Saturday, December 31, 2011

Send Love to All

Here on the last day of the year I'm mulling over the months past and looking for guidance to approach the ones ahead. I picked up last year's Christmas gift from my friend, Martha, a copy of Dr. Wayne Dyer's book, "10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace," and turned at random to page 108/109.

There I read:
First, you have to get past blame. Then you have to learn to send love to all, rather than anger or resentment. The story is told of the enlightened master who always responded to outbursts of criticism, judgement, and ridicule with love, kindness and peace. One of his devotees asked him how he could possibly be so kind and peaceful in the face of such disparaging invective. His response to the devotee was the question: "If someone offers you a gift, and you do not accept that gift, to whom does the gift belong?" The answer leads you to the extra mile. Ask yourself, "Why would I allow something that belongs to someone else to be a source of my resentment?" As the title of a popular book says, "What you think of me is none of my business."

"Send Love To All" seems a worthy approach a new year. It also seems a large task. But bearing that in mind may help me be a kinder person in the coming months.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Lessons Learned and the New Year Looming Large

The New Year is looming large and I confess I've not devoted enough time to thinking about the previous 12 months and looking ahead to the next 12.

I do not make resolutions. They are generally set aside in a very short amount of time, and only leave the feeling of failure lingering in their wakes. No, thank you. Life comes with enough things to worry over and feel bad about. I'm not going to willingly create more. I find the whole custom of resolutions to be folly.

However, I do spend some time each year thinking about the lessons of the year past, and how I'd like things to look in the coming year.

The year of 2011 will certainly go down in my personal history books as the year I learned some lessons. To be more accurate, I had lessons I'd already learned, but ignored, reinforced. I shan't ignore them again. (And, really, how often do you get to use the word, "shan't?")

1. When your gut tells you that you can't trust someone, you know you really can't. Proceed with caution. (I did, and it worked out okay for me, but it was a lesson repeated nonetheless. I should pay attention.)
2. Loyalty is a scarce commodity. (I already knew this one, too. It's just hard for me to fathom because I am a fiercely loyal person. But, so noted, I got it!)
3. Some people will lie to you when the truth would suit better. (Mama always said this, and I've witnessed it in action multiple times this year. People who should, do not keep their Facebook feeds private. Blissfully, I've not been a victim of this - only a witness. But it is worthy of notice.)
4. Your true friends will support you in whatever hare-brained idea you may have that has a chance, but they will reel you back before you get too close to the edge if it's really just nuts. (Thank you. I know it's a fine line to walk with me sometimes!)
5. When you know what you want, it's a lot easier to get it than when you're unsure. (Being clear remains a struggle for me, but it is a necessity.)
6. The universe is incredibly generous to those who work hard.
7. I am a very, very, very lucky girl in many different ways. (I already knew this, too, but it has been reinforced repeatedly. I am grateful for the goodness in my life.)

I think that's enough of a list to start with. It needs to be refined and rethought and reconsidered. Something perhaps best done tomorrow, as this year comes to an end.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011


This is a great article about happiness and some of the ways to get there!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quote of the Day

  Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

                                                       ----- Albert Einstein

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Little Bit More

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, 
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? 
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. 
It came without packages, boxes or bags. 

And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. 
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. 
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. 
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

                     --- Dr. Seuss

Over the years I have done some extravagant Christmas decorating. Not the kind that would net me on the Home and Garden Channel's extreme home shows, but more than the average person does. I think I've created some really beautiful trees. I love to decorate, send cards, entertain and do all of the things some people deem "shallow" at Christmas time. 

For the past couple of years I wasn't able to do my usual decorating and this year I was planning to go all out. But, circumstances beyond anyone's control resulted in a change of plans. So, I went from quite extravagant decorating with at least one tree in every room, to not having even a simple tree this year - a first for me. But, it was the best thing for me this year. 

But, it seemed to surprise a couple of people that I was still in a holiday mood. I was singing carols, looking at lights, enjoying being a Secret Santa at K-Mart, and being my generally bubbly, Christmas-loving, self. 

It was only after the third person in my world mentioned to me how great it was that I was enjoying the holiday season, even though I didn't have a tree up, that I realized I've never explained how it works for me. I enjoy Christmas every day of the year. 

I always leave at least one Christmas thing out all year because I think every day needs a little Christmas in it. I was so touched when I learned my friend, Matthew, had adopted this sentiment as well and always had a little Christmas out. One of the things I leave out all the time in a tiny nativity I bought when we were in El Salvador together. 

Christmas to me isn't about the trees, the matching packages with pretty ribbon, and the stacks of cards. It's not about the beautiful light displays and the wonderful music. Those are just visible manifestations of the spirit of Christmas. And they're reminders to me - and everyone else - that we are going to take a few moments and pause and rejoice and sing and gather and celebrate.

