Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Porch

I love the view from my porch, early in the morning after the rain comes, which these days isn't very often. But this morning was one of those special times.

If you go out when the sun is coming up but before humans have had time to destroy the ambience with their noise and clutter and traffic, you see other mountains on the horizion and low hanging clouds over the tiny town below. The only sounds you hear are the ones nature created for you, with a little percussion added by a log or chicken truck grinding its way through the mountains.

My porch reminds me of a tree house....a tree house that I can't ever seem to finish. I have been painting on it for almost two years and I always come up with some excuse for not completing it. Some excuses are legitimate....my mother getting sick a few months after I began the project, conditions too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer, etc. There seems to be something preventing me from painting on it every day when the conditions are perfect. Sometimes, I will seek out another project that needs my attention inside, just to avoid painting.

I am beginning to wonder if I really WANT it finished? I am one of those irritating people who must have a project going at all times. My husband tells me this is because I never learned the art of relaxing. I have avoided thinking about what happens when the porch is actually finished..........

But that is silly. In a 43-year old house on top of a mountain in the middle of woods, a house that sat abandoned more often than it has had occupants, there is ALWAYS something that needs to be done.

I just need to get off of this computer and go do it!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Men's "Gatherings"

Could someone please help me try to understand this male phenomenon, which for lack of a better term, I have come to call "The Gathering"?

It is when two to 20 boys or men stand around, usually with arms crossed or hands thrust deep into their front pants pockets, their expressions ones of deep concentration or an occasional nod as the designated speaker makes some sort of statement. These Gatherings usually always take place around some object; a truck, a motorcycle, a boat, even a lawn mower, with everyone staring at it intently.

If this Gathering takes place around a pick-up truck, I think the rules are that one foot must be placed on the bumper of the truck and the other firmly on the ground, with folded arms resting on the tailgate. If those spots are all taken, acceptable secondary positioning allows for men to fold their arms on the top sides of the truck bed.

Recently, I saw such a Gathering in the parking lot of a local store. The six men were staring so intently into the bed of the truck, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to see what was in there. I took a detour to my car so I could walk by to take a peek.....none of them even noticed me. As I passed the truck, I was surprised to find there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the back of that truck!

Women don't do this. I don't think we CAN do this. We love to talk to one another, and we love to get together, but it MUST involve some sort of activity. We will go to lunch or dinner, meet for wine or martinis, watch movies or go to a show together, even work jointly on a project. But to just stand around and talk, or the much more difficult task of just standing around LISTENING......I am not sure that is possible!

The only illumination I can shed on why we can't conquer this men's "Gathering" technique is this:
We have so many things we need to do, so many things we have to do, and so many things that won't get done, we can only justify doing the things we WANT to do if we accomplish something else while we are doing it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's What's in the Jeans that Counts!

My second favorite guy in the world, our President, is taking a lof of flack for wearing "mom jeans" when he threw out the first pitch at the Major League All Star game on July 14th in Saint Louis. Everyone seems to be having a good laugh about it. CNN mentioned it AGAIN at 6:24 this morning.

Even TV GUIDE, not exactly GQ, complains the jeans were a "denim disaster", stating the "mom jeans" were the wrong color, wrong length, too high waisted......and should have been left behind back in the Bush era. So, if the publication that sits on everyones grand patent's side table next to the remote control and the Rolaids says the President's jeans are nerdy.........well, they MUST BE!

But think about this for a moment. What if our Prez had shown up in St. Louis, rockin a pair of low-slung Ed Hardy jeans that drug the ground with skulls all over the butt? He might have looked much cooler, but I have a feeling TV Guide and every other media outlet would be running headlines about the "scary looking African American from the South-side of Chicago, setting a bad example for the youth of America...".

President Obama has told us time after time that is wife is the fasionista, not him. He hates to shop, and until recently, only owned four suits that he wore until the finish rubbed off the fabric and they became shiny. The guy obviously doesn't have a stylist, and probably doesn't spend a lot of time in his closet pondering what to wear. But at least he isn't out for a "media jog" in short-shorts or wearing a belt buckle the size of Texas.

