotiate this with my very private partner. Perhaps if I agree never to bring the relationship into the public sphere. Maybe if I never mention HIM. (???)

It is possible, I think, to use alcohol consciously. I’m thinking of taking some with me to my next analysis session. Thinking of asking Paul, “May I drink, Sir, using the alcohol as a sort of truth serum?”

In the movie The Good Shepherd, they used LSD to that end.

I’m back.

From Two Blogs to One

I reached a decision last night while having drinks downtown with my coworkers and supervisor.  I am finding it stressful to try to maintain two blogs (plus the two professional ones–one for each of my ESL classes).  But I am having fun with Border Cities Blooming.  So I’m putting this one to bed, at least for the foreseeable future.  I won’t take it down since people still refer to old posts, such as the recipe for Zereshk Polo, and how to reach Anatole Rybas.

The other blog is less personal and certainly does have a culinary focus, but it is also where I will document trips we take, museums and festivals we attend, movies I feel like reviewing and my habit of counting my blessings daily.  I would love to see you over there if the idea of following a slightly less personal blog and those topics interests you.  If not, I would welcome continuing my friendship with you via email.  If you do not already have my email and want it, leave a comment on this post and I will reply.

Cheers!

That Being Said…

I am struggling. I suspect this is one of those times when I should do what my former Jungian analyst advised so many times when I felt I was on the prongs of a dilemma: hold the tension. Hold the tension between two opposites; a third option can magically arise.

On the one hand, I feel a yearning to use this platform like a diary as I once did. On the other hand, I feel inhibited when I think about doing so now. Also, I now have someone in my life who is not the exhibitionist I am. In fact, he tends to be a private person.

So as the days pass, I just sit and do nothing. Neither do I get on with my life and forget the blog, nor do I write. (Though I am writing now, am I not?) Instead I spend hours paralyzed by indecision.

A good part of me wants just to be free from the grappling. I’m tired of it. I’m tired, also, of feeling obligated to blog. I know I put a badge on my blog a long time ago saying “Blogging without Obligation.” But I do feel something akin to obligation. It’s not so much to my tiny retinue of readers (I LOVE YOU!), but almost to myself. Maybe it stems from my obsessive-compulsive bent. When I don’t blog a recent important event or psychological / emotional state, I feel anxious, and that anxiety is only relieved by getting my feelings and thoughts out.

Should I go back to a private diary? I wonder about that, as well. I do have a Penzu account and sometimes use it to record dreams and special things I can’t put here.

I have really enjoyed the new blog, Border Cities Blooming. I love posting about food and explorations around the border region. But since the big road trip, I am about 12 restaurant reviews and meals behind, thus feel overwhelmed by the idea of trying to catch up. I think my O.C.D. has affixed itself to the act of blogging, that’s what I think.

Sigh.

I do believe I need a break from this, maybe to discontinue altogether, but I must be addicted. I notice that I tend to quit blogging the way some people stop smoking: temporarily and often.

I also find that stopping blogging feels a lot like going on a diet. I always want to start the fast “tomorrow,” after this one last guilt-inducing yummy morsel.

State of the Kiki Address

It’s a rainy afternoon. I just put a skillet of corn bread in the oven while a ham hock boils on the stove in preparation for tonight’s mess of collard greens and pecan-crusted catfish.  Travelling through the South with a new southern cookbook on the back seat of the car left me hankering to try out some of the recipes on Chuck, a very willing test kitchen volunteer.

A group of House Sparrows is on the lower deck by the river pecking up one of last week’s corn muffins (from a mix) that I crumbled up for them this morning.

Chuck is off doing his thing over in Michigan–putting in a few hours at the Red Cross followed by some time at his house getting it cleaned up enough for me to start helping him clean it up.

There is a lot I would like to be able to blog about but feel I cannot do so without compromising the privacy of the parties involved. There’s my sweetie and his privacy, my ex and his, and that of a close friend.  I have one friend I can talk to about the situation, but she is far away. She did help me a lot during a recent visit. I couldn’t really talk to my mom about it because we didn’t get a whole lot of mother-daughter time this visit.  Maybe I’ll try emailing her about it.

So that’s why the posts here have become rather impersonal lately. I can tell you about my trip and the food we ate. I can blog about my daily routines.  BO-ring.

What I can tell you is that it’s difficult. I feel alone in this.

What is this “THIS” that I’m talking about?

A couple of relationships–one very close one and one that wasn’t as close but was still important to me–have suffered as the result of my getting together with Chuck.  Those relationships were strained by my break-up with Sylvain, but the union with Chuck seems to have derailed them completely.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was when I arrived in Cedar Crest, NM and watched Chuck absolutely hit it off with one of my relatives. That felt so nice for me. Then my aunt took me aside after our dinner out on the night of our arrival and whispered to me, “He’s a keeper. Hold on to him!”

That felt validating, too.

I guess we bloggers can’t really use this forum to talk about our significant relationships at all. Sure, we can talk about the good stuff. The other party never takes issue with that. But then you, the blog reader, are never getting the full picture.  You didn’t have the full picture of my last relationship and you’ll not have a fair image of this one, either.  I might soon feel okay about sharing the fun parts, but I’ll never reveal our problems unless it can be done in a way where both parties agree to the message being shared.  Chuck and I have already agreed that if we are ever experiencing a rough patch, we’ll never show it in public.  We agree that it’s not appropriate to air one’s dirty laundry. It isn’t pleasant for the couple and it makes those who are exposed to the discord uncomfortable, too.

So I don’t really know what to do. I would love to be able to tell you about my new relationship, our bliss, our growth, our deepening love…but I don’t feel I can freely express myself here at this moment without risking being misunderstood and without risking hurting others.

Road Trip Part 6 – Soul Food and Family

This blog post has been moved to Bordercitiesblooming.blogspot.ca.

