Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trish in Action

At the Women's Show yesterday, Trish gave a speech about what the city council is doing. She had a pretty nice little group gathered to hear her talk. She was explaining all kinds of things the council is looking at and some upcoming votes we'll be doing.

She also had a booth for the first time. She was doing free legal checkups and talking to people. Every time I looked down her way she was busy, so I think it was a good experience for her.

We happened to be on the same aisle with Trish and with the Volunteer Center and the Zoo. It was a nice location. I was gone last year when they did the show, and other people set it up for me. They tell me this was our spot last year, too. It's a good location.

I didn't even take a photo of my own booth yesterday. It's one of those things that never looks as good in the photo as you expect it to. People do really elaborate booths, but I keep mine pretty simple. I like to be able to set it up and take it down pretty quickly - otherwise you're just overwhelmed with it after a long day.

This show runs from 9-4. They tell the non profits to not pack up before then and that you'll lose your spot if you do. On our aisle Leah and I were the only ones that waited until 4. Some booths were already completely clear by the time we started.

Trish had a nice banner done. That's something I've got to get is a new banner for the MHA. It's always one of those things I'm going to get around to but now that we have the new logo I need to actually get it done.

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Pity Party Freak Out

I had to work an all day event yesterday for the MHA. I was really tired by the end of the day, but I made it OK. We had made plans to go to the movie last night and although I had to force myself to go I figured I could leave if I started feeling worse. But, I was OK. I was very tired last night but was sure the new drugs were working great.

Today, again, I'm back in bed. I'm just exhausted. I've felt worse the last 10 days than I have the whole time except when I first got sick in Kentucky. It seems I'm getting a little better, then worse again.

Lying here thinking, I'm starting to really, really, really freak out that I've been sick enough long enough that my doctor is looking at things like lung cancer and emphysema as reasons. I have never smoked a single cigarette in my life - never even tried it - so it would seem unlikely. But, of course, when you can't breathe well there's generally some reason. And after more than two months of care it pays to check for other causes. Thank goodness he didn't find anything serious, and I'm glad he's a doctor who will say "I might be missing something... lets do an xray to be sure." But, nonetheless, I'm freaked that I've been sick so long such things are a concern.

It has been less than four  months since my cousin died from what seemed to be nothing more than a cold/infection. I'm mindful that one has to take such things seriously.I've been very serious about it but it's still with me. Other than a couple of friends, no one has seemed too concerned about me - other than me - but I know how unusual it is for me to be in bed during the day. It's practically unheard of. The last time I was sick enough to be in bed for more than a day was 5 1/2 years ago - that was 2 1/2 days.As Leah said yesterday, "you're never sick." This has been almost two weeks. I'm starting to freak out a bit. I'm eager to be well.

As I was getting ready to post this Greg's mom called to check on me. Isn't that nice?!?!?

La Vie en Rose

Teresa, Kathie, Greg and I went to see La Vie en Rose at the Fox tonight. This is the movie about Edith Piaf's life. I had a little trouble keeping up with the multiple jumps from one decade to another and one continent to another. But, it left an impression on me. I may never consume another drop of alcohol. I'm not a big drinker anyway, but I may never touch it again.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Impromptu Introduction

I had the most wonderful experience this afternoon. I met a lovely young woman named Jade, while I was setting up for the Women's Show that's tomorrow. Jade came over and said she had read a bio on and wondered if that was me. It was, of course.

She has also seen me at Wal-mart, where she works. In fact, she had seen me just a little bit earlier because I'd been to get another prescription. (Antibiotic round FIVE for those of you keeping track!)

I'm so glad she introduced herself. We had a nice conversation. I know she's someone I'd like to know better. She's working with a city program to encourage recycling. Interestingly enough, I had just bought a reuseable bag at Wal-Mart. I recycle at home, but I know I can cut down on the amount of bags I'm putting back into the environment. I may not always have one of them with me, but every one I avoid taking out of the store is a benefit. So, I'll make an effort. I just have to get a system going where I've always got some in the car and remember to take them in with me.

I like living somewhere where people will introduce themselves to you. I felt bad that I didn't shake her hand, but I explained I'm trying to keep anyone from getting anything I've got. Peggy's mom has been in the hospital for a week and I had intended to go see her but I haven't felt like going anywhere and I certainly didn't want to expose anyone to what I've got - especially not someone who's not at their optimum to begin with.

On that front, I went to the doctor again today - third time in the last few weeks. Three doctor visits are usually spread over three years for me. Today he sent me for a chest xray to make sure he wasn't missing something, but it was fine - no tumors or anything like that. He just wanted to be sure and I appreciated that considering how rare it is for me to be this sick for this long. I have felt pretty rough for quite a while. I thought I was much better the last couple of days and woke up worse today. So many people are ending up hospitalized with this gunk and it's Friday and I just didn't want to chance it. So, at least I know it's just typical stuff and nothing serious.

I've felt bad enough today I've had to remind myself... "Patsy... you have a cold... keep some perspective... people have real health problems... you have a cold... buck up..." But inbetween that I was nearly in tears because I've just not been "normal" in so long. Hopefully that's just around the corner. Maybe a couple of pills of this heavier duty bug-killing-drug will have me on the mend. And maybe I can stop whining. Geez, I hope so... because I'm sick of my whining... I can't get away from me...

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Food Photography

Just recently I was talking with Greg and how I needed to improve my food photography. He mentioned that we both tend to just do "grab shots" instead of treating it as a real subject. I know food stylists use other things to stand in for food, although I guess in ads you have to use the real thing. But, just like a glamour shot for a person, you can make the food prettier.

Today someone sent me this link to a site where someone took 100 pictures of food out of the package, compared to the package photo. Some are ver striking to me like this or this.  However, it's interesting to look at all of them. It's in German, but you don't need to speak the language to know that what you're getting inside isn't the same as what you're told you're getting.

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Quote of the Day

Believe nothing because it is written in books.
Believe nothing because wise men say it is so.
Believe nothing because it is religious doctrine.
Believe it only because you yourself know it to be true.

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Perkier Soon

I've actually been up all day, for the first day in quite awhile. I don't feel normal by any means, but at least I've spent far fewer hours in bed today, which is encouraging. I had a noontime speech that went a little long, and Teresa and I had dinner. Other than that I've pretty much been at the computer.

Tomorrow I have to go set up for the Women's Show on Saturday. I'm not sure how I'm going to get through a full day Saturday, but I'll just have to. Maybe I'll feel much perkier by then.

I've been thinking about our retreat weekend. I need to do some planning for it and just haven't felt like devoting any brain cells to it. But, this weekend I will get that done.

Sometime soon I need to get my taxes done... something that's not fun to think about... but must be done nonetheless...

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Book Group Successful

Tonight was the first ever "Ad Hoc Book Group Gathering." There were six of us - Teresa, Diana, Cleta, Kathie, Julie and me - and it was a good experience. We all agreed we enjoyed, "Eat, Pray, Love."

It's good to hear other people's perspectives. People pointed out things I had missed or forgotten.

This is one of the ways I think we can create a new way of social connection. When Dr. Robert Putnam spoke here he challenged us to come up with new approaches, and I think the relaxed scheduling is appealing to people. I know it's appealing to me. I just can't add one more thing to my schedule that is "every fourth Tuesday..." or whatever. It's just too much.

I'm not sure when or if we'll do another book. I don't have anything on my list right now that I think would be good for discussion. Julie suggested "Middlesex," which she just finished. I'm just not interested in discussing that - it's too dense for me. I read it a year or so ago and remember very little about it as far as details. It does have one of the best opening lines of any book I've ever read.

I'm sure something else will come along that seems like a good book for discussion. I'd like something similar to "Eat, Pray, Love," but there's a reason it's so extraordinary. There aren't piles of books like it out there, waiting for us to pick up.

If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I'm always on the hunt for good books. Thoughtful books.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Creative Sisterhood

Tonight was Creative Sisterhood and it was a blast. We laughed a ton tonight, which is always nice.

