Sunday, October 31, 2010

Handwriting Beneficial for the Brain

Research showing that handwriting engages different parts of the brain, and strengthens the brain, is no shock to those of us who know what we write by hand is very different from what we write on keyboards. But, apparently, it's news to other people. So much so that The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a recent study.

They quote:
"It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time," says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

Read the whole story at:

We've known for years that different parts of the brain are engaged when we write by hand. In "Patsy World," this is common sense. I guess in the "World World," we need studies to confirm it. I'm glad there is a new one. And that the media is reporting it.

Speech writing

I've been working on a number of things today, including my speech for the 140conf. In the process I've been rereading some blog entries, including this one about Dr. Robert Putnam speaking in Hutchinson.

Whenever I make notes for a speech, I'm amazed at how many different directions it can take. Eventually I hit upon something that seems workable for the particular occasion. This one is 95% there. I'm hoping the remaining 5% comes tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Long Day

I got up at 5:15 this morning to get to El Dorado early for a presentation I was giving at 9. I was there in plenty of time, but I needed it to get everything set up. It was an ongoing joke when I worked in radio I was never good with the mechanical stuff. Unfortunately, I'm still not.

But, I had the computer and projector going when it was time for m presentation about social media. Unfortunately, I didn't get an opportunity to hear the keynote speaker, which I had hoped to do. It was someone I met at the TIAK conference a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to hear him speak. But, I guess today wasn't the day.

Jami was there, which was cool. I hope I didn't bore her senseless. Well, I hope I didn't bore anyone.

I really enjoy doing these presentations.

Tomorrow I have to finish up my speech for the 140conf on Monday. My topic is "Twitter is the new Civic Club." Hopefully I'll have something to say that's worth hearing. I hope.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flights of Fancy

I've had this idea in the back of my mind for awhile... to be in Paris in May of 2011. I want to be there over Mother's Day and May 11. My mother died May 11 of 2001 and we buried her on Mother's Day that year. I'd like to be in Paris on that 10 year anniversary.

The first year after she died I was in Notre Dame at the exact moment of her death the year before. It was where I needed to be. Afterwards I went to Angelina's, and wrote, over curried chicken salad and their famous hot chocolate. I walked a few blocks to one of my favorite shops in Paris for perfume. Perfume is one of those little luxuries I adore, and has always been a symbol to me of finding joy in daily living. Then I surrounded myself with Monet's final eight works in l'Orangerie and tried to pull some of that beauty into my soul.

One of the greatest gifts Mama ever gave me was to teach me to do the things that make me happy. So on that day, I grieved - intensely and painfully - all morning for the loss of her. And that afternoon I celebrated the blessing of happiness she gifted me with, and walked around Paris grateful for it. That night I slept soundly, waking to a new reality. I had to say goodbye to some other things that May 11, some possibilities, and I had to accept some new realities. It was one of those "defining moment" days in my life.

For a few weeks I've been thinking about returning to Paris next May. Tonight I even looked up one of the places I've stay and it's available over that time frame, which is somewhat surprising. But, the cost of being there for a week is almost identical to just one of the medical bills I opened yesterday. So, my current reality only allows for trips to Paris in flights of fancy.

I have myself on such a strict budget that I haven't even allowed the purchase of a particular perfume I ran out of this past summer. Of course, I have plenty of other perfume, but it's funny how those little things matter so much. It's no surprise I guess. After all, I wrote a whole "This I Believe" piece about how little things matter to me.

But, obviously, these are not life or death problems, and I don't want to give the impression I don't understand that. I do. Very well. So, I think for now I'll just have to visit Paris in my mind, in those flights of fancy.

Quote of the Day

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.
~Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Better Days Ahead

The last few work days have been difficult ones for a variety of reasons. Tomorrow will be a very long day, but hopefully it will go smoothly. There are better days ahead, I'm sure. Hopefully tomorrow is one of them.

The last week or so I've arrived home most nights worn out on multiple levels. Unfortunately, I can't afford the luxury of relaxing once I come home, so I never get to let go of the stress. But I have to be working on my extra jobs, or that house of cards will tumble. For the moment, this is just the way it is, and people have far worse problems.

