Summer Stuff

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I’ve had a light summer of tutoring, with the past two weeks having no students whatsoever, so you’d think I would be busy taking advantage of all the free time to do things I don’t have time to do during the school year. But, you would be wrong.

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For the most part, I’ve been incredibly lazy, napping every day and sleeping late, while occasionally hopping into the pool. But I’ve had a few moments of activity here and there, just enough to keep me away from the blog, I suppose.

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For starters, my older sister and I have taken a few little day trips over the past several weeks. It started when I was staying in a hotel during the last few weeks of our mold remediation; I figured since I was in a nice hotel and she and I both love hotel rooms, she should come on over and hang out with me for a while. She spent one night with me and we spent the day shopping at the nearby mall and eating in the restaurants surrounding the area.

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I thought this was the town hall in Hallettsville, TX, but my sister thinks it’s a church. I still have no idea. 

That led to us getting another hotel room in Clear Lake City so we could visit my brother, who lives in Dickinson, when he threw a graduation party for his two kids. It’s a long drive out to Dickinson from where we live, even though technically it’s all still “Houston” – especially since Dickinson is off the main freeway to Galveston Island and the party was thrown over a holiday weekend. Traffic is always horrible on I-45 in the summer, so my sis and I figured we’d get another hotel room, check in at the graduation party, and then spend another nice night hanging out in a hotel on the water instead of making two traffic trips in one day. I forgot my camera, though, so no pictures of that little jaunt.

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Another Hallettsville shot

Most hotels were booked in Clear Lake for the weekend, though, and we ended up staying in an older Hyatt hotel that had a lovely view overlooking the bay, but had horribly thin walls and those old, adjoining rooms that I don’t think newer hotels even do anymore – and the first floor we stayed on was so poorly insulated and populated with small children that I swear my sis and I kept opening the door to the hallway to try to find out where the large gaggle of children was playing in the halls, only to realize that they were the kids in various other rooms that we were hearing as if they were right outside our door. We ended up moving to a higher floor, where they apparently don’t let kids stay, and that reduced the noise level quite a bit. But lesson learned, no more stays at the Clear Lake City Hyatt. It also must have been moldy, because after having no breathing issues for several weeks, I woke up coughing like a maniac the night of our stay, and it took me another week or so to recover. Moving on.

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Then my sister wanted to go spend a few days in an incredibly tiny little Texas town called Hallettsville, which is where all these pictures are from. It’s a bit convoluted, but my aunt and uncle bought a tiny little country house there, on about 4 acres of land, where they plan to retire someday, and my sister, who is close to my aunt, has a key to go stay out there whenever she wants (I’m not as close to this aunt so I had never even been to this house before). Sounded like a nice free vacation to me, so we loaded up her car and headed out there for a few days in June.

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When I say Hallettsville is small, I do mean small: Wikipedia lists its population as just over 2,000. Even though we were wandering around their little town square on a Saturday afternoon, there was still almost NO foot traffic, and I have no idea how anything aside from the factory supply store manages to stay in business there. The house my aunt and uncle bought is small, also – almost claustrophobic – but it’s actually a nice enough place to retire if you want some land and a Dairy Queen to visit on occasion. I was a bit fascinated by this little walkway leading up to their front porch though, and fortunately I’d remembered to take my camera so I could do some quick levitation using it as a background:

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That’s the walkway leading up to their house, and as you can see, it just sort of stops for no reason in the middle of the grass. I’m assuming someone at some point had intended to put in a driveway or something and then never did…? I dunno. But anyway, it inspired me as some sort of launching pad to a magical dimension, so there you go. The house is right behind me here, and you can see their little stretch of land with some decent trees and a pleasant view to look out over from the front porch. Not bad, if you’re into that sort of thing. Not sure I could do it long-term though.

