Sunday, December 20, 2009

Keeping Christmas in My Heart

Friday I hosted the staff and volunteers at my house -- cranberry/pomegranate punch, stuffed mushrooms, sweet peppers with mozarella, pulled pork with bbq sauce, chicken with veggies in wine sauce, roasted potatoes with rosemary, roasted cauliflower and carrots with a curry dusting, and peppermint ice cream with chocolate cookies. I woke up at 4 a.m. to put the slow cooking stuff on.

Friday night my buds and I ate leftovers and then piled in the VW with the top down to look at Christmas lights around the city.

Saturday was my day at Omega House. Spent most of it cleaning. Then Cyndi and I shopped for my nephews and she was a most excellent elf! The evening found me tired and not too eager to attend the birthday party I had said yes to but when Brittany said she would chauffeur Shane and me, I went for it anyway. Made it to two parties and met neat people and still was in bed by 11.

Sunday I woke up refreshed and glad that my offer to let someone take my place at the annual Goldwing Children's Christmas Party had been declined. I've done this event sponsored by a motorcycle club for three years now. My fellow rodeo clowns and I entertain foster kids and their parents as they munch on burgers and hot dogs, watch cloggers and listen to singers, and then lead the group outside to watch the Goldwings, Harleys, and more parade by in their Christmas best with Santa in tow. This year I held a 2 month old as her foster mom got a rare quiet meal. We danced with the cloggers and she held on tight. Her mom said she doesn't usually go to strangers. Don't know if that was just her way of saying thanks to me, but you would have had to convince me the world was in danger of no longer turning on its axis to get that precious bundle in pink out of my arms. After we led singing and cheers waiting for Santa, we went back inside and I followed up my dance with a 12 year old blind girl who was on some sort of portable oxygen tank with a dance with a 15 year old boy in a wheelchair. I swear I felt like Cinderella at the ball when we made our way around the dance floor.

After shedding the clown wardrobe and donning my own gay apparel, I helped a friend get his grandchildren's Christmas morning started. He's helping out his daughter's family and she has a baby boy and a preschooler. I'm now quite the informed one regarding Fisher Price and Play Doh.

This diary type entry is not a pat on my own back. Instead, it serves as a Christmas card to myself, a reminder of sorts. My life is so very, very good. I am so very, very fortunate. There's food in my fridge, friends to call on in need and in fun, and opportunities to give back everywhere I turn. Nothing beats the "good tired" I'm feeling at this moment.

I missed seeing Scrooge this year because I couldn't make my usher date. Somehow though I feel I lived it . . . by truly keeping Christmas in my heart. No matter your beliefs, this time of year should be about something beyond ourselves and looking within helps make that possible.

I thank my God for every remembrance of my grandmother, mother, sister, and brothers who made my Christmas heart what it is today.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amen, Ms. Parker, Amen

Last night, news reporters announced that our newly elected mayor's plans for today -- her first post-campaign day -- were to go to church and then begin the task of selecting a transition team.

Not exactly big news but nonetheless significant, and for many reasons.

Church and state may not get to cavort with one another when it comes to governance but plenty of folks from the church world have plenty of influence. And lots of folks want Christians in office. What's interesting is when the Christians get what they want -- one of their own behind a mayoral desk for instance -- but she also happens to be a lesbian.

I received one of the mailers that featured a photo of her previous swearing in as City Comptroller with her partner by her side that pleaded with me to ensure that hers did not become the face to represent Houston. As a matter of Christian principle, I was asked to vote for someone other than her.

I could have easily gotten on my own soapbox but I learned a long time ago that we Americans are rarely ever "we Americans." We're individuals and rarely will you find one of us in total agreement with another. We are just not a collective society. So I wasn't surprised when I was told by a friend who has frequently consulted with our new mayor and who is much more conservative in her faith than me that she had the great opportunity in the last two weeks to experience the following.

Tired and a bit leery of being accosted when she was with some of her even more conservative friends who knew she was backing The Lesbian, my friend was attending to some church duties when a woman approached. The woman verified that indeed my friend was helping with the campaign and then said, "I just want you to know that I pray every day for this city and from the beginning of the mayoral race, I prayed for every candidate. After we needed a runoff I continued to pray for the two who were left. But this week (two weeks before the runoff), I realized I was no longer praying for him ... that I knew she was going to win and so I continued to focus all my prayers on her. . . "

My friend was thrown and not quite sure if the woman was going to drop a bombshell or not, when the woman continued and said, "I think she'll make a great mayor."

Believers come in all shapes and sizes. Some have small little boxes they try to fit God and Creation into. Some have larger ones. But, to me, the best ones don't just throw words around, they act on their beliefs.

I have no doubt that Mayor Parker will both make me proud and irritate the hell out of me. That's government. But I'm glad to know that she's pretty well aware of her need to make a strong start and she did so by looking up.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Doing the Peanuts Dance

Just watched Linus' rendition of Luke in answer to the real meaning of Christmas.

Nobody does it better.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Scary Tactics

Yesterday at the AIDS hospice, several new volunteers showed up at once. As a result the "usual" had a bit of an unusual feel to it. Perhaps that's why no one acted on the first red flag.

Nurse: "And the resident in Room C is actively dying. . . "
Volunteer in Cap: (interrupting and with a degree of shock) "What is that?"
Nurse: "His body is worn out. It's giving one last try at surviving but every breath is laborious. He's in the last stages and will probably die sometime this week. He's pretty bad . . . Karsi Sarcoma is covering his lower body and his legs are swollen."
Vol in Cap: "Can we see?" (moving in direction of room)
Nurse: (somewhat taken aback): "Not until after report."
Nurse continues with report and gets a call which he takes.
Vol in Cap: (to woman standing beside him) "Interesting shoes."

Ok, so in hindsight the situation is clearly strange. The Vol in Cap is not only color coordinated wearing pressed khakis and a somewhat expensive windbreaker type jacket -- something you just don't do in the bleach-based environment that is hospice life, but his tone is off, the delivery of his comments strikes me. After we break from report, I mention it to the nurse.

"I think this guy is autistic," I said. "And, by the way, he's not a part of our group."

He acknowledged that he too felt the man was a bit off by a quick smile but in the crowded hallway, could only respond. "He came in with the new guy," and then walked to Room C to introduce the Vol in Cap to the situation.

The other newbies and I went down to Room A to strip the beds and assess the cleaning needs. Most of the residents were heading to church with a pastor who regularly picks them up on Saturdays and fills a few hours of their day with worship, food, and much-needed time away from the house.

