Friday, June 30, 2006

Art of Gracious Living #29

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I have had some incredible experiences because I shared someone else's passion for something. A recent example was riding behind Union Pacific's Steam Engine 844 to do a story. (Read the June 2 entry to see the full story on 844.) I would not have sought it out on my own but because I knew someone who was passionate about it I was able to share that.

What we are passionate about can also affect others. My friend, Matthew, has some rocks in his fish tank that are a momento of a trip we took.

I encourage you to discover what those around you are passionate about.

This photo courtesy of The Lope at

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Art of Gracious Living #28

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At a conference recently I was reminded how the language we use affects us and those around us. We were talking about Mental Health issues. Someone mentioned that one of the first things people do in any social movement is change the language. She cited the civil rights movement as a case in point.

This really struck me as an important consideration for our daily lives. When we change our language, we change our lives.

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Wichita Trip

I went to Wichita today. I needed to get my phone checked out. Of course, it "passed" the inspection. My guess is the second it's out of warranty it will fail the test. My next thing is to call customer service. I'll pass. That just results in me spending a lot of time on the phone and being really annoyed when I'm done and nothing has been taken care of.

I did some shopping and running around. My big purchase of the day is this toe ring for $4.99. Frankly, that's kind of expensive for a toe ring, but I really liked it so I now own it.

I had a few more things I needed to do but it was so freaking miserable walking around in parking lots that I decided to come home after a half dozen stops. It was over 100 today and I felt every degree of it.

At lunch I was reading Freakonomics, the book I'm currently engrossed in. It's really fascinating. The server asked what I was reading and we got into a great discussion about the book, which he had read. I brought half my food home and I noticed just a few minutes ago when I put it in the fridge that he wrote his phone number on the top while he was boxing it up. I guess that's less of a risk than saying something to me. But, for heaven's sake, he just finished his first year of college. He can't be but 19 or 20.

He was cute in that "I'm kinda nerdy, but very smart" way. And goodness knows, smart is always sexy. But I think someone less than half my age is, indeed, too young - even for a summer diversion. Pity.

Life Stuff Continued

I've had a productive day today. I got up early and did some planting before it got hot, and started working on the house. I got quite a bit done, but my house is still a mess. It's going to take far more than one day of work to get it anywhere near organized. But I did make some progress.

Greg and I had made plans to go to Roy's for lunch. I went on Saturday but he hadn't been for awhile. It's good stuff. I like to make it out there at least once a week.

We are so fortunate to have it right in town. Of course, it ruins other barbecue. I have finally learned to not order barbecue unless it's a place that is really known for its barbecue. And then I'm generally disappointed anyway. As I'm fond of telling Ann, "If I can't have Roy's, I'll do without." There is another barbecue place in town, and they stay open later, but they're a pale imitation of what real barbecue is. Maybe if you don't have Roy's you don't know the difference, but I do.

I was also able to get the car in for an oil change and to get the lock switch replaced. It was driving me nuts having to lean across to lock and unlock the doors. I ordered the part and picked it up yesterday but they put it in for me. I took them some baked goodies I had, too. I'll have to remember that's a good place to take things when I'm in the mood to bake. Now that I have no coworkers I don't have anywhere to take stuff.

Susan had called for dinner last night but I didn't get the message until later so I emailed her telling her that. She emailed back and asked about lunch so I invited her to join Greg and me. It was a really fun time.

Peggy called inviting me to go with her and Gary to Wichita to see Al Gore's movie tonight, but it was Creative Sisterhood group tonight so I couldn't go. I'll have to call and get a report.

It was good I was hosting Creative Sisterhood because it encouraged me work on the house a bit more than I might have otherwise. It's just so overwhelming it's hard to get motivated. But, like everything, it gets done a tiny bit at a time. I made brownies and they were yummy, if I do say so myself. I love that recipe - so quick and easy.

Tomorrow I have some errands for work and then I need to run over to Wichita to get my phone checked out. I've been losing lots of calls and it's going to digital roam all the time and generally just acting wonky. I haven't had it a year yet so want to get it checked out before the warranty is up. I no longer have much faith in cell phone technology lasting - I never even bothered to input all the numbers I had stored in my last phone, or set up all the speed dial. I guess I've come to accept I won't have any cell phone for an extended period of time. I'm not very hard on them, but their longevity is minimal it seems.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Life Stuff

I have spent the last couple of days catching my breath. Monday I had a ton of things I had to do related to the tour, but yesterday I took it easy. Today I felt like getting some things done around the house. It's still completely trashed, but I did accomplish a few things. Creative Sisterhood is tomorrow and my goal is that we'll all be able to sit comfortably - not something that's really possible right now.

Tonight after it cooled off I went out and dug some more flower bed area and planted more calla lillies. I adore them so I'm hoping they do well. I discovered a few more that are peeking through from when I planted them some weeks ago. I didn't plant these as deeply. I'm not sure exactly how all this gardening stuff works, but I know the gladiolus I planted as deep as they said to have not popped up and the others are about two feet tall. So, seems to me planting them a bit more shallow is a better idea. Maybe time will tell me that was a big mistake. We'll see.

My tomato plants are doing great. I have lots of green ones, but nothing anywhere near red yet. The pepper plant still looks very sickly. I put in an oregano plant today. The herbs are perking up a bit. The basil is doing great. I've got some olive oil with fresh basil in it in the fridge right now. I'm planning to have it over fresh mozzarella and tomatoes in the next day or two.

Tomorrow I have some work to do, and then I'm going to work on my life more. In fact, I think I may set the alarm for a very early hour and try to get outside while it's still cool and do some things.