Because they serve as wonderful reminders of the beauty of the Christmas spirit, I find them enriching. I don't find them shallow. I don't find them commercial. I don't find them crass. The trees, lights, cards, treats and all the rest remind me of the less tangible things about the holiday season. They remind me to think of others when I send their cards or put an ornament on the tree that they gave to me. It's an opportunity to gather with people and make their favorite treats. The beauty of all those ornaments together on the trees reminds me that life is a tapestry, and Christmas is a time to appreciate and celebrate that. All of these things are a physical manifestation of love. And that is what Christmas is to me - celebrating love. Can I do it without those things? Yes. Is it intensified with them? Yes.

I often decorate early, so by December I can just enjoy the holiday season fully. But, it's when everyone else is joining in that it is magnified. What people celebrate may vary, but most of us celebrate something this season. Most will choose gifts for loved ones. They'll be thinking of others. 

While I missed my tree, and I hope 2012 offers the chance to do lots of decorating and cards and all, I already know what the Grinch learned on the mountain that day - Christmas will come regardless.

In fact, it's already here... 

And I intend to keep Christmas, because I find it to embody the best of human nature. 


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Unto Them...

May you feel childlike wonder at all Christmas is...

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

50 Trips Around the Sun

In a few hours I will mark 50 trips around the sun. I feel perpetually 28, but the calendar says otherwise.

I have a few gray hairs and so far don't feel the need to dye them back to my natural brown. The day may come. The day may be tomorrow. But for now I'm content.

I have a few lines, but I think I'll just let them be a road map of a life that has been lived. I've not always taken the safe road, and I have no regrets about that. But those rocky roads do tend to lead to a few more gray hairs and a few more lines. But that's okay.

I'm not going to be one of those women who pretends to be something she's not. I'm 50. My body has been moving upon this earth for five decades. It has a little wear and tear. My mind has also been working on this earth for five decades. It's pretty darned interesting.

Not everyone gets to live even one dream, and I've been blessed to watch the world come together like an orchestra with a seasoned conductor to make mine possible more than once.

I've lusted, loved and left. I've sought, stretched and stonewalled. I've given into my whims, and I've done the responsible thing. I've taken off too soon and I've tarried too long. I've longed for, and I've let go of. I've been kissed on the banks of the Nile and given my cares to the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. I've bundled up against the cold of the early morning Paris snow, and soaked in the warmth of a long evening in the lushness of Nicaragua. I've prayed alone inside the Pyramid of Unas and with the masses at St. Peter's. I am a very, very, very lucky girl.

The people I've met along the way are incredible. How fortunate am I? I have people in my world I know I can count on in any situation. We may not rely on each other for the small things, but when there's a problem it's like Ghostbusters - Who you gonna call? I have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances who add texture to my existence. I have a friend I've been having lunch with almost every week for nearly 20 years. You build up some trust in that amount of time. That is a commitment. I have my Creative Sisterhood group, and the connections of people I've gone on retreat with. And I've been blessed to have amazing men in my life over the years. If you've read here for very long, you know I keep my private life pretty private, but suffice it to say I've been fortunate. Although I'm not in love at the moment, who knows what tomorrow holds.

It has been a good 50 years. Each decade has had an unintentional focus. My twenties were wild. My thirties were exploratory. My forties were using all I'd learned up until then to come to some new conclusions.

The fifties? Well, we shall see...

And isn't that the most wonderful part of life?

The possibilities...
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Scenes

From Victoria, Kansas

From Carthage, Missouri

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Down by the Riverside

In the faith tradition I grew up in, there's the concept of water washing away sin. Being dunked in the water is a public profession of faith and symbolizes a cleansing. We used to go to the river for that ritual, and I liked those Sunday afternoon baptisms. I, however, was baptized in a clean, antiseptic "baptismal pool." Well, at least we were told it was cleaner. In reality the Ohio River might have been a better option. I have always wished I had been baptized in the river.

It's ironic that although I grew up within miles of the Ohio and Mississippi, and went by boat in the backwater many times, I'm not sure I've ever been in the river water. It's odd, really. I go visit the confluence of the rivers every time I return to Kentucky, but I can't recall ever wading into them, or even dipping a toe in.

We learn early the river is dangerous, with currents that take grown men under and let them resurface again only when the life is gone from them. Many of us, including me, have family histories that include stories of men who were good swimmers heading out to the river one morning to fish, and not coming home again. But that's not reason enough to keep his brother from going the next day. The mystery draws us near.

We all know those currents carry away things other than men, too. We take our cares, our worries, our sins we confess to no one, and dump them into the river - metaphorically and literally. We surrender the jewelry from men we no longer love to the currents. We give the left over love to the waves to rid ourselves of it so we can love another. We cleanse our minds by letting the waves that lap at the shore carry away our errant thoughts and feelings. Like love, the river may be dangerous, but it's ever enticing as well.