Road Trip Part 5…in Which We Are Not Abducted by Aliens

Chuck only had three things he wanted to do / see during this entire two-week trip: stop in Roswell, NM; stop at the Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock; stop at Crater of Diamonds State Park, AR to look for diamonds.  Everything else was from my personal agenda, and he tagged along for those activities with a degree of patience I found utterly astounding.  I know that if the shoe were on the other foot, I probably could not endure three different stops to meet another person’s relatives nor spend hours in houses filled with people I had never met before. He’s a trooper!

So when we arrived in Roswell in the late afternoon just in time to find a CLOSED sign in the window at the UFO Museum and Research Center, I was more than a little disappointed in my own failure to plan better.  Exhibiting the good humour that I’ve come to learn is typical of him, Chuck settled for a trio of hokey souvenir shops.

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lamp post in Roswell, NM

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invaded furniture store

Our next stop was Artesia, which is where my mom’s sister still lives. Aunt P is my godmother and housed me like a sibling to her other two kids for long periods of my childhood when my mom had to be in L.A. with my brother at Children’s Hospital for his multiple surgeries.  I have very fond memories of those stays in New Mexico when I was small. It was so great to see her again. We took her to dinner and spent time on the sofa going through photo albums.

After a restful night in one of Aunt P’s guest bedrooms, we set out for Lubbock, home to the Buddy Holly Center and Museum.  I was absolutely certain we had scheduled our departure from Artesia in time to enjoy the history of regional rock and roll until Chuck pointed out the change in time zones. I’d failed to account for that!

“You are seeing the Buddy Holly Center even if we have to spend the night in Lubbock,” I insisted, getting peeved with myself for again failing to plan well. We arrived in Lubbock, however, with plenty of time to enjoy the exhibits and even watch a documentary film about  Hardin’s short life and even shorter ballistic career.  I learned so much about this amazing young man and his music.  Later in the gift shop I got my brother a souvenir tee shirt and a memorial CD set for Chuck, which we enjoyed in the car all the way to Little Rock. Many of the tunes in this special collection had never before been released in the U.S., and some do not sound anything like what a die-hard fan would expect from the artist. Case in point: Smoky Joe’s Cafe.

We spent the night in Wichita Falls, TX and in the morning headed for Crater of Diamonds State Park.  By the time we got to the area, a long and steady rain reaching all the way to Little Rock was making the idea of diamond hunting less and less appealing.  Oh, well. Along with all the life birds I dipped on, we have to save some treasures for next time, eh?

When we passed a sign that Chuck thought would make a good story, I offered to double back so he could get a good picture.

“Don’t you want to be in the picture?” I asked.  He assented and posed in front of the green road sign just long enough for me to snap two or three shots. No sooner had he crossed the highway back to the parked car than he was frantically brushing little biting insects off his ankles, calves, thighs and from inside his urgently removed sneakers.  As soon as I saw the ants, I joined him in brushing them away as fast as I could.

Our next impromptu stop was a pharmacy.

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Sightings of Chihuahuan Raven in the western region soon gave way to a plethora of Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and Northern Mockingbirds.

As we neared my mother’s home in North Little Rock, my dreams of authentic southwestern cuisine began to be replaced by fantasies of black-eyed peas, turnip greens, fried okra and catfish, gumbo and corn bread, and diners where the tea is sweet unless you request otherwise.  Before leaving the area, we would taste most of those and more.

…to be continued…

No Rufous-necked Wood Rail (Road Trip Part 4)

….continued from previous posts…

After a disappointing “free” breakfast of watery scrambled eggs the previous morning at the hotel, we checked out of the Plaza Inn hoping to find a diner on the way out of town. I suggested we detour into downtown Albuquerque rather than hunting for breakfast from the freeway, and Chuck spied the winning side street as we slowly drove up one main boulevard and down the next seeing one after another CLOSED sign at seven in the morning.

A sign in the window of Cecilia’s Cafe announced breakfast burritos, and it was open. The decor was a modest mix of shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe and portraits of grandchildren. How could we go wrong?

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Indeed, the huevos rancheros and chorizo burrito left us satisfied and ready to continue our southwest journey.

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huevos rancheros at Cecilia’s Cafe

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chorizo breakfast burrito at Cecilia’s Cafe

My original 2012 road trip plan was to arrive in Belen before dusk so as to look for the Burrowing Owls at Taco Bell Marsh. In order to pass through my cousin L’s town at a time when it was convenient for her AND move on to visit my aunt in Artesia on a day when she was free, I had to save those owls for another time.

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Instead I had one spare hour to cruise around Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  I was hoping that the area right around the visitor centre might be almost as productive as the gardens at Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary had been.  While Googling the refuge that morning, Chuck learned that there was much hullabaloo over a Rufous-necked Wood Rail. We arrived at roosting hour and found almost no birds of interest, just some egrets, herons and sandpipers that are easy to see back home. In fact the list of birds I’d hoped we might get but didn’t is much longer than the list of ones we saw. We had fun in the gift shop and learned from the docent that the wood rail had been reported to the local media immediately upon its discovery, but the local press had only responded when the Associated Press finally picked it up over a week later.

We got to Nogal in time for lunch with my first cousin L, her husband G, and their son C.  It was my first visit since they bought a log cabin up in the hills near Ruidoso.  I hadn’t seen my little first cousin once removed since he was about three years old! It was lovely to visit with them and see their new place–which was miraculously spared in the 2012 Little Bear fire while dozens of neighbours lost homes, barns and animals.

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Chuck, Wink and Kelly

My cousin headed off with her horse trailer to do a job while we continued on toward my aunt’s home in Artesia, stopping in Roswell because…well…goofy people have to stop there.

…continued in the next post…