Working on the tour so many hours every day I just let my life fall apart. I need to devote some time and attention to it. For some reason, it seems even harder to get things done when it's such a mess. But, I guess I will. I have to.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rush Limbaugh's drug problems

Well, doggone it, Rush Limbaugh is once again in trouble regarding drugs. This time it was by customs officials who found Viagra that was not his prescription in his bags. He was detained for about three hours in West Palm Beach, returning from a vacation in the Dominican Republic.

His people say it was in his doctor's name for privacy concerns. I guess in Florida it's legal to have a prescription in a third party's name, as long as everyone is aware it's being done. So, as long as the doctor confirms this, Limbaugh isn't in any trouble regarding his recent deal with prosecutors on doctor shopping charges to feed his painkiller addiction. Of course, the privacy thing is out the window.

All of this aside, I have some questions.

1. Isn't Rush single at the moment? Didn't he and his wife file for divorce a year or two ago? So the spokesman for the conservative Christian-right is busy fornicating and that's OK? Apparently he even joked on his show about the fun he had on vacation and said he wished he could share with listeners. I'm very confused. I thought sex outside of marriage was wrong. I remember that very clearly from Sunday School. I thought that violated the very things conservatives stood for. What kind of family values is it to be going about banging women you're not married to? I don't recall what the Bible says about painkiller addiction, but I'm pretty clear about the no sex outside of marriage part.

2. When did all the men in America become impotent? I come from a long line of men who were fathering children into their 70s and 80s, long before we had things like Viagra. You know, I've had sex more than a few times in my life and impotence has never once been a problem. Never once. What's the deal? Admittedly, I would never choose someone like Rush - no question about that. Maybe it's a personality thing. I only sleep with liberals - they don't have impotence problems. Oh, gosh, that's a brilliant marketing position for the democratic party. And, you know, come to think of it, who made Erectile Dysfunction a household phrase? A big time republican, that's who. I swear... I'm onto something here...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Overheard Conversation

Those of you who are regular readers know I periodically post a snippet of overheard conversation.

Female: "So how did you two ever get together in the first place?"
Male: "Well, let me just start by saying I was drunk the night we met."
Female: "Well, that explains a lot."
Male: "I was still drunk the next day. The next thing I knew we were dating. Then she was pregnant and we were getting married."

Well, now, there's a love story to tell the grandkids.

This was followed by a long discussion about how he has tried to get out of the relationship repeatedly and has been unable to. So, on July 6 he is planning to move to South Carolina. He will go to work, quit, and take off from there. His wife and daughter will not know he has left until he just doesn't come home from work.

There are better ways to live a life.

Plastic Surgery for... every body part

A friend of mine is planning to have some plastic surgery soon. It will not be her first time to have a "procedure." I support her decision to do this, but for the life of me I cannot imagine doing it. She will need four weeks to recover from this "minor" surgery, because it is on her face. I'm sorry, anything that requires you to be at home for a month afterwards is NOT minor.

Oddly enough, I flipped over to VH1 tonight after Craig Ferguson's show and they're doing a show about plastic surgery. Parents are giving their children plastic surgery as high school graduation presents. Are you nuts? There's a great way to instill self esteem in your child. Yes, honey, you're right - you are hideous - here's a check so you can go let someone slice you open and rearrange your boobs, nose, tummy, ears and various other parts in hopes that someone will eventually look twice at you. It seems like it wasn't so many years ago that parents would have been horrified to hear their child needed to undergo surgery and now they're encouraging it?

People are having toes shortened, breasts enlarged and labia minora reduced. Yes, that's right - between your legs. I guess we've moved far beyond nose jobs. This ain't your grandma's plastic surgery anymore. Well, maybe it is, but you probably don't want to know about it if it is.

I didn't even know there was such a surgery. I didn't know there was a problem that would make people want a surgery. Not that thousands have seen it, and maybe they were all as out of the loop as I am, but no one has ever mentioned having a problem with the anatomy between my legs. Who stops in the midst of such a moment and says, "oh, gosh, ummm, I just can't... it's too... well... I just can't." Of course, no one ever mentioned that my toes are too long either. Women say they want a Playboy look between their legs. People, Playboy isn't real. News flash - there is this thing called "PhotoShop."

And your toes? What can possibly be wrong with your toes? They're TOES for heaven's sake. Women do this so they can wear stylish shoes. What? People, buy different shoes. It doesn't involve pain, blood transfusions, or chopping off body parts.

I'm starting to feel like I'm living in the dark ages that at age 44 I haven't had any plastic surgery done. By this age I should have at least a half dozen procedures under my belt. Lets see, if I had started at 17 when I graduated high school... Oh gosh, I'd be much further along than a half dozen by now. I'm way behind.

Of course there are things I'd like to look different on me. But I cannot imagine the pain or the cost of the surgery it would take, much less the risk. Has everyone forgotten that surgery is a big deal? Not something one seeks generally?

I know if you plan to have children with someone, you better see a school photo of them to see what genetics you're really getting. On second thought, you better look at a baby photo since children sometimes have their first plastic surgery at a young age to pin back their ears. At least with that I can understand the reason for it. But your toes? Your labia? This must be for people who have run out of other body parts to alter.

I've been asked a couple of times if I've had lip injections. No. Hell, no. What person in their right mind lets someone stick a needle in their LIPS? I just happen to have full lips - although not the fish lips people get with injections. Injection - what an ugly word.

Sometimes I feel very out of touch with the world, and this is one of those times.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Korean Baptist Church in Wichita Kansas

The Korean Baptist Church in Wichita was vandalized earlier this month. It looks like it was a hate crime. It isn't the first time the church has been vandalized, but this time they set fires in various places, as well as doing damage by throwing rice on the floors and just creating general mayhem. It was about $30,000 in damage. They are doing a CrimeStoppers piece on it.

