Monday, December 31, 2012

Moments of Change

As we prepare for the turning of the calendar, I'm thinking about moments when your course is undeniably changed because you are changed. We may want to forget it, deny it or rewrite it, but we can't. It's just there. It's now part of the fabric of who we are, and we must find a way to incorporate it into our beings. Life will not allow it to be ignored.

I wonder if some of the difficulty is not just pure anger at having such things delivered to the doorsteps of our psyches with no fanfare and no warning. No one wants to be the child of an alcoholic. No one wants to be an addict. No one wants to be "at risk." No one wants to be a rape survivor. No one wants to be a victim of child abuse. But people are all of those things.

The real tragedy is that these things are thrust upon us, often before we are even able to understand them. We are left holding the bag, carrying the burden. Forever. Regardless of how much we process, how "healthy" we are to the outside world, only we are living in our heads where almost everything is passed through the filter of, "is this right... what will happen if I do this or that... can I say/do this or will there be hell to pay?" We don't know any other way to live because this is all we've known since the moment we were changed, often through no decision we made other than to be alive and walking on the planet in that place at that time.

But, adversity also teaches us to be resilient, one of the greatest life skills a person can possess. It seems to be the determining factor in whether or not people are able to "move on" regardless of what happens. All of those things give us perspective, too. And they all play in role in making us who we are at this moment, in this place. The trick is how we move forward from this phase into the next.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

First Snow and Secret Santa

Tonight we had our first snow fall of the season. It has been warm enough the ground was just wet and provided wonderful reflections of Christmas lights and Rudolph's nose!

Earlier today I got to go play Secret Santa again, paying off layway at K-Mart for some folks. I just put a note out on Facebook and people contributed $750. I wrote a full accounting of the process on Facebook, but it was a really wonderful way to spend a little time during the holiday season.

I love the idea of people getting a call that their layaway has been paid off.

Our youngest contributor was 9, our oldest was 81. Including my own small donation, There were 22 people from 5 different states who shared. Some of these are folks I've never even met face to face, but know through social media. 

Today we purchased coats, shoes, jeans, sweaters, gloves and thermal underwear. They also bought a Barbie, some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, an Easy Bake Oven and a tricycle. There were many toys and many more practical things. Some of these accounts were delinquent, with only a few days left until Christmas. 

People were so generous that we went through the entire list K-Mart had pulled out for good potentials. We paid all of those with the exception of one that had nearly $300 left on it. Ruth and Evan who were helping us went and found some more by looking at what was set aside upstairs and then looking them up on the computer. I chipped in a few dollars extra and we ended up spending $761.68 total. We have to leave a penny on them so people stay in the system. I left cash to pay off those extra pennies. 

We paid off for 13 people. I had to do the last couple in cash because we set off a security warning on my debit card after 10 transactions in a short amount of time. :) One sneaked through because it didn't decline it until 12. But, I had anticipated that might be a problem, so I had come prepared with cash, too.

The final bonus of the day was when I called my credit union to make sure the card was still functional, they were very helpful, but puzzled by so many transactions in such a short time at the same place. Shen I explained the deal to the woman I was talking to she thanked me for being so generous. I assured her it wasn't me, but my friends who were so generous. She said that story had made her night. 

Friends give me a tremendous gift of letting me play Secret Santa. This is the second year we've done it. There's nothing like that to make a person feel festive!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Twelve Thoughts About Common Sense and Gun Control

This isn't a post about gun control - it's a post about common sense.

1. If you have a 20 year old "disturbed" son living with you, it's not a good idea to have semi-automatic weapons lying around the house. It's a recipe for disaster in some shape, form or fashion. The thought process of having guns around when your child's school assigned a psychologist to him for his own protection is the antithesis of common sense. Far be it from me to speak ill of the dead, and I know nothing about what transpired in that household, but I know someone who needs psychiatric intervention for their own protection should not be living in a house with weapons.

2. As so often happens when someone owns a gun, they end up getting killed by their own weapon. We hear it all the time, but we never pay attention. Unfortunately, 26 other people also paid the price this time. Yeah, yeah, yeah - guns don't kill people, people kill people. We all know that. But people often kill people with guns, so stop saying that. It just makes you look foolish.

