Sunday, July 31, 2011


I have spent the day immersed in art - not my own, but other people's.

I want to go into my studio and paint. I want to spread color around, without forethought or regard for what is "right." I just want to see color. Lots of color.

Seeing amazing art always makes me grateful I can physically get to the place to see it, have eyes that can process it, and friends to share it with. I'm a very lucky girl.
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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Conversation and Solitude

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius. 
----- Edward Gibbon

Real conversation is such a rarity. I've been engaged in it for the last 2-3 hours and it's amazing. You can learn a great deal about yourself and the world when you're having true, engaged, meaningful conversation. I need more of that in my life. I'm not sure how to find it, but I know I need more of it.

I also need a lot of quiet time to process, but that I seem to find easily. The conversation is a bit more difficult.


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

4-H Really Does Build Character

I know just how much parents love it when people who don't have children offer parenting advice, so here comes some. Get your kids into 4-H.

I judged Arts and Crafts for the County Fair this morning and I was so impressed with the young people I met. I was in 4-H when I was a kid and remember it being a great experience. This is the first time I've been on this side of the equation.

They'll probably never let me do it again because I talked to every kid way too long. If they would talk to me at all - and almost all of them did - I asked them about every project, how they made it, why they chose that color/fabric/whatever. I doled out Blue Ribbons generously, and a good sprinkling of purple ones too.

It was obvious in some cases that Mom and/or Dad were very involved. However, in others it was clear the kids were doing it all. In one case I mentioned to these adorable sisters, both with long braided ponytails, that I could tell they had made their own projects. Mom, who was nearby with the baby in the stroller, and two others between him and the girls I was talking to, piped up and said, "Yes, I'm not in 4-H." As I looked at the 8-10 projects spread out in front of me from her two older girls, and three more behind them, I thought she might not be in "in" it, but she was in it. They were a great family. The girls were so excited by their ribbons. I gave one of them a purple and watched her sister congratulate her. Genuinely. It was so sweet.

Anyway, I left feeling pretty good about the future.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Physical Reminders of Time

I love these little bits of life. I know most people toss out a conference badge before they get in the car to go home. But for me, things like this are little reminders of a moment in time. Maybe because I don't remember details as well as other people do, I like those little things. They demonstrate in a physical way what I've been doing with my time, with my life.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Get Motivated Seminar in Wichita

Today I attended the Get Motivated Seminar. Speakers included Bill Cosby, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes, Rick Belluzzo, Lou Holtz, Terry Bradshaw and Colin Powell. There were also some sales pitches mixed in for various products. The two of those speakers I heard were both good speakers, especially one of them, but I didn't buy any of the products.

They had 14,000 people come, apparently. It was a logistics nightmare. I didn't arrive as early as they suggested, but was able to find an aisle seat by going very far up in the arena. Tickets for that area were only $1.95 each. Obviously, you know you're going to be hearing some sales pitches at that price.

I wouldn't say it was motivating, but it was really interesting. It was way too loud at times, with lots of fake energy. They gave away door prizes - an iPad, a big screen TV and $10,000 cash - probably more at the end of the day.

However, it was part church and part political rally in addition to the other things. I'm not even sure how I would classify it otherwise. It was more church-y than I expected. That didn't bother me at all, but it's not the sort of thing I would consider appropriate for a workplace, unless you happen to know everyone you work with is Christian and a Conservative Republican. I expected some of that given the line up, but it was more than I anticipated. But, it's very cool to get to see all these people speak in person for less than $2. No question about that.

And, of course you're going to be subjected to some sales pitches. I heard two of the three and they were both good speakers. One of them I listened to the whole thing pretty intently because he was really funny. I didn't buy any of the products. There was no pressure to do that. If you wanted it, you went down to a table and got it. If you didn't want it, you stayed in your seat or took a break. No one was pressuring you.

Rick Belluzzo was really good and I enjoyed Lou Holtz a lot - more than I expected. Giuliani offered four things you should do - read, listen, write and think - and that was good. Otherwise, he talked about 9-11 - what else would he talk about - that seems to be his main topic. Bradshaw talked about football - what else would he talk about - but he was really funny. Colin Powell was great - and funny. All of them were good. I left before Bill Self spoke.

The day was arranged like this, as best I recall... in case you're planning to go. I didn't hear the last two.
Bob Harrison
Steve Forbes
Rick Belluzzo
Lou Holtz
Sales Pitch
then a break for people to sign up
Rudy Giuliani
lunch break
Colin Powell
sales pitch (he was really good)
Terry Bradshaw
Bill Cosby
sales pitch
Bill Self

I understand from the news reports they had some issues and some people didn't get into the arena because it was full. However, they did tell people to get there early and they had offsite parking opportunities. It seemed few people took advantage of those so that may have been why there was an issue. I don't know.

