Does Jazzmine talk to Sabrina’s ghost?

Jazzmine:  This time around, I’m a cat.  But this has not always been so.  I could tell you stories of who I was in past lives, but bragging about that is what brought me to this pass.  I’m told I abused my power over others, and so now I am a cat and at the mercy of this human world for food, shelter and more.

Actually, I lucked out yet again.  Initially born to a stray, along with a brother that ate most of the food the lady from ‘Save our Strays’ put in the cage for us and our mother, I was adopted by a lady with hair as black as mine.  As humans go, she’s not bad, and for the most part

Jazzmine:  I’m not the first and that’s a bitch.  Worse, still, I’ll never be able to live up to ‘Sabrina’.  I’ve heard her on the phone bemoan the loss of Sabrina, who lived past 23 – darned old for a cat.  You think I’m exaggerating; here’s what she said to her friend over wine.  I really miss Sabrina, she was an aristocat, Jasmine is a slut.  Maybe it’s the upbringing, Sabrina came from a large family of people and menagerie of animals.  Jazzmine came from Save our Strays.

Sabrina: Get over it.  At least you’re alive; you get the treats, the pats.  I’m a ghost and she doesn’t see me anymore except in memory.

Jazzmine:  Lucky her.

Do you know your genealogy?

We thought we knew who we were, even if we did not know the family tree farther back than Grandmother and Grandfather on Mom’s side.  Mom was German and Hispanic we thought.  Her mother, Herminia was a Lozano, a sturdy Hispanic name. Her father’s name was Blaz Guzman and he was called the square-head (German) by the neighbors, no one knew where he came from or when, nor did they care.  He spoke Spanish and English and was a good hard-working neighbor.  He may have spoken German as well, but it was the early 30’s – admitting to being German was not advisable.

Then one day mother remembered a long ago conversation with her mother.  Seems her mother, Herminia (Minnie), was adopted into the Lozano family, a Hispanic farm family.  She told Mom that she was a Bohemian and adopted and any memory before that was long gone, and now she is long dead.

Herminia Lozano Guzman – she was a woman who lived each day that was given to her as it arrived.  The past had no importance in the busy life of a farm girl or the woman she became with a husband and ten children – it would change nothing.  She lived in the moment not the past.

Bohemian?  I always knew that old photograph of Minnie and Blaz, looking for all the world like the famous ‘American Gothic‘ seemed somehow not to fit into the mold of the neighborhood where she and he were raised.  The light hair, pale skin and eyes the color of straw (according to mom and my dad) – hazel?.  Who were they, this woman and this man? Where did they come from?  What was their journey from there to here, that I could be born on down the line in these United States?

Was she one of many of the train children, sent out to work the land, and forever to never know her roots?  Was she an unfortunate/fortunate child of immigrants taken in through the kindness of strangers?  There are no birth certificates and only a few baptismal records and they are vague.  Was he an adventurous man who made his way to the land of opportunity? We’ll  never know.

I looked in the archives of census documents and found a 7 year-old Herminia something (the last name is scribbled and not Lozano) in a Lozano household – there are no other clues.  There are a few Blaz Guzman’s in various parts of Texas, any of which could have been our grandfather, but we’ll never know that either.

I wonder mostly out of curiosity as I stare at their wedding photo.  It’s a picture of a picture – the only surviving picture of them which hung on Maria’s (the eldest of the children) wall in 1974.  She would not trust it out of her sight, so my sister took a picture of it on the wall behind the couch, and that is all we have.

I think the lineage of my soul’s incarnations carries more import than the blood that runs in the veins of this its current temple.  But I’d still like to know where the flow originated – what path, which forks in the road lead them on and brought them here to me.

© Perle Champion

Do you watch movies made from your favorite books?

Do you ever feel sad when you finish a book –  get to the final page.  So much so that you must open it back up immediately to page 1 and begin again.  What does that say about your life.  Is real life so dull that you must climb between the pages and re-visit this new cast of characters/friends?