September will be five years since we started gathering each month to share our lives. I recently looked at the original email I sent out about getting together and realized that the way it has developed is one of the dreams I had for it. But, I also thought we would make things together at times. We haven't done that yet, but we have created something special.

Connecting with people remains something I'm passionate about. I know, deep in my bones, that those connections are essential for us and that finding ways to facilitate that is critical to our well being. Tomorrow evening is our book discussion for "Eat, Pray, Love," and I think that's a way people can connect, too - ad hoc, no definite schedule from one time to the next. I am going to be really curious to see how the retreat weekend I've planned in April goes. That may, also, be a way to make connections.

I've been working on a Creative Sisterhood Cookbook - just a little project I thought would be fun. One of the things I've learned is that we eat a lot of chocolate. It's not that any of us minds chocolate - quite the contrary - but we've eaten a lot of it. And it's no one's fault but mine since I'm the one who decides what to bake. Apparently I'm chocolate deprived, and assume everyone else needs more chocolate, too.

Because I've recently realized that I provide chocolate a lot, I decided I'd make something non-chocolate tonight. I wanted to make a double batch of something so I'd have it done for tomorrow, too. So... tonight's offering was... White Texas Sheet Cake.

I have posted this recipe before, but just in case you didn't make a note of it then, here's another chance. This is - honestly - one of the best cakes I have in my recipe files. The only reason I don't make it more often is that I don't always keep sour cream on hand. That's what gives it the wonderfully moist texture it has.

While I'm on the topic of recipes, I now have a section on my website where I will gather any blog posts about food into one place. So, you'll be able to go straight to the recipes area and find things without having to wade through the blog.

White Texas Sheet Cake

I don't know why this is called Texas cake. I got it from someone who was born in Colorado and lived in North Dakota before moving to Kansas. Regardless of how its name came about, this is a cake that draws rave reviews every time I make it. It's so rich I generally cut it in pretty small, almost bite sized, pieces. Tonight, however, I made more generous pieces.

1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts

In a large saucepan, bring butter and water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining cake ingredients. Pour into 15 by 10 baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until done. Cool for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make frosting by combining butter and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then remove from heat, add other ingredients and spread over warm cake.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Accepting it

As of today I have accepted that I'm sick. In reality, I've been sick since January, but I have been denying it. I do that. I just hate to be sick so bad that I will pretend I'm not until I just can't stay out of bed. I've reached that point. And, for the record, yes, I know a piddly little cold like I have is nothing and I'm thankful it's nothing. OK, now, just ignore me, because I'm about to be whiney. Very whiney. I'm not a good patient. I'm warning you... I just want to whine... but you can skip it and I don't have to embarrass myself in front of you that way, but I'll get the whining out of my system.

I've been trying to ignore that I'm sick for days, weeks, months, although you'd think the hours I've spent in bed would have been a clue, considering I never go back to bed during the day unless I'm sick. I've been trying to go about my normal life, only to find myself back upstairs under the electric blanket every 2-3 hours. I finished the prednisone today so maybe I can actually sleep some now. I bet I - literally - haven't slept 10 hours all week.

In the last 60 days, I've been on antibiotics more than half the time. I've had four rounds of antibiotics, three rounds of prednisone, and been prescribed an inhaler. I am a very healthy person. I have healthy lungs. It is time for this to be over. I can't believe I have a single germ left in my body, but the pile of used tissues near me would indicate otherwise. I started taking mucinex a couple of days ago and I seem to be producing gunk from my lungs at a rate I didn't know possible. At this point I just want it out of me - by whatever disgusting means that requires.

I went to the Dillon Lecture today - thinking I was feeling pretty good. Three hours after I left the house I was crawling back up the stairs where I remained for a few hours. I got up and came downstairs, thinking I was better. Went back up to get something and decided I'd just lie down for a few minutes. Hours later I was back up. You get the general picture.

Inbetween there was much hacking, wheezing, coughing and nose-blowing. It's the soundtrack of my life.

OK, you can't say I didn't warn you... but I got that out of my system now. I'm going to haul my sorry, whiney butt upstairs and back to bed. Perhaps tomorrow will be the turning point when I start to feel normal again.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Quote of the Day

Everyday life is the prayer.
How we conduct it, cherish it,
celebrate it, consecrate it.
              ~Sarah Ban Breathnach
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Google Ads

I run google ads on my website and generally I'm so impressed with how well they match with the content on my blog. Until today. When I logged in to see an ad for J. Mc C for President. Apparently they overlooked the part that I'm a democrat and not supporting him. I'm not spelling out his name here so I don't confuse them further. I don't think I've mentioned him recently but his ad is running nonetheless. I'm afraid that is probably a big waste of money - I'm doubting a lot of Mc C supporters read my blog - but, who knows - maybe so. It's a nice ad - very well designed.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Daydream Believers by Fred Kaplan

Thursday evening I went to see Fred Kaplan speak. He is a Hutchinson, Kansas, native and stopped in to discuss his latest book, "Daydream Believers," in which he examines the tactics and policies of this administration and how they affect the war in Iraq. 
He said one of the reasons we're at war is that there is a perception that the world changed after September 11, but that's not really true. Americans may have changed their view, but the rest of the world did not. The other factor he mentioned is that when the cold war ended, so did a system of order that had been in effect for a long time. New powers were emerging and the Soviet Union was diminishing in power. He says, "what has happened since the cold war is the resumption of history.

That means that a president had a couple of options of how to manage in a new world. 1. Be an imperial power, but we didn't really have the "money, manpower or stomach" for that. 2. Form alliances.

He said one of the reasons we invaded Iraq is just that we could. "Smart bombs replace the need for large armies, so we didn't need allies so much." One of the problems was that we weren't clear in our goals. As he put it, "It's one thing to get rid of Saddam. It's another thing to prevent another Saddam and have real regime change."

Rumsfeld viewed it as a demonstration of our power to take out Saddam. He had no desire to restore power. He just wanted to win the war. To him that was removing Saddam.

Kaplan said it's an "example of how these guys paid no attention to history." He said the view of many in the administration was that "Freedom is a God-given gift" and that if you remove the dictator, freedom will spew forth like a volcano. The problem with this concept is that if you look at history you'll see it's completely false. Democracy is not a natural state, just waiting for an opportunity.

"Social and political freedom is very difficult. If it's inherent, why did it take 1800 centuries for it to come to fruition?" he asked. He went on to say, "Democracy is creating a government that can negotiate how you handle things." He said, "I think US policy has to have a moral dimension, but it's one thing to protect democracy, it's another to fling ourselves into another place to create democracy."

As for the war, he said, "there are no good options" but he said there is "a lot of political leverage in those troops" and we should be using that to encourage Iraqis to govern themselves. But, he said, "Regardless of who is president, you're not going to see a total pull out for a long time."

He said our continual focus on terrorism is only serving to reinforce the ideas a young potetial jihadist might be interested in. Instead of talking about terrorists as if they are small, disjointed bands of people, we keep talking about them as well organized groups that have us scared - something appealing to someone who wants 'death to America.' He said, "We're doing 80% of Osama Bin Laden's recruiting for him."

He said the coming years are going to require the president, whoever it is, to "start talking and ... make deals and compromises. We have only known life as a superpower and that's not the way it is anymore. We're not completely like the British after WWII but close to that."

He said we have to deal with things as they are and stop pretending. He said when the dollar is no longer the standard currency, we will be in real trouble. "The reason we're not impoverished is China's bankers are floating us," he said, "but they're diversifying." He summed it up nicely when he said, "We buy their cheap goods with money they loan us."

Kaplan has a Ph.D. from MIT and was a foreign policy advisor to Congressman Les Aspin in the 1970s. He has written for the Boston Globe, and won a Pulitzer Prize. He has written for a number of publications, including  The New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly. He also writes a column for Slate magazine. 

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Weekend

Greg and I kicked off Easter Weekend Friday night with a trip to ye olde Wal-mart where this perfect little bunny jumped off the shelf and right into my cart. How can you ignore him with his jaunty little ear perked up? He is now residing in my home, as you might expect.

