Hannah and Roman

They stood inside an ancient oak tree, steady on limbs thick, strong, and unbreakable.

“What are we doing? Is this the right thing?” she asked.

“I’m not sure. I’ve never done this either.” He showed her the ring. Simple, unique, creative just like she was.

She read him the poem she had written. The last line – “So, I promise you the sun.”

“And I promise you the moon,” he said to her.

“What if we break our promises? Even if we don’t mean to?”

“Then,” he said, “together, we will hold up our world.”

 

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painting by C. Dennis-Willingham

Anticipating a baby brother or sister

I worry that Mother’s not in the hospital. A few days ago I heard Aunt Nolie tell Mother, “Elnora, it’d be a whole hellova lot safer if ye had that baby in the hospital like ye did Cono.” They talked about the Great Depression that sat on our shoulders and wouldn’t get off. They said it makes us hungrier than usual and poorer than we’ve ever been.

“Hospitals cost money, Nolie. We don’t have no money fer a hospital.”

Mother’s folks, Ma and Pa, say it’s because of President Hoover that we don’t have no money. Others say it’s because we ain’t had rain in a coon’s age. That all the crops; cotton, corn and maize have turned into a dust that you could just as easy blow away like a fly acrost the lonely couple of peas sitting on your plate. A farmer and his family, like Ma and Pa, can’t live on dust and since there’s no money around to gamble with, a man like my father can’t collect none.

I hear another scream from the bedroom. Dad shifts his weight from one foot to the other. It’s hot out, so he keeps rolling up his sleeves even though there’s nowhere else for them to go. He won’t take his shirt off though. Even though we’re not in town, he says that taking your shirt off in public is “uncouth,” no matter how hot it is. Whatever “uncouth” means. He lights another Camel. I stir a little faster.

I start thinking that unless they figure out how to catch up with me, I’ll always be older than the baby coming out of my mother. I like that. I like the idea of being older than somebody. It makes me feel bigger and more important than what I am. Also, I don’t need nobody else telling me what to do.

Just before I start feeling too big for my britches, I hear the huff and whirl of an engine pulling in. I must have dozed off for a while. I open my eyes and squint into the headlamps of the familiar flatbed grain truck. The engine stops. The headlamps turn off. Aunt Nolie jumps out of the driver’s side and walks over to us. She’s still wearing the red dress she left in a few hours ago. I look for Uncle Joe. I hear him before I see him. He’s stretched out in the back of the truck; sucking in hard air and trying to force it back out again.

“Any word yet, Wayne?” Aunt Nolie asks Dad, tussling my towhead at the same time.

“Nah.”

“I’ll jes’t go on in and check,” she calls over her shoulder, as she wiggles and waggles her rear end off to Mother’s bedroom.

Aunt Nolie is a tough booger and it’s good to have her on my side. She can kick anybody’s ass from now into tomorrow. She said one time that she’d rather fight than talk, but she does plenty of both. She’s not quite as skinny as Mother, her hair’s not as black and she’s not nearly as pretty. But she speaks her mind so you don’t have to guess what’s on it.

I stir the dirt some more. Dad’s still staring at something in the dark, something far away that I can’t see. I’m only two and a half years old, so I’d much rather be stirring at something I can see, than staring at something I can’t. “Doodle bug, doodle bug please come out…..”

I keep twirling my stick, the one that’s magic and will make doodle bugs come out; the stick that will show me a magic place and will grow me a baby brother or sister.

Before I have time to get comfortable again, Aunt Nolie comes outside and kneels down beside me. She stares her watery eyes into my tired ones saying real quiet-like, “Cono, ye got yerself a baby sister.”

I feel my eyes pop out and my chin drop down. I’m not real sure what to do next, seeing as how I’ve never had a baby sister before. Stuff is stuck in my throat, way in the back, where I can’t get to without choking.

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Cono and his baby sister, Delma

Excerpt from No Hill for a Stepper by C. Dennis-Willingham

Daily word prompt: Anticipate

What does it mean to educate?

