On the Death of a Loved One

Aunt Jeanne

Aunt Jeanne

I learned that my aunt passed away last night. Aunt Jeanne was 84 years young (she would have turned 85 on July 23rd). She was a wonderful, loving, and fiercely independent woman, the oldest of six siblings on my mother’s side of the family. In addition to a preexisting heart condition, last year Aunt Jeanne was diagnosed with cancer. She died peacefully in her own home, where she wanted to be.

I had the great pleasure of visiting with my aunt last October, and spending time with my cousin and her awesome family as well. Aunt Jeanne was undergoing chemotherapy, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at her, or being around her. She had that shine in her eyes, and her mind was as sharp as a tack. Aunt Jeanne appeared to be more concerned that everybody else was alright, and not wanting anyone to make too much of a fuss over her. For the visit I brought some information I had collected about my grandmother—a few photos from when she was a teenager, and some documents I obtained about her early life. Aunt Jeanne and I sat together going through the information. She told me she learned things about her mother that day that she had never known before, and she shared some details with me that I didn’t know. It was a wonderful exchange that I will never forget.

I have so many fond memories of my aunt, and while my heart is heavy with mourning, I also want to celebrate her life. Aunt Jeanne had this way of talking to you, where she would look you directly in the eye with full attention, and speak honestly from the heart. This always made a strong impression on me. She taught me not to beat around the bush, but to be true, honest, and forthright. She taught me to say what I mean, and mean what I say. She taught me to live my life with integrity, and a healthy dose of humor. Her smile would light up a room, and her laugh was truly contagious. I don’t care how down you might feel, or frustrated about some difficulty going on in your life, if you were around Aunt Jeanne and she got on one of her humor streaks (which was often!), and you heard that laugh of hers…there was no way to resist, you couldn’t help but lighten up and laugh with her. I hear it now, and despite my tears, a smile emerges.

As I pack my bags and prepare to travel out of town to be with my family, I am reminded of the delicate nature of our human forms, the impermanence of our lives, and the importance of family and friends.

These brief words don’t do my aunt justice, yet they are all I can summon up at present. I love you Aunt Jeanne. May you rest in peace.

“Death is someone you see very clearly with eyes in the center of your heart: eyes that see not by reacting to light, but by reacting to a kind of a chill from within the marrow of your own life.”

(Father Thomas Merton)


Fantasy and Science Fiction – Lit Class

Fantasy and Science Fiction

As mentioned in a previous post, I am enrolled in the Fantasy and Science Fiction course offered by Professor Eric Rabkin on the Coursera platform.  This is an 11 week course and we are currently closing out our 6th week. The work load is high. For each unit we have selected readings (which often include full-length novels, or sometimes several short stories and/or novellas). We have a week to complete the readings for each unit, and then every Tuesday we submit a short essay on the previous week’s readings (between 270 and 320 words). We then have to complete 5 peer reviews (anonymously) for our fellow course mates by Thursday of that week.

The experience thus far has been very rewarding. The discussion forum is typically lively and engaging. The videos Prof. Rabkin releases each week are wonderful. I like that he waits until after we have done the readings and written our own essays before releasing his videos for that unit. This allows the students to think through our own views from a close reading of the text(s), arrive at a theme or aspect of the story we want to explore, and then write a short essay on the material without being unduly influenced by the Professor’s literary analysis ahead of developing our own ideas. It works for me, and I see why he does it this way. Professor Rabkin knows his stuff. The videos are always insightful.

Here is the reading list for the course:

  1. Grimm — Children’s and Household Tales
  2. Carroll — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
  3. Stoker — Dracula
  4. Shelley — Frankenstein
  5. Hawthorne & Poe — Stories and Poems**
  6. Wells — The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, The Country of the Blind and The Star
  7. Burroughs & Gilman — A Princess of Mars and  Herland
  8. Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles
  9. LeGuin — The Left Hand of Darkness
  10. Doctorow — Little Brother

I missed one week due to being out of town on holiday (Unit 3, Dracula). I have read the novel in the past, yet I plan on returning to it and writing my essay anyway.