We went to Roy's today. I hadn't been all week, which is unusual for me, but it has been a busy week and I've been so sick, too. Anne wasn't there because she was sick so Debbie was taking orders. They had a ton of things going out the door because the NJCAA tournament is going on here and also because tomorrow is Easter.

It's the first time in a long time I've seen this much of a line before noon, waiting to even get to the door, to wait in the line for food inside. Greg took this photo of people reflected in the window outside. Of course, we were able to get the photo because, we, too, were waiting outside.

They were so overwhelmed I was wiping off tables for them. I've offered before at times when they've been really busy, but today is the first day they've let me. I was happy, happy, happy to be able to help a little bit. They take very good care of me. As you might expect, I have a certain way I like my BBQ cut and Ryan always does it just that way. I know they give me special treatment so wiping a few tables was the least I could do.

Tonight we went to Dutch Kitchen, thinking it would not be very busy since it's a little out of town. It was a good choice. As we were paying there was much laughter in the dining room and we walked back in to find a young man with pie on this face. Literally.

Apparently it's a tradition there to put a pie in the face of employees on their last night. Tonight was his. He was a very good sport about it - saying the pie was tasty. I can believe that as the Dutch Kitchen makes very good pie, although I'm guessing this was more whipped cream than anything else.

It has been a pretty quiet day otherwise. I feel a little better than yesterday. Thank goodness I started my fourth round of antibiotics on Tuesday - I have been getting sicker since then so I can't imagine how I would have felt if I hadn't had them. I can't believe there are any little germs left in me - I've been on antibiotics more than half of the last 60 days, but nonetheless that would seem to be the case. I'm certain this will finally destroy the little buggers.

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Arthur C. Clarke Obituary

Arthur C. Clarke died this week. If you watched television, used your cell phone or any number of other communication technologies today that require satellites, you owe a debt of gratitude to Arthur C. Clarke. For that matter, it could be argued that the mere fact that you're on the world wide web right now is due to Mr. Clarke.

He was a writer, first and foremost, but he had an uncanny ability to foresee possibilities that were to come to fruition. At age 90, he had just reviewed the manuscript for his latest book, which will be published later this year.

The Washington Post has a wonderful obit, which I've copied here in case they take it down at some point. Here's the link to the original, and the text. They have also posted a recent photo of Mr. Clarke.

Arthur C. Clarke; Sci-Fi Writer Foresaw Mankind's Possibilities

By Patricia Sullivan

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008; Page B07

Arthur C. Clarke, 90, the world-famous science-fiction writer, futurist and unofficial poet laureate of the space age, died of a respiratory ailment March 18 at his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Mr. Clarke co-wrote, with director Stanley Kubrick, the screenplay for "2001: A Space Odyssey," which is regarded by many as one of the most important science fiction films made. A prolific writer, with more than 100 published books, he was praised for his ability to foresee the possibilities of human innovation and explain them to non-scientific readers.

The most famous example is from 1945, when he first proposed the idea of communications satellites that could be based in geostationary orbits, which keep satellites in a fixed position relative to the ground.

Some scoffed, but the idea was proved almost a generation later with the launch of Early Bird, the first of the commercial satellites that provide global communications networks for telephone, television and high-speed digital communication. The orbit is now named Clarke Orbit by the International Astronomical Union.

"He had influenced the world in the best way possible," writer Ray Bradbury said in Neil McAleer's 1992 book "Arthur C. Clarke: The Authorized Biography." "Arthur's ideas have sent silent engines into space to speak in tongues. His fabulous communications satellite ricocheted about in his head long before it leaped over the mountains and flatlands of the Earth."

In addition to his books, he wrote more than 1,000 short stories and essays. One of his short stories, "Dial F for Frankenstein" (1964), inspired British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee to invent the World Wide Web in 1989.

Mr. Clarke also popularized the idea of a space elevator as an energy-efficient alternative to rockets. Conceived by a Russian engineer in 1960 and re-invented at least four times in the next decades, Mr. Clarke's inclusion of the idea in a 1979 novel brought it to popular attention and helped launch a new field of study. He told New Scientist magazine last year that it would be built "50 years after everyone stops laughing."

But it was his collaboration with Kubrick in the 1968 film that made him internationally famous. The screenplay for "2001: A Space Odyssey" was based on Mr. Clarke's 1951 short story "The Sentinel," and Mr. Clarke simultaneously wrote the companion novel, which was released three months after the film and was believed by many to be a more detailed explanation of the ideas in the film.

Mr. Clarke's work inspired the names of spacecraft, an asteroid and a species of dinosaur. He joined American broadcaster Walter Cronkite as a commentator on the Apollo moonshots in the late 1960s. Two television series in the 1980s spread his ideas around the world.

He was knighted in 1998, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and received the Franklin Institute gold medal, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-Kalinga Prize and other honors.

Mr. Clarke, a resident of Sri Lanka since 1956, worked with Jacques Cousteau and others to help perfect scuba equipment. He moved to the country, then known as Ceylon, to open a dive shop and explore the undersea world. Disabled by post-polio syndrome, the lingering effects of a disease that had paralyzed him for two months in 1959, Mr. Clarke said diving was as close as he could get to the weightless feeling of space.

"I'm perfectly operational underwater," he once said.

His dive shop was destroyed in the 2004 tsunami.

Born Dec. 17, 1917, in Minehead, Somerset, England, he was the son of a postal service engineer turned farmer and a post office telegrapher. He became addicted to science fiction at 11.

In 1936, he moved to London and joined the British Interplanetary Society and began writing science fiction. After enlisting in the Royal Air Force in 1941, he became a radar instructor and participated in the development of ground-controlled landings of aircraft under zero-visibility conditions. That experience proved the inspiration for his only non-science-fiction novel, "Glide Path."

It is also where, in 1945, he wrote an RAF memo about satellites. He later revised it and submitted it as "Extra-Terrestrial Relays" to Wireless World, which almost rejected it as too far-fetched. He was wrong about some things: He expected that three satellites would take care of the world's communication needs and that each would require a crew in residence.

After World War II, Mr. Clarke obtained a bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics at King's College, London.

In 1954, Mr. Clarke wrote to Harry Wexler, then chief of the Scientific Services Division at the U.S. Weather Bureau, about satellite applications for weather forecasting. From these discussions, a new branch of meteorology was born.

Mr. Clarke's marriage to Marilyn Mayfield ended in divorce. Survivors include a brother and sister, both of whom live in England.

According to a news release from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, Mr. Clarke reviewed the final manuscript of his latest science fiction novel, "The Last Theorem," a few days ago. It is scheduled to be published later this year.

Although he rarely left Sri Lanka, he kept in touch with the rest of the world by using the satellite communication he predicted so long ago. He told the Associated Press that he didn't regret never going into space because he had arranged to have the DNA from his hair sent into orbit.

"Some day, some super civilization may encounter this relic from the vanished species and I may exist in another time," he said.

In a 90th birthday video recorded in December, Mr. Clarke said he had only three last wishes: That someone find evidence of extraterrestrial life; that the world adopt clean energy sources; and that an end be found to the long civil war in Sri Lanka.

"I'm sometimes asked how I would like to be remembered. I've had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer, space promoter and science populariser," he said. "Of all these, I want to be remembered most as a writer -- one who entertained readers, and, hopefully, stretched their imagination as well."

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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Day the Hyacinths Bloomed

Today is the day the hyacinths all bloomed. They've been barely budding out but one and a half days of warmth and they are in full bloom.

My mom grew hyacinths and I have always loved the smell. I should plant more this fall.
"If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one and from the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul"

-Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

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Rene Godefroy Speech in Hutchinson Kansas

Wednesday morning I had the pleasure of hearing motivational speaker, Rene Godefroy, at the Prairie View Food for Thought series in Hutchinson, Kansas. This series brings some wonderful folks to speak, but this was exceptional.

Godefroy was born in Haiti, and lived in the small village with another lady while his mother went to Port au Prince to work. He said when he got to see his mother some years later and she hugged him for the first time in ages he, "felt like a giant."

He went to Canada with a theatre company and came into the US illegally 25 years ago praying, "If you help me make it to the US, I promise I will not waste my life." He dreamed of living in the US and still feels blessed to be living here.