So, I hope the coming days bring calm and contentment for all of us. I certainly need it, and I'm guessing others do too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I come into...

I was rereading a Wendell Berry poem recently in which he says, "I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water."

I love that phrase, "I come into..." He speaks of coming into the peace of wild things who don't think about grief. My grandmother used to say, "Don't borrow sorrow from tomorrow." That's what he's saying ... to come into peace ... to not worry about future difficulties. A worthy goal ... to have peace.

In this same poem he writes about resting in the grace of the world. I love that sentiment - resting in grace.

Grace is my constant companion. I am thankful.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hutch Haunts was Great

Saturday night I attended Hutch Haunts, a partnership of the Kansas Underground Salt Museum (KUSM) and the Hutchinson Theatre Guild. They were kind enough to invite me so I could write about the evening. It was a very full, and very fun, evening.

We started at KUSM with a welcome from Director Linda Schmitt, and heard an overview of the findings of paranormal investigators from Kansas City and Hutchinson. In a nutshell, they found no activity at Armstrong's Antiques or Fire Station Number 1, but found much activity at the Reno County Museum. They pointed out it didn't mean there was nothing there, just that nothing happened when they investigated.

Our next stop was Eastside Cemetery, where the theatre guild was doing its fourth annual presentation of "Talking Tombstones."

It was a perfect fall evening activity.

We then convened at the Reno County Museum and began a tour of the downtown spots the investigators went to. Our group finished at the museum, but we got a bit of history about it from a vantage point across the street at Memorial Hall as we started our tour.

Next we toured Armstrong's Antiques.

I'm afraid this ghostly flag flapping in the breeze was the most mysterious thing I photographed all night. And that wasn't too mysterious.

Next on our tour was Fire Station Number 1, which has been occupied 365 days a year since the early 20th century. At one time it housed the police station, too, and they showed us the two cell jail, which was interesting.

They even played a song for us, sung by Nancy Sinatra, written by someone who spent some time in the non-climate-controlled jail. It was called, "It's Cold in the Hutchinson Jail."

One of my favorite parts of the night was hearing a ghost story from Firefighter Casanova.

I could have listened to him talk about his experience for a long time. It was a highlight of the evening. Our timing was very good, too, because just as we were leaving an alarm went off and the firetruck was on its way to an emergency.

Our tour group wrapped up at the museum. I didn't know anything about ghost hunting, but apparently the approach is to go into any investigation trying to explain away anything that has been reported as unusual.

The ghost hunters shared their findings at each place, including some photographs they took the night they were investigating.

The blue room below was one of the "hot spots" in the museum. My photo, unfortunately, has nothing unusual about it. It's just a blue room.

We then went back to KUSM for a special underground tour through non-public areas. It was too dark for me to get photos during that tour, but suffice it to say that it was amazing.

Myron Marcotte, who oversees the mining operation, led us on a hike through the underground area, and shared some stories with us about miners who've died. I really, really enjoyed his tales of Lloyd Lightner.

Everytime I'm down in the salt mine I want to explore more and more. I've written about it before. We're so very fortunate to have it and the Cosmosphere in town - two world-class attractions right here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Meaningful and Productive

I've noticed lately that two words keep coming up in my conversation - "meaningful" and "productive."

"Meaningful" is something I've been aware of for a long time, but "productive" is one I've not noticed so much.

Both of these are related to time, I think. I've always felt that time is short, very limited, and I'd best live fully every day because I don't have enough days to do all I want to do. That's not meant to be morbid - I expect to live a good, long time. But there's so much I feel driven to accomplish that I think there won't be enough time unless I'm cautious in how I spend it.

We talk about "spending time," but I think few people realize what it really means. We're spending it. We can't ever get it back.

So, because time seems so fleeting to me, I strive to make life meaningful - meaningful interaction and conversation. And by creating meaningful things. That's where the productivity comes in.

Have I actually created anything meaningful? Well, that remains to be seen and/or is in the eye of the beholder. But, I'm sure being productive is part of the process of working toward that if it hasn't yet happened. The idea of "paying your dues" is one that's really true. We have to have enough hours of practice to really get proficient at something.

