Monday, February 28, 2011


I love technology. But sometimes it's less than effective.

I use Google Voice to transcribe my voice mail messages and email them to me. I tried it years ago when it was first introduced and stopped because the transcription wasn't that good. A few weeks ago I decided to give it another go.

Today I received this message from Greg:
I do gimme call a couple of minutes. Bless you and get the blackboard parking spot, but park with spot that You just tried. Anyway bye bye.

Fortunately it also give you an opportunity to just play the message. The message, roughly, was, "Hey, give me a call in the next couple of minutes. I'm going to have to depart for Wichita shortly."

This was his second call to me - the first one still hasn't arrived thirty minutes after the second one was placed.

I was taking out the trash and missed my opportunity for a Wichita trip. Oh well, I guess it wasn't meant to be. At least Google Voice provided a good laugh.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It's A Funny Thing About Money

Couples fight more about money than any other topic. Sex is a close second, but money wins that dubious honor.

In the last year and a half in addition to my full time job I've been working at every thing I can think of to make extra money to pay off my medical bills. I've rented out my voice and my brain. I've sold artwork and writing. I've taught people about social networking and given speeches about food traditions. Fortunately, I like doing all these things.

But at the same time I've had to do something I don't like so much - I've had to say "no" to many, many things. I've said "no" to trips, concerts, weekends away, dinners out, lectures, books, and dozens of other things.

The obvious reason was that those things would cost money. The less obvious was that they took time. And I have spent almost all of my waking hours doing something that could generate extra income. However, through this journey I've never given up things like lunches with friends. I contend that may be the only thing that saved my sanity.

By the end of last year I realized I was exhausted and worn to a frazzle, so I decided to try to find more balance. It's still a struggle for me because it's hard to convince myself to spend time doing anything that doesn't make money when I still have bills to pay.

But, that's not the funny thing about money, which is what the title of this post promises. The funny thing about money is that people just do not want to accept that you need to spend your time making it, or that you need to deny yourself fun to save it.

We live in an atmosphere of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," but when you are trying to do that very thing financially, people do not want to hear, "I can't afford that." They are taken aback. They are uncomfortable. They quickly find someone else to do whatever the thing is that they initially wanted to do with you. At some point you have to accept that people did not want to spend time with you - they wanted to do this thing - and when you can't do the thing, you can't spend time with them either.

So, it's a funny thing about money. We all need it. We all know we make it. But we all want to pretend it's a process that we somehow don't have to sully ourselves with. Our paychecks are deposited without us ever seeing them. Our tax forms arrive with no input from us. We pay for things with a plastic card so we never have to actually touch money.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Making a Book Trailer for As Grandma Says

My friend, Judith Robl, just had her book, "As Grandma Says," released by Harvest House Publishers. It includes more than 40 stories from her grandmother, along with Judith's observations about each one, a scripture passage and a prayer.

I made this book trailer for it, and I'm very happy with how it turned out.

Making these videos for books is of my new business ventures. I really like making them, and having such beautiful artwork on this one made it even easier.

Congratulations, Judith! The book is beautiful!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Giving it a Full Two Percent

I'm occasionally asked about what I write here, and how I can possibly expose so much of my life in this way. Some feel I'm incredibly personal while I think I'm pretty circumspect. It's all perspective, of course.

If you read here regularly, you know a great deal about how I think. An acquaintance challenged me recently to put a number to how much of "me" and my daily thinking is chronicled here. I have been mulling that over for a few days now. I have decided it's about 2% of "me" that's here over the course of the lifespan of the blog.

It's not that I'm holding back, it's that I'm editing. Much of my thought processes are not something I can explain - they make sense to me but I realize they don't to other people.

In the past week I've had two occasions where someone laughed heartily at something I said that I didn't intend to be funny. It reminded me again of how out of step I am with much of the world. Because I'm reminded of those things regularly, I know I cannot begin to explain my thought processes sufficiently.

The thoughts can be somewhat like disjointed dreams until they coalesce into something more that I sometimes share here. Meanwhile, other thoughts are working away.

I also take in a large amount of information on a daily basis through reading, listening, questioning, podcasts and conversation. Without new data, thinking would be circular, so I welcome new information.