I thought we liked the nerdy aspects of this guy. There is something very comforting about a president who may be the most intellectual person who ever held the job and also looks like the guy next door who washes his car and his kid's bike in the driveway and grills in the backyard on the weekends.

Give the guy a break. So what if he reached into his closet and pulled out his favorite, soft and comfortable pair Levis that may or may not have faded in color or drawn up an inch or so in length due to too many washings? What middle-aged dad in America HASN'T done this?

The real story here is that Fox Sports completely bungled the REAL STORY. They showed the President take the mound, wind up and release the ball. Millions and millions of television viewers never got to see where that ball went or who the catcher was, due to a very bad camera angle. Where is the TV Guide story about that?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


They tell us that life is a "journey", not a "destination", right? That we are supposed to step out of our comfort zone and experience every opportunity that presents itself, right?

With that in mind, this past weekend, I helped an old friend with an art show, and I also attended a mass.

At this point, some of you are asking "So what?". Some of you are laughing your asses off. And the rest of you think I am lying. If you are in the first category, you obviously don't know me very well. If you fall into the last two categories, you know me well enough to know I can't draw a recognizable stick man, and you know I am spiritual person, but not a religious one.

I love art, I appreciate it, and often times I crave it. I just can't produce it. But I have a close friend who can. And even though I have watched her paint for many years, I often find myself wondering how creating something this beautiful could be humanly possible. See....I told you I was spiritual.

I want to be a part of this art world so badly that I do the other things I know how to do, just to sit on the perimeter of greatness. I write for her, I do research for her, I frame for her, I design displays for her....but at the end of the day, I am still just an observer of her gift.

There was one magical moment, perhaps my only brush with creativity, when I was trying to prove I really couldn't draw a stick person. My friend the artist, suppressing a laugh while totally disbelieving this was the best I could do, took my hand and attempted to guide me. But sadly, there was some invisible barrier between her gift and my bumbling attempt at stick art that prevented any improvement. Whatever belief I ever had in osmosis vanished into the Santa Fe desert sunset. So, like a humble servant in the house of an aristocrat, I accept my station in the art world with grace.

My friend the artist is a Catholic, probably the most devout Catholic I have ever known. Because she had spent the past eight months helping to restore the walls and alter and atop 50-foot high scaffolding painting on the ceiling of a beautiful old cathedral, an invitation to view her work was attached to attending mass. Surprising even me, I was excited at the prospect of doing both.

After his death, Carl Sagen's wife said that each day, he searched for proof of the existence of God. I like to think that is what I am doing too, and I want to be open to the prospect when it presents itself. So, I went to mass with my friend, with the ulterior motive of admiring her artistry.

The cathedral was beautiful and I loved the formality and the pageantry of the service. I have a feeling that my extended contemplation of my friend's work on the ceiling was mistaken for some sort of heavenly communication.

I sat in my seat like a lone outcast as the rest of the congregation participated in communion. My friend had told me before the service I could go down and instead of partaking of the wine and wafer, ask for a blessing instead. But I declined........I had some reservations that involved hypocrisy. So I sat alone, my penance for my religious quandary.

But as I sat there and watched these people, I was moved. I was touched by their devotion and sincerity and their total lack of inhibition for their faith.

And it occurred to me that this step out of my comfort zone had opened up a new path on my journey......

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Priests are People Too!

I have to admit, until last weekend, I have never really met a priest "in person". Pretty much everything I knew about them I saw in movies like"The Exorcist" or "Boy's Town" or more recently "Crossroads" or "The Mermaid Chair". And not being Catholic, I assumed throughout my life, my interaction with a priest would remain in the category of my interaction with Presidents, movie stars, famous authors, Nobel Peace Prize winners and others in that elevated category that normally does not intermingle with average people like me.

But then, as my life unfolded, it came to be that I do know an ex-President, have met a movie star or two, have visited with a few well known writers, and by chance in a hotel in Paris last December, had a very enlightening conversation with a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

So, will it surprise you that this past weekend on my trip to Santa Fe, I had the opportunity through my artist friend to meet and actually befriend two men, who just happen to be involved with the priesthood? And had I not known prior to the introductions, I would have never made the assumption!