Unable to speak English, Rene arrived in Brooklyn with just five dollars, two shirts and one pair of pants. Knowing there was a large Haitian population in Miami he went there. He joked Miami was not a good place to learn English - that he learned Spanish before he learned English.

He worked at a variety of jobs, one of which was washing cars in a bank parking lot until a new maintenance person told him he couldn't do that anymore. He talked about how he used to imagine what went on on the top floor of the bank and thought maybe one day he could empty the trash up there. But he said eventually that experience played into his first rule by teaching him that "Life is a series of rejections."

He also realized later that to reach his eventual dreams he had to be a different person than the one who was thinking about emptying trash. And, he became that person and was invited by the bank president, years later, to come up to that top floor for a gathering. He mentioned the Einstein quote, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

This quote really resonated with me. I had read it before, but had forgotten it and there is some real wisdom in that.

For some years he worked as a doorman at a hotel in Atlanta. When he was parking cars he would notice the books people had in their cars and go get a copy and read it so he learned about some of the great business strategies. Now he has his own book, "Kick Your Excuses Goodbye."

He would carry the bags of speakers who were coming in for events and at night when he was doing set up he would visualize that he was the speaker. Eventually, that came true and he was.
He has five strategies he shares that took him from poverty to living the American dream.
1. Stop rehearsing the past.
2. Always go the extra mile.
3. Decide and act.
4. It's a process. Not an event.
5. Have a Honey attitude (find the sweetness in everyone).

These really resonated with me. Some of them reminded me of my own Rules for Living. My number three rule is almost the same as his.

When I read his first one - stop rehearsing the past - it suddenly struck me that maybe this is why I don't like to look at old journals or photographs. For reasons I don't understand it makes me sad, even if the events are not sad. So, I don't do it. Why would I do something that makes me sad? Maybe it's one way I don't rehearse the past.

The idea of it's a process, not an event, is one I really need to grasp. I have been working on this for awhile now, although I didn't have it phrased this way. I decided a few months ago to "Let go of the 'how' and Prepare for the 'when'," trusting the universe to provide the "how" if I was ready for it "when" it came along.

The concept of just being nice and going the extra mile is something I've been working on for a few years. I've learned to just be pleasant to people as much as I can muster, even if I don't feel it, because there's no point in not being. I had an opportunity to do that very thing tonight and I failed so I'll try to do better tomorrow. It's most difficult for me when I'm frustrated, and that was the situation tonight. Alas, perhaps the next time around I'll do a better job, although I hope it's not with this particular thing again.

It was very interesting and I'm so glad I went. I continue to try and get people to attend the Food for Thought series, with little effect. It's a pity because they have some amazing events and people are missing out. But, there's nothing I can do about that. Peggy came, and I was so glad she was able to use my extra ticket. It's always fun to see her and she enjoys the lectures as much as I do.

Godefroy's speech left me with much to think about and I absolutely love that.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ad Hoc Book Club for Eat Pray Love on March 26 at Patsy's Place

The Ad Hoc Book Club Gathering to discuss "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert will be at my house on Wednesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. Let me know if you're coming so I can prepare. I emailed some folks but know I missed some, so let anyone know you think would be interested. If you're in the Hutchinson area and would like to join us, just drop me an email. In the future, these events will be posted on the events section of my website instead of the blog.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I know I've mentioned here before, but if you haven't yet taken a look, I encourage you to do so.

I sometimes get questions from people about my religion/spiritual views, and I always just say it's private. It's a leap for me to share this information, but this has become one of my personal spiritual practices.

All major religions share some caveats and one of those is to help the poor. Many people do that through their churches or other methods. I don't attend church, and I view this as one way to support the work of religion without going through the church organization. I like this more direct approach.

I don't think most churches are very effective at this sort of work because they're engaged in other things. That is completely at the discretion of church members, and it's not mine to judge, but I want to direct my resources to the specific work I think we're all charged with - regardless of faith or lack thereof. I think all humans who have "enough" should be sharing. Note I didn't say "plenty," but "enough." I truly believe it's part of being a responsible member of the human race to take care of each other.

I love the idea of directly supporting an individual who is poor only because they have not had the oppportunities others have had. sends 100% of your donation on. They are supported through donations. You'll have an opportunity to make a gift to them as well, but it's up to you. I always make $25 loans, and the suggested gift to kiva is 2.50 on that. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.

I hope I don't come off as preachy. I love other things like Habitat for Humanity, too. Maybe because I've travelled a little bit and seen how rich we are in the US compared to much of the world, I feel a need to share. Much of the world lives on less than a dollar a day and it's a meager living. We have no concept of how fortunate we are to be living in our climate controlled homes, driving our cars around and buying all of what we need and most of what we want.

I live a very average life - probably a lower middle class life by some people's standards - and I know I am incredibly blessed. Amazingly blessed. I am so thankful. And being able to loan through is yet another thing to be thankful for - that I found it, that it's simple and inexpensive enough to do, that I have an internet connection with which to do it, and the list could go on and on.

And, please don't think I'm sharing so much it hurts. That's not the case. I'm making a loan - not even a donation, but a loan - of $25 every few weeks to another person around the world. It's simple. And when the loan is repaid you'll have the chance to take your cash or reloan it. I love to have the opportunity to reloan - it feels like that money is working harder than it ever could in a money market account.

Well, I've gone on and on and on but take a look at it and maybe it will appeal to you as well. Maybe not, but it's worth a look.

Successful Event

The MHA's potato bar went well this afternoon and evening. Everything in my world - including me - smells like baked potato. Fortunately, I like baked potato, although I didn't feel like eating one by the end of the day.

We even had a potato guy walking around promoting the event.

Many thanks to people for the loan of the costume, and to the students who wore the costume and who walked around with sandwich boards on. I'm so fortunate to have a great board who will jump in and get things done and this is a prime example. Duane knew someone who had the costume, Nancy arranged for students to help us with a variety of things and Gary got students to walk around in the costume and with the boards. That's Gary putting the finishing touches on a sandwich board.

They walked around at the arena today where the NJCAA tournament is being held. The Armory, where we had the event, is across the parking lot so people could easily walk there. The National Guard folks were so helpful yesterday and today.

We served a potato with fixins, dessert and a drink for $5. As always, there are some funny moments during these sorts of things.

I was concerned that the potatoes were not cooking quickly enough today and that we weren't going to have them all done on time. So, at one point Greg brought some to my house to cook, Sheila took some to her house, and Nancy took some to the high school. Fortunately, all went well.

One of the funniest moments of the day was when Greg - who was an amazing trooper all day doing everything from bringing me lunch to picking up antibiotics for to me to baking potatoes - was asking me how he would know if the potatoes were done. I told him about the fork test. This incredible look of recognition came over his face and he said, "Oh! So, that's why they say stick a fork in it... it's done." Little did I know that at practically the same moment, Sheila was having a nearly identical conversation with her husband.

We had some potatoes left, which I took to the soup kitchen, so nothing will go to waste. This is the first time we've done it so it was a learning experience for us, but it went well.

We rely on lots of volunteers for something like this. A huge percentage of my board was there, and we had a lot of people from The Volunteer Center too. One of the people I always request when we're doing anything food related is Kathy.

This woman... oh my gosh... this woman can wash dishes like you can't imagine. She also cleans anything else that doesn't move, and some things that do, which I love. She will grab a hefty trash bag and haul it out to the dumpster before it even occurs to you that it should be done. She is a jewel. We talked about having lunch one day. I hope she calls and emails and we get to do that. She's always fun to be around.

Well, I'm tired... and I have the Food for Thought event in the morning so I should try to get a little bit of sleep. I'm incredibly thankful for my board, the volunteers, Greg (always - he remains the best ex-bf a girl can have!), National Guard folks and everyone who made this possible.