I scratch the surface of who I am here. But, truth be told, that's probably about the same as I share with people in real life, too, unless they're very close. In fact, those who read here certainly know more about who I am than many people I interact with in real life, but with whom my interaction is superficial. Those who engage in real conversation with me, and also read here, probably know a bit more about who I am, and that would be the most outside of my intimates.

It's not that there's much in the remaining parts of me that requires protection, but it requires more explanation than most people have time or interest for - understandably so. When I do have a chance to have deep conversation with people and to think outloud about something, it's great, but those opportunities are rare.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Old Soul

Periodically I'll hear someone use the phrase "old soul." I've been hearing that since I was very young, and I've never had a sufficient understanding of what it means. I've even used it myself. Maybe it's ubiquitous because we can all place our own definition on it.

Maybe it's just a convenient way to explain away things we are not yet able to comprehend. We have all known people who seem wise beyond their years, have an understanding of things unknown to us, and who see the world in ways we do not. When people are aware of things we don't see, much less understand, we ascribe this title to them.

It's almost as if we understand it when we see it, but we can't explain it. I guess there's much of life that falls into that category. I've certainly known people I consider "old souls." It's always a delight to meet one. They open my mind, and heart, in ways nothing else can.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Day

It has been an exhausting day and I'm about to call it a night. Nothing terrible happened or anything - but it was full of many details and just wore me out.

I need to work some more before I go to bed - I haven't put in enough hours yet today - but I just can't do anymore. I'm so tired I can't think straight. Maybe I'll wake up extra early and be able to work on some projects before I go to work. 

One of the best parts of the day was lunch with my friend, Judith, whose first book was just published. I'll have much more to say about that soon. It's quite wonderful and I'm taking it up to bed with me now to enjoy it before I drift off. I'll give you all the details soon. I'm so very, very happy for her!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Questions Can Be True Gifts

"A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open."
                                  --- Sir Francis Bacon

I sometimes have difficulty realizing what my true gifts are. I suppose that's a common enough problem, but as I've focused on marketing my skills the last couple of years to make additional income to pay off medical bills, it has become essential that I figure those things out.

Good friends have been a God-send, helping me identify things I could market. It was at the urging of friends I started helping people with social networking, which has developed into something very positive. Friends have also reinforced things I already knew I was good at - like writing.

One of the things friends and others repeatedly tell me I'm good at is asking questions that help them figure things out. Sometimes it's just a different way to look at something, sometimes it's a question that gives them reason to consider something that wasn't even in their consciousness. Although I spent a few years asking questions for a living as a journalist, I never thought I was particularly better at it than others. I did think I was better at listening than most.

But I've come to realize I do ask probing questions that have real impact on people. So, I'm wondering if this is a service I can provide. I'm not sure what one calls this, but it does seem to be a talent I have. I'm mulling it over. Perhaps I need to ask myself some more questions.

When I ran across the above quote tonight I realized laying people open allows them to find their truth. It's already in them, it just needs to be freed. The same could be said of myself.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coffee Cake Recipe

I've been on the quest for a good coffee cake recipe. I love to cook for Greg's mom, and Miss Joy loves coffee cake. The side benefit is that I figure eventually I'll find something I can easily whip up for Coffee at the Cosmo on occasion. In the meantime, during my search, Miss Joy is always willing to be a taste tester for me.

One of the things I consider essential is a topping of crumbly goodness. This is what defines "coffee cake" as far as I'm concerned.

The last recipe I shared here was okay, but I wasn't thrilled with the texture of the cake itself. This recipe is much, much better in that regard. So far it's my favorite. We'll see what I find next.

Coffee Cake

2 cups flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 cup nuts (optional) - we used black walnuts, but whatever you like would be fine

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

For topping mix flour, sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs and set aside.
For cake combine dry ingredients, then cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix wet ingredients. Mix them together just until moistened. Don't overmix or the cake will be tough.
Pour cake mixture into 9 by 13 pan, sprinkle topping over it. Bake at 350 degrees until done - about 25 minutes.
Reason would say to let it cool. We didn't. Enjoy as you will!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting to Know You

I've been thinking lately about the things you need to know about another person before you feel like you know who they are. How much do you need to know? How quickly can you find it out? What makes you feel comfortable?

