Friday, February 29, 2008

Removing Ourselves from Real Experience

I was thinking today about how we lead lives that are geared toward experiences that are removed. For example, instead of cooking for ourselves, we watch other people cook on the Food Network.

Now, I love the Food Network as much as the next person - maybe more than some. But isn't there something odd about the fact that most of the people who watch it never cook? Not nessarily cook something they saw on the Food Network, but they just don't cook. But they like to watch other people cook.

I would wager the same is true of quilting shows, crafting shows and a host of other things.

Consider that we no longer get on bicycles and ride somewhere we need to go, or even to a park for enjoyment. Instead we go to climate controlled gyms and ride stationery bikes while watching scenery on TV. Isn't there something basic wrong with that scenario? We don't want to have the actual experience of riding a bike outdoors, we experience it in a removed fashion.

We play video games about exploring worlds, instead of just going outside our houses and actually exploring our neighborhoods. We chat with strangers online instead of going to the diner down the street and having a real conversation with a real live person. Somehow we want to remove ourselves from the actual experience.

I'm not sure what is at work, as I sit here along, blogging about these questions, instead of talking to someone about them. But, in my defense, everyone I know in real life has long ago gotten bored with my continual questions, which are always plentiful. Obviously, I should find more friends - new people who haven't yet been bored with the questions. I could even recycle some from long ago.

People are Open on the Open Road

I've been thinking a lot lately about how some people are open and some are more closed. What prompted this were the number of times on the open road that I've had impromptu conversations with people. However, I'm not sure that it's that people are open or if the situation is open.

What is it about the open road that encourages that? It's not that you're all travelling because you're often talking to a local. Is it that I'm more open? Is it that I have a question I wouldn't have at home and that opens it up? Why is it that we can have this interaction with people on the road that we don't have at home?

It's something I'm pondering these days. I know I love being on the open road and that's one of the reasons.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I was thinking this weekend as I was driving on the open road that there are a couple of things about travel that really attract me. And maybe these are part of the reason some people are travellers and some are not.

1. There's something about travel that gives me a feeling of invincibility.Not in the sense that nothing bad could ever possibly happen, but more that so much cool, wonderful, exciting stuff is going on that anything bad seems a remote possibility. Of course, I guess for that to really work you have to have a desire for the newness you experience during travel.

"Seek" is my number on rule for living. "Seek. New people, new places, new thoughts." So, naturally, travel is a great way to accomplish that.

2. The other thing about travel, which is related to number one, is that it makes me feel incredibly grateful. Grateful to be alive. Grateful to have the opportunity I'm having - even if that's eating at Classen Grill, less than four hours from hom. Nonetheless, I'm grateful.

And I think being grateful is essential to having a happy live. Science would back me up on that as well. Being grateful, having a social network, and forgiveness are the three greatest predictors of having a sense of happiness.

I'm blessed to be a very happy person. Part of the reason for that is that I seek things that make me happy - like travel.

The open road also gives you plenty of opportunity to think, which is where one comes up with things like this. OK, well, my brain works on lots of tracks at all times and so I come up with this stuff all the time, but... in general... it's in overdrive when I'm on the road. And that pun was not intended and that means it's time for me to stop.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I'm not a militant fat person - you know, those people who think everything in their life that goes wrong is because they're fat and everyone hates fat people. Surveys tend to bear out that being fat is something our society really looks down on. However, I guess I haven't had that experience myself - that I know of, anyway. So, I'm not a militant fat person.

But, that said, there are a few things people assume about fat people that really tick me off.

1. Fat people have no energy and are lazy.
I don't think anyone who knows me would consider me lazy. And I have more energy than almost anyone else I know. So, while some people may not have energy, that is not a given. I go, go, go most of the time.

2. Fat people are horribly unhealthy.
People are individuals and actuaries don't know everything. My cholesterol is 103, with a very low amount of "bad" cholesterol.. I just took my blood pressure and it is114/70, with a pulse a 46. My sugar is normal. That's probably more heridity than anything else, although I do eat lots of fruits, vegetables and nuts and very little meat compared to the national average.

3. Losing weight is very straightforward - fewer calories, more movement - and it's just a matter of willpower
It may be easy for some people, but it's not for others of us. We all "get" the equation - less calories and more movement - but for some of us there is something that keeps us from being able to put that into practice. If I knew what it was, I'd share it with everyone, but I don't know. I know I'm driven to eat in ways that other people are not.

I know some people can't put down alcohol or drugs or their credit cards or gambling or bad relationships or whatever. I'm not sure why people can't see that food is an addiction for others of us. But, unlike alcohol or drugs, we can't simply avoid it.

Hunger is the only autonomic system we expect people to have conscious control over. Why is that? In a purely objective sense, doesn't that seem a little weird? It's like expecting people to control consciously how many times a minute they blink. When I try to diet, that's what it feels like, by the way - that I must be constantly thinking about food - what I can eat, what I cannot eat, when I can eat, etc. etc. etc. It feels much like the effort that would be required to control the blinks of your eye. I know that may seem preposterous to those of you with "normal" relationships to food, but that is seriously how it feels. Can you understand why that is exhausting? And just too much to actually accomplish?