I keep thinking surely we are past the point of hating people. I realize I have nothing on which to base this except common sense, but it seems that should be enough at some point. What's wrong with common sense? Seems like we could run our world so much better if we all used a little bit - like it's stupid to burn churches, for example.

In the vein of church teachings, one thing that seems to be common in numerous religions is the Golden Rule, not that it's called that in all faiths. But the concept is a standard - do until others as you would have them do unto you. So simple and yet so powerful.

Of course, the church members interviewed say they are praying for the people who did this and they forgive them. It's the Christian thing to do.

I didn't even know there was a Korean Baptist Church in Wichita - or anywhere - until I learned about the vandalism. But I'm now very offended on their behalf.

Garden Tour Big Success

The Garden Tour was a big success and it's done for this year. I am thrilled with the response we had. Tomorrow I have a lot of detail things to take care of for it, but I will also take some time just to rest and think.

As is always the case, there are people who are unhappy with things - always. I'm not sure why that is, but it must just be human nature. Fortunately, I don't have any of those people in my world by choice, so my contact with them is limited. And I'm blessed that none of them are on my board. I just could not deal with that kind of negative nit-picking all the time.

Peggy and Gary were a huge help, as they always are with any project. They are both such positive, fun people to be around. I don't know what I would do without them.

We did well today, and that's a relief. These events take a considerable amount of energy and this one was a real bear to get done due to circumstances beyond our control. But it all worked out.

Dick Westphal did a piece of jewelry for us to raffle off. He is such a gifted designer. And very generous with not only us, but other non profits in town.

One of the home owners today was playing music in her backyard, in addition to sharing her garden. I'm continually amazed at people's generousity.

I didn't get to all the homes as I was filling in at one of the locations. But it seemed like everyone was having a good time.

We had a fabulous day for it - sunshine, breeze, and it wasn't terribly hot. I think it only got up to the mid 80s today. Some years it has been over 100 the day of the garden tour so this was a pleasant change.

We had eight people this year who said they would do it next year so maybe this fall I will try to line that up.

I'm going to take some time now to work on my life. It desperately needs some attention.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Art of Gracious Living #27

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This week we welcomed a new addition into my family as my great neice had her first child. As we celebrated the birth of Mia Isabella, it occured to me that we should all celebrate our lives every day.

We have ample reason each day to be thankful and appreciative of our own unique place in the world.

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Art of Gracious Living #26

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The momentos we gather give us an indication of what we value.

As I thought about the "things" I treasure, they all relate to a connection with another person or a memory of an event. Those knick knacks are indications of relationships, and that's what makes them special.

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Unexpected Ellinwood Trip

Mark called this afternoon and was in the area. His friends, Carl and Chris, were doing another trip exploring Kansas. They went to Hays yesterday and worked their way back toward Kanopolis where they were camping. Mark joined them today and they had been visiting various places, using Marci's book, of course. (The Kansas Guidebook)

I was working on garden tour things but Mark wanted to know if I could get away and meet them in Ellinwood for dinner. It's about an hour from me. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see them. It was great to visit.

On the way back I stopped at a little picnic area between Chase and Lyons. It's a beautiful spot. I've noticed it many times but never stopped. Frankly, it was an amazing experience.

When I first went in there was a deer grazing at the edge of the woods. I parked and took a journal over to a picnic table to write for awhile. At one point I looked up and saw the deer was a hundred or so feet away from me, completely unaware of my presence.

I wrote for quite a while and walked around the park. It was getting dark when I left. I also had my first sighting of lightning bugs in this park. I adore lightning bugs.

It was a beautiful drive - very sunny day with clear blue skies.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Gardens and Fresh Food

I've had two full days of garden tour work. Things are so hectic leading up to the event. It happens Sunday and I am looking forward to Monday and not having this hanging over my head. I'm hoping it goes well.

I had hoped to get a couple more things done today but I ran out of time. It was almost 5 when I got to the bank, and I had to do a couple of personal errands too.

The golfers start arriving on Monday for the US Senior Open in Hutchinson. Although my house is not anywhere near the Prairie Dunes golf course, I want to get my lawn mowed so it looks nice just in case the TV crews do some sweeping views down the streets. You never know and I do live on one of the main east/west streets. I had to have my lawn mower repaired, so I wanted to go pay for it today so my handyman can pick it up later to mow the lawn on Monday.

I called Sondra after that because I was so ready to have some fun and do something not related to the tour. I asked her to go have dinner but she invited me over and whipped up dinner instead. Sondra is amazing. I love it that she is so welcoming, but I don't want to put her out either. She made some great tuna salad. I went to the store for some chips and we had a wonderful dinner. It was delicious and she just always has great stuff on hand.

At my house you're likely to find some basics, but Sondra always has amazing food in the house, ready to be enjoyed. Sondra is a great cook and a generous hostess. She's always happy to see you. We made plans to go to Roys tomorrow for lunch. Hopefully that will work out.

In my own little garden, my tomato plants have gone wild in the last couple of days. I didn't go out there last night but when I went out tonight about 9 they look like they've grown about six inches in the last 48 hours. The tomatoes, basil and cucumbers are doing great. The bell pepper plant is the same size as when I put them in and looks like it could keel over at any moment. I guess I should just pull it out and throw it away.

Well, I have a few more things to do for the tour, so I need to get back to that. It's almost 1 a.m. and I've been going since 6 this morning. Just a couple more things and I can get some rest.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bush sings U2

See Bush sing U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday. This tells me some people have waaaaaay too much time on their hands.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Blogs as Non-Hiring Tools

I saw a news story that more and more potential employers are reading people's blogs before they hire them. They're generally talking about 20 somethings who write blogs about their drug use and other illegal activities, sometimes sprinkling in some info on the orgy they went to last night and other choice tidbits.

