Ten Things of Thankful: Lake Junaluska

By now you’ve probably figured out that Lake Junaluska is one of my favorite places ever: you can walk, watch fireworks, enjoy the scenery, get ice cream, play tennis, ride your bike and whatever other activity you can drum up to do.

Last weekend, we took out our kayaks and canoes for an afternoon of fun on the lake. I decided to risk taking my camera to see what sorts of photos I could get. If you’ve never been canoeing, you need to know that if you sneeze wrong, you could end up in the water, so I held my Precious very close.

In any case, it’s high time I get back to sharing some photos. I’ll try to make it a weekly thing, but no promises – this teaching school AND being a graduate student thing takes up a lot of my time.

Eh, but I still need a creative outlet, right?

So, wrapped up in all the photos are my ten things of thankful this week, started by Considerer and hosted by some other very cool people.

Ten Things of Thankful


Lake Junaluska
Lake Junaluska has a rose garden. This is a peace rose.

I’m thankful for roses, especially Peace Roses. I painted an old dresser once with Peace Roses. Of course I think of International Day of Peace coming up on September 21, too.

Lake Junaluska
Another capture of a rose – this one is white, with a close-up of its center.

I’m thankful for my awesome camera that allows me to hone in on such a cool part of this white rose.

Lake Junaluska
I made this photo a vintage image of my toes on the canoe.

I’m thankful for the lake, where I can relax on the canoe and enjoy the hot summer sun.

Lake Junaluska
A view from the canoe. The mountains and clouds are pretty awesome-looking.

I’m thankful for a special feature on my camera that allows me to make HDR-looking photos. I’m going to really have to experiment with this in the near future.

Lake Junaluska
This is a church right on the lake. The yellow flowers were incredible.

I’m thankful for kick-ass yellow flowers beside the gorgeous architecture of the church.

Lake Junaluska
My sister-in-law had no idea she was posing, but her contemplative demeanor was priceless.

I’m thankful for my amazing, brilliant and sweet sister-in-law who has really perfected the art of contemplation.

Lake Junaluska
I set my camera to pick up on the color blue.

I’m thankful for the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains. I set my camera settings to only pick up blue hues. That was the result.

Lake Junaluska
A photo of just the canoe on the lake.

I’m thankful for this photo. I don’t know what it is or why I like it so much, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.

Lake Junaluska
A view on the lake – people and ducks

If the photo before this one is one of my favorites, this has to be my absolute all-time favorite. You can snap hundreds, or perhaps thousands of photos before there’s one that just sticks out.

I think this is it. Out of all the photos I’ve taken, out of all the edits and angles and different takes I’ve shot, this is one photo that I will frame (or at least I hope to!).

It makes me thankful for canoes and ducks and beautiful countrysides and lovely summer days. I’m thankful that I had the eye to capture people canoeing with the ducks in the scene just so…and it’s perfect for a Labor Day post.

Ten Things of Thankful

I realize that of late, I’ve become all “activist” and way too serious on this blog. I think the people like it when you lighten things up a bit.


1. I’m thankful for fleas.

Yes, you read that right. See, if I see one on my dog or cats, it prompts me to clean the house from top to bottom, apply flea treatments, and do more laundry than I ever want to do. I wander around as if I can’t get everything clean enough for days and days.

It’s one guaranteed way to get my house sparkling clean. Spic and span.

I never clean so well as when I see one of those particular bugs.

And then? I collapse on the couch.


2. I’m thankful for being okay that I have no motivation right now.

I’m trying to give thanks here for things I might not otherwise be thankful for; bear with me.

Since getting back from school (and studying for 14 hours a day and getting like 5 hours of sleep for three straight weeks, and continuing that pattern until after the art show), I have spent a little too much time on the couch.

I try to console myself saying that by watching Spanish TV – yes, dear god, more soap operas – I’m improving my mind. As if to justify my lack of motivation, I try to open my Spanish books for studying the subjunctive and pluperfect tenses and…I promptly fall asleep.