Fun little detail: my aunt and uncle keep a golf cart on the property so they can tool around a little, and my sister loves to just hop on it and drive around on the grass, so we did that a few times. I am not as big of a fan of this, because I HAAAAATE flying bugs, and as soon as you start cruising around on the grass all of these CREATURES leap out of the grass and into the cart. So, my sis was really enjoying driving around and listening to me scream. Then, she accidentally ran over a cow pie (that’s cow shit, for those of you not familiar with the term) and it splattered all over my leg. Two more reasons I probably should not retire in the country: cow pies and flying bugs. Moving on.

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In other news, I have new little beauty obsession – fake nails, the kind you glue on and can buy at the CVS.I wore acrylics for years, but really got tired of all the filling and drilling involved, so about a year ago I had those soaked off and just got shellac manicures for about another year. But, since my husband and I are both wanting to work less now, I am trying to cut back where I can, and shellac manicures are rather expensive where I live ($50!). So, the last time I went to the salon I just got a plain old manicure and left it at that. But, not being one to just leave well enough alone, I decided to try out these Lime Crime “Pop On Nails” I saw on their site a while back. I’d never been able to try them before, because of the aforementioned acrylics, so I figured while I had naked nails would be the best time to try.

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I’ve never tried press-on or glue-on nails before, and I was actually nervous about how these would turn out. I held onto them for several weeks, but then my sister and I decided to make one more hotel trip out to the Woodlands to see Chicago and REO Speedwagon (shut up, I’m old) so I figured that was as good a time as any to give these a go. I was really surprised by how nice they looked. I had to shorten and file them a little because they were pretty long, though:

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I don’t drink; that was actually my sister’s glass of wine

I loved them so much I ended up buying all the other available colors of them I could find online (they were limited edition at Lime Crime) but before I got them all in, I discovered some nails I like even better – the ImPress brand you can get at any drugstore or even (in my case at least) the grocery store.

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I actually prefer these ImPress nails because they are much easier to apply, and they hold up better. The Lime Crime ones look amazing at first, but they have to be applied with nail glue and the first time I applied them I used WAY too much and spent about an hour melting them off my fingers with acetone. The ImPress nails actually have adhesive already applied to the nail, so you just peel the backing off and stick them to your nails.

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I have always had seriously wrinkly fingers! When I was a kid classmates would call me “granny hands.” Kids are assholes, BTW. 

Both brands stayed on for a week (the ImPress ones are still on as I type this) but I must say that after a few days the color was starting to flake and peel off the Lime Crime nails, and every little scratch or scuff showed on the surface so that by the end of that week, they looked a lot worse for the wear. So far, the black Impress nails aren’t showing any wear and still look like new. I haven’t tried to take these off yet, so I can’t speak to how hard they will be to remove, but all the reviews say they are easy enough to do and I know I didn’t overdo it with adhesive this time. I’m so pleased with these nails, especially since the ImPress ones are easy to find, are inexpensive (around $7 for 30 nails) and are quick to put on. I never liked getting my nails done, although I do still get pedicures (ImPress actually makes press on toenails, too, but I just can’t go there), but I always loved the look of the acrylic nails, and these are a really practical and nice alternative.

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Another thing I’ve done recently is volunteer to be a Democratic precinct chair for my precinct. I do not yet know what this means, but there is a meeting for all of the Democratic chairs for Precinct 3 this Wednesday, so I’ll find out my duties then. With the mid-term elections coming up, I am sure it will entail a lot of phone calls and block-walking, which I do not look forward to, but the opportunity was there for me to fill an empty chair and even though I didn’t really want to do it, with everything going on right now I felt it was important to do it anyway. Especially being here in Texas, where so many of these immigrant families are being torn apart. By the way – our city’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, is awesome, and in no way supports these policies the Trump Administration has tried to implement and bungled so stupendously. He and our city’s police chief Art Acevedo are both very strong, progressive voices for reasonable immigration policy and gun control; Acevedo in particular has gotten a lot of attention lately for his outspokenness on both issues. Houston, even though it’s deep in heart of red, red Texas, tends to have Democratic mayors, and Fort Bend County – which is the county where I live – is statistically the most diverse county in the country. A lot of Fort Bend is more purple than red, except for – you guessed it – precinct 3, where I live, which is the reddest area out here. So block walking for the Dems should be an adventure. If I get shot, well, I can’t complain. I’ve had a better life than most…only partly kidding about this!

