Saturday, April 30, 2005

Art Fair

Today was the 43rd Annual Hutchinson Outdoor Art Fair. It's done by the art association and it was a blast today. Jocelyn had a booth and did very well. By the time I got there a little before noon, she'd already sold about half the stuff she had. She also won an award.

Mia came out from Joplin and sold her jewelry. She and a friend were planning to do it, but the friend hurt her back so Mia came on her own. Her friend won a purchase award for a bracelet and Mia had a really good sales day. So, it was a successful day all around. There were three other people there I knew who had booths, too, so it was fun to visit.

This event may take the record for me running into as many people as I have in awhile, including a sheriff's officer that I've known for many years, but just don't see very often. He's a nice guy - he used to work in the media which is how I met him. But it was good to see him again and visit. He was tickled to see Mark, who's down from KC for the fair. They worked together at the paper. Greg and Mark were the official helpers today. Of course, Greg had Ace Jackalope with him in this American Gothic pose.

I lost track of who all I ran in to, but it was fun. I missed Diana and her daughter Sarah - they had been there before I got there. But I did see Eileen, Joan, Trish, Andrea, Mark, Debbie, Virginia, Jack, Linda, Lisa, Cleta, Doris, Becky, Matt and Michelle.

Jocelyn also introduced me to another artist that I liked immediately, Katie Flindall. She has a website You can see her art there. I bought some notecards that have a teapot on them. I love her stuff - very whimsical and fun.

It was a good day. Mark and I did take time to go to Roys, and we brought it back for Greg, Mia and Jocelyn. Tonight the four of us went to Skaets. It was a nice evening. Now, Terry is over and the five of us are just chatting. I'm going to have to pack it in soon... I'm tired.

Abraded and Waxed

We decided today at about 4:30 to hit the Anchor right after work. Comedian Paul Rodriguez is in town tonight for a show at the Fox but I didn't go. But, it seems a large part of the town did and they were all at the Anchor before hand. So was he. Terry got to see him today with some school kids and said it was great.

Anyway, there were only five of us - Andrea, Susan K, Terry, Greg and me. It was so last minute and I was in such a hurry that when I emailed, I mistyped Debbie's name so she didn't get the message, and there was someone else's that I did the same thing to but I can't recall now who that was. I didn't see the bounces until I got home. Oddly enough, just as I was typing it, Diana called saying Andrea was there and wanted to know if we were going. So, it all worked out.

I left from the Anchor and went to the fairgrounds for Girls Night Out. It's a fundraiser for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center here. It's a neat event. This is only the second year but they had a big crowd. Diana had a booth - her daughters Sarah and Taylor were both there to help.

I did only two activities. At the Head Turners salon's booth, I had the age spots on my hand abraded with a light therapy. I have had "age spots" since I was in my early 20s. I don't like it much, but so it goes. Anyway, it made a huge difference. But, it costs $150 a treatment or you can buy 10 treatments for $1,000. Uh... hmmm... I doubt I'll be doing that anytime soon. Did I mention I run a non-profit?

The other thing I did was stand in line for a $3 eye brow wax. Now, I have to tell you, I'm not a big makeup person to begin with and waxing... hmmm... can you say "ouch!" Well, I can. I've done it 2-3 times in the past. I don't pluck my eyebrows at all. You know why? It hurts. That's why.

Well, I've been thinking about getting them waxed again. It's been at least two years - the memory of the pain has faded.

So, Reflections salon was doing waxing for only $3. So, I stood in line and did it. I have to say that Valerie, who did it, did not hurt me nearly as much as everyone else who has done it in the past - including the person who first did it and was referred to as "Noy, the wax king." Well, move over Noy - and take your painful applications and tools with you. (Actually, Noy left town years ago, so it's not really an issue - but the story would be lacking otherwise.) The next time I feel the urge to harm myself in this manner, Valerie is getting my business.

So, here I sit, wondering about the wisdom of abrading and waxing oneself... much less having others do it for you.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Question of the Day

The question posed was:
"What was the first thing you thought of this morning when you woke up?"

My answer is:
The same thing I think of every morning -
"wow... great... amazing... incredible... this is fabulous... I woke up... nothing bad happened over night... I still have all my faculties... everyone I love is still safe... I can still walk, talk, see, hear, etc... thank you, God... it's going to be a great day..." And I run down my stairs, eager to get about the day, knowing this may be my last one so I'd better get about living it while I have it.

Psychic Medium Reading

Tonight I went to see a psychic medium. She lives in a neighboring town and Trish invited me to go. Someone she works with was hosting it at her house.

I invited Diana and she invited someone she just met through her store, who I really liked. It's interesting to be in a group of people, not knowing too much about many of them, and see how you bond together. Always fascinating.

I did get a reading tonight. I said I'd like to hear from my mom. She said my mom was saying that she was very well treated in the hospital - and she was, because we insisted on it. She said my mother calls me a nurse, that I was a good care giver. I did not feel like I was, but if my mom felt I was, that's all that matters. She then asked who was a huge coffee drinker. I said my father was. She said my dad was holding my mother's hand. They were not affectionate by the time I came along, but surely they were at some point. She then asked who the "Jim" was - my brother. Then she asked who the "P" was - of course I'm Patsy. Then she asked who the "Ann" was - that's my middle name. She asked who the "L" was. We have a lot of middle names that are "Lee" - including my other brother. Later I realized that my mother's mother's name was Pearl - that could have been the "P" and my father's father was Luther, which could have been the "L." I had a great aunt named Ann that I was close to, too.

She next said she saw a map spread out in front of me. Of course, I love to travel. She said I have many, many trips left to take - some that I can't even imagine yet. She asked if my glove compartment was a mess and said there was a card in there that was lost. She also asked if I was at the library a lot - and I am.

I was wearing my Klogs - red shoes - tonight. She said there was laughter from my mother about my shoes, which there would have been if she had seen them. She said there was tons of energy around me. And that my mother thought I should have been in a beauty contest - that I was very beautiful. I guess every mother thinks that about their daughter, of course.

After things were over, she told me that she saw a flag over me - it was a white flag of surrender - she asked me what I'd had to surrender. There's one thing I feel in the process of surrenderring but I'm not sure that's it. She also said she was getting the WW2 story about the Japanese that hid in the cave and didn't know for two years that the war was over. She said I needed to come out of the cave and it would all be OK. Obviously, I'm going to have to think about this some more.

One of the most interesting things she said tonight was to all of us and it was that, "We are a servant of all mankind." That no matter what we're doing that we're to be serving. Another concept I'm going to think more about.

All in all it was an interesting evening. This lady has a website - but I haven't really had a chance to look at it fully yet - I just got home.

Tonight I was taking notes and ended up giving away all the notes to the individuals they were for, other than my own. Anyway, as a result I can't remember too much about the others and it's probably not appropriate for me to share it here anyway. But, some of the messages were pretty specific.

I feel there's a real shift happening in Kansas - that we are becoming more and more open to this sort of energy information that's all around us. There is a lot going on here. Interesting to be living here at this time. You can feel the shifts occurring.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Putnam and Painting

Tonight I had dinner with Trish and Peggy for the purpose of discussing Dr. Putnam's challenge to us to reinvent how we connect. It was a very interesting evening, with many thoughts flowing back and forth. I had also invited Debbie and Carlota because they were both at the speech too, but they had other commitments. Hopefully they'll be able to come at another time.

It's so very easy to go back to the idea of wanting to change how society is. I think that's unlikely to happen. As Putnam challenged us to do, we must look for a new approach.

We came up with a couple of ideas - more looseness in organization of groups and new approaches including making things together as an activity. We are contemplating if we can incorporate that into our NewComers Group.

I'm sure I'll be up for hours as my brain is in overdrive now, mulling all this over.

Tomorrow I have my United Way presentation. I would *greatly* appreciate your good thoughts for me as I try to communicate what my organization does for the community. I feel very inadequate to tell its story. We are limited, of course, by considerable confidentiality concerns.

I have stripped more wallpaper today - I woke up very early and decided that was a good way to start the day - before I took a shower. I'm getting close to the end of that project - I have only a little bit of the walls left, but they're in an area with lots of nooks and crannies so it will take a bit of work.

If you're going to strip wallpaper, assemble every tool on the market. At various times, you will swear any particular one is the key to making it easier. Basically, to sum up, it's a bitch. There's nothing else that can be said about the whole job. At one time I thought I wanted wallpaper. Let me tell you, I'm *way* over that. I may paint a design on the wall, but I doubt I'll ever hang any wallpaper. And I'll think twice about buying a place that has a lot of it. The house would have to be MAJOR cool.