I will refrain from mentioning that I’ve taken two naps today.

Alas, I really am just enjoying the fact that I have this last week before my schedule kicks into high gear again.

And I DO have plans.


3. I’m thankful for crooked politicians.

If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see Cat Williams perform “Stand by Me” at Moral Monday.

I tried to take a video of it (see below) but I couldn’t help myself: I kept dancing as I recorded and the video is shaky. Oops. Looks like I’ll have to find her next venue. She’s a jazz singer in Asheville and man, I LOVE me some blues and jazz.

A jazzy interpretation of “Stand By Me”


4. I’m thankful I ooze enthusiasm.

I realize that might be a very strange thing to be thankful for, but getting excited about little things helps keep me from drowning in depression at all that is wrong with the world.

Man! Look at the raindrops on those flowers!

Oh my god! Pumpkin cream cheese muffins?! Oh yes!

Take three courses in three weeks? YIPPEEE!

Save the world? Give me a yellow cape. And I’ll do it! (I don’t know why it has to be yellow. It must just be superhero color or something.)

My imaginary yellow cape.


5. I’m only on number five.

You mean I have to come up with six more things (including number five)? That I haven’t mentioned in the previous weeks? Can I be thankful for vegetable lasagna for dinner?

Actually, I really am. See, I’m all for cooking the healthy meal, making stuff from scratch, making bread, picking and eating berries, yadda, yadda.

But there’s something to be said for the high-sodium, blobby-globby-goopy frozen lasagna from the store on a night where I feel like cooking as much as I feel like taking an ice cold shower.

Apparently those showers are good for you every now and then, but I think that would make me positively lose my human characteristics and turn into a cold-blooded toad. And I don’t like the way they smell.


6. I’m thankful for winter.

I can’t stand the cold I feel from November to April. My lips take on a perpetual blue hue and some people wonder if I have some kind of disease because I generally don’t stop shivering for five months.

When spring, summer and fall are here, I revel in the heat and I try not to complain about it unless I’m close to fainting from heat exhaustion.

And why, you ask, am I thankful for winter? Because I wouldn’t appreciate the other three seasons NEARLY so much.

I love you, Spring, for your flowers. Even the pollen that makes me sneeze.

Summer, you’re so hot, I get burned. And then I have to put aloe on my skin.

Autumn, your blazing colors make me crave hayrides and apple cider. And I want to eat pumpkin until my body risks being as round as you are.


7. I’m thankful for food cravings.

I once heard you crave what you’re lacking, if it’s something healthy.

Too bad Jolly Ranchers aren’t healthy. I just asked my husband to stop and get me some on the way home from work.

Usually I settle for sunflower seeds to snack on.

But, do to a terribly effective Spanish commercial, I am now craving Jolly Ranchers.

I’ll take strawberry and orange, please.

And for god’s sake: PLEASE nobody mention Jelly Bellys.

Did you know it’s Ronald Reagan who made them famous? If I recall correctly, he was trying to give up smoking but didn’t want to have to chew gum all the time. So, at his senior staff meetings, he had jars-full of Jelly Bellys for everyone to grab.

Oh man, now I’ll have to ask my husband to get me some of those.


8. I’m thankful for the rain.

I really am. I mean all terrestrial life depends on it to survive.

It’s just that there’s a lot of it where I am right now. We’re something like 25 inches over where we should be! That’s cool.

But, the outside of the refrigerator and the lightbulbs in the bathroom are growing mold. So is my leather jacket, the couch, and even the backs of some of my paintings. That’s all good and well, but it’s a task to try to keep up with it all to keep it clean.

We have a de-humidifier running a lot. And bleach – as corrosive and unfriendly to the environment as it is – has become an everyday reality.

Could we just have a little less rain? So that my leather shoes stop growing mysterious green fur?