I would do it again if it were a different lineup. There are always going to be some glitches when you're dealing with that many people in one place.


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Addictions Come In All Shapes and Sizes

Amy Winehouse is dead at 27. That's sad. It's also sad for all the other 27 year olds that died that day. This isn't going to be some rant about how we should be more concerned about the deaths of soldiers or mothers or good Christian people or any other category of people. It's not even a rant. It's just a recognition.

Winehouse's issues with drug and alcohol abuse have been well-documented, just in case a popular song about "I don't wanna go to rehab" wasn't quite enough proof. We don't yet know if her death was related to alcohol or drug abuse. But it seemed she was trapped in a cycle she couldn't break free of.

It's easy to brush off her death as that of just another junkie who made bad choices that finally caught up with her. That, of course, is the problem in a nutshell. It's not a choice.

People may well choose the first drink, but no one chooses to be an alcoholic. A person may choose to experiment with pot, but no one expects to end up shooting heroin. But for some unlucky people that's where it goes, because their bodies process the substances very differently than the rest of us. Most of us walk away with nothing more than a story and maybe a headache, but some awaken a craving that can never again be sated.

I was lucky enough to get through my wilder days with nothing more than some stories and some minor struggles. There were no arrests, no deaths and no addictions. I'm thankful. Incredibly thankful. There were close calls. And some of the people I traveled those roads alongside weren't as fortunate. Some of them aren't with us on the planet anymore. Some have added stories of rehab, relapse and more rehab. But by the Grace of God, there go I.

It's hard for me to understand why anyone ever uses a substance like meth, where 95% of people become instantly addicted. Even in my wildest days I would not have gone down that road. At least not when I was thinking clearly. But, how many people are thinking clearly when they're already under the influence of something?

Yes, life is all about choices. Sometimes choices have unintended consequences people are not capable of understanding or foreseeing. If you're a person who has never struggled with any addiction, I beg of you - a little mercy for those who are walking that path. From what I can see, it's pretty rocky.

We know very little about others and what brought them to the places they are today. Children grow up in circumstances people who haven't been there can't imagine. And they have no idea what impact that has on the rest of their lives. We never know another person's pain and what they may have to do to get through the days and nights. People "self-medicate" with all kinds of things - drugs, alcohol, shopping, food, porn, computer games, sex, gambling, exercising and a hundred other things. Just because you may have "chosen" a more socially acceptable addiction doesn't mean it's not the same process at work.

If you can't function without a cup of coffee, want to go shop after a bad day at work, or just don't feel right if you don't run five miles every morning, you have some sense of what addiction is like. All those things result in chemicals that change the way your body works. You can argue that some are "good" and some are "bad," but it's all the same process. None of us is immune to the charms of chemicals. Just because they come in legal forms like lattes, prozac, gym memberships and ice cream doesn't mean they're not doing the same things at a base level that illegal substances do. They're changing the chemical makeup of our bodies, causing us to feel a certain way.

I've been addicted to food my entire life. I was a fat kid who grew into a fat adult. I went to a therapist when I was 22 and said, "fix my brain." I knew my desire to eat had nothing to do with hunger. It had to do with something chemical happening in my body. I knew I needed to change my thought processes. You know how those happen? By chemical interactions. That's why some anti-depressants make people not want to eat. Unfortunately, they all come with other side-effects.

The therapist's suggestion was that I needed to diet and I should count calories. Like every fat person, I can recite the calorie count of almost any food off the top of my head. And I'm very good at math. I understand calories in and calories burned through activity. It's a simple equation. Lack of knowledge is not the problem. What is the problem? I don't know. That's why I went to a professional who was supposedly in the business of fixing such problems. The only thing he had to offer was the same tired suggestion medicine has been offering for decades.

Diets fail 97% of the time. Most people have gained all they lost, plus some, within three years. If any other medical procedure failed 97% of the time we would not suggest it. Can you imagine a cardiologist suggesting open heart surgery if only 3% of people had good results? Would we set broken bones like we do if 97% of the time it failed? No, of course we wouldn't. But, it seems fat people are not viewed as worthy of serious medical research because as far as I can tell, no one has bothered to try and figure out a new plan in the intervening two decades plus. It seems like it would be a very lucrative field, but as a rock star who gained weight after getting clean and sober pointed out, being fat is less socially acceptable than being a drug addict.