There are times in my life when I have done just that.  It’s a loop. Like the movie groundhog day, I read a series of books.  Love it when I can find a series that already has 8 or more books.  A series lets you get to know the characters over time – they become so  finely drawn, so believable you can hear their voices.  That’s the kind of book, you almost hate to watch if made into a movie because you have already cast these characters in your mind.  I mean Tom Hanks as Professor Langdon – NOT!  He was more Sean Connery to me.

I came late to Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and read 15 straight before having to wait for 16, 17, and now Explosive 18.

They’ve made a movie of  number 1 – ‘One for the Money’ and I’ve agreed to go see it with some trepidation, as these characters are fully formed in my mind’s eye.  With the exception of Stephanie Heigl as Plum and Sherri Shepherd as Lula, I think it’s almost totally miscast.  The two leading men do not exude the sexiness of my ‘Ranger’ and ‘Joe Morelli’..I’ve agreed to go to ‘One for the Money’, but I don’t think ‘Two for the Dough’ will make it into film.

Have you scanned your old family photos?

I opened up the weathered trunk and started pulling the old photos out to scan before they faded beyond recall or restoration.  Time is of the essence, for even though they survived the fire in February, they took a good soaking in the process.  My mother took them all out, carefully dried each one and laid them out to dry on ever surface of her dining and living room but still the water took its toll.

I look at one, then another, and it’s an odd feeling to look at that little girl and realize that I am she.  The oldest photos are black and white, but the colors and those special days live in my memory as if they were yesterday.  It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when a camera was a luxury, but back then few people owned one; we most certainly did not.

That didn’t stop my mom and dad. They believed there are occasions and milestones in a child’s life that should be documented in film.  The first six years of my life, every Easter and every birthday were occasion for a new outfit and a trip to the local photographer at the Maya Studio on West Houston Street in San Antonio, Texas.  I only know it’s name, because it is printed on the back of some of the photos along with a date.

It was a magical place with a little stage, and the old man would fuss around me, seating me first here then there, arranging my skirts or hair, all the time giving me directions.  “Cross you feet at the ankle. Fold your hands in your lap.  Look at me. Smile, I need a smile.” He never seemed to be still or quiet the whole time.

There was no color film in the earliest pictures, so when mom wanted color, she paid extra to have the photographer tint the photo.  It was okay for the most part, but I always hated my hair and cheeks.  They would make my hair brown when it is raven black and put more color on my cheeks than a clown should wear.  I always liked the black and white ones best and I still do.

Of all the things rescued from my ruined home, these are the most precious – these frozen moments in time.

Do you notice all the Unseen Hands?

I’ve been reading Breathnach’s ‘Simple Abundance for the umpteenth time, and after re-reading her essay on keeping a Gratitude journal, I remembered this piece of mine previously published in PavoMag back in 09.  It bears a reprint.

Unseen Hands.
I rise at five of five in the morning; feed the cat; do toilet; dress; stuff a small notebook and pen in my pocket and with keys in hand, head out the door by five past five.  My morning five-mile walk is an everyday ritual – rain or shine.  It is my sanity, my walking, meditating, mantra reciting and brainstorming time.  There is clarity at daybreak.  I see things rarely observed in our work-a-day world.  Although I cannot see the Campbell’s metaphysical helping hands I see those very real but rarely notice “…unseen helping hands.”

We live in a land full of largely unseen helping hands.   At five in the morning those hands have faces.

I put my overflowing trashcan on the curb Tuesday morning just as the rain came.  I do it every Tuesday and Friday morning rain or shine, hot or cold.  Every Tuesday and Friday evening when I come home from work, an empty can awaits me.  At five in the morning, I see the hands that do this for me.  The men with gloved hands holding on to the back of the passing truck wave, and the driver honks as they collect the refuse in countless cans on countless streets.

At five in the morning those unseen helping hands have faces.

As I pass by Caldwell and then Rhodes parks, I see the crews with mowers and trash bags going about the job of keeping these small city oases clipped and clean for all of us.