The story said about 20% of potential employers now are checking out blogs and using that information in hiring practices. I must say that I know far more about people's personal lives than I ever wanted to by reading random blogs. I don't write about my private life here because it's - well - what's the word - oh yeah, private. I save those things for the pen and paper journals.

Obviously, what you put on the WORLD WIDE Web is out there for publication. And I don't think it's such a bad idea for people to check out blogs to get a sense of who someone is. It should give you a sense of if that person will blend into your workplace or not. But, by the same token, people do have a right to have a life beyond their work.

Workplaces are just renting your mind for X number of hours a week. That does not give them the right to control your entire existence. However, if you're engaging in a lot of drug use or other illegal activity, or hosting a lot of orgies, it might be best to not write about it on the WORLD WIDE web - at least not under your own name. Just a thought. But, as always, your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Day

I spent the day working on the garden tour program. It's printing now. I'll give it another good look in the morning before going to print the multiple copies needed. It's my last chance to catch any errors. It seems something always slips by but hopefully it won't be anything major.

Tonight was supposed to be our board meeting but we had so many people out of town that we weren't going to have a quorum so we cancelled. This is probably why so many boards don't meet during the summer.

I've been looking ahead on my calendar and realizing that I'm getting very booked up for the rest of the summer. I have something practically every weekend until September. I need some time to focus on my life.

That is number one on my agenda come Monday - focusing on my life. I've been so busy with garden tour stuff 24/7 the last few weeks that my life has really gotten out of control.

One thing accomplished today was the dishwasher drain repaired. The other day I dumped a pile of clothes out of my suitcase into the kitchen floor so I'd have to deal with them the next day. The next morning when I started to put them in the washer I realized they were wet. Yikes!

A little investigation discovered the drain line going from the dishwasher into the garbage disposal had torn apart from the pull of gravity. I called Lowes since they did the install and I have to say they were *very* responsive, after I called once and got the run around. I called back to the salesman who sold it to me and I actually got good service.

Anyway, the plumber came out today and fixed it. It worked out great since I was here working on the garden tour booklet. He was a really pleasant guy - I liked him - and made note of his cell phone number for future reference. Always good to have a plan that you hope you never need to use - like a plumber's cell phone number.

This evening Greg and I went to see Cars. He had already seen it but I wanted to see it and I needed a break from the booklet - my eyeballs were starting to not comprehend it anymore. It's a great flick.

I'm not really a movie person but there are some words and phrases that get me to head to a theatre. "Pixar" is one of those words. I'm still in love with Buzz Lightyear and Woody, not to mention the Alien Guys. For years I've been saying, "oooooooh" and "The Claw is my Master" just like my stuffed alien guy does. Yes, that's right, I have the toys. I play with the toys. And I'm not embarrassed for anyone to know it.

We met a number of the people credited in the movie on our trip last summer. I guess they're all getting their 15 minutes of fame. I'm thinking a Route 66 trip is probably going to be a more crowded experience with the movie out than it was before.

Last summer when we were at the Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK I loved the cartoon John Lasseter had drawn in the bathroom of Buzz and Woody. The bathroom walls are covered with graffiti - it's encouraged - but that one really stood out. It's dated 6-6-2001, when they were doing research along the road.

The movie is just great, as you always expect from Pixar. I am continually amazed when a corporation can maintain creativity. It seems impossible to have a corporate culture that is also creative, but Pixar has managed it. And as if the movie is not sufficient, don't miss the credits where you'll see their creativity even more.

Welcome to Hutchinson Kansas

I took a break this afternoon from my garden tour prep to go get some dinner with Greg. As we were driving down 61, he asked if I had noticed this. I hadn't been down this road in a while and had not.

This is right along the main highway coming into Hutchinson. We'll be hosting the US Men's Senior Open at the Prairie Dunes Golf Course July 3-9. They start arriving on Monday the 26th. Some will be coming into town this direction I'm assuming.

There are actually two trailers painted, but this is the one with the welcome message. Plus, it's situated right in front of the grain elevator. Isn't that a Kansas site?

Of course, I guess if you're really worried about your town's image, you don't situate a trailer park right along the main highway coming into town. Frankly, if you're a Kansas town, you really shouldn't have anything zoned for a trailer park. It's not a good idea in Kansas, aka Tornado Alley.

My favorite Beavis and Butthead exchange ever was when they're watching TV and it's announced a tornado is about to hit. They, of course, want to go see it. The dialogue is brilliant in its simplicity.
"Whoa... We're there Dude."
"Where," asks the always clueless Beavis.
"The Trailer Park, Dumbass."
(Yes, I did have to go look it up to get the exact wording. Fortunately, the internet provides everything from science research to this.)

Until recently, on every main road coming into town from all directions there was a billboard for a Bail Bonds place. It was sort of like saying, "hey, come to Hutchinson and commit your crimes here." But, I notice those have disappeared.

I wonder how long this will last. And I wonder if it was a response to being told to put some paint on the building or something. I don't know the story - just that it made me smile.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I've been doing a lot of reading lately about Shamans in Peru who work with Ayahuasca. I've read a couple of first person accounts of experiences after drinking the mixture and I must say I'm more than intrigued.

Oddly enough, Peru is one of the places Matthew and I have looked at going before. We've just never been able to get a decent airfare there. It's expensive to fly to South America. Of course, at the moment it's expensive to fly anywhere.

I'm really interested in doing this. People report amazing results from ingesting this sacred plant and experiencing the visions that come. I'm not sure I'm at a place where I'm ready to face all my demons, but at some point you just have to take that plunge I suppose. Is anyone ever ready to face their demons? I'm guessing not.