That could spin off into a long, rambling, questioning series of paragraphs about what I'm proficient at. But, I'm going to spare us both - you from reading, and me from the inevitable conclusion that I'm not yet proficient at much.

So, there you go. All the more reason to be productive... to get proficient... to create something meaningful.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Written Right

Don’t get it right, just get it written.
James Thurber

This is great advice for writers - except those specializing in journalism. But the idea to get your fiction stories written - and fix the problems later - is sound.

When I ran across this quote tonight I was reminded of a conversation earlier this week with a young writer.

During the conversation I suddenly found myself sounding like one of those obnoxious old people dispensing advice. I think it was because I was giving advice. Who does that? Only old people. Obnoxious, old people. Well, at least any advice anyone would pay attention to. And this writer was listening, like I might know something. No doubt, she just didn't know anyone else to discuss such things with. That's the only logical explanation.

While I was enjoying the conversation, a part of me was screaming, "No, No, No... this can't be happening... I'm now *that* person... blathering on about how important it is to be able to write to time, space and deadline... Who's saying that? Oh my gosh, it's me... It can't be me... surely not... No, no, it's coming out of my mouth. It *is* me... Have I been reduced to this? Really? When did that happen?"

Unfortunately, it was hard to deny when, despite this conversation going on in my head, I did not stop talking. Oh no I didn't. I kept on going. Just like old people do when they're giving advice people have stopped listening to a few minutes before they stop talking. At that point you're just being indulged.

I prefer to think of this as a momentary lapse, and not a new pattern. I can't be that person. Not yet.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spirit Day Vigil

Tonight I attended a candlelight vigil held for young people who've committed suicide as a result of bullying.

I believe all people deserve respect.

GLADD suggested people wear purple today to show support for anti-bullying. This was spurred by the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after a roommate broadcast a sexual encounter Clementi had with another male student. I know from my years in the mental health field that the suicide rate for gay and lesbian teens is four times what it is for other teenagers.

This is not a gay issue as far as I'm concerned. I'll happily wear another color to show support for another group to raise awareness about bullying. Everyone deserves respect.

It was a good turnout tonight. I didn't count, but there were probably 30-40 people there. Considering it was just a couple of days notice, that's great.

I do not think people "choose" to be gay, any more than they choose to have blue eyes. I certainly don't remember a day when I woke up and chose to be straight. I just was. I can only assume it's much the same for everyone. We are attracted to who we are attracted to and there's not a lot of decision-making involved.

Obviously, not everyone feels the same way. And that's fine. But I want everyone to be free of bullying - gay or straight.

Hutchinson Happenings - Cosmosphere, Downtown, Underground Salt Museum and Hutchinson Theatre Guild

I often hear people say, "There's nothing to do here." Imagine a whining child, stamping a foot, while they say it, and you have a fair picture. Well, here are a couple of things to get on your calendar. Two things on Thursday, two on Saturday, with a day of rest inbetween. I can't arrange it any nicer than that for you. I'll be looking for you somewhere along the way...

October 21 - Thursday morning at 9 a.m. - Coffee at the Cosmo - free presentation, free donuts and free coffee at the Cosmosphere - the topic will be about Lunar Rovers

October 21 - Thursday evening from 5-9 p.m. all of downtown will feature live music, artists and goodness knows what other fun during Third Thursday. It's all free, too. At 6 p.m. attend a free Ukelele workshop at Spark's Music. Where, I ask, are you going to find another offer like that?

October 23 - Rocketober-Fest at the Cosmosphere from 1-4 p.m. Some free activities and some very reasonably priced fun as well. Kids will have a blast making buttons, solar system bracelets and setting off air rockets in addition to other things. $1 gets you seven tickets for different activities, including liquid oxygen ice cream. There's a costume contest for adults and kids in your space and alien-themed costumes.

