Archive for the Uncategorized Category

That point of time and space

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 2, 2012 by redswandiaries

It’s 2012 and if the Mayan calendar is correct, I better make good use of the next 333 days. As always, I decided to make a few New Year’s resolutions, but with a slight twist. Gone are the resolutions of establishing a workout routine, saving more money, eating better. Those should be givens throughout the year, not something you embark on at the outset and later carry as a backpack full of guilt.

My first resolution is regarding my three blogs: Red Swan Diaries, Leave the Stilettos at Home and 8 Days a Week With Eleanor. Red Swan was created as a means to keep me in the writing flow while serving as a therapeutic online diary, and a place for me to share and plug the publication of my short story collection and novel. After striving for a year and a half to publish my collection and meeting failure, I started to focus on writing my novel. But, in life there are distractions and obstacles and I haven’t written a page in almost six months. Plus, I rarely find the time to update my blog or even feel the urge to write.

My Stilettos blog was created for me to post and vent about my passion for sports, but as with the personal blog, I’ve found that unless I carve out time immediately following a game or sporting event, the excitement and need to write about it is gone and I’m left with the guilt of “I really should’ve posted something.” And the final blog, Eleanor’s blog, follows the sometimes-more-exciting-than-my-own life of my 10-year old black lab whose accounts proved to be much more popular than my two personal blogs combined (Eleanor had more subscribers and viewings in her first month than the other two had in six months).

So, my resolution is if I do not update them on a monthly basis, then I will put them to an end, cancelling my accounts with WordPress and ridding myself of the daily guilt of “I should’ve posted.” That being said, consider this the post that will extend the life of Red Swan Diaries for one more month.

My second resolution is to immerse myself in my home state. For years I’ve wanted to spend one Saturday a month visiting towns and counties of the great state of Kansas. While I am a Kansas native, I admit I am unfamiliar with a large percentage of this midwestern  jewel I call home. So, Brad and I will pick a town once a month, fill our travel mugs with coffee and set out on a Kansas adventure. We’ll taste the local cuisine, visit local shops, learn the history of the place, and take photos, which should all provide some writing material for this blog, if not a book.

And my final resolution is to spend more time with family and friends. From our family reunion in July, I learned that time spent with family is never enough and is vital to who we are. I believe this is the same with friendships. I want to spend as much time as possible with the people I love, so to kick it off for 2012 I bought tickets to the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis. The tournament is in March and I’ll be sharing a suite just blocks from the Scottrade Center with my dad and sister. I know the three of us will have an incredible time cheering on our beloved Shockers, watching some great Valley basketball and just being together.

2011 is long gone and whether we’re ready or not, we are moving forward. I plan to make the best of it, because if the Mayan calendar is correct, I’ve got some serious life to experience in 2012. And even if this world doesn’t come to a crashing end on December 21, I’d like to be able to greet 2013 surrounded by the people I cherish and with a toast of no regrets.


Mi familia: Coming together

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2011 by redswandiaries

 From Francisco and Soledad Vasquez was born a family rich in culture, passionate in life, and rooted in love. Four generations later, we continue to celebrate this awesome legacy.

 Our grandfather was born in Juchipila, Zacatecas, Mexico. My grandmother in Parall, Chihuahua, Mexico. Francisco Vasquez came to the states searching for work and after a short time in Colorado, he settled in Wichita, Kansas. He then brought my grandmother to the states to begin their life. They brought into this world Delfina, Rebecca, Frank, Ishmael, Martha, Albert and Cecilia. From this second generation came 22 children. The third generation continues the legacy with more than 30 (plus one on the way) and the fourth generation is growing.  

 My grandfather and grandmother have long passed, their lives filled with the hard work and the desperation of building a life in the U.S. Abuela died in 1950 from tuberculosis. She spent her last days in the Wichita Tuberculosis hospital, quarantined from her husband and children. Abuelo died much later, but still too soon. My mother and sister lived with him a few of his last years and my favorite picture of Francisco Vasquez is him standing on the front porch holding the tiny hand of my sister. His face is etched with the difficulties of his life, but his eyes are strong, ancient, always reminding me of a great chief. I see those same eyes in his sons and grandsons.