I had intended to take lots more pictures, but I'm so busy during these kind of events that I - literally - don't even have time to say hello to people sometimes, much less have anything resembling a real conversation. It's just always a big rush. Needless to say, getting out the camera and taking pix falls by the wayside.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

It's still St. Patrick's Day for a few more minutes. Greg and I had an unexpected, but quite lovely, experience with "the green." We headed out to dinner at Ken's Pizza but they were having some sort of plumbing issue - lots of work people and lots of lawn being dug up - and were closed. So, after much debate, we decided to go next door to Carlos O'Kelly's, where we very rarely go.

We were greeted at the door by a Leprechan. Now, even on St. Patrick's Day, this isn't exactly something one expects. And, for that very reason it was delightful. Our entire dining experience was more fun because of that brief interaction.

The Leprechan came through the restaurant occasionally, leaving gold coins and plastic beads in her wake.

This caused me to think about how little unexpected bits of fun can color our perceptions in major ways. I have no doubt that both Greg and I will be more eager to go Carlos O'Kellys in the future - just because we had a fun experience. I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned in this for businesses.

I remember reading once about a company whose call center did an employee survey and discovered that one of the things employees kept mentioning that was missing was celebration and fun. So, the company developed a plan to celebrate everything - from the traditional birthdays to more esoteric things like, "John made the 100th sale today." The call center had the lowest retention rate for employees until this went into practice, when their rate dramatically increased. Obviously, that impacted training costs.

I have to admit, that wouldn't work for me - it's too contrived. But, I can see why it works for lots of people - particularly if you're doing a job like a call center where the routine needs to be broken up. I've never had that kind of a job, so maybe it would work for me in that case, too.

Whatever the mindset of Carlos O'Kelly's tonight in deciding it was worth the cost of having an employee dressed as a Leprechan, it worked on these two customers. Maybe it was more for employees than customers, but we both left with a favorable impression, which was also only increased by the excellent service we got. Those things add up to repeat customers.

I was ready for a nice, relaxing dinner after a day of preparation for the MHA's Potato Bar tomorrow at the Armory. The NJCAA tournament starts in town tomorrow and we hope a number of people will walk over from the arena for the Potato Bar. It's a bargain - $5 for a potato with fixings, drink and dessert. I've been baking more cakes tonight. We will start in the morning and I won't get a break all day, so it's going to be a long one. We serve from 4:30 to 7, but I'll be in motion from the morning until the night. But, hopefully the MHA will make money, and I'm thankful I'm physically able to do this sort of thing and that I have board members and volunteers who will help pull it off.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘grow, grow’.
The Talmud

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Window on the World

I snapped this photo in Kingman the other day. There were three of them in a row on the second floor of  a downtown building. Each had matching window boxes. The orange of the late afternoon sun was bathing the upper floor in light and I was struck by the whole scene - the box, the brickwork and the curtains.

Don't those curtains say something about what you expect to find inside? I expect this person is probably someone I would like knowing. I'm guessing they have knick knacks sitting around, maybe on top of doilies. I'm thinking they have some antiques. I'm guessing they are homebodies in the sense that they like to be home, but are always ready to go out to a gathering with friends. I'm thinking the bathroom has fluffy towels and there's some wonderful smelling soap, maybe made locally. I'm guessing there's a teapot at the ready for the evening and a coffee pot for the morning hours. I would bet they're sentimental.

Now, am I right? Who knows? This is all speculation. But, it's a great example of the assumptions we make about people and places based on very little real information. Some research indicates our assumptions are often correct - at least about these sorts of somewhat superficial things. The problem comes in when we try to apply these to more indepth personality traits, which we're not so good at predicting.
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Website Work

It's always on my list, but I finally got around to starting work on redoing my website. The blog will be the last thing to get redone. And, frankly, I could easily put it aside and it could be many months before it gets done. Why? Because I find website work to be unbelievably dull.

It's pure drudgery to me. But, I'm thankful I can do the basics on my own because people get paid big bucks to do website design. I think because people want real money to sit at a keyboard and do the same thing over and over again until carpal tunnel or boredom overtakes them. Who could blame them? I'm not sure people could pay me enough to spend my days doing it.

Obviously, I've only started the redo and have many, many, many things to write, create, update, etc. etc. etc. I have needed to do this for a very long time. At least I got started. I'm a long way from being done. But to get done one must start.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Pie and Pi Day

It's 3/14, which is pi day because pi is 3.14. Not surprisingly, mathematicians have noted this before, which is why it's International Pi Day. Well, Greg decided the occasion should not pass without pie being involved. Always being ready to jump on any bandwagon worth my effort, I got right onboard with this. After all, I love math and I love pie - it's a holiday made for me.

I started thinking about pies I've made... and pies I've eaten... and I thought of a photo of my friend, Martha, giving a pie I made for Creative Sisterhood the old Vanna White treatment. Ladies... this is a good reason to always have your nails done... you never know when you'll be called upon to model with a pastry and one of your annoying friends will post it on the world wide web. Repeatedly. (However, you'll note Martha's nails look lovely - they always do!)

I decided in order to salute the occasion, I'd offer my favorite pie crust recipe, and the caveat that you, too, can make pie crust. Trust me. It's got only three ingredients. It's not that hard.

Pie Crust

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Crisco or other shortening of your choice
3 tablespoons ice water

You can add a dash of salt if you wish, but I never do.

The tricks to good pie crust are simple.

1. Keep it COLD. If you don't bake the crust right away, put it in the fridge to keep it cold. Don't use your hands to mix it or you'll melt the shortening and you'll get tough pie crust, which you can also get by overmixing. (See trick number 2.)

2. Don't overmix. What makes piecrust flaky is that it's essentially layers of the flour and the shortening. If you mix it until it's truly all blended you'll just have a big doughy, tough mess.

Finally, if you want to know how to make it pretty, you'll have to ask someone else. I can either make pie crusts that taste good or look good. I have, thus far, been unable to do both simultaneously. I have seen it done, but never without lard or manufacturing being involved. But, I've never had anyone complain that the crust is ugly if it's good.

Meringe is also incredibly easy. It's just something people who make it want you to think is difficult so everyone is more impressed with them. OK, you know what I mean. See details on the blog post about the Creative Sisterhood Pie Evening.

Now... go forth and bake. Bake Pie. It's Pi Day. People need Pie. Particularly on Pi Day.

Oh... and put a birthday candle on that pie for Albert Einstein who was born on this day in 1879. (Like you didn't already know I'm kind of a geek.)

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Idiot Politicians and their Hookers

Any politician caught with a hooker should be removed from office - not because of their morals, but because they're stupid. STUPID. Way too stupid to be running anything - even a small township.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Grace Embodied

Lately I have been the recipient of much grace. I've been aware of it on multiple levels for about the last 10 days in particular. This, of course, is not to say that grace isn't plentiful all the time - if you're walking, talking and thinking tonight like you were yesterday, you've benefited from grace in the last 24 hours.

But, the last week and a half grace has manifested in my life in small ways. So much of life is about the little things - good and bad. We all know about the "straw that broke the camel's back" and how it can be the little something that pushes us over the edge. It can also be the little something that pulls us back from the edge. In the last few days I've been balanced on that edge multiple times, about to tumble into the abyss, and someone or something has pulled me back.

A prime example is a few nights ago. I was in the midst of my bedtime routine and felt this overwhelming sense of grief overtake me. The tears were starting, and the sobs weren't far behind, and I realized it was going to be a night when sleep was not to be mine. Then, there on the bedside table where I put it every night, the phone began to vibrate. Grace was reaching out to me at 1:25 a.m. in the form of a friend calling just to talk. Had it been 90 seconds later I would have been unable to talk and let it go to voicemail. Had it been 90 seconds sooner I wouldn't have known how much I needed that phone call. Grace. Right on time.

I was reminded of a bit from the book, "Eat, Pray, Love." I read a reference to this on Kether's blog recently, and it has popped up multiple times since. It seems so appropriate in this instance. Author Elizabeth Gilbert is relating a story about her sister and the differences in how they see the world.

"A family in my sister's neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, 'Dear God, that family needs grace.' She replied firmly, 'That family needs casseroles,' and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace."