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I also discovered Venessa Arizaga’s jewelry lately, which, if you haven’t checked her out, you really should. I know a lot of her stuff looks insane, and her prices aren’t cheap, BUT the pieces look much better on that they do just sitting there against a white background, and if you get on her mailing list she has major sales ALL the time. I got a TON of her stuff during a recent 50% off all sale event, and things like that bracelet above I got for a steal. It was already reduced to  $27 and I got it for 50% off that, when it was originally fifty bucks! I now have a ton of her necklaces and bracelets and they are just what I like. I actually don’t care for metal jewelry, and much prefer necklaces and bracelets made of leather or cloth material, which is pretty much her thing. And everything is made to be worn with other items and really layered together, like so:

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It all is very light and works well together – although I will say, I bought one of her shell chokers and it was literally choking me; I had to buy a necklace extender just to fit it around my neck. That one also isn’t very comfortable; the shells are heavy and the material is itchy. But other than that, everything I have bought from her I’ve loved.

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Oh, and I have a few other things I’m keeping busy with right now – for starters, I am really trying to learn Spanish, and so far am having little luck. I’m using Babel, and there a few damn verbs I just can’t get a grasp on (those damn ‘to be’ verbs are killing me) and trust me, if I were taking this as a class I’d be failing right now. But using the app is actually helping me understand what it’s like to struggle with English grammar and spelling, which helps me with my tutoring, so it’s all good, even if my Spanish never gets up to snuff.

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The thing I am more excited about than that, though, is that I am learning how to sew. I haven’t officially started yet, because my sewing machine doesn’t arrive until tomorrow (I tried to borrow one from my mom but hers was broken), but I’ve got a good book to work with that jumps right in to working with simple patterns like making headscarves and simple skirts. I’ve been wanting to learn how to sew forever (I was forced to take sewing in high school, and in a fit of misplaced feminist rage I refused to learn anything. This worked against me because not only did I not learn how to sew but I failed the class, which was less than impressive on my transcript. I failed cooking too, for the same stupid reason). I figure that most of the clothes I love to wear are loose, light, and pretty damn simple; I dislike zippers and buttons and fancy details, I tend to wear things I can easily pull on and off, and I don’t even like to wear prints, so how hard can it be to sew this stuff? Plus, I have so many things I don’t wear but would if I could just alter them a little, and let’s not even talk about the COSTUMES I could create for my photos! I really think I am going to love this new hobby, and hopefully, I will be better at it than I am at speaking Spanish.

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As you can tell, I’ve also managed to take some photos too – so this all sounds like I’ve been way busier than I feel like I’ve been. Especially when I mention that I am taking one more trip with my sister at the end of the month to Galveston, but honestly, most of these trips I’ve taken have been her idea, and she’s done the planning while I’ve just tagged along. I promise there has also been a LOT of nap-taking, TV binging, and Candy Crush playing going on this summer, too. In truth, I’ve actually started to get bored and look forward to getting back to tutoring my students again in August.

Oh, and one more thing – in trying to spend less, I recently opted to not renew a LOT of the features I’ve paid for in the past for this blog. I am honestly not sure what some of the stuff was I was paying for, so things might randomly go wonky here if I actually canceled something I should have kept. If that happens, I’ll figure it out eventually and get things back to normal. 🙂 It just seemed like I was spending lots of money every year for a blog I only post on about once a month now, so in a fit of frugality I canceled all the extra features. We’ll see what happens!

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A Beached Tale

Today I thought I’d just show you some photos of the beach house where we stayed over the weekend, as well as share a little story.