3. If people being armed really kept people from getting shot, we wouldn't have any of these situations, because we are a very armed society. But that is just fantasy. So stop saying that. It's not true and you don't look like a person who should be trusted with firearms when you can't be trusted with facts.

4. No one is trying to take your freaking guns away, so shut up about it. But we do need to figure out a way for people to exercise some basic common sense where guns are concerned. Unfortunately, that seems to need to be legislated. (Reference point number 1 if you're unsure why.)

5. We are going to have guns in the US. We can debate what that's about - tradition, long held beliefs, fear of some unknown - but it doesn't really matter. It's going to be. People are allowed to own guns. Some people like the history, the feel, the power, the whatever, of owning guns. And they don't have to justify that to you. They're allowed. So accept that as a given and lets try to have a reasonable discussion about exercising some common sense where guns are concerned.

6. Yes, people can use other things to kill people. Like cars. And bombs. And knives. But none of these things is as easy to lay your hands on or to use so indiscriminately to cause such tremendous harm in such a short amount of time as a gun is. There's a reason guns are the weapon of choice of mass murderers, drive-by shooters and your average run-of-the-mill criminal.

7. I know these things because I've been around guns most of my life, and I'm not a bad shot. In fact, I'm probably better than about 95% of the bozos I've seen on television in the last 48 hours talking about how they need to protect their guns. I know what responsible gun ownership looks like. It's not having semi-automatic weapons lying around the house in easy reach of someone who's "disturbed." It's rarely the responsible gun owners who are talking silly on the topic of guns and blathering on about the second amendment.

8. And speaking of the second amendment and the argument that's so often used - most people will never use their guns for self-defense because they will freeze up and pee themselves should the need ever arise. I hope it never does. And it's not likely to because we now live in a world where we have law enforcement as close as a phone call. The people who wrote the second amendment were far more concerned about self defense. You can ease up. You're not likely to need to defend yourself. Thank God. Because we're all in great danger if you start shooting under the pretense of defending yourself. Call the police instead. Please.

9. Instead of worrying about guns, you should be worried about the state of mental health care. Not all people with mental illness are violent - in fact it's a very tiny percentage, and no more significant of a percentage than in those not diagnosed as mentally ill. But I contend anyone who kills more than two dozen people on a rampage is mentally ill. It's something that might have been prevented if we gave any serious thought to mental health care. Yes, people have to be willing to have care. But if we had decent care available that didn't require the stupid hoops people have to jump through, people might be far more willing. I spent seven years trying to help people access mental health care and it is a maze you would not believe if you haven't ever tried to do it. We don't put the resources into mental health care we should.

10. If health care were as readily available as guns, we wouldn't be having this conversation. People could be off shooting furry animals with guns or telling those who are shooting how wrong they are, little children would be at home with their families down the hall, and I'd be writing about pretty tea sandwiches.

11. Don't be a jerk. You can keep your guns. No one is trying to take them away from you as long as you're demonstrating some basic common sense. (Again, please reference point number 1.) When you're rude and obnoxious - such as mentioning your cold, dead hands - you make all gun owners look unstable and like people who shouldn't have access to any weapons at all. So stop it.

12. Don't be a jerk. We are going to have guns in this country. When you go on and on about how we shouldn't have any guns you look like you've lost all ability to comprehend reality. You become the very person people think they might need a gun to protect themselves from. So stop it.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

I'm in the Divinity Making Business

I seem to have started a new business. It was kind of accidental, but I'm enjoying it. I'm in the divinity making business! There's a website and everything - That's when you know something is all official.

My mom was a championship divinity maker, and I eventually learned to make it as well. This year I entered some into the Kansas State Fair and won a ribbon.

The last few years I've been making it regularly for Greg's mom. Miss Joy sees no reason it shouldn't be enjoyed all year - no need to relegate it to Christmas. She has been encouraging me to start selling it. In fact, she pretty much told me - in her very nice way - that it was unkind of me to not make it available when I was able to make it, because so many people can't. This year I finally decided I would do as she suggested.

For reasons I can't fully explain, I really like to make it. Maybe it's because it's part chemistry, part cooking, and part art. The bonus is that it's not my favorite thing to eat so I'm not tempted by it.

