Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pardon me ma’am, would you like a little feces to go with your water?

Climbing Kilimanjaro I

By Clara G. Herrera

Here's 2 Oxymorons I: Dirty Water       
By Clara G. Herrera 

I am not thirsty.

I can’t remember ever having been parched, cottonmouth, and unable to quench my palate.

I never worry about my water source. Just go to the kitchen tap or a water fountain, or the ever-present water bottle we all carry around, and drink my fill.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about water a lot, which is kinda weird and isn’t at the same time.

Two months ago, I signed up to help Water to Thrive achieve their 10-year anniversary goal of building 1,000 clean water wells in rural Africa by year’s end.

In truth, I’m really not doing much, just taking pledges while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a bunch of other Texans to show our support for clean water. Our trips are all privately paid, so any pledges you make go straight to Water to Thrive.

But the whole mental exercise has made me have water on the brain. I’m an elementary school science and writing teacher in real life, so it’s not at all unusual to end the school year drained, parched, and with a bit of hydrocephalus even if it’s imagined and will evaporate by summer’s end.

But, I thought perhaps part of my liquid journey is to learn how fortunate I am, and teach my students how fortunate they are.

No one I know personally has to worry if their water is safe to drink.

I am thankful I’m not one of the 2 billion people that the World Health Organization estimates use a water source contaminated by feces.

I grateful that my students and their families in Austin, TX don’t have to worry if their water will cause cholera, or other diarrhea-related diseases as a result of unsafe drinking water, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Come this fall, I know that my 60+ students will happily enter my classroom with bottles filled with fearless water. My job is to teach. My life is to learn.

There are few things I am certain of in life. Today, there are two that I am.

One is climbing that mountain, and taking these pledges will help at least one African child that I will likely never meet.

And two, I already have a deeper appreciation of water, and my experiences to come will help me teach my students - children more fortunate than those who I will meet in Africa - just how lucky they are. I am a learner, but I am also a teacher.

Aren’t we all?

Here's 2 Oxymorons II: Clean Water
By Clara G. Herrera


Here's 2 Oxymorons I & II

Here's 2 Oxymorons I: Dirty Water
By Clara G. Herrera
Medium: acrylic, chalk, canvas, water

Here's 2 Oxymorons II: Clean Water
By Clara G. Herrera
Medium: acrylic, chalk, canvas, water

My observation: This is the same canvas, same water, different outcome within a few seconds. The same is different. H20. Perspective.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A cool day

(Enriching music: Joy and Pain by Rob Base and DJ E Z Rock) 

Life is magnetic: Attract, repel, Yin,Yang, up, down, happy, sad, laugh, cry, quizzical, certain, joy, pain, sunshine, rain, kinetic and potential. 

In short, it is a wonderful roller coaster.

It is like Texas weather. Wait a moment, and it will change.

The other day I wrote about a day without baseball and it was not a cool day. Both days were an analogy. The other day was not cool as today was very cool. On those not cool days, I think about how there are so many that will be wonderful and bottle them in my mind. Thus is the juxtaposition we call life.    

For every negative, there is always a positive under all circumstances. You just have to see it, imbibe it, and know it is there.

Today, my birthday, was one of those. I had many hugs from children, songs, flowers, cards, gifts, and in short, love. I got "glitter bombed". This is a tradition I have with my students. On their birthdays, I surprise them and dump glitter confetti over their heads. Now, when students see glitter on the floor, they just ask: "Whose birthday was it?" They see it in someone's hair and say, "Happy Birthday." Today was mine. I felt much more glitter on the inside. It was light and joyful.

In this vein, I posted an art piece I am just beginning. Do you know what it is?  Of course not. But I do. I see it there. I know the positive beneath the stripes. There's a monkey on it playing cymbals. The cymbals are symbols. Do you fathom its potential?

See the positive potential in everything.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Not a cool day

Today was not a cool day. All I wanted was a baseball game to see my son play and not have to think abut anything but baseball. It was rained out. We all have those days. There are many things I would post here if I were not a public school teacher. Perhaps, someday, I will. For now, as we all should, I think of the positives: My children are safe. I got many hugs from students and children. I have wonderful friends who grok me. My birthday is coming up. I'm continuing to DO. Art and writing continue. I am not bored! I will take challenges over boredom any day!

This art piece is coming along. I was happy with the new medium I used, tempera paint, dry, glue, and egg shells in part of it. There is also broken glass, acrylic. It's not finished yet. I have a few more things to add.  Moving forward!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Always learning

Besides seeing the Falcon Heavy launch into space live with my students and teaching them about geology and rock formation, I learned a new word: epistemology. Great, meaty, word.

Now I feel as if I should write an epistle on epistemology.

Monday, January 15, 2018

New piece started this week

This is far from being completed, but I started it this week between research for a book, grading papers, and parenting. Happy with the results so far. More to come!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Anniversary of a life well lived

This is a repost today because it is the 23rd anniversary of my father's death. Today was that day, and it was a hard one. It was challenging for many years, to be quite frank. I'd see trucks that were like his and I'd wonder if it were him. Smells were the worst: Old Spice, the oil from cars...but time passes, and makes us stronger.