I can think of three couples off the top of my head who went from single to married in well under a year, or are in that process now. Meanwhile I have friends I've known for two decades who can still surprise me.

I guess it boils down to what you need to know to bond in friendship with someone, or to become a couple or to choose them as a roommate. And how do you find out what you need to know? Time is the only way I've ever found, but that is not necessary for everyone.

Communications theory tells us we're likely to share with people when they share with us. Maybe some are willing to do readily while some of us are far more reticent. We humans are fasinating creatures in our differences.

Efficiency, Holidays and Pluto

I've had a couple of highly productive days at the office, but apparently it has worn me out. I'm a tired pup tonight. I'm sure I'll feel rested tomorrow morning - at least I hope so - because I have a ton of freelance projects to get through this weekend. Hopefully I'll be as efficient with those as I have been at work lately.

Sometimes you just get in a mood where things seem to fall into place. Although, truth be told, I think part of my super efficiency was that people who don't work in museums where long weekends are a busy time - not a down time, were getting ready for a mini-vacation and therefore weren't calling me about new projects. So, I had time to focus on the ones already on my desk, which was nice.

One of the things I love about my job is that I get to share interesting little tidbits now and again. Today was one of those times. On this date in 1930, Kansan Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. I don't care if it's officially a planet or not, I'm loyal - I love Pluto.

Years ago when I did graphic design for a radio station I made a postcard series of famous Kansans and he was one of them. Fortunately, that was before Pluto's "demotion." I loved The Big Bang Theory recently when Sheldon was disdainful to someone he viewed as responsible for that. Not really a fair characterization, but how many of us feel nonetheless.

Well, as much as I love to ramble - and we all know that's true - I must get some sleep. So I can ramble anew tomorrow!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Newspaper Rack Artwork Unveiled

Tonight was Third Thursday, our downtown music and art event, and it was a beautiful evening - nice and warm and wonderful. It was also the night when they unveiled the newspaper racks we painted.

I didn't have time to get mine exactly as I wanted it to be, but it was close enough.

This is Michele's with all the type on it and I really like it.

Love this commentary on our Governor who decided during his first few days in office that it would be a good idea to get rid of our state arts agency. Thank goodness, we have elected some people with some sense, and the representatives stopped him - at least for the moment.

It is always great to be at Third Thursday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand - and melting like a snowflake.
                                                      ~ Marie Beyon Ray

I love this quote. It sums up my approach to life nicely. I've always had a sense that time is limited and we have to make the most of every moment. If I could figure out a way to not have to sleep, so I could squeeze a few extra hours out of every day I would. 

Make the most of your day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wisdom in Books

Imagine what it would be like to have conversation with Thomas Jefferson or sit down to dinner with Claude Monet. The idea of getting a peek into these famous minds is very intriguing to me.

Of course, that's not going to happen, but we can gain a little insight into what brilliant minds considered through their writings. Most have left behind some letters, diaries, or other writing that let us glimpse their thoughts. Some of their wisdom is on those pages.

I've always been a reader. My method these days is to check something out of the library first, to see how I like it. If I enjoy it then I buy a copy so I can make notes in it.

Post it note flag pens were made for me. I like to highlight the passages that matter, and flag them to find later. As you can see from this book, I found much worthy of note. It's great to pick up a book like this and, at a glance, see what I considered important when I read it. If I read it again, I'll use a different color because I might find meaning in different things.

If you're wondering what the book is, it's "Care of the Soul" by Thomas Moore. It is one of a very few books I keep within arm's reach of my desk at home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sharing Recipes and Connections

Tonight I've been working on a cookbook. It's a compilation of some of the recipes I just cannot do without - things I make over and over again and that have a story associated with them.

When I write cookbook reviews I often mention that I care nothing about a mere recitation of ingredients. I can get that anywhere. What I care about are the stories that put food and the people who eat it into context.

As I was working on this book tonight I realized there's no reason anyone would need to buy a cookbook today for a recipe. We can get a recipe for almost anything with a quick google search. The programs allow us to adjust the number of servings we want with a few clicks, and a few more will generate our grocery list. So, that's not the motivation to buy a cookbook.