4. Diets
Diets fail 97% of the time. If any other medical procedure failed this much we would never offer it as a solution. Can you imagine deciding to have open heart surgery knowing there was only a 3% chance it would be successful? Would your doctor suggest setting your broken arm if there were only a 3% chance it would come out healed? Yet this same doctor will suggest diets, knowing they're doomed to fail.

It's as if fat people are not worthy of anything resembling a real treatment. Oh, lots of lip service is paid to obesity, but it's all talk. There has never been a single, effective treatment offered for obesity. Ever. Not one.

Why is that? Obviously, we can create human beings in petri dishes, it would seem we could treat obesity.

I truly don't know the answer to that question, other than it's something people view as not necessary for treatment - after all, it's simple - more movement, less calories - if people aren't going to do that then they're not going to bother taking a pill. Ah, but of course, this is where they're all wrong. It seems like there would be some major money in it for drug companies, but so far no one has bothered to put serious effort into it.

5. Fat people are a drain on the health care system.
This is simply false. In reality, "healthy" people are the most costly for the health care system over a lifetime.

Following is a story from the Associated Press:

Fat people cheaper to treat, study says

By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical WriterWed Feb 6, 6:25 PM ET

Preventing obesity and smoking can save lives, but it doesn't save money, researchers reported Monday. It costs more to care for healthy people who live years longer, according to a Dutch study that counters the common perception that preventing obesity would save governments millions of dollars.

"It was a small surprise," said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the Netherlands' National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, who led the study. "But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more."

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers.

Van Baal and colleagues created a model to simulate lifetime health costs for three groups of 1,000 people: the "healthy-living" group (thin and non-smoking), obese people, and smokers. The model relied on "cost of illness" data and disease prevalence in the Netherlands in 2003.

The researchers found that from age 20 to 56, obese people racked up the most expensive health costs. But because both the smokers and the obese people died sooner than the healthy group, it cost less to treat them in the long run.

On average, healthy people lived 84 years. Smokers lived about 77 years, and obese people lived about 80 years. Smokers and obese people tended to have more heart disease than the healthy people.

Cancer incidence, except for lung cancer, was the same in all three groups. Obese people had the most diabetes, and healthy people had the most strokes. Ultimately, the thin and healthy group cost the most, about $417,000, from age 20 on.

The cost of care for obese people was $371,000, and for smokers, about $326,000.

The results counter the common perception that preventing obesity will save health systems worldwide millions of dollars.

"This throws a bucket of cold water onto the idea that obesity is going to cost trillions of dollars," said Patrick Basham, a professor of health politics at Johns Hopkins University who was unconnected to the study. He said that government projections about obesity costs are frequently based on guesswork, political agendas, and changing science.

"If we're going to worry about the future of obesity, we should stop worrying about its financial impact," he said.

Obesity experts said that fighting the epidemic is about more than just saving money.

"The benefits of obesity prevention may not be seen immediately in terms of cost savings in tomorrow's budget, but there are long-term gains," said Neville Rigby, spokesman for the International Association for the Study of Obesity. "These are often immeasurable when it comes to people living longer and healthier lives."

Van Baal described the paper as "a book-keeping exercise," and said that governments should recognize that successful smoking and obesity prevention programs mean that people will have a higher chance of dying of something more expensive later in life.

"Lung cancer is a cheap disease to treat because people don't survive very long," van Baal said. "But if they are old enough to get Alzheimer's one day, they may survive longer and cost more."

The study, paid for by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, did not take into account other potential costs of obesity and smoking, such as lost economic productivity or social costs.

"We are not recommending that governments stop trying to prevent obesity," van Baal said. "But they should do it for the right reasons."


On the Net:


Classen Grill in Oklahoma City

The Classen Grill in Oklahoma City is a find. An absolute find. I can't take credit for it - I read about it on roadfood. But, it's well worth a stop. I was so fortunate that I was staying at the Sleep Inn, which is right across a small street. The hotel was nice, in case you're looking for one. I didn't even move the car, but just walked over to eat.

I got there at about 8:03 a.m. - they open at 8 on Saturday - and there were people already settled in with coffee and friends and newspapers and assorted other goodies.

It's a very unassuming place - inside and out - but the food is fabulous.

This is a very literate crowd - more than a couple of people walked in carrying a fat copy of the Daily Oklahoman. Seated behind me were two attorneys, discussing judges. A few booths away were a couple of younger women making plans on the cell phone to meet another one.

I was the only non-regular there. At a table with four folks at it I heard the waitress say, "I missed you last week." The patron replied, "Yes, we were gone."

And the waiter that was taking care of me and the attorneys behind me brought a plate to the older gentleman and said, "That muffin's probably not brown enough for you." He replied, "It's not as much as usual, but it's OK. It's OK."  When the waiter knows how brown you like your muffin you know you're a regular.

I ordered migas - scrambled eggs with a mix of goodies in them. Bear in mind I don't really care for eggs without something added to entice me. I finished these. They were delicious.

I heartily recommend The Classen Grill in Oklahoma City. It's well worth the trip.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oklahoma City

I'm in Oklahoma City tonight and looking forward to breakfast at Classen's Grill. I found it on roadfood and, oddly enough, completely by accident, I can see it from my hotel. I will literally just leave the car in the parking lot here and walk across the street.