On the back side of my walk, I pass the darkened pancake house on a corner of Southside, there is a light on back in the kitchen.  Preparation for the morning’s meals is in progress.  A lone pair of hands cracks eggs, grates cheese, mixes batters.

Farther down the street, there is a tall dark man in an orange vest with a broom, a shovel, and a trash bag.  He cleans 5-Points’ streets almost every morning, humming to himself, as he goes about his work.  He always looks up as I walk by.  He smiles at me and says good morning and I return in kind.

I drop a few letters and bills in the slot at the post office and check my box for incoming.  I hear the cheerful banter beyond the slots and boxes.  The bills containing my checks get to Virginia and New York, the letter to my navy brother crosses the ocean, the card gets to my sister, Barbara, in Atlanta, and the birthday check for my daughter, Dawn, gets to Pineville, Louisiana in just a few days – I never doubt they will.  As I open my box, Charlie’s face appears with a, “Perle, hang on a minute; I’ll make sure that’s all.” As I peer through the little box, Charlie’s hand reaches through and passes me one last piece of mail.

I come home late at night and flip a little switch and my home is lit with an ambient glow of light.  How many hands keep the power flowing?  I saw many of them during the blizzard of ‘93 as I slogged through snowdrifts.

I turn a knob and water comes to me for drinking, cooking, bathing and more.  I turn another knob and my waste is flushed away.  I raise my thermostat, and I am warmed.  I lower it and I am cooled.

I go to the grocery store and there is a bounty of foods to choose from.  I can only imagine the hands that milked the cows, made the cheese, and picked the fruits.  There are fresh foods, frozen foods, and canned foods, and more.

I lift my phone and ask for numbers and they come.  I go online and find places, people, information, maps and more.

How many hands did it take?

We are surrounded by far more than a thousand, unseen, helping hands every day of our lives.  There are dedicated, passionate individuals who work behind the scenes to better the lives of the disenfranchised; they write letters, give speeches circulate and sign petitions.  There are hands, that give anonymous gifts and monies for the less fortunate – all the angels of all the Christmas angel trees. There are people working day after day, both here and on foreign soil, that invisibly turn the wheels of our lives.

I am grateful for them all.

First published in 11/15/2009

I love the aroma of fresh bread baking.

I watched Julia on pbs last weekend and she was baking quick breads.  I’ve made all kinds of bread, from sour dough, yeast, biscuits, tortillas, chapati’s, etc. , but I’ve not yet done Irish Soda Bread.  The recipe was so simple (see below), but I wondered how it would do with 100% whole wheat.  Thing about whole wheat is the bran; it can not only break that delicate elasticity needed for breads to rise correctly, it requires more moisture or it bakes up dry, or dense and crumbly because it doesn’t rise as well.

I thought I’d give it a try, and it’s in heavenly aroma is wafting through the apartment as I type this and sip a dos Equis.  Being a quick bread, it doesn’t require kneading, which is great if you’re in a hurry.  I love the process of my sour dough though, because I love the zen aspect of kneading, rising, and kneading again.

The bread knife is ready, and the butter is softening, and I will eat the first slice warm and have a slice or two more with leftover soup from yesterday.  Note: Done, and sliced heal perfectly, next slice a little crumbly, but oh it tastes so good.  Maybe when it cools, it’ll slice easier, but I couldn’t wait.

Simple Irish Soda Bread

3 Cups flour (white recommended,  used organic whole wheat)

2 tsp baking soda

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter

1-2/3 Cups Buttermilk (must be buttermilk)

Mix dry ingredients

Cut in butter till flour mixture has mealy look

Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in buttermilk

Mix thoroughly with spoon, spatula or hand till forms ball.

Turn out on flour dusted surface

Form into ball place on greased cookie sheet

Bake at 375 for 50-60 minutes will sound hollow when tapped on bottom.

What better aroma on a cold Sunday than soup simmering?

My mother did it and I do, too.  I toss leftover vegetables into a container in the freezer. When dinner is over there’s always a smidge of peas, 2 spoons of carrots, a scoop of mashed potatoes, half cup of cauliflower or a cup of beans.  I could toss them, but it seems wasteful.