But I buy cookbooks. And I know lots of people do. In fact, a well designed cookbook is something that has a very long shelf-life. Compared to other books, they're one of the longest.

So what is it we're buying? It's more than just recipes - those are the bonuses. I think we're buying a connection. The cookbook I'm writing will be an insight into the life I lead, what's important to me, and the people who have share my life - now or in the past.

It's that peek we're after, that little glimpse at another's life. Then we can feel connected to them because we like some of the same things they do. I think the reasons to share recipes are much the same.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beautiful Sunday

It was a beautiful day today, so I let myself have a few hours off this afternoon. I drove down to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge to look around. There was still ice and snow on the water, but the roads were all clear.

It was good to feel the sunshine.

I'll have to pay for those hours away from my freelance projects by giving up some sleep this coming week, but it was nice to be outside and away from the computer for a little while.

I will be so happy to have all my medical bills paid and not have to work every waking moment. But, I'm very lucky to have a job I enjoy and freelance work that comes my way regularly. And I'm healthy. So, all in all a very lucky girl!

I couldn't resist a shot of the moon in the bright blue sky.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Richard Crowson and Moments When Lives Change

Every once in awhile, we are witness to a moment when lives are changed. No doubt it happens regularly, but it's rare we can pinpoint the time. Usually those things are more obvious in retrospect than they are in process.

But today, today was one of those amazing times when I knew people around me were being affected in ways they will remember - in ways that change who they are and what they're about.

We had a big event today to celebrate the opening of a special exhibit about Snoopy's involvement with NASA. When I learned we were getting this exhibit the first thought I had was to contact cartoonist Richard Crowson and ask him to do a presentation. He was incredibly generous in agreeing to do so.

This afternoon he spoke to a crowd of about 60 people, demonstrating cartooning techniques and talking about his own experiences with drawing. The crowd was mostly families, and I was amazed at what great artists some of these kids were. There was one young man who has already started drawing his own comic strip. 

I've seen more than a few speakers, and I've never seen one better than Richard Crowson. He was perfect. Absolutely perfect. He talked to the kids at their level of understanding but made it fascinating for the adults at the same time. He played banjo, he drew, he talked about the 150th anniversary of Kansas, he engaged the audience, he taught, he encouraged, and he listened.

And, in the midst of it, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in February, he changed people.

Not everyone, of course. Some people won't give today a second thought. But others will remember it as an hour in which their lives were changed. A turning point. A moment. Years from now some of those kids will be telling people about being at the Cosmosphere and Richard Crowson teaching them how to draw. They'll remember him looking at what they drew with kind eyes and speaking about it with kind words.

And I will remember it, too, because it's a privilege to bear witness to such a moment.

Thanks to Greg Holmes for the photo.

Friday, February 11, 2011

History Made

Sometimes when history is being made around us, we miss the clues until later. I think that most people who have an awareness of the wider world will remember how they heard that Mubarak resigned today as president of Egypt. I first saw the news on Facebook, which is typical for where I see breaking news these days - Facebook or Twitter.

Obviously, this is only a first step, and much remains to be seen. But what an amazing first step.

Revolution never comes easily. And we must not forget that lives were lost during this one. People are willing to die for Freedom. Amazing that such a nebulous concept could exact such a concrete price.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Being the Life of the Party

At various times I have been the life of the party, but I have to tell you, it's exhausting. It requires a whole lot of energy to put yourself in that situation and to maintain your standing in that circle.

There's a reason party girls travel in packs. There's an unspoken rule that you bolster each other so you all get a break at one point or another. But, there's another inevitable unspoken rule that if you don't carry your weight you'll be thrown under the bus.

I've been the girl with the band - I've even been the girl in the band - and it can be lots of fun, but it's always tinged with the idea of what's next. What people conveniently never mention to those who wish they were with the band, is that it wears a person out. You always have to be "on." There's a reason lots of people in that lifestyle end up in rehab - they needed some help to be "on" all the time.

Different versions of this play out on large and small stages all the time - from middle school math classes to movie premieres, and everything in between. You see it on Twitter and you see it around the water cooler at work. (Well, if one has a water cooler - substitute whatever the modern equivalent of that is.)