9. Playing for Change!

I wasn’t going to include this originally in my post. But because I’m having a little trouble coming up with things I haven’t mentioned already in the previous few weeks, this post is taking a long time to complete. So, of course, I toggle over to Facebook, or my email.

BAM! More ideas.

I love the Playing for Change gang.

See, I used to organize Peace Assemblies at the schools where I worked and I would do one this year but it will be the first Fall Semester at my new school and taking two graduate courses…I don’t exactly want to be thankful for a heart attack next by trying to coordinate a school-wide peace assembly with so much else going on.

So, this year, I want to participate in an event somewhere and this popped up on my Facebook feed. Dang, it would be cool if a Playing for Change event was in Asheville. I would so be there.

Here’s the song that made me fall in love: (It CAN’T be a coincidence that it’s another Stand By Me song, can it?)

10. Thankful for puppies.

That are getting big.

We adopted “Vinny” back in May. His real name is Da Vinci.

Da Vinci the dog
Da Vinci the dog…back in May.

Sometimes he drives me up a wall. But most of the time he has this really innocent-looking face and…he LOVES ice.

Good to know for when I run out of doggie snacks.

And he’s grown!

Vinny at 7 months - looking out the window.
Vinny at 7 months – looking out the window.

11. I’m thankful for moving YouTube videos. (This is an extra one, but I couldn’t resist. I found it when I was looking for my favorite Playing for Change video.)

Before you shake your head, you need to check this out. It has 92 million views for a reason. I cried as I watched. You’ll have a better outlook for your day if you take a moment to watch – it’s about a homeless boy who sweeps the audience off its feet:

This is part of the Ten Things of Thankful Blog Hop hosted by Considerer, et. al.

Moral Monday – A Statement to the NC Legislature

I’m going to talk a bit of politics here. I don’t usually do that, but if you’ve been around for awhile, you’ll notice the “militude” part of my blog title: the last part of the word “verisimilitude” meaning “the appearance or semblance of truth.” Thus, my posts will sometimes include issues that, for me, touch upon “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I stand for the people.

I have been cringing ever since NC changed hands in 2012 to an all-republican house, senate and governor. It’s not that republicans are so bad. It’s the very right-leaning, regressive old farts that have me all hot and bothered. Believe me when I tell you that there are even republicans who are annoyed.

I knew public education would be doomed.

I knew women’s rights would be trampled.

Moral Monday
Even our town mayor was fired up. Her t-shirt says, “practice” because we need to practice voting now. So that our rights are not taken away. Photo by C. Calhoun 2013.

I knew you’d try to privatize the water.

I didn’t know that you’d try to pull the voter-suppression trick.

Or exacerbate the problems with immigration reform.

Or that you’d find other ways to infringe on civil rights.

And so I marched today. For Moral Monday. For the people.

You see, I’ve always been about the people, for the people and by the people.

I think it’s part of my genetic makeup.

When my mom employed people from all walks of life and from all over the world (Guatemala, Mexico, South Korea, and Jamaica among others) I learned so much about the human spirit. I truly had a multicultural upbringing. Add to that the fact that I was surrounded by the elderly and let’s not forget that I was adopted (within my family) and I’ll tell you, I know a thing or two about people: their needs, wants, aches, triumphs.

You see, we are all the same, you and I. We all come from the same planet with the same organic materials. You are no better than me. But I am no better than you. You pee and poop the same way I do and you pull your pants up the same way as I.

You may have more or less education than I do.

You may have more or less money than I do.

You may have more or less happiness than I do.

You may or may not have more sadness than I do.

But one thing’s for sure: these are all things we’ve lived and experienced as part of our human condition. 

This is why I get upset at you lawmakers. You have forgotten something: that you are no better than anyone else.

I’m here to tell you that when anyone thinks they are better than another, bad things happen. It might start out as a little disagreement, but these are the sorts of things that escalate into all-out wars.

