Houston Pow Wow 2014

November 17, 2014 at 12:11 am (Education, Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Already in the mere four years I’ve been a homeschool mom, with my child not even “school age,” homeschooling in general has proven to be as much an education for me as it is for her.  When you homeschool, field trips feel imperative.  Not only do you want your kid to interact in the world, but even the most extreme homebody, if not an agoraphobe, gets a touch of cabin fever now and again.

Pow Wow 2012 017In 2012, we discovered that Houston has an annual Pow Wow and attended.  I documented that trip here. The kiddo loved it. We studied everything a two year old could “study” about Native Americans at that time and watched a lot of Pocahontas after the event. The culture, the dancing, the drums, the music, the food, I tried to dip my very pasty child in the whole experience. She came away desperately wanting an out fit just like the girl’s she took a picture with in my previous blog post (see left).

Life happened and we missed the 2013 gathering, though we do intend to attend every year.

Grant ForemanThis year, though kiddo didn’t do much in the way of pre- Pow Wow “research,” I felt the need to grab a book. On my lunch breaks I’ve been perusing The Five Civilized Tribes. I was most interested in the segment on the Choctaw since that is the tribe our rumored ancestor was supposed to have been. (I’m convinced everyone claims a tie to the Native Americans, I’m not convinced everyone has one… I’m not convinced I even have one. But from a geographical standpoint, Choctaw makes good sense.)

I’m not done reading, so a full review cannot commence.  Currently, I’ve read through the Choctaw segment and now am knee deep in the Creeks.  The book, however, is thorough and enjoyable though – as the Christian Science Monitor reported – “pure history, sober, and fully documented.”  One would assume that it would read dry, but it’s not.  Sober and dry should not be used interchangeably when speaking of history, but often it is.  Especially when dealing with the history of the Native American Indian tribes.  Their cultures are too colorful and their history too rich to ever be considered dry.

My favorite bit about the Choctaw is how thoroughly devoted to educating their children they were.  Building school houses and hiring teachers was a huge deal for them.  They built educational requests into their treaties.  Although I don’t agree with institutionalizing, I do find it interesting how much they wanted to learn about those infiltrating their land.  Some would say that it was an effort to assimilate, but I don’t think so.  I think it was more of an effort to understand.  Understanding and knowledge is important to me, though, so perhaps that is always how I will interpret those sorts of actions.

P1000571We don’t speak with the competitors at the Pow Wows much.  I’d like to know what tribes they are affiliated with, who their ancestors are, whether they live next door or on a reservation.  I’d like to talk to them all, interview them all, watch them all more closely.  But they are there for a competition and seem to be far more in the public eye than what could possibly be comfortable.  Instead we politely nod, smile, purchase raffle tickets for Indian Blankets, donate money to musicians, and try not to take too many invasive pictures of the dancers.  Instead, my child makes friends with their children for the day and blows bubbles, and desperately contains herself from touching their bead work and feathers, lest a fiercely intense father of a playmate scowl at all his hard work being undone.

The event is beautiful.  It’s all so beautiful.

Today, however, it was rainy and cold.  The Pow Wow had to be moved from the arena to a pavilion.  The show must go on, though, rain or shine, and despite the cold and the wet, they danced, and they were brilliant and kind.  Kind – even when my daughter said quite boldly during their prayer time, “But Indians DON’T PRAY!”  I promise I didn’t teach her that.  I popped her little butt and said, “Everyone prays, now bow your head.”


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Generations of Kung Fu

March 9, 2014 at 7:05 pm (Education, Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last night I watched many of my instructors and one of my students get inducted into a Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  It was all done over belated Chinese New Year celebration and a Kung Fu & Tai Chi Reunion banquet.  I took kiddo to the first half so she could enjoy a little bit of culture and learn a bit about what my life was like growing up in a Kung Fu studio.