I'm having company this weekend so I needed to get the paper bits off the floor today because that's the room Mark sleeps in. At the moment the bed he sleeps in is in pieces in my bedroom, which is next door, but it won't take long to put it back in there. And, it was good incentive to get more wallpaper stripped in there. I still have some nail holes to fill - 100 years worth of nail holes is a lot. When I took off the old wallpaper I could see multiple generations of nail holes that they hadn't patched because the wallpaper was going to cover them up anyway.

But, thank you to the former owners, who stripped the previous wallpaper before putting this up. Thank you Thank you Thank you. This was probably from the 40s and I can see at least two generations of painting on the woodwork, as well as the varnish, so this must be at least its third incarnation of wallpaper. Thank goodness the stripped off the old stuff before putting this on. And, blissfully, it's the old stuff put up with wheat paste, probably - which seems far easier to deal with than the newer stuff.

I went this evening before dinner and bought some of the paint - the base color. It's a Porter Paint color called "sweet rice." I chose the Porter Paint in a high hiding formula because the stuff is just incredible in its ability to cover and I really don't want to prime the walls. I hate priming - seems like a complete waste of time to me. I used this paint in my office in a sage color. This is just a warm beige. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to do but I think sponge two other colors on top of this - maybe a creamed coffee color and a coopery-bronze color. We'll see how it goes.

I want to experiment with some colors in the studio and see what I like best. I'm fortunate to have a guy, Steve, who mixes paint at the local Star store, who is a true artist and can match any color you bring him in any form. He worked for an independent company and when they were bought out the local Star store was smart enough to ask him to run the paint store, and created a separate entrance for the paint area, so his years of loyal customers would follow him. Of course, we all have. I have yet to run into anyone in town who works on their house a lot who doesn't know Steve. I've taken in everything from a photo to embroidery floss and had him match the color.

I'm not sure I'll start painting tonight but I might. I think I'll be awake for many hours yet thinking about the conversation regarding Putnam's book so I might as well be doing something else at the same time.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Stillwater Altrusa Conference

I have been in Stillwater, Oklahoma at the Altrusa conference for our district. We are District 8, which is KS, MO, AR, and OK. There were thirteen of us who went from our club, including Julie and I. Unfortunately, Cynda and Carla are not in this photo. It was Julie's first conference and my second one.

Peggy got us both involved in Altrusa and I have found the women to be very welcoming and friendly. It has been a really good experience for me, even without that benefit Dr. Putnam mentions of it decreasing my chance of dying by half during the next year!

The first night of conference is a little welcome and time to chat and visit. Even though this is only my second conference, I knew quite a few people and also met some new folks.

Julie and I went out to dinner after the welcome. We decided to go to Eskimo Joe's, which is actually loved by the locals, despite being "famous" beyond the town's borders. I asked a number of local people for recommendations and it came up from every single one. Also mentioned by everyone was Hideaway Pizza but we didn't make it there this trip.

As we were walking out of the hotel, we saw a couple of ladies from the local group outside the door. They were so friendly and asked if we needed directions. Well, they ended up just going with us, which was wonderful.

The food at Eskimo Joe's is really good. They're famous for cheese fries and we had those, as well as a burger. Yummy stuff. Our waiter was fun - I took his photo with Julie. The only down side was that we got there late so they started blasting the music and we couldn't really talk. But, it was fun and an experience, of course. I hear the Eskimo Joe's t-shirt is the best selling right behind Hard Rock. I did not get one. I'm not really a t-shirt person.

The next morning my first order of business was to reassemble our gift basket. Most clubs bring one and it's a silent auction to generate money for a project of the local group. The silent auction made over $1,500 and included a variety of things. Ours was a Victorian theme in a hatbox. It made a little over $80, I think. Gift baskets generally make about half their value and this was over $200 worth of stuff so it was a little under, but not bad considering how much stuff there was and that there were only about 140 people there.

The morning was a business meeting for the district and then there were workshops in the afternoon. One of the best things about conference is getting to visit with people from other groups and seeing what they do in their groups.

There is a board that runs conference and the head person is the governor. At this conference, all 11 past Governors who are living were there. It was really neat. We have a past governor from our club - Cynda, who is second from the left. She was one of the youngest Governors ever, I think. Peggy is the Governor-elect for our district. She will be installed in Salina next year. It was really neat to have all 11 past governors there, so we tried to capture a photo. All of these ladies I've had contact with have been lovely.

That night, after a barbecue, we went shopping in downtown Stillwater. The stores stayed open late for us and we did our part for the local economy. I'm not a big time shopper, but some of these ladies are. I did get a few things, but nothing major.

We we got back to the hotel, there was a little reception by the Salina group. They're hosting the conference next year and using a safari theme so we had "jungle juice." It came in a spirited form with vodka or the less popular plain version.

The next morning we had more business and then the luncheon where the awards were announced. Our group won a membership award, which I'm very proud of. The afternoon was full of workshops. We heard about some wonderful projects that some people are doing in their areas - from a Drug Court where a judge takes her court room into the schools, to a program that provides fresh milk to children.

Saturday night was the big banquet. Some people get very dressed up. I'm not into that sort or thing, so I just wore black slacks, but it is kind of nice to see everyone all dressed up.

We absolutely loved Stillwater. And one of the reasons was how friendly everyone was. Considering what I've been mulling over since seeing Dr. Putnam, I have to say that the residents of Stillwater are as welcoming as I have ever seen.

Julie and I stayed at the Hampton Inn. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about them. If you go to visit Stillwater - and I do recommend it - be sure and stay at the Hampton. They were fabulous - from the time I made the reservation until I checked out this morning. Every detail was taken care of. They did a wonderful job. The hotel was full and yet there never seemed to be any problems with plenty of food at breakfast or cleanliness or any of the other things you might expect. They did a great job. To top it off, the beds were comfortable, the rooms had a fridge and microwave, and it was quiet. Every person we talked to from the front desk, to the woman doing our room to the guy mopping the lobby floor was pleasant and friendly. It's one of the best hotel experiences I've ever had, and I've had a lot of them.

In fact, every single person I had contact with in Stillwater was friendly - from the hotel to the downtown shops to the local Altrusa folks. People often don't grasp that when you visit a town for a long weekend, you have contact with very few people. As a result, one negative experience has a real impact.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see a lot of Stillwater. So, I'm just going to have to go back. It's only about a three hour drive from me, so very easy to get to.

One of the highlights was getting to know Cheryl, one of the ladies we met the first night. She was so sweet. We had lunch with her at a Mexican restaurant called El Vaquero before leaving town. She is just a doll. We both really enjoyed getting to know her and I think she'll be someone I keep in touch with for a long time.

This restaurant was a fun place and the food was great. They had an area with these wonderful tiled steps and a fountain that used to be the waiting area on a lower level. It's now closed because it's not ADA compliant, but you can still see it. Very fun place.


Today would have been Mama's 86th birthday. I miss her.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dr. Robert Putnam's Speech in Hutchinson at the Dillon Lecture Series

Tuesday morning I was privileged to hear Dr. Robert Putnam, the author of "Bowling Alone," who is considered by many to be one of the greatest thinkers of our time. He was part of the Dillon Lecture Series at Hutchinson Community College.

He addressed four questions during his speech:
1. What's been happening to our social connections (what he calls "social capital") over the last 40 years?
2. The answer is it has frayed. The next question is "Why?"
3. So what?
4. What can we do about it?

He spent most of the time talking about what has happened to our social capital and giving examples of how it has frayed. As he put it, "Social networks are almost magical in their effects on our lives."

He looked at data of organizations over the last 100 years, and also at data gathered by various surveys that measured non-organizational social capitol - such as how often are we going on picnics. (5 times a year in 1950, only twice a year last year on average - down 60%)

He, of course, related all figures to a percentage of the population - how many people are doing any particular thing from the number of people available to do that activity.

He looked at 32 organizations. All of them are down 50-60%. The only time in the last century that our numbers have dipped as low as they are now is during the Great Depression. After WW2 was the biggest boon, for about 20 years. Then it started to level off and eventually head south.

He talked about religion - 1/2 of volunteering, 1/2 of donations and 1/2 of organizational memberships in this country are related to religion. That is also down.

Every indicator from church to dinner parties to getting together with family to joining a club is down 50-60% - some much more dramatically. One example he gave is playing bridge. In 1957, 40% of adults played bridge. Now, 6% of people play bridge.

1964 seems to be the watershed year - that's when things start to go downhill.

He spoke about eating dinnner together and how this is something done in almost all cultures - as the sun goes down, people gather for dinner - but not in our culture. We're losing this connection too. We've also doubled the number of people who live alone, so they can't eat dinner with the family - there is no family.