Visit to Valley Falls, Kansas

I was thinking tonight about being at Susan's farm at the end of March, when we went to tea in Hiawatha, Kansas. I realized I had not shared a number of the photos I took while there.

The morning before tea, we went and drove around Valley Falls, which is the closest town to where the farm is. One of the places we went was to the cemetery. I love to see old cemeteries. When did we stop being creative with tombstones?

I am always interested in the detail of various things so snapped a couple of close ups of features. I was also struck by a tombstone that said the person had been assassinated - that's just not something you see these days.

Mr. Henderson was only 31, although in 1879, I guess that was middle aged. Nonetheless, it's a hard way to end a life. We were drawn to the tombstone because it's a tall spire. The medallion on the base tells the tale.

I've seen many tombstones for children that featured lambs, but I'd never seen a bird. I'm guessing it's supposed to be a dove. Unfortunately, most older cemeteries are full of tombstones for children.

Seeing some of the older tombstones made me think we are losing a lot with the plain granite slabs we favor today.

We also just spent some time driving around the farm. It was still spring, so things weren't very green yet, but it was a pleasant day.

Seeing the older monuments makes me think we've lost something by having only the typical marble slabs we have these days.

We also stopped to see a calf that had just been born the day before. The Mama wasn't too keen on letting us get too close so I took a photo from a distance.

I also get to meet Susan's horse. It seems horses are a recurring theme in my life.

It was a lovely weekend. Susan's home is so welcoming and she is the ultimate gracious hostess.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Welcome to the World, Mia Isabella

Mia Isabella arrived Monday evening, June 12, at about 8:30. She is the first child of my great neice, Nicolette. Mom and baby went home the next day, doing well. I'm sure mom and dad are very busy settling into their new lives as parents.

Mia apparently already knows she's a star and needs to protect her identity as she is not showing off her face.

Congrats to all, including the new grandparents.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wind Storms

Well, I'm typing this on my new keyboard. Why do a I have a new keyboard? Because my old one only likes to type h^'~ and similar characters. It doesn't even type those in relationship to you hitting those particular keys. Obviously, it was time for a new one.

I am a fan of ergonomic keyboards. I've used one for years and just have to have one at home where I spend so much time on the computer. I used my laptop for the whole week I was at the artist's retreat and I could feel it.

This one is going to take some getting used to. It's a bit different than the last one I had. And it has lots of buttons my old one didn't have - maybe I'll find new cool things it can do.

I did see my favorite Office Max employee tonight. He's always so very helpful. He has helped me pick out a number of computer widgets by now. Everytime I see him we have a discussion about computers. He knows what he's talking about and I'm a geek wannabe.

We are having a major wind and rain storm. They said it was going to be prefaced by a wind gust of about 70-80 mph and they were right. I've been out on the front porch experiencing it. I took some pix of my neighbor's bushes that were bent over more than 3/4 of their height. But they're saying there's no hail expected - just "torrential rain" - but I can handle that.

The roofers were here day before yesterday to replace the turbine vent on top of my house. I lost it during a previous wind storm. Hopefully this one will stay put. It's Kansas, we get wind. But, I don't have a big hole in my roof anymore so that's good.

It seems to have been brief and pretty much over with now, other than some rain and I wouldn't exactly call it torrential. Weather people are so prone to exaggerate. Now that the storm is getting close to Wichita, the TV stations are on nonstop with weather info. They could care less if the rest of us blow away, but Wichita they want to warn to get their trash cans inside.

The reporter is out in the wind, saying the gravel is blowing and it stings when it hits his face. I'm reminded of why my TV news career was brief. I may have been only 21, but I knew it was a good time to quit.

Art of Gracious Living #25

Click here for show #25 and it will automatically download for you. You can listen to podcasts on your computer. You don't need an iPod or any additional software.

Recently I gathered with some friends that I see each month. We take turns going around the circle and discussing what is on our minds.

When it was my turn I was talking about the artist's retreat I went on recently and other tidbits about my life. There was nothing extraordinary in what I was saying, and yet I noticed that everyone in the room was giving me their rapt attention.

I was struck by what an incredible gift it is when people truly listen to what you're saying. It also gave me reason to consider if I extend myself to others in that fashion.

As I considered this, I realized that few of us have much opportunity in our lives to be truly heard. When it happens it is memorable.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Very Long Day

I've been awake and going for many hours now. I got up a little after 5 this morning and have been in pretty much constant motion since then. I got a lot of garden tour things done today. It's going to be a great tour. I just get a little worn out the last few weeks when there's so much to do that's last minute. But, there's no other way to do it so I just have to go with it.

I've got a huge stack of postcards ready to send and I'm printing more. I send them to people who've attended previous events. It's our single biggest expense for the tour, but it does let people know. Direct mail is by far the most effective form of advertising - other than word of mouth - but it's very expensive. I'm sending postcards so people don't have to open the mail to get the message and I can also clean up my files because they go first class for only 24 cents and I get the returns.

I'm looking forward to taking a little time after the tour to work on my life. It is completely out of control. I'm literally working every waking moment on tour things. I haven't even unpacked from DC, other than to get the essentials out of my bag. Actually, I've had suitcases in my living room for more than two months - there have been so many small and large trips that it hasn't seemed worth carrying them upstairs only to bring them back down and unpack them. I'm looking forward to getting everything where it belongs.

I have so much to do upstairs, and at the moment downstairs too. I'm not sure how people manage to keep their houses tidy when they're really busy. I certainly can't. When I'm working normal hours I can do OK if I actually put attention to it but when I'm traveling a lot or working many hours like now I just can't manage the house too. So, it just goes to pot and then I have to work like the dickens to get it under control again.

