Friday, September 28, 2012

Pretty Pictures

I've been going through photos tonight for a project. It's kind of nice to see time slipping by through a series of visual references.

Lately multiple people have complimented my photography. I feel like it's okay, but not great. Maybe that's because I see all the "outtakes." But, looking at some of the photos tonight, without all the extraneous ones I passed over, I've started to think some of it is pretty nice.

It would be enlightening to be able to perceive ourselves as others do. Of course, we might not like everything we learned that way.

Regardless, tonight I'm just going to enjoy pretty pictures.

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Quote of the Day

Anything I can not transform
into something marvelous,
I let go. 
                                                        -Ana├»s Nin

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Hunger for Beauty

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I hunger for. What is it that I'm longing for, that I'm homesick for? What is always in my mind as a need unfulfilled?

Something that comes back to me again and again is beauty. I need those bits of beauty in daily life. Sometimes it's a vase of flowers on a table, sometimes it's tea, sometimes it is something I don't anticipate, but relish when it arrives unbidden.

But I've realized I'm always on the hunt.

For reasons I don't fully understand, these bits of beauty seem more scarce where I live. There is no restaurant in my town that has fresh flowers sitting on the table, like this Oklahoma City restaurant did. Yet, our city has a profusion of blooms in the medians downtown - just gorgeous.

But for some reason, I need beauty in this more personal way, up close, where I can experience them intensely - the flowers where I can touch them, not just see them. I need to enjoy them on more than one level.

That's part of what I love about tea. It's beauty on multiple levels. And I get to experience it, not just observe it. As my friend, Jesse, pointed out, we find the divine in beauty. Why not experience it?

Is this a flaw in my personality? Perhaps. After all, maybe I am the only one who needs this. Then again, maybe it is something we all need but that no one has given voice to yet.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Small Town 2012 State of Now 140conf - Discount Included

People from 20 states and two foreign countries will be in Hutchinson on November 8 for the Small Town 2012 State of Now 140conf. You may wonder what that is, and I'll admit, it's hard to explain. But, if you can, just think of it as people coming from all over the place to explore how our world is different because we all live in the "state of now," with media and the internet.

Topics will be wide ranging, but speakers will have only 10 minutes each to make their points. You can see the preliminary schedule here:

Regular cost to attend is $100, and it's worth every penny. But, there's a discount code that can save you 60%, making your ticket cost only $40. When you register, use the code, "friendofST12" and your ticket will be only $40. Student tickets are only $14. You can register here:

This is the third year for Hutchinson to host this conference. Other State of Now events have been held in New York, Tel Aviv, San Francisco and other large cities. I'm trying to say, this is a big deal. A really big deal. So, please come if at all possible. If you can't come, please help spread the word. This is not just an event for techie people. It's a fascinating look at the world and the people in it.

Come join in!


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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cowhide Leather Wallets Made in India

I took this photo at the Kansas State Fair.

Considering they worship cows in India, I'm troubled - and confused - by this sign.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Fair Divinity Pix

I didn't realize there was a cash prize that came with the divinity entry at the state fair. But, I am now the recipient of a $6 check, to go with the red ribbon. I'm debating if I should cash it or keep it as a souvenir. (Yes, I know, this is the very definition of a "first world problem.")

I was lucky enough that last Friday of the fair when I got a chance to go to the Domestic Arts Building to run into Brian Lingle, a local photographer, who snapped this photo of me with the divinity.

So darned handy to know those photographers!

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gracious or Pragmatic

"You're gracious," a friend wrote in an email to me today. It was in response to my  reaction to some news she had shared. It's very flattering she believes me to be gracious, and goodness knows I try. But sometimes I think my "graciousness" is really just pragmatism, dressed up in fancier clothes.

I grew up in a situation where I learned early you had to pick your battles. I don't mean that in the sense of fighting, but in determining what you're going to give energy to.

We all have a limited amount of resources - there's only so much time, energy and stomach lining to devote to anything. Life presents some unexpected things that demand a considerable amount of those resources. What is left is all we have to devote to what we desire.

Simple math told me early to live life in a way that taxed those limited resources as little as possible. It's why I have no people in my life who thrive on drama. I don't indulge in worry, fear or regret because they all take energy, but accomplish nothing. Instead I will save those resources for things that restore me, encourage me and energize me.

So, maybe I'm gracious. But maybe I'm just practical.

However, for today, I think I will just revel in the idea of being gracious. It's such a lovely thought.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Doily Pattern Book

Look at this treasure I found at the flea market recently. It's a pattern book for doilies. Right on the front is a pineapple pattern, one of my very favorites. I'd love to find one of these doilies, but so far that hasn't happened.