There are multiple causes but "TV is lethal for social capital." Those are his words - backed up by data from multiple sources. The average American watches four hours of television a day. I'm not watching my four hours, which means someone else is watching eight. He put it so eloquently when he said, "People watch Friends instead of having friends." It's so true. When I invite someone over and they hesitate because "fill in the blank TV show comes on at 8..." I am so disheartened. How we got to the point that people would chose a box with pictures over human contact I don't know, but there we are. Well... I have digressed from my report. Back to that...

He said moving from farms to urban is not it because that was happening before the trend started. But, suburbs are deadly. For every 10 minutes of communting time you have, you lose 10% of your social capital. If you have 20 minutes, you lose 20%.

Women were always great at social networking, but he said that women entering the work force is not the root cause, either. Trends are down even among single men, who would not be affected by that.

He said he looked for places where these things were not true. The only people who are very connected these days are the WW2 generation. I always hear people talk about that time as when they were bonded together and there was no way to explain it if you didn't live in it. I believe that. But now I wonder if the reason people remember it so fondly was all this connection they had with each other.

He said he's not certain yet about the internet - it has some good points and some bad points - the jury is still out on that one.

So What? Why do we care?
Well, the single biggest predictor of a crime rate is how many people in a neighborhood know each other by their first names. Crime rates are more affected by social capital than they are by the number of cops on the beat. School test scores are more affected by parental involvement than they are by the number of teachers.

It's also valuable in terms of money, getting jobs, etc. A chicago economist has calculated the value of your address book and determined it's one of the most valuable things you own.

Frankly, your life depends on social capital - not only that someone will bring you soup if you're sick. But, social isolation is the same risk factor to your health as smoking. People who join 1 group decrease their risk of dying in the next year by half. If you join 2 groups, you decrease your risk by 3/4.

There is an actual physiological reaction to being with other people. Your body generates "stress buffers," which make it easier to fight infection.

How to Fix it?
Dr. Putnam pointed out that 100 years ago, people were in much the same situation we are right now - they had moved from farms to more urban environments, it was the industrial revolution and their lives were different - they had all kinds of gadgets that were new to them - like phones.

Because they'd moved to a more urban environment, things like barn raisings were no longer a way to connect. So, they invented a new one. Between 1890-1910, almost all of the major civic organizations we have today were created - Rotary, Lions, Kiwannis, etc. Between 1908-1913 all the major kids organizations were created - Boy Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, etc. were all created in that 5 year period.

His challenge to us was to INVENT a new way of connecting that fits our lives today. We cannot go back to the old ways so what is our new way?

A friend was sitting behind me at this and leaned over and said, "I think your studio play dates are one way." And, they are. But, unfortunately, I've been trying to figure out how to address this problem for about 15 years. I've had more events at my house than I can count. And people are always happy to come to my house - and I'm THRILLED by that - I love having people in my house - but that idea has not spread to a single person. It has not encouraged anyone else to have a get together. So, as a way to address this problem, it's a dismal failure, other than it addresses it for me and to a smaller degree my circle of friends in a tiny way. But, it's not the same as a whole community having social capital.

I also have a theory - and this is not Dr. Putnam's research - but a "Patsy Theory." I think there's something special about being in someone's home. I was thinking the other day about Creative Sisterhood, and our book club, and Chicks, and none of those would have been as life changing as they are without someone opening their home.

The broader questions are: Why do we not want to open our homes? What are we doing there that we're so afraid someone will see? Why do we not want human contact? Obviously, we do, or people would not say "yes" to invitations. So then the question becomes "Why do we not SEEK human contact?"

I've been thinking about this for about 15 years now and since I saw him speak, it has been in the back of my mind constantly. I'm mulling over what can be done. Obviously, many have to be involved in it.

If we keep organizations as our connection I think they're going to have to be much "looser" and "free" and with few restrictions. I think that's why Red Hat Society works so well and their numbers are increasing while all others are depleting. It's fun, it's friendship and it doesn't have too many rules. I know that is key but I'm beginning to doubt if any of today's traditional clubs and organizations can accept that challenge. I'm beginning to think we are going to have to create new groups that are designed for today's lifestyle and let the old ones die. That's very sad, but I see very little interest in change and growth among any of the "old guard" groups.

Creative Sisterhood

I got up a little after 5 yesterday as I had a very full work day but also needed to prepare for our monthly gathering of Creative Sisterhood. This group is such a gift in my life. I'm so very glad I wrote that email 18 months ago, inviting these five women to gather with me. It didn't go the direction I have expected, but it is wonderful and I wouldn't change anything.

Virginia could not be with us last night and she was missed. But it was an exceptional evening. The energy was amazing. We had a good experience together. Of course, my topic was Dr. Putnam's speech. Julie spoke about the talk in Newton a few weeks ago.

Yesterday morning when I was hanging out clothes - hoping it wouldn't rain - I was again drawn to the wild violets growing in my back yard. They come up in cracks and crevices near the clothes line.

Wild Violets always remind me of my mom. She gathered them from all over her yard and planted them under a big maple tree in the front yard. They covered the ground there and were always so wonderful to look at. The first spring in my house was the first year after I'd lost my mom and I loved seeing that I had wild violets in the back yard.

I always bake something for Creative Sisterhood and yesterday morning very early I was hunting online for a Pineapple Upside Down cake recipe. Never mind the 1000 plus cookbooks I own - I looked online for one. And I found one. Surprisingly, it was Martha's first Pineapple Upside Down cake. I used the pecans this time, which I haven't done before. But I still left off the cherries. Cherries remind me of the cough syrup I had by the gallons as a kid. No cherries for me...

If you're now in the mood for Pineapple Upside Down cake... with or without cherries... here's the recipe I used. The egg whites do help the texture so it's not so dense.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Homemade Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is so good and so pretty. Its special enough for company, but quick enough for just the family.
1/4 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans
20-ounce can of pineapple slices, drained, reserving 5 tablespoons juice
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
maraschino cherries
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and pecans; stir well to thoroughly combine, then turn off the heat -- dont cook it. Arrange 8 pineapple slices in a single layer over the brown sugar mixture (your 9-inch skillet should accommodate 8 slices without overlapping). Set the skillet aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at medium speed until they are thick and lemon colored. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat. Add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture, and stir in the reserved pineapple juice.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour or spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices.

Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet for 30 minutes; then invert it onto a serving plate. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Quote of the Day

"I read about it on television." --- a dear friend who obviously had a momentary lapse

Monday, April 18, 2005

I Am No One's Daughter

From a very early age I was aware my years with my mom were fleeting - probably because I was born when she was 42 and my brothers were already married with kids. I knew people died - great aunts and uncles and all of that - and I knew my mother was closer than my brothers.

I devoted many, many, many hours of thought to losing my mom - even as a young child. It was always in my mind - from the time I was conscious of having thought. I had a sense I should always be "preparing" somehow. When my father died when I was 11, I realized one can never be prepared, and decided one should spend time contemplating life without that person. When my only grandparent died two years later, I knew it didn't matter how it happened, there was no preparation one could do. If it was slow like my father, or sudden like my grandmother, it was still a sucker punch in the gut that left you gasping for breath. I knew when the time for my mother came that I would be incapacitated with grief.

So, my focus changed from "typical" preparation, to my own brand of it. I made it a point to soak up every single little bit of life with her. When I would visit, I would lie in bed in the mornings and listen to the sounds of her house - her dishes clanking in the sink, taking Avon orders on the phone, the front door banging as she went to the outdoors she loved - just little things that were the sounds of life in her house. I would lie still and close my eyes and be careful to commit every detail to memory - my deep memory. I knew those days were fleeting, when I could be in my mother's house, and be surrounded by that. And sweet as they are, the memories are all I have now. I will never again be able to lie in my mother's house, or hear her voice in the distance or smell the food she was preparing.

Soak up every moment with your loved ones. If you have some "issue" with someone you love - fix it. The test I ask people to use is if you found out tomorrow that your mother/father/sister/uncle/whatever were going to die the next day, would you call them/go see them/make your peace. If the answer is yes, then don't wait. Do it today. None of us ever know when death is coming with no warning. Few of us have the privilege of knowing in advance when our loved ones will depart this world.

My mother's birthday is Sunday and for reasons I don't understand, it's always one of the hardest days of the year for me. We were never big birthday people but that the first year I really thought I would not survive that day. I sobbed for hours, missing Mama, and knowing that I hadn't even reached the anniversary, which was to come soon after. Of course, I did survive, as others before me have and ones after me will too.