But, I'm going to be home for awhile now so maybe I can focus on life a bit. After the tour I'll need a little bit of rest. Then I can get some of those things done. My next major project is a fundraiser tea at the end of August so I have some time to plan for that. Of course, I have a newsletter to get out in July and a grant to write, and an Altrusa event. OK, what am I saying? I'll have the pressure of the garden tour over and that will be good. I can say that for sure. Otherwise there is always another project on the horizon.

I was looking today at the travel voucher I have. It's dated later than I thought so that's good. Of course, air travel is so expensive these days I don't know if I'll be able to afford to use it. I hope so. But later this year. The exchange rate with the Euro is still pretty bad so going anywhere in Europe is probably out. And from how things look, that's probably only going to get worse. Oh well, something will come along.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ariel Views of Wichita, Kansas

When I was flying into Wichita Sunday night, I decided I should appreciate the sight from the plane. So, I snapped some pix out the window as we were making our descent.

For people who've never flown into an area like Wichita, it may seem very odd to not see city sprawl in all directions.

The patchwork fields reminded me of flying into London the first time years ago. It was May and the canola was blooming so there were these beautiful patches of bright yellow. It was gorgeous.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Today has been a full day of garden tour work, but it has been productive. I did take time for Democratic Women's Club today at lunch, then dinner with Susan.

Seeing other people's gardens reminds me of how lacking my own is in so many ways. One of the guys on the garden tour has offered to share any plants with me that he has extras of. He has tons of day lilies. Maybe I should take him up on that when it's time to do that. I'll have to see when you do that but I'm guessing in the fall.

I still have bulbs I haven't gotten in the ground yet. I'm also realizing that I don't have much that is in bloom at the moment. I had tulips and daffodils early but now I've got very little. I'm not sure what I should plant to have pretty flowers this time of year, but I need to find out. Day lilies maybe... I do love the lamb's ear and mint but they're not colorful. And I really like to bring flowers into the house so I need to plant something additional.

After the garden tour I'm going to take some time to focus on my life, which has been a bit neglected lately. My living room has become pathways. I want to actually deal with the stuff that's in there - get it where it belongs and make my living room into a living room again.

I also need to get over to Wichita to the Sprint Store. I believe I am in need of a new cell phone yet again. This one seems to have "issues" as they all seem to have after a very few months of use.

Back to Reality

I started the day at 6:30 this morning looking at a garden for the tour. It is shaping up to be a great tour. I've been working on tour things all day.
I've also had to rest a little. I started getting a bit of a sore throat a couple of days before I left DC and although it hasn't gotten any worse, it hasn't gotten any better either. I'm tired so I know I better get a lot of rest so I don't get sick. I've been eating oranges and taking zinc. I can't afford the time to be sick right now. I think the throat is a bit better tonight. I'm going to eat another orange before bed so it can work its magic overnight.

I got a very nice letter from Sue and Marcia, who run the retreat center where I attended the artist's gathering last month. And I also got a nice invitation from Scharlotte for breakfast Saturday morning. I need things to look forward to, so that's good. I know Scharlotte from the Democratic Women's Club and also the NAACP.

Well, I must go and do some journalling before I go to sleep. I have a lot on my mind these days and there's no better way to work it out than that.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Newt Gingrich at the National Mental Health Association annual conference

Friday morning Newt Gingrich spoke at the National Mental Health Association annual conference I've been attending. He now heads the Center for Health Transformation and spoke about a variety of health matters. Although Newt and I are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, I was impressed with a lot of what he had to say.

He said the most important phrase for the next twenty years is going to be, "Real change requires real change." Martha had heard him speak recently and she went away with that phrase as well.

Gingrich said that our health care system is so broken we need to throw it out and start over - that it's too broken to actually fix. "The bureaucy we have inherited doesn't work," he said. "We're going to be in the replacement business. The system is broken. This machine doesn't work."

He asked how many of us have tracked a package from FedEx or UPS online. Of course many of us had. He said if the government were handling tracking packages, they'd be doing it with quill pens and carbon paper. And "reforming" the system would mean making plastic quill pens and better carbon paper. Instead, we need to just throw out what we have and start over.

I have to agree with him on this matter. He said there is more than enough money, but it's not being used properly. This is also true - we spend a ton of energy on paperwork instead of using the money for what we really need.

A big push in the mental health field is for parity - that mental health concerns would be covered at the same rate as physical health issues. Gingrich said, "We need to move beyond parity to inclusion."

He said there are four kinds of health - spiritual, social, physical and mental - and we need to change the system so all are included. He said, "If you're not doing all four of these, you're engaged in malpractice."

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I'm in a mood these days to have fingernails. So, I use my Nail Magic (great product) and do my own French manicure. Today in a conference session I had a gentleman colleague comment on my nails and ask how I got them that way. I explained - amazed that any man would inquire about such a thing. I didn't have the heart to tell him that one morning I'll just wake up and be tired of them and cut them all off. We went back to the task at hand.

A moment or two later, with no prompting from me, he leaned over and said, "I asked because I'm a cross-dresser."

My only comment, without even looking up, was a non-committal, "Oh, really...," as if I'd heard it a million and one times already. Apparently I've adapted well to being a mental health person.

When I first started working in this field, I thought, "Gosh, I hope mental health people are more fun than public radio people." My first conference a few weeks after the start of the job confirmed that this was - indeed - the case. Actually with a similar story to this one - and it was before the conference even started.

Life is full of surprises...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Rosalynn Carter and a Visit to the Hill

This morning I was priviledged to hear former first lady, Rosalynn Carter, speak. It was inspiring to be in her presence, much less to hear her. She has been one of the biggest proponents of mental health reform in this country for many decades. She was one of the keynote speakers who kicked off the annual meeting for the NMHA today.