Neuroscience studies teach us that it is not just our nature brain that forms us, but also the nurture one. What the balance is, I don't know. 
But I do know the experiences in my life, those that I keep at the forefront, are most enduring, good or bad. These experiences, memories, have guided me through joy, questioning, trepidation, happiness and have helped me to be the person I have evolved to become and as I continue to adapt in life. 
Dad taught me honor, integrity, morality, love, and intellectual pursuits though he never had a college degree. We built a cellar together. We hauled hay. We ate many burgers in his truck riding back from his land talking about the philosophy of life. There was never any doubt that he loved me.
I take these lessons moving forward from him and mom to guide my own children, my students, and all children I encounter. Love is a good thing. Take the good and leave the bad. Let the goodness empower you for yourself and others.  

06/18/2016 01:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Father’s Day Toast To All Latino Country Dads Who Raised Strong Daughters

Wide-grinned, Dad held the lid of the sealed heavy metal trash can and coaxed Mom over to see what he’d found. Dad had been working on the land all day, and sometimes brought home cute, fluffy bunnies or baby skunks to show her.

As she approached smiling, he lifted the lid to hear her screams and feel a swift slap to his arm as he laughed. Inside was a mess of slithering snakes, rattlerscorn snakes, and every other kind that he’d captured as they wriggled out of the brush he’d been burning to clear land.
Dad had a wicked, Texas boy sense of humor.
My three children know “Papa” through stories, because they never met Dad. He “bought the farm,” as they say in the country, or “died,” as they say in the city, many years before my three babies were born.
Arturo Quintana Herrera was born in Casa Piedra, Texas, a town that no longer exists. He was the son of a cotton farmer who was literally pulled from the field to take a bus, as he enlisted in the Air Force.
Dad’s been gone more than 20 years, but is well-remembered through stories. He owned Art’s Barbershop in Tye, Texas after he retired from the military, raised five children with my mom, and continues to live in our memories.
That’s how people live on, through the stories you tell of them. Father’s Day isn’t about a day. It is about a life.
When I decided to take some artsy fartsy photos in my wedding dress after ending my 19-year marriage, I remembered Dad in a mosaic of thought: Catholic, Hispanic, Heritage, Honor, Closure.
Hauling my old wedding dress in the back of my Ford truck in a scented trash bag, I took photos of myself in the dress in places that were meaningful in my life as I moved forward after I divorced my husband. I dubbed it the Acid Neutral Art Project.
The photo at Dad’s gravesite was my daughter, Rachael’s, idea. “He never saw you in the dress when you got married. He may as well see you in it in the divorce,” she said.
At first, I thought it was macabre. Then, I thought about being Catholic and Hispanic.
The Catholic part was the pain of ending a marriage. I think sometimes, as women, our faith instills in us to keep marriage and family together at all costs, even our own. But sometimes, honoring the family, means letting go to be a stronger woman in faith and family. Faith guided me to divorce and spiritually, I knew my father would understand.
The Hispanic part was connecting the past with the present, celebrating where my family came from and where we were going in the next stage of life.
My dad has always been connected to that, even in death.
I have a picture of my daughter playing violin for my father at his grave.
Over the years, we have often visited and eaten fried chicken with him, leaving him a juicy piece. We tell Dad stories about our lives, talking out loud, so he can hear us. My kids climb all over Dad’s tombstone, and it is not disrespectful to us at all. If he were alive, they would scale all over him, like any child who loves their grandfather.
Mom, the best woman I’ve ever met, retells “Papa” stories to my children there, as we eat at the gravesite.
There was the time Dad tried to cover up the gray on his mustache once with mom’s mascara. That didn’t go over so well once his mustache itched and the side of his face was covered in black.
There was also the time when two baby skunks climbed into the dog food can outside. He took them to the land, in Texas heat, and did something akin to mouth-to-mouth by blowing on their faces to revive them as they looked whiskey drunk and meandered to the woods.
Or the many times, Dad would sit still on a stump, listening to wind through the mesquite trees as birds landed on his hat while he watered his garden.
And, oh, there was also the time the trailer he bought to haul Curly, a big black bull, got so many flat tires he was sure that 666 in the Texas license plate was some sign, so he got a new one. He threw the devil-cursed one over the barbed wire fence into some other rancher’s yard.
So for me, posing in a wedding dress at his grave wouldn’t be much different. It would create new stories of my Hispanic heritage for my three children.
I toasted him as I entered this new, glorious phase of my life with fake champagne since, Merkel, the town he’s buried in, was still debating selling alcohol at the time. I poured him a glass on his side and then poured it on his grave.
“Well Dad, I tried my best. Now, it’s time to move on,” I toasted, as my daughter Rachael took the photo. “Thank you for making me who I am. I love you.”
It was closure. It was honor. It is faith.

Anyone can be a father on Father’s Day, but it takes a special man to be Dad. My father,as he was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be, Dad.
(Enriching music: Love Without End, Amen by George Strait; Tu Guardian, Juanes)
Follow Clara Herrera on Twitter: AcidNeutral Art
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