But if you're fortunate to still have your parents in this life with you, take note of it - enjoy it - relish it. Forgive traumas and transgressions. Forgo reliving the bad parts of the past. Find joy.

When people rant about their parents, I wish I could show them the perspective of no longer being someone's child. I walk through the world alone. I am no one's daughter.

Wilde Quote

Where there is sorrow there is holy ground. - Oscar Wilde


I recently got an email from someone, telling me that they loved reading my blog but were going to have to quit because it made them sad. I asked why that was. The response was that they felt left out.

This person does not even live in the same state I do, so it's not like I could include them, even if that were feasible from other perspectives. But, it gave me reason to ponder the effect blogging has on people.

I confess that I do not read a ton of blogs, but there are some I check in on periodically. I am very fond of ones that include photos and art and I do like ones that have a variety of entries - where some philosophy is mixed in with some daily life bits.

I certainly never considered that my blog could have the effect of making anyone feel left out. I don't know what to do about that. It's really a chronicle of my life and that's what is here, along with some thoughts and ramblings. I can't imagine what I would be able to do differently - I only have this one life.

Perhaps I give the idea that my life is all perfect. It's not. I've got dirty clothes and dirty dishes and clutter everywhere and problems with work and friends and loved ones and all the rest - just like everyone else. But I would not publish those things.

I save my deep hurts and deep questions for my private, handwritten journals. I never forget that this is a public forum. Besides, it's much better to look at a photo of the neighbor's tulips than my pile of junk by the front door.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Church and Stripping

The Weekend Time is winding down and I'm not ready for that to happen. I haven't done nearly everything I wanted to do this weekend, even though I've been busy almost every moment. That seems to be the story of my life - never enough moments.

It is a beautiful day here. I've been enjoying all the tulips in bloom on my street. Unfortunately, none of them are in my yard. I have some tulips in the back yard but they are a little shaded so they haven't bloomed yet.

Teresa and I went to church at Trinity this morning. I wanted to show support for Nick, the minister, after his sermon before our election on the marriage amendment. He has always been an outspoken proponent of human rights - for all humans. And I have always been appreciative of his approach. We went that morning and this is my first opportunity to go again.

He is a powerful speaker and we are privileged to have him in our community. He is under-appreciated by many, it seems, including some in his congregation. This town needs him. No question about it.

I decided when I went last time that I need to make an effort to go more often - he is a powerful speaker and I need to take advantage of this wonderful resource I have right in my own community. The associate pastor there is also very good.

We went to lunch afterwards and then I came home and started stripping wallpaper again. Here at the end of the day I've got maybe 1/3 of the room done and I'm already officially sick of the process. But, thankful I have a steamer, which does make it easier than anything else.

In moving things I ran across some things I'd bought at a garage sale that I had forgotten about. I'd bought some old thread spools and such for decoration in the sewing room. But, there were also a couple of other things with them I'd forgotten - two old water color sets, and some old envelopes.

I love old stamps and envelopes and bits of handwriting. This was a ziplock baggie full of things and it was $1. The oldest thing I found was from 1909 and the most recent from 1930. They are just envelopes, although there is one card in there that's written on. But, they are just the envelopes and notations, "ans."

I was just sitting down on the edge of the bed to look at them when the doorbell rang. It was one of the neighborhood kids selling a school discount card. Of course I bought one. I generally buy anything like that, just to support the school. Of course, if I were running the world, we'd just give the schools enough money and not make the kids go out and raise it. But, in my world, teachers are some of the best paid and most respected people. Professional sports players - well, lets just say - like farmers, they'll need another job to support themselves. I got nothing against professional sports - but the money that is spent on it is insane. I digress...

While I was downstairs I sat down for a little snack - celery with blue cheese dressing and some water to drink - but I kept it brief. Wallpaper doesn't strip itself, unfortunately. I did take another break to write for a bit upstairs. I absolutely love having my studio and I've noticed in the last few weeks that it is also becoming where I do a lot of journaling.

I have tried two new journaling techniques lately and one of them is something I'm really enjoying. The other is an experiment - sometimes those work - sometimes not. I'm afraid this is in the latter category - at least for me.

I thought I might hate stripping wallpaper a little less now than I will when it's 100 degrees outside. Holding a steam plate is probably going to be even less fun then.

This wallpaper is probably from the thirties or forties. Thank goodness, whoever put it up, took down what was there before this. I can also see where they wrote on the wall about how many rolls they needed. This is the only room I have where the wallpaper has not been painted over already. I decided that any that had been painted over I just didn't have the energy to strip at this point. Maybe later, but not now.

I'm very tired and I think it's time for a long bath before bed. I'm grungy and worn out.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

How Big is the Sun?

My mother's sister, Eva, had much tragedy in her life. She lost her first husband in a boating accident when she was in her 20s, leaving her with a young son to raise. She eventually remarried and moved to El Paso with her new husband. He welcomed Donnie, the son from her earlier marriage, and they settled into a military life. (Eva is on the left, my mom on the right - taken in about 1925.)

Donnie was an unusual child, asking questions like, "How big is the sun? Is it as big as a tire or as big as the world?" One day while Lloyd was at work, Donnie got very ill. Eva called for help, but by the time it arrived, her young son was dead. They never knew the cause of death - it was sudden and unexpected. I still have the telegram she sent to her mother saying, "Donnie dead. Body Arriving Thursday." He was buried next to his father who'd died only a few years earlier.

Eva and Lloyd had two children together - Eva Ann and Charlie. Eva Ann grew up, got married and had two sons. She named the oldest one Donnie, in honor of the brother she had never known. Donnie and his younger brother, Patrick, were very close. Her grandson, Donnie, reminded Eva so much of the son, Donnie, she had lost. He, too, asked, "How big is the sun? Is it as big as a tire or as big as the world?" He also told his grandma one day when she was watching him, "You know I'm not meant to be here long. When I leave you must go on." He was 5 at the time. She called my mother - her sister - crying, because she knew he wasn't talking about that afternoon's play time with grandma.

Less than two years later, on Christmas Eve, both Donnie and Patrick got very ill - sick enough with what seemed the stomach flu to take them to the hospital. By Christmas afternoon, Donnie was dead. No cause of death could be determined, despite an autopsy.

Patrick survived and "saw" Donnie many times after that. Each time he told Patrick that he was not meant to be here long. His time was over. They had to go on. He had done what he was meant to do. Each time Patrick would tell everyone. Each time the adults could not grasp it.

Years after Donnie's death, my mother told me that her father would ask the same question - "How big is the sun? Is it as big as a tire or as big as the world?" Apparently that question spread over four generations, with three of them asking it, unbeknownst to the others.

My Aunt Eva is gone now, but I think of her often. She is the one who wrote letters back and forth to me when I was a child, instilling in me a love of the written word and the joy of a letter. In her 80 years in this lifetime, she lost both parents, a brother and sister, two husbands, a child and a grandchild. It seems to be a lot of grief for one lifetime. They say God does not give us more than we can bear, and I know that's true, but I have always thought Eva must have come into the world a little stronger than most of us.

Spring Is In Full Swing

We had an event today at the Soroptimist's Women's Show. On the way home, after breaking down, I took time to snap a couple of pix.

I've been noticing for a week or two just how pretty things are. Some trees are blooming their pretty pink and others have that beautiful pale green that you only see in the spring. The buds are open, but the leaves aren't fully extended, and it's a green we don't see any other time. This photo was taken on my street

I started out the day this morning by stripping wallpaper. I promised myself when I moved into this house that I would not paint over any wallpaper that had not been painted over already. So, I committed to pulling it off.

Let me tell you - regardless of what home remedy someone gives you for removing wallpaper - GET A STEAMER. It's a 1000 times faster. I've used Dif gel, hot water, water with vinegar, water with downy, etc. etc. etc. Just get a steamer. I bought this one off ebay and when I'm done with it, it's going back on to ebay. I'm sure there are some there all the time - no doubt from people who have finished stripping their wallpaper.

I'm turning my sewing room into a library, although I will keep a bit of space for sewing, too. But, I need somewhere for my thousands of cookbooks to go.

I've been collecting cookbooks for close to 20 years now, and also writing cookbook reviews. I still have dozens of boxes that haven't been unpacked since I moved three years ago. They need to have a home. Some day all my cookbook reviews online will live at but so far I haven't found time to move them all over.


I used to say that my mom aged about 1/2 a year for every year she was on the calendar. Then that became 3/4 of a year, then it was a year, and eventually it became 2 years for every actual year.

It was a shock to my system when I realized she was aging a year for every year on the calendar - that she had "caught up" with her actual number of years in age. I couldn't really accept it. And I fear I pushed her too hard to stay in that mode where she wasn't aging up to her actual age.