Gathering into groups is something we seem to do by instinct. Yes, it's true, cliques are a natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, it also seems natural for us to always be looking at one we're not included in as desirable. Why don't they like us? Why don't they include us? Why don't they see the error of their ways in leaving us out? The reality is probably far more distressing - they probably haven't given us a thought - so there's no reason they would consider including us.

Oh, we could worm our way in, and then they would eagerly include us. But, you know what that takes? Energy. Lots of energy. And vigilance. Because to stay in you have to keep putting out the energy. It's a vicious circle.

I see most of life as an equation. I run the numbers and I do a cost/benefit analysis to reach a conclusion. Should I get involved in this relationship? What's the chance this is going to end with my heart broken? Is it going to be worth the pain? Then I make as educated a decision as I can with the details I have available.

It's just too costly to be the life of the party. It takes more energy than I'm willing to expend. Been there, done that. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The party will just have to come to me. It will find me contentedly writing, reading, painting and thinking while sharing my life with friends who accept me for who I am, not an artificial, hyped version of myself striving to be the life of that other party.

Productive Day

We were closed today because of the weather so I've been in the house all day. Actually, I've been in my house since I got home yesterday about 10:30 a.m. We ended up with between 13-19 inches of snow, depending on which station you listen to. I going to say about 14 at my house.

My neighbor, Bob, used his new snow blower this morning and cleared my walk and driveway after it stopped snowing. He and his wife are the BEST neighbors. I'm so fortunate. I am so thankful because there's no way I could remove all that snow. I haven't been out to investigate how difficult it will be to drive out, but I did park the car near the end of the driveway so there wouldn't be a ton of snow to get over. At least I hope that worked out because I'll need to go to work tomorrow.

It has been great to work from home. I've gotten a lot of stuff done for the work and also a lot of personal things done, too. It's nice to be able to have the dishwasher and the laundry going while I'm at the computer in the other room. That is something I miss about my previous job, but it's one of the very few things.

This evening I got three articles finished up and off to editors, so I'm glad about that. I also got another project done I've been putting off tonight, so that feels good. Last night I completed the writing of a little book I've been working on. It's just a fun little thing. I published it today and ordered a copy so I can see how it all looks before I make it public. I'm eager to see it. I want to read through a hard copy to make sure I haven't missed any errors.

Well, time for sleep. I was talking with a friend yesterday morning who gets a lot of things done every day and we were joking about how people are always asking us how we get so much done. We realized that neither of us sleeps much. But, I do need some sleep. If only I could eliminate that need I would have more hours to be productive every day. But, for tonight, sleep it is.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


We have about a foot of snow on the ground and it's still snowing heavily. It's beautiful.

It was snowing when I got up this morning. Chris decided to let us go home early and I got back to the house about 10:30 a.m. I was so thankful as it was already pretty deep then.

I haven't been out of the house since, other than to the front porch to look at the snow. The snow is over the bottom step of my porch, and closing in on the next one.

Everything is fluffy and white. We will be closed again tomorrow, for which I'm thankful, because there's no way I could get out of my driveway.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bill Rancic Speaks in Hutchinson Kansas

Bill Rancic spoke at tonight's annual Chamber Dinner in Hutchinson. He was the first winner of Donald Trump's Apprentice show.

He was very entertaining. He said he thinks the real distinction about entrepreneurs is, "Having the ability to recognize an opportunity and, more importantly, to seize that opportunity." He said lots of people see them, but most people don't act on them.

Looking back, he said he thinks there were three reasons he won the first season of Apprentice.
1. Practical execution - he delivered results
2. Agility - always be willing to change the game plan and adjust as nneded
3. Risk - taking risks but managing risks - sometimes micro-managing risk

He talked about how we're born with only two fears - the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned.

The fundamentals of business don't change, he said, at the Trump level or any any other level.

He identified three traits entrepreneurs share:
1. They're decision makers.
2. They're creative.
2. They never quit and they never make excuses.

He also identified three traits to avoid:
1. Being reactive instead of proactive - never anticipating customer's problem
2. Surrounding yourself with negative people.
3. Potential is our best God-given asset and most under-utilized - many never tap into their potential.