The river draws us back again and again. Even if we don't enter it, we are compelled to go pay our respects. It's a constant, a place we go to for reorienting ourselves. We may be afraid to dip a toe into it, but the river demands our attention nonetheless. And we give it. We have no choice.

In 2001, I gave pieces of driftwood I gathered at the river to some friends with the following piece I wrote.

I am a person of rivers.

For those of us born to rivers, they are life itself. We speak of them reverently. We fear them. We cherish them. We are drawn to them by a force we cannot comprehend but have no choice but to obey. They flow through our souls. They define us.

We go to the river for strength, for guidance, for solace. We cannot possibly find our way in the world without returning to the river periodically. It beckons to us. We cannot deny its call. We learn at a young age that there's no point in even trying. Not that we want to anyway. The river knows when we are away from it too long. It summons us home.

We gather at the riverside for family celebrations, baptisms, and catharsis. We have rituals, public and private, that are carried out only on those banks.

The confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is a place I return to when I've lost my way in the world. I have said prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of entreatment from the same spot. I have sought direction and consolation. I will do both again as long as I walk upon this Earth.

I gathered this driftwood on an April Day of 2001 with the idea of sharing it with a few special friends at Christmastime. I had no idea then how profoundly changed I would be by the end of this year. My life will never be the same as it was that day.

I can't give you the river. I can't even explain its attraction for those of us born to it. But I want to share with you a small token of it. May this driftwood encourage you to visit what restores you.

I hope the holidays are a time of joy for you and yours this Christmas.

Christmas 2001


Music you might want to enjoy while thinking about rivers:
The Decemberists "Down by the Water"

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Secret Santa at K-Mart

Reading the stories of "Secret Santas" paying off people's layaway at K-Marts across the country inspired me this week. I posted a link to a story on Facebook and then decided I'd call our local K-Mart to see if they would let people do it. They would. So, I created a Facebook event, just to tell people that and encourage them to do it if they felt inspired to.

By the time I had created the event, a friend had commented on my story link that he would chip in if I wanted to spearhead doing this. I said, "sure," and went and added that to the event. (Thanks, Aaron, for really getting the ball rolling and making this happen!)

Well, what happened was kinda cool. People were incredibly generous. I had friends in four different states who contributed to the fund and today I went out to K-Mart to pay on layaway for some folks. There were seven people total who contributed money and we helped eight families. I know nothing about these folks, other than what was on their layaway.

I have to say that Carol, who helped me at K-Mart, was AMAZING! K-Mart was prepared and had a list of contract numbers on a sheet of paper taped up in case anyone wanted to do a Secret Santa. Carol told me they had about $1,000 each of the last two days with Secret Santas paying layaway.

I had $350 to spend today, and ended up chipping in another $5 to pay off one last one. Carol was so incredibly helpful. She looked up contracts and found ones that were obviously Christmas presents - a few toys here and there, but largely practical things. We bought Barbies, Dora the Explorer toys, a construction set, Cars toys, Mickey Mouse, some preschool educational toys, a journal, and a Captain America figure. We also bought gloves, pajamas, socks, coats, and other clothes. We didn't find the high dollar things you might expect on a Christmas list. It was obvious to me that these folks were looking to put more than a couple of things under the tree.

She was very helpful in finding ones that had been in the system for a while, and been being paid on for some time. Most of ours were from October and early November. One was actually delinquent, but now has just a tiny bit left on it. I like thinking that tomorrow they will get a call that their Christmas is paid for. It was all things for kids. Carol thanked me repeatedly and I told her I would pass the appreciation on to those who made it possible.

In each case I paid off the majority of it, leaving less than five dollars. It has to have something left on the ticket so it stays in the system. K-Mart will call the people and tell them someone has paid on their layaway and how much is left, so they know they can get it for Christmas. Many of the payment histories showed payments of $11, $13, $20. The largest one on any of the tickets we looked at was $40.

I am so incredibly grateful to people for trusting me with their hard-earned money and letting me play Santa. Although I had no experience with layaway until today, I know there are many, many, many good, honest people in this world who just can't get ahead financially. They want the same things for their loved ones that you want - safety, comfort, food on the table, and presents under the tree. I know some are skeptical about such things, but I decided years ago that it's not my place to judge what happens with anything I've given after I've given it. I will just give what I can, when I can, and let it go.

Today was a wonderful way to spend a little time in the Christmas season. Thank you to my friends for giving me such a fantastic gift.

Although no one asked for it, I want to provide a full accounting, which is below:

Here's a screenshot of my paypal for the last week. (I started this a couple of days ago) You can see $300 was contributed. I rarely use my paypal except for buying online, so all of this was for the Secret Santa fund.