October 23 - Hutch Haunts - perfect for the Halloween season, learn results of the paranormal investigations done at the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, as well as some downtown buildings. You get to go underground. You get to go to a cemetery. You get to even SPEND THE NIGHT UNDERGROUND if you want to. No one's gonna make you, but of course people might think you're a scaredy-cat if you don't. It all starts at 5:30 and goes until midnight - or the next morning - depending on your fortitude! Make reservations with the Salt Museum at 620-662-1425.

Good Timing

My new 2T external hard drive arrived today. I took a very late lunch so I happened to be home when the driver arrived. It is already engaged, backing up my files. Very happy I was home so it didn't sit on the porch all afternoon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Day

I had a regular appointment with my cardiologist today. I see him every six months because I have atrial fibrulation, otherwise known as afib, which is an irregular heart beat. I've had it for a long time and it's pretty controlled by medication.

I have three main triggers for it - caffeine, stress and being tired. I don't drink any caffeine so that removes one. Tired is something I can have some control over. Stress is a bit harder. Lately my job is much more stressful and that has not been good for me. Ironically, one of my biggest stressors is trying to make extra money to pay off my medical bills.

Today, he told me to start thinking about having an ablation at some point in the future. It's a technique to address the afib, but it's something they're still perfecting for my kind of afib. He said he'd recommend I go to the Mayo clinic to have it done. Hopefully that's something that's a long way in the future.

Magic Light

October skies are the bluest of the year. The light also has magic in it, as was evident the other morning on the side of this house.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

You gain strength, experience and confidence
by every experience where you really stop
to look fear in the face.
You must do the thing you cannot do.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Holy Ground at River Confluence

When you stand on holy ground you feel it.

A place that has always been holy ground for me is where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers run together near Cairo, Illinois. That confluence provides me with a place I can go to reset my compass when I've lost my way in the world. It is sacred. Essential.

Recently, a friend mentioned that in some cultures confluences are important religious sites. This made me start thinking about my attraction to the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio, just across the river from Kentucky where I grew up. I couldn't think of any other times I'd noticed confluences.

Less than two weeks later I was away from home and an offhand comment was made to a group about a confluence that was nearby. I made it a point to visit, to see if it felt the same to me as the confluence I'm familiar with.

You can see ridges where they run together. The river on the left is much faster, with a much greater current than the calmer river on the right. So, it makes a significant ripple where they come together.

I feel certain I'll be visiting other confluences.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homecoming Memoir

A few weeks ago I attended a memoir writing workshop with Lisa Dale Norton. We went through a series of exercises that resulted in a short memoir. My theme was "Homecoming." I promised to share it here, and realized I had not done that. Until now...


by Patsy Terrell

I didn’t want to go in the first place. I was tired after a 14-hour travel day that had started in another country. It had involved drunk Germans, fresh-faced South Africans and rude British. Finally, after using my limited French, we had landed ourselves in a nice, comfortable hotel room and I had no great desire to leave it.

But Greg was going. And even as I was saying, “no,” I was reaching for my sweater. Because something interesting might happen, and I’d miss it, and I never want to miss anything. So, out into the chilly May night we went.

The narrow, wet cobblestone streets were lined with buildings that prevented us from seeing beyond the next curve. History was surrounding us on all sides. We were headed to the river.

After a few twists and turns, we found ourselves going through a long passageway. As we neared the last arch, I could see a glimmer ahead. Then, there it was, in all its glory, IM Pei’s Pyramid marking the entrance to the Louvre. At the late hour there were few other people around, except in cars whizzing by, seemingly oblivious to what was in front of them.

I was stopped in my tracks. Not by the building, but because it was the gateway to the Art. Famous Art. Art that people had been inspired by for centuries. Finally, it was my turn to worship in its presence.

I hadn’t grown up an art lover. Kentucky farmers don’t spend a lot of time at the dinner table discussing the finer points of Da Vinci’s talents. Had I expressed an interest, my mother would have found a way to satisfy it, but having no exposure to art I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

A serendipitious experience in college had resulted in me seeing the Armand Hammer collection, one of the finest private art collections in the world. That night I discovered this was something that had been missing in my life. I knew I could never be whole without this beauty. I would never feel at home in my own skin without knowing more.