Who knows, maybe my next flea market visit will be the one...

Regardless, I love seeing these pattern books. I'm sure millions of them were printed, but it's not that common to run across them.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Domestic Goddess Still a Goal

I had reason today to be going through some older blog posts. This one from May of 2009 still makes me chuckle. Unfortunately, it's an ironic chuckle indicating how little has changed, instead of one celebrating I'm now a true domestic goddess. 

Although I am happy to report my home is sans ants, and there are no longer dishes piled on the dining room table, but clean clothes. I'm not sure that's in improvement, but at least the dishes haven't been there for three years. That's a bonus.

My Title of Domestic Goddess is in Serious Jeopardy

My title of "Domestic Goddess" is in serious jeopardy.

Truth be told, I'm not sure anyone has ever referred to me as a domestic goddess, but I've always hoped someone would. Frankly, I would have been a wonderful 1950s housewife in so many ways.

I've always wanted to be the perfect combination of Alexandra Stoddard, Martha Stewart, and Bree Hodges. The only problem  is that one of them is fictional, one is well-staffed and other is married to a man who made it unnecessary for her to make a living when she got started, and I have none of those things working in my favor.

Despite these obstacles, I have persistent fantasies of welcoming people into my spotlessly clean, well-appointed, completely renovated Victorian home where the fresh citrus scent of my homemade cleaning products lingers in the air. (Of course I'm wearing pearls in this vignette.)

I'll serve freshly baked scones with berries from the garden and my homemade lemon curd. The linen napkins will be pressed crisply, smelling of sunshine and just a hint of the vanilla rinse I put them through. People will ooh and ah, and I will bask in all this appreciation for my domestic prowess. After a lovely gathering during which we'll gather around the piano in the music room for a couple of songs, I will retire to the sitting room off my boudoir with a nice cup of tea. I'll lie down and rest with a good book or do some delicate handwork.

In reality, of course, I'm working all of these hours. And, if you drop by you're likely to find a paint can lying about because my renovation now stretches into years, and nothing in my house is spotless. Not even close. "Sanitary" is the most I hope for. While I love handwork, I find it more expedient to buy pieces at sales than to spend the time making it myself. And my piano is so out of tune I wouldn't even let a child bang on it for fear of ruining their budding musical talent.

Today is an example of the startling difference between my real life and my fantasy life.

I've been working all weekend to eradicate the ants who insist on taking up residence in my kitchen cabinets. No matter what poisons I use, and how much silicone caulk I smear over tiny cracks here and there, they persist. So, the dining room table is covered with the dishes that have already been through the dishwasher, and both sinks and the counters are full of things waiting to be washed. Alas, it is not the scene of someone who has been testing which tomato variety makes the best marinara sauce.

Between running the dishwasher, I've been cleaning in my home office. My home office is such a disaster area that I close the door when company is coming, and yet it's where I spend most of my time. It's a wonder my fingers have not been crushed by an avalanche of things careening onto the keyboard. And the top of the desk is one of the better areas.

Today I sat in the floor and started sorting through the piles. While doing so I found a fuzzy piece of Cracklin' Oat Bran cereal. I don't even recall when I last ate that for a snack, which means this has been there for some undetermined, but lengthy, amount of time. Although one might think you could gauge timing by the amount of dust, much like rings on a tree, I declined. Instead I decided to use the archeology method and take note of what was near it. It was nestled between a green and white speckled breath mint, the remains of a roll of Wintergreen Lifesavers, and a French Franc that is no longer legal tender. None of that was helpful.

I don't think domestic goddess types have grungy cereal underfoot. Cereal they don't even know about. And I cannot blame children or pets, as I have neither. The responsible party would be me. The shame of it all. This is not how practitioners of the domestic arts conduct themselves.

Of course, I have a full time job that pays for the house which is the stage for my domestic goddess-ness. Unfortunately, it takes the time I could spend whipping up chocolate mousse for dessert to top off the gourmet dinner I would throw together in between planting the herbs, polishing the silver, and planning my next dinner party complete with engraved invitations and matching place cards. (I also own no silver - mainly because it requires polishing - which would take time I don't have.)

Don't get me wrong, I can hold my own with the average, every day, domestic goddess wannabe. I can write a thank you note with the best of them, and my handwriting is more than passable. My homemade lemonade is made with freshly squeezed lemons, a simple syrup and some fresh lavender from the garden. I own a considerable amount of china and can set a lovely table for almost any occasion, complete with fresh flowers in a glass flower frog.