Then it happened. The nurse came to check again that indeed the Vol in Cap wasn't with any other volunteers. Seems that he had asked to wash the resident's feet. The nurse thought he meant to help clean him for his family who was coming. Instead, the water was being used for prayer, anointing, and healing. The nurse tried to explain about hospice (that it is actually for the dying) and the concerns of trying to force spiritual beliefs on someone who had not asked. The Vol in Cap ignored the nurse and just prayed louder and started calling for a resurrection.

What he got was the other nurse in charge of training -- who asked the Vol in Cap if he had received any type of orientation. When the Vol said a few minutes ago, the situation was clear. This was no true volunteer. He was asked to leave, then told to leave, then ordered to leave.

His reaction was to drop to his knees in the hallway, rebuke those who would exorcise him from the house, and then call them out as evil . . . though he did add that he was still supposed to love them.

One nurse responded, "I love you too but you're still leaving."

When our unwelcome guest made it outside I had the strangest visual juxtaposition before me. The pastor who regularly ministers to people who don't make it easy to do so (many of the residents are from the streets, some have mental problems, and lots are demanding) was loading up his van.

So before me were two ministers -- one answered the question of what would Jesus do with judgment, unsolicited ministrations, and obligation rather than compassion. The other expresses his faith with his continuing presence.

Supposedly both represented the religious world -- but they were worlds apart. And as for me and my house? ... We're going with the guy in the van,


I've said before and will most likely continue to repeat myself, "I love Sundays."

As a committed extrovert, I tend to fill every day with work and play. I'm out there living life to the max and usually sharing the experience with family or friends. But Sunday is a different matter. Quiet walks, the paper, something warm and delicious concocted in the kitchen as I'm mindful of every cut of the blade and stir of the pot, some writing, maybe a bad Lifetime movie or a good book -- these fill my hours until the Sabbath ends. By that time, the Food Network has my attention and my hours of self-imposed solitude conclude.

I never understood the power of pausing until I practiced it. Took me a few attempts before I got it right but now ...

I love Sundays.

Thanksgiving Eve

We sit around a table
laden with pre-turkey day indulgences
and each say our words of gratitude

for friends
safe travel
school being on hold for the holiday
and life

While my prayers are silently offered to a familiar name and unknown face,
he limits his thanks to those around the table,
she to that which can be scientifically explained,
and yet another speaks to the Universe.

The holding of hands, the common smiles, the warmth coming more from our hearts than the food . . .
Assures us all, that we've each been heard.

And we remain grateful.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Four Stars

Last night I watched a young woman -- who at our first meeting was mommy-ing her little brother and sister with a seriousness of responsibility that belied her preteen years -- own a theatrical stage.

She's a dancer, so the majestic quality of each step, each movement was no surprise. I've seen her perform in ballets, modern dance, a couple of musicals and once, she even held her own above the crowd in a cirque de soliel type of acrobatic display using ribbon-like ropes. Every time I've seen her with stage lights shining in her face, she glows. The artificially induced wattage has nothing to do with it. She simply has a smile that brightens people's day and has a an energy of its own. Add that to the sparkle she can manifest in her eyes -- on cue ... and well, she is, as they say, a natural.

The beauty of the performance last evening was that her role -- though very substantial since she served as narrator -- was a balancing act. The other high school performers were playing over the top caricatures of middle school stereotypes -- the Eagle Scout, the Forgotten Child, the Sloppy Fat Kid (which in a delightful turn became the romantic lead), the Over Achieving Depressive, the Airhead Creative, etc. While they twisted, twitched and agonized as part of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, she played the mature long-ago winner, still dedicated to introducing children to the power of the bee.

Even though a few were outstanding in their solos, what made my young friend command the stage was her understanding of it. She knew the power of a smile over a guffaw, a slight touch over a hearty slap on the back, a raised eyebrow over an glaring sneer. She performed as though this were her birthright.

I pray that's true. That her desire becomes her destiny. That's the plan -- an education where her love of the arts can be nurtured as it has been here. And I want it for her. I want the dream to be a reality, and practicalities like rent, insurance, and paychecks to be delayed for just a little longer. Because the world needs artists like my friend Audrey, who believe ... and for a few moments can make you believe as well.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I've been "cationing"

My vacation/staycation is coming to an end. I must admit that this week off was needed and appreciated. I must also admit that life continues to surprise.

For instance, on the cruise (cheap one that was within my budget and didn't take the whole week to enjoy) . . .

-the couple my friend and I ate dinner with each night were actually kind of interesting. We took our chances with assigned seating and the guy is a prison guard and the woman does real estate. They were in the beginning days of a reconnected (from high school) relationship. The cruise was fun for them but according to asides I got from the woman, it also marked the ending days of their relationship!
- when you are open to chatting, you learn lots. Watching football in one of the lounge areas on Sunday netted me a companion for the wine tasting later that afternoon and a new friend who looked out for me at fun times like bad karaoke. She made it better by alerting me to when to plug my ears and by giving me the lowdown on all the folks she'd met. A retired school teacher who was widowed young, remarried a principal/athletic director, and now lives part of the time at the bay and part of the time on ships traveling here and yon, she was the kind of woman I aspire to be.
-cooking on excursion is more fun than you might think. We ate well and met more fun folks and still had time to hang out on the beach.
- the ruins of Mexico, Peru, and Cambodia have way too much in common to be coincidence. Fascinating to now have seen them all.

On my staycation, I enjoyed Houston. One night at the House of Blues, the next at the Mucky Duck and last night at Miller Outdoor Theater means I got plenty of music. Yesterday I walked for two hours hunting alligators at the local state park. By the time, my buddy and I had packed a picnic dinner and made our place on the hill on Miller's hillside, the night had descended and so had our tiredness. But the air was cool, the blanket was warm, the R&B was perfection and I ended the night with a sigh of pure contentment.

I haven't said this in a while, but it bears repeating and remembering ... I love my life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


My mother hates chickens. When we were kids and she was a single mom on a very limited (as in poverty level) budget, chicken would have made perfect economical sense for the five of us sitting around the table. But nope. If we needed an injection of pure Southern cooking, the deep fried in the cast iron skillet kind, we had to wait for Sunday dinner next door at Grandmother's.

While perhaps not exactly alektorophobia (only because rich people get to have diagnoses like the fear of chickens), mother's distaste for all things fowl was still quite severe. Not until the Dairy Queen came out with chicken strips -- something that looked nothing like its origin -- was mom able to finally partake of the crispy goodness of the fried bird.

The origins of her aversion are rooted in her childhood (wow ... what a shock) when she had to participate in wringing the creatures' necks before they were robbed of their feathers, introduced to that infamous black skillet, and appeared on her plate. She vowed never to have to eat that particular offering ever again.