I was ignorant about art. I had never even been to a museum. Since I couldn’t go to a museum then, I went to a library instead. I started reading and learning. I didn’t know how to say the names of various artists, but I soaked up the information. Whenever possible I visited museums. The next few years became a series of trips that were a dot to dot of museum visits. It had all been leading up to this moment. To be in Paris, where museums lay on either side of the Seine.

That May evening as we stood on the plaza around the Louvre, Greg clutching his Paris Plan 11, ecstatic that everything was exactly where the map had indicated it would be, I knew I had come home to a place I’d never been.

Across the Seine, Greg pointed out the Musee d’Orsay. The glowing clock reminded me I didn’t have enough time. I had been in Paris less than an hour, and had a week stretching out before me, but I already knew it wasn’t enough time.

Unfortunately, I was correct about that. I’ve returned to Paris more than once, but it’s never enough time. I always want more time in the museums, gardens and streets. More time with the French people who have never been rude to me, despite their reputation.

As I stood with the Louvre at my back, looking across the Seine toward the Orsay, I knew at the other end of the gardens, blocked from my view by construction, was yet another museum, the l’Orangerie. What I didn’t know was that the l’Orangerie would be where I would fall in love, not with a man, but with something far more permanent than that – art.

I would tumble head-long into love with Monet’s final eight works. They’re huge and no photograph can give you the sense of being surrounded by them like being in their presence. I was to spend many hours in the windowless basement, contemplating brush strokes and color combinations. I would leave at closing time and be waiting the next morning when they opened.

But that night, on the banks of the Seine, I didn’t know that. I was so grateful for the chance to be there. I was surrounded by art and culture, something I wanted my life to be; and by the river, a representation of all my life had been. This was just a different river than I’d known.

I spent that week going from one museum to another, wrapped up in my own world and my desire to see everything in case I never got another chance. I was not as kind as I should have been to Greg, and his mom who had traveled with us and was making it possible for us to be in far more comfortable hotels than we would have been on our own. I was selfish. I’m sorry to say that, but it’s the truth.

Today, I’m a much better travel companion. Multiple trips to multiple countries make me believe there will be another time, another chance. But sometimes there’s not another chance with that person. The art that has survived for centuries is likely to be there the next time you visit. The rivers will still be flowing.

I’ve always heard we travel to run from something or toward something. I’ve done both, but on that night, I was definitely going toward something. I was headed home.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Tonight I was rereading some blog entries, including this one about the loss of my friend, Matthew, last year. While I was reading it, Pandora brought up a random song that took me back to zipping down the road in the back of a taxi in La Ceiba, Honduras. We commented on the song at the time, and Matthew said it would always remind me of that moment. He was right.


What are you open to?

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. If I were going to tell someone something about myself, this seems like it would be a good thing to note. What am I open to?

Trish has said about me more than once that I'm open to new friends. That's certainly true. I'm also open to new experiences, new places, and travel. I'm sure there are other things. I'm still thinking about this.

So... what are you open to?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Impact of Tourism on Kansas Economy

I've been attending a tourism conference the past few days. Long before I worked in the museum business, I knew tourism was important - particularly to the small town where I live that, even though it's a town of less than 50,000 people, has two world-class attractions. The Cosmosphere, where I work, and the Underground Salt Museum both attract visitors from all over the world.

The Cosmosphere is the only Smithsonian-affiliated museum in Kansas, and truly the most comprehensive space museum in the world. It has the largest collection of Russian space artifacts outside of Moscow and the second largest of American space artifacts, second only to the National Air and Space Museum. The Kansas Underground Salt Museum is the only one of its kind in the western hemisphere. You travel 650 feeet underground, ride through large caverns where salt has been mined, and visit a museum underground. So, you can see why people would come to visit Hutchinson.

At this state tourism conference, they reported numbers that surprised me, even though I already believed in the impact of tourism.

