Esperanza Peace Market

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The 24th Annual Peace Market will be held Friday and Saturday, November 29th and 30th. Check it out at esperanzacenter.org.

 

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It is a don’t miss market and will be bigger than ever this year.

Pictured are some of the pieces our neighbor, Betsy Gruy, will have for sale. She is offering a 15% discount to all of the residents of Terrell Heights before the market.

As you may know, Betsy is our neighbor who has been volunteering her time and talent to mosaic the planters in the THNA Community Garden.

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You may contact Betsy at 210-315-4966 to see how to purchase your own piece of her artwork.

Holiday bliss or miss?

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Blink and Thanksgiving will be here. Three blinks and it’ll be New Year’s. For many folks, holidays equate to good food, great company, and wonderful memories. For others, the holidays bring all sorts of emotional baggage, exhaustion, and disappointment. Whether our holiday is filled with pleasure or spiked with tinges of pain, how we relate with people and manage our own experience are contributing factors.

Holiday Stress photoConnecting with family, friends, and other important people in our lives is what makes the holidays great. For some, however, these same relational ties can make the holidays less than joyous. The pressure to perform and poorly managed expectations for interactions with others can cause people to dread the holiday season.

Postcards and shop windows paint picture-perfect portrayals of seasonal bliss. Friends through social media show the highlight reels of their fabulous, filtered lives. Such images conjure an ideal for what life should look and feel like. This creates unbearable pressure to perform: cook the right meal, buy the right gift, wear the right outfit, and be sure to upload all those cute pictures to social media. Sadly, for many people the holidays mean a visit from unwanted guests that don’t have a pulse but do pack a punch (i.e., stress overload, unbearable anxiety, and depression).

The solution is two-fold. First, come to grips with your sphere of influence. Know what you can control (e.g., what I wear, how I behave) and cannot control (e.g., Uncle Leroy’s behavior, Aunt Janet’s attire). It may help to practice self-talk: “I am in charge of me. I control my behavior. I have no say on the weather and I cannot control the behavior of those around me. So the weather and others’ behavior should not control me.”

Second, manage your expectations and, when appropriate, the expectations of those around you. To manage personal expectations, be realistic with budget, schedule, and family dynamics. Managing expectations also means knowing when to look away from Facebook. If you are stuck at home alone or are taking part in a simple holiday affair, scrolling through pictures of friends toasting with champagne in Times Square may be unhealthy.

It is also important to appropriately manage the expectations of others. For me this is often a direct, courteous phone call to family, expressing my holiday plans before being tossed about by their expectations. A difficult conversation days or weeks in advance is better than hurt feelings on the day of. A call may sound like, “We definitely want to see you and all the family. This year, we will be at Uncle Leroy’s in the morning and at Aunt Janet’s in the afternoon (rather than driving to five different places in one day). We really hope you can come see us!”

Holidays would seem pointless without people to share them with. May you make the most of your time with those whom you love this holiday season. Manage the factors within your sphere of influence, and be bothered not by everything else. Cheers!

Trey Guinn is a resident of Terrell Heights and the Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at University of Incarnate Word.

Backyard movies under the stars

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‘That was Epic!’ quipped my neighbor’s 9 year old daughter after the very first Backyard Film Festival in March of 2011.  She got a chance to share her favorite music videos and dance with her friends.

Since then there have been a lot of great film festivals at 107 Devonshire.  The playlist tends towards the eclectic and so do the friends and neighbors who gather.  Retired folks, artists, wine purveyors, school teachers and hair stylists all mixing and mingling and watching movies under the stars.

One theme that seems to recur is ‘peace’.  We celebrated the International Day of Peace 9/21/13 at the film festival and rightly so – San Antonio has a long history of being a place of peace.  Since humans started inhabiting this region 12,000 years ago, attracted by the springs and the gentle river, it has been a gathering place and a sacred site.

As recently as the 1920’s indigenous people were pilgrimaging here from distant places to celebrate the generous spirit of the springs.  On Main Plaza as you walk down to the river there is a quote chiseled into the wall, it says, ‘I ran free, like the first human that walked me.  Yanawna was my name, peaceful waters’.  One of my current projects is to do a documentary about the origins of human habitation here and how those people lived.  Maybe it will debut at a BYFF one day.

Louise Locker: Founder of Elf Louise

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Louise Locker has a not-so-well-kept secret.  Not so well kept because most San Antonians know who she is, and by most folks’ standards, she is famous.  The way Louise sees it, however, is that she’s just someone who was blessed with a heartfelt inspiration that has grown.  You see, Terrell Heights resident Louise Locker is San Antonio’s Elf Louise, founder and namesake of the Elf Louise Christmas Project.  As a 19-year-old college student, she set out with the simple desire to fulfill one young girl’s dream, and in the process, an annual San Antonio tradition was born.