It has been a real delight to share it with people. For people who love it, it's a serious treat. It feels very nice to be able to make people happy with a little confection!
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Being Engaged in Life

Kenny Rogers threw me this autographed 
tambourine from the stage during his 
2010 Kansas State Fair show.
A dear friend is encouraging me to write a book that is, in part, a guide for how to be engaged in life. Of course, each of us is just living our own life. We don't have the benefit of understanding what's going on in other people's heads and hearts.

But many people over the years have commented that I take a different approach to life than many people do. I make significant effort to create my life, including everything from visioning retreats to setting priorities. While we can't foresee what will happen, we can at least give some energy to what we'd like to have happen.

As we were discussing this idea over dinner one night I said, "Well, Kenny Rogers doesn't throw you an autographed tambourine from the stage if you're not engaged." With the sweep of a perfectly manicured nail, she motioned toward the paper I had out and said, "See, that's a chapter."

I'm mulling this over, and it will certainly be part of my visioning for the coming year. We'll see what develops. I'm flattered Martha believes I have anything of value to offer in this regard.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thursday, December 06, 2012

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster

“If You Were Here,” by Jen Lancaster, chronicles how author Mia and her husband buy and renovate the home used in the movie, “Sixteen Candles.” She is infatuated with the house because of this, which leads her to overlook some minor details, such as the house is crumbling. The renovation journey includes neighbors you wouldn’t want to have, workmen and their less-than-calendar-based sense of time, and an ever-creeping deadline for her Amish-zombie-teen-romance. 

This is a work of fiction, and a departure from Lancaster’s usual biographical works. Regardless, it’s funny, as her writing always is.

Although I’ve never taken on a renovation project this large, I do live in an older home. While this is technically fiction, some of the situations may seem like startlingly accurate journalism to anyone who has attempted to bring a home back from the brink.

Just like in her auto-biographical books, Lancaster makes you simultaneously wonder how anyone could make this many poor decisions in such rapid succession, and wish you had the guts to do it yourself.

Everything Jen Lancaster writes makes me:
  1.  Laugh uproariously.
  2. Lament I’m not as funny as she is.
  3. Want to be part of her (somewhat dysfunctional) inner circle.
Aside from the teensy-weensy problem that she doesn’t know I exist, I’m not sure I could keep up with Jen and her friends. I don’t really drink wine. I am, however, an excellent designated driver. I like to believe this compensates for my lack of love for the fruits of the vine.

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Joplin Christmas Windows

Joplin has a window decorating contest for downtown businesses, and their city hall features a series of large window displays, some of which are animated. They unveil them all at once, and it's apparent such things are just as magical for children today as they were when such things were more common. 

Some downtown residents add to the festivities with their own decorations. These folks can look down onto the windows in city hall, which must be lovely.

Many of the downtown businesses are decorated. It's very festive and lends a wonderful feel to being in the heart of the city.

The lamp posts are all decorated, too.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Treasure from Election Class at Syracuse

At the Smalltown State of Now Conference, I learned about Election Class at Syracuse University. (website here and #electionclass on twitter) It was a college course looking at the impact of social media on elections. The class included a mock election, and it generated its own party, that featured this unique symbol.

During the Smalltown presentation, they mentioned these stickers. I immediately tweeted I needed one. J.D. Ross tweeted he'd see if he could find one for me. It arrived in the mail yesterday. How cool is that?!?!?

This beauty will have a place of honor in my office, which is where I collect all weirdly wonderful things!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Gatherings

Thanksgiving is over for 2012, but it has kicked off a few weeks of celebrating with family and friends. It's a time for remembering loved ones no longer with us at the table, and gathering new folks together.

Holidays are a wonderful opportunity to connect with people. Although it's natural to think of family, I encourage you to invite others to share your holiday tables, too.

Although I didn't spend the Thanksgiving holiday in my own home, and therefore it wasn't my place to invite anyone, I have in the past. Sharing the bounty of your holiday table is a great way to enrich your own experience. Everyone at the table brings a unique perspective that adds to the day.

Consider who in your world might be able to join us in the next few weeks.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lounging with Lanna Lee - I hope I didn't embarrass myself

A couple of weeks ago, I made a new friend - Lanna Lee, from Maine. She was in Hutchinson for the State of Now Smalltown Conference and we spent a little time together. A few things happened as a result.