*If tourism didn't exist in Kansas, each household would pay $875 more in taxes in order to maintain the current level of services
*Tourism accounts for 3.9% of the Kansas Gross State Product, making it the 12th largest industry in the state
*Each visitor contributes $58 in tax receipts, $33 goes to state/local authorities
*The average spending per tourist in Kansas is $238
*1 out of 9 Kansas citizens owes his/her job to tourism
*every 200 visitors to Kansas creates a new job
*Tourism generated 27.4% of all state and local taxes in 2009
*39 visitors to Kansas pay for one Kansas public school student

I find all of this quite interesting. I knew the impact of tourism was huge, but some of these numbers are staggering. You can bet the numbers are impressive where you live, too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Learning and Loving

"Learning doesn't necessarily lead to loving." Lisa Brochu said this yesterday during a presentation about developing a theme for your community or attraction. I've been contemplating it. For me, there's a definite connection between how much I know about a topic and how I interact with the objects.

I've learned that I'm a "spiritual pilgrimmage" traveller at times, particularly with art. I've often said to people that I need to be "alone to commune with the art," which is pretty much the definition of a spiritual pilgrimmage traveller.

What Brochu was saying is that just because someone learns a fact, a detail, about something, it doesn't mean they will become enchanted with it - begin to love it. They may think it's interesting, and enjoy it, but they won't love it.

To make people love it, they need the stories. That's what people remember, unless a fact strikes them so strongly they commit it to memory.

I really believe this to be the case.

Tonight at dinner I was seated next to a gentleman who, in the course of the evening's conversation, I learned used to own a company that booked speakers. I've thought for a very long time that my next different career is going to be as a professional speaker.

One of the things he told me tonight was, "People don't want to be educated, they want to be entertained." I was reminded of what Brochu said yesterday. I think it's the same concept.

The stories entertain. This is valuable information.

Now, the question remains, whatever shall my speech topic be? I have so many interests to pursue. I'm a lucky, lucky girl!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Futurist Dr. Lowell Catlett

This morning I heard Dr. Lowell Catlett speak about future trends. As an economist he spoke at length about the economy and how things are in much better shape than our commonly held beliefs would indicate.

What I found most interesting was his discussion regarding the generational differences between his age group (solidly baby boomer) and his parents' generation. He pointed out how his father lived through the Great Depression and it affected him because he was always on Maslow's lower level in the Hierarchy of needs - basic needs.

By contrast, Catlett's generation was able to dream more because their parents had provided for all their basic needs. He said he heard the talk about the rough times, but he didn't live them. He pointed out that the later generations haven't even heard the stories.

He used multiple examples to illustrate his points, but one that really struck me was when he was speaking about his father's generation and said, "These people would not plow down 20 acres of corn in a 100 acre corn field and call it a corn maze."

He got a laugh out of that, but it's so very true. The older generation would view corn as food. Later ones view it as potential entertainment. Baby boomers list entertainment as one of the things they're most willing to spend money on.

"Agriculture is the new golf," he said, as he talked about how many people want a farm as a recreational outlet. He mentioned horses as an example of how our attitudes have changed. In 1890 we had 6.9 million horses and they were working - pulling buggies, plows, etc. Today we have 9.3 million horses and we pull them up and down the road in trailers. We also spent 30 billion dollars on vet care for horses last year. They're ridden an average of twice a year.

Dr. Catlett pointed out the distinction between generations by saying, "What was a luxury to one generation becomes a necessity to the next." Once we go up on the hierarchy of needs, we don't want to come back down. He used an example that 95% of baby boomers grew up sharing a bedroom and a bath. But 95% of the millenials have never shared either.

Many, many facts were offered - some fascinating. One I found startling was that between now and 2014, someone will turn 50 years old every 6.8 seconds. He talked about various kinds of assisted living care and how what older generations have considered acceptable will not be acceptable to baby boomers. As he summed it up, "I don't want to die in a semi-private room, looking at an orange plastic chair, and listening to my roommate snore."

It was a fascinating presentation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I was listening to Weekend Edition today and they mentioned the One Day on Earth project was asking people to document today since it was 10-10-10. In fact 10:10:10 p.m. on 10-10-10 just passed if one wants to make note of such things.