In 1969, Louise was a student at Trinity University, earning her way through college as a math tutor.  At the time, she was deeply touched by a segment on the “Tonight Show” where Johnny Carson read some of the letters the postal service received from children who wrote to Santa.  She made up her mind right then that she wanted to be Santa for at least one little girl, she wanted to remain anonymous, and her gift to that child would be a cherished doll from her own childhood.  So, off she went to the post office to ask if they would give her some of the Santa letters.  After all, what better way to choose a child to help?  She was informed that granting her request would violate federal regulations, but that didn’t stop her.  No, ma’am.  Somehow she managed to talk them into it.

After reading countless letters to Santa, she quickly decided that she had to find a way to reach more than one child.  She enlisted friends, family and strangers to help.  They collected enough toys for the children of 13 families, then personally gift wrapped and delivered the toys to the doorsteps of those families.  And that was just the beginning of what has become a cherished city-wide tradition of gift-giving to children who might not otherwise have a Christmas.

How has the Christmas Project changed over the years?

“It has gone from being serendipitous and whimsical, me running it by the seat of my pants, fueled by love, and believing that I could make one child’s dream come true, to a massive year-round undertaking that has delivered more than two millions toys to children.”

Did you ever imagine that it would be as large as it has become?

“I never dreamed it would take on this depth and breadth.  I was always so involved with my heart, wishing we could do one more thing for one more child.  I never stopped to imagine or plan for something bigger.  The enormity amazes me and I can’t quite relate to it.  When I see one child receive a gift or one parent’s tears of relief and gratitude, then I feel it’s all worth it.  For me, it is a very intimate experience.”

How has the Christmas Project changed you?

“I don’t know that it has changed me at all.  It has reinforced my beliefs that there is so much inherent goodness in people, and that people’s lives are changed by the kindness of strangers and by a child’s dreams coming true.  It has allowed me to see the threads that connect us all in the beauty and necessity of both giving and receiving.  I am still just me even though my reputation makes me appear at times to be larger than life.  I hope that I am an example that one person with no money or name or recognition can make a difference in this world.”

How did the name “Elf Louise” come about?

“The project had been going for three or four years, and I was trying to get the newspaper to cover it.  The reporter who wrote the first article about the project said we needed to give it a name, and he’s the one who cam up with ‘Elf Louise’.”

You have received a lot of recognition over the years.  Has that changed you?

“The recognition has been difficult.  I cherished being anonymous when this all started.  I never did it for the recognition.”

You’ve had cancer and also dealt with other health issues.  How do you keep up a positive attitude?

“I was blessed with a mama who thrived on gratitude, and I look at life the same way.  Gratitude for whatever good I can find keeps me strong.  I look for good and attempt to create as much good as I can whenever something bad happens.  It is as if there is a force that can crush you, but the force can be redirected and channeled for good.  Sharing my struggles and triumphs on Facebook really helped, too.  Many people have told me they were inspired by my courage to speak out.”

What do you love about Terrell Heights?

“I love the connections that are growing in our neighborhood.  Each event that happens, each group that forms, each conversation that occurs.  Collectively, it all brings us closer and forges a stronger sense of belonging to our neighborhood.  I loved how warm and caring everyone was when I searched for almost two weeks for my beloved cat Hobbes.  The love and concern expressed by others really lifted my spirits and soothed my soul.”

Louise Locker’s not-so-well-kept secret is an inspiration for what one person can accomplish to make the world a better place.  It doesn’t begin with power or fame or money.  All it takes to begin is a single act of kindness.

For most of the year, Louise is a counselor and life coach in private practice.  She is the mother of Chris, 27.  She enjoys playing the ukulele, great conversation, reading, gardening, beginner sketching and photography, and volunteering.  She is currently writing a book about the Elf Louise Christmas Project and is searching for the first families that received gifts from the Project.

Nelson Mandela: A lesson in forgiveness

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During the recent news coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death, I was deeply struck by the prominence of one theme in particular:  Forgiveness.  His capacity to forgive was extraordinary.  Despite being imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela was able to forgive his captors.  He said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  Through the power of forgiveness, he brought an end to apartheid (“apart-hood”) and healed a country.

Mandela’s life is a lesson in forgiveness, and so it is that I can’t help but think about the people in my own life whom I have not forgiven.  When I consider the atrocities Mandela suffered during his imprisonment, and that he still had the strength to forgive, I am overwhelmed by the realization of how petty it is of me to refuse to forgive, even those whose only mistake was letting me down.

It’s a difficult thing to do, forgiving others.  The intensity of hurt, resentment, bitterness, anger and hatred that human nature is heir to is undeniable.  It’s as if our woundedness demands that we hold a grudge, because to forgive would somehow make it acceptable that we were wronged.  Or worse, it would mean that we are weak.  But forgiveness is not for the weak, as Mandela so beautifully demonstrated.  He also showed us that the lack of forgiveness does nothing but keep us imprisoned within our own personal “apartheids”.

Human nature is also heir to being deeply flawed.  In that, we are all the same.  We all make mistakes, we all do things we wish we had not done.  Perhaps the only thing we desire more than to be perfect is to be forgiven.  And forgiving ourselves for our own transgressions is just as difficult as forgiving others for their transgressions.  We hold grudges against ourselves, believing that we don’t deserve to be forgiven.  If we don’t have compassion for ourselves, however, how can we possibly have compassion for those who have offended us?