I love to try out local places when I travel. Why would I eat at a chain that I can eat at when at home? Of course, I'll report on how it is. I'm optimistic it will be wonderful. I'll be hitting the road right after breakfast, but it's worth the delay to have a great meal first.

One of these days I'm going to get the travel website I've been thinking about for years up and going. I always take pix of hotel rooms, with the idea that one day I'll post them all. So far that hasn't happened... but it could... almost any day. Really.

My doctor believed me! Yes, it's true... my doctor listened patiently today, agreed with my diagnosis that I needed some antibiotics for an extended period of time, and gave me a prescription for three weeks of them, along with a prednisone shot. I love him. I'm confident this will kill whatever bug keeps resurfacing making me sick.

I've spent the rest of the day at the computer and accomplished a number of tasks that have been hanging over my head. That always feels good.

I'm eager to be completely well again. Soon!

Check for the blog, art, and more.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Day

The Day is winding down and I'm ready. I'm worn out. Partially that's because I've been running around all day, doing things. And partially it's because my lungs are congested. Again. I know... this is an old story... I think I've been saying it over and over again for months. But tomorrow I go to see my own doctor, who I have faith will actually believe me and fix me.

I'm debating if I have the breath to walk upstairs or if I should just sleep on the couch.

Check for the blog, art, and more.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Beverly Morgan Welch of the African American Museum

Beverly Morgan Welch, director of the Museum of African American History in Boston, spoke at the Dillon Lecture Series this morning. She presented some fascinating information about the contributions of African Americans from the 1700s on.

Some of it was information I already knew, but much of it was new to me. I intend to profile some of the people she talked about here in the coming months. I hope you'll be as interested as I was.

The African Meeting House in Boston is one of my favorite places. I can't recommend it strongly enough. It was built in the early 1800s and is the oldest black church still standing in the country. It is one of the sites that makes up the museum.

If you've been a reader here for any amount of time you probably know of my interest in African American history. I don't view this as history for just some of us, but for all of us. And as Morgan-Welch said today, "this is American history and if this history were known we would have a different kind of America."  May I just say, "amen?"

This is an interest I've always had, but grew tremendously when I started doing family history research. Right there, on the first census record I looked at, was a line under my ancestor's household that said, "Slaves - 12." I was revolted. I was embarrassed. I was curious. I was a hundred other emotions all at one time. And, in that moment I became something I didn't want to be - a descendent of a slave owner.

My experience isn't any different than that of many people who have ancestors in the south, but in all the conversations I've had about geneaology, this is a topic that is skirted around, avoided, and discussed only in hushed terms if at all. Morgan Welch summed this up today in the most beautiful way I've ever heard. She said, "Slavery is an x-rated conversation."

She is absolutely correct, but it is something we have to come to terms with. Do you think I like knowing that my ancestors on multiple sides of the family were slave owners? No, I do not. But can I deny it? No. So what choices do I have? I have to accept it as what "was," and try to make sure it never "is" again.

I wanted to know who those "Slaves - 12" in the census records were. Obviously, they had names, spouses, children, relationships and wishes just like every other person. Finding out who they were was not easy. In fact, I still don't know all of them. I have found the names of some of them - Sarah, Pleasant, Hannah, George - listed in wills. I'm at once happy to see the names, and at the same time horrified to see them enumerated along with horses and houses and other property - given to the  heirs of the owner. Of course, I know that some of the children listed as slaves were no doubt biological children of the owner, with as much right to the land and houses as their half brothers and sisters.

I have no proof that my ancestors were using their slaves for their personal pleasure, but would there be any logic in believing that my ancestors were people who would never do such a thing? No. No logic in that. It would be folly.

One of the guiding principles for my life is that the truth can always be spoken. It can be spoken with kindness, but it can be spoken. And this is one of those cases where truth is the only thing I can imagine will ever heal a rift in this country that we're unwilling to even admit exists.

I was contacted through my family history website by someone a few months ago who believes they are descended from the slaves that my ancestors owned. She delicately broached the subject that we might be blood related. I assured her I was completely open to finding out the truth - and I would like to meet cousins of all colors - and add them to the family tree. She was shocked because she had not gotten that reaction from others she had contacted. That breaks my heart. I so want us to be past the point where we have these divisions. I want us to be open to the truth being spoken.

Of course, I don't like the truth of my own family history in many ways. I'd much rather focus on my ancestor James Hunter Terrell who freed his slaves at his death. Admittedly, I'd much rather he have not had any in the first place, but at least there's something redeeming in his story. But, that's not all of my story. My personal story includes slave owners, and all that goes with that. My ancestors, and by extention I, have benefitted from the labor of men and women who were kidnapped, enslaved and held against their will.

Words can't express how much I hate to write that, admit that, accept that. But, I can't figure out what to do except deal with the facts. And the facts are there in black and white - in census documents and wills. It's an ugly part of our history as a country, and it's an ugly part of the history of my family. But, we don't get to choose which parts of history we accept. It's a mixed bag.

But, the truth. The truth. We must know the truth. We must speak the truth. Even if it's uncomfortable, we must speak it.