One was a delightful metal sculpture artist who also participated in the same show on Saturday as my friend. On Friday, my friend and I were fortunate enough to go to his home and get a personal tour of his work, along with instructional commentary. His personal message is "Peace to the Whole Place" and he donates the proceeds of his work to charity. As I was walking through his home and gardens, admiring his work, I couldn't help but think "This guy is a PRIEST!!! How cool is this?". We talked politics and life and I found a great comfort in his warm smile and knowing eyes. The following day at the art show, his exhibit was adjacent to ours. I watched throughout the day as people flocked to Father Earl, not just to view and purchase his art, but to get his hug or just be in his presence for a little while. As I watched him bid farewell to his visitors, many with some form of a "peace" wish, it occurred to me that this man probably accomplishes more goodwill outside the chapel walls than within. And that is very cool indeed!

The second "man of God" I met was an extreme enigma to me. On the surface, this was a handsome, well-traveled, extremely educated, 39-year-old successful prosecuting attorney, who appeared to be living the "American Dream". In a month, he was putting all of that behind him to enter the seminary. In our first conversation, I asked him why he had decided to do this. He smiled and answered it wasn't a "decision", but a "calling".

I had a million questions, all of which I am sure he had heard before. He patiently answered each of them and was such a master of logic, by the end of the conversation, as surprised as I was, I "got it".

Because he was a very knowledgable patron of the arts and a close confidant of my girlfriend, he was invited to join us for dinner Saturday evening. We had booked a corner table by a fireplace in an elegant downtown restaurant, for what turned out to be one of the most engaging, provacative and sometimes comical dinner conversations I have ever had. We stayed, long after the last customers had left the room. I think each of us knew this was a special evening and no one wanted it to end.

As we walked along the quiet city street back to our car after dinner, our steps light, our stomachs full, giggling like children and our heads buzzing from the unique connection of an unlikely friendship (and perhaps the fine bottle of champagne we shared), I had two revelations. First, it occurred to me that the prosecutor's office and single women everywhere were losing a wonderful prospect. But then I also realized that the Catholic Church was gaining a very valuable asset.

Somehow, it all evened out.

Santa Fe, NM

I have just returned from a trip to Santa Fe, NM where I helped an old friend coordinate an art show. Up until this visit, the extent of my knowledge of the city was pretty much limited to the song about the city from the musical "RENT".

What a therapeutic place I found it to be. Santa Fe is a place where:

The long stretches of red clay desert allow you to see for miles.

The air is so clean and the landscape is so unobstructed, you can actually see where the mountains reach up and touch the sky.

The unimposing natural colored architecture respects the earth and and blends so seamlessly into the landscaping, in some cases you hardly notice it is there.

Art is not a luxury, it is considered a necessity.

Although the city is a mecca for artists and intellectuals from all over the world, the influence of its original inhabitants, the American Indians, is ever present. No matter what the accent of the person to whom you are speaking, they all seem to have the same aura.

There is an aspect of this place, a sort of peace or reverence, that I haven't seen anywhere else in my travels. This city, tucked into the foothills of the Rockies with an average of 325 days of sunshine each year, seems to reach out and embrace you with what feels like, to a novice like me, the arms of Mother Nature.

Because the Native Americans inhabited this area long before the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, I believe the traditions of respect for the earth and what it provides are deeply embedded in everyone there, regardless of individual origins. I also believe the other contributing factor to the magnetism of this place is the beauty and pageantry of the centuries-old Catholic Churches. The two cultures seem to mesh together creating a soulful and peaceful existence.

I understand now what a friend from Kansas City meant when he told me he needs to go to Santa Fe at least once a year for a "cleansing".