The healing power of forgiveness spares us the dismal corrosion of bitterness, wounded pride, and self-loathing.  It heals the wounds that separate us.  It allows us to be at peace with ourselves and to be glad in each other’s presence.  Just imagine what we could accomplish–the relationships we could heal, the emotional freedom we could experience– if we could only find it within our hearts to forgive others, and ourselves.

5k dropout finishes 10k

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As we all ring the new year and make our resolutions to do more of this or learn that or stop doing such and such, for many people fitness goals usually enter the mix in some form or fashion.

In years past, I’ve done the fitness dance…
– joined the gym I went to hardcore for a month to never return.
– tried _______ diet just to binge on ice cream two weeks in.
– I even contemplated doing a Facebook charity campaign tied to a weight loss goal, but fortunately thought twice about it before putting my failure out there on the web.

2013 started out the same. I resolved to lose 2″ by my birthday in September.  Nine months, that was realistic. But as usual the good intentions didn’t overpower my desire to keep on keepin’-on with my old ways. Summer came and I was feeling the pressure; rather than going down by 2″ I was going up. I was beginning to lose hope that I could ever change my habits.

A year ago my good friends back home in Athens, GA had done a couch to 5k program and spoke highly of it.  Ever since moving to Terrell Heights and seeing waves of runners and walkers come by the house every Tuesday and Thursday evening, I’ve thought that maybe, just maybe I needed a support group to help me flip the switch and get fit.

So with that in mind, I decided to make final effort to meet my New Year’s resolution and headed down to Fleet Feet to sign up for their couch to 5k No Boundaries program.

I bought new running shoes and started to break them in by walking around the ‘hood before our first class. I downloaded the smartphone app to help me track my progress. All excited that I was finally going to do something to start exercising. This time it was going to stick!

There was only one problem — I LOATHE RUNNING!!!!  The blisters, the sore legs, the sweating, and for what? But, I pushed that down and did it just the same.

The first few sessions weren’t too bad, but then it started to be longer distances and I just wasn’t able to keep up (of course I wasn’t doing the “homework” of running on my own in addition to the class so I wasn’t building my endurance).  Anyway, fast forward to the end, which for me was 3 weeks early since I dropped out and never made it to the 5k graduation race.  I missed my “deadline” for my resolution. 🙁

However, I guess it wasn’t all that bad cause for some reason I decided to give the No Boundaries program one more try.  Really I was just doing it to check a box and say I gave it the old college try before throwing in the towel for good.

What made it even crazier was this time there were only 2 of us in my NoBo pace group so we were put with the 10k team and just told to peel off after the first lap. I just knew this would never work.

Between my low enjoyment of running and my super competitive side, this was a train wreck in the making. I could never keep up with the 10k runners and peeling off after one lap and watching them continue on was not something my ego could take. But I decided to go with it and see how long I would last. My group consisted of runners from the 5k summer session that I had dropped out from so there was an added feeling of pressure to see if I could keep up with them this time.

As the session progressed, the runs kept increasing in distance and pace, but this time it hurt a bit less and I wasn’t struggling – there were even times that I was sprinting to the finish line with some of my fellow group members pushing ourselves to squeeze every last bit of energy out. Something had definitely changed.  The growing pains from this summer had worked themselves out and I wasn’t loathing the runs anymore – I was actually looking forward to my group runs and keeping up with my individual runs as well.

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Before I knew it, I was becoming a runner, and this past December I finished my first 10k race with my group of 11 other runners from the NoBo program – and I accomplished my New Year’s goal even if I was a few months late on it.

As I look to 2014, I’m really excited to continue building on the success I’ve had in 2013 and have signed up for the Fleet Feet training program for the Battle of the Alamo 1/2 marathon.

Yep the guy that less than 6 months ago loathed running and couldn’t even run a 5k is now geared up (literally and figuratively) to run a 1/2 marathon. The best part is that others in the neighborhood have also signed up to run the 1/2 marathon in March as well so I’ll be in good company – any other takers?

So as you look to make or keep your New Year’s resolutions for 2014, I hope you won’t let past shortfalls prevent you from letting 2014 being the year you say “I did it.” And if you’re looking for some great support along the way, I’ve become a big believer in the Fleet Feet program, they really know what they’re doing.

Their next classes include a new walking program starting Jan 22, and free social runs every Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm starting from the store. I know others in the neighborhood have done the training and social runs with them in the past as well if you want other opinions.

If anyone out there is using Runkeeper, I’m happy to “friend” you and be a virtual cheerleader. If folks are interested we can look at starting some informal running and walking groups around the neighborhood, just send me a message via Nextdoor.  If there is one thing that this experience has taught me, it is that reaching your goal is a whole lot better when you have others out there pounding the pavement/gym/ salad bar/ or whatever your goal is with you!

Happy New Year and to reaching our goals in 2014!