 One week ago, we brought these generations together. It was a weekend of family gatherings, a golf outing for the guys, and a whole lot of hugs, smiles, laughter, conversation and photos. We exchanged phone numbers, emails and Facebook page information, caught up on the latest changes in our lives, attempted to remember the names of the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And while we reminisced, we created new memories, fresh memories. We recalled when we were young and so close, before life set us on our individual paths, and we rekindled friendships and strengthened bonds made years and years ago.

 Our grandfather’s brother, Albert, had a daughter, Amália, whom we lovingly nicknamed “our Rose Kennedy.” Amália and her daughters, Estela and Norma, are as close within the family as if they were extended sisters to their cousins, something our family has continued through the years. Within our generations, we have eradicated the second-third cousin descriptor. We are family, extensions from one family to the other, bridges from sister to brother and brother to sister. Estela and Norma continued the bridgework with five of their own children and many grandchildren.

Unfortunately, two brothers were missing from the festivities, one due to health and the other due to stubbornness. In a family this large, there is always a certain amount of tension, a little misunderstanding. No family is perfect. We truly missed them.

 As well, we were greatly missing Uncle Johnny, who would’ve showed the little kids how to bait a hook, our  “Rose Kennedy,” Amália, and Norma who would’ve celebrated her birthday on that Sunday.  After every snapshot, I could almost hear Norma’s sweet voice saying her famous phrase, “Isn’t our family good looking?’

Of our cousins, we truly missed John-John, Jerry, and Andrea. We felt each of them there with us, watching and laughing, but oh, how wonderful it would’ve been to hug them all just one more time.

 And we especially missed our cousin Jeff, who due to health reasons was not able to attend. I often pictured him throughout the day, wearing a Cheap Trick or WSU t-shirt and sipping a cold, beer and instructing the young kids on how to light firecrackers.

For three days, we were together, spending our first evening at Becky and Matt’s home, the second day Aunt Cecilia and Uncle Danny opened their doors (and garage) and on Sunday we spent the entire day at The Red Barn. It was memorable, and not just for losing power shortly after breakfast, and the water pressure to the toilets so that Matt had to rescue us with the RV, or the typical Kansas storm that rolled in mid-afternoon after the power finally came on.  It was made memorable by the fact we were together. By the time Monday rolled around, we were exhausted but content. I likened the day following our reunion to the day after Christmas, so melancholy and empty. The gifts were gone, the excitement diminished, and our homes were quiet. Too quiet.

It truly was a labor of love and something I wish we’d done fifteen years ago and had continued every five years. It isn’t too late. I have learned there is one constant in life, family. Sure, family can drive you crazy, make demands, even make you angry, but when the dust settles the people you can always count on are the ones who share your blood, your history, and your legacy.

 I am merely a branch of this Vasquez family tree. It is together we truly bloom.

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Auntie Em, Auntie Em

Posted in My Community, Uncategorized with tags , , on May 24, 2011 by redswandiaries

It’s strange how the name of a character in a movie can resonate so differently among people. For some, it recalls Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, while for others it brings to mind tornadoes. And nothing but tornadoes.

As a child, I remember my cousins yelling “Auntie Em, Auntie Em, it’s a twister” each time the sirens went off, be it during the weekly noon drill on Monday or an actual sinister warning of what was headed our way. And each time I come across the movie Airplane, I laugh out loud when Johnny tangles himself in phone cords and yells “Uncle Henry, Auntie Em, Toto, it’s a twister, it’s a twister” (if you click on the link provided, that particular scene with Johnny is at the very end of the video, but it’s worth the wait if you are an Airplane fan).