It’s how the Spaniards (as well as the Portuguese and French to a lesser degree) wiped out millions of Native American Indians: because the Spaniards thought they were better than other people.

It’s how the civil war started: some European folk thought they were better than the African folk.

It’s what made the U.S. put its own citizens into internment camps during World War II.

Moral Monday
I love this sign: “cesspool of voters.”
It’s in reference to Senator Forrester a couple years ago saying that Asheville was a “cesspool of sin.” They now make t-shirts with that phrase. Photo by C. Calhoun 2013.

Now, I really feel that the NC Legislature thinks it’s better than the common folk.

And so I marched today. For Moral Monday. For the people.

I have a problem when wealthy men in fancy suits think they can make laws that usurp and otherwise take advantage of people who don’t have millions like they do.

You illustrate the phrase perfectly: when money talks, bullshit walks.

I don’t think you’ve looked into the eyes of a ten year old whose school had to go into lockdown because her mother’s boyfriend summarily turned on the gas, torched the apartment and was threatening to come after her. I have.

You haven’t looked into the eyes of a promising young Latina girl whose mother left her with bruises for having the gaul to say she wanted to educate herself and go on a school trip with other kids. I have.

You haven’t held the hand of a desperate Salvadoran immigrant (yes, a legal one, if you have to ask) who was starving to death and arrived in the States dehydrated and scared because his wife and child were dying of hunger and he was desperate to take a job – any job. I have.

You haven’t held a dying woman in your arms and while she looked at you that last time, she called for her daughter who would show up too late. I have.

You haven’t experienced wrenching stomach pain because there’s no food to digest. I have.

You want to privatize water. So you can monopolize it, drive up the prices and make a profit.

moral monday
Dr. Barber of the NAACP. He reports that less than 1 in 5 North Carolinians concur with the NC Legislature. Photo by C. Calhoun 2013.


You must know it’s becoming a commodity and therefore you’re going to wield the financial wand and take advantage.

You want to control abortion clinics – that actually serve as health clinics for low-income women. Now, the people might resort to back alleys if they’re sick or dying from pregnancy and try to use a hanger or some other indescribable instrument.

But once those children are born, you will not offer help to the mother who desperately needs it. No insurance. No Medicaid. She’s on her own.

Survival of the fittest? My god, I hope karma is kind to you.

You don’t care about the people one iota.

It’s about bank accounts, boys clubs, and brainwashing: the BBB’s.

You think that the people are going to stand by and let this happen.

In the words of Dr. Barber of the NAACP: you are out of your doggone minds. You make Ronald Reagan look like a liberal!

Do you even know your constituents?

A crowd estimated at 7,000 listened and rallied in Asheville.
A crowd estimated at 7,000 listened and rallied in Asheville.

Do you understand the human spirit?

No…you’re busy with your BBBs. This is the perception the average citizen has of you.

Thousands of people in Asheville stood with me yesterday. And their actions will be noted.

Their songs will be sung.

Their voices will be heard.

And we will not repeat history.

And so I marched today. For Moral Monday. For the people. 


Ten Things of Thankful: Artist Receptions and Education

It’s good to be back, though I’m afraid I won’t be back to my regular blogging routine, if ever. Ah well..I’ll just post when I can, right?

But the last few weeks have been profound on so many levels. I’m always up for those life journeys that open us up to possibilities, fulfill dreams, and allow us to be on that path that gets us closer to our version of Enlightenment.

I have much to be thankful for.

1. The opportunity to return to school.

I was sitting at the beach in June – mid-June to be exact.

I looked at my husband and I was brainstorming ways to tutor kids, create fun adult Spanish conversation groups and suddenly a lightbulb went on in my head: I needed to finish my master’s degree.

Dang, I’d already quit twice – I had written it off as something I wasn’t going to finish. But four years later, it was bugging me. I hate not finishing big things like this.