That's one of the problems with being born late. I was only 39 when my mom died and I didn't have enough life experience to understand illness and such and I wasn't as understanding and supportive as I wish I had been now.

On the other side - having watched her go downhill and die - I see where there were so many missed opportunities to be the kind, supportive, understanding daughter and how I failed.

My brothers, with 20+ years of life experience on me, did better than I did - and their wives even more. My sister in law was the best. I always say every family needs a Mary Ann. I don't know what we'd do without her. She is the rock in our family. We are blessed. I often tease my brother that he married above himself and he just nods and says, "yeah, I know."

But, these are the things we cannot change. We can only accept. There are no mulligans in such matters. And we can only hope that if we'd known better we would have done better.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Living in Printer Hell

We have an event tomorrow - a booth at the Soroptimists Women's Show at the Fair Grounds. They're very kind and give booth space to lots of the non profits, including us.

If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have said I had about 90 minutes worth of things to do and would have it all set up. Well, I got up at 5 a.m. and got home after set up about 8:15 p.m. Things didn't go quite as smoothly as I had planned.

I did have breakfast with Greg at Skaets and dinner at the anchor, but didn't even take time for lunch. Printers and I have not been on good terms today.

I am going to offer a Gratitude Journaling Workshop in May through the MHA and so I wanted to put together a little flyer for it. Also, one for our upcoming rummage sale and one for the garden tour. These are not major projects - it's all I got done all day. lol

Well, that's not true, I worked on my United Way presentation this morning for an hour or so and printed it out to take a fresh look at it later.

Anyway, I got ready to print the flyers and sent it to my pretty new Brother MFC 210C printer and did not hear the paper pulling through the machine, but instead heard this horrible grinding. I got online, they said to look for a foreign object in the machine. I turned it upside down, literally, and found nothing. So, eventually I called support and I have to say I got the BEST support I've ever gotten - we did a reset and it was still a problem so... they're sending me a completely new machine. I wish they would teach the Circuit City service people - don't buy those service contracts, they're a complete waste of money - and the Compaq/HP people about customer service.

The last time I dealt with them I finally told the guy, "Look, I can appreciate that your English is exceptional - but I am having a hard time understanding your accent and I just cannot devote 75% of my attention to figuring out what you're telling me to do and only 25% to the very complex matter of working on my computer and trying to not make it into a paperweight. Transfer me to someone else, please."

The woman at Brother was a native English speaker and offered an immediate, and very good, solution. I will remember that the next time I'm in the market for a product.

Well... anyway... back to the problem at hand... getting my flyers out of the computer and into hard copy. No problem. I happen to have a second printer. So, I load it up. It prints about 10 pages and says the ink is out. No problem. I keep an extra cartridge on hand. I put it in and the paper comes out blank. Apparently, it's dried up.

So, I got to visit Office Max. By now it's afternoon. I still have to go to the office and gather up materials for tomorrow and I've made plans to meet people at Anchor Inn for dinner. Well, fast forward to the part where at 5:23 I'm leaving my office and going to dinner and setting up after that. Apparently I had a little more than 90 minutes worth of stuff to do.

Dinner was nice - Andrea, Teresa, Debbie and Jocelyn came. Lots of folks are out of town this weekend. Debbie and I both headed out to the fair grounds for more set up afterwards.

I'm really fortunate that three of my board members are working tomorrow, so I only have to do the last couple hours of the day and break down. It gets to be a really long day if you're there by yourself all day. Hopefully it will go well. This is a big show and it's usually very well attended.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Brain Working Overtime

My brain is working overtime these days. It seems to be going in a few dozen different directions, more so than usual. We have a MHA event this weekend and I'll spend tomorrow preparing for that.

I've decided to offer a gratitude journaling class through the MHA. So I need to do a flyer for that yet tonight so we can have those to give away on Saturday. I also want to do a garden tour flyer and something for the upcoming garage sale we're doing.

I went and looked at a garden today that's going to be on the tour. I was a little hesitant because it's pretty far north out of town - actually into the next county - but we've never had a garden like this one so I'm going to go with it.

She is a bird person and her garden is all designed to attract birds, including hummingbirds, and butterflies. I think that will be a real treat for people to see, especially since we're right on the edge of hummingbird territory so we don't have a lot of them. She has a house now with bluebird eggs in it. And I saw a woodpecker today at a feeder on her front porch. Anyway, I think it will be a neat garden to be on the tour. The tour is June 19 but I have a lot to do between now and then for it, so I'm trying to prepare.

I've been trying to do some work on the various websites I have. The only one that's really how I want it to be is I basically inherited that as far as the basic layout - I just changed the design of it. I seem to have a hard time deciding how the *logical* part should be done. Hmmm... considering logic is not my best thing, that's probably no big surprise. But at some point I just have do it and be done with it for the moment.

My goal with is to move everything I've got online here and there into one place. Seems easy enough to do but the reality of making it all flow logically is another thing all together.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A Busy Wednesday

I've had a very full work day today - seems like I have a ton of small things that need to be wrapped up and then a couple of major things that are hanging over my head that have to be done by next week.

One of the highlights of the day was lunch with Trish. I really treasure this friendship. She told me today that I'm now officially on the board of the Arts and Humanities Council here.

I'm a big believer in the arts so it will be good to be involved with that group. Plus, I know a number of other people on the board so that will make it even better.

I have worked most of the evening, too. I'm just kind of in a "flow" and getting things done, so I've kept at it. Greg and I went to Skaets for dinner, and I just got in a few minutes ago. I just started another print job so that must mean it's time for me to go up to the studio and play for a little while.

One of my big surprises in the last 24 hours - I checked my website stats and saw that I had over 15,000 hits last month. Obviously, this could be the same people coming multiple times, but it surprised me greatly. It also makes me think I really need to decide what I'm going to do with that space. I just knew I wanted to own my own name - but I wasn't sure what to do with it. Unfortunately, that mystery still remains.

Altrusa Tonight

Tonight was a great Altrusa meeting - very interesting. We installed new members, including Debbie. That's her on the left, beside me. We're watching as they install the other new member. I hope Debbie enjoys it. I have so far.

Our speaker tonight was the daughter of one of the members. She spent nearly a year teaching English in a remote part of China, very near North Korea and Siberia. She spoke about her experiences there. She's also working on the Bejing 2008 Olympics. It was a great presentation.

We're also preparing for our district conference soon. I offered to put together the gift basket. The stuff was already gathered up and all I had to do was put it into the box. This is a hat box our president bought at Family Dollar store. We're doing a Victorian theme since it has the letters and pineapples on it. I have just kind of dumped it in to see how it fits but I think it looks pretty nice.

These are used in a silent auction. Then the money is given to a service project that the host club has.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Blog of the Day

Patsy's Ponderings was recently Blog of the Day. I'm quite honored. I see some other familiar names on their list too.

The Claw

The Challenge (and that is with a capital "C") this week was to draw your hand. I've always read that drawing the hand is very difficult. I just never felt the urge to prove it to myself. Well, nothing like looking at these claws to humble me about how much better I was getting at art.

Of course, I was not going to do them in color because my hands are one of my "oldest looking" features. I've had "age spots" since my very early 20s. I guess my hands look much like they did when I was 25, but they looked old then. I clearly remember my doc's dismissive tone as he said, "Oh, those are just age spots." While that's good news on the it's nothing dangerous front, no 20 something wants to hear any phrase that starts with "age..." applied to her. But... I digress...

Anyway, having no shame, I'm posting my three hand sketch attempts. Of course, I couldn't invest much time in it - then it would have to be better. Unfortunately, these indicate not much time was put into them very clearly. I'm afraid they might not be much better if I'd put hours into them. Yikes!

The first problem I noticed with drawing one's hand is that one is often USING said hand while drawing. This presents a bit of a problem when you absentmindedly move the hand that is your "subject" and can never get it back how it was. I'm going to blame the misshapen fingers in attempt number 1 on that very thing.

So, I thought I'd try again, with an easier pose. I don't think attempt number 2 is much better.

Finally I decided to trace my hand - you know, like preschoolers do - but I had a method to my madness - comparison of placement of the knuckles. I could see some of the errors of my way by doing that. I just marked the bottom of the nail bed and the middle of each knuckle.

So, now we all know I have fat little fingers and that my drawing skills suck. But, on the upside, I'm sure you feel better about yourself and your art at this point.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I had Forgotten that Llamas Spit

I had forgotten that llamas spit. Unfortunately, I remembered it just a little too late - seconds after Forest, the resident llama at the Hutchinson Zoo, showered Greg and his little friend Ace Jackalope. Appropriately enough, it was a bit of a rainy day, so Greg had dressed Ace in his little yellow rain gear.