I'm pretty comfortable with who I am. And I'm incredibly lucky that I have normal blood pressure and sugar levels, and my cholesterol is a nice 117. But, if you can, believe me - from the person living it - being overweight is not a choice to let yourself go, of not caring about yourself. It's not laziness or a lack of willpower. It's something more intrinsic than that. It's something in our brains, our chemistry. The hows and whys of it, I do not know. Unfortunately, it seems I caught on to the basic problem a few decades before the people who are charged with healing. I'm not optimistic about a solution since they're still recommending something that fails 97% of the time.

A few years ago I was talking with a friend and mentioned craving a particular food. She looked at me blankly. As we talked more, it occurred to me to ask her if she had ever craved food.
She thought for a moment and said, "No, I don't think so."
"Never?" I asked.
"No," she said, thinking harder. "I don't think so."
She thought some more, then said definitely, "No. Never."
I don't remember a time when my days were not filled with cravings for particular foods. I asked what she did crave - what she felt a need to do or have - what she wouldn't feel satisfied without. The answer was exercise. That was the beginning of my understanding that addictions come in all shapes and sizes. They may be damaging or not, but they're all providing chemical experiences we crave.

So, while the crude - and sometimes cruel - remarks about Amy Winehouse and her addictions fill Facebook walls, Twitter feeds, and late night talk shows, I think I will refrain. While I don't know her struggles, I know my own all too well.

Even if you are the rare person who has no addiction at all - not caffeine, not shopping, not chocolate - maybe you can find it in your soul to extend some grace to those who are not so fortunate. Maybe you can offer a prayer for those grieving lost loved ones, regardless of the causes. Maybe you can see another's path, and feel inspired to thank the fates for your own good fortune.


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Monday, July 25, 2011


Every once in awhile I have the urge for them. After a couple of days I wonder how people manage with them, and I cut them, and they're gone.

So... I'm enjoying this brief moment we'll have together.


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Teaching Interviewing

In a few days I'll be speaking about interviewing people. It's something I'm particularly good at. There are not too many things I'd be so bold as to say I'm really good at, but that is one of my strengths.

But, explaining to other people how to do it is a challenge.

I've been making notes about this for quite some time, and have been organizing it into a cohesive presentation. It's exciting because I love to think of other people capturing stories they won't get any other way. If I could figure out a way to do it, I'd spend my days recording interviews with people just to get a snapshot of this moment in time.

Whenever someone dies I think about all the stories that die with them. This is just one way they can be preserved.


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Friday, July 22, 2011


Summer brings wonderful things like fresh fruit and vegetables, but I have to admit I don't find much else about it to be all that great. I'm not a summer girl. You'd think someone who's generally cold like me would love it when the temperature rises. Alas, that is not the case. Maybe I would like it more if the temperature didn't have to double the point at which I want a sweater.

But, the fresh food is a wonderful compensation. I took this photo when I was visiting in Kentucky. Of course, shortly after I took this, a wind storm destroyed large parts of the crops. This, combined with the excessive heat, is going to make it a hard year for farmers.

Farming is an occupation fraught with these unpredictable difficulties. But, for people who are committed to farming as a way of life, nothing else will do. I'm so thankful there are people who seek this lifestyle and provide for the rest of us in such a tremendous way.

Having grown up on a farm, I saw up close how difficult it was. But, it also included opportunities I wouldn't have had any other way. I'm thankful I know what corn tastes when it's been picked an hour earlier, and I'm glad I've had the joy of picking a tomato and eating it while it's still warm from the sun. I'm afraid those things will disappear.


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Creative Sisterhood

Tonight was Creative Sisterhood. Although I generally bake something and serve hot tea, I could not convince myself to turn on the oven. The last time I paid attention to anyone mentioning the temperature they said 103. I wasn't interested in that, so I stopped listening. My neighbor told me today was the 25th day of temps over 100. I don't know if that's correct or not. We're all a little mad from the heat, as people in multiple parts of the country are, so it's certainly plausible.

Anyway, tonight we had a peanut butter pie that doesn't require baking. I'm just not going to think too much about the cool whip and cream cheese that went into it. Needless to say, it was yummy. I can't take much credit for that - it's not really baking, it's more "mixing."

The conversation was wonderful, as usual. Only four of us were here, but it was a nice evening.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

The View

The view out the soon-to-be sun porch at my brother and sister-in-law's house.

Is it any wonder I love to be there?


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Sunday, July 17, 2011

30,000 Days

In an average lifespan, we have about 30,000 days. Think about how many of those days you enjoy any particular thing.