There are plenty of things I haven’t finished, but something so important to my future? It was bugging me.

Appalachian Heights
Nothing like feeling like you’re 18 again. These are the dorms I stayed in for three weeks.

And going back to school went something like this: contact my professor (and good friend), fill out some paperwork, start classes two weeks later.

It must be a sign when it’s that easy.

Do you believe in signs?

2. The good kind of dilemmas.

When I returned to school, I had not one, but two professors try to convince me to go for the PhD program offered through the University of Salamanca.

While this seems like a grand opportunity, I have no idea what I’m going to do. I really need to improve my Spanish (after the last year not practicing it very much) and it would require another 3-4 years of my time.

And the school where I’m teaching these days? I feel like I’ve found home, you know? For the first time in my life, I feel like I could plant myself there for 20 years and never leave. It’s a freaking dream.

I still have another year of graduate courses for my master’s degree, so I have time to think. But I know myself: the passage of time thinking about this won’t necessarily give me an answer.

The pros: I’ll be able to work at any university in the world. I can specialize and do very niche things, like being a language coordinator. I could even possibly stay at the school where I work now. The prestige. The pay bump. The love of learning and devoting myself to my studies.

The cons: Will I still be able to have a creative outlet via my art and blogging/writing? What if I decide that teaching university isn’t for me? I would have to live away from my husband for 4 or five months and if you have any idea how much I love my hunky dude, you’d know that the mere thought of spending time away from him makes me cringe. The pay isn’t even that much greater than with a master’s degree. You have to write a long thesis – all in Spanish – and you’re competing with native Spanish speakers. Yikes.

My “cons” list right now is longer than my “pros” list and the pros list seems a bit materialistic. But being Dr. Calhoun has a nice ring to it…and I could live in Spain. I love that damned country. Alas…visiting is almost as good as living there.

I also learned about another possibility: Latin studies. I could study that language, art and culture and end up teaching art history classes about indigenous art.

It’s almost cruel there are so many choices out there.

3. My art.

I am completely inspired. I got an idea for an upcoming project I’d like to work on: return to doing Southwestern/Mexican art and do a year-long project with Mayan hieroglyphics – and create art from them.

This is entitled “Mother Earth, Father Sky.” I sold it in 2011 and doing this kind of art again is really tugging at me.

No, it won’t be as ambitious as the Picto Project was (and got derailed by certain life events), but I always need to create art. Maybe not make a living at it, but I need to unleash my creativity and painting/drawing is one of the best ways I know of to do that.

4. The desire to give back.

I want to make a difference in a big, bad way. I desperately want to leave this planet in a better place than when I got here.

I don’t know how or when I’m going to do that just yet, but I certainly have some ideas brimming: donating the monies from my artwork to indigenous peoples in Central America or joining Amnesty International, or volunteering with the Hispanic people in my community or…all of those things!

5. The ability to learn a new language.

Well, “new” isn’t exactly the right word here.

But, I love learning Spanish. It’s the tongue of so many of my ancestors.

It would be so cool to do a genealogical search to figure out at what point they arrived in Mexico and if, indeed, they came from Spain.

I also love the fact that my family has always spoken Spanish. They have lived in what is now New Mexico for generations – even before the Mexican-American War in the mid-1800s.

One day they were in Mexico, and the next day it became the US – they went right on speaking Spanish and frankly, all this debate about everybody speaking English in the US is stupid: nearly half this country WAS Mexico at one point and the connection the US has to Mexico is so intricate that I have a preposterous theory: that neither one can exist without the other. But that is a debate for another day.

6. Coming to terms with the fact that I’m supposed to teach.

I’ve tried to deny it. I’ve tried to play down the fact that there is this passion that occupies my heart to convey information to eager minds and to anyone who would listen.

I get a high from the smiles I get from students who understand the material I teach.

I love helping our younger generations understand other cultures better that would help them in their own lives, and I love getting people excited about my passion to teach languages, culture and art.