He referenced an evangelist who refers to cemeteries as the wealthiest places on Earth. There are dreams not realized, books not written, businesses that never happened and relationships that will never be.

His final note to us is one he says he likes to end on - "Tough times don't last, but tough people do."

Thoughts on Egypt

A few people have asked for my thoughts about the Egypt crisis. It has been almost a dozen years since I walked the streets of Egypt, so I'm sure things have changed dramatically. I'm not sure I have anything important to add to the conversation, but after the third request, I thought I would write something. It has just taken me awhile to get it written.

All in all, I would say this - when the citizens of any nation rise up enmasse on their own, and say they want different government, it's a powerful statement. As best I can tell, that's the situation in Egypt. It is incumbent on the rest of the world to support those citizens, not those governments.

It takes incredible courage to make a public statement that you are unhappy with your government in a place where that statement may cost you your life. It seems that is the situation in Egypt, although I have to admit I was blissfully unaware of that during my visit.

The "uneasiness" I felt from locals when there I attributed to the differences in our cultures. It was certainly very different, especially with regard to women, compared to US standards. In retrospect, I realize I was just ignorant of what was happening around me. It was the first time I had traveled in a developing nation and didn't understand the intricacies involved.

One of my rules when traveling is that I am a guest and I act accordingly. I wore very conservative clothes during my visit, kept my long hair pulled up and covered when it was appropriate, and kept my speech circumspect. It is not my place to bring revolution when traveling, it is my place to be respectful.

Revolution only works when it comes from within. It would seem that's what we're witnessing now. The only kind of war that ever has any long lasting effect is true civil war. I hope it doesn't come to that in Egypt.

The people I met in Egypt were warm, friendly, helpful, generous and gracious to a person. I was there about 3 1/2 weeks and interacted with hundreds of people over that time frame. Everyone was wonderful to me.

It is - or at least was at that time - very unusual to see an American traveling alone in Egypt. I met one other couple from the US who were not in a tour group. I saw only one American tour group. That said, I didn't spend a lot of time in places where tour groups would naturally go.

I talked with dozens and dozens of people on the street. Sometimes it was casual, sometimes curious. Once I was approached by a young man who was reading a book and ran up to me asking if I was an American. I said yes and he asked if he could ask me about a word. I said sure and he opened his book to show me "apothecary" written there. "This word? What is this word? What does it mean?" I explained it was like a pharmacy and it was as if a light dawned for him. In retrospect, I remember him glancing around nervously. I took people's caution in approaching me as respect. Perhaps it was fear of some unknown presence. I hate to think that, but it is difficult not to looking back.

People were curious about me traveling alone, not to mention being a woman alone. And they tend to like heavier women, so that attracted attention, too. But no one was ever inappropriate in any way. In fact, on two different occasions, men I was with jumped to "defend my honor" when it had not been called into question as far as I could tell.

Once was when I was walking along a main street in Luxor with a young man I had met there. He had taken me to visit his sister and he was walking me back to my hotel. He would not come into the hotel lobby and I realize now it was because of the "protection" offered there for the tourists. He had just told me he couldn't go inside, and didn't answer the questions I asked.

As we were walking along the street, a man in a passing car said something to me - I speak no Arabic, but I had learned a few words by then, and it was very mild - something like "you are beautiful." The young man I was with ran into the street after that car, yelling in Arabic. Traffic stopped, other men got out of their cars, and all converged on this car with the man who had said something to me.

Much yelling ensued but eventually it was all worked out and the man I was with came back to the sidewalk. I asked what that was all about, and he said, "He can not speak to you like that. He would never say that to an Egyptian woman - never yell at her from a car. For all he knows you are my wife."

On another occasion I was in the car with the taxi driver I had used a lot while there. He had taken me many places and we had had much conversation. Egyptian traffic is not for the faint of heart, and he was amused by my lack of concern. Midway through my trip he told he, "the first day I know you are different. You sit up front, you throw your bag in back and you... you... you never..." and he made flinching motions. I laughed, he laughed, we bonded.