1. I started seriously considering coloring my hair. Yes, I know, you listened to me whine about the gray hair until I finally bought some hair dye. Then I let it sit in the cabinet for four years without doing anything, except whining more about gray hair. But, that's not the kind of color I'm thinking of. Lanna has shocking pink hair! It is fabulous! I'm not sure I can rock it like she does, and I'm certain I don't have the guts to go all pink. But, I'm thinking I may add a little color to the ends. Then if I hate it I can cut if off. I know - no commitment - I'm weak in such matters. Lets just say I've become somewhat familiar with the splat and manic panic websites and leave it at that. However, there is no hair dye in my home at the moment.

2. I was a guest on her podcast, appropriately named, "Lounging with Lanna Lee." Generally they're about 30 minutes long. I talked about twice that long. Imagine that - me being verbose. She was kind enough to let me ramble. It was so much fun I forgot we were doing something that would be out there for the world to hear. But, now it is.  Frankly, I'm too terrified to listen to it. Goodness knows what I said. I was just talking. And then talking some more. And then some more. Lanna was just too kind to say, "uh... yeah... right... well, thanks so much..." Regardless, it's out there - now available. I'm just going to hope I didn't embarrass myself.

Listen here if you so desire:

3. Lanna reminded me how much I love interviewing people, and rambling on myself. Makes me think about reviving my old podcast. Who knows what might happen... I certainly didn't know I'd end up talking about everything from visioning retreats to my mother's death with someone I barely knew, to let people I've never even met listen in. But I did. And heaven help me, I found it fun.

See more at, including what I have now dubbed the "fun bio."

And someone please tell me I didn't embarrass myself.
(Note to self: You should probably determine if you've embarrassed yourself before you point people to the very thing where you might have embarrassed yourself.)

In that photo above that Lanna took that I shamelessly "borrowed" from her website, you can see the ADORABLE little couch you get as a gift for being on the podcast. And, she makes them herself. Love it!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Getting Your Book into Bookstores

Authors are obsessed with getting their books into bookstores. They believe this will be the key to making sales. After all, bookstores are in the business of selling books. Makes perfect sense.

Except it doesn't.

Instead of being focused on getting your book into bookstores, start thinking about getting your book into the hands of readers.

People in all kinds of businesses don't really understand who their customer is. If you're an author, your customer is the reader, not the bookstore. The bookstore is the middle-man. They may be an incredibly pleasant middle-man, and middle-men have their places, but they are not your customer. That is the reader. The reader is also their customer. As you can see, readers are really powerful entities in this equation.

I work with a number of authors, handling various public relations tasks for them from helping build a social media platform to generating their newsletters, blog posts, mailers, and other assorted chores. Many authors just want to write, and not spend time marketing. Unfortunately, that's not really very feasible these days.

You will either spend a lot of your time marketing, or hire someone else to do it, and even then it will require your attention. It's just the ugly truth of business today - any kind of business. This is acutely felt in the book industry. Unless you are a proven author with a stellar track record at a big publishing house, you are likely to be spending a lot of what used to be your writing time on marketing.

If you are an author who has decided to self publish, or work with a publishing house outside the major ones, you'd better decide marketing is your second favorite thing - right below writing. Frankly, it probably is far higher on the list than re-writing, and we all have to do that, so just dig in and enjoy.

But, I guarantee, if you create a demand for your book, bookstores will become very interested in carrying it. Despite the obstacles, if they're having potential customers walk in every day and ask about buying a copy of "Polly's Last Chance for Pomegranates," they'll beat a path to your door, or at least your inbox.

However, don't hold your breath on that one. Because those customers are likely to just order the book and have it shipped directly to them, never interacting with a bookstore. In fact, for many people, it's nearly impossible to shop at a local bookstore because there no longer is one. That's a pity, but it's the reality.

For those lucky enough to still have bookstores, please support them in any way you can. Buy books there, suggest others do the same, and give them some love. Understand that rent is high and shelf space is limited and manpower is scarce. Just having the energy to order, rotate stock, and handle business is overwhelming for many bookstores. The people who work in bookstores tend to be readers, and they can offer great suggestions for books. Maybe you want to give them a copy of your book so they're familiar with it.