I suppose I can’t ignore the fact that I have parents coming up to me telling me how much their children love my Spanish classes.

I reckon I can’t downplay the fact that my peers made me Teacher of the Year in 2011.

I can’t forget how many gifts and cards parents and students have given to me over the years in appreciation: I have a box-full of mementos and whenever I’m feeling down about the difference I’ve made, I look at those cards and my heart melts and screams to be in the classroom.

Even though I make a pittance doing it.

Even though there are parents who are tough to deal with.

Even though our society seems hell-bent on attacking and blaming teachers for our students’ shortcomings. Don’t they know that schools are small replicas and mirrors of our society? No matter. Those who are meant to do this plow through the political flames and go right on doing what they know they’re born to do.

I still am answering this call.

All the signs are there: the ease with which I found a teaching job earlier this year, how much I’ve come to love it, how easy it’s been to go back to school to improve my own Spanish and teaching skills, and the response I get from my community.

I’m supposed to do this.

Have you found your passion?

7. My iPad.

After getting back from the beach, my laptop had died. I think it overheated. I had plugged it into the outlets near the bathhouses, and I was never out in the sun or anything like that, the computer felt hot to the touch on the last day I was using it and after getting home to turn it on, the screen was blank.

Off to summer courses I went and I had my iPad, a gift from my wonderful parents last year. That thing saved me.

But more than that, I’ve been watching video after video of a stupid telenovela to keep improving my Spanish. It’s called “La Mentira” and I’m hopelessly hooked.

never watch soap operas.

But the sick irony is that when you watch them in the language you want to learn, it draws you in so that you find yourself pausing numerous times to look up words you don’t know just so you don’t miss a thing. Oh, I do hope Verónica gets back together with Demetrio.


And the iPad makes it incredibly easy to plunge myself into the world of Pueblo Alegre with one touch of a button.

My husband gives me these looks like, “who are you?”

Artwork at True Blue
Looking at the artwork from the outside

I tell him I’m practicing. I promise.

Would you watch soap operas to help you learn another language?

8. Good makeup.

This is another instance of my husband giving me sidelong glances, wondering what in the world has come over me.

I don’t wear makeup.

But, thanks to the influence of my Latin friends, I find myself wearing a little bit of it lately.

I’m still the same crunchy granola girl who romps around in the mud on her mountain bike.

Lately, though, I find that I feel slightly more confident and feel a little prettier with it. Somehow, I secretly think my husby doesn’t mind too much.

Ladies, most of you wear makeup, don’t you?

9. Supportive family and friends.

My husband is my #1 fan. I’m also his. But, in all my endeavors he’s supportive. He called me up one night when I was away at school and he told me that he was proud of me: for my Spanish and for the artwork. Oh how my heart burst with adoration and love.

My parents, mother-in-law, and family friends have been cheering for me to finish this degree and for my artwork, too.

I won’t let them down and I know that there are people out there who are hard-pressed to find such support.

10. The Doctrine.

Wakefield Doctrine - clark
Wakefield Doctrine – my fav sweatshirt

After the first week of school, I came home to a soft package. I had no idea what it was.

When I found a Wakefield Doctrine sweatshirt inside, I knew instantly it would be my teddy bear. Because we are in the mountains of North Carolina, it gets chilly in the evenings and immediately I snuggled in the soft comfort of fleecy goodness.

It started some great conversations at school, too. The other graduate students all wanted to know more about personality types and the like and it was fun to try to identify the clarks, scotts and rogers. It’s not easy pegging someone immediately: I don’t think there were any scotts in the bunch: no one had that intense gaze so characteristic of a scott. In fact, I think all but two were rogers, and another girl and I were the only clarks.

That’s my hunch, anyways.

Have you figured out if you’re a clark, scott or a roger?

Thank you for reading! This is part of the Ten Things of Thankful Blog Hop.