I erased people's names so people could remain anonymous if they wish. I 'd love for anyone who's willing to speak up and say they contributed, but I didn't want to publish that information. As you can see, people were very generous. I was not able to contribute nearly as much myself, but it felt good to do what I could. And, if you have only a few dollars to spend and want to do it, you can. At our store, the lower contract numbers are the older accounts.

Additionally, I had some cash contributed, and my own small contribution, making a total of $355. (Was going to be $350 but I chipped in another $5 at the end to pay off one last one.)

Here are the K-Mart receipts. I erased my debit card numbers and approval info, as well as the layaway contract numbers. But I wanted everyone to see that all the money was spent on families. Carol wrote on each one that it was a Secret Santa payment.

Thank you to everyone for giving me the gift of playing Santa today! If there's any accounting I've not included you'd like to see, please let me know.

And a Happy Christmas to all!

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The Myth of the Paperless Office

For at least a decade we've been hearing about the paperless office. I'm a girl who spends practically every waking moment connected by one or more devices and uses technology in almost every aspect of my life. I've been shopping online since we could, paying my bills electronically even before banks started offering "bill pay" services, and signed up for a account while it was still in beta. So why am I surrounded by paper? Some might say drowning in paper?

At Thanksgiving, when I was packing up my "virtual" office to go spend time with my family three states away, it occurred to me that I was sure lugging around a lot more than a laptop. Shouldn't it seem that would be all that would be necessary in this paperless world? After all, I'm backed up to the cloud. In fact, to two different services. But I was carrying something heavy - what was it - oh yes, paper. Paper filed in paper file folders. Why would I need a single piece of paper? Much less enough to need folders?

Well, today the answer dawned on me as I was sorting through stacks of paper on my desk, looking for a note. Because the rest of the world isn't paperless. And until it is, I can't be either. And neither can you, unless you only interact with others who are. Is there any paper at Google? Yahoo? Ebay? I'm betting there is. I bet they have file folders, too.

What I was looking for today was a note to myself that I wrote on paper because I was in an environment where it wasn't convenient to use technology when the information came to me. Why? Because the world isn't paperless. By a long shot. And we have to stop pretending it is going to be. I don't know, but I'm guessing sales of file folders and reams of paper are still quite steady. Perhaps we print more now that we can easily click the printer icon on any webpage.

Let me be clear and say, I'm a big fan of paper. I love paper in all its various permutations. I have many thousands of pages of journals I've filled over the years. I don't want my world to be totally paperless, but my office area should be mostly paperless. We generate things on the computer, email them to people, and then we both print them out and file them. There's something quietly insane about that. And  I think it's ridiculous that I ever have to write a check for anything. But, we do. Why? Because we need a paper trail.

Yes... a paper trail... the very phrase tells me we are a long way from having paperless offices. So, I suppose I'd best get back to dealing with the paper in my supposedly paperless office.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Past 12

Love the blue, white and silver combo.
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How Happy People Live

I'm blessed to be a pretty happy person, and I know I've written about things I do here many times. Tonight someone posted this link and I wanted to share it with you. Maybe so you'll realize I'm not just a nut job, and there really is research behind the science of happiness.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Charmed Existence

On a daily basis, I consider how incredibly fortunate I am. I have family and friends I love, a comfortable home, my daily bread, good health, and so much more.

I am inspired by the world around me and lucky enough to be able to manifest some of that inspiration into finished projects.

This is a time of year for reflecting, and I seem to come to the same conclusion every year - I lead a charmed existence.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Past 11

One of my favorite trees from years past. This was in the dining room one year.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."        
                           --- biochemist Szent Gyorgyi

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Ask Yourself: Am I Johnny Mathis?

I don't like my Christmas Carols messed with. I like them sung as written, unless you have earned the right to take liberties. The number of people who have earned that is very limited in my world. It's pretty much Johnny Mathis.

 So, after we went to see his Christmas show in November, I created this helpful chart musicians could refer to when planning for holiday recordings.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Past 10

I love this Santa face... just the way Santa should look it seems to me.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011


"The spiritual instinct is to relax into the mystery of life as it's happening." 
                                           --- Elizabeth Lesser 

When I heard this comment from Elizabeth Lesser, the author of "Broken Open," I thought how similar it sounds to the traditional religious teaching of "Trust God."

People often get very caught up in terminology.

I have very traditional religious beliefs in many ways. But I also believe in the teachings of other religions considered less traditional in the United States. I see more similarity than difference in various faiths. We can get worked up about what something is called or how it's practiced, when the underlying belief is essentially the same.

Over the years, I've learned to think of this as "spiritual" as opposed to "religious" because it is something far too intimate and personal to be labeled as being part of a religious group. I honor that approach, and at times I wish for it, but there is not a group that believes as I do, so it is not an option for me. I also do not want to be considered a representative of any group and held up as a model of how a person who believes that way should act, speak or engage with the world. I am far too fallible for that life.