I wish I had a better answer. I adore bookstores, but this post is about authors and how to get your book out into the world. Bookstores would be a wonderful, logical option except their business model is not geared to today's publishing market. So, consider how much time it will take you to swim upstream on that. And realize that while you're doing that, you're wasting energy you could be devoting to reaching your real customer, the reader.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election Night

Tuesday night I went to a watch party for a local ordinance protecting the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people to not be fired or lose housing because of their sexual orientation. I was in favor of the ordinance because I don't see why you wouldn't want people to have basic civil rights. It did not pass. The "no" vote won 57%.

Obviously, on the same night that the first openly gay woman was elected to congress, and multiple states approved gay marriage, Hutchinson is on the wrong side of history. I was so hoping this would pass because it would signal an openness in this community.

Greg took this photo of me saying goodbye to Jon, who spearheaded the local "Vote Yes for Fairness" campaign. We were pretty sure it wasn't going to pass at that point, but we didn't know for certain. Jon is someone I really admire.

What I didn't realize at the time, is that the local newspaper photographer also captured the moment and it went out on the AP, although it didn't run in our local paper. A friend sent me this link to a story in the Wichita Eagle. It could have been in other papers, too.

Before the election, I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper, but got it in too late. I've posted it below so you can read it if you wish.

A war has been raging in Hutchinson the last few months. Like everyone else, I have taken a side. Rarely do I feel my position is the only correct one, but in this case, we must support civil rights for everyone, or they’re not certain for anyone.

It was 50 years ago that the US was involved with another civil rights movement. I don't know what I would have done then, but I hope it's what I'm doing now - standing on the side of fairness for everyone.

I’ve been thanked for supporting this issue when it doesn’t personally affect me. But I contend it affects all of us. To be a growing, thriving community we must extend basic rights to every citizen.

Hutchinson, do you want to be mired in the past with the Bull Conner mentality, or are you ready to create a better world? You have a chance to be extraordinary. Please take it. Vote “yes” for fairness today.

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Monday, November 05, 2012


I spent today at the computer for the most part, trying to get some projects underway and some wrapped up, while contemplating new things.

I just got word that a grant proposal I had written for an oral history project was not funded. Not great news on the surface, but I can only assume there must be something else wonderful I am supposed to do with that time and energy. Who knows what that might be.

The last few months have been an exercise in trusting the universe. I have to say, the universe has been doing a far more spectacular job with daily life than I've managed in the last few decades. In the process, I'm learning it's wise to trust, to prepare, to work, and above all - to be grateful for the opportunities that come my way.

I feel so incredibly blessed. Work I really enjoy keeps finding its way to me, and other fun surprises I could never have foreseen, also arrive with regularity. Meanwhile, new projects loom on the horizon that will offer even more flexibility to my life.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey. Your encouragement, kindnesses and support are appreciated. I feel certain the next chapters will be even more thrilling and I hope you'll share in the joy.
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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Religious Freedom

"Religious Freedom" is a phrase often bandied about these days. As best I can tell it refers to the idea that people will not able to practice their religion as they wish if some unknown, unnamed, and highly unlikely event occurs. This nebulous events seems to be most often connected to a politician people believe to have far more power than I've ever witnessed from any politician of any party at any time.

The only way this is an actual problem is if your "religious freedom" prevents other people from exercising the freedom to live their lives as they wish. No one is trying to keep you from attending the religious community of your choice, at the time of your choosing, and doing as you wish within the confines of it. Now, if you happen to be sexually abusing altar boys then, no, the fact that you're doing it within the walls of a church does not make it okay. It's still illegal. But you are welcome to gather, pray and worship as you wish, outside of these rather major issues.

However, you are not welcome to try and impose your religious beliefs on others. That is where the difficulty seems to come in. Those who are constantly worried about "religious freedom" are mostly concerned about how they will force others to share their viewpoints. Much like yelling "fire" in a crowed theater, this is over the line.

Nothing has really changed in the last few decades along these lines, except that fewer people believe in God. I can't help but think it's from watching His professed followers exercise their "religious freedom" to spread their personal hatreds in His name.

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