Growing up in Kansas, you have to laugh. As a child of the midwest, you learn quickly how to read the clouds, become nervous when it’s humid, and understand the dew point readings. You know the place in your home that is safest to ride out a tornado, be it basement, bathtub, crawl space or closet. And you become a professional at packing a tornado kit each spring (blankets, batteries, jug or bottles of water, flashlights, extra batteries, battery operated radio, cell phone, non-perishable foods) to keep in your safe place, as well as the extra bag beside the bed that includes medications, important documents, and other keepsakes you don’t want to lose when all hell breaks loose.

Because that’s what it does, this tornado. It unleashes hell on earth. Just ask the survivors of Joplin, MO; Reading, KS; and Greensburg, KS. In one terrifying moment, all you’ve known, all you’ve worked for, all you’ve cared for is gone. Obliterated or vanished, it doesn’t matter because the end result is the same, life is changed.

A person from California once asked me how I could live in the midwest with “those tornadoes.” I asked how they could live with those earthquakes, after all we do get 20-30 minute warnings, sirens screaming to turn on your televisions or radios and take cover. We have Doppler radar and text message alerts, plus years of examining the sky and air and differentiating between a typical Kansas thunderstorm and an afternoon filled with  foreboding. What do they have?  

But in light of this year’s deadly twisters, I’m beginning to think all of our weather technology, early warnings, and personal weather experiences are not enough. When a half-mile wide tornado comes at you packing 200 mph winds, destruction is inevitable, survival is diminished.

But we are a resilient bunch. And I know the communities of Reading and Joplin will rebuild and move forward, just as the people of Greensburg.

And those of us out of the path of the storm will watch, pray, and cry for those who lost relatives, friends, and everything they possessed.  We’ll check our tornado kits, monitor the local radars, and be sure and check on those we love, all the while knowing Joplin could have  been and still could be us.

Tribute: Cirilo Arteaga

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2011 by redswandiaries

A tribute to Cirilo Arteaga, the voice of our community for many years, as well as infamous storyteller. He will be greatly missed.

Many the days

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 21, 2011 by redswandiaries

I was lost in March and the beginnings of April. Caught up in events, friends, sports, and life. That’s my excuse for my absence from Red Swan. And it seems every time I thought of something to write, mulled it over in the shower or the drive to work, by the time I found a few moments to sit and write I was too exhausted.

These many days have included some soul-searching. The month of March found me uncomfortable in my employment, found me questioning my role, stressing over my future. Not sure where it came from, but it must’ve been at the bottom of that bag I’ve been carrying around, the one called What-if. So I went in search of possibilities. I tested the waters of new. Took a tiny sip from the cup of change. And what did I find?

I discovered some not-so-subtle messages from my guardian angel. The very week I ventured away, incredible things began to happen to me at the university. I met new people. A student thanked me for assisting him and his future. I received wonderful news. And someone lifted me high in encouragement (okay, okay, I’m listening).

And while yesterday was a successful work day, complete with assisting in the creation of student scholarships and scheduling a time in June to meet with an incredible alum from South Africa, I felt those icy fingers of doubt on my shoulders, just enough to tighten the muscles in my neck. By the time I reached the chapel for my weekly one hour of  adoration, I was filled with doubt, a twinge of sadness, and a whole lot of anger aimed inward.

The chapel is always dimly lit, quiet, and the smell of melting candle wax always is the first thing to soothe my senses. I knelt in the freshly waxed pew, put my head in my hands and looked down. Placed in the pew in front of me was a small square of paper with purple typing. I picked it up and read, “The Donkey by GK Chesterton.”  I had not read the poem in many, many years. I read it over and over, each time my eyes brimming with tears. And when I left the chapel an hour later, I placed it back in the pew for the next drifting soul to discover.

Okay, okay, I’m listening, I’m reading, I get it.

The Donkey       by G. K. Chesterton
When forests walked and fishes flew
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
Then, surely, I was born. With monstrous head and sickening bray
And ears like errant wings—
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things:

The battered outlaw of the earth
Of ancient crooked will;
Scourge, beat, deride me—I am dumb—
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour—
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout around my head
And palms about my feet.