I find tremendous comfort in my faith and I wish that for others. But I believe people have to find their own paths. It is not my place to interfere with that, or impose my own structure on it. It will be far more meaningful and central to a person's life if it's something they come to on their own. At least that's how it has been for me, and I have only my own experience to base that on. I'm always open to discussing my beliefs with people who are seeking, but only if they ask.

In the past six months, more people have asked me point-blank questions about my beliefs than has happened in probably the last decade. I'm not sure if something has shifted or if it's pure coincidence. In one case it was a friend who had been in my life for a long time. He was surprised I had not "preached" to him over the years. I responded that while I honor that approach for others, I'm certain it's not what was intended for me. I believe doors opened with gentleness and kindness are more productive than those forced open. Of course, everyone is different, and people respond to different things.

To me it seems if we could all focus on the similarities instead of the differences, we'd be better off. But, alas, that does not seem to be the path for many either. And I know people find faith in a million different ways, and people do not have to approach it exactly as I do it in order for it to be valid.
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Skydiving to Grandma's House

This is part of a Christmas display at the home of Dale Hankins in Hutchinson. Each year he adds another figure who's "Going to Grandma's House." When I interviewed him for "Hutchinson Magazine" earlier this year, he showed me this figure he was working on who would be skydiving. Obviously, it came together!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Celtic Tenors in Salina Kansas at Stiefel Theatre

So, I kinda fell in love Friday night.

Not with one guy, but four. (Get your mind out of the gutter. It wasn't like that.)

There were roses, music, soft lights, a crowded room - pretty much all the elements one needs. It was sweet, it was funny, it was memorable.

How did this all happen? We went to see the Celtic Tenors in Salina at the Stiefel Theatre.

And a girl can't help but fall in love with men who can play and sing like that! Especially when they smile at you from the stage, give you a rose during a rendition of "Lay Down Sally" that is unlike any you've heard before, and come to the lobby afterwards to meet the fans, sign autographs and pose for pictures.

I hope their significant others don't mind that I fell in love with them all. I just couldn't help myself. Surely they will understand. Thank you to the wives, children, and other loved ones who share them by letting them go on the road and entertain.

Now the Highlights Magazine test - what is different about Matthew in the following two photos - one from the first half, one from after the show?

Yes, he shaved his beard at intermission. Apparently his wife called yesterday morning and told him to "lose the beard." He dutifully did. That is a good husband!

By the way, if you want to be chosen for such honors, here's a hint: Sit close and smile. I'm starting to notice that people are sometimes not very engaged at concerts. Let loose. Have some fun. Smile, for goodness sake. It's fun! When you go to something like this, you're a participant, not just a viewer. It's not TV. It's live. Enjoy!

If you get a chance to see The Celtic Tenors, do. You will not regret it. I can't imagine another show in which you can hear "Silent Night" sung in three different languages, mixed in with some Bob Dylan, ancient carols, and the best rendition of "O Holy Night" I have ever heard. Up until now, Johnny Mathis held that title, with Mahalia Jackson coming in a close second. And I love them both - just went to see Johnny last month - but this was a goose bump moment. I'm a girl who has heard some renditions of "O Holy Night," my nickname is "Miss Christmas," after all - and this one is my number one now.

Great show. Really fun. A fabulous way to spend a holiday season night.

My friend, Greg, took these photos, and was also responsible for our evening of fun. He is a master of fun. Thank you, Greg!

Both Sharon and I were gifted with roses from the stage. A night of good fun and amazing music.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Minding My Own Business

I am learning. At least trying to. To mind my own business.

There's a part of my brain that just automatically jumps ahead to the logical conclusion of various situations. So, I do the equivalent of saying, "Hey! There's a train headed for you. Get out of the way." Because if I saw someone about to get hit by a train I would tell them, assuming that for whatever reason they didn't see it, hear it, perceive it, or whatever. I believe no one would want to get hit by the train. So, as a fellow human being, it's my duty to say, "Hey! Train! Look out!"

But metaphorical trains are not the same as real trains. People do not want to be warned about the train coming 'round the bend that I can already hear in the distance. They want to see it for themselves and they may have a plan to lay a new track before it reaches them. So, I need to mind my own business. As I'm fond of saying to myself these days, "Busy yourself with your own doins'."

Unfortunately, this seems far easier said than done.

But, as Scarlett famously pointed out, "Tomorrow is another day."
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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Christmas Past 9

A vintage ornament from the Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum.
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Monday, December 05, 2011


I haven't been writing as much here lately. People will sometimes ask if I'm okay when that happens. I am. I'm fine. Just very busy with that real life stuff. It does sometimes cut into my time at the keyboard. I know - it's an awful thing - but true. Just joking, of course...