P1010222Where you would have found me in a Kung Fu uniform or a simple banquet dress, little girl is all about the princess attire and insisted on wearing her princess dress to the ‘party’ where she also insisted on having cupcakes.  In the car she told me that it wasn’t a real party without cupcakes and that she wasn’t sure about going unless there were cupcakes because, “I don’t really like people.”  So expressive for a three year old.

No worries, the girl got her cupcakes.  She got interviewed from so many black belts I’ve know through the years… “Do you know your front kicks yet?”  “Let me see your center punch.”  Even princess need to learn to protect themselves and their loved ones.  She also got to hear a pretty stellar drum (The Lion Dance by Lee’s Golden Dragon) performance and see real Chinese New Year dragons.  One came right up to the table.

P1010228Shortly after that she went home with her Grandmom and Grandad – it got a little late for little princesses and she was about to turn into a Chinese Pumpkin – leaving me to my own devices for a few hours.

Ran into Bill “Superfoot” Wallace.  I used to adore going to his seminars and it was good to see him again.  It’s been a little over a decade since I worked out with him last.


I’ve gotten fatter, he’s gotten older, the world turns.  It would appear that I’ve gotten taller, too, but really I’m wearing five inch heels.  Last night included an announcement and celebration of the fact that this amazing 10th degree black belt has his very own DAY in the city of Houston.

My amazing FIFTH degree black belt friend.  (He got his fourth degree the same day I got my third, and has just kept on going.  I'm so proud of him.)

Annise D. Parker, Mayor of Houston, proclaimed March 8th as Grandmaster Bill “Superfoot” Wallace Day.  My grandmaster, the late Grandmaster Victor Cheng, has his very own day as well – March 3rd.  I don’t have any digital pictures of us over the years, but I can say it was a pleasure to learn what I could from him while he was still with us.

Above and on the right is a picture of me with my amazing FIFTH degree black belt friend, David Barnes.  He got his fourth degree the same day I got my third, and has just kept on going. I’m so proud of him.  I have no doubt one day he’ll have his own day proclaimed by the mayor.


My former student and black belt, Rick Strickland, in a Grandmaster costume for a banquet presentation.

There were so many present last night, people who have been training for 50-70 years, people like me who have been training for 20 years, and people who just joined the martial arts community in the last year.  Young, old, new student, grandmaster, and everything in between – it is inspiring to see how influential martial arts is to the community at large.  We are authors, booksellers, instructors, teachers, pastors, lawyers, rotary club members, small business owners, nurses, doctors, surgeons, police officers, cyclists… we are everywhere.  We are parents, grandparents, wives, husbands, children, Black, White, Asian, and everything in between, Christian, Buddhist, Agnostic… we are everyone, peppered throughout generations, all over the world.

With one of my teachers... a  friend, peer, fellow geek...

With one of my teachers… a friend, peer, fellow geek… We all love a good excuse to dress up.

One final thing I think I should mention – being that this is, after all, a book blog – all of us have read Kung Fu: History, Philosophy, & Technique by David Chow. Most of us also probably own and have perused Dynamic Stretching & Kickingby Bill “Superfoot” Wallace. An interesting thing to note about martial artists in general: many may not read for pleasure, but most are avid students and will read for research.  The very definition of Kung Fu is “to perfect through practice” and we will go above and beyond in any field we pursue to be perfect – even if that means being a non-reader and picking up a book to learn how to get better at something.  We get our energy from knowledge and training.

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When We’re Not Reading – Pow Wow Adventures!

November 11, 2012 at 1:13 am (Education, Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Today we went to Trader’s Village where we attended the 23rd Annual Texas Championship Native American Pow Wow. Singing, dancing, bright colors, people, and corn in a cup… what more could a girl want?

So many people were gathered to honor Native American Indian culture today, and to dance for a $15,000 prize. The young man featured above picture was dressed to the nines and dancing his heart out when the drums were going. The entire competition was pretty awesome.

There were a few times Kiddo was moving and grooving and clapping to the beat. And every time we took a break from sitting in the stands, we were able to get pictures with some of the friendly competitors.