That's how the last week and a half has been. Grace has come in the form of calls at the right times, emails, a letter from a long ago love expressing sympathy for my recent loss, invitations from friends - and even friends of friends. I'm touched. So very touched. It's a prime example that we don't know how important it can be when we reach out to people. At any moment we can be grace embodied.

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Spring has Arrived

Spring has arrived. Hallelujah! Praise Be! I know spring has arrived because daffodils bloom in the spring and this photo was taken in my front flower bed. Yesterday it was a bud, today it's in bloom. Two of them are in bloom, actually. And, others are budding. Spring has arrived. Hallelujah! Praise Be! Did I already say that? Sorry... I'm a bit overly excited. So overly excited that I wore sandals today. My toes have been a little chilly all day, but I don't care. I need to do my part to encourage spring and somehow I think my painted toenails peeking out of sandals does that. I don't know... baseball players have lucky socks... what can I say?

It was warm enough yesterday and today that I went out and cleaned a bit on the flower bed in front and the veggie garden in back. I can't say they're really cleaned perfectly, but they're better. I also trimmed the rose bush in the front. Is this the right time of year to do that? I have no idea. I tried to find out online and I read that every time of year was the correct time to trim them. So, I decided I'd just do it, see how things go, and learn from my own experience.

I had lunch with Julie today at Applebees and I have now been asked the oddest question that I've ever seen on a survey. I've been asked some weird questions over the years, which would be an interesting blog post on its own, but this one takes the cake for a preprinted survey at a restaurant.

"Are you a pharmaceutical representative?"

Now, in my line of work, this is a question I can see popping up. But, it was an unexpected last question on a restaurant survey where the most probing question up to this point was what my favorite entree was. (Oriental Chicken Salad, for those of you keeping track.) I swear. I'm not making it up. There was no other question about employment - only this one. And it was certainly not an open ended one as they say in the survey biz. Wouldn't it make more sense to just ask what I do for a living? Do they want more pharmaceutical reps? Or do they not want to serve them. If you answer yes does the Soup Nazi come in and take your food saying, "No Oriental Chicken Salad for you," or do they bring you extra dessert. Maybe I should have lied to find out. But, I'm not a pharmaceutical rep. I know one. Does that count?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I've been working on my novel tonight and I've used up all the words I have for today. OK, that's an exaggeration. But, you know what I mean. The terribly fascinating blog post I was working on about grace is going to have to wait for another day. I'm sure you understand.

I printed out the first six chapters tonight and have been editing on them again. Frankly, I need someone who's a far better editor than me to do that. I'm too close to the story to know if it's making sense anymore.

Interestingly enough, today I got a letter from someone I haven't heard from in months who asked about the novel and said they wanted to read more of it. Maybe I'll send them a few chapters and ask their input. This is an interesting process... even though it makes my brain hurt at times... and the long sections that are crossed out with big "X"s aren't encouraging either. But, I think this is just how this process goes. That's the theory I'm going with, anyway. Otherwise I just really suck at it. I'm going with process.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Author Fred Kaplan Speaking in Hutchinson Kansas

On Wednesday March 19th, noted journalist and author Fred Kaplan will be in Hutchinson to talk about his latest book Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power. Mr. Kaplan will be speaking at the Hutchinson Art Center, 405 N. Washington St. at 7:00pm.

Concerning Daydream Believers Walter Issacson has stated, “Fred Kaplan has long been one of our most incisive thinkers about strategic issues. In this provocative book, he challenges many of our assumptions about the post 9/11world and offers a dose of realism about the way the world works after the Cold War. It is a bracing read.”

Fred Kaplan (Hutchinson native and HHS graduate, 1972) writes the “War Stories” column in Slate Magazine. The author of the classic book The Wizards of Armageddon  he has also written for the “New York Times,” the “New Yorker,” the “Washington Post,” the “Atlantic Monthly,” and other publications. He earned a Ph.D. from MIT, worked as a foreign policy aide on Capitol Hill, and spent decades as a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter in Washington and Moscow. Fred now lives in Brooklyn with his wife Brooke Gladstone, a journalist at NPR who co-hosts the weekend show “On the Media,” and their two daughters.

Copies of Daydream Believers will be available for purchase at the event. This program is free and open to the public. For more information contact Mark Rassette at the Hutchinson/Reno Arts and Humanities Council, 620/662-1280 or

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Online Shopping

I'm what advertisers call an "early adopter," meaning I'll try something right away. I'll experiment. Marketers LOVE this quality. If you think about it, you'll understand why, because it's very expensive to convince people to try something new if you have to work at it repeatedly. If you get to a customer like me who sees something and says, "hmmm... ok... well... I'll give that a try." Advertisers, of course, assume I will love bacon filled cheesy poofs or whatever it is - all they have to do is get me to try it - and if I'll do that the first time I see the product, it's so much easier for them. I'm kind of the equivelant of a cheap date in this regard.

OK... all of that to say... I've been shopping online for a long time. Pretty much since I could shop online. I've bought books, jewelry, makeup, clothes, kitchen widgets and dozens of other things. In the last couple of days I've bought eyeglass frames. Well, at least I've tried to. Sunday I bought some from one place and Monday they refunded my money saying the frames weren't available. Well, duh, get them off your freaking page then. Today I ordered them from another company. I'm hoping they actually send them to me.

Why the sudden interest? Because I broke my glasses 2-3 weeks ago and while the emergency repair with crazy glue has held well, and isn't really noticeable unless you look carefully, (so it's very wise of me to mention here so everyone in my real life world who reads the blog will be looking for the repair now) I would like some new ones. These lenses are not very old so it makes sense to get the same frames - although I did order a different color. Anyway, we'll see if I can actually purchase them through this business. They are in the business of selling eyeglass frames, so you'd think I could, but history has proven there is not necessarily a connection between those two things.

This might beg the question of why I would order eyeglasses online instead of just getting them from the usual place. I always get them at my eye doctor's office. It's convenient, it's nice to try on different ones, it's just always been the way I did it. But, this time, I checked online on a lark and the frames are about $50 cheaper - the exact same frame - the company and number is printed inside the frame. However, if I can't find a place to actually get them, perhaps I'll decide it's worth the money to have the doctor's office try to track them down somewhere.

The whole episode has made me think about how our world has changed. Used to be no one had any options about where to buy things. You went to your local store and that was it. Maybe you traveled to a neighboring town, or occasionally ordered from a catalog, but you were largely dependent on the local merchant to have what you wanted, when you wanted it. Naturally, there are some obvious flaws with this system.

Now, we can order all kinds of products, but we still rely on local people to provide services to us. But, it seems few businesses have changed with the times and are still working on the outdated model where we have no idea what things really cost. The world is changing constantly.
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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake Recipe

This is the latest recipe I've added to my collection. It's a chocolate oatmeal sheet cake. I realize it's not the prettiest thing, but it tastes amazing. It's a really dense, moist cake. There's something about the oatmeal that gives it a texture I find appealing. I have eaten it with and without icing. It's so moist it doesn't really need any.

I got the recipe from, one of my very favorite online resources. I've changed it a little bit, but not much.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

2 cups quick oatmeal
2 sticks margarine
3 cups boiling water
4 eggs
1 cup cocoa
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 by 13 pan.

Pour boiling water over the oatmeal and margarine, let set for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add eggs to the oatmeal mixture, blending well. Mix in remaining ingredients and pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until it tests done.

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I Love Saturday

I have had such a lovely day. I tried to sleep in, but unless I'm just completely exhausted or sick I can't stay in bed once I'm awake. I slept until almost 8 this morning, and tried very hard to go back to sleep, but I just couldn't. I read for a little bit, and finally just got up and went to the studio to play for awhile.

Shortly after 11 I headed out to Roy's for my usual Saturday lunch. As often happens on Saturday, I ran into Alan. We were in Leadership class together and I really like him. He's a talented artist and is always fun to bump into. I don't know that I've ever run into him anywhere else, but every few Saturdays we'll both be at Roy's at the same time, which is fun.

After Roy's, on the spur of the moment, I decided to drive down to Quivira. It was very cold here last night - 11 degrees - and there was lots of ice in the water at Quivira. I've never seen it like that. Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead. But, the Treo came to the rescue.