For example, lets say pumpkin pie is your favorite dessert and you only have it on Thanksgiving Day. If you're 60 years old this Thanksgiving, that means you have an average of 22 more times to enjoy pumpkin pie. Of course, some of us will live well beyond that average - more of us all the time in good health, which I find encouraging. But, we have to have some number for the sake of argument.

When you think about doing something only 22 more times in your entire life, it makes each experience all the more meaningful. I'm guessing if you knew this November that you were going to eat only 21 more slices of pumpkin pie in your entire life - and it was your favorite thing - that you might savor it a little more. And maybe you'd decide to have pumpkin pie half-way between Thanksgiving every year, too; thereby doubling your pleasure with a June slice.

This is why I use real cream, write on fine stationery and wear wonderful perfume. Life is short. Soak it up.

Of course, none of us knows when something will be our "last" of anything. All the more reason to enjoy each and every experience.

I've already lived more than half of my average of 30,000 days. Maybe I'll get more. Maybe I'll get less. Whatever I'm dealt, I plan on using them all. I encourage you to do the same.

Maybe we've only got 10 days left. Maybe we've got 1,000. Maybe we've got 20,000. However many it is, I want them to be overflowing with delight.


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Friday, July 15, 2011

Storytelling Quotes

Storytelling has been a theme in my life lately. It seems to be cropping up in the most unexpected places, which prompts me to share these quotes with you.

Leaping away from my mistakes has propelled me forward. It has great force behind it. It makes for great storytelling.
Holly Near

Storytelling is not what I do for a living - it is how I do all that I do while I am living.
Donald Davis

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.
Robert McAfee Brown

The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection there is no story to tell.
Ben Okri


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Questions to Ask Yourself

What do you do to remind yourself of your humanity?

What are you willing to suffer for?

What will cause you suffering if you don't do it?

I ran across these notes to myself recently. Although it was written some time ago, they're still valid questions. I'm not sure I have the answers yet, but they are worthy things to consider.

One thing I know falls into all of those categories for me is travel and experiencing other cultures very different than my own. Obviously, "suffer" might be a strong word, but travel does require some sacrifices of various sorts unless one has unlimited budget and time. When I can't travel for some reason it does feel as though I'm being "punished" in some way.

Certainly travel reminds me of humanity - my own and other's - particularly when connected with something I feel a deep connection to, like ancient Egypt. This fragment from the Book of the Dead is on display in Wichita. I bought a membership to the Museum of World Treasures just so I can stop in casually and visit the Egyptian collection. It's not as amazing as walking in the halls of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but it's much easier to get to. And it does give me a sense of connection I can't get so easily otherwise.


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Monday, July 11, 2011

Honor Among Humans

Life is full of twists and turns. Things you could never have dreamed just fall into your lap when you least expect it.

All the while, other wishes come true left and right. Poof! There's another one, as if a magic wand is scattering star dust in your path. The sun bouncing off the glitter illuminates the path as it zig-zags hither and yon, helping you find your way.

It's not mine to question why it seems that when some act less than honorably, others rise to demonstrate that humans are better than that.

I suppose we've all been on both sides of that equation. There is some joy in being in the middle of it.


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Saturday, July 09, 2011

What Kind of Person...

The phrase, "What kind of person..." is oft heard with regard to wrongdoing - real or perceived.
"What kind of person would put their kids through that..."
"What kind of person would do such a thing..."
"What kind of person acts like that..."

I always have to fight to not say, "A person just like you or me." No one wants to hear that.

We believe ourselves incapable of the heinous acts we witness others perpetrate on themselves, their loved ones or society as a whole. We are certain we would never do such a thing. We are better than that.

In reality, I'm afraid we're not. And as often as we have said, "What kind of person...", it's likely someone has been directing the same question our way.

People act the way they do because they have demons we don't understand and couldn't handle. If we had any inkling of what other people are fighting just to maintain some sense of normalcy on a daily basis, we'd be blown away, and so would our disdain.

It would seem all of us are capable of the best and the worst human beings have to offer. We just have to hope we're never in a situation where the worst of human nature lurking inside us is tapped, and that the best of us is more abundant.


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Friday, July 08, 2011

Quote of the Day

‎"We are all survivors of our lives, our lessons carved across our bodies in scars, some visible, some invisible, but all ache in the cold, burn in the summer heat, and twinge at odd moments when we move too fast, and forget our lessons. We are all survivors of something, remember that, and be kind to each other, or at least, less cruel." - Laurell K. Hamilton

A friend posted this on Facebook tonight and I thought it would speak to almost anyone on the planet. I suppose, somewhere, there must be people who've not had to survive something, but I don't know any of them.