Creative Sisterhood

Last night was Creative Sisterhood. It was just Teresa, Martha and me, but it was a good night. Teresa made this wonderful peach cobbler to share with us.

I read just a little bit of the novel I'm writingl to them. Teresa had heard some it, but Martha hadn't. They were both complimentary, which is encouraging. I like this book - much more than the book I wrote a few years ago. This book is one I'm loving to read, as much as write. I'm making an effort to work on it some every week, and I will finish it by the end of the year.

I'm considering going to a couple of writers workshops this year. I need to find what's available in the area. I'd love to have a local group of writers to critique with, but I don't know of any. Maybe something will pop up.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bridges of Miller County

This weekend I'm with friends in Missouri on what's called the "Food Coma Caravan." Carl, the organizer, has managed to accomplish what doctors and psychiatrists have been unable to do for me - he has managed to make me NOT want to eat. Oh that he could bottle this...

I should explain...

Every year Carl plans a weekend of going dot to dot to cool old restaurants, staying in cool old places. This weekend it's in Missouri. Carl and his wife, Kris, and Mark are here from KC. Greg and Mia are here. And yesterday Todd and Tara, a guy Carl works with and his wife, joined us. We also have "flat Wayne" with us, which requires more explanation than I'm up to doing tonight.

Yesterday we saw these cool old bridges with boards laying across a support structure. And there was food... lots of food... great food... And a wonderful, wonderful time with friends. I needed some fun... and this has definitely been fun.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hair Donation for Pantene Beautiful Lengths

Yikes! I did it!

Late Thursday I had more than nine inches cut off my hair to donate to Pantene Beautiful Lengths to make wigs for cancer patients. Pantene requires at least 8 inches, which is one reason I decided to donate to them. Locks of Love wants 10 inches and Wigs for Kids wants 12. The other reason I wanted to do Pantene was because they make wigs for adults as well as children.

I've been thinking about this for sometime, and finally did it. My hair feels very short to me now. I know that probably seems ridiculous, but that's how it feels.

Lacy started by brushing it all out, then banding it together and measuring before the actual cut.

I could feel the cut. It was a very weird sensation.

I was a little anxious about it, but really wanted to donate. I needed a trim of at least half that much, so decided to just bite the bullet and get it done.

Hair grows about half an inch a month, so with trims, that's more than two years worth of hair growth snipped off.

When you see those people on makeover shows crying about having their hair cut and you think, "geeeeezz louise... that is so freaking weird..." - well, I would be one of those people. I can't explain it. I know it makes no real sense. But, there it is nonetheless.

I went from this....

to this...

You may recall my crude simulation of a hair cut a couple of months ago... it's not too far off from that.

Frankly, it feels very short to me. I know that probably seems stupid, but that's how it feels to me. However, I'm very glad I did it. I now have it in a zip baggie, ready to mail to Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

Oddly enough, I'm still having separation anxiety. But, I'll get it in the mail next week and it can do someone some good. That's a wonderful feeling.

Check for the blog, art, and more.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Plush from Whitman Tiny Tales

I have been sorting through bits and pieces of my life and ran across this little book from childhood. It's a Whitman Tiny Tales book called "Plush," #2952 in the series. I remember this book. I loved this book. I especially loved the straw hat with the ear holes.

Isn't it funny the things that strike kids? I had a pony, so it wasn't the pony itself that got my attention - it was the straw hat. And that garland of flowers. Just loved those things.

Each little book had a place to put your name in. My mom wrote 8-66 in this one, along with my name. I would have been four at the time - this would have been right before I started school in the fall - maybe at the end of my summer in Head Start. Regardless of the specifics, it's definitely a little time capsule.

I had a bunch of these little books and I can make out the faint five cent price printed on the upper right corner. I'm not sure how much money that was in 1966 when this was purchased, but this calculator indicates it's somewhere between a quarter and 55 cents, depending on what measure you use.

I know I got five cents worth of enjoyment out of it. I always loved books - even before I could read. My mother was not a reader - she didn't like it at all - but she read to me - faithfully. I guess that falls into the category of things parents do for their children.

She had a love/hate relationship with my love of books. She wanted me to love to read, but she couldn't understand how anyone could possibly love to read. Even when I was an adult, it bugged her for me to read. She just couldn't understand it. She wanted to be outside, working in the garden or mowing the lawn or just being in the sunshine. How anyone could be happy indoors with their "nose in a book" remained a mystery to her until the end of her life.

But for me that love affair with books continues to this very day. I even took a couple of minutes to reread this little gem tonight - the plot is that the farm animals go to the fair in a cart pulled by Plush. They sell some of their items - jam and lemonade and such - and buy others. They all present Plush with thank you gifts at the end of the day. And Mrs. Duck bestowed that straw hat on him. Obviously, ducks have exquisite taste!

There's something very comforting to me about having these little bits of long ago as part of today. I know some people keep nothing from childhood, and I'm sure that has its own freedoms, but for me I like this little tidbits, these little threads of continuity.

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you have a fabulous day.

If you're in love, relish in sharing the day with your love.

If you're not in love, be kind to yourself and realize you'll be in love again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Women and Money Book from Suze Orman Free from Oprah

I caught the last couple of minutes of Oprah today and there is an offer for the audience to download Suze Orman's latest book, "Women and Money" for free. Go to and follow the prompts.