Where you see the stripes in the water - that's where it's frozen. The darker parts are the ice, and although you can't really tell here there were also parts that were slushy and then parts that were liquid.

It was odd the parts that were frozen and the parts that were thawed. At some of the edges, there were piles of what looked like shards of glass that was the ice that had been shoved into the shore by the waves.

It was certainly different than I had ever seen it look before.

I was back in town before 3. I've just been puttering around the house since then. I haven't been back outside. I took a nice bubble bath and read a magazine and then did a little journaling. I had planned to catch up on some correspondence, but didn't get that done yet. Maybe tomorrow.

All in all it has been a nice day. Tonight I've baked two cakes for the MHA's potato bar fundraiser we're doing on the 18th. I've also cleaned the stove up - really cleaned it. That's just not a project I really enjoy, but I sure like having it done.

Now at almost 1 a.m. I think it's time for me to head upstairs. I want to paint a little while before I go to bed.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008


I am so glad it's the weekend. I've crammed two weeks worth of work into this past week and I'm exhausted. Yesterday and today were really busy ones. I had volunteers all afternoon, and while they got a lot done and the newsletter is on its way, it was a tiring day. I had to keep going to my van to haul in things and it was frigid. It's 11 at the moment and it was freezing cold today - the temperature was low and then the wind made it horrible.

Thankfully my lungs are much improved, but it would only take a few minutes in the cold wind for it to feel like I couldn't get a deep breath. I would come in and breathe warm air and then go out for another load of stuff. But, at least I got everything that goes to the office hauled in and upstairs, so that's good. I also managed to haul home a broken chair and put it out with the garbage. I'll bet someone takes it. I don't know why people steal my trash. I think I've mentioned about six dozen times that it freaks me out for people to take my trash. But, I bet someone takes it. Why anyone would want a broken chair I don't know. Of course, I don't know why people want any of my trash.

Tonight I had a lovely, lovely start to the weekend. Martha invited me to join her for "I Love a Piano" at the Fox. There's a Salina native in the cast, so it was quite exciting with many people from Salina attending to see her. Salina is about an hour's drive from here, so it's nice lots of people were able to come. Martha took me to dinner beforehand, and it was so nice to spend some time with her. She's one of the people I don't see nearly often enough.

Among the many things we talked about was the blog. I have been thinking about the blog a lot lately. I often feel out of touch with people and I think that's partially because of the blog - people read the blog and then don't feel a need to actually interact with me in real life because they feel like they already know what's going on with me. As a result I sometimes feel really cut off, and long for real life connection.

This is something I've been wrestling with for some time. I just don't have a solution yet. The obvious one is to stop blogging. But, as hard as it is for me to believe sometimes, lots of people read the blog every day and I'm incredibly flattered by that. Who wouldn't be? And it is a fabulous way to keep in touch with people on some level. It's sort of like my own mega-facebook page. I just want everyone else to have one, too, and unfortunately, few people in my real life have an online presence.

I have to also confess that the blog gives me an "excuse" at times to not make real life connection with people on the periphery of my life. I was recently in a town where someone I used to work with now lives. Another former coworker asked if I looked this person up. It did cross my mind when I was there, but I just decided I wasn't going to bother. I sent Christmas cards the first two years after they moved and I never heard back from them. I just decided to let that relationship go. It obviously wasn't much of a relationship anyway - like most work "relationships" - we weren't anything more than coworkers and any indication otherwise was just folly.

I never understand why people bother to pretend that a relationship is anything more than it is. We're coworkers - we're pleasant - and that's it. When one of us leaves this workplace we won't be anymore. That's cool. Why pretend that it's a real friendship? Why should either of us invest any energy in something that's just what I call a "psuedo relationship" - those are "friendships" that would never exist outside of whatever has brought you together - work, church, boy scouts, committees, whatever. But when you insist on pretending it's more, and not bothering to clue me in, we just both end up wasting time.

Anyway... I've digressed... imagine that... When I was asked if I looked them up I said,  "no. I'm easy to find. If you google my name, the first twenty plus pages have a reference to me. If anyone wants to be in my life, it's pretty simple. They obviously have no desire to be in my life so why waste my time looking them up."

That may seem a little cold, but from my perspective, it's just being logical. It's a waste of time to look up people who have already made it clear they have no interest in being in your life beyond the superficial. What could we possibly have to say to each other that we haven't already said? My time was much, much better spent chatting with Jared and Brian who were spending their spring break traveling Route 66 with friends. We had a lively conversation, filled with new insights and laughter. That was a wonderful use of time and energy.

Obviously, all of this is on my mind. But, I'll think about it more at some later date. This weekend my plan is to be me. To relax. To not have much of a schedule. To try and cram two weekends worth into one weekend. Why does that never work?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Scenes of Kingman Kansas and More of the Day

I have had a very, very, very full day. I sent the newsletter to the printer last night only to wake up this morning to discover it hadn't worked as I'd hoped. So, by 10:30 this morning I had that done again, and was ready for lunch. For the second time this week I decided some Roy's was in order. Teresa and I went on Tuesday. I called her this morning and said I was going to get Roy's again. She decided to join me. Teresa and I have had lunch every day this week. That may be a record for us.

And, the Roy's was great. I even snapped a photo of the brisket because the smoke ring on it was just beautiful today. If you're not into barbecue that probably means nothing to you. But, if you're into it, this probably makes your mouth water. You don't get that out of a bottle. Kansas magazine was coming later today to do a piece about them, and the News just did a feature on them, too. Anyway, Teresa and I enjoyed our Roy's.

Yesterday wasn't technically a lunch for the two of us. It was the diversity luncheon and we were both there. It was a really good gathering. Theda was there and that's always fun. Also Cleta, Dorothy, Trish and Lovella. Unfortunately, I'm going to break our lunch streak this week because I've got volunteers tomorrow so I won't get to have lunch.

After lunch today I went to my office and worked on it more. Tomorrow is my recycling day and I wanted to make use of it by getting some things out of the office. I brought a couple of old computer boxes home the last couple of days. The oddest thing - I went ahead and put one of them out yesterday and someone took it. Why do people take my trash? It freaks me out. I put another one out this morning and by noon someone had taken it. Why do people want my empty computer boxes and other trash? Why? What is so enticing about my trash? Tonight I've got a big stack of things out there. I broke down the boxes so they would be less appealing to people. These boxes were bent and crunched and not really useful. And, of course, they had other recycling stuff in them, which I fear may have just ended up in the trash somewhere. Anyway, I'm hoping the recycling guys get to them before some passerby steals my trash. Why do I care? I don't know. It just freaks me out for people to take my trash.

This afternoon was the Horizon's board meeting in Kingman. I really didn't want to go, but I talked myself into it. It was a beautiful day and I thought the drive would do my mood some good. We didn't have a quorum at the meeting, which is very rare, but that meant we were out while it was still sunshiny, which was nice. I drove through downtown Kingman to check out the buildings. The afternoon sun was doing wonderful things for some of the buildings, including the museum.

and the courthouse...

I also couldn't resist this sign...

I occasionally hear from someone who's enthralled with getting to see bits of small town Kansas. I can understand that - particularly if you've never seen the rural midwest. It has a beauty of its own, like any place, I suppose. Most of the communities around here were formed in the 1880s or a bit later, and the buildings reflect that. There are neat details to be found if you look for them, like the fan design in the panels on the building where that sign is painted.

I headed back to the office, but remembered that tonight was a fundraiser that I would have gone to if I'd not had the meeting out of town. Anyway, I detoured to the art center to get a glimpse of the goodies. It was nice. I chatted with Debbie, Leah, Rosalie, Cyndi and Jennifer, although it was just briefly.

They had about 30 four by six pieces of art donated that they auctioned off. I didn't even have time to get a card, much less bid, but it was nice to see everything hanging. They were closing bidding just a few minutes after I arrived. Leah was managing the cash - she's good at that.

I hope it was successful for them. It's hard to come up with new fundraisers and not step on the toes of anyone else in town.