Greg and Mark are completely unsuspecting in this photo, which was taken just moments before the "incident." I had just said to Mark, "Go over there next to Greg so I can get a picture of you both with Forest." Well, moments later, Mark was across the rather large pen, Ace was on the ground, and Greg was wondering what hit him. Fortunately, I helped with that as the next thing out of my mouth was, "Oh, I'd forgotten that llamas spit."

Little did we know how badly Ace would need his raincoat. And, in my defense for not offering a warning, it's not like the fact that llamas spit is something you need to keep uppermost in your mind in daily life. And it is not what the zoo warns about either.

Oh, and did I mention that Forest is part of the petting zoo? You know, for small children? That's where this very welcoming sign is - right beside Forest's quarters.

We're not really sure what other animals are in the petting zoo - they were all snoozing on this rainy day, or just busy hiding from people who want to take their pictures with Jackalopes.

Before "the incident" we were just enjoying the day. The rain had stopped and the zoo has had a major facelift in the last couple of years. So, we were just wandering around looking at the critters and doing what there is to do.

Greg was feeding the swans and ducks and geese. We looked at the ferret, the bald eagle, the bobcats, tortoise and iguana. The zoo has dramatically improved in the last few years. It's one of those things where we've done something good with tax dollars.

The zoo was suggested by Greg, I think. But Mark jumped right on it because he hadn't been there in years. I was open to whatever. We'd had a late breakfast at Skaets and decided to venture down to Carey Park, where the zoo is. Little did we know what an eventful day it would turn out to be.

You might think that people wouldn't have much need to know about llamas - it's not like they're animals you bump into every day. But, here, we have more than our fair share of llama contact - although never as much as we've had today.

Hutchinson hosts the State Fair and they give away a llama every year. Greg always registers. I wonder if he will this year. Also, we have Hedricks Animal farm in nearby Nickerson and they have llamas. They bring them to the state fair every year for a petting zoo, along with other critters.

Well, I think that's enough of a wrap up about my day. It has had a lot of laughter in it this afternoon. And I have to say for Greg that he is very easy going about such things. He saw the humor in it, too. Although he did mention that maybe a dear friend - like me - might have offered a warning. Honest to goodness, I didn't remember that llamas spit until after the fact. But I bet none of us forget anytime soon.

So, in case you should have reason to be near a llama -maybe you'd like to come visit Forest - let me remind you - llamas spit.

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam

Robert Putnam, the author of "Bowling Alone," will speak in Hutchinson on the 19th. I'm going to see him. He has written a whole book about the disconnection we have as a society and how it affects us all.

He defines our connection with others as "social capital." He says it has declined dramatically and uses nearly 500,000 interviews to prove his point. He says in the last 25 years we belong to fewer organizations, meet with friends less, and even socialize with our families less. We're even bowling alone, instead of in leagues.

Trends over the last 25 years include:
attending club meetings - down 58%
family dinners - down 33%
having friends over - down 45%

This lack of connection contributes to all kinds of social problems - violence, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, etc. - all of them are tied to this lack of connection. For reasons I don't understand, we don't seem to care. I think I mentioned here recently how having family dinners together dramatically cuts down on the chance your teen will engage in risky behavior of various sorts.

A couple of interesting facts Putnam mentions - joining one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year. Also, ten minutes of commuting cuts your social capital by 10%.

I'm always going on and on and on about our lack of connection with each other and it largely falls on deaf ears and alternately ticks people off that I won't let go of this one issue, but I know it's critical. I'm eager to hear Dr. Putnam speak - maybe people will listen to him since he's a doctor.

Father Daughter Dance and the Rest of Saturday

I've had a full day today, although I did try to rest today, which was a dismal failure for me.

This morning I had breakfast with some other Altrusans. Julie and I decided as cochairs that it would be nice to get together with Altrusans outside of meetings just to talk. So, we've had two gatherings so far - both with very little lead time - and both have been good. This morning was not well attended but maybe people don't get up early on Saturday. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

Anyway, I came home and made some cupcakes for tonight's Father Daughter Dance being put on by Altrusa. I then went upstairs and back to bed. I have been getting the message repeatedly that I need to rest. I fell a couple of weeks ago. Then a couple of nights ago I had a really rough night of stomach upset and spent most of Friday in bed, trying to rest. Anyway, I decided I want to try and pay attention to the universe telling me to rest so it doesn't have to give me the message in a harder, different way.

Unfortunately, I did not really get a nap today. Unless I'm ill, I think laying in bed is just a huge waste of time. I could have been accomplishing something during that time. Anyway, I stayed in bed about three hours and I tried to sleep. I did doze, but never fully slept.

I had not planned to go to breakfast this morning unless I just woke up. I went to bed about 2 a.m. and at 7:05, my eyes were wide open and I was ready to start the day. So, I don't know. I just don't seem to be wired that way but I'm going to try and be better about getting some extra rest. I feel like I'm getting that message from the universe and I want to pay attention to it before it gives me the message in a much more dramatic way.

The father daughter dance is for girls 6-12. It's a really neat event. We do punch and cookies and keep it pretty simple. It's so adorable to see the daddies, grandfathers, uncles and whatever with the little girls. The bunch tonight was pretty wild but it was a good evening. I will be putting some photos on my live journal, but they're not there yet.

Mark is down for the weekend from Kansas City. I was doing so well at preparing for his visit until I got ill Thursday night and so I, again, didn't have his bed ready for him. Poor guy he always has to end up putting his own sheets on!

Greg and Mark went to see Gone With the Wind tonight at the Fox. The Fox is a beautiful, 1930s theatre that has been restored. Last weekend we saw North by Northwest. I took a group there to see it and even though I'm not a movie person, seeing the old clothes and such was neat.

We just got in from a late night bite at I-Hop --- the only place that is open late here. We're just chatting but I'm going on to bed soon. Gotta get some of that rest! :)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Discussion List Theory

I only own one list and it's all I can manage. I'm alternately charmed and frustrated. Starting one is simple - keeping it going is another thing.

On my list, it seems that unless I'm involved on a practically daily basis, conversation stops. There are some others who valiantly try to get discussion going, but it just doesn't happen regularly. I can't figure out the dynamics of that, frankly, but it has been noticed by others - not just me. I'm hoping now that it has been brought to light in list discussion, it will change.

I have come close to just deleting the list but over the past two years it has been a wonderful, thought provoking, special thing at times. But I do also wonder if lists simply have a lifespan.

I'm also on a list that has over 1000 people and less than 5% of them have ever posted. I wonder what they other 95% are doing there. Obviously, you can't have 1000 people posting, but it would be nice for a larger percentage of them to talk. The owner of that group shares some of my same frustrations about lists in general.

I have made my list a no lurking zone and have whittled it down to a small group. Periodically I go through and delete people who are not participating. It seems most list owners disagree with me, but I contend that discussion lists are for DISCUSSION, not reading.

People always tell me that people are participating in their own ways if they're not posting. I don't see it that way. If you're not giving of yourself to the list, you're only taking from it. If you're reading along, you're not doing anything that helps make the net an interesting place to be. A discussion list is not a magazine - it's for discussion and people who don't want to participate by posting are using it inappropriately. If I wanted to just publish something people could read, I'd start a newsletter. I wanted conversation and input and to share with others of like mind, so I started a discussion list.

It has been curious to see how my own views have had to be defined while doing this. I have zero tolerance for "chit chat" on discussion lists and quickly get away from any that do that. So, how do you discourage that? Some don't - some like it. That's one of the tricky things about being a list owner. You have to figure out how to categorize the things you like/don't like - and communicate that, which is even harder.

It's also interesting that there are certain people who are integral to a list and its health. I'm not sure if it's a certain mix of personality types or what, but I know there are some people that when they stop posting - on my own list or others - the list dynamics change dramatically. How do you attract and keep those people? I don't know. But that seems to be something important for list owners to do. I don't do it because I don't know how, but I think it's a critical thing. If you have a list of 1000 people, it seems you'd always have the right mix, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Lists are always dominated by a few people and who those people are, and what their views are, is the "feel" of the list.

What is the difference in a list of 1000 people where 20 people are posting and a list of 40 people where 20 people are posting? It's really all the same - it's all about those 20 people.

One of the reasons I want everyone on my list to participate is that I think that makes the list more interesting for everybody. Another reason is that I wanted to limit the "borderline personality types" that seem to crop up on every list at some point. They're the always have to be right, have the last word, can't let anything drop, types. The larger the list, the more likelihood you'll get one or more of these folks. They're far more prevelant online than they are in real life. So, when one crops up on a list, I start sending all the email from that list automatically to my trash until they move on.