I just returned from a couple of weeks in Kentucky with my family. I went to offer some help for loved ones who were recuperating from medical procedures. I'm not sure I accomplished a whole lot along those lines - I'm not much of a nurse - but I did provide some "support services" while others did those things. I cooked quite a bit and cleaned just a little bit. It was great to be with my family, and hopefully I was at least not a hindrance!

Only on this trip did I realize I have never been responsible for making three meals a day before. I'm not sure I'm up to the task. That whole fantasy I've had of being a domestic goddess is feeling a little less realistic. However, I'd like to say in my defense, that I'm sure I would get much better at it over time. I'd get more organized, which seems to be the key.

I was mighty proud of myself that I managed to get an entire Thanksgiving dinner's worth of groceries purchased in only ONE grocery store trip. I expected I would have to go out for something else, but my copious notes did me well. I had a whole cart full of items - not sure I've ever gathered up that many groceries at one time before.

It was kind of fun to make a big Thanksgiving dinner. I cooked for about a day and a half to get it all done. But, it all turned out well. At least I think so. Perhaps those who were present for dinner would have other things to say about it.

While I was making my lists for the various grocery store aisles, I realized organization is a real key to so many things. I think I'm horribly unorganized, but other people constantly tell me I'm very, very organized. I guess organized is in the eye of the beholder.

But as I was thinking about this later, it occurred to me that I do have some natural organizational skills and, like most things we do without much effort, I take them for granted. It is something I need to appreciate more about myself.

Those organizational skills are the things that allow me to divide a grocery list out by the categories and recipes. And they're the same skills that make it possible for me to take a notepad out and plan a project from start to finish. Not that you don't make some adjustments as you go, but you have to develop a framework so you have a place to start and a direction to head.

Moments of self-realization can come from the oddest things. Who would have thought I would have learned I really am organized by making pumpkin pie? (And, yes, the crust was homemade!)
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Christmas Past 8

One of my favorite trees from a Christmas past...

Sunday, December 04, 2011


I've had two experiences lately that have pointed out how perceptions can vary tremendously.

I was speaking with a highly educated person recently and in the course of the conversation I mentioned an article in Scientific American Mind I had read about the topic we were discussing. The look on his face was obvious shock. I gathered he thought I was not someone who would be reading anything more thoughtful than a supermarket tabloid. There was no malice about the interaction, just surprise on his part.

A few weeks earlier, I was speaking with someone about HCC, and with disdain they said, "those college students," as if being in college was an awful thing. It was clear they thought seeking higher education was a waste of time. The sneer said "those college students" could use a little come uppance because they thought they were better than this person who had no college education. Of course, no interaction had occurred that would logically lead to that assessment, but this woman assumed they would look down on her.

So, someone with a Ph.D. is surprised we can have intelligent conversation because I have less education than he does. And someone who didn't seek college feels antagonistic toward people doing so.

I'm not sure I would have noted either of these things if they hadn't happened in close proximity to each other. And I'm not sure what it means except that perceptions are odd. We're all being affected by them every day and may not even recognize they exist - in others or ourselves. Much to think about.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Christmas Past 7

A view from Christmas past... the gold and copper tree I love.
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Friday, December 02, 2011

Christmas Past 6

A view from a Christmas past...

An ornament from a friend who I've shared tea with... Lovely!

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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Divinity Recipe

It is officially the Christmas season. No one can argue with me about that anymore. It's after Thanksgiving. It's December. It's official. One of things we love at Christmas - and other times - is divinity candy.

While I was in Kentucky visiting my family, I made a couple of batches of divinity. They were a big hit. My brother even bestowed the ultimate compliment on me:

"The divinity is good. It's as good as Mama's." 

Like me, and Mama, my brother doesn't hand out compliments casually, so I knew he meant it.

We shared some with the nurses at the hospital and one of them said it was the best he had ever eaten. So, I was feeling quite proud of myself. I will just not mention the number of batches I had to make until I kind of got the hang of it. Some things are best left in the past. Nor will I mention that every once in awhile I have to throw out a batch and start over. If things don't go well, you can't fix it. Just toss it and start over. It's cheap until you add the nuts.

If you didn't know my mom and her penchant for divinity making, suffice it to say she won the purple grand champion ribbon at the fair for her divinity.

It has taken me awhile to get the hang of it and, frankly, every time I start a batch there's an element of mystery to how it will turn out. But, I keep making it. Miss Joy has provided me with ample opportunity to practice this past year, which has been nice.

Anyway, I'm sharing the recipe with you in case you want to make some for the holidays. My mom heard this on the radio in the 1930s and wrote it down.