It means having a sister like mine. Words cannot express how proud I am of her. Pat has forever changed the lives of so many people including the ones who struggled and fought to be the first in their families to receive a higher education. Well done, “Dr. Witherspoon.” Well done.

Love always,

Your baby sister

P.S. Thank you for reading to me when I was little.

 

reference for following article:

Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon Retires

Last Updated on August 30, 2017 at 4:15 PM

Originally published August 30, 2017

By Laura L. Acosta

UTEP Communications

 

When Javier Aguilar-Garcia met Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., nearly four years ago, he was wandering the halls of the Liberal Arts Building searching for a University 1301 class.

UTEP College of Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., (right) retired in August after 17 years at UTEP. Witherspoon and UTEP President Diana Natalicio (left) hold a caricature of Witherspoon by Nacho L. Garcia. Photo by UTEP News Staff

(UTEP College of Liberal Arts Dean Patricia Witherspoon, Ph.D., right, retired in August after 17 years at UTEP. Witherspoon and UTEP President Diana Natalicio, left, hold a caricature of Witherspoon by Nacho L. Garcia. Photo: Ivan Pierre Aguirre / UTEP Communications.)

As a freshman at The University of Texas at El Paso, Aguilar-Garcia was still finding his way around campus. At the time, the first-generation college student had no clue that Witherspoon, the passerby he stopped to ask for help, was the dean of the UTEP College of Liberal Arts (COLA). She smiled warmly and directed him down the hall.

Their paths would cross again a couple of years later when Aguilar-Garcia served as a COLA ambassador under Witherspoon. For two years, Aguilar assisted the dean at events, such as the college’s Pre-Commencement Awards and Hooding Ceremony.

While the Juárez native no longer needed directions to class, he began looking to Witherspoon for guidance about his future.

“What I learned from Dr. Witherspoon would take hours for me to say,” said Aguilar-Garcia, a multimedia journalism major who expects to graduate in December 2017. “I learned the value of hard work, to always be true to myself, and to not be afraid to think outside the box. She knows there is something special in each of us.”

Aguilar-Garcia was among the many students Witherspoon mentored over the past 17 years at UTEP. She retired from the University in August 2017 after a 36-year career in higher education.

“I came to UTEP for the students,” said Witherspoon, who led COLA since 2011. “I was impressed by these students who will do so much to get an education, and who understand so well that an education transforms not only an individual but a family.”

Witherspoon joined UTEP in the fall of 2000 as chair of the Department of Communication.

During the Dean’s Legacy Lecture this spring, Witherspoon recalled that shortly before she started her new job, her oldest son, Terry, told her that the people at UTEP really wanted her to come to the University, and she better not let them down.

Looking back, she said, “I hope I didn’t.”

At UTEP, Witherspoon hit the ground running. In 2002, she established the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies, which provides academic enrichment for communication majors, communication programs to high school students, and continuing education and training for media and communication professionals.

The center’s inaugural event, “An Evening with Sam Donaldson,” in 2003 attracted top journalists, including Dan Rather, Helen Thomas, George Will and Ted Koppel, White House press secretaries and major news stations. The event raised more than $100,000 for the center’s endowment.

“That was a wonderful evening to remember and to honor Sam Donaldson, but it was also wonderful to see (these journalists) come out and hear about UTEP,” Witherspoon recalled.

In August 2008, Witherspoon was named dean of the University’s Graduate School. She held that position until 2010, when she became acting dean of COLA, UTEP’s largest and most varied college with nearly 7,000 students. A year later, she was appointed the college’s dean.

“There are lots of programs, lots of departments, lots of students, not enough faculty, and not enough staff,” Witherspoon said. “That is the beauty of the College of Liberal Arts; there is so much diversity here with the arts, the humanities and the social sciences.”

UTEP Senior Executive Vice President Howard Daudistel, Ph.D., was the college’s dean before Witherspoon. He said that under Witherspoon’s “extraordinary leadership,” the college strengthened its many student success initiatives and strived to continuously improve all of its academic programs.