I think lists are fabulous for connecting with people who have similar interests, that you perhaps can't find wherever you are. But, I think they also lead people to believe they have "friends" and "relationships" that don't really exist. I call them psuedo-friends. If you don't know where someone lives, if you can't call them in the middle of the night, if they can just stop talking on a list and they're gone from your life then they're not a friend. That is not what friendship is made of. Friendship is a living, breathing entity that needs more contact than screen time.

This ties in with another of my theories about the "real world" and the artificial world, which is where most of us live.

People are forgetting very basic things like how to cook so we can feed ourselves - incredibly basic. And we're forgetting how to make friends and have connection. I LOVE my computer - but I keep my online "relationships" in proper perspective. A friendship has to involve more than words on a screen.

One of the disheartening things I've learned being a list owner is that people will just lie through their teeth (fingers) to you. I'm very clear that participation is required before people are approved for membership. And yet people will say they will participate and then we don't hear from them again until I bump them off and then they'll email me wanting back on. Some people are legit - they joined and something changed in their lives - but some are just devoted to being lurkers. I know many don't agree with me and they can run their list anyway they want, but I find lurking bizarre, and more than a little rude.

My theory is that discussion lists can be wonderful connection or dangerous confusion for people. Lately, many are becoming nothing more than ads for people's blogs.

I do wonder how far from reality we are going to get - we went from having face to face conversation to having screen conversation and now some don't even want to do that - we want to have monologues and let others read them on our blogs.

So... here's an update on my blog... thanks for reading...

The MCC Sale - A Piece of Americana

Greg and I went to the MCC sale tonight. They're held in various places, but this is the only place I've ever lived where there is one. The money is used to relieve hunger all over the world. The Mennonites here are a wonderful group - conservative but not radical.

We always do the German buffet. There's always a line about three blocks long to get into the building. It's better now that we have a new food building at the fair. They serve a variety of things that you'd never get any where else.

At our sale there are lots and lots of quilts to auction off, as well as other goodies. People make quilts to donate all year long. They have them on these racks, and cover them with plastic so people don't get them dirty.

Hundreds of volunteers here help make this happen tonight, and I can't imagine how many thousands of hours occur beforehand to cook all the food. Years ago I did a story about making food for the MCC sale. I went to a church and talked to the ladies. They were making verenike, which is a cottage cheese filled pastry covered with ham gravy. I know, it doesn't sound good, but it really is.

Hundreds of people agree as you can see in this photo. We sat on the balcony and could see down into the main area. You can see people snaking into the door from the outside line. At the far end are the lines you go through to get your food. It's quite an amazing operation - very, very, very organized. They've thought of everything. There are even people with flags to indicate where there are empty seats when it's really busy.

The sale here has tons of handwork, including this 50 inch round doily. Yes, that's not a typo - 50 inches. It will be auctioned tomorrow, along with the quilts.

I'm always amazed at the effort that people go to and the time involved in making some of these things. I have made one small quilted wallhanging. I can't imagine the effort involved in one of these wonderful, intricate pieces. I'd love to own one of these but they go for prices far out of my range.

They also sell crafts and plants and other cool goodies. I bought some Christmas ornaments and some old cookbooks I'm going to enjoy looking through. From 1954 is "250 Delectable Desserts." There's also a chocolate one from 1950 that has some photos from Gourmet. Anyway, they'll be fun to look through. Maybe I'll have some new recipes to share here soon.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

What Am I Fanatical About

The question was asked today... What am I fanatical about?

Easy answer - Washing my hands. I do it dozens of times a day and no, it's not something my job requires. I've been this way all my life.

When they redid the bathroom in my mom's house when I was about 3 she had them put the sink at a height I could reach on my own. My dad was saying, "Mary Lea, she'll grow!" My mom was saying, "put it right there. You don't know how many times a day I wash this child's hands." As she always told it I would toddle up to her and say, "Mama, wash my hands... my hands are duh-ty."

Anyway, I carry wet wipes with me at ALL times so when I can't wash my hands I can use those. I also have purell, although it's not my favorite thing. But I cannot eat without washing my hands. If I go outside, the first thing I do when I come in is wash my hands. If I go shopping the first thing I do when I come home is wash my hands. If I'm getting clean laundry out of the washer to put in the dryer I wash my hands first (it's clean, after all!). If I go to the basement, when I come upstairs I wash my hands. And yet, I'm not a very good housekeeper. Go figure...

I hate shaking hands with people, although I will. I hate touching things I know jillions of other people have touched - like shopping cart handles and such. I make it a point to NEVER touch my face after being out until I can wash my hands. All those things are just crawling with germs and getting passed from one person to another. It's why people stay sick all winter long. Someone wipes their kid's nose, then puts their hand back on the shopping cart handle. Then you come along and touch it and now it's on your hands. You rub your eyes and voila! you're now sick with whatever their child picked up from the kid at preschool.

People have always made fun of me for my handwashing, but you know what - I *rarely* get sick. I can't stand for my hands to be duh-ty.

Theta Waves and Creativity

I've been reading about creativity and brain waves. Pre-adolescents have an abundance of theta waves, which we know are associated with creative thinking. Theta waves are associated with fresh perceptions and wild ideas. This may be why children are so open to bizarre and zany ideas - their brains are wired to be open to them.

At puberty, the brain starts to change. At birth and all through childhood, the brain has a ton of neurons but at the time of puberty, the brain "prunes" some of the connections that haven't been used a lot. They die off and others become the patterns that we maintain throughout life. It's interesting to consider that this may be why things that appeal to us in childhood still do in adulthood - perhaps those connections survive this pruning.

It's also why it's so important to give children time to play and repeat tasks and learn. Unlike other species, humans have to learn so much of what we do. Creativity and curiousity seem natural companions for this process.

After puberty, we have many fewer theta waves in our brains - those waves linked to creativity. Edison apparently had a trick for waking himself from the state of just going to sleep so he could write down anything that had occured to him during this critical, theta-wave rich, time. He would nap with his hands full of ball bearings, resting on the arms of his armchair. As he relaxed and went to sleep he would release the ball bearings. They would drop into the pie plates he had conveniently placed below his hands and wake him up. He would immediately write down notes on what had occured to him in those moments.

I'm sure I've mentioned here before that I have a very weird sleep pattern - very odd - always have, my whole life. I don't seem to need as much sleep as other people and I wake up many times during the night. I always have. I'm also known to be a little bizarre. When I read this it made me wonder if all the multiple times I wake up and go to sleep increases the time my brain is producing theta waves and if there's a connection.

In adults, theta waves are much more rare. The one time we have a large amount of them is in that time between sleep and waking - when we are just falling asleep.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Panties in a Wad

Well, I've ruffled feathers and rankled sensibilities with my latest post about writing. Let me clarify before all the panties in the world are in one big wad. (Don't you just love tired cliches?)

If you think it's just loads of fun to spend your free time writing for your friend's webpage for free, great. Have at it. I might suggest you could find better things to do with your time, but that's really not my place. Do whatever you want to do. It's probably a thousand times more productive than a lot of things other people are doing. So, have at it. BUT, please, neither refer to yourself as a freelance writer, nor refer to the writing as a job. Jobs involve payment. Freelancing involves payment. This is a "favor."

You may be the expert in your chosen hobby. Great. I'm happy for you. You may want to share that with others interested in the hobby. Wonderful. Do it. Just don't be kidded into thinking that you're going to be "discovered" and suddenly be asked to write books for a mainstream publisher. Some people who run speciality websites need a LOT of content and don't want to create it themselves. (Damn, why didn't someone tell me it's a lot of work to maintain a website?) Instead they want to get you to do the work for them. If you want to do that favor for them, go ahead, just don't be duped into thinking it's going to manifest a new career as a writer for you.

I'm a firm believer in volunteer work - I do a lot of it and I benefit from it in others since I run a non profit. But, if you have time to give, seek out non profits in your area, call your local volunteer center, and look for opportunities to help people. Meeting other like minded folks is always inspiring.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Writing Myth

I stopped being in online or real life writers groups because I was just so darned annoyed by the idiocy of them. First of all, people think writing is something they should do for free for "exposure." This is ludicrous. You should write until you're good enough that someone will pay you for it. Giving away your words just tells people that you don't think you're any good, either.