One day we were coming back to Cairo and on the equivalent of a freeway. I was talking to him and not paying much attention to anything else. It was warm and we had the windows down. At one point he leaned forward, looking past me, and yelled at the driver who was in the car in the lane next to me. I didn't understand the Arabic, but it was obviously angry. The other driver immediately fell back. We were probably going at least 60 mph so I don't know how they communicated, but they did.

I asked what it was about. My driver was very mild mannered, so this was very out of character. He shook his head and said, "He was looking at you." I had been looked at a tremendous amount since I had arrived in Egypt - it is not rude in their culture to stare - and I was very much an oddity - so I wasn't sure what the big deal was. I started to say something and thought better of it. My driver looked at me and said, "He should not look at you that way. He would not do that if I was with my wife. For all he knows you are my wife."

What I gathered was that being a wife obviously gave you important standing. And it was an affront to a man you were with if another man gave you a sideways glance.

It was a life-changing experience to be there - in multiple ways.
The people of Egypt were warm, welcoming, generous, gracious and inviting. I spent a lot of time in the Egyptian Museum. Those who know me well know I've been fascinated with Egypt from the time I was very young. I feel such incredibly blessed that I was able to go.

I got to tour many of the closed tombs at Sakkara, including spending time alone in the Pyramid of Unas - one of my two main goals. It was closed to the public but I was lucky enough to get special access. My other main goal - the Step Pyramid - was also closed to the public but I was able to be inside it, too. I saw the pyramids of Giza - the famous ones - but did not go inside them. I had to make a choice because 3 1/2 weeks wasn't enough time to be in Egypt and see nearly everything, and I chose to spend more time at Sakkara.

My dealings with the government were limited, but I can recall two instances.

I was able to get into a controlled area and climb the red pyramid. It was supposedly an off-limits, military area but my taxi driver pulled up and had a conversation with the guard, explaining my interest, and he allowed us entrance. I was warned by the taxi driver to not offer a tip to him - that it could be seen as a bribe. It was good he warned me because it was customary to tip everyone for everything. However, when we emerged from inside the pyramid, the gentleman who was the overseer there was not a government employee so I tipped him for his time.

I hired a professional guide to go with me to Edfu and Esna. I don't know what it's like now, but at that time tourists could not travel to those areas without being in a "convoy." I was the only person going so it was the driver, my guide Sophia, and me in the car. There were maybe eight cars in the convoy when we left Luxor.

All the tourist cars went together in convoy with official cars front and back. At various checkpoints, you stopped and convoys went in different directions. At one point, our car was the only one continuing on to Edfu so we had to wait, and it looked like it was going to be 2-3 hours. Because fewer tourists go to Edfu, there was less demand for convoys going that way.

My guide and driver pleaded the case with the officials at the checkpoint. I understood very little of it except the word, "American," being mentioned regularly. Eventually, they reached a compromise and sent a guard with us, who sat in the front passenger side with a machine gun while we went the rest of the way to Edfu. At Edfu, my guide convinced him to stay behind and he and the driver watched as we walked up to the temple and returned. I did receive a few quizzical looks from the locals, but I'd grown accustomed to that by that point in the trip. I knew I was a curiosity.

The other time I can think of that involved anything government related was a wedding. I was invited to a wedding by a gentleman I met in the Khan - a huge shopping/market area in Cairo. It was his wife's brother getting married. I went back and met him the afternoon of the wedding, then went to his home where I met his family - the sweetest two daughters you could ever imagine. Anyway, we drove about a hour to the place where the wedding was taking place - some sort of military place. It was a beautiful area.

A little while into the event the gentleman who had invited me and some of the other male members of his family were talking to an official there. Eventually, the gentleman came to me and said that the official wanted to hold my passport while I was at the wedding. I politely refused and said I would leave. I didn't want to cause any difficulties and I appreciated his kindness. He didn't want me to leave, but I was not going to give up my passport - to anyone - for any reason - period.

Eventually I was in an office with the official, and a couple of the men from the family, including the man who had invited me. I continued to flatly refuse to give up my passport, but was happy to hop on the subway and leave. Finally they relented and let me stay without having my passport. It was probably totally innocent - just procedure - but I do not give my passport to anyone for any reason.