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Another view of the house…

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Or do you like the black and white version better?

We weren’t as isolated as we looked in that photo; immediately outside the frame on either side was another house. But we did have more room down at the far end of the island than a lot of the rental houses further up do, and the house was just lovely; one of the nicer rentals I’ve ever stayed in, actually.

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Not only was the house nice and roomy with a great view, but all the furnishings were high-quality and the kitchen was well-equipped. For the most part, Doug and I rent houses only when we can take our pets along, which means the furnishings are going to be less impressive. Doug was staying home this time, though, so my pets weren’t with me, and anyway, my parents were the ones who rented the house so it wasn’t up to me (if it had been, I would have gone for a pet-friendly place as always).

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One seriously nice kitchen

I am like my parents in that I’d rather spend a lot of money on a nice place to stay when I vacation, and spend less on outings and sight-seeing while I’m there. Then I tend to hang around the nice house most of the time and venture out only on occasion. My folks are the same way. A few times we wandered down to the public beach that was right beyond our private walkway, but for the most part we hung out on the balcony or in the huge family area – the wind must have been at least 30 MPH on Saturday and was almost intolerable, so I spent a lot of my time in this room, looking at the beach through the back windows:

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Speaking of the public beach, our little strip of it offered an interesting day of people-watching, as beach-sitting always does. The most memorably mind-altered beachgoer had to be the twentysomething woman who drew our attention towards sundown. My niece’s boyfriend was the first one to alert us to her presence; we had just finished eating dinner when he walked over to the windows and said “hey, what is this person doing?” That led to all the teenagers heading to the window, where various exclamations were heard, all questioning the behavior of a person who was “just hanging out” by one of the many trashcans that dotted the beach (if you look in the photo below, you can see a few of them lining the sandy roadway). Eventually my mom wandered over to the windows with her binoculars, at which point they could all be heard squealing, “Eeewww! She’s leaning over it now!” I responded by saying that she’d obviously had too much to drink and was, shall we say, relieving herself of her liquor through less than pleasant means, but  someone said no, it didn’t actually look like she was getting sick, but rather was just sticking her head in it.

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Our private walkway to the beach

Well, who just sticks their head in a trashcan? Didn’t make much sense to me, so I finally got up to see what was going on. By that time, the woman had walked away from it; I could see that she was dressed normally for the beach (shorts, a swim top, a light jacket, barefoot) and was walking quite steadily towards yet another trash can; she then pulled back her longish hair with her hands, and leaned right down into it, sticking her head and shoulders all the way in. She did this for a few minutes – and in fact, did not appear to be heaving – then poked her head back up, looked around, walked around to the side of trash can, kicked it over…and then crawled into it. 

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And yes, I took pictures. I know what this says about me.

By this time we were all beside ourselves. We’d run through all the possiblities, but none of them seemed to fit. She did not appear homeless at all and was very clean. Her gait gave no indication that she was altered by some substance – she walked in a straight line (when not occupied by crawling into trash cans) and would even break into a run while making her way down the beach. But every once in awhile, she’d stop and stick her head, or her whole body, into one of the cans.

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At first I contended that she was mentally insane, but again, that didn’t quite fit – she just didn’t look disheveled enough, although I could totally be wrong about that. My best guess is that she was tripping on acid, which might explain why she could walk so normally from time to time but then get totally distracted by this experience of sticking herself into trash cans. I tried to take the high road at first, but admit I eventually became as amused by her as everyone else (at one point, one of my nieces snuck down to inspect a trash can she’d visited, and came back to report that it was completely empty), and we monitored her progress all the way up the beach until she took a sharp left at a private walkway a good distance away from us and disappeared.

It didn’t stop there though – since my father had his guitar out and was noodling away on it while we all tried to figure out what this woman was doing, someone got the bright idea that we should write a song about her, to commemorate her trashcan-love. As soon as my dad heard this suggestion, he immediately began playing “Annie’s Song,” by John Denver, the first line of which is “You fill up my senses…”  Which of course, completely cracked us up.