I worked at the office until about 9 and came home to a nice bubble bath. I really need to take good care of myself these days. I'm not depressed, but I'm not normal either, and I need to nudge myself back toward normalcy. It's almost midnight now and I have a really busy day tomorrow so I do need to get some sleep. But I think I'll make a cup of tea and spend a little while journaling before bed. There's something magic about putting pen to paper.

Check for the blog, art, and more.

Beauty of Monet

This is called impasto. It's an Italian word that refers to part of a painting that has a build up of paint. I don't recall where I first learned the term, but no doubt from some of the art books I've read. I developed a real interest in art when I was in college - really even earlier than that but I just didn't know what to do with it until later. I eventually learned that when one is interested in something the easiest thing to do is start reading about it and learning. I often start with a children's book to "get my feet wet" when I know nothing about a topic.

It wasn't until I had done some reading that I even knew what kind of art I was interested in, much less who any of the artists were.

When I was in college at the University of Kentucky the Armand Hammer collection traveled there. It was a major art exhibition and I went. It was the first time I was exposed to Impressionists on a large scale. My exposure to art had been very, very limited. Art was not an interest of anyone I knew growing up. It wasn't something that was available to me. It was not something that anyone thought about. Literally, it just wasn't on the radar screen. That's not a slam against my family or the place where I grew up. It just wasn't part of my world.

All of life is a trade off and I had some amazing experiences growing up that people who spent their weekends in museums missed out on. So, there you go. But, being who I am, I want to have it all.

For many years now, I have sought art in every venue possible. I'm certainly no expert, but I can hold my own in a basic art discussion, particularly about the impressionists. I've traveled to some of the places they painted, including Monet's home in Giverny, and I've read and studied their personalities, thought processes and techniques. I don't study their techniques to try and duplicate them - I don't have that talent or interest. I study them because I want to understand the work.

However, all of that does nothing to prepare me for the experience of getting lost in a painting. It's as if every molecule of my body becomes devoted to only experiencing what is in front of me. Nothing holds this power over me like a Monet painting, particularly his later works. The Orangerie in Paris, where his final eight panels reside, is an all day visit for me, as is the Musee Marmottan, which has some of his unfinished works on display. Most friends don't want to go to a museum with me. Not only will they be bored and ready to leave hours before I will, but I will be completely non-communicative. I'm there to "commune with the art," not visit. I have given "the Patsy tour" of various museums to friends - and that's fun - but that's a different kind of experience.

I know many art experts look down on those of us who love impressionists. That's fine. I still love them. In particular I love Monet. I know he wasn't the most pleasant personality, at least from what I read, but when I'm looking at his brush strokes, and examining up close every square inch of the canvas his brush has touched, and the amazing beauty it has wrought, I don't care. I don't care if the art snobs think I'm a neophyte. I don't care if people who don't like art think I'm a snob. I don't care about anything except losing myself, my ego, my entire being while I immerse myself into that beauty. It's as if I'm melting into it, experiencing it on multiple levels at the same time. It's truly an other-worldly experience for me.

This would be related to why I absolutely despise bus tour groups that disgorge a huge number of tourists who have no real interest in being there, but are just there because it's stop number four of the day, and rush in, talking loudly, and generally ruining the experience for the rest of us.

And you don't even want to get me started on school groups. I want children to experience art, but could we have at least one day or morning or afternoon or sometime when we could experience museums without dozens of loud children? Or could we just have children who come to museums without screaming? That would be another option. It's amazing the difference between a school group in an art museum in France and one in the US. Kindergarten aged kids in France sit on the floor in a semi circle in front of a painting and listen patiently to their instructor explain it. There's no running, no screaming, no jostling.

This painting, Flowering Arches, is the one Monet in the Phoenix Art Museum. Generally I head straight for the Impressionists in any museum - depending on what the collection is like I may want to spend all available time there. This was painted in Giverny in 1903, so it's one of his later works. It has all the hallmarks of the things I love about Monet.

The Phoenix Museum allows photographs of some paintings, and I was thrilled this was one of them. Of course flash wasn't allowed, but Greg took these for me and I just cropped in on bits and pieces of the close ups he did. This is generally how I most love Monet paintings - in these closeup bits that show the layers, the colors, the impasto, the brush strokes, the passion of the artist. It truly feeds my soul and is a beauty unlike any other I know.

Check for the blog, art, and more.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gnarls Barkley Banned Video

I heard about the Gnarls Barkley video that was banned because of some strobing effects that can cause epileptic seizures. Naturally, I had to go seek it out. Although I don't have epilepsy, some of those black and white backgrounds moving around were causing me to have to look away. However, it's worth looking at just because Justin Timberlake is funny in it. Besides, how can you not like something that involves a guy named Danger Mouse, and his buddy Cee-lo?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Typing Speed

84 words


I'm often teased about typing. Comments generally cluster around the "is that keyboard smoking" variety. I contend I really don't type all that fast - it's more about how the keyboard sounds. And, of course, the corrections I automatically make sound exactly like things that don't need to be corrected.

Tonight I decided I'd just do an online typing test to see how fast I type. As I suspected, it's not spectacular. Apparently I type 84 words a minute, although I don't think this test deducted for errors. So, lop off a few points for that perhaps.

This is about double what it was when I took typing in high school. But, ergonomic computer keyboards allow much better typing speed than old manual, and even electric, typewriters. I'm also guessing that years of typing every day, sometimes for many hours a day, haven't hurt my typing speed at all either.

I write every single day - from articles to work to email to blogging to dozens of other things. I'm thinking that all helps my typing speed too.

I'm not sure what a "fast" typing speed is, but I'm guessing 84 words a minute isn't it.

Monday, March 03, 2008


I am so eager for spring. I'm ready for the beauty of flowers blooming, and being able to bring a little bit of that indoors. I remembered this photo I took last June - I love this picture - and decided to post it again on this 27 degree night.

This photo is certainly not technically perfect and I could have turned the doily around so the little spot where the lace has a hole in it wasn't visible, but I just love the softness of the whole thing. It was taken on my desk in the downstairs sunporch, where I regularly sit to journal.

I haven't noticed any of my little plants popping up yet, but surely some of them are. Maybe tomorrow if the wind isn't blowing like it was today I'll be able to look. There's something encouraging about seeing the flowers start to grow - knowing that winter must be coming to an end.

It won't be too long before it will be time to plant the little garden out back. I've been thinking about what to plant. In addition to the herbs and tomatoes I always plant, I want to put in eggplant again. I loved having those last year. And I want to grow some squash this year. I want to be eating squash blossoms. I'm not sure what else I'll put in - it will probably boil down to what I can find in the stores.

I certainly like having things picked fresh from the garden. I start to get hungry for "real food" as winter wears on. Of course, we can buy things from the grocery, but that's not really "fresh." I start to really want something that was picked five minutes earlier. I'm guessing before we lived in this global village where we get strawberries in January that those fresh foods were all the more anticipated.

Can you imagine what it would be like to have no fresh foods for all the months of winter? Of course, people canned things and had some foods in storage, but I'm guessing those first radishes were really welcome.

I think like many people, I'm ready for spring... more importantly, I'm tired of winter.
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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Computer Catching Up

I've been doing a lot of computer catch up today. In the midst of doing that I've had opportunity to be surfing to one place or another that popped up in emails. One of the sites I've spent a few minutes with tonight is, where artists share their studios.

It's always interesting to see how people arrange their workspaces - be it an artist's studio or someone's desk at work. My studio space is always messy if I'm working in it. The only time it's nice and tidy is when I'm not really doing anything in there, which, of course, defeats the purpose of having a studio.

As I was looking at that site tonight I was thinking about how cool it is that I can see studios from around the world sitting in my little home office in Hutchinson, Kansas. The internet is such a part of my daily life that it's mindboggling to think it was really only in 1995 that I first surfed the net. It would be some years after that that I had a computer at home and regular access.

The thought of being on that slow computer on that slow dial up doesn't sound very appealing now, but at the time it was quite wonderful. Computers have dramatically changed our daily lives. I spend many hours a day working on the computer now - hours that people obviously used to spend doing other things.
Check for the blog, art, and more.