I tell this story because my mother has been on my mind quite a bit lately. She and Doc have figured out a way to "live" around his trips to dialysis and the fact that he doesn't move as fast as he used to. She sometimes responds to my weekly inquiry about how she is with, "Fine . . . We're doing as good as can be expected. Doc passed out on the porch a couple of days ago and after Mike heard me yelling and came over . . . " Then the story continues as though it's perfectly normal to have an 84-year-old black out on your front steps. And, I guess in her case, it is now.

My mom is rather resolute. Life is what it is and you make it better or you just accept it and move on. But one of the things she finds hard to accept ... as do any of us ... is a mother outliving her child. She's done it, but even though my brother was 38 and his death came years ago, she's still not "over it" and never will be. (I say that only because of the well-meaning but ignorant people who assured her some day she would.) This week she witnessed another mother lose another son.

Dianne was once a frequent guest in our home. I worked with her at the aforementioned Dairy Queen and my brother dated her. Her post-Kelly boyfriend became her husband and Jimmy was ideal for her. (Meaning no offense to my bother but in this case they all wound up with their soulmates.) They went to college, got great jobs, had great kids, became pillars in the community (by choice since they both had bigtime options for employment that would have planted them in some urban area quite easily). And now ... they have experienced great loss. Their son lost the fight to cancer. Two decades hadn't even passed since his birth. And while, Jimmy (son's name as well) was a true champion by all accounts, the unfathomable happened and he lost the war.

Now what does this have to do with chickens?

Because survivors like my mom and maybe everyone with roots in a small town know that in the midst of tragedy beyond comprehension, you find ways to keep going.

Mother faced her fear of the chicken. The Crooms are egg farmers when they are not being successful professionals, church volunteers and incredibly supportive parents. They supply several members of First Baptist Greenfield with their weekly dozens. Since they've obviously been at the hospital and not at home, folks missed their Wednesday night delivery.

So my 79 year old mother decided to step in. She recruited my (yes-he-uses-a-cane) stepfather and enlisted the help of Dianne's sister to get around the dog and raided the chicken house.

At least, I thought that's what she was doing. She told the tale as though she were going to be right there in the coop, lifting the objects of her lifelone disdain and robbing them of their treasures. I was struck with waves of admiration as she told the story.

Later I found out that what she did was get into the house where the goodies were already cartoned and simply got enough for the congregation who were having to eat cereal rather than omelets for breakfast.

But I was still proud of her. Because I had to hear the egg story before we got to the fact that she was also caring for Dianne's ailing mother with several other folks from town and that she would be helping with feeding the family.

Caring for each other . . . that's just what you do in a small town. At least you do when your name is Margaret Campbell Porter.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hmmmmm. . .

With no children and no spouse to tend to in the evening hours, I tend to scan the channels -- a lot. Here are a few things that make me go hmmmmm . . .

Is anyone else concerned that there are enough women to have an ongoing program called, "I Didn't Know that I was Pregnant"?

Will you be watching the golf channel when they have players compete in a Disney-built goofy golf tournament to see who will move on to some big championship spot? (I won't. I didn't even watch the entire commercial.)

What I would like to say to the crazy dude in California, "Maybe you weren't really thinking when you decided a 6-year-old is a good accomplice in a con game. Didn't you see Paper Moon? Don't you know this cannot turn out well?"

What did B list "stars" do before reality TV decided to highlight B list stars?

Why have housewives in Atlanta, New Jersey, New York, and Orange County not sued to have the names of these programs changed???

I will forego the foundational garments but I would dearly love to wear some of the clothes on Mad Men. And I love, love the fact that the director has told the actresses not to work out! Curvy women unite!

And since I mentioned some crappy stuff, I'll tell you that Mad Men, Iron Chef, Top Chef, Medium, and Amazing Grace are among my favorites. Some day I'm going to be a well-read, articulate, super sensitive free spirit who knows how to cook. Until then, I'll keep watching these programs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Signs of a Passing

"No twitting at the table." -- Martha Stewart in latest Macy's commercial

This weekend's Houston Chronicle had an above the fold (that reference is for all the oldtimers) story on a local mega church's use of twitter in services.

Miley Cyrus cancelled her Twitter account this week.

These seemingly disparate activities lead me to one conclusion. Twitter is on the downhill slide.

At least that's what I'm telling my boss. Yes, there are folks who are using it daily and with entertaining outcomes. Social networking has definitely come into the spotlight as a result. But my geek friends were into it years ago. Commercials and the church have just acknowledged it.

Applying the diffusion of innovation theory, that means the early adopters are looking for a new "wave" to focus on (that reference is for the googley newtimers). The early majority are quite proficient at capturing life in 140 characters or less and the late majority think this is THE way to connect to a generation.

Sure we may have a few years of vibrancy left, but I'm not banking on it.

To twitter or not to twitter is no longer my question.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Morning of Wonder

Ever wonder if the things you wonder would be quite as wonderful to anyone else?

For instance . . .

I wonder if I'm right that the voiceover on the last commercial really was John Boy aka Richard Thomas?

If my friend knows that I hate that her mom has to endure chemo and that I wish I could take that cancer and my friend's MS and shove them both down a disposal in some cosmic kitchen, hear the sound of them being chopped to nothingness and then walk away . . . back to my friend . . . for a dance (that I would make her dance even if she didn't think she had the rhythm to do it)?

If visitors to my home get the same sense of comfort from the earth tones of my rug, walls, leather furniture and art by or about women that I do?

If the fact that I only go online sitting in one place will permanently cause an indentation to my couch?

If the gift of knowledge that my writer friend shared about the phrase "put her foot in it" is now even more sweet after I heard an African American hip hop artist use it this morning?

If anyone has noticed that several popular songs right now are asking people to do something significant and would make great soundtracks for a training conference on volunteerism?

I wonder about small towns and if it is inevitable that girls like me who felt stuck there once upon a time usually come back to a deep appreciation for the connectedness that is instilled in its residents . . . as deeply as the accent that I return when I'm tired or really comfortable?

If everyone who reads the status updates on their Facebook friends experiences the spectrum of diversity that I see daily -- twitters about children's eating habits, recipes, calls for the president to both speak out and shut up, party invites and prayers, sermon outlines and innuendo . . . oh! and sometimes in multiple languages?

If the rain will dampen the spirit of those going to the art festival I worked yesterday or rodeo day at the zoo that I'm supposed to do today?