I’m sad to say that we still kept going; we actually sat down and wrote new lyrics for John Denver’s song (whom we re-named “John Dumpster” for the occasion) and then WE SANG IT. We are terrible people, I know. But since we’re already going to hell for this one, here are the lyrics for you to enjoy as well. We can all sing this together as we ride our hand-basket into the fiery pits of Hades:

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a trash can
Like the beaches in springtime
Like a walk through the dump
Like a storm in my stomach
Like a summer day’s garbage
You fill up my senses
Come trash me again

Come let me lean on you
Let me give my lunch to you
Let me roll in your lining
Let me die in your can
Let me lay down inside you
Let me always be with you
Come let me love you
Come trash me again

The last thing I’ll say about poor Trashcan Woman is this: the next day, I remembered I’d actually taken a picture of one of the cans the morning before, because I thought the saying on it was amusing – but by that time I’d forgotten what the saying was. When I pulled the photo back up and showed it to the family after all this though, it cracked us up all over again:

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Oh Trashcan Woman, it all makes sense now

Happy Fifth of July!

I post this poem every year. And by the way, I hate fireworks. They’re stupid and they upset my dogs, and where I live it’s legal to stand around in the cul-de-sac like a moron and shoot these idiotic explosives into the sky while simultaneously downing copious amounts of Natural Light and keeping the kids up way past their bedtime. God bless America. OK, I’m not actually this surly. I’m only partially serious. 

Fifth of July

The streets are sharded with bits
of confetti, petty patriotic explosions.

The neighbors are still asleep, tucked beneath
what’s left of the gray haze hovered over
their driveways, their skin singed with sweat
and sulphur. Backyard dogs react

to a distant siren, their howl like rust
on a chain-link gate, like sparks
from a blacksmith’s hammer.
When they are done, the dawn
is heavy with calm. Neatly numbered curbs

prop amber toppled bottles. Trash bags,
tarry-black, collapse on the grass.

One rubber sandal in the center
of the road, elastic casualty
of a manufactured battle, points
its open toes towards concession.

What the City Does to You In Summer – Poem

What the City Does to You In Summer

This is what the city does
to you in summer: You are sitting
in the drive-thru line at the bank,
windows pressed against the car-

exhausted heat, when you see
a man, suited navy blue and crawling
in the street. He is screaming.
You cannot hear what he

is saying, and you are trapped
in a line that does not move
according to your need, so all
you can do is watch him grovel

in the road, and you wonder
if you’d help him even if you could,
thinking of the man last week
who asked for money outside your office;

you gave him five and he followed you
inside, demanding more, grabbing
your arm, rattling you like a tip jar
until security chased him away.

Kindness dies in this kind of heat,
and everything is ugliness.

Later, you won’t remember
the woman who got out of her seat
at the corner bus stop and dropped
down with him to the gutter,

fishing out a red-tipped cane
of white. You won’t remember
that the man was blind
and never crazy; all you’ll recall

is the screaming and the creeping
along the dirty curb, and imagine
the story ends with something
terrible, every time.

Waiting for Bolivar Ferry – Poem

Waiting For Bolivar Ferry

We wait our turn
on a weekend
when tourists and teens
converge
on the peninsula
to stretch their skin
in the sun: engines off,
windows down,
radios up,
as if the beat
proclaims
some inner rhythm
of parched hearts.

A sheen of boys
begins to volley
for attention, girls
in open truckbeds
cake makeup,
spray hair
already starched
with heat.

The shoreline
brings the sleaze
out of everyone,
the steam
that shimmies up
from the concrete,
the stick, the sweat,
the hidden grit
that slicks
to the surface.

We are waiting
for Bolivar Ferry.

When it docks
we’ll all pull forward
in tight metal rows
onto the boat
that will slick us
like plastic
six-pack scrap
across the sea.