It took me a few times but it did download. If you just start it and let it run in the background, you can come back in a few minutes and find it's done. Then just "save as" to your harddrive. I'm not going to print it - it's 278 pages - but I will read it on the computer. Anyway... you, too, can get a copy.

I think this is BRILLIANT marketing on their part. I can see many people wanting to buy a copy of the book after seeing the download.

It will be available only until the evening of Feb. 14 so don't delay.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Post Its in the Tub

Post It Notes are one of the great inventions of our time. I'm sure you know the story about how they're the result of innovative thinking - something 3M corporation encourages - but it's worth reading this account at The Rake to learn details.

Well, like many people, I have an abiding love of Post It Notes. I didn't realize they were so recent - introduced in 1980. They've always been fixtures in my office life.

Tonight I was taking a long bath - bathing is one of my hobbies - and I took a pad of post its into the tub with me. I do a lot of thinking in the tub. And tonight I wanted to think about the novel I'm working on and how to arrange the events into consecutive chapters. I've been writing it as vignettes and I want to combine them in a logical fashion.

So, I started jotting down each event on a post it and then trying different ways to combine them. Lo and behold, right there beside me was the perfect spot to work on - the tiled wall beside the tub.

They got a little wet when I washed my hair, but they dried and are all still hanging tight onto the wall. I want to sleep on it, so I'm just leaving them there for the moment. I guess this would fall into the category of things you can do when you live alone.

Chamber Dinner with Erik Wahl

Tonight was the annual meeting for the Hutchinson Kansas Chamber of Commerce and artist Erik Wahl was the speaker. I generally enjoy this meeting because there's an interesting speaker - last year it was Frank McGuire - and this year was particularly fun.

Wahl started his presentation by playing a video of Springsteen singing "Born in the USA." While it was playing on the screens on either side of the stage, he painted a portrait of the Boss.

It was fun to see him do it and watch it come into being. You couldn't tell what it was at first, so it was neat to see it appear.

His presentation was about how we can use creativity to increase business. I was reminded of my ramblings about the "Creative Class" book by Richard Florida. One thing he said that really struck me was, "Inventing the future is not a policy or a procedure."

As you know if you're a long time reader here, I despise policies, rules and procedures. I think of them as ways those to crush innovation whereever it might rear its ugly head.

He is saying what we keep hearing - that we must think creatively to come up with new solutions and innovation. Unfortunately, as he pointed out, we spend about 90% of our time using our logical brain. We're taught to come up with "the" answer, not "an" answer. He said we are capable of so much more than we are conditioned to believe.

He pointed out that people diagnosed with dyslexia are four times more likely to become millionaires. He speculates the reason is that because their brains don't work in a linear fashion, they're able to come up with different ideas because they think in different ways. I find that fascinating.

He suggested studying how kids think about the world - they're unbound. He asked the group initially who could draw and no one offered. He said when he goes to a middle school maybe 10% of kids will say they can but when he goes to a grade school all the kids say they can draw.

He said, "The Art of Vision is the science of slowing down." We all run around talking about how busy we are - it's almost a competition about who's busiest. But, he says it's hard to engage our creative brain if there's never any time for it.

Near the end of his speech he played a video of "God Bless the USA" and drew another picture. This time it was on the side of the room where I was sitting so I had a much better view.

The last view in the video is of the Statue of Liberty, and when he turned the painting right side up, that's what he had painted as well. It was very interesting.

My real take-away was a message he gives his three sons. "Stop trying to be perfect. Start trying to be remarkable."

Isn't that a fabulous message? I think it is.

He stayed around and chatted with people (that's him on the right). I was impressed there was no paint on his white shirt since I never seem to paint anything without also adorning myself.

All in all, an interesting evening.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fun on the Horizon

I am putting myself on a schedule for fun. I've not been having enough new experiences lately - enough pleasant surprises - enough newness coming into my life. So, I'm putting myself on a schedule to do something creative, interesting, new, different, etc. every day. And, once a week I'm taking at least an hour to devote to a "filling the well" activity a la Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way." I feel depleted and I need to fix that. Immediately.

The past 18 months have been difficult for my family. I do not regret a single moment I spent travelling to and from Kentucky to see Jim and the rest of the family. In some ways it seems like I'm a horrible person to be thinking about fun when losing my brother is so recent. However, my mother's words still ring in my ears - "Life is for the living." And that's exactly what it is about. Each year I make it a point to honor my mother on the anniversary of her death by doing something I love, because she taught me to do the things that make me happy.

I have no doubt that Jim, if he were here, would strongly encourage me having fun. Obviously, any event you undertake after losing a loved one is tinged with sadness, but we must move forward. Well, I must, anyway. Otherwise I sink into depression and it's hard to dig out of that hole once you're in it. Best to skirt the edge of it and avoid going there if at all possible. And it is possible for me. I need to schedule myself - keep on a pace of accomplishing things and I need to inject happiness into my life. So, that's what I do.