** The specific stories/poems for Unit 5 are as follows –
Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, Rappaccini’s Daughter, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment,  and The Artist of the Beautiful; Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Oval Portrait, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Bells, The Raven and Annabel Lee.

And the Most Excellent History of English Podcast is…

This looks like a wonderful series. Reblogging from my friend Cary who offers an excellent review.

Cary's Blog

…The History of English Podcast. Before you snicker at the obviousness of the name, note that it’s not just the first podcast about the history of the English language, as far as I know it’s the only one. Of course, neither being first nor being the only is a guarantee of being good. However, I am here to assure it is an excellent podcast.

Before I get to the excellent parts, let me dispense with the only two things that might turn off some people – although I personally appreciate them both. First, the host, Kevin Stroud, does repeat some key points. In the reviews of this podcast on iTunes a few people disliked this, finding it tedious at times. I appreciate it though, since it helps me remember the points.

Second, it’s in (deliciously) excruciating detail. He starts off with the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European and wends his way forward in…

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Video Editing Software?

Camera Lens

Those following this blog know that I am currently enrolled in the Rhetorical Composing MOOC from Ohio State University. As part of our most recent assignment, we were asked to choose an issue of social concern that is meaningful to us and create a form of ‘visual rhetoric’ about the topic. Some folks made posters, others made postcards, I decided to try my hand at a sideshow-type video. This is the first time I have ever done so. Due to potential copyright issues I will not be sharing the specific video here. However, I really enjoyed the experience and it has got me thinking about venturing into further exploration of creating videos made for public release. I’m not talking about professional Hollywood movies are anything like that, more along the lines of a YouTube video series. For the recent project I used Windows Live Movie Maker as it was already installed on my computer. That said, I am looking for a more robust video editor. I am OK with some complexity as my technical knowledge is intermediate to advanced. I don’t write code (with the exception of HTML, some PHP and some XML) but I do have a background in IT–technical support for eCommerce, software support, some web development and design, etc.

A question to my readers…anyone out there making videos? If so, what software do you use? I am on a Windows system and looking for a freeware and/or open source video editor. For audio editing I am learning Audacity. I am also shopping around for a decent webcam as the only one I have is the built-in cam on my laptop, which is really lousy in terms of quality. So, recommendations on webcams are welcomed as well.

A Fantasy/Sci-Fi Course on Coursera!

Attention all Fantasy and Sci-Fi fans and writers! I learned there is a course coming up in June called, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. This looks quite interesting. The start date is 3 June 2013. The course is 11 weeks long. I just signed up. Maybe you will join me in this adventure? This MOOC thing is becoming irresistible. I just need to make sure I don’t enroll in more than I can handle at one time.


WP Themes and Mixed Metaphors

I know, it might be petty, but I am so indecisive about which theme to use for this blog. The first one I was using was Misty Lake. The layout was perfect, the way the text flowed, the border spacing, etc., EXCEPT…the ‘misty’ feature was starting to get on my nerves. If you haven’t used that theme before, what happens is all of the side menus–as well as the sections of the post that show the categories and tags–are blurred and fuzzy until you hover your mouse pointer over them. Hence, “misty”. That was interesting…for about three days. Then I started to feel like cataracts were forming over my eyes! No offense to the designers of that theme, or to anyone else that happens to use it.

I can be really picky when it comes to themes. Each one I’ve tested have aspects about it I really like and aspects about it I don’t. I should just learn how to code and make one myself. Perhaps…one day. Right now I am testing out Sundance. Looks good so far, but don’t be surprised if I change my mind a few times before I finally settle on one.

This is my “Site is Under Construction” notice. Please bear with me. Thanks for your patience. Don’t forget your hardhat. Read the fine print. The revolution will not be televised (oh wait…that doesn’t really fit the metaphor, but what the hell, Gil Scott Heron was awesome! Enjoy the hold music).

More on MOOCs

As mentioned in a previous post, I have enrolled in several MOOCs offered through the Coursera website. At present the only one that has already begun is Writing II – Rhetorical Composing (from Ohio State University). We are in our second week. This is my first experience learning in a MOOC environment (with the exception of a false start with the Introduction to Philosophy course). My impression so far? In one word…gratitude!

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