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Greg Harrington's thoughts on Michael Jackson

I have a very intellectual and intuitive friend who often provides me with a deeper meaning to surface issues. When we exchanged our reflections after the Michael Jackson service yesterday, what he said seems so potent, so soul searching, I asked him if I might share it with you.
So take a moment and enjoy the thoughts of my friend, Greg Harrington, of The Bella in Kansas City:

"I think these moments of reflection (e.g. MJ's death), are "our" opportunities to grow.
They take us to a place where we step outside ourselves, and...you know..reflect.
It gives us a brief moment to see all that we are, and all that we are not. And this hurts. And this feels good. And this is scary.
So here it is:
I hurt. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's not. I want to be perfect too, and I am not. I just watched about an hour of (mostly poor quality) versions of his videos online. AND EVEN IN ITS GRAINY LOW QUALITY, I WAS AWED.
The dance...the moves..the wardrobe...the perfection.
I wonder...could he have made these amazing moments and videos alone? Was HE the prescient, or were there "scores" of wardrobe people and choreographers on set when they were shooting? Did they stop shooting, and send someone out to find the perfect belt/shirt/hat/shoes?
However he created those works...I am awed.
Have I created that? Have I created masterful works of anything?
I wonder what my life would be like if I "really" went all out? What if I really went "to the mat"? For everything. What if I went "all out" for things that are more important to me?
I am scared to find out.
I am sad, I am scared, but I know one thing...
...I am now thinking about these things.
Are you?

I have a theme song for who I am...do you?"

Thank you Greg, for asking us all to think about these things. and maybe, just MAYBE see what it would be like if we did "go all out".
Peace and Love to All,

Monday, July 6, 2009

Thoughts About My Mother....

My mother died in March, 2008 after an eight month courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. We were never very close until she got sick, then circumstances beyond both of our controll required that we bridge the gap. We said what we needed to say at the end that made the previous distance between us irrelevant.
Oddly enough, not a day goes by since she died that I don't think of her.
What happens often is when I am shopping and I come across an article of clothing in her unique size. Every single time, I catch myself thinking "Mom would love this!" Then reality sets in.
But an odd thing happened today. I was cleaning out my mother's and my own sewing boxes, attempting to merge them into one. I had some old stuff in mine, but I found some things in my mother's that surely had belonged to HER mother. I held the old faded spools of thread between my fingers, rolling them around, hoping to make a physical connection with my mother and grandmother.
As I got deeper into the box, I made an interesting discovery. The Beltx Bra Back Repair kit pictured above. The packaging was fragile and faded but in tact. I couldn't find a date anywhere in the text, but the $.19 price tag convinced me this was very old. A similar contraption now sells for $1.95.
This started me thinking about how different my mother's generation is from mine, and especially from the four to five generations below mine. My mother came from a time where people FIXED things if they were broken. Today, we throw things away and go get another one.
Case in point to my female friends: when is the last time you repaired a bra that had worn elastic or a broken fastener? If you are like me, probably never. But my mother lived in a time where the $.19 was a lot easier to come by than the $1.00 it would have taken to buy a whole new bra.
In the 1950s and early 60s, my mother's father repaired television sets in the evenings after he got through with his "day" job. I would often go with him to people's homes where the giant boxes sat in a prominent spot in the living room. He carried a large black tool box that contained glass tubes of every size. He was always able to find the one that had burned out and replace it with a new one so the anxiously waiting family could get back to their evening television shows available on the one to three channels available, depending on how big their antenna was. And my grandfather never charged for his services, although we did get some good meals out of the deal. He just charged for the cost of the parts because most of these people were his friends. Back then, you didn't charge a friend for a helping hand.
A few months ago, our giant screen television downstairs just quit working. Not only could we not find anyone to come here to fix it, we couldn't find anyone who wanted us to bring it into their shop. We were told time after time to just throw it away because it would cost more to fix than it was worth. So we did.....and we had to PAY someone to haul it off! I thought about my grandfather and how ashamed he would have been.
Just as I know the next time I clean out my bra drawer and throw out the ones I no longer wear, my mother will be looking down from heaven, shaking her head, wondering where she went wrong.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sarah Palin Calls it Quits!