If there's anyone out there who would like to partner with a woman who wonders like me?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Color Me Pink

I paused at my usual vantage point. A participant in numerous "walks for the cause", I knew the location along the route where six lanes of pink-wearing walkers would be most visible for a longview. Taking in the thousand or so in that one spot and then knowing that somewhere around 30, 000 others had just passed this point or would soon was . . .


All that organizers would have wanted it to be.

Inspiration was easy. The survivors wore special caps or shirts to designate they had thus far beaten a disease that had taken the lives of so many -- who were memorialized on the backs of shirts of friends and family members. Some survivors didn't need the apparel. The lack of hair, pale complexion, and gaunt face announced to all that these were the current combatants. Their presence underscored that each day of life is its own victory.

I cry easily. Give me a good Hallmark commercial (or frankly, even a cheesey bad one) and I'll tear up. But my tears came and went quickly as I became infuriated with the injustice of a disease that robs daughters from their mothers, fathers from their children (yes, even men get breast cancer), sisters from sisters, and on and on and on. One of my favorite examples of writing -- West Wing -- took on the subject of cancer in an episode. President Bartlett, bored by a dinner party with his wife's medical friends, overhears one of them mention something about the disease and perks up. After a few moments, he begins to understand that a cure for cancer is within reach . . . if only enough money and time could be devoted to it. His team is called together and Rob Lowe's character is commissioned to write the lines that will ignite an accelerated movement in that direction after they are delivered during the State of the Union. Reminiscent of Kennedy's declaration that we would have a man on the moon, the idea was to underscore the potential, not the possible. The words are written . . . and never spoken. The politics of making words reality trumps inspiration. Lowe's character is later prompted to report, "We almost cured cancer today."

Almost is never good enough. And so, while a walk does me some good physically and calls attention in a very pink way to what is being done and is left to do, I'm energized to do more. Write? Sure, that's easy. Give? Have been and will continue. But what else? I'm open to what doors open on this one. Cancer eats away internally. Cancer bites. And I'm ready for a fight. I'll let you know when I get to throw the next punch.

Words Mean Something

This week, on two occasions, I heard folks defending Roman Polanski with the rationale that what he did wasn't "rape rape." This morning, I was watching early Sunday morning TV and heard an ad for yet another "reality show" about rich women -- this time in Dallas -- and heard one woman unapologetically state, "I don't mind being called a bitch, because I'm a nice bitch."

Huh? Huh?

Rape doesn't come in degrees. A bitch is a bitch is a bitch. (And, yes, you can quote me on that.)

Perhaps the fact that I know the pain of finding an error in a published product after numerous (and yes, I mean several, lots, more than five, yea verily a multitude) of eyes have scoured it for potential oops, or because I was educated in a system prior to online publications where the ease of corrections was a fantasy rather than a "change-it-and-upload-a-new-version" reality, but I still think we should choose words carefully and be especially careful when we are addressing the public.

"Rape rape" suggests that some version of rape exists out there (in what I can only suppose is la la land) that is acceptable or at least not worthy of prosecution. And, even though it was a singular quote by a rich Dallas diva, "nice bitch" reflects that same tendency to put wrong on a spectrum. I'm not a black and white person when it comes to most things but I'm also not devoid of the need for anchors. When we start giving what we have defined as "this" the option of also now meaning "that or that" we are giving a nod to the deconstruction of language. And, while I'm a big believer in the phoenix' ability to rise, I need to believe that we can hold tightly to language . . . that new words can be created to take on thoughts that have evolved.

Still . . .

I'm reminded of a friend's story of trying to introduce his son's 20-something-year-old friend to art. They were touring a museum and both he and his son were going to great lengths to explain the history of pieces, the interplay of colors and the potential meaning behind the choices, the fact that pieces reflect the thinking or the debate of the time, etc. They continued through the museum and when the young woman came upon a modern piece that was nothing but a few blocks of color on canvas, she studied it for a few moments and then declared, "I get it. I hear what you've both been saying but ... I'm still calling 'bullshit' on this one."

Rape rape? Nice bitch?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lessons Learned from Social Networking (Ok, so I'm just on FB)

Sometimes you're on a roll and sometimes you farkle.

If you can't say something nice about a person, add a link to YouTube.

We're a nation obsessed with food. Ok, maybe I'm obsessed with food, but yes, I do want to know what you ate for lunch.

Farm life and pokes weren't appealing to me as a kid and they still aren't.

The upside to digital cameras is that you can take lots of photos until you get a good one. The downside is not everyone knows (a) what a good one is and (b) how to edit.

To hide or not to hide . . . still a good question.

Change happens . . . to our bodies, faces, incomes . . . but not necessarily to our personalities. If I loved you in high school or liked you in college, there's a good chance I still do.

When I score 5,000 and you score 40,000, it's no longer a game.

Some men really do love their wives.

Kids are funny . . .

Parents are funnier . . .

I don't need a counter to tell me I have lots of great friends.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

WeekEnder Multiple Choice

This weekend I . . .

(a) served as a patron of the arts and volunteer -- soaking in opera and helping to make a small dent in what we need to fight AIDS
(b) spent some lovely friend-time picnicking in the park and interpreting Buffy, the Vampire Slayer as we watched the musical episode "Once More with Feeling" under the stars and interacted with the sing-a-long
(c) celebrated as the Texans redeemed themselves and then became a biker babe and hit a dive near the water that prided itself on having no smoking section because, "smoking is allowed anywhere you want in this place"
(d) are you kidding? of course it's all of the above!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Dance of the Volunteer

My philosophy of volunteerism: If you're passionate and needed, step in. If someone can do what you do better than you, step away.

My belief: Opportunities abound. If I'm looking out for the cause and not for me, I'll be blessed with yet another great experience soon enough.

I've worked with non-profits my entire career and they are almost always dependent on volunteers. I've yet to make my first million so my contributions are usually "in kind."

Currently, I'm working on a training presentation for a collaborative of health care advocates, helping a theater with marketing and volunteer recruitment, dressing as a clown to promote the rodeo at special events, and continuing to cook, wash clothes and whatever at an AIDS hospice about once a month.

The hospice is having its annual fundraiser -- called Sing for Hope -- this weekend. Opera singers from across the country donate their talent and time to present two halves of a spectacular program at the Wortham Center, one of our premiere theaters. The first half is opera. The second half is show tunes ... sung by opera singers.

If you like opera, Sing for Hope is your ticket to Oz. If you're not into the high notes, you might want to check out somewhere over another rainbow. But if you like passionate people doing what they know how to do for a cause that needs them, this is the place to be.

Last night I watched rehearsal -- amazing. What Michael, a tenor, did with an accordion like instrument he held in his lap while singing mournfully "I've looked at life from both sides now" is sure to bring the house to their feet. This song touches you on every level as the truth of the words (especially when applied to the work we do at a hospice) melds with the artistry that is his voice.