Books are wonderful sources for information, but when it comes down to it I want Kiddo to go out into the world and experience first hand what she reads about in books. In honor of our adventure today, we’re reading Pocahontas: Princess of the River Tribes.

I definitely plan to take her to this event every year, as it is only $3 to park and free to attend.

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Voice of Conscience by Behcet Kaya – A Review

April 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Title: Voice of Consceince

Author: Behcet Kaya

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Length: 414 pgs.

Described by multiple reviewers as a Shakespearean Tragedy, Kaya’s debut novel Voice of Conscience is a little bit Kite Runner and a little bit Bourne Identity, but still something all its own.

Best read in three days (because of its three parts set in Turkey, London, then California), Voice of Conscience follows the life of Ramzi Ozcomert Jr., from his childhood in Turkey and a culture of vengeance and family tradition – to love, marriage, and finally the return to his roots.  In the spirit of Khaled Housseini (author of Kite Runner) and Manil Suri (author of The Death of Vishnu), Kaya dives into his own culture and gives us social commentary of a country often overlooked in literature.  Addressing deep issues of the human condition througout love, loss, revenge, and guilt from the perspective of a Turkish author, I found the book rather enlightening and educational.

Prior to Kaya’s novel, the only books I had ever read involving Turkey were Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes (entire portions of the novel dedicated to the relationship between the Greeks and the Turks) and vampire hunting novels that often use Istanbul as a pitt stop within plot developments.  I’ve encountered Orhan Pamuk over and over again, having worked in a bookstore running the literature section for years, but I never actually picked up any of his work, despite their accolades.

I read Part One set in Atamkoy, Turkey in 1962 curled up in my library with a cup of coffee, thinking this little tragedy was going to be more of a depressing, cozy read.  Turns out, through Parts Two and Three, I had migrated to my Gazelle where I can work out and read simultaneously due to its low impact and breezy routine.  I’m a mood reader, and the more the story progressed, the more Ramzi got closer and closer to going all mercenary ninja on his enemies, which gave me the desire to be on the move.  By the time the book ended, in tradition of a perfect story arch, I was back in a cozy chair with my coffee and a beagle on my feet.

Overall, I appreciate Kaya’s novel and how much of himself he has poured into it.  Its an excellent first novel, and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future.  My only complaint is in some of the dialogue which occasionally seems to fall a bit flat and is often times too lengthy. (This coming from a girl who talks incessantly and tends to write how she speaks… could be the pot calling the kettle black!)  But all in all, well done!

Additional articles to read:



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A Russian Study

April 14, 2010 at 12:27 am (JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Have I invited my fellow bloggers and blog-readers to my Russian study?


Welcome to the Russian Study! We hope that everyone interested in Russia, its culture and history, and its literature, will enjoy perusing through and adding to this discussion. Feel free to add your own books to the list or read along with the ones already here below…

* Crime and Punishment – Dosoyevsky (fiction)

* Anna Karenina – Tolstoy (fiction)

* War and Peace – Tolstoy (fiction)

* The Magical Chorus: A History of Russian Culture from Tolstoy to Solzheinitsyn – Volkov (literary criticism, history)

* The Axe and the Icon – Billington (history)

* The Vision Unfulfilled – Thompson (history)

* Fathers and Sons – Turgenev (fiction)

* The Captain’s Daughter & Other Stories – Pushkin (fiction)

* One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Solzhenitsyn’s (fiction)

* Sofia Petrovna – Lydia Chukovskaya (fiction)

* I think some Robert Alexander historical fiction titles would do well at the end. One is called Rasputin’s Daughter, but he has many.

I have already completed Crime and Punishment, below is my official review:

Good book, well written, yet I could have gone my whole life without having read it and not felt like I missed out much. The final confession felt like the final moment in Moby Dick when the whale actually shows – all I could think was: “its about time.” Its on Bauer’s list of books to read before you die, which I plan to use as curriculum for my kid when I home school, but I’m not sure that I’ll make them read this, unless they are utterly captivated by it and want to – especially with Tolstoy next on the list. I was hoping to be more captivated myself.

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