Today I've been working on packing away Christmas stuff. I've got 95% of it stored away. I'll try to finish tomorrow night after work. I've made a whole bunch of trips up and down the basement steps, as well as a few trips out to the shed to take the tree out. Now I have a lot of cleaning up to do - a whole lot. I never washed all the cloth I used in our window display downtown and I need to do all that. There are also lots of icicles and broken bits of ornaments to sweep up and get rid of. And, there are all the daily things I've just not felt like doing - from dealing with the piles of mail to cleaning the kitchen.

I've not been off my property today - not out of the house other than to go to the shed. Greg popped in to grab something but other than that I've not even talked to anyone today. I'm just not in a very social mood - I know that's just part of the sadness at losing Jim. But, I'm going to have to snap out of it. Otherwise, this will turn into an ugly downward spiral.

I'm not a big complainer. As a result, people often think I am much more "together" than I really am. It's like Jeanette Walls said last year - I'm a pragmatist - there's not much point in complaining or being angry or getting overly dramatic - you just get on with life because you have no other choice.

The fact that I don't complain much means people also take me for granted a lot. Just because I do things without complaint doesn't mean they're no big deal or easy. I work for a living just like everyone else. In fact, at times I'm working far more than 40 hours a week. But, because I make time to invite people over, write notes, paint in the studio, travel, or whatever it may be, people brush it off as if it's obviously very easy for me.

It's no easier for me to have people over than it is for anyone else. It takes me just as much time to pick up the house, bake a cake, wash the dishes I'm going to serve out of, make tea, or whatever I'm doing. I'm not living in an alternate universe where that doesn't take time and energy. But because I never complain about it, people take it for granted. It's nice to be appreciated, which also happens.

Those things are also part of what makes a social experience out of our society - something we know people need. So, it seems incumbent on all of us to do our part in this regard. I feel like I'm doing my fair share. But this year I'm going to be more judicious in what I offer to host. I sometimes host events because I know people would miss them if they didn't exist and no one else is stepping up to do it. So, I do them - and I enjoy them - but it takes time and energy I could be devoting to something else.

Admittedly, I am blessed to have a job that goes in cycles - sometimes I'm very busy and sometimes I'm not so frantic. However, there are stresses to my job that - because I don't complain about - people never consider.

I want to find more time for wonder in daily life. I need to marvel at newness. I need to feel a thrill of discovery. I need to devote myself to appreciating the magic of daily living. Some experts say we have about 60,000 thoughts a day. Unfortunately, about 95% of them are the same ones we had yesterday.

I need new thoughts. One of the ways I have those is with travel and other new experiences. Other ways are reading, talking to thoughtful people, and spending time in meditation.

Two years ago at this time I was in Florida at a conference hearing some interesting speakers, so that was new information. And it was a pretty place to be.

Last year at this time I was on a trip to Texas, and had spent the day at an art exhibit that featured Candy Darling, among other things.

I've been spending some time in the studio lately, which also makes me feel better. And I've been writing quite a bit - on a novel, and in my journals. Last night I made it a point to go pull a book off the shelves that is one of those "I've always meant to read..." ones lying around, and read a few pages of that before bed. That's a great thing about books - you can get new thoughts into your brain, direct out of someone else's brain.

Speaking of reading... I ran across this poem, "When Death Comes," by Mary Oliver that seems appropriate in regard to these thoughts.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
----Mary Oliver

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Christmas Tree is Down

Thanks to Cleta, in six hours today, we went from:


Ornaments go pretty fast...

But then there are the lights... oh the lights... the lights that make it all pretty and sparkly... the lights that grow into a massive tangled wad.

When we got to the lower levels and Cleta could really see the layer of lights on the tree I think she was shocked...

But she was a trooper. She bagged almost all of the lights.

Look closely and you'll see Cleta's tennis shoes on the right side for size comparison. The pile was about knee high. Each strand gets its own little bag.

I am so incredibly relieved to have it down. Of course, it's not packed away and stashed. But, it's down. And it only took six hours to get it done. I am so incredibly thankful for Cleta's help!

Cherryl Floyd Miller

Every once in awhile, I discover a pleasant surprise online. That happened recently when I ran across the blog of Cherryl Floyd Miller.

She had linked to one of my posts and I am flattered that a writer as talented as her has read anything I've written. I mean, the woman has been on Oprah in a segment with Maya Angelou. Have I ever mentioned my love of Maya Angelou? It's substantial. Seeing her in person was one of the highlights of my life.

It's interesting that when you see your writing out of context you're sometimes struck anew by it. What a lovely experience.

I'm so thankful to Ms. Miller for this lovely perk in the day.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Natalee Holloway

WARNING: Language

OK... I'm about to piss people off... and I know it... but I'm going to say it anyway...

I am SICK of hearing about Natalee Holloway.

She went on a trip to celebrate high school graduation and choose a place where the drinking age was 18 so she and her friends could drink. She got drunk. She hooked up with some random guy - guy who you can take one look at and know he's someone to avoid, although at 18 you may not have the experience to know that. (Parents - litle tip - don't protect your kids too much - they do need to gain some life experience.) It would appear they had sex - perhaps consensual, perhaps not. Obviously, something very bad happened.

Van der Sloot seems like a real scum bag - no question about that. And who knows what really happened. We've now got these tapes where he "confesses," but in a legal sense this is very circumstantial if I remember my one law class from college. If things really happened this way - and it may well have - then one other person knows - the guy who dumped the body.