It is always a delight to hear people who are truly passionate about what they believe. She said today she had been involved in mental health for a long time, that when she started Amy Carter was 3 and now she's 38. Funny how we lose track of those sorts of things. If you'd asked me I wouldn't have had any idea how old Amy is now.

Paddy Kutz of Ohio is a Executive Director/CEO I really admire. I snapped a nice photo of her with Mrs. Carter today before things got underway. Paddy is one of the nicest people I've ever met. She is always gracious and always welcoming.

I met her at my first MHA event and have been impressed with her ever since. She always goes out of her way to greet everyone. I think of her often when I'm at an event and am not feeling very chatty. I think, "oh, now, Paddy would go say hello to everyone... just go do it."

Also speaking this morning was Representative Patrick Kennedy. The Kennedy family has long been involved in many social causes, and mental health is one of them.

As we always expect from any member of the Kennedy family, and as they always deliver, he was inspiring. He just got out of treatment at the Mayo Clinic on June 2. He didn't talk about that today, but he gave us much to think about. One of the interesting statistics was that Native Americans have a 870% greater chance to die from an alcohol related issue. I knew it was much higher, but I didn't know it was more than 800%. That's not a typo - eight-hundred-seventy percent.

I'm always amazed at the ability of a powerful speaker to seamlessly weave together many different threads into a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. He covered alcoholism, suicide, terrorism, veterans, legislative issues, and a myriad of other topics in well under an hour.

He talked about how the suicide rate is double what the homicide rate is. He said if we could get TV stations to do a nightly suicide toll that people would understand that the way they realize homicides happen every day.

He talked about the mental health movement in this country and said, "Prevention is the biggest bang for our buck." He talked about how half of all bankruptcies are due to medical bills.

It was an inspiring morning. Mrs. Carter, Congressman Kennedy, our new Director David Shern, and Marley Prunty Lara, a young lady who told her story of recovery, rang the Mental Health Bell this morning.

The bell was created from iron chains and shackles once used in asylums. It is inscribed with, "Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness." The 300-pound Bell rings out hope for improving mental health and achieving victory over mental illnesses.

After that, we went to the hill to visit with our legislators. I had not done this before, so went to listen and learn. Rose Mary from Wichita, in the green blazer, is very good at it.

Congressman Jerry Moran took time to pose with our group today. I've always been impressed with him, although I've never been to visit him in DC. But he has always struck me as a thoughtful legislator. I don't agree with everything he's about, but I guess that would be true for any legislator. He was very kind and attentive to our group.

The evening was capped off by an awards ceremony. My favorite person who was honored was Frank Warren, who runs the PostSecret website I went up afterwards and told him I look every Sunday, which I do.

This concept in amazing. If you're not familiar with the site, take a look. You'll be amazed. He was attending with his family, including his 11 year old daughter. That was one of the highlights of the day to me. I've admired that site for a long time.

Other honorees included Brooke Shields, Joshua Wolf Shenk - author of "Lincoln's Melancholy," and Iraq war veteran Blake Miller, among others.

Hyatt Hotel - a Major Don't

Tuesday evening
I'm at a conference and staying at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. This is what you think of as a very nice hotel, right? They have been jerking me around since I arrived and there seems to be no end to it. They are now at the bottom of the list for "nice" places to stay in my book. If I never see the inside of another Hyatt I won't be unhappy. This is by far the worst customer service I've received at any place in a long time - and I don't mean hotels - I mean from ANY business.

I arrive yesterday and give them my name and they check me in. I go to my room and it's nice. Small, with no desk, but nice. Good view. I'm relatively happy although balancing my laptop on my lap is not the most comfortable way to write. I pull out a dresser drawer and make do. I'm crafty - I can manage.

I go out to dinner and return to find neither of my keys to the room work. I make the long hike back downstairs where they tell me I have to move to another room. Huh? I'm at a conference and the national office made the arrangements. Apparently I'm sharing a room with a lady who checked in after me. But, instead of putting me in a double room in the first place, they made a mistake and put me in a single. But, of course, now at 10 p.m. it's my problem to repack everything I just unpacked in the afternoon, and move. I raise enough fuss they tell me to stay that night and move tomorrow. My plan is to complain the the manager the next morning and tell them I don't want to move. They made the mistake. They should absorb the cost of the extra room and let me be.

I make the long hike back upstairs. I go to check my email. The wireless doesn't work. The wireless I have paid $9.99 for. I call. They know nothing about it. But I'm welcome to come down to the desk and check my email there. Oh yeah, that's why I bothered to carry my laptop with me through the airport, and pay for the priveledge of using your wireless that you say is everywhere that doesn't really work, so I can hang out in the lobby to check my email. Yeah, that's good thinking.

This morning I get up and repack all my stuff and they move it to the other room. The manager is pleasant, but they will not take responsibility for their mistake and absorb the cost of the room. The woman was "in training" who sent me to the first room. As if, somehow, it is my fault that their training is insufficient.

They've given me a key to the room. So, at my first break I come up to make sure they moved my stuff. They key doesn't work. I make the hike back downstairs to get the key rekeyed. I come upstairs to check my email and my wireless signal is very low - I can't. I call - yet again. I can go use their business center for 53 cents a minute. Did I mention that I PAID for wireless again for a daypass. She wants to know if I've moved around the room. Well, no, I'm at the desk. Well, wireless isn't consistent, she says. Like I'm an idiot. They'd be happy to give me a dialup modem. Oh, great - that's why I have a wireless capable laptop and paid for wireless access - so I could wait for an hour for my email to download. This, of course, is the wireless they are promoting so heavily that it's the ONE card they have at the front desk. T-mobile - in case you're wondering.