The other reason I stopped trying to be involved is that people spend TONS of time thinking about stupid things like their pen names and the names of the books they will write. Well, big news here, names of books are generally determined by editors and/or marketers. So, you'd be better off to spend some time writing. And, hey, it might give you something to put that pen name on. You'll have plenty of time to practice the Oprah interview when you're jetting between cities on your mega book tour. (Dream big!)

I think the reason people don't want to do any writing is because it's hard to accept that it's one of the easiest things in the world to do, and yet it's so damned hard to do it well. All it takes is a pencil and paper - almost everyone on the planet has the necessary equipment. It boils down to BIC (butt in chair) and that's the thing people have such a hard time with. In reality we don't need computers or spell checkers or an audience. What we need is to write. But, it's the last thing that most wanna be writers seem to want to do. I also discovered that the people who are making a living writing are generally ... well ... WRITING.

Wanna be writers join writers groups in real life and online where they can talk about writing. And they read books about writing. The only thing they don't spend much time doing is writing. Should they actually do some writing, their first instinct is to try and get someone to publish it. Trust me, that's rarely the first thing you should try to do with your writing.

Goodness knows surfing through about 85% of the web should be reason enough to realize that many people who write should not publish. And that *anyone* with a few dollars a month can publish a website. Shoot, you don't even have to have a few dollars - you can do it for free - blog sites abound.

Within the last 24 hours, I've actually heard someone refer to their "job" as being a "freelance writer." In reality, this person has neither a job nor are they a freelance writer. I know because they've gone on to say they're writing for online sites for free. I'm sorry, you're confused... let me clear this up for you... this is NOT a "job." It's volunteer work. A job is something you get paid for.

It's also rather bad form to call yourself a "freelance" writer when you're a volunteer writer. "Freelance" means to sell your services to an employer without a long term commitment. Even a volunteer writer should understand the words one is using.

A "job" is when you perform a service for someone - maybe writing - and do it well - and so they pay you for your services. It's much like when you pay the hairdresser to cut your hair, or the cleaner to press your suit, or the tailor to make your clothes. When you have a JOB as a writer, people pay you for the service you're performing of putting words together.

Well, this type, along with the, "well, today I've taken a leap of faith, and decided to devote myself to my art and quit my job" types, are the reasons I can't find a place to communicate with other writers. I haven't yet seen anyone who didn't have someone else to pay their bills take a "leap of faith" and quit their job. If you've got a spouse to pay all your bills, then it's not a leap of faith, it's just sleeping in when you want. A leap of faith is when you're so sure you can sell your writing that you're willing to bet the house on it - literally. Relying on someone else to pay the bills is not the same thing.

Well... gosh... apparently I needed to get that off my chest. And - hey - I got some big news for you - few of us like to write, but most of us love having written. Now, I need to get back to my own writing.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Scars and Stories

I often wonder how we all got to adulthood. My nephews (all just a little older than me) and I grew up together and between the five of us there were more bike accidents and tumbles and falls and sprained ankles than I can count. There were accidents involving bikes and trees and horses and farm equipment.

Between us there was a broken back, a choking incident, a fingertip cut severely, a broken arm, two broken legs (same person, same time) a snake bite, and dozens of other things involving medical attention.

And yet, somehow, we're now between 43 and 50 and we have no ill effects other than a few scars and stories.

When you consider we were all around farm equipment, had never imagined wearing seat belts, were pulled in old car hoods behind trucks as a sled in the winter, and rode on tailgates all summer long, it's rather amazing.

Funny how times change.

A Saturday Full of DWC, Art, Food and Friends

This morning I went to the Democratic Women's Club convention for our district. It was in Hutchinson and I was a delegate. To tell you the truth, even after having the experience, I'm not sure what that means.
I'm not a person who enjoys meetings, but I had never done this and wanted to see what it was like. So, I decided I would go. Before I left, Terry called this morning and I was telling him what I was doing and he said, "oh, yeah, Mom said she saw in the paper that you were an alternate to the convention." I said, "Oh, no, that's the Altrusa convention later this month." We had a good laugh at how my fingers are in so many pies.

The keynote speaker today was Ethel Peterson and she was really good. I got to sit with a table of really fun people, including Theda, Judy and Kathie. It can make such a difference who you're with at things like this. I don't know that I'll feel the need to go again, but I'm glad I did.

It was a beautiful day here today - 70 and sunny. When I got in from the convention, I flipped on the TV to get the latest, and learned that the Pope had died just a little earlier. He will be missed.

I was in a relective mood so decided to go up to the studio for a little bit. I needed to get the correspondence cards done that I had promised for the Altrusa conference later in the month. Once I got started on them, they went pretty smoothly. I still have to package them, but they're all done now.

I did them all in yellows and oranges. The black is micron pens and the watercolor is Cotman. I have some Holbein I just bought and I LOVE the intensity of it, but this was a case where the less intense, student grade, watercolors were better because they did not dilute the effect of the black micron pen I drew with. I sketched them with pencil to get the shape right, then did the black and then watercolored them in. They are done on watercolor and each one has one of the four butterflies in the upper left corner.

I talked to Teresa a couple of times. I wanted to get her perspective on yesterday. I hated it that I couldn't go with the group of them for the evening presentation, but I had another gathering.

About 5 I went to meet Greg at Skaets. I have been going there 2-4 times a week in the last month or so. I can't seem to eat enough moon-burgers. A friend who was in there the other night tells me they were put on the menu when the moon landing occured. I don't know if that's true, but I know I like them - charcoaled until they're completely done - piled with grilled onions that are so soft they're barely recognizeable as onions - and topped off with all the goodies, including lots of pickles. I have a thing about pickles!

Karen, one of the owners, was in there tonight and we had a nice conversation with her. She asked about the Jackalope and Greg went out to the car to get him. A round of picture taking ensued. The only problem is that life doesn't hold still for my little cheapie digital camera. But, man, I love the convenience of always having it with me.

Ashley, who has waited on us a bunch of times - and is GREAT - even became a little less camera shy with the Jackalope around. He has magic powers. I keep telling Greg he's got to have his own webpage. The lope has had many adventures by now. He's ridden a cable car, been on multiple beaches, visited Tiki bars, graced many a cool restaurant table, admired the Big Texan in Amarillo and dozens of other things.

It has been a long day and I'm going to church in the morning with some friends. One of our local church leaders, who is someone I really respect, will be preaching in the morning about the marriage amendment we'll be voting on this Tuesday. We want to support him for speaking out so we're going to be there in the morning.

Well... time for me to hit the sack. I need to get up early in the morning to get some things done before the day gets in to full swing. It's going to be another busy one - there's church, lunch with friends, a flea market, and a trip to Wichita planned. How could I live my life if I needed 8 hours of sleep a night? lol

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pope

As I write this, the Pope is close to death. His life has affected all of us on this globe, not just Catholics. I'm not a member of the Catholic faith, but when John Paul came to be Pope, after such a short time by his predecessor, my best friend was Catholic. It was such a huge event to her and I've never forgotten that.

It was the first time we had experienced this, because we had been too young when the previous Pope had been selected. Then, we experienced it twice in a very short amount of time.

I'm touched that the Pope has elected to remain in his residence, knowing that he has no hope without aggressive antibiotic treatment, and minimal even then. He is ending his life with dignity. Reports are that he has been peaceful and serene and conscious - praying and being read to - and accepting. It seems like as beautiful a death as one can hope for.

He is being allowed to exit this world as he wishes, as God wishes, with no one fighting over his choices.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Dark Side

I spent the day in a seminar at Prairie View in Newton today titled, "The Dark Side - the Shadow Within." It was about how to recognize and accept the parts of us that are what the worst of humanity can be. We did some exercises to identify the masks we present to the world, and how that affects how we relate to people.

One of the exercises was to identify a number of things about our primary caregivers when we were children. The purpose was to find the point at which we lost the childlike bit of us that is open and has no malice and is all truth and something breaks in us and leads us to form our mask.

A truth that was hard for me was to hear the three fundamental childhood wounds - betrayal, rejection and abandonment. Every child encounters trauma, pain, unhappiness, rejection, helplessness, etc. - real or perceived - so every child will be "broken" at some point. But, those fundamentals are huge ones.

Depending on your wound, you develop a fight, flight or freeze mentality. I have a mask of "power" - I'm in control. In one of the exercises, I wrote the following, "When I feel under the gun, I become insistent about others doing it my way. I don't have time to explain or be questioned. Just do what I say. It won't get done otherwise." If that doesn't work, my next mask is "serenity," which is the "well... whatever you want to do... I'm not going to get involved."

I'm going to have to spend some time thinking and journaling about the compulsion to recreate childhood wounds. I know I must address some things in my world.

Another one I need to work on is my projections about others, and what those say about me.

I left with much to think about... obviously.