It's a sad case. It's always horrible when someone dies - particularly in what appears a violent way. And I am truly sorry for the loss to Natalee's family and friends. And she certainly didn't "deserve" to have anything bad happen to her. But can we at least agree that she needs to accept some responsibility for being drunk and hooking up? You take a chance when you do either of those things. I'm not saying it means he had a right to do whatever he did - I'm saying if different decisions were made the situation wouldn't have existed. No one abducted her. She went willingly. If we are to believe him on all counts, she approached him. If we can't believe him on all, then we can't believe him on any. You don't get it both ways - he's telling the truth or he's not.

The reporter is saying that young people don't just die from drinking too much. That's not true. Young people die all the time from drinking too much. So do old people.

OK... I'm a person who has made a lot of decisions in my life that could well have resulted in something horrible happening to me. Just ask my friend, Leah, who thinks I take far too many unnecessary risks. I don't think I do, but that's a matter of perspective. I do know I've been fortunate many times. But I've also exercised some judgement.

For example, I would not mix mind-altering conditions and randomly hooking up -  it's not a good combo for making the best decisions. If you need to get drunk before you want to hook up with a guy, he's probably not a guy you need to be with. Also, another little tip - bars are not the best places to meet the best guys. If you have to drink yourself into oblivion in order to get past your inhibitions, then honor your inhibitions. Oh, yeah, and a guy you meet while consuming large amounts of alcohol is not likely to be the man of your dreams. Not even the man of your dreams for tonight. You don't need to be shit-faced to stomach being with the man of your dreams - that's one way you'll know.

He says his semen will be in and on her body and accurately describes her underwear. People act shocked. Please, what do you think drunk 18 year olds do on the beach in Aruba? They're not there for long discussions about theoretical physics. What do you think girls who are inviting guys they don't know to take jello shots off them and then telling them they have to buy them drinks are planning? Trust me, they're not interested in the guy's intellect. They may not be planning sex, but they're not planning NO sexual contact either.

Part of my distate for the whole situation is the "Missing White Woman Syndrome." It's not Natalee's fault that she fits the profile of the type of woman the media is interested in finding out about. But it pisses me off, anyway. Thousands of people go missing and we hear about very few of them to any large degree. Chandra Levy, JonBenet Ramsey, Laci Peterson - they're all part of our lexicon. But, if they'd been non-white, poor, or "less deserving," we wouldn't know their names.

That, ultimately, is the issue. I'm sick of hearing about Natalee because it's unfair to other families in the same situation. It's very sad for her family but it's no more sad for her mother than any other mother. I don't want us to forget the others.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Blogging will be more normal... again

I know my blogging has been a bit erratic lately. Obviously, real life has been taking a lot of energy. I'm still trying to get caught up from being gone. I'm also just physically and emotionally worn out. The last 18 months have been very difficult and I think I was just holding it together and finally crumpled - being sick for five days in Kentucky, and as of yesterday I have a new crop of drugs. But I anticipate getting back on my more normal blogging schedule.

Yesterday I spent most of the day dealing with my own good health. I woke up yesterday with these very weird feelings of being unable to breathe and just not feeling normal. I went through a whole spectrum of possibilities and by 9 a.m. knew that a doctor's appointment was in my near future. Of course, Wednesday is the day my doctor is out of the office.

But, I saw one of his colleagues who was completely uninterested in all of my other symptoms and weirdness once he listened to my lungs. He said he wasn't surprised that I felt like I couldn't breathe - that I was wheezing and needed more antibiotics, as well as some other things, to clear it all up.

Of course, I could have told the doctor last week who was filling in when my doc was gone that when they gave me 7 days of amoxicillin that that wasn't going to be sufficient. In his defense, I did call from Kentucky and he didn't get to see me in person, but I'm pretty aware of my own condition and not given to wanting antibiotics just for the thrill of spending money on them and being tied to ingesting them multiple times a day.

But, who would listen to me? I'm merely the patient. I'm just the one who knows how much I'm coughing and how "productive" it is. I'm just the one who has been dealing with my own health for 46 years. I'm just the one who knows that 7 days never clears up anything that is substantial enough for me to actually seek medical attention. I'm just the one who spent most of childhood on some sort of antibiotic, trying to kill whatever was in me, which didn't happen until I was on penicillin daily for one year. Yes, one year. After that I went from being on antibiotics every few weeks to maybe once every 2-3 years. But, yeah, what would I know? I know my own doctor listens to me - it's one of the reasons I like him so much. He should do bedside training for other doctors.

Yesterday the doctor filling in took me seriously, even though he told me nothing about my weird symptoms that caused me to go in. However, he seems to have hit the nail on the head because I feel better today than I have in weeks. I left with prescriptions for an inhaler, a round of prednisone and some heavy duty antibiotics.

Last night was the first night in a long time that I went to sleep without listening to the sound of my lungs wheezing, although I didn't know what that was. And, not surprisingly, I slept really well for many hours.