Since I appreciate the talent required for opera but tend to lend more toward the show tune side of programming, I can't offer much more by way of teasing your for tonight's performance except to say that every minute will be wonderful.

Wonderful because they've stepped in. They are giving what they have. That's how the event came to be. A singer who had lost someone to the enemy we call AIDS knew she could put on a show and did. And a simple little affair has become a mega-event.

I became involved when it was moving out of smaller venues onto one of Houston's larger stages. Having served as a behind the scenes director at events for 1000 to 13,000, I mentioned that I would help backstage if needed. They pounced on the idea and for a few years, I worked with the artistic director, the talent, the hired stagehands and a group of my friends, willing to volunteer and we put on a show. Two years ago, with my paying job demanding more of my time, I called on a recruit who had an actual theater background and who loved opera to assist me. He was fantastic and I knew exactly what I had to do.

I stepped away. Sure I became a part of his team the next year, but this year, it's all his. And last night at that rehearsal, I was proud of what I saw on stage and even prouder of what I knew was happening behind the curtain.

Don't hear me saying I'm done with this. Not in the least. I loved it last night when my transportation responsibilities meant I got to take Michael back to his hotel and I loved it even more when he emerged from the stage entrance and, seeing the top down on the Beetle, asked with a huge grin, "Are you my ride?" The sweetness of giving him just a small thank you for what he was doing was not lost on me.

I'll be back year after year and I'm sure that there is another Karen-size hole I can fill in this incredible experience we refer to as Bering Omega. Until then, I'll appreciate the growth that comes when we do the dance . . . step in . . . step away . . . look around . . . step in . . .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Really Not Quite Ravioli

Thanks to my friend Margaret, I have the easiest way to get my pasta fix and avoid lots of calories! Now if my other friend Richard Paoli happens to read this, I want to ask him to please forgive what I am about to share. As a chef who appreciates a fine Italian dinner, Richard is going to be sorely disappointed. But for those of you out there who like to indulge in good tastes but need to cut the cals, here you go.

Wonton wrappers! Never knew! Four wrappers are 70 calories. So you can create 8 little ravioli triangles and you've barely made a dent in your carb count.

You can use just about anything for a filling. When Margaret showed me, she had two options. One was a chicken, spinach, parmesan and almond mixture. The other was tuna, bread crumbs, capers and I think some parmesan as well.

Tonight I went with two slices of turkey bacon cut in small pieces with chopped mushrooms and onions sauteing alongside. When things looked fairly brown, I added a little bit of feta. Dropping a small amount of the filling in each wonton, I then folded one corner over the other and sealed the triangle with water. My sauce was what was left of the filling mixture, a tablespoon of pesto and just an ounce or two of white wine cooked down.

Boil the wonton/raviolis in water with just a tad of oil (because they will stick together) for about 2 minutes and there you have it. I have to admit that I did add a couple of caloric additions -- shredded parmesan and some craisins but really, it was amazing. And I feel no guilt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Random Randomness

I somehow got how Paula could comment on music . . . I'd seen her dance. But, admittedly having seen none of the competition previously, and only the last few minutes of this finale, I'm stunned at the thought that David Hasselhoff is supposed to be able to determine if America's Got Talent.

Tats look good on some and lousy on others. Nerdiness looks cute on some and sad on others. The array is featured on this season's Top Chef. (And yes, I know it's about cooking and there's not a runway in sight but I haven't seen enough of their chops yet to comment.)

I just re-read some pieces I wrote a while back and found myself wondering what was going to happen next. Guess I was truly into what I was writing or . . . maybe the writing was writing itself.

Today I was elected vice president of a board I'm on. We have three board members and three officers. The tension mounted after we chose the prez. The one remaining member said, "Got a preference?" I said, "I don't do numbers." She said, "Great. I'm a CPA." And that's the story of how we chose the treasurer and vp.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

And that's the way it now is . . .

I blame it all on the 24 hour news cycle.

Filling air time meant stories gave way to thoughts spoken aloud. Thoughts became spontaneous rants. Rants were repeated as chants. And "journalism" took a back seat to infotainment.

Now callers add to the ignorance and, even worse, decide that shouting over the airwaves isn't enough and shouting at Town Halls becomes the norm. Even shouting at the President during his speech to Congress seems (at least in that brief moment) the thing to do.

Except . . . moments later, those words can't be erased. News programs have producers to check the calls and/or editing machines for playback later with lots of the glitches removed.

But live and in person, we get it all -- unedited, unchecked -- and we are stuck with it. Words hanging in the air, taking up space, causing pain, signaling the disintegration of civil discourse.

In one of my favorite movies, Broadcast News, the lightweight on air personality (can't really call him a journalist) is being led through a breaking news story by his producer. William Hurt listens intently as Holly Hunter tells him exactly what to say and who to throw the next story to. When her attention is diverted for just a moment, William is left on his on and sums up what was just said with, "And I think that means we're all ok."

The news director hears it and retorts, "Who the hell cares what you think?"

That movie is rather ancient now. But it's a testament to a time far removed from today's verbal diarrhea.

In the old reels of the reports of man landing on the moon, Walter Cronkite is visibly disturbed that he's showing emotion as he shares the announcement. Reflecting on the memorial service that occurred the same week as we had the "shout out" to the President, I wondered if, before he died, Mr. Cronkite hadn't shed a tear or two for what his profession had become.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How Much Wood would a Woodstock Stock if a . . .

We offered the best compliment a movie goer can. We stayed in the parking lot for at least 20 minutes after the credits had rolled discussing what we had seen, what we hadn't, and how the film had engaged each of us in a different way.

I hadn't planned on exploring "The Road to Woodstock" but a friend opted for it over finding out more about that Time Traveler's Wife. At one point, I laughed aloud, leaned over and whispered, "If someone asks what kind of movie this is, how will you answer?"

Funny . . . but not a comedy. About music . . . but not a musical. Serious . . . but see previous remark about funny. About history but plays with the truth for dramatic purposes.

All in all, a surprise and a pleasure.

I realized, while watching, how little I knew about this pivotal cultural phenomenon. I did recently learn that one of the volunteers I work with was from Woodstock and had dated the son of the man who provided the farm. I knew Hendrix played (but I didn't know that he was last and only about 45,000 heard the Star Spangled Banner as only he could do it). I knew mud, drugs, and nudity had all played a part. But that was about it.

I mean, really, I was 8 years old and living in Greenfield, TN!