While I was writing this, there was a knock at the door. I thought maybe they were coming to do someting about the computer situation, but no - they were coming to work on the TV. Apparently the TV doesn't work. I didn't even know that. First there were two repair guys - then three - eventually five - and when I left for a meeting there were six guys working on the TV. I don't care about the TV. Fix the wireless. Not their department.

Needless to say, my opinion of Hyatt Hotels has plummetted since my arrival and continues to go down with each passing moment. And, as far as I can tell, they could care less that they have one very unhappy customer.

Wednesday - late morning
I have an hour break. I came upstairs to check my email and find out about some work things. I can't get on. My roomie can't get on either. I call the front desk - as if that will be helfpul. You would think I would have learned by now. After 17 rings, they finally deign to answer the phone.

They transfer me immediately to T-mobile where I spent 34 minutes on the phone to find out that they cannot give me signal on the floor I'm on. They're testing the equipment. It's not working. Duh. I knew that already.

Their solution is for me to get an adapter from the front desk. I call the front desk back. Yes, I know, I'm a slow learner. 23 rings later, they answer. However, I actually get someone helpful this time. What a pleasant change of pace. Not that she seems to actually be able to accomplish anything, but she does care that I'm unhappy. And says I'm far nicer than she would be in the same circumstance.

But, there are no adapters. Tmobile hasn't sent them yet. Add them to the list of companies I don't like. However, I will say that I spoke with someone who could communicate in English and who was very nice. Like everyone he apologized way too much. I finally told him and the front desk person to stop apologizing to me - that just pisses me off - people think apologizing is a substitute for actually fixing a problem. I don't want an apology. I want the problem fixed.

The front desk woman calls the business center to see if I can borrow one of their adapters. No. So, she's looking for somewhere I can go where I can have signal. Gosh, let me think, where would that be. Oh yeah, the freaking room I was in in the first place.

She will call back in about 10 minutes.

Wednesday - late afternoon
Well, long after 10 minutes was up I left for my Capitol Hill appointments. I'm now back and I have very limited access - very low signal strength - which means it could disappear at any moment. The lobby is full of people working on their laptops. Apparently they don't have any access either. I'm not comforted by the misery of others.

I never got a call back. I have no message. Maybe my roomie got it, but somehow I doubt it.

I've gotten far better service at Econolodges. I'm starting to long for one. They have real wireless. It's free. The $9.99 I'm paying a day for this "service" is one of the worst ripoffs I've ever seen, not to mention the nearly $200 a night national is paying for the room. That's a HUGE ripoff. I suppose they could be less interested in customer support, but I can't think of how off the top of my head.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I had an absolutely wonderful flight this morning. Yes, you read that right, a lovely flight. I know, I'm generally railing about the airlines, but this morning American won some serious points in my book. Two main reasons were Robert on the left and Eddy on the right. There were both wonderful - and not just to me, but to everyone on the flight.

Eddy has been to Marion, Kansas to a graduation, so we chatted about that. Robert and I had a conversation - and daydreamed a bit - about a Hillary-Barack ticket.

I got up at 4 this morning, after going to bed at midnight. This was after a 2 a.m. jaunt back downstairs to turn off the computer because we were having a tremendous storm. Needless to say, I was tired. I napped a bit off and on during the flights but was exhausted by the time I got to the hotel. I had some calls to make and then I took a nap. I hated to waste the afternoon in DC but I needed the sleep. I've been going with too little sleep for too long.

This morning I was struck by how Robert was chatting with everyone - a business man about immigration, a school kid about his interest in history, and various other topics. I'm amazed at anyone who can so easily converse with people. It is a true talent, and one we're losing. I'll probably talk about that in an upcoming podcast for Art of Gracious Living. I wish he lived close by - he'd be fun to see - but unfortunately, Dallas is a little far for dinner.

Tonight as I was leaving the hotel for dinner, Susan from North Dakota was just coming in the door. So, we ended up going out to dinner together. That was a fun, unexpected treat.

I've had very minimal interaction with people since arriving in DC, and I've been asked out twice. I don't remember DC being this friendly on previous trips. It seems more than "hello" ends up in an invitation. If I were the sort to hook up with someone for a fling while on a trip, I'd certainly have said "yes" to one of these gentleman - he was charming and really good looking, but it's just not my style. I know, it seems like I'd be the sort to do that - given my adventurous nature - but I'm not.

Well, I need to get to bed. Tomorrow I get to deal with the Hyatt. There's a mixup with the room. And, of course, we the customer get to deal with the hassle. Never can quite figure out how that works - that it's always up to the customer to deal with the confusion. Seems like when it's their mistake, they should deal with it, but it rarely seems to work that way.

Well, I should stop, or I'll go off on a tangent about the travel industry in general and I don't want to ruin the memory of such a delightful early morning flight. This is two trips in a row when I've had good flight experiences on at least one leg of the trip. A few dozen more such things and it could change my mind about the experience of flying. Of course, the problem is that one journey like Puerto Rico was last summer - bags ripped open, things lost, flights cancelled multiple times, etc. etc. etc. - requires a few dozen good experiences to make up for that one trip.

I heard four different people mention today that it was the first time they had ever been on a plane. I guess I've become jaded about air travel and that's not in keeping with my personality where pretty much every day is full of potential for wonderful surprises. So, I decided I should try to appreciate the sight as we flew into DC. I tried to step outside that mindset of "oh, another flight" and see it with new eyes. You know what - being in the middle of poofy white clouds is something spectacular and I should pay more attention to it. You shouldn't ever take it for granted. I'm so good about that in so many aspects of my life, but this one was one I realized I'd not been fully appreciating. So, in that vein... poofy white clouds...