“Dr. Witherspoon was a vigorous advocate for the many diverse departments and programs in the college and worked hard to recruit the highest quality faculty to support these programs,” Daudistel said. “Always attentive to student needs, Dr. Witherspoon was deeply committed to UTEP’s access and excellence mission while also supporting a diverse faculty of outstanding teachers, extraordinary scholars, researchers and artists.”

During her tenure, Witherspoon worked with faculty to develop forward-thinking programs that would foster student achievement. Among them was the Student Success Initiative in 2014, which provides tutoring and programs that support student academic development, and the Liberal Arts Honors Program (LAHP) in 2012, which offers academic enrichment opportunities to top undergraduate liberal arts students.

Witherspoon said the LAHP has exceeded her expectations.

“Many of our LAHP students go on to graduate school or law school and have wonderful internships in other parts of the country,” she said. “They’re just outstanding.”

Witherspoon credits much of her success to the college’s outstanding faculty and dedicated staff who she said made her look good, even on those days when she did not deserve it.

“It almost never felt like work,” she said with a laugh. Despite her many accomplishments, Witherspoon is most proud of watching students succeed. Her favorite time of year was celebrating the achievements of liberal arts students at UTEP’s spring and winter Commencement ceremonies. From the stage in the Don Haskins Center, Witherspoon would watch as wave after wave of liberal arts graduates walked into the arena, ready to make their mark on the world.

In retirement, Witherspoon plans to spend time with family and stay involved with the University. She may help raise funds for COLA’s 50th Anniversary fund or teach an online undergraduate course in communication and organizational leadership.

Other projects include writing a book on the effect of culture on leadership, focusing on Mexican-American and Latino influences.

“I feel very proud and very gratified of having been a part of this campus during the last 17 years,” Witherspoon said. “The last 17 years has been a time of tremendous change and great growth, not only in numbers but in stature.”

Daily prompt: Educate

Perhaps arrogant in her visceral “knowledge”?

I understand most things around me. I capture them like a fireflies in a pickling jar. I stare at their truth until they have taught me what I need to know. Then, I let them go to gather more on their own. And if I am lucky, they return to me and tell me more. They do, you know. The animals, birds and even insects, they tell me things.

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photo credit

Uncle Dirk is a man who, when he speaks to me, reminds of a dead person. Not Papa-like dead person whose soul is now accounted for in Heaven, so they say, but a walking dead person whose soul he has shed, the weight of it much too cumbersome to carry around. Aunt Lina. It wasn’t but 4 months later the news came that she had died from complications of pregnancy, at least that is what Dirk said. I have my suspisions. I have a feeling for these things you see.

Excerpt from a previous draft by C. Dennis-Willingham

Visceral –daily post prompt

Conscious Participant – Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

Thank you for this, Jacqueline!

a cooking pot and twisted tales

As the deer pants for water so does my soul pantfor peace in today’s world. Each day I wear my big girl pants and get on with living in the face of multiple challenges, sometimes, unfortunately, doubled due to the colour of my skin. One topic that I find unsavoury to talk about is race and that in 2017 I have to justify myself as a human and my right to life.

I was raised by loving, upright and hardworking folks and I aim to be a good representative of my parents. Back home, we didn’t bother with the difference of skin colour and all the rampantugliness of hate that currently swirls around.

I didn’t know that I’m black. I only knew that I’m a valuable human being and a fellow occupant of the world and it was not until I ventured away from my home…

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Life – Just stay on

Life is a carousel, don’t you think? We go round and round, a circle of life,  trying to catch the best parts.

Sometimes, the ride is slow, like one at a kiddie park. Or maybe the ride never starts. Perhaps something is broken, the belt ceases to move, and you are left without your luggage. (That’s a good thing. Get rid of the baggage!)

Other times, we are on a grand adventure of beauty and magic. I say, if we must go round and round in life, let’s ride on this one.

But whatever we do, let’s not choose the stationary seat. It might seem pretty but it also means we’re playing it safe.

Instead, choose one that moves you up and down, makes you giddy from the inside out, and leaves you smiling.

 

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