I woke up this morning realizing that a grant I had been working on earlier this month, but hadn't finished when I left for Kentucky, was due tomorrow. I've got it ready to print now and fortunately, I can drop it off in town so it will arrive before tomorrow's deadline. Thank goodness that popped into my brain. And fortunately, I felt like finishing it today.

I'm optimistic I'm on the road to recovery now.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Kansas Caucus

Tonight was the Democratic Caucus in Reno County and we had 640 people show up. This may not seem like a lot to people who live in heavily populated, heavily democratic areas, but by comparison last time we had about 80 people show up.

The local party was not at all prepared for the numbers. And, this was in the midst of a huge snow storm.

Just getting us all in the door and ready to caucus was a big job.

Of course I saw a bunch of people I know.

I had barely gotten in the door and on the side for Hillary than I heard, "Patsy, you're on the wrong side." It was Sean Buchanan, who I just adore.

He was the official designated speech person for Obama and did a great job. He is a senior at Buhler High School and this will be his first election in which he can vote. He said when he saw Obama speak at the convention last time that he just knew Obama should be the next president.

I like Obama, but I am a Hillary supporter. I think she is the best choice for this time in our history. But, I'm thrilled we have two excellent candidates. I would be proud to call either of them President and I will whole-heartedly support whichever of them wins the nomination.. And I love it that people are inspired to participate in the process.

Obama won our local caucus, as well as the state, but we're not a winner take all state - so the delegates are split. For example, we had nine delegates - Hillary got three and Barack got six.

Rumor is that our governor is on Obama's short list for a running mate. She is an incredible legislator and would make a great Vice President. I think that has probably encouraged even more support for him.

It was amazing to see so many people out tonight - particularly in light of the weather.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cookbooks for Free

I've been perusing "Clayton's Quaker Cookbook" tonight. It was published in 1883 in San Francisco and really captures a time and place. That's one of the things I adore about cookbooks - the snapshot they give us.

I do not own a copy of this, but found it online. You, too, can have a copy - for free! You can download your own pdf.

You can find tons of other cookbooks online, too. There's a whole world of cookbooks I wasn't aware of until tonight. I'm not sure I needed more to look at.

Cookbooks vary tremendously in the amount of knowledge they assume you have. Most church cookbooks are written with cooks in mind so they don't give a lot of detailed instructions. You might find, "bake at 350 degrees until done."

Well, at this time, instructions were even more basic. In fact, there really weren't instructions - there were ingredients. I've been looking for a good sponge cake recipe - maybe this is it - 5 eggs, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups flour, 1/2 teacup cold water; mix well and bake quickly. How much easier could it be?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Cairo Illinois

Cairo, Illinois is a river town, and much of its architecture reflects that. I have always loved the bowed balconies on this building, echoing the bow of a ship. You also see lots of port hole windows around town and most of the structures are built up to allow for the flooding that was once prominent before the flood gates.

On my way back this morning I took some time to take photos because it is disappearing. The town has been in ruin for years, and now there are many empty lots where houses once stood. It seems many of them have "for sale" or "public auction" signs. I fear that soon all will be left are the nondescript, 1970s box houses, and that all the interesting architecture will be gone.

I always have this urge to "do" something but I have no idea what that might be. I'm not even sure what the problem is, much less do I know the solution.

It's a beautiful ruin in so many ways, but when it's all empty lots it will just be ruin and there will be nothing to redeem it. There's something left there, now, but I don't think another decade will leave much in its wake. Very sad.

If much of the architecture looks a little familiar to you and you can't figure out why, it's probably because it reminds you of New Orleans. Like fashion, food, and everything else, architecture styles moved up the river too.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Wooden Barn in Kentucky

I mentioned the wind storm a few nights ago peeled back parts of the barn on the farm where I grew up. I snapped a photo to share. This is the same barn Greg photographed that was on yesterday's post, just from a different angle. Obv iously, the tin roof was already partially gone, but it had a full, solid wall until a couple of days ago.

My family bought the farm in 1949 and the barn was already on it, along with the one beside Jackie and Mary Ann's house and a big tobacco barn that blew down in a wind storm in the late 50s. I, of course, don't remember that since I wasn't yet around, but when I asked Jackie if both these were here when our parents bought the farm he told me about that one, too. Apparently wind storms are hard on barns for our family.

I've been photographing old barns in Ballard County for the last few trips I've made back here. One of these days I'll get around to making a big post of some of those. Old wooden barns are disappearing and being replaced by metal monsters. I understand all the reasons for such things, but I just can't think of a barn as anything other than wood. A metal building is... well... a metal building... it could be anything... and that's part of what makes them appealing. But a barn has to be wood.

I'd like a barn... out behind the Queen Anne mansion I want. I'm a woman of contrasts, what can I say?


This is the barn on the farm where I grew up. As you can see, it is starting to fall apart a bit, as are many of the old barns around this part of Kentucky. After the storm the other night, more of it is gone, as it peeled away a bit of the back part, under where the roof is missing.

Greg took this photo last week when he was here.

I also love this one he took of Terrell Road.

I will leave this weekend to head back to Kansas. I have really needed these days with my family in this place that is home. Unfortunately, I've been really sick the last three days with a respitory infection. I haven't even dressed today, which is practically unheard of for me. I'm hoping the morning brings a much perkier Patsy.