My Mom used Tupperware; I use a large yogurt container and various Ziploc bags. Mom’s was called ‘Soup Surprise’; mine is called ‘Mystery Soup’. Note: Save meats separately.

When the vegetable container is full it’s time for soup or a hearty pasta with vegetable sauce.  Bear in mind that a hearty soup needs more substance than just broth and vegetables: a can of diced tomatoes, potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Sassy Sweet Potato Soup


1-2       Tbs extra virgin olive oil, butter or oil of choice

1          Small onion chopped

1          Clove garlic smashed

1          Tsp cumin

1          Tsp coriander

1/2       Tsp ginger

3          Cups chicken or vegetable stock or water with 2 dissolved Knorr bouillon cubes.

3-4       sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1          Lb bag of carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1          Container of ‘Mystery Soup’ vegetables.


  1. Sauté onion 1 minute; add garlic and spices and stir 1 minute more.
  2. Deglaze pan with a splash of vermouth, or any item in step 3.
  3. Add stock or water and bouillon cubes. Stir well to deglaze pan completely.
  4. Add chopped sweet potatoes and carrots and simmer till al dente. (Note: you can substitute all carrots or all sweet potatoes if you prefer)
  5. Puree potatoes/carrots using immersion blender or in batches in regular blender
  6. Add ‘Mystery Soup’ vegetables whole or cut into small pieces.
  7. When soup comes back to boil, turn down to simmer for 10 more minutes stirring frequently to avoid sticking.
  8. Salt and Pepper to taste.
  9. Garnish with dollop of yogurt or sour cream or chives.
  10. Serve with garlic or pesto toast.

Servings 4-6. Prep/cook time: 35 minutes

Does anyone really enjoy jean shopping?

Arrrgh I have to go jean shopping today.  My only pair of blue, blue jeans have finally worn through in not so strategic places.  To wear them again, would be beyond un-PC and possibly considered indecent.

I own several pair jeans that survived the fire tucked away in a closet that only got smokey and soaked.  There are 5 pair of black Ralph Lauren – I love black and Ralph fits my shape.  But, I only had one pair of blue jeans.  They’re Jones NY.  As well as Ralph’s black jeans fit me, his blue ones do not – go figure

Knowing how styles and cuts of clothing change from year to year, I doubt if Jones will still fit like my old ones.  I’ve had them for almost 10 years.  I’m trying Jones first, but I don’t have my hopes up.   I’ll probably keep the old ones to run around the house.

So, sigh.  I have to go jean shopping today.  I’ve called Jane (mom) and I’m picking her up at noon; she is a shopping pro and when I ask “do these make me look fat, she’ll tell me the truth.  We’ll hit the Galleria for a 2-fer lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s and a glass or two of liquid courage for the task at hand.

Do you fear Friday the 13th?

Do you have friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskavedekatriaphobia – fear of Friday the Thirteenth, or just or just triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number thirteen.  You’re not alone.  It’s not so much a fear these days as a superstition handed down through the generations.

No one knows exactly why 13 or Friday the 13th particularly is unlucky.  In numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness.  Consider the things that come in twelves: months in a year; hours in a day; tribes of Israel, apostles (Judas was the 13th).  Thirteen obviously throws off the whole and bad things happen.

Historically, the 13th Street and 13th Avenue are often omitted in street numbering; the 13th floor skipped in tall buildings.  As if the not naming it 13 belies the fact that it is 13 carrying another label. 

Personally, I have adopted it as a pseudo holiday.  I don my all black attire, pat my black cat on the way out the door and wish everyone a happy Friday the 13th.

Who do you see in the mirror?

Amy Tan wrote,  “I did not lose myself all at once.  I rubbed out my face over the years washing away my pain, the same way carving on stone are worn down by the water.”

She is right.  That is why the process is so insidious.  One day we simply do not know who we really are because day by day, year by year, layer by layer that unique individual – that child who was I – is buried in the silt of life’s rushing river.


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