One of my rules for traveling in developing nations is ALWAYS keep on your person your passport, a credit card you can buy a plane ticket with, and some cash. Keep them against your skin in a travel wallet. If you need to leave the country quickly you do not want to have to go back to the hotel to gather your things. Be prepared at any moment to abandon everything and get yourself out of the country.

I've never needed to use any of those things and have never been in any sort of dramatic situation. I'm a pretty relaxed traveler, but that is one rule I do not break. In the developing world you should always, always be prepared to leave with nothing but what you're carrying on you, and get out of the country. That said, the scariest "crowd situation" I've ever been in was in Louisville, Kentucky, but that's another story.

I have nothing earth-shattering to say about the situation in Egypt. Politicians in every country confuse me. But people in every place are much the same. They want to live content, safe lives. I'm certain that's true for the people of Egypt.

On my last day there, as my usual taxi driver took me home he said, "You, you see more in three weeks than most people see in years. You come here, you see Egypt, you meet people, you love Egypt." He was right about that. I do love Egypt. And the people. I hope I get to live among them at some point.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The day

It's a little after 10 on a Friday night and I'm exhausted. I think the week of cold weather has taken a toll. I've got the local news on and they're talking about more snow.

I don't really mind the cold weather if I can stay in, but of course I couldn't. I had to work. Although we are fortunate that we can wear jeans when it's bad weather, which is really helpful. But at one point this week I was getting out of the car and having to pry myself using the door frame as a brace. I chuckled and realized it was because I was suddenly wearing a heavy coat and boots, and had my briefcase and purse over my shoulder. No wonder.

Yesterday I stopped wearing the boots. It was still messy but I just couldn't face clomping around in them one more day. I took extra socks instead.

Tonight I got home and walked into my office and flipped on the light switch but the light didn't come on. The breaker may be thrown, but it was too dark to go check it tonight. I'm sure my back steps are icy so I'll go look in the daylight tomorrow when I can just walk around the house. I decided I could make do with a lamp tonight. Although I have to get it addressed because I cannot stand being in a darkened room. I like it bright at home. I can't recall what else is on that circuit but I can't locate anything else that's not working. I hope it's just the breaker. If not, I'll need an electrician I suppose.

Well, I am hoping for a good night's sleep. I need some rest. Tomorrow I have to go finish my newspaper rack. It's my last chance to work on it before they unveil them at Third Thursday. I think I'll go get started on that sleep.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle ... a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream."
Barbara Winkler

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


For most of my life I have felt a sense of gratitude. It was not because things were always perfect, but because I was taught to appreciate what was right in my life - even from a young age. Feeling grateful was simply part of my "normal."

It seems every day presents ample opportunity for gratitude. The last couple of days it was to have a warm home and food in the cupboard, not requiring any trips out into the frigid cold. Daily I realize I'm fortunate to have a job I enjoy and blessed to have freelance jobs that bring extra sources of income.

And of course I am always grateful for the people in my life. My family is wonderful; my second family of Greg, his mom and brother are amazing; friends who share joys and burdens are indispensable.

It is these joys - small and large - that are the recipe for gratitude. It seems I'm more aware of all that's right with my world when things are a bit uncertain - with me or with others. "Gratitude" is a base emotion for me. I'm not sure of all that means, but I know it is central to who I am.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


The big news here is the weather. If you're a local reader you already know this and can skip this post. It's cold. Incredibly cold. And windy. They say the expected windchill overnight will be 35 degrees below zero - maybe 40 below.

Almost everything in town was closed today, although we were open until about 2 when it was decided we could go home, too. I had a meeting this morning and dreaded going, but did. Then I went to the office and stayed there, without leaving for lunch, until they said we could go. In just the brief times between the parking lot and the office the skin on my face got chapped. It's frigid.

We don't have a tremendous amount of snow, but the drifting has made it difficult. When I came home this afternoon the roads were really bad. 

I was so thankful to get home. I left water running last night and it's still working except to the washing machine. That is frozen since it's against a colder wall. But, otherwise I have running water and a warm house, so all is well.

I baked cookies and had tea this afternoon while I worked on projects. I'm headed upstairs to get under the electric blanket.

It may be March before my feet and legs are warm again.