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.