In a rambling and disconnected announcement, we learn this afternoon Sarah Palin is not only foregoing a run for another term as Governor of Alaska, she isn't even going to finish the term she has!
Speculation abounds........after listening to two hours of conspiracy theories, I think I have them narrowed down to the following:
Surely it is too soon to launch a bid for the Presidency. Can she afford to be unemployed (politically or financially)?
Some think the disjointed announcement suggests some pretty dirty laundry is about to hit the fan (pardon the mixed metaphor).
Is she going to run for the Senate in 2010?
Did the recent Vanity Fair article finally bring home the point to her that Politics Ain't Pretty? That National stage she stepped on last August is a little bigger and a lot more critical than the bandstand she was accustomed to in Wasilla or Fairbanks.
Maybe she needs time off to finish her book and hit the trail on a book tour.
Perhaps giving her more credit than she deserves, someone suggested she might be leaving public life to devote some much needed attention to her special needs child and the other children who seem to be raising themselves.
But my favorite is that she may have had a better offer from FOX News. Hmmm.....as if I needed another reason not to watch that train wreck!
And why announce this on a Friday before a 3-day holiday weekend?
Leave it to Sarah Palin to try to upstage Michael Jackson!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Ledge, Chicago

The next time I visit Chicago, I know what I WON'T be doing. I won't be taking the elevator up to the 103 floor of the Sears Tower to step out on a 1 1/2 inch thick panel of glass to get a better view of the city below!
It is called The Ledge and it opens tomorrow.
My knees buckled just watching a film clip of someone standing on it.
It isn't like the top of the CN Tower in Toronto where there is a glass panel inserted in the floor. Or the Grand Canyon Skywalk where you can step to one side or the other and grab a rail and stand on opaque material. It is all glass and extends 4.3 feet from the outside of the building and has been described as "walking on air".
I don't know about you, but I like walking on a solid surface that doesn't allow me to see what is going on 1350 feet below me. But I know people who will go to Chicago, just to have this experience. Reading about it is about as close as I want to get!

Governors Behaving Badly

An Open Letter to Gov. Mark Sanford (R. South Carolina)
Dear Sir:
Drop whatever you are doing and RUN, don't walk, into one of your son's room and ask what "T.M.I." means.
Then, once you grasp the concept, please try to practice it.
I respect that you made apologized for your mistake, we all have human frailties, but I might have found it a little more appealing had you apologized to your wife first, then your mistress instead of the other way around.
All we really needed to know was that you had an affair, you are sorry and if you used tax payer funds to fund this extra-curricular activity. The stuff about tan lines, soft kisses, finding your "soul mate", etc. needed to stay private. Most days, I turn on the television and feel I am watching a reading from the "Twilight" series instead of press conference with a Governor. The teenage-style angst is overwhelming.
And sir, a word of advice....not a good idea to refer to your girlfriend as your "soul mate" and say you are "trying to fall back in love with your wife" in the same conversation. Your wife is a very smart lady and I think she is going to be able to read between those gaping lines.
You seem like a decent man and I know you are trying to follow the teachings of your church, but this "confession is good for the soul" thing should only be taken so far.....and I think you pretty much passed that point a week ago. Your confession yesterday shared that not only do you have a wife and mistress, there are other discretion's lurking in the background. Now you have upset BOTH your soul mate and your wife.
How about this: Just have one more, really big blanket apology. Look directly into the camera and tell the people you are REALLY REALLY sorry for ALL the mistakes you have made (no need to go into details...we HOPE we already have them all). Ask for forgiveness and promise from this day forward, you will be a devoted family man and work diligently to conduct the State's business in the most efficient and competent manner possible. (For those far right-wing supporters you have, now might be the time to insert that "repent for my sins" stuff.) Thank everyone for their time and understanding, then GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE.
As you have learned the hard way, in politics, you can't have it all. You have to pick: Do I want a PERSONAL LIFE or do I want a POLITICAL LIFE? You can only chose one.
Oh, one more thing for that press release I mentioned earlier. It might be a nice touch, especially for the Democrats who might be listening if you promise to NEVER again work so hard to get someone impeached for the exact same thing you have been doing all along! Just a thought.......
A (Democrat) Wife