What I didn't know and wanted to find out as soon as the flick concluded and we had dissected it thoroughly in a parking lot review:
- did they make money? (not on the concert but on the movie and everything else)
- did the farm owner suffer from the loss of grass for his cows, etc? (The townspeople sued him, he sued the organizers and finally got money for restoring everything, but he loved the experience. He also sold the farm within two years, moved to Florida and died.)
- did Bob Dylan show up? (no)
- did it really happen the way the movie explains it? (According to who you ask)
- did they clean it up? (yes and no but eventually)
- did the town benefit? (They actually fought the notoriety for decades but have recently embraced it.)

I could find all this info because I now have the Internet at home AND because the History Channel was actually featuring a Woodstock documentary when I arrived back at the house.

The one thing they couldn't tell me . . . did the folks who attended the "three days of peace and love" ever figure out a way to find the harmony without a soundtrack?

Table Talk -- Mmm Good

Four nights in a row I've cooked for/with other people. Each night has included a raid of the fridge to find what's there and get creative with it. All but one night included time around the table and even then we paused and, quite literally, passed the pasta bowl around.

I mention this because I've been focusing lately on the power of the table.

At lunch the other day with three incredible women familiar with various faith traditions -- Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Pentecostalism (now agnostic) -- I was enjoying our exploration of spirituality and shared the metaphor once given to me by an untraditional Baptist pastor, "I envision a table and around that table are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and more and we share a meal and talk. When we leave the table, each of us has a greater understanding of God than when we first sat down."

I said it was reframing of the blind men each touching a different element of the elephant who have always been said to be in argument over what really defined the creature. In this version of the experience, the debate ceases and me and my take on the leg informs you and your take on the tail.

Perhaps due to the fact that I don't spend that much time in zoos, the table imagery evokes much more in me. I love good table talk . . . so much so that I often wonder why designers seemed bent on creating beautiful yet terribly uncomfortable dining room chairs. I like to push the dishes to the side and linger over a dessert of new thoughts, ideas, stories, and laughter.

I sometimes wondering if stimulating the palate also stimulates the soul. I'm sure there's been many a revelation spilled while downing Happy Meals and sodas, but that's family and our love for our children has us always on the ready to be inspired or challenged. I doubt however that in the speed of downing something from the drive through few people have delved into any great thinking other than bbq or sweet and sour sauce.

Around the table . . . with freshly made raviolis covered in a shrimp and mushroom wine sauce or with a steaming cup of vegetable puree kicked up a notch with a touch of Louisiana or tender chicken breasts sliced and covering feta-infused couscous . . . these are the ingredients that season conversations about hopes, dreams, philosophies. And at my table, your taste is your taste. You can add more salt. You can even ask for catsup. You can say what you think. And you can definitely bring a friend.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One of Her Children

My mother has been watching "All My Children" since I was a child. Today, I think I heard more pride in her voice regarding her youngest daughter (that would be me) than I have heard in a very long time.

She reported, "Erica Kane is in Africa and she had to use a bed net and watch for critters coming into the bed at night and I thought, 'Well, Karen did that with no problem!'"

A Crappy Day . . . But this time not so literally

Yesterday reminded me of a day I spent in Tanzania. On that continent, I walked to work to discover that the technology demons were active and nothing we attempted to do that morning proved successful (at least if it involved working with devices that plugged into the wall). So, somewhat frustrated, I walked back to my abode only to discover that we had no gas with which to cook lunch. Since we also had run out of water that day, I decided eating out was in order and while walking down to the main street, I felt a rock hit the top of my head. Only it wasn't a rock. It was bird crap . . . and a lot of it.

At this point, I declared that day over. I officially restarted at 1 p.m. with clean hair (thanks to the agreement of my roomies that my need for clean hair trumped any thing they needed to do with the gallon of water left to us) and a new attitude.

"I will not continue to rack all that is wrong with this day," I declared. "The cloud will be lifted and I will look for sunrays and not feces to fall from the sky. So saith the Karen."

And it got better.

So yesterday when my plans fell through with one friend, nothing could be worked out with another, my power went off in the middle of getting ready and with wet hair-now-drying-as frizz I traveled to a friend's to use their power and mirror, which meant I was now going to find the two places I needed for errands to be closed, I decided to once again reboot the day.

"I'm starting over," I once again said to no one but my own psyche. "Doom and gloom thinking isn't becoming. So let's start over."

But it didn't get better.

I'll spare you the details but suffice it to say, when your night begins with someone entering your home with the hopes of changing your entire belief system before you get to a preseason game (where the Texans got tragically embarrassed) well . . . that's more than a little positive thinking can handle.

Still, at the end of the evening, lessons were learned. And as I type the above, I relish the fact of how many times I used the word "friend." Frankly, I'm blessed by most and I just need to figure out a way to deal with the rest.

Oh . . . and avoid birds overhead.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

All that and a bowl of ice cream . . .

I usually cringe when I see them coming -- waiters en masse heading toward a table of five or more, usually a family, and usually with balloons tied to a chair or two and gifts tucked somewhere at their feet. I know then that soon there will be a loud announcement and an even louder rendition of some version of Happy Birthday. And I wonder if it's too rude to stick my fingers in my ears or pretend there's a need to find a bathroom.

But on this night . . . surrounded by a family I've embraced because I can . . . I beamed. Our shared love -- a precious two year old who stole my heart the first time she looked into my freckled face, paused and then laughed aloud -- was celebrating the completion of her second year. She watched curiously as the waiters gathered and then squealed with delight when the "music" started.

"Tank you!" she yelled after them as they walked back to their customers and stations.

"Tank you" indeed. To all the powers that be that bring someone close enough to let you see the good, the bad, and the precious, 'tank you."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'd Be Blog-i-licious or Write of Way

98 degrees. 7 o'clock in the p.m. and it's almost 100 degrees. And I'm standing in front of an indoor soccer facility looking into the sun, accessing the line, and realizing that perhaps we should have bought the tickets online.

No, we weren't there to see soccer. We were there for the roller derby.

The line was an indicator on how what, when I was a child, I had considered the female equivalent to pro wrestling was growing in popularity. My sweat was dripping sweat when we finally got in the door. By that time, we'd learned that the reason the man in front of us had a lawn chair was that the place only had bleachers and they were sure to be filled at this hour. They were. In fact, several hundred people were simply sitting on the floor (not in chairs on the floor but really on the floor) four rows deep from the edge of the skating track. And unlike what I remembered from the early 70s, there were no ramps. This was just women in pin up girl uniform/costumes skating around in circles while announcers energized the crowd. Since the match we watched first was a 138 to 12 pouncing, the nailbiting excitement the "color analyst" was trying to ignite just wasn't happening.