Anyway, I took a little video and a couple of pictures to add to the project. When I logged in tonight I noticed one of the categories was water.

Of course, in much of the world, clean water is a precious, scarce resource. It's more scarce in Kansas than we seem to realize, too, but that's another issue.

Anyway, I found it ironic that the two photos I had taken today, without knowing this, were of water. But, probably not what they were thinking. I took photos of fountains with water colored pink for breast cancer awareness.

While I don't disregard the importance of the cause, I'm wondering if one day we'll be astonished that water was so plentiful we had fountains running, much less with pink water in them.

It's yet another example of the lavish lives we lead in America, without even knowing it.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


I did an art booth today at the Bethel College Fall Fetival. My friend, Jocelyn, who is experienced at these things, told me when I started doing them that it was great to talk to people who enjoyed her work. I've found that to be true.

It's also interesting to visit with folks who happen by. Today I met a young lady who had been in Egypt recently. We had much to talk about, needless to say.

I also connected with Kathy K. - always good to bump into her anywhere. We had time for a nice visit today.

There were a few people who read my column in Kansas Country Living and came over to introduce themselves. I always enjoy meeting readers.

The social interaction at these things is always fun. Today I had a bonus that Greg was with me most of the day - from helping me set up to unloading things back at my house. I'm so incredibly thankful for his help. I would probably still be trying to get everything home if he hadn't helped me so much. Thank you, Greg!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Broken Bits

Anyone who has been on the planet for more than a few years, and done any amount of living, has accumulated some of what I call the "broken bits." You've got a few ex-lovers, a few former careers and a few moments you're not too proud of.

I have more than a few of those moments. Harder than owning up to them, is accepting that I could have done better if I had only chosen differently. But, I didn't. A different decision seems so obvious in retrospect, but it's too late then. There are no do-overs. No mulligans. So, I just have to gather up the broken bits and put myself back together again, all the while hoping it's just myself I've broken and no one else.

But, how often is that really the case? There's always collateral damage to those in our worlds. People we love, that we'd never want to hurt, seem to get the worst of it because they're nearby. And the ones who truly love us barely flinch. Instead they gather 'round to help us find all the broken bits, right there in the fall-out zone.

It would be so easy for me to rewrite history. I'm a creative sort. I could craft something far more flattering than reality. But, it wouldn't accomplish much. It's easy to lie to other people, but it's much harder to make yourself believe it. The truth is always there, staring you in the face. You can't put the broken bits back together when they don't fit, and they never fit without the framework of truth.

So, while we might entertain some fanciful thoughts of how things should have gone, we have to accept how they really went. Then we can dull the sharp edges so the broken bits aren't quite so dangerous, arrange them in a colorful pattern and eventually cement them all together again into a new design.

That's what we call growth. The new person we are - that new design - can be beautiful, but it never masks the process. And that's not always pretty.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Temperate Days

The weather has been so pleasant lately. It has been nice to get out in the sunshine a little bit. I was at Dillon Nature Center the other day and noticed humans are not the only critters enjoying the temperate days.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Soothing the Insula to Control Addictions

The insula is part of your brain. More specifically, it's part of the cerebral cortex and it seems to be involved in lots of activities, particularly addicitons.

If you've ever craved ice cream, you can thank the insula. If you've ever debated a big purchase, the insula was involved. When you've reached for a cigarette, a line of cocaine or a Corona it was the insula that created the craving that just couldn't be set aside.

One of the things discussed in the mental health field is the "delay between discovery and delivery." Research nets many facts that are not put into practical application for many years, if ever. The insula is a prime example of this.

Science understands the insistence of the insula, and some ways to soothe it, but does not deliver this in a form that can be used by individuals. Instead doctors tell people to go on diets, which fail 95% of the time; give people patches to stop smoking; and send people to 12-step programs for drug addicitions, which have a success rate, but are certainly not trouble-free.

To me, a simple lay person, with no medical training, it would make more sense to treat the issue at its source - the insula. But, is medical science using this knowledge? No, not really. You know who is? Costco.

Apparently, Costco might be better positioned to deal with your addiction to food, drugs or other substances than your doctor. Why? Because they're willing to actually use the information we have.