WIS: What-if Syndrome

Posted in Me, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 25, 2011 by redswandiaries

I’ve never been one of those people to always think “what if…” But as of lately, WIS has reared its ugly head, invaded my thoughts, and sent me into a tail-spin of sorts. I guess I’ve been coming down with it for a few weeks, but after attending a scholarship luncheon for the WSU College of Engineering I became totally disabled with the disease. Yes, I was inspired by these students. They were engaged, passionate, grateful, and smart. I was especially taken by the four returning adult students, one of which had spent the last 13 years pursuing her dream of being an engineering graduate. They decided what our society labels as “middle age” as not so middle, but more as a next-step age.

That’s when my fever started. My brain began assembling all of the what-if’s in my life, beginning with my decision not to attend the two colleges I was accepted my senior year of high school: Loyola University-Chicago and Stanford. I wasn’t ready for college life.  I wanted to see what it was like to just live, be an “adult,” work my way through. Then the what-if’s jumped to ten years ago when I made the decision to return to school. What if I hadn’t changed my major one and a half years in? What if I’d stuck with dental hygiene? What if I hadn’t decided I wanted to teach English at university level? What if my husband hadn’t lost his job in ’07 and I had to give up my GTA? What if…what if…what if…

I despise those two words. They’ve caused me to question where I am, something I haven’t done since I turned 30. The day of my 30th birthday, I began to panic. What was I doing with my life? What was I thinking? Soon after, actually three years later, I got married and enrolled at WSU. Now, here I am feeling the same as I did fifteen years ago. I don’t believe it’s an age thing. I’m good with 45. Really. But it’s like something is not quite right, maybe missing. But what?

So I began analyzing my job. I love being at WSU. I love meeting people who feel the same about the university, learning their stories and sharing mine. I’ve met some amazing people, witnessed some incredible accomplishments, and helped some people through very difficult times through memorials.  When I take pause, I do love my job. But I can’t help but feel boxed in. That this is it. And my writing? It’s become a back-burner priority, put on simmer and left to evaporate slowly.

What to do? Do I look for something that allows me more time to write? Do I buck up and force the time? Do I give up writing? What? I have no answers, but I’ve begun the search, taken notes, contemplated. Will I cure my disease? More than likely, and  the percentage is high, the fever will break and I’ll realize how stupid I’ve been. But until then, I’ll continue to wonder.

It reminds me of that scene in “Pretty in Pink” when Annie Potts’ character, Iona,  describes to Molly Ringwald how a friend of hers always has this feeling something’s  missing, “She checks her pockets, checks her purse, counts her kids, but nothing’s gone. She decided it’s side effects from not going to prom.”

I went to prom.

Home Project (part I)

Posted in Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 20, 2011 by redswandiaries

What do you do in the middle of February with snow on the ground and your husband’s business is in between jobs? You begin a home improvement project. Or at least, that’s what we did. Last week, when the snow was coming down, Brad moved all of our furniture from the lower level into our laundry/storage room, ripped up the old, hideous green carpet, and began brainstorming. For those of you who are unaware, we own a concrete design-engrave-stencil and stain company, Concrete Colorscapes. As is the case with most business owners, while other homes in Wichita have beautiful stained and engraved concrete floors and patios, we do not. 

What I”ve decided to do is chronicle this little project. Wait, did I type “little?” Big project. A step-by-step of the entire process from the designing to the engraving to the staining to the finish.  

Brad began by putting his creative thoughts on paper, somewhat of a guide but more to show me what he was thinking. Unlike Brad, I have a hard time visualizing anything to do with color. Thank goodness I married an artist.

This is what the floor looked like after the carpet removal and a little cleaning.

Next, we began snapping chalk lines on the floor to outline the design.

Bet you didn’t know frisbees had multiple uses, such as outlining floor designs.

So, once the chalk lines were snapped Brad began brushing on color. I’ve provided a slideshow from the initial design to the brushing of color, just to give you an idea of the process. Yes, this was only step one. Stay tuned.

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