Oh yeah . . . and the air conditioning wasn't working.

But we were definitely entertained. One announcer had a mohawk which stood at least 2 ft above his head and was sprayed so stiff that when he walked through the door in front of us and it got aught in the door frame it simply made a scraping sound and rebounded.

The names were fun. We had Baby Face Assassin, Bobituary, Tamityville Horror, Holy Miss Moley, Crash Limb-Brawl, Emma Propriate, Basket Casey, Creeping Beauty, Jekyll and Heidi, Ivana B. Sedated and many, many more.

The crowd surprised me. Not just because of its size but, while I anticipated the bangs, boobs, and tats, I didn't expect to see so many folks in their 40s and 50s looking very maternal/paternal and eagerly supportive. In many ways, they looked as though they could have been there as grandparents at a soccer match and instead got sucked into some parallel universe.

Without the ramps the bout itself was fine but not a thrill a minute. Round . . . and round . . . and then round, and round, and round and then the whistle blew and points were tallied. I quickly caught on to the Jammer, blocker and other roles but when one is preoccupied with stirring up a breeze with the program rather than digging into its explanation of nuances one is stuck with what she can pick up visually. I saw it as up close NASCAR without the motors and with better fashions.

Still, having started the evening with home cooked risotto and salmon and great conversation, this outing proved to be exactly what I wanted -- a chance to do something I hadn't done before. Standing in the chair, fanning, and sweating cut the time we spent there to a minimum and our Blockbuster flick pick was more buster than we had hoped, but at the end of the evening I reveled in the fact that I have friends who can (a) cook, (b) try new things, (c) understand when I'm melting, and (d) make as much fun of a bad Dennis Quaid movie (skip Horsemen) as me.

One More Thing about Omega House

A young man entered the kitchen at the hospice today. He introduced himself . . . unlike the other three who had preceded him and headed to the fridge . . . and then made mention of the array of foodstuffs I had before me.

Knowing he was in an orientation class to become a volunteer, I asked what brought him to us. He said that back in the late 90s he had been working on a Masters in Social Work and had served as an intern there. He said then that when he got his life in gear -- ie out of school, making money, etc -- he planned on coming back as a vol.

He then said that the social work thing hadn't materialized and instead he had gotten a law degree, done some work as a prosecutor in Galveston and was now in private practice. So he was making good on a promise.

I commended him.

How many people do you know who make grandiose statements about what they will do when they get to that next place in life -- wherever that is -- and then conveniently forget they ever made such a commitment?

I'm really glad I went to Omega House today. As usual, being in a place of great loss underscores what all I have and what I gain by simply showing up.

Mas Queso?

Years ago, I realized that one of the cool things about working at Omega House, an AIDS hospice, is that I can cook using all the ingredients I have to leave out when I'm trying to eat healthy. Of course, the not so cool thing ... in fact the tragedy ... is that people are there because they're dying. But in the moment, you don't think about that so I'm not dwelling on it now either.

What I am focused on is that today I made enchiladas for the residents. They weren't my best effort and if the guy who only speaks Spanish had had any family there at the time, I wouldn't have made the attempt because it would have been just too embarrassing. But, the vols and the nurse were limited to pequito amounts of chats with him and I figured that a chile might put a smile on his toothless face.

I was right.

I went to Kroger for some of the ingredients and then scoured the kitchen. Meat, lots of Rotel, a cabinet raid for extra spices, a can of enchilada sauce I found, taking the time to soak the tortillas in sauce before filling them, cheese on top and a side dish of potatoes with Rotel/onion/cheese topping made for a completely non-figure-friendly plate of food.

When I checked in on our Spanish speaker afterwards, I managed an "Esta bien?" and he grinned wickedly as he nodded and declared them "rico" as well. I think that means that I might should have used a little less cheese but he was beaming when I took his plate and he ate it.

The woman who wondered if she'd be able to handle the spice deemed them more than acceptable and for some reason kept saying, "She really put her foot in it." I think she means I jumped in with both feet and succeeded but I try not to dig too deep into comments that make no sense there. Dementia is pretty common.

The guy from Ethiopia couldn't get through them. Even the banana he asked for as a side didn't help. So I cut him a piece of pastry and he was good.

The pianist was not sated on the first helping and so I gave him more. The other vol and the nurse who was going to stick to his brought-from-home sandwich enjoyed them as well.

All in all a good day. And you know why?

Because when I pulled up there were folks sweating in the front lawn making it Garden Club worthy. The front room was packed with supplies going out to pet owners who were part of the system in some way. Two other volunteers were there. A nurse I love was monitoring it all. And more vols were being trained upstairs.

We were all doing what we knew how to do to make a few lives a little better.

Enchiladas aren't going to save the world but they can prompt a smile on a gaunt and toothless face. And today that matters.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I'm Embarrassed

A Facebook friend just posted the Seven Deadly Social Sins by Gandhi -- Politics without Principle; Wealth without Work; Commerce without Morality; Pleasure without Conscience; Education without Character; Science Without Humanity; & Worship without Sacrifice.

I studied extra years in seminary so that I could communicate more effectively as a Christian. And yet, not once in those additional years of schooling or the two decades of my professional life when I was attempting to help other believers communicate about their faith did I encounter this succinct collection of truths.

I may have made As but reading this post today made me feel as though I had failed as a student. So I did what any good knowledge seeker does these days -- I Googled for more.

I was linked to a series of sermons by Dr. Barbara Hulsing, an American Baptist, who I've never met but to whom I owe a thank you. She brought me back to my own roots by graciously quoting a very familiar name from my past:

Phil Strickland, once executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Christian Life Commission died in 2006. Not long before his death, he delivered a speech entitled, “Where Have All the Prophets Gone?”

In this speech, he said, “Prophesy requires the capacity to grieve about injustice, to quit pretending that things are all right, to imagine that things could be different and courageously to say so to the people, risking the consequences. It requires confronting the principalities and the powers. For compassion to move to action requires an alliance of love, power, and justice . . . [T]he prophet must be imaginative. One does not prophesy about what is but what ought to be.”

I know that picking up my blog again wasn't simply a matter of seeking a creative outlet. I had given up my voice in more ways than staying away from a keyboard. I had settled for "whatever" because I had tired of doing whatever it takes.

I'm embarrassed because I stopped seeking new thoughts. I'm embarrassed because I stopped thinking about what ought to be. I'm embarrassed but I'm not dead.

So today I begin. Gandhi is a pretty good guide. Google isn't going anywhere (and if it does Bing tells me it's ready to assist.) I'm not sure where my love, power, and justice will take my compassion just yet. But I, The Fallen, am getting off my ass.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Black and White and Read All Over

Some of my friends see only black and white.
Some see every color of the rainbow.
Tonight, a rainbow friend surprised me.