It's a good reminder to be "less cruel" if we can't be kind.


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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Banality of Evil

"Evil" is such a big word. It has shades of gray, depending on who is doing the defining. Even things most of us automatically think of as "evil," like the Holocaust, are not universally agreed upon.

Recently I was listening to a discussion where the term, "Banality of Evil," was used. Again, "evil" is such a big word. It's hard for me to think of it as banal, but I understand the sentiment behind the phrase.

"Banality of evil" was first used by Hannah Arendt in a 1963 work. The idea is that the great evils in history are not perpetrated by sociopaths, but by ordinary people who believe their actions to be normal within the context of their time and place.

Later, Edward S. Herman referred to it as "normalizing the unthinkable." His premise was that doing awful things systematically made them feel normal. So, everyday people would commit murder, rape, torture and other horrible acts because it's the way things were - it was their "normal."

Since I heard the phrase the other day I've been thinking about what in our own "normal" might fall into this category. I'm sorry to say I've thought of more than a few things. We humans are not particularly noble creatures, it seems. We want to be. We try to be. But we just don't seem to have it built into us. Inactions can be just as damning as actions. Our "normal" includes awful things we just take for granted. It's just the way it is - our normal.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Acupressure and A-fib

I am not a medical professional, but am just sharing here my own experience with a-fib and something that seems to be working for me.

I was diagnosed with a-fib about five years ago. I've been on cardizem, which helped some and am now on Sotalol, which has worked even better for me. Because I have a naturally low heart rate, and Sotalol can lower it even more, I'm on a lower dose than I guess you can have. But, it has helped since I've been on it starting in Feb. of 2009. However, I did still have "break through" episodes on occasion.

Recently, I discovered something by accident that has helped me - the chiropractor. I went in because I had pain and tension in my neck and upper back. I've been to chiropractors before, but this was a different person than I've been to previously. He also does acupuncture, which I've not had.

I went 2-3 times the first couple of weeks and then he suggested coming about once a month. It seemed I would generally feel the need to go in about every 3 or 3 1/2 weeks, instead of the recommended 4. After 2-3 months it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't been in afib much for quite some time. I then realized that the only episodes I had had coincided with the time frame right before I would schedule an appointment. I started going about every three weeks, instead of waiting until I felt the need, and the a-fib has been "in remission" since then. At some point I asked the doctor if there was anything he could do for a-fib, without telling him what I had noticed. His reply was that he wasn't sure it would help a-fib, but he was working on the heart meridian and using acupressure techniques in addition to chiropractic.

When I had my six month follow up with the cardiologist, he was thrilled with how my heart sounded. I told him of my observations and his response was to keep doing it if it was working.

Recently I called to schedule to discover my chiropractor was on vacation. So, I had a longer wait than usual. Even though it was a longer time frame I only had one minor breakthrough episode.

I'm not sure what is involved, and if it's something that will work for other people, but it seems to be working for me.

So... that's from the "for what it's worth" department.


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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) is a fancy way of saying humans aren't very good at determining the reason behind people's behavior. Specifically, we overestimate the inherent qualities that contribute to an event and underestimate the situation itself. For other people. When it's ourselves, we're more likely to assume it's the result of the situation.

For example, if Susie spills milk we conclude Susie is clumsy. If we spill milk, we conclude the glass was slippery or a book was in the way when we sat the glass down or whatever. But the fact that milk is pouring onto the floor is in no way related to our own lack of attention. However, Susie, that klutz, made a big mess because she's a clumsy pig.

You get the general idea.

I don't know why, but this popped into my head today and I was wondering why we humans don't take advantage of the knowledge we have. The original study that pointed this out was done in the sixties, I believe. It seems we've had plenty of time to work it into the common knowledge of the culture and learn to compensate for it, but we haven't.

I'm as guilty as the next person about not really using the information I have at hand in one fashion or another. But I do wonder why we are this way. It would seem that we are deficient in a most basic way. Most animals use what they learn. Humans, not as much.

What is wrong with us? Whatever it is, I'm sure it's some other people who are preventing me from taking advantage of it.


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Saturday, July 02, 2011

'Tis the season

Now that the weather is sweltering I wanted to take a moment to remind you that we're more than half way to Christmas for 2011. Yes, Christmas. The holiday season is about 5 months away - less than that if you're a fanatic like me.

These are one of my recent yard sale purchases - vintage Christmas ornaments for a quarter each.

Go forth and enjoy those fireworks while dreaming of sugarplums.


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