But, I believe on the domestic goddess tally sheet that cereal of unknown origins lying about on the floor undiscovered for some extended period of time, negates a nice thank you note. If only I had a scone to fortify me. But who can cook while waging war with ants?

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

State Fair Season

The Kansas State Fair has wrapped up for another year. There's something I love about the rituals we have of riding the train, visiting certain booths, and making the rounds.

Time to move on to other rituals for other seasons.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sea Lions

The Kansas State Fair had a sea lion act this year. This was just too cute to not share. What more needs be said?

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Good Fortune and Friends

These are two of my favorite people on the planet. That's Greg on the left and Mark on the right. The three of us have known each other for decades. Decades. Hard to believe, but true.

Like most relationships, we've had some ups and downs. Greg and I were a couple for 12 years and, although not seamlessly, were able to move back to being friends with a relatively small amount of effort. Indeed, we are the closest of friends now. I cannot imagine my life without him in it. He is family.

And so is Mark. The three of us found ourselves in a town where we didn't have connections with others, that wasn't exactly opening its figurative arms to us. But, blissfully, we formed our own connections. We became family. Not the sort of family like we were all fortunate enough to grow up with, but family nonetheless.

All these years later, after more rides on the train at the Kansas State Fairgrounds than I can count, we are still family. These are people I know I can depend on.

If you find yourself with a couple of those people in your world at age 50, I think you should consider yourself fortunate. And I do.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Carbon Paper Hunt

I've been on the hunt for some carbon paper - preferably the more vintage kind. I put the word out on Facebook, and Miss Joy responded almost immediately that she might have some. A few days later, this treasure arrived. I'm still so in love with it I can barely contain myself.

Thank you, Miss Joy!

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Visioning Retreat

A few weeks ago I went on a visioning retreat with some friends. This is the fourth time I've arranged a retreat like this, and I'm ready to branch out now and offer visioning retreats for others.

Over the last few years I've experimented enough to figure out what works best. It's a really amazing thing to do. I've watched so much manifest in my own life as a result of the clarity I gained through this process. This year one of the participants starting having things happen in less than 24 hours. Really incredible.

Fortunately, some of my friends who went this year said it was okay to share some photos of the process. The bits of finished collages you see are mine.

I'm eager to see where this goes next!

I love this photo of Andrea. Her body language says, "There, now, it's just right!"

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Boston's Tom Scholz - Guitar Lessons in Zen

I love this photo of Tom Scholz, the remaining original member of the band, Boston. The lights and scene say, "rock star." His demeanor says, "born musician."

We saw Boston at the Kansas State Fair Saturday night, and were fortunate enough to be seated nearly in front of Scholz. From the first moments on stage, it was obvious he was in a state of zen with the guitar. The lights, the fog, the trappings of being a rock star didn't faze him. He was just focused on playing. He played keyboard a little bit, but mostly guitar.

It's obvious he is doing what he was meant to do. And, he has found others to play the necessary roles expected from rock stars, so he can do what he wants to do, and play the music.

A little research told me Scholz first started writing music in 1969 when he was attending MIT. That shirt isn't just decoration, he graduated with a Master's Degree and worked in the corporate world to finance building a recording studio in his basement. There he created demo tapes that eventually led to the formation of the band we know as Boston.

The concert included the hair flipping and guitar playing poses you expect from a rock band, but not from Scholz. He played the guitar and the keyboard, and made music. He left the showmanship to the rest of the band, but I couldn't help notice that others were focused on him, too.

I tried to capture some of those other moments, too, but it was hard to take my eyes off Scholz for very long.

Being in the presence of someone who is living their true calling is always amazing, whether they're a musician or something far less dramatic. They have a passion for their craft that goes beyond what you see.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

Divinity Won Second Place in State Fair

Thanks to Greg Holmes, I know I won second place in the miscellaneous candy division at the Kansas State Fair. He went out today and took this photo. I was at the doctor for a check up this morning and Greg told me to check his pix on Facebook. By the time I got home, I spaced it off.

Sometime this afternoon it occurred to me to send Greg a note asking him to see if I won anything if he happened to be in the building. He wrote back, "Check my photos." Duh!

By the time I saw it, others had already commented on it. It was sweet of him to check on it for me.

It's really cool to participate in it. I would have missed it if I hadn't seen notes on Facebook that reminded me. The other winners look very tasty, too.

Next year I'll make sure I have pecans in the house - and I'll try not to be making it three hours before it has to be delivered - and give it another go.