Mary Lea's Divinity

2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup syrup
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites, beaten
pecans to taste

Mix sugar, syrup and water. Stir together and then cook over medium heat without stirring. Beat the egg whites so they hold their shape. I go toward the "stiffly beaten" side as opposed to the "soft peak" side. When the cooked mixture spins a nice thread, pour it slowly into the beaten egg whites and continue to beat until it starts to "fudge." When it will hold its shape you can spoon it out onto waxed paper to cool. I don't add the nuts until I know it's going to "fudge," but if you're confident you can put them in earlier.

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Christmas Past 5

A view from a Christmas past... I do love stars!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Lately people have been complimenting the photos on  my blog a lot. It's very kind and I'm most appreciative of their comments. It has made me think about some of my favorite photos here over the years. They appeal to me for different reasons.

I never feel particularly confident of my own photos, probably because my best friend is a professional photographer so I have that to compare my own work to. However, I suppose for someone who's never had any training and has never owned a camera that costs more than a couple of hundred dollars, they're not bad. Here are a couple I especially enjoy:

There are others, but these are some I've run across recently that I like. I posted links to the blogs so you can go back and read if you wish. I certainly understand if you only want to look at the pretty pictures!

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Christmas Past 4

A scene from Christmases past...

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Past 3

A scene from Christmases past... It's one way I'm celebrating this year... I hope you enjoy...

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Who We Are

I'm continually fascinated by how people communicate to the world who they are. We do it through thousands of things - from the clothes we wear and the cars we drive to the way we speak. What we choose to do for a living and how we spend our free time all give clues to who we are. Then there are a million more subtle clues. Of course, none of those tells the whole story - they're just a little bit of the picture.

Sometimes it occurrs to me that I barely know myself, so I'm not sure what I am communicating at any given moment. And, almost immediately, I think of all the time I've spent discovering one thing or another about myself and am astonished I don't know more. But it seems foolish to expect anyone else to know much about me when I'm a mystery to myself in many ways.

It's quite amazing how much we tell about ourselves by things we never even think about. For example, if you didn't know me at all and saw me wearing a vintage pin, you might assume:
1. Either I spend a lot of time hunting for it or I inherited it. (It's the former.)
2. I don't pay much attention to fashion - at least not current fashion. (Although there was a brief few months a couple of years ago when sparkly pins were the "in" thing. But by and large they are not.)
3. I am probably more of a girly-girl than a tom-boy girl. (Most tom boys don't care much for sparkly pins of any sort.)
4. It's likely I have other vintage things in my home because it would be unlikely I'd go to antique stores for only one thing. (I've never bought a new piece of furniture in my life.)

Multiply that over dozens of little things like that and you get a good idea of who someone is.

In fact, in communication theory classes, a common trick of teachers is to ask students twenty questions about the teacher on the first day. Although they're just meeting, the number of questions students can answer correctly is quite high.

Even when we think we're being impersonal, we're broadcasting to the world who we are in a hundred different ways. I suppose the bigger question is how we got to be who we are. That one, I'm afraid, takes far more contemplation.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Past 2

I'm going to be revisiting some Christmas joys of Christmases past over the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy...
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Teens and Tweets - Emma Sullivan and Governor Brownback and #heblowsalot

So... there's been a little ruckus lately because an 18 year old said something on Twitter about Governor Brownback that his staff didn't like. Her principal demanded she write an apology letter. She has refused.

Regardless of your politics, you should be glad 18 year-old Emma Sullivan understands she has the right of free speech. Her parents or her teachers or someone has done a good job on that one.

Only because people like her have stood up and demanded to exercise their civil rights do we have any. It should not be the role of the Governor's office to try and silence anyone through fear or other coercion, which I can only assume was their intent when they contacted the Youth in Government program about it. Thomas Jefferson said, "Does the government fear us? Or do we fear the government? When the people fear the government, tyranny has found victory."

As citizens, we should be questioning why the Governor's staff felt a need to call the organization involved. I think it's great that they are monitoring Twitter - very smart - but their actions indicate they have little understanding of social media. A little knowledge can be more dangerous than none it seems. They made a very poor decision to take something out of that realm and bring it into another one.

Ms. Sullivan had 65 followers when she sent the infamous tweet with the hashtag "#heblowsalot." Now she has thousands of followers. In addition, her comments are a topic on multiple high-profile sites and national news organizations. People are tweeting their support for her views by using the same hashtag. If the Governor's staff had just left it alone, a few of her friends might have gotten a chuckle and that would have been it.

If I were a parent at Ms. Sullivan's school, I would be mighty, mighty, mighty unhappy with the principal. He instructed her to write an apology letter, providing her with talking points. She has refused, saying it would be insincere. It seems the principal missed an amazing "teaching moment" about civil rights and how best to exercise them. It seems Ms. Sullivan understands how to be appropriate in this circumstance.