I don't really need to say anymore about this, do I? I didn't think so.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Catching Up

Brian Lingle took this photo of me Saturday at the writer's workshop. It's nice to have a photo of myself at something like this. It's pretty rare - I'm usually taking the photos. Annette and Brian both took photos at this, which is nice.

I'm preparing for the Bethel College Fall Festival Art Show this weekend. Always so much stuff to take. Of course, you're basically creating a store out of nothing so it's understandable. Pam is generously letting me borrow her tent again. I have the best friends!

I mentioned I would share my memoir piece and I'm going to do that as soon as I have a chance to do some last minute edits on it.

This is going to be a frantically busy week, but I hope to get it done soon.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Weekend

This weekend I met two people I hope I'll stay in touch with for a long time. I connected with a couple of other people I hope will be more present in my life. We'll see what the future brings.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Memoir Writing Compared to Novels and Autobiography

I've spent the day in an intense memoir writing workshop with Lisa Dale Norton. It started last night, and will finish Sunday afternoon.

Today began with a discussion about the difference between novel and memoir. One of the obvious ones is that in a novel the first person narrator doesn't know the outcome. In memoir they do, and the reader is aware of it. This means we have a different expectation.

Then the difference between autobiography and memoir was discussed. Autobiography is a chronological exploration of your entiere life. It doesn't have to have a dramatic arc. By contrast, a memoir is a slice of life, maybe with some backstory, but it's not your whole life. You could write more than one memoir.

Lisa Dale Norton said, "Memoir is not therapy. It's a work of art." She said the process of writing can affect how you view the events, but "you really need to just tell your truth." And you need to tell the truth with as little damage as possible to other people you interacted with. She referred to it as a place of "supreme compassion."

She reminded people, "You have the right to your reality." Of course it's common for people who are experiencing the same event to have different perspectives on it.

We did some writing exercises from her book, "Shimmering Images." Our homework is to prepare something to share tomorrow. I'd best get started on that.

It has been a really wonderful, inspiring day. I've met a couple of people I hope I stay in touch with for a long time.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Lisa Dale Norton Workshop

This weekend I'm attending a memoir writing workshop with Lisa Dale Norton. Tonight was the opening session and it was essentially a "getting to know you" opportunity. There were about 20 people there, including numerous English teachers.

Everyone introduced themselves and talked a little bit about what they're working on. I'm never quite sure what to say in those situations. Generally people talk about what they do for a living, or what they used to do for a living. That's just not the most interesting thing about me - even though I have a job that leads to some really cool situations. But, I'm not sure there's anything I can say in a brief introduction that is at all interesting to someone who doesn't know me.

All of this leads me to believe that memoir might not be my forte.

As usual I was taking notes. I gathered some thought-provoking quotes from Lisa Dale Norton I'll be mulling over. I thought I'd share some of those with you, in no particular order.

"Writing has a way of beckoning more stories."
"Lots of our stories rise out of grieving."
"'Excellent craft' and 'market' - two different worlds."
"Memoir is the application of structure."
"There are people who come with great gifts."
"The rude truth about the publishing industry is finding where you fit on the bookstore shelves."
"The creative mind is very smart."
"Everyone's experience is different, but true."
"We're fiction making machines."
"Winnowing is an act of creation."
"Memoir has to have structure. It needs a sense of completion."
"This is about how to take the narrative form and apply it to your life."
"If you want readers, you need story."

Warm Mug Equal Warm Feelings

Did you know that holding a cup of something hot increases your feelings of well-being? I'm surprised the coffee industry hasn't been using this in advertising.

A study at Yale found people who held warm mugs had warm feelings.

I just read about it, and other similar ways to increase happiness, on Shine at Yahoo.

Getting to know you

My friend, Martha, posted a link to Scott Ginsberg's blog on how to get to know someone. You can read it here:

As you know, I'm continually interested in how we form meaningful relationships with people. I'm considering if I know the answers to even a few of those questions about very many people in my world. It's a good exercise.

Beyond that, I'm wondering how many people would answer even half of those questions.