"I'm a black and white kind of guy," he declared.

"Not you. I know too much about you and there's no way," I countered.

"Really, I think I am."

"Well, if you only think you are, then you're not. You must be charcoal and ecru."

A true decorator at heart, he agreed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

At the tone, please leave your message

For almost two years I have changed the "personal message" on my phone each month to reflect something about either my life or the time of year. For instance, in the two Julys that have passed I've mentioned something along the lines of "Hi, It's July and I'm sending out birthday wishes to my twin, my mom and various friends."

Some times it takes a couple of calls before some my peeps get the implication. "Well, I guess you're having a birthday, too" they will say sheepishly and then wish me well.

When I was traveling I made sure to let folks know where I was at the moment. Unfortunately, a few who chose not to listen to the news and soon discovered the cost of an international call when they woke me up at 2 a.m. to invite me to come "over" (that would be quite the drive) and hang out.

This month I'm featuring interactive voice mail messages. You are invited to not only leave me a message but also to suggest a book title . . . since it's so freaking hot in Houston that no one really wants to go out and play. One poor soul never gets me live and in person so I have an entire library shelf of his tomes to check out.

I'm wondering what I should do for September? October? If you have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Start My Day with the West Wing and Here's One Reason Why

President "Jed" Bartlet of the West Wing speaking to Charlie regarding his desire to go home and watch a 007 flick . . . he dissects "shaken not stirred" with mock disdain and concludes:

"[James Bond] is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Say It with Meaning

Method actors, said the CBS film critic, pull from the inside and bring it out for all the world to see, possibly reliving the pain they are trying to depict. Meryl Streep on the other hand is all about the externals -- the walk, the gestures and the voice.

A woman of a 1,000 voices she has convinced us she had ties to Russia, Denmark, Australia and Yonkers. Now she is doing a better Julia Child than Julia Child. Not an easy task given that caricature is the next door neighbor to character and she could have easily fallen into an impersonation of Dan Akroyd doing Julia Child. But Julia doesn't just have the laugh, the trilling "r" and the high pitched little-old-lady thing happening. No she pulls herself up to her full 5 feet and probably 8 inches and within moments you know she's 6 ft. 2. It's an amazing transformation.

At the moment, I'm watching a not so amazing feat however. The Closer, while fun and sometimes funny and filled with some great character actors has Kyra Sedgewick doing Southern. That's not unlike putting onions, lox and capers on a biscuit. There's nothing really wrong with it but ... it just ain't right.

I'm sure Kyra is an incredible woman and I know she's a great actress and frankly that orange juice commercial that's playing these days with her dancing around the kitchen with a wooden spoon has me in awe of her yoga abilities. The woman has no bones beneath her waist . . . at least not in this commercial.

But Southern isn't just "thaaaaank you" uttered with some store bought drawl. Southern is a few more externals (if we follow the Streep method of acting). We touch each other when we want to make a point or put the conversation on pause. We fidgit and hide our inadequacies (even if they are only figments of our imagination). We are the bees in the honeysuckle moving in and out and enjoying our work with abandon. Yes, we have guilt and fret and are anxious but we ae all that with a smile that looks way more genuine than what this "Chief Brenda" is doling out.

Still I'm thrilled she's on and I'll keep watching. And I'll keep hoping that Holly Hunter will be more than just on the same network and might drop in one night and give Kyra some lessons in y'all. But, all in all, I'm thrilled. We have women -- beautiful, strong women holding their own in relationships, screwing up, and amazing us with grace the closer we get.

Meryl is in the kitchen. Kyra and Holly are on TNT and women over 40 have sounded the alarm. Woohoo!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Day with J and J

"What do you enjoy doing?"


"And you're so good at it!"

Laughter follows. That would be Julia Child, her husband Paul and me as I watched Meryl Streep capture a moment in time with perfect joy.

I love a good guffaw and I had several watching the new flick that features one of my all-time favorite subjects -- food. The pursuit of passion warms my heart and I was aflame tracking the ups and downs of two cook/authors rise to public attention.

I walked away most inspired by the fact that (a) Julia didn't find success in the field in which we know her best until she was well into her 40s if not 50s. And (b) Julie started her first steps toward fame with a lowly blog.

While I believe the time of the obscure writer being plucked for book deals straight off the Internet are waning if not already passed, I do hold onto the hope that I have a decade to realize my potential and could still enjoy several other decades of professional fulfillment.

I just need to figure out what I enjoy doing ... other than eating, because I think Julia mastered the art of that one!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Watch Me

Of late, I’ve done a lot of watching. Tonight, I observed the need to take action.

Robert Redford directed, produced and starred in Lions to Lambs. Definitely a talkie, still we were metaphorically taken to the dance floor with a choreographed interplay of politics, journalism, education, and patriotism. Weaving between the orchestrated themes we were enticed from the safe stance of a wallflower and encouraged to move. The only heroes wore uniforms and died defiantly facing the enemy. Everyone else talked a less than adequate game.

I wanted to catch the next flight to Afghanistan. Not because I believed that there was such a thing as a winner in the war on terror but because I wanted every soldier to know that while I did not believe in war, I did believe in them.

Oddly enough, I then turned to Anthony Bourdain. He made a simple “bowl of something good” seem like the answer to warring factions worldwide. Forget the ideas behind cinematic versions of a peace march, one only needs some broth, noodles, a protein and spices to transform enemies into lovers . . . at least of good food.

I want to go. I want to board the train and ignore the drag queens selling some kind of ware and taste the newspaper wrapped thing my mother would tell me to avoid and tell the child selling dust covered plastic something or others at least three times that no, I don’t want it and smile when my companion buys three.

I’m jonesing for a journey.

Been a While . . .

I've missed this.

My fingertips on the keys. The blue header of the page on which I type. The idea forming and then becoming keystrokes and finally materializing as a story, observation, or just the beginning of a thought but still very real because it was now on a page.

I've written any number of pieces since giving up the blog almost a year ago. But few have been captured. The stark nakedness of a computer screen locked in New File mode is intimidating. I need the sense that what I write could be read and shared with friends. Then and only then is it real.

But I can't blog about work. I didn't have access to the Internet at home. And the fact that I wasn't convinced I had anything left to say meant I've put something I enjoy to the side.

Well, I'm giving it another go. I'll skip the work stuff. I just got off the phone with Comcast (Argh!) and now I'm saying little more than I'm going to give it another try. Still that's a start.

So hello again. I"m back.