Might Ms. Sullivan have said something less intense? Yes. Might the Governor's office have kept it in perspective? Yes. Her comments were not kind, but they were not yelling "fire" in a crowded theater either. She is allowed to express her opinion. Others are allowed to express theirs. Someone could have tweeted back that they were loving the Governor's presentation. They would have had the same right to express that opinion. (The fact that no one did is a little "market research" the Governor's staff might pay attention to instead of being upset about a tweet going out to 65 people.)

We cannot have democracy without free speech. It is part of the constitution. It is a right each of us has. We are allowed to disagree. We are even allowed to do so without respect. That might not be the most productive approach, but it is our right.

I can't help but think about the Pastor Martin Niemöller quote made famous by others in recent years:
First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Read more:

The Governor apologized for the overreaction of his staff. He should hire people who understand freedom of speech. And so should the school board.
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Train Case Travel - Vintage Style Updated

Remember these?

There was a time when everyone's Aunt had one. My Aunt Audrey did, although hers was a pearl-colored Samsonite one that I was totally in love with. So much in love that my Aunt Eva found me a child's version and sent it to me at Christmas one year. I still have it. I still love it.

When Aunt Audrey would visit, her Train Case, which, by the way, is what these were officially called, would sit in the bathroom, beckoning me to look inside it, but I didn't dare.

I don't know why they're called a Train Case, but I'm guessing because they were great for use on trains. Back when people actually traveled by train. Back when you couldn't go by air for the same amount of money and days less time. Back when travel wasn't miserable. I remember hearing people talk about that time. I just didn't get to experience it. The TV show, "Pan Am," makes it look so pleasant. They apparently haven't been on a nine hour flight to Paris with their knees digging into the metal of the seat in front of them and their own seat being hammered by a restless five-year-old behind them. Of course, maybe people were just always drunk when you didn't have to buy drinks and people remember travel through the haze of a good buzz. Maybe it was always awful but we just don't have our senses dulled sufficiently now. I think I've hit on a genius idea for the airlines. But, I digress.

Back to train cases... Just the mere phrase conjures pleasant images...

Aunties carried their toiletries in them - even if they were going by car, not train. Maybe by plane, as well. Train cases had a lift-out tray for cosmetics and plenty of space underneath for lotions, potions, hair curlers, and what not. I have to say "what not" because I don't use very many of the things the ladies of that generation did for their daily preparations to meet the world. (Anyone have a hair receiver lying about? On their dressing table? Exactly.)

Well, at one of my favorite thrift stores recently I spotted this gem. It still had the tray inside in pristine condition and the little brown envelope with "key" written on it taped inside one of the tray compartments. I'll let you do the mental math on that one.

I snapped it up for a mere $2.

My initial thought was to put my own makeup in it. But, I quickly determined that wasn't workable for me. Besides, if I gathered up every bit of makeup I've owned in my entire life, this case still wouldn't be full. But, I knew I would find other uses for it and its first foray into the world with me was a few days ago for our trip to see the Johnny Mathis Christmas show.

Are you wondering what I put in it?

Hair spray? No - don't own any.

Shampoo? No - it might leak on this beauty that still has the faint scent of dusting powder in it. I love that smell. Takes me right back to 1953 - even though I wasn't alive them. But, you know what I mean. Do they even make anything called, "dusting powder" anymore. It came in wonderful scents with big, soft, poofy bits you dusted the powder with. (Hence, the name, obviously.)

Delicates? No - I'm not sure what all that encompasses, but suffice it to say there aren't a lot of clothes in my world that are not "wash and wear" and pret a porter. (That's French for ready to wear - and it doesn't really fit here - but I just wanted to demonstrate that I remembered at least one phrase from the multiple semesters of French I took. Maybe I don't remember it from that but from the movies. But lets just say it's from class, shall we?)

Anyway... My train case has...

Computer and electronic widgets and gadgets. It will hold an external hard drive, my digital recorder and microphone, a pair of headphones with a mic for skyping, chargers, cables, pens, notebook, model releases, extra batteries, a tiny tripod, jump drives, and even the camera if I don't want to carry it. I have used one of those organizers for a purse to containerize some of the items, and small bags for others. Although I haven't yet tested this theory, I think it could also hold a tablet, mp3 player, and other similar goodies.

It worked great for this trip, but I haven't tested it on a longer one yet. Obviously, it's something you want to keep up with since it has all those sorts of goodies in it. But, it does offer some protection to them instead of them just bumping around in other bags. And it has the ease of everything being in one place instead of having to hunt for one thing or another.

I'm continually looking for the convenient way to store and access my computer/electronic things. This is the latest permutation. We'll see how it goes long-term.

Regardless, I now own this ultra cool, vintage train case. It's not as cool as Aunt Audrey's was - gosh, I loved that thing - but Aunt Audrey would be proud.

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