Thanks, Greg, for delivering the news!
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Thursday, September 06, 2012

We Never Know

A third grader in Wichita died a few days ago after a bullet went through the wall of her home, and killed her while she slept. It is a reminder of how we never know what will happen.

Kimbra probably went to sleep that night thinking about the next day, school, her friends, and all the things you might expect from a third grader. It was just a typical day for her, her family, her teachers and schoolmates.

But, then, in an instant, life changed. Her life was extinguished by a bullet from a gun held by a 28 year old man. His life will never be the same. Their families will never be the same. Everyone who knew that little girl, and everyone who knows this man, are forever changed. You can never be the same after something like that. Who you were going to be is changed. This is now part of who you are, even if you're somewhat removed from it. It's always a story you tell, part of your history.

This isn't a post about gun control or anger management, although someone could certainly use this incident to illustrate a concern with regard to either. But I just want to encourage you to say what you need to say, do what you want to do, and remember you, or someone you love, could be gone tonight.

Let Kimbra's young life be a reminder to use the present wisely. It may be all you have.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Divinity in State Fair

This afternoon I took a batch of divinity out to enter into the Kansas State Fair. I almost missed it.

First I nearly missed the deadline for registering, saying you wanted to enter. I saw someone mention it on Facebook.

Then, I was thinking I'd drop it off Thursday night since the fair starts Friday. But, last night while I was still in Joplin, I saw a friend mention getting her fair entry ready. This prompted me to start searching for info on the details.

I had none.

So, I emailed.

This morning, in the midst of finishing a grant and working on other projects, I realized it had to be there today. By 7 p.m. On a day I was frantically busy.

But, I got it done. I only had time to make one batch, and I didn't have any pecans to go in it and no time to go get some, so it will have to do. The texture was nice.

Hopefully the judges will appreciate the classics.

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Marketing Advice for Authors and Others

"The math of finding your audience isn't linear, and even if you read to only two people, one of them might host a radio show, or be an influential blogger, or fall in love with your book and buy copies for friends." 
     --- Alethea Black, author of "I Knew You'd Be Lovely," published by Broadway Books; talking about promoting the book in the July/August 2012 issue of "Poets & Writers" Magazine

This is a fundamental truth about marketing, that escapes many people who have considerable experience in the field. Yes, numbers are great, but they don't tell the entire story.

If you can get 200 people in a room who will all go out and talk about your book (or whatever), that's wonderful. But the likelihood is that's not going to happen. Just filling a room with 200 people who have no interest in your product is useless - a total waste of your time. The same can be said for Twitter followers or any other marketing strategy you can come up with.

The morals in this story are:
1. Give your all to anyone who makes an effort to see you. If they're the only person in the audience, they still went to the trouble to be there and they are thrilled to meet you.
2. Target your audience as much as possible to find those people who are likely to spread the word about your book.
3. Consider other ways to find your audience - "non-linear" is a great way to think about - and it makes it a wide open prospect.
4. Treat everyone with respect. That blogger who showed up and wants to interview you may well have more people who are devoted and pay attention to everything he does than your local radio station does.
5. Be thankful for the experience. We learn through everything.

As a side note, I absolutely love "Poets & Writers" magazine. It's completely different than "Writer's Digest." I can tell Poets & Writers is a subscription I will keep up for a long time to come. Click on the photo to see ordering information.

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Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Power of Words

A month or so ago I was getting ready to go out for Third Thursday, our local art walk, and snapped this photo quickly to post as a promo on Facebook. It was something along the lines of, "I'm breaking out the fun glasses for Third Thursday. See you downtown." I took it with my phone, sitting in my home office, very quickly, just to have a graphic for the event I wasn't yet at.

To me, it's a poor photograph - you can see my computer screen reflected in the lenses, I'm looking up at an odd angle to see where to hit the phone screen to take the photo since I was using it in a way I ordinarily don't, and the lighting is very odd. I posted it with Instagram (you can see the border around it here) and didn't give it a second thought.

When I posted it, people started commenting how much they liked it. To other people it captured something of "me" that I don't necessarily see. This caused me to look at the photo in a different way, and I see the appeal - at least to some degree. I'm thankful to have friends who help me look at things with new eyes, which happen to be blue and not green, as one might think from this picture.

Within a day or two it was my profile photo on Facebook, and it has continued to grow on me. I wouldn't have thought twice about it if it weren't for other people's comments.

It gives me reason to think about how much what we say, and what we don't say, to people matters. Another's words may lead to something fun like a new profile photo, or they may touch people on a deeper level than we could ever understand. We often don't understand our own power to impact people. And we have the chance every day to